I recently signed on to my Pathways account on toastmasters.org and found the original date I joined Toastmasters 7 was September 1, 2012! Almost-seven years seem like an entire lifetime ago. I was a different person when I joined Toastmasters. I just started a small non-profit organization with an ambitious mission and promptly got invited to speak in front of 500 people to articulate my philosophy and vision for all these 500 strangers. When I accepted the invitation graciously, I panicked! I was terrible speaking to more than a single person, 500 seemed like….a lot.
Frantically, I began googling toastmasters groups because I recalled reading about them in the numerous self help books I’d read over the years. I found a group – they were highly rated on Yelp, and even better – located a short bike ride away from my home – that group was Toastmasters 7!
That first meeting I walked in, I still remember my nervousness. I was a few minutes late. The meeting had already started.
The air was warm.
Sunlight was streaming through the windows.
Someone was talking.
The Sargent-at-Arms, Brian Austin, got up and came over and in a quiet voice welcomed me and quelled my nervousness. I found an empty seat in the back where I sat and observed the meeting.
The subsequent weeks, I kept going back. I didn’t fully understand how the meetings worked. However, there were all these elders… Longstanding members who walked me through my journey. They scheduled me for speeches and roles, encouraged and helped me improve my speeches. Yet, no person played a bigger role than my mentor, Harold “Magnum” Mangum, in terms of getting me to finish my communication manual.
I am not sure how Magnum was assigned to be my mentor, but he was levels above anyone in his absolute mastery of his audience and message. We’d meet for coffee, and periodically check in – and he was nothing short of encouraging, motivating, and simply captivating. Thanks to Magnum, I have won too many of those blue ribbons to count and found my voice on stage.
Now I have the honor of mentoring a new member, Monica Feliz – a true Philadelphian woman – meaning she has all the spunk you’d expect from someone who is a native from the city of Brotherly Love. And I get the opportunity to mentor her through her unique Toastmasters journey. Monica is a millennial and I am learning a lot about this descriptor including the fact that none of the younger members will read this lengthy post and so I need to figure out how to make the message I want to convey a little more bite sized and interesting despite my absolute love for long form writing.
I ENCOURAGE YOU to join your local Toastmasters (like Toastmasters7!). You will find a group of committed, encouraging, captivating individuals, who will help in your journey to become a masterful communicator as well as a laudatory leader.
Mentorship works in any field, and it is especially helpful in a self-improvement journey that is Toastmasters.
The mission of Toastmasters 7 club is to provide members with a mutually supportive and positive environment to practice public speaking while receiving constructive feedback to improve communication and leadership skills.
One thing I think is especially striking about our club (besides the fact that we like to have fun!) is the members and guests are in a safe and comforting space to explore and push past their comfort zone in developing their communication skills. Over the past six years, I have listened to and been moved by too many speeches to count.
I think it is the speeches where our speakers describe their vulnerability that tends to have a dramatic impact – in both subtle and overt ways. That opens a door, inviting us to develop and strengthen our sense of empathy and ultimately, become better people.
Last week’s meeting was held on Valentine’s Day, our Vice President of Public Relations gave a speech that resonated with me a great deal. I was also her evaluator and she wanted me to evaluate her based on her vocal variety, stage presence, and storytelling while displaying emotional vulnerability – this is a degree of skill that only advanced speakers can execute well, and Elaine did so.
I asked Elaine what motivated her to give the speech. To which she responded –
“When I signed up to give a speech on Valentine’s Day, I wanted to push myself further out of my comfort zone by sharing an emotional story. My past speeches have been informational without touching on emotions whatsoever. In the past months, I’ve heard many powerful and vulnerable speeches that really touched my heart – Jeremy and his transformation because of his daughters, Tomo and the loss of her father, Landon’s area contest winning speech and recently Dave Z.’s inspirational 10th speech.
Initially I thought about telling the story about my husband and how he is the opposite of my Dad but I didn’t want to just talk about my love life. Instead I wanted to share a part of me that others can learn from. I realized this after listening to my daughter’s speech. In comparison with the rest of the students who did their TED talk at school, Eyva’s speech was encouraging. This inspired me to open myself and also present an encouraging speech . I felt my story of discovering self-compassion can move someone towards discovering their own.
The speech also made those raw emotions come alive – in a way it helped to revisit these emotions as I drew strength from them. Through suffering can I only grow stronger.”
And that is a sentiment I suspect a lot of you can relate to. Thank you, Elaine, for sharing your story.
—– *Thanks to Joy Clausen Soto, Guest Speaker, and winner of the evening’s Speakathon for the inspiration of the title of this post. Her speech was based off Zig Ziglar’s use of the word ‘Fantastic’. Yes, sometimes we have Speakathons because we have so many outstanding members waiting to give equally outstanding speeches.
Public Speaking is almost universally recognized as something that brings great fear and anxiety to most people. It is often listed as one’s biggest fear. Toastmasters is a program designed, in part, to help one overcome that fear. How does one overcome the fear of public speaking? Not in small part due to member enthusiasm.
Toastmasters 7 has many enthusiastic members. Above: Lou Weimann, Toastmaster last week. And a guest, Zak, who won best Table Topics speaker and gave excellent meeting feedback
At the end of our last Toastmasters meeting, one of our guests (pictured above) gave feedback about how enthusiastic our club was. He specifically mentioned how there was a “lot of hootin’ and hollerin’” that added to a very enthusiastic and energetic atmosphere. It was then I realized that I needed to focus some attention on that unrecognized, but valuable member(s) of our club: the hype man and hype woman.
Above is a gif of Flavor Flav who probably brought worldwide acclaim to the importance of the hype man in a hip-hop band. In wikipedia I found this little blurb:
Music writer Mickey Hess expands the term as follows: “a hype man is a figure who plays a central but supporting role within a group, making his own interventions, generally aimed at hyping up the crowd while also drawing attention to the words of the MC.”
That perfectly encapsulates the role of the hype men and women at Toastmaster 7 meetings.
When someone is speaking at our Toastmasters meeting, encouragement plays a huge role in both creating a sense of camaraderie and making the speaker feel appreciated and encouraged to repeat and push themselves within Toastmasters and outside the club.
After the meeting last week, I was talking to one of our members, Sureal Sparx, about some of the other clubs he had visited in the past and he mentioned how one club only offered a polite golf clap after every speaker exited the stage.
Now I am not sure about you. But if I am not feeling confident about giving a presentation and I get a polite little golf clap, I’m not sure I’d want to do that again. But on the other hand if I get the equivalent of Flavor Flav hyping up the entire audience to be the most enthusiastic they’ve ever been – I am going to exit the stage feeling pretty good about myself and inspired to push myself further.
At our last meeting, one of our members crossed an incredible threshold: Completing the tenth speech in the Competent Communicator manual.
David Zarella’s speech was titled “A Remarkable Transformation”.
The man from Jersey recounted his growth within Toastmasters 7. He described his first meeting two years ago which had a very somber mood because our beloved Club President had just unexpectedly died.
Dave talked about how joining Toastmasters had made him feel part of an inspiring community.
And then he switched gears, with his trademark and hilarious expletive laden style, and launched a call to action to our guests to join Toastmasters, “the members of this club will help you achieve any level of confidence you want.”
Dave touched on why our club is so special, “you become part of a community,”and how he found his own speaking style – “Unfortunately, it’s the irreverent smart-ass style. But I dig it. So you’re stuck with it!”.
That tenth speech by Dave, was quite the emotional roller coaster. He held the audience in the palm of his hand, in complete mastery of the craft of speaking well – I noticed that all thirty one attendees laughed uproariously and shed a tear or two during the course of Dave recounting his journey within Toastmatsters 7.
And having witnessed Dave’s journey so far from the beginning in just two years – I have to admit that it was indeed, a remarkable transformation.
The title of this post is a slight play on the name of venue where we held our last meeting, The Life Community Center. We are in the process of deciding where a new meeting space should be. And why are we pondering this? That is because the California housing crisis has hit us here at Toastmasters – the rent of our existing meeting space at Normal Heights Community Center has gone up!
Last Thursday, we met at a potential new meeting space The Life Community Meeting Center. As Toastmasters members, we have the opportunity to weigh in on the decision on our new permanent meeting space that will also fit our budget (which is partly funded by member dues).
But the main reason we all keep showing up every week is because learning how to communicate effectively and become leaders in the process – a skill that will benefit all of us throughout our lives. Below is a recap of last Thursday’s meeting. All photos were taken by the VP of Public Relations, Elaine.
If this has piqued your interest, consider attending our next meeting on January 17th (Thursday) which will be held at:
4649 Hawley Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116