From Florian Bay, Area Director 2015/16
As I came home from district officer training ten days ago, several things bubbled in my mind. Relief at having escaped a Martian tripod invading Earth. Empowerment at having reached another level in my Toastmasters journey in so many different ways. Finally, thoughtfulness at the journey taken so far, just over two years on from my icebreaker in Cheltenham Speakers.
It first heard about Toastmasters in early 2007, through some American self-help tapes I had purchased while studying in Bath. A quick search sadly only yielded a club whose meetings finished after the last train back to Bristol and Bath. But always wanting to become a better public speaker, a seed had been firmly planted in my mind. One evening in March 2013 while living in Gloucester, the search made a few times since 2007 was made again. “Oh there’s a club in Cheltenham, I could get the bus there after work on Tuesday!”
I still remember the first meeting I attended. It was the club’s speech and evaluation contest. One of the speech from this evening, ‘Beautiful people’ is still in my mind, especially the speaker’s fantastic vocal variety and use of rhymes. A fortnight later I was doing my first table topic. A fortnight after that, I was a paid-up member. The humble but oh so important role of timekeeper was mine one a month later. June 4th arrived and with it my icebreaker ‘Once upon a Franco-British dream’. A work placement in Scotland meant a pause in the journey, but the bug was there with desires of attending the Glasgow club one hour away by train suppressed with difficulty. In September 2013 the news was confirmed, I was due to be in London from October onwards! Less than a week after arriving, I attended and joined London Olympians, followed by St Paul’s Speakers in November.
What motivated me then and still motivates me today was a quest for excellence. A quest fulfilled by learning, improving and growing as much as I can in order to excel. The journey over the past two year was not always easy over but that’s what made it exciting. I vividly remember my third speech ‘Prometheus Unbound’ which was great except that getting to the point was forgotten along the way. A common feedback at the start was “less is more” something which seems counter-intuitive at first but makes perfect sense as a speech much be understood by one’s audience. 23 speeches and 138 club meetings onwards from my icebreaker, I am now a far more confident speaker than I was two years ago. Having learned along the way the importance of structure, body language, vocal variety when crafting a speech.
But there’s more to Toastmasters than just speeches and speaking! I remember well my first Toastmasters event. It was the Division B contests in October 2013. Chatting to Hilary Briggs, then Lieutenant Governor Education and Training in District 71, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me: leadership roles at various levels, organising events and much more. “You’re enthusiastic, get involved, we need people like you!” was the parting advice. I am glad for the many opportunities and challenges I’ve had to learn and develop myself as a leader since. The biggest of these has been the creation of London Victorians with the club committee. I could not help but cry tears of joy as the e-mail came through from WHQ welcoming the club to the wider Toastmasters family.
Our slogan is “Where leaders are made” and I can’t help but agree. It would be cheesy to say that Toastmasters changed my life. But the reality is that being a member of Toastmasters has changed me for the better. Yet the journey never ends! I have a High Performance Leadership project to finish, more to learn and improve as a speaker and leader. Not to forget a whole Area within the City of London to lead to excellence next year!
Become a speaker! Become a leader! Join Toastmasters!