Asha (Thomas) Mathai


Asha (Thomas) Mathai is an information-technology project manager for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Piscataway, New Jersey.

R. David Beales

Conventional thinking might hold that engineers are a tongue-tied, uncommunicative group. But don’t tell that to Asha (Thomas) Mathai, who recently earned the rare Distinguished Toastmaster designation from Toast­masters International, a venerable nonprofit devoted to public speaking and leadership.

During her eight years with Toastmasters, which has nearly 300,000 members worldwide, Mathai ENG’01 has delivered dozens of short speeches on everything from the meaning of her name to the importance of goal setting. She’s held leadership posts in Toastmasters, both regionally and in the club at her workplace, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Piscataway, New Jersey, where she is an information-technology project manager. And she’s gained the confidence to speak up in meetings and answer questions from her boss.

Although she joined Toastmasters for self-improvement, Mathai says her greatest satisfaction comes in helping others grow by shedding their terror of public speaking. “I’ve seen people’s lives transformed,” Mathai says. “It’s amazing to see what happens to someone when they overcome just one fear. It opens the door to accomplish more.”

Five Tips for Effective Public Speaking

  1. Practice: The more you speak in front of an audience, the more comfortable you’ll feel.
  2. Don’t open with an apology: Your audience is at its most attentive during the first two minutes of your speech. Don’t point out your inadequacy; get to the point.
  3. Make eye contact: Personalize the experience by concentrating for a minute or two on someone in the audience.
  4. Prep your technology ahead of time: Make sure your laptop and microphone are ready when you are.
  5. Proceed with confidence: Everyone has a message; now is your chance to share yours.