Power of the Positive

About a week ago, I was informed I would be moving on to the next round of the Toastmasters Evaluation contest. I had entered at the club level, placed second, and was done. Two days before the Area contest, I got an email from the first place winner that he was unable to go. It would be up to me to represent the club.

Except I wasn’t sure if I would. This was the busiest time for me, hands down. I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely thrilled about the short notice either. In the end, I took a deep breath and decided to go. Whatever happened, happened.

I won.

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From Toastmasters to Real World

I would have never done my speech like that in the real world. Toastmasters’ is safe.”

That was the first thing I heard when I joined the conversation. A fellow Toastmaster had given a speech, received feedback and I thought nothing more of it until I heard that line later in the meeting.

The idea that speeches in Toastmasters are different from the real world is an understandable concept. Toastmasters is undoubtedly safe, and it’s that security that gives me the courage to push my own personal speech boundaries. Using props and costumes? I’ve tried that. Running around on stage? Yup. Breaking out into (horrible) song? Two weeks ago I was finally brave enough, and jumped in with my eyes closed.

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Reaching Deep, Being Brave

I have always felt something freeing about having a blank pad of paper and a smooth writing pen. I am free to write whatever I want, however I want, wherever I want. No matter how much I improve on my public speaking, I will always find comfort expressing myself through the written word.

Empty page

Awhile ago, a Toastmaster approached me and asked me to write a story about personal change. Ideally the topic should have been easy: I am in Toastmasters after all, I could have written about all my changes in the past five years and called it a day. But a challenge was put forth: could I write about a change that everyone could relate to, not just the Toastmasters’ audience. I think so…but how on earth would I start? Where would I start? Continue reading

Trusting in the Relatable

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

In my previous life as a Science major, that quote stuck with me. Our forefathers (and mothers) made major discoveries and obtained knowledge that we take for granted today. Often we use that gained knowledge to form our own experiments, make our own discoveries, write our own papers, etc.

Except I always had the thought of “everything that can be written about, has already been written about, how on earth can I come up with something original?”

I had the same approach when I first tried writing speeches for Toastmasters. In amongst trying to get a handle on my nerves, I was trying to find a topic I could “teach” to the audience. I was (and still am) considered young in comparison to the average age of a Toastmaster, everything I have experienced in my short life, my audience has already experienced, many times over. Continue reading

What Do I Want?

Several months ago I had decided this was it: as much as I loved my current workplace and the people in it, I was going to leave. I wanted to try new things. I wanted to see what else was out there in the big wide world.

Credit: Imagebase.net

Credit: Imagebase.net

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Road Trip: Oregon Coast

The world is a book, and those who do not travel only read one page.” – St. Augustine.

I saw that quote on a blank journal in a shop in the UK last year. That quote has always struck a chord with me: how can we begin to understand and broaden our horizons of the world if we do not travel to as many different places as possible?

A friend invited me on a Labour Day long weekend road trip to the Oregon Coast with a group of her friends. Despite all my initial fears (what if I get carsick?) I accepted. Heck, you only live once…and I made sure to buy a ton of Gravol. Continue reading

Two Words for Humour

A few months ago at a club meeting, one Toastmaster asked another member the following question:

“In two words, how would you describe how you incorporate humour?”

The question spawned my own internal challenge. If I could describe my own take on incorporating humour in two words, which two would I choose?

After months of deliberation, I finally came up with my answer.

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Lessons from New Members

This week I found myself at my home club fulfilling the role of Table Topics Master. It was a role I had done many times before: think of questions (preferably related to the theme), and remember to confirm with timers and evaluators. However on this day one of our newest members, Ming, approached me at the break. Continue reading

Trusting Myself Again

I am standing at the top, looking over the side. Pouring rain and strong winds made the water and snow pellets hit my face so hard I thought this was Mother Nature’s cruel way of giving me a free facial. Visibility had dropped to the point where I could barely make out what the terrain was like at my feet.

I remember what it was like last time.
I can’t do this. Continue reading

Conflict: Taking a Step Back

A little while ago, I was invited as a guest to an advanced Toastmasters’ Club. Unbeknownst to me, my great timing had me to visit the club on the same day a Business Meeting was conducted. A lively discussion ensued about whether or not to change/update the membership joining “restrictions” (for lack of a better term) as the club had grown and evolved. Some members were very much in favour of updating the restriction while some members were very vocal about leaving the wording as is, and sticking with the status quo. There is no nice way to put it: the business meeting gave me second thoughts about joining the club.

Why? My reservations had nothing to do with the club or its members. I thought and still very much think highly of the club and the members in it. The membership restriction (while nothing wrong) was something I could not meet from a personal standpoint. I concluded the club and I would not be a good fit; I would continue my search to find an advanced club that would be right for me. No hard feelings.

Fast forward two months. After expressing my reservations to the original gentleman who had invited me (I was curious to find out if the original conflict had been resolved), I found myself back at the exact same club and by sheer fluke, sitting in on another presentation that addressed the stalemate from the original business meeting.

Why? The original Toastmaster convinced me to take a step back and ask myself about my underlying goal: what was it? (To take myself to that next level of public speaking). Would the club help me get there? (Yes.) Would they welcome my potential membership bid? (I believe they would.)

The presentation was an eye opening experience. The chair was masterful at directing the discussion and keeping things on track. In the end it felt like the definition of one word had caused a lot of conflict between the members. A lot of members had thought this one word meant one definition, while another group of individuals (including myself) had another definition of that same word. Both were common definitions but had differing implications. It was only when everyone stepped back and addressed the underlying core, which allowed a potential agreement to be reached.

My mind keeps flipping back to the original stalemate. Everyone had discussed (passionately) whether to change the membership statement, but it was only when we were directed to take a step back did we discover the real conflict had begun with differing definitions of the same word. Arguing over the outcome did not help when not everyone was on the same page.

Perhaps the next time conflict arises, take a step back and ask: what is the conflict? What is the underlying issue? Most importantly, are the conflicting parties arguing from the same page? It may just come down to a difference in definitions.