By Kash Hussain, St Pauls Speakers, Division C
On Saturday 13th April, I found myself waking up earlier than usual, catching the same train I get into the city every day for work. However, instead of going into the office, I walked into the familiar grounds of St Botolph’s for the Toastmasters Division C International Speech and Evaluation Contest! I was attending as an observer (although I took on a couple of functionary roles to support my home club). I took along a special guest – someone who had never before been to a Toastmasters event – my wife. This was primarily to prove to my wife that Toastmasters was indeed a real club, and not something I’d made up to get away from household chores for a few hours every couple of weeks! I also felt that my wife would benefit and be inspired by the workshops and quality of speakers on the programme.
My wife made two main observations based on first impressions. Firstly, how formal and organised the event was. Despite being a voluntary organisation it was clear this was a group of people brought together by a strong purpose. From the introduction at the beginning, to a clear agenda, to clear instructions and explanations of the day’s programme, to a timekeeper ensuring everything ran smoothly and to time, there was a shared enthusiasm and drive throughout the day to run it as efficiently as possible. Secondly, my wife was impressed with how warm, friendly and encouraging everyone at the club was. From the meet and greet on entrance, to meeting numerous friendly people throughout the day and to seeing how every Toastmasters member encouraged others during the speeches, my wife felt there was a raw warmth and sense of community.
My own reason for attendance at the Contest was to learn and be inspired. Having been a member of Toastmasters for a few years now, partaking in a couple of club level speaking contests myself, I was interested to see how speech contests developed – from club to area to division – and to observe contest winning speeches. And it was indeed inspirational! The workshops gave great tips on how to structure and tell stories, and the speeches were fantastic illustrations of how to bring it all together and deliver a great speech in practice. There was one key feature that made each of these speeches stand out for me, and this was – the message. Not just the inclusion of a strong message in the speech. But the intertwining of every element of the speech, from structure, content, delivery, examples and conclusion, in a cohesive package, to reinforce that key message and make as big an impact as possible. This is certainly something I shall be thinking about when drafting my next speech.
Overall, a wonderful day. So much to learn and draw inspiration from, whether you’ve never attended a Toastmasters event before or have been a member for years. I shall definitely be going again and would encourage anyone – who is either interested to gain a better understanding of how their club operates in the wider area and division, or to simply draw inspiration from great speakers, to go along.