Meet A Toastmaster: Harminder Dhillon

Harminder Dhillon

Toastmaster of the Year 2020/21

Kings Speakers

How do you feel about winning your award?

To say that I am truly honoured would be an understatement. I had a lump in my throat when I found out, because this award means so much, not just to me, but to everyone at our club. There are certain moments in our lives that leave a permanent and beautiful mark on our psyche and this is one of those moments for me.

What is your secret to winning the award? / Why do you think you won?

I don’t think there is any secret! When I created Kings Speakers nearly 10 years ago, I didn’t set out to win awards but simply followed the fire in my belly. I have a stutter and suffered from social anxiety most of my life. Being a member of Trojan Speakers club in Ealing had helped me to totally eliminate the social anxiety and come to terms with my stutter. Toastmasters helped me to discover who I really was. So, I wanted to ‘pay it forward’ by setting up Kings Speakers to help others who suffered from similar conditions.

Creating Kings was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it turned out to be one of THE most rewarding. I’ve used the following analogy to explain the process: imagine if you had to open a new store on Oxford Street. That would be difficult in itself. Now imagine if you targeted just 1% of the passers-by as your potential customers. That would be even harder. Now imagine if that 1% of the people you are targeting did not like shopping? Well, that’s what Kings Speakers is. We help and encourage that 1% of the population for whom simple conversations, meeting people, and everyday social interactions are a challenge. But we’ve found that the greater the fear levels, the more dramatic the transformation in our members. That is the power and magic of Toastmasters.

This is reflected in the fact that many of them do very well at the Area and Division level contests. More than that, our members push their personal limits beyond what they thought possible. One of our members, Tony Weiss, pulled off a coup when he got David Seilder, the Oscar-winning screenwriter for the movie “The Kings Speech” to be the main speaker and guest at our meeting this year.

What is your next challenge?

To continue to grow, to help others, and empower them to do the same. I am a firm believer in the Buddhist expression

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

I’m grateful that Ralph Smedley lit that initial candle over 90 years ago.