Bob Nisbet DTM interviews Martin Berry DTM (Camberley Speakers, Farnham Speakers). Martin is the first person in our new District 91 (UK South) to complete both the communication and leadership tracks and become a Distinguished Toastmaster, the highest award bestowed by Toastmasters International.
Q: How long has it taken you to reach Distinguished Toastmaster?
A: I went to my first Toastmasters meeting on 4 Oct 2005. I still have the agenda! I joined about a month later and did my first ever speech on 12 Jan 2006. My DTM plaque arrived in September 2014. So about nine years.
Q: Why did you first come to a Toastmasters meeting and why did you join?
A: My friend Doug New had been raving about Toastmasters and kept nagging me to go along. I told him quite firmly I wasn’t the least bit interested in hearing a load of stuffy speeches. Eventually he made me an offer: “ If you agree to come along just one time, I’ll pick you up from your home, drive you to the meeting, buy you a pint afterwards, and then bring you back…if you don’t like it I’ll never bother you with it again.” Of course, I loved it. I never guessed the speeches would be so personal, so entertaining, educational and often funny or uplifting. It was as good as going to the theatre.
Q: What have been the high and low spots in your Toastmasters journey?
A: Too many to count. I had a low spot recently. I entered a Tall Tales Contest in June, stood up to speak and found I really couldn’t remember my speech. I had no choice but to apologize and sit down. A major high for me was my CC5. I got lots laughs from the audience. It was the first speech where I really enjoyed performing. After that, I nearly always entered the Humorous Speech Contest. I’ve reached Division level three times, (always coming 2nd place which is a bit frustrating). My single biggest thrill was the Woking Speakers’ Christmas Panto, “The Wizard of Niz”. which I wrote and directed for my HPL Project. It was an amazing experience to watch the players perform my words so brilliantly, and even better, the audience laughing their socks off. I just thought to myself: “They like it, they like it!! “.
Q: Who has had the greatest influence on you as a speaker and leader?
A: So many. In the early days Nicola Coutts (now Mrs. Haverfordwest) who was my first mentor. I found it really hard to do a speech without notes, and Nicola did a great job helping me fix that. I had a lot of encouragement from Samantha Babister, who always laughed the loudest and wrote the best comments slips. In addition, there was a certain dour Scot on the scene. He was highly accomplished and seemed to be excellent at every aspect of Toastmasters. When I discovered he was going to evaluate my CC 4 I fully expected him to expose me as a lightweight whimsy. I was more than a bit relieved when he gave me a very positive review. Since then I’ve seen him obtain his DTM. One of the first things he did was start all over again, with an Icebreaker -a great example to senior Toasties everywhere Mr. Nisbet.
In addition, I’ve always been impressed by Amanda Zwarts, often brilliantly funny speeches and always powerful, intelligent evaluations, and Gayna Cooper, a worthy District Humorous Speech Champion. Of the District Leaders, the three that have impressed me the most are Freddie Daniells, Luanne Kent and Hilary Briggs…..all Toastmaster Superstars and great leaders for the rest of us. There are many others who I’ve admired and I hope they are not going to sulk about not getting a mention.
Q: How have you benefited personally and professionally from your Toastmasters experience?
A: Pre-Toastmasters I found it very difficult to speak in public. I was shy and lacked self-confidence. I even went to a wedding in Germany as Best Man, and I didn’t speak even though I had a speech prepared. Toastmasters has enabled me to overcome this.
I gave a eulogy at my mother’s funeral. There is no way I could’ve done that pre-Toastmasters. Although it was a sad day I enjoyed the experience and I loved saying my very own special goodbye to my Mum. I could tell from the reaction that I’d “Wowed” the audience. My sister did her speech immediately after me and she started it by saying, “If any of you ever have to do this, remember to never follow a Toastmaster”.
I’ve never used my Toastmaster skills to pursue a career in training, presenting or stand-up comedy. However, Toastmasters has helped me cope much better with the highs and lows of my Courier/ Delivery business. It’s taught me not to panic in crisis situations since I’ve learned that staying calm and thinking things through is more conducive to a good outcome.
Q: After DTM, what next?
A: Good question! I may be a bit too lazy to do DTM a second time round. Mind you I’ve chalked up 15 more manual speeches since I reached the DTM target of 40, so who knows? I still like to enter contests. An unfulfilled ambition of mine is to reach the District Humorous Speech Contest. It’s quite tricky because I share my Area with a certain Marlane Heard, who always enters the Contest and is very talented, glamorous, and much admired. In contrast I‘m usually: grumpy, balding, brash and cynical. (Maybe I’ll lock her in the broom cupboard next year)!
What I really enjoy at Toastmasters is turning up at a meeting and having the VPE ask me if I can step in to do a role. I always find that stimulating. What next? Who knows…But I’ll keep going to meetings that’s for sure.