Written by Sam Ollinger
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.