The Journey to Guildford!

by Nithya Venugopal, CC, ALB

August 1, 2018 was a day filled with mixed emotions. The day marked 3 years of being a Toastmaster, but I was faced with the prospect of leaving my home club to pursue my Masters at the University of Surrey, as I received my admit on the same day. I never ever imagined a day will come when I will have to leave and the decision was more emotional and difficult than I thought it will be.

I joined TCS Maitree Champions TM Club, Chennai (Division D, District 82) in 2015. District 82 comprises of Tamil Nadu (India) and Sri Lanka and is a vibrant district, crowned number 1 district in the recently concluded Toastmasters International convention in Chicago. Champions is a semi-annual corporate club and is one among the top 5 clubs in D82. In terms of DCP, Champions achieve Presidents Distinguished status every year and also all the District awards for Club Quality and Club Engagement. The membership is on an average around 40 members, out of which majority are active members. Weekly meetings of 1 hour are held every Thursday, with innovative themes thought out by TMODs weekly. The agenda is very crisp is comparison to Guildford Speakers Club, but due to work constraints 1 hour is an ideal time for a meeting at Champions. For contests, however, special themed meetings and milestone meetings are held where the agenda is a bit more relaxed in terms of time. There are a lot of differences in the practices adopted for the meetings between the 2 the clubs, but if I start I can write on for long about those 🙂 But there are definitely a few practices followed by Guildford that I feel can be implemented back home and I will be passing along the message soon.

 A club with enthusiastic members who love to travel together and attend events in large numbers, I thought of joining Toastmasters with an intention to break the monotony of regular office work and to network with people. In my first meeting as a guest, I got to witness a CC1 marathon with 5 brilliant icebreakers and 5 equally stunning evaluations. I immediately started wondering what my CC1 will be like! And then I got to know there will be many chances to participate in organizing events and I joined in a couple of weeks. Since then, I got a chance to be part of the organizing team of almost every division and district conference and I enjoyed them immensely. I got to serve as the Secretary and President of the club and also as a club mentor for a newly chartered club. Those terms were the best in terms of learning and networking.

I never considered contesting in any contests in the 1st year because I felt, “Why should I? Organizing is more fun!”. Then during the ISC club contest, a club member and close friend asked, “Nithya, how long will you keep organizing? When will I see you contesting on stage? You should go for it.”. So, the next contest onwards I started contesting and I found it to be a great experience. I realized the learning from one contest speech is so much more than one speech given from a manual project. However, laziness is ingrained in my blood (:P) and the next year, I just contested in evaluation and table topics contests.

Initially I had decided that I would not renew my membership once I moved to Guildford, but that was before I discovered that a club was present at a 20 minutes walking distance from the University! Even then I was hesitant for a while before contacting the club group through Facebook. But I realized the real value of Toastmasters on attending my first meeting at Guildford Speakers. It is indeed an environment with a homely feel that openly welcomes you and instantly makes you feel comfortable. I felt very much at peace and got my membership transferred. I also got to know the club contest was at the next meeting and I was looking forward to contesting in table topics. My first table topic I gave in Champions was a disaster! I did not even understand the topic and blabbered on for a minute before going back to my seat! But slowly and steadily, I started going forward more and tried to give a good topic speech in the club.

Winning the Topics club contest at Guildford Speakers was a pleasant surprise and totally unexpected. I was very nervous before the contest because it was a new stage and I was very conscious as a new member as to how will it go. The adrenaline rush was very high! But I definitely did not want to let the opportunity to contest slip away because I knew the experience and feedback gained would be worth all the fear irrespective of the results. If asked how, I should give credit to all the training programs that were held for contests back in Champions as well as in D82. My mentors also are an important part of my TM journey so far and their continuous encouragement and guidance play an important role in my efforts.

Toastmasters is a platform I chose three years back and I am very happy to have made this choice. I have gained incredible mentors, friends for life, and wonderful experiences. I am eagerly looking forward to being a member of Guildford Speakers Club and explore opportunities and make the best of my time here!

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