By Indra Sikdar, Harrovians Speakers Club, DivL Area61
I joined Toastmasters in 1999. I had been working but found it quite hard at the time to make friends at work and secondly to work in a logical and chronological manner (tackling a project step by step).
Initially, I found out about Toastmasters after reading some American self help books which implored the reader to attend and to use the organisation as a laboratory to practice public speaking.
The first club I joined was Athenians in Hammersmith and then soon I checked out another club called City of London Speakers Club which met at Liverpool Street (I transferred my membership there).
At the time City of London Speaker Club had less members and so I did not feel as initimidated to start my public speaking journey at that club.
I only spoke without notes when I gave my 10th speech (Competent Communicator).
I remember my first meeting where I was so impressed by the speakers that I felt like getting up and speaking in front of the audience myself !
I always felt that Toastmasters was a good organisation to join – as it is dedicated to self improvement and of course the self improvement generally only happens through team work.
I have tried almost all the roles including Area Governor, President, Secretary, Treasurer and many others roles as the need arose from time to time.
In 2001 I spoke to Imke Halberstadt and she mentioned that she wanted to start a club in Harrow – and as I lived in the London Borough of Harrow – I welcomed a local club.
I remember the day that we launched Harrovians in a pub in Wealdstone. Imke was on the case assertively recruiting the requisite number of members to launch the club.
Since that day we (Harrovians) have met in a variety of locations including other pubs, Community Halls, and Churches.
We have had our ups and downs but as a club we have kept the vision alive to provide communication and leadership opportunities for the people who live in and around Harrow.
With my own personal journey I went on to receive the prestigious Distinguished Toastmasters Award (after five years). Prior to that I met with Alan McMahon and we planned for how I would complete the DTM: what assignments were left, what speeches I would do and when.
I have in the past spoken at Speakers Corner, given a Seminar at London Metropolitan University, given a Sunday Service at a Church, spoken on radio and even given a variety of talks at Government Offices.
I now find it easy to make friends and am happy to network and talk to a variety of people, often this experience turns into team working opportunities.
At present I am looking at an opportunity to do some voluntary work for an English Community Group and am looking at ways to modernise the organisation, make it more inclusive and to blend both my traditions Indian and English into my narrative (if asked to speak) and to understand, English history, culture and where we are today as a modern society.
The lessons I have learned from Toastmasters are:
* When you find something good – take the plunge, find out about an organisation, join and get involved.
* Be consistent in turning up and trying the roles.
* Seek opportunities and when they arise – take on those challenges.
* It is important to have a clear vision of where you want to get to and broadly to stick to that destination.