By Zariya Lufu, President Spirited Speakers
Have you ever felt life takes you into something you weren’t expecting? Have you had to step up for something you weren’t prepared for? Have you wanted to be a participant and had to step up into leading?
I didn’t want to start a Toastmasters club. I just wanted Toastmasters to go into my kids’ school to teach them how to do public speaking. Then one fateful day a lady posted in our village community facebook group that she wanted Speaker Coaching. So many commented! Some people tagged had done Toastmasters. With the post getting such a buzz, I felt there had to be one in our village. So, I began the hunt to find someone else to lead it! I knew who to ask! Someone who attended Tunbridge Wells Speakers but lives here. She said she didn’t have the time. How would I find the time?
I contacted Toastmasters International and got an email from Arnaud Sartre soon after. He made it sound fun and easy and asked for a date to start. A date? So soon. I didn’t even know if I was doing it! Oh my! It began to feel real. My nerves triggered that luminous air around me, where the world starts to stand still. Why not just leap in? If it doesn’t work, I would have just lost an evening. The date was set for two weeks later. That meant a manic rush to get flyers, and leaflets created and printed, rooms booked, and people found to do a Demo meeting as I had never attended a Toastmasters meeting.
I dashed over to Gatwick Toastmasters, so I could least so I’d attended one meeting, and would vaguely know what I’m doing. Thankfully that weekend was a contest – so I got to meet Arnaud and speak to other speakers about their experience. I hadn’t ever been part of a club, so I was going in blind! I delved into reading, watching videos, and emailing anyone I could that would answer me.
Sylvia kindly created an agenda – we filled it with good souls from Kent, London Victoria, and Tunbridge Wells. I was amazed by the support and care. Toastmasters seems to create kind generous people: servant leaders! Two weeks after the call with Arnaud, I arrived to find Jon Parth from Kent Speakers already in the venue setting up. He’s been there every meeting without fail and checking in to see how I am each week. He and Sylvia have done zoom calls with me to help me to understand the roles, and pathways. They continue to offer outstanding support as our area manager and sponsor.
47 people came on the first night. I’m incredibly grateful to the Toastmasters who’ve come from other areas to support us. The room was tingling with excitement, the laughter flowed, and people were courageous in standing up for the first time. A VPE, Secretary and VPM stepped forward – and we welcomed guests open heartedly. None of us knowing what we were doing, but Toastmasters from out of area guided and lead us. The energy of the room sustained and enlivened us. I knew we’d have our charter number of 20 on the night. I could feel it!
While we got 22 membership forms filled in the first 48 hours, the bank hadn’t released our account details yet. So frustrating. People couldn’t transfer their money. Momentum was lost. I lamented: “If only the bank had been open. If only… We would have been able to charter on the first night!” Instead, we had a slow drip of people signing up. Jon signed up people and latches us onto Kent speakers. First 8 people. Then 4. Then 3… Until now we have 17. While not having a bank meant we didn’t charter on the first night, I have hope we will soon. I’m trusting that the members who have signed up are the perfect ones and hope the others will join when they’re ready! We only have 3 more to go to Charter! Soon Spirited Speakers will be a fully-fledged club.
I’m sure you reading this knows how powerful Toastmasters is. It’s like a non-stop train that picks you up and takes you to transformation city. I hadn’t even attended a meeting before October last year. That’s when I wanted others to teach my kids, while I got on with my work. When I saw the opportunity, I wanted to be a spectator, not a participant. When I saw the local interest, I wanted to be a participant in a vibrant club, not a leader. When I realised a local club would mean I didn’t have to drive and I’d get to hang out with the amazing people in our village, I became a leader and a public speaker. What a turn-around in less than 3 months!
I’m incredibly grateful. Thanks to the leadership in the area, to the Toastmasters who’ve come to support, to the members who’ve joined, to those that have taken up roles and the guests who’ve laughed and enjoyed their time with us.