For the past few months in Toastmasters, I have been crossing off bucket-list items. One item is to complete my Competent Leadership (CL) manual. (Yes, I still don’t have my CL award. Imagine that.)
To obtain my CL, I would have to chair a speech contest. It still took a mentor giving me a very strong nudge before I contacted the VP of Ed to sign up to chair my club’s Humorous and Table Topics contest. He responded within the hour: congratulations, I was contest chair!
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 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.
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.
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
My eyes popped open this morning just before my alarm was set to ring. Through the sleepy haze and howling wind outside, my mind asked me: Did yesterday really happen? Continue reading
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.
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
Monday night I found myself attending the local Division L International Speech and Evaluation Contest after receiving an invitation from a friend. This was the first non-home Division contest I attended, and I was quite happy to see a number of familiar faces.
One of those familiar faces was a Toastmaster by the name of Chris Archer. We had never been formally introduced (I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know my name) but I had seen his speech on Saturday when he presented his speech at the famous Just Pros Dragon’s Den. Both versions of the same speech were almost the same, word for word: a great speech then and a great one now.
Yet, something was different. Continue reading
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.
It is time. Fall of 2013 and in the Toastmasters’ World, that means the season has started for the Humorist and Table Topics Contests. Thousands of Toastmasters will come together to compete; they will be trying their hardest to make you laugh your butt off, or they will be trying their hardest to answer thought-provoking questions on the spot.
It is almost one year to the day when I stepped in front of my own home club and delivered my own Humorist Speech. I could have never known how far I would get to go.
Before my reign comes to an end at the 2013 Fall Conference, I’d like to hog the spotlight for a little longer and take a quick stroll down memory lane. Please allow me to share the video of my speech at the 2012 Fall Conference for District 21 (Richmond, BC), a speech that would allow me to win First Place at the Humorist Speech Contest.
Ladies and gentlemen, my speech: Mistaken Identity.
I hope you enjoy it.