New Club for Women in Biosciences Focuses on Public Speaking Skills

New Club for Women in Biosciences Focuses on Public Speaking Skills

By Alexis BlueUniversity Communications
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A new club is helping women in biosciences improve their public speaking skills.
A new club is helping women in biosciences improve their public speaking skills.

Researchers and scientists at The University of Arizona are often charged with communicating their findings to their peers, but when it comes to explaining them to the general public it can sometimes be challenging to boil complex work down so that it is accessible to the average listener.

That's just one of the skills that will be worked on in a new public speaking group on campus geared toward women in science.

The Women of Biosciences Toastmasters Club, which held its first informational meeting earlier this month, will focus on helping undergraduates, graduate students and junior faculty in bioscience disciplines hone their public speaking skills.

The club will hold a second informational meeting today at noon in Room 102 of the Medical Research Building. 

At its regular meetings, scheduled to begin Friday, the club will address topics such as organization, use of gestures, and effective incorporation of charts and other visual aids in speaking presentations, said Daphne Gilman, senior events coordinator for the BIO5 Institute, who initiated the group. 

"To be competitive we all need to be able to communicate our work and ideas, and it's especially important for scientists who have to compete for grant funding," Gilman said.

The club is getting started with the help of an $800 grant from the UA's Commission on the Status of Women, which will cover membership fees for 20 charter members.

The club is a chapter of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit educational organization started in 1924 to promote and build leadership and communications skills among its members. 

At weekly, hour-long meetings, members of the Women of Biosciences club will prepare and present a series of speeches about their work at the UA and share feedback with one another, Gilman said.

The 12 attendees at the first informational meeting said they were interested in joining the club to conquer a public speaking fear, develop stronger leadership skills or prepare for a dissertation defense, among other reasons, Gilman said.

The club also can help those in the science realm better communicate their achievements to visiting faculty, potential donors and audiences outside the research community, such as children visiting BIO5, said Gilman, who joined a Toastmasters chapter on her own about a year ago in hopes of improving the quality of tours she gives at BIO5.

"They (researchers) are very, very interested in the fine detail of their work, but for the lay person hearing this for the first time, they may not understand the context," she said.

The Toastmasters group will also help unite women in various bioscience disciplines on campus.

"It's a really great opportunity for networking. I'll get to meet people in my field who I haven't met with" and it could lead to possible collaborations, said Barbara Fransway, research specialist, senior, in Arizona Research Laboratories.

Fransway, who frequently conducts outreach tours of her lab to everyone from Girl Scouts to retirees, said she is comfortable with public speaking, but there is always more to learn, which is why she decided to join Toastmasters.

For more information about the group, contact Vanessa Reyes, BIO5 events assistant and the club's sergeant at arms, at

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