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Guest Division J (Central Dublin)

Guest Division J (Central Dublin)

My Leadership Journey

Colm Mc Glade ACG, Division J Director

This September I will be 25 years in Toastmasters. To celebrate, I hope to achieve my DTM award. To achieve this, I was required to take on a leadership role. This was new to me. The reason I joined Toastmasters was to improve my public speaking skills. I was President of Rathfarnham Toastmasters 20 years ago. However, since then, I avoided all leadership roles……until last July when I stepped into the role of Division J Director.

It has been a steep learning curve for me. To become a good leader, I would need good leaders. I chose Peter Kieran, DTM, as my Assistant Division Director. Peter has been Division C Director on two occasions and an Area Director on three occasions. He knows the ropes. I am very grateful for his advice and guidance during the year. I am also very appreciative of my three area directors: Area 2 Director Gareth Coghlan, Area 7 Director Mairead Murphy and Area 57 Director PJ Claffey, for their commitment, enthusiasm and hard work throughout the year.

Division J is a new Division in Dublin city centre, with 3 areas. We started the Toastmaster year with 12 clubs. However, 2 clubs have fallen by the wayside – Saudi and Digital Hub in Area 57, but we have also gained 2 new corporate clubs, Irish Life in Area 57 and Takeda in Area 7 (both chartered). There is a possibility of 2 more corporate clubs joining the Division soon, although probably not before 30th June. They are AIG and IDA.

The make-up of Division J is now as follows

  • Area 2: Dublin, Eblana, Society, Accentuators
  • Area 7: Cogito, Vox Populi, Uncensored, Takeda
  • Area 57: I.E.Templebar, PWC, IFSC, Irish Life

As my year as Division J Director comes to an end, I can now look back with pride at our achievements. The year’s highlights include:

COT1: This was held in Wynn’s Hotel on Saturday 14th July. There was a good turn out from all the clubs. Topics covered included Moments of Truth with Area 57 Director PJ Claffey, GDPR with Brenda Lannon, Administration Manager District Leadership Team and Pathways with our District Director Patricia O’ Reilly. Mop up training was held in the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday 22nd August. The feedback from COT1 indicated that members wanted more guidance on Pathways.

COT2: This was held in Chartered Accountants House on Pearse street on Friday 8th February. This included more training on Pathways with Patricia O’ Reilly and a session on attracting and retaining new members with former Division M Director Dermot Carey. Mop up training was held on 20th February.

DOT1+2: I attended District Officer training last June and again in January. This was a great experience and very informative, a coming together of all the Division and Area Directors in Ireland (and some from the U.K), along with members of the District Leadership Team.

Speech Contests: Having to organise speech contests was a new experience for me. I have been involved in many speech contests in the past as a contestant, but I had never organised one. I would prepare my speech, turn up on the day and participate. I didn’t really understand what was involved to run a successful contest. I selected this as my HPL project. The members of my guidance committee included my assistant Division Director, Peter Kieran, Area 2 Director Gareth Coghlan and the then President of IE Templebar Toastmasters Ritchie Prenderville. We worked together as a team to organise the contests to ensure they were a success.

The Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests were held in Wynns hotel on Sunday 11th November. There was a good turnout. Dermot Carey from the Uncensored club won the Humorous Speech contest and Elaine Gallagher from the Dublin club won the Table Topics.

Wynn’s hotel put up their prices after Christmas, so we had to search for another suitable venue for the spring contests. On Sunday 14th April, we held our International Speech and Evaluation contests in the Hilton Garden Inn in the IFSC. Phillip Khan Panni from Society Toastmasters won the International Speech contest while Elaine Gallagher was a winner again in the Evaluation contest.

Division J was the big winner at the District 71 conference in Norwich in May, as both Dermot and Phillip won their respective speech contests. Phillip will now go on to represent both Division J and District 71 in the European Regional Final, via a recording of his speech. If he is successful, he will then progress to the World Semi Final in the U.S. in August. This, of course, is not Phillip’s first time to win the District 71 International Speech Final. He has won it on 3 previous occasions and, in 1994, he came 2nd in the World Final. What an achievement! On behalf of all the members in Division J, I would like to wish Phillip continued success.

New Corporate Clubs

As mentioned above, two new corporate clubs chartered this year in Division J – Irish Life (see enclosed article) in the autumn and, more recently, Takeda. Both myself and Area 7 Director Mairead Murphy are sponsors for Takeda. The club was very fast in getting off the ground. The initial demonstration meeting was held on 8th March and the club chartered in May with 32 signed up members.

A demonstration meeting was also held for AIG last December and it is hoped that they might charter soon. The IDA has also expressed an interest in setting up a corporate club and we hope to organise a demonstration meeting for them quite soon.

While I am happy that my year as Division J Director is coming to an end, I’m also delighted that I took on the role. It gave me a whole new perspective on Toastmasters. I learned many leadership skills along the way, including the necessity to be organised, to have a vision and to set goals; the importance of teamwork and the need to delegate; the importance of listening skills, to be able to listen to others views and take advice. Above all, I gained a lot of satisfaction from my role. I believe Division J will continue to grow and prosper and I wish the incoming Division Director every success and happiness in the role.

Irish Life

Ronan Kearney, President Irish Life

The idea of Irish Life Toastmasters first came about towards the end of summer 2018. As a member of Dublin South Toastmasters, I had often seen how club members joined for professional reasons and were often encouraged and even sponsored by their employers to do so. Working for a relatively large organisation myself (Irish Life has approx. 2,500 employees based in its Dublin City Centre HQ) I could see the potential for a new corporate club. Initial marketing involved a poster campaign and word of mouth within the company. It wasn’t long before several interested and enthusiastic people came forward eager to be involved. A few us visited the Google Phonics club in Barrow Street (big thanks to Steven Scully for his hospitality) to get an idea of how a corporate club might work. Inspired by what we saw at Google we returned to Irish Life armed with plenty of good ideas. Soon after this we arranged a launch in Irish Life, open to all staff, and saw a great turnout of over 50 people. Again, we were assisted with the launch by Steven and some colleagues from Google which helped tremendously.

Following the launch interest continued to grow and we realised that chartering a new club was viable. Having secured a regular meeting location (‘The Hive’ meeting room in Irish Life HQ – see attached photos)  we scheduled our first meeting for October 2018 and saw an attendance of 35 people. In November we were honoured to welcome Toastmasters International CEO Dan Rex to our club as part of his visit to Ireland, and promptly included him in a lively and entertaining Table Topics session! We currently have 40 registered members and expect this to continue growing due to our regular participation in awareness-raising initiatives within Irish Life and positive feedback passed on via word of mouth.

A lot of work was involved to get the club up and running but we’re now really seeing the rewards with lots of highly entertaining meetings in The Hive and fantastic progression for our members.

Twenty-three years of membership

Peter J. Claffey, ATG, Area 57 Director

When it comes to Toastmasters, you could call me a lifer. I have been a member of TI since 1996, without parole. I joined Rathfarnham Toastmasters back then and in more recent times I am also a member of Powertalk Toastmasters.

At that very first meeting, I was taken by the confidence of the speakers who spoke that night in Rathfarnham, particularly those who gave the prepared speeches but also those who spoke on a topic they were just given. Yes, I wanted to be like those speakers and resolved there and then to work hard to be so. I even spoke for a mere 30 seconds, my lips trembling on a Topic and I felt very foolish doing so. I sounded a bit strange speaking. Do I sound like that? I was very self-conscious of my voice and it was a very strange feeling. On that first night I resolved to say something at every meeting thereafter, just to get over these strange feelings, hopefully build my confidence and be as good as the other members.

After a few meetings I joined up and got the CC Manual in the post a few weeks later. Ten speeches, which I planned to do in 2 years. I took to speech preparation and practice with great gusto. I lit up when I got a good evaluation from my Evaluator. I read the evaluation slips again and again, just to absorb the good feedback again. This feedback gave me greater confidence to move onto the next Toastmasters levels. In June 1998 I got my CC Award. This was followed by the CL in 2000, the ATM Bronze in 2002, the ATM Silver in 2006 and finally ATM Gold in 2009. While speech preparation, practice and speaking were my first love in Toastmasters, I did get great enjoyment and confidence by doing Sergeant at Arms, Vice President Education and President at Rathfarnham.

Speech contests too were a great favourite of mine including the Humorous and Tall Tale Contests, as well as the International Speech and Evaluation ones. Such was the standard in Rathfarnham I only won a few. Getting to an Area or a Division final was a major achievement. Whether it was giving speeches or entering contests my confidence has continued to develop and my speaking repertoire has expanded to include humorous, inspirational and motivational styles. Give me a stage now and I can speak on anything you want. This is what Toastmasters has done for me. If you continue to embrace public speaking through the Pathways programme you will become the speaker you want to be.

In 2018 I was asked to take on the Area 57 Director Role. I took it on with some trepidation as it was not one, I had done before. But now as I come to the end of my year, I am delighted I have done it. It gives me more confidence and experience on the Toastmasters Leadership track. I really enjoy going to the Clubs in Area 57 which are around Dublin City centre near where I work which are IE Temblebar, Irish Life, PWC and IFSC. I am also working with AIG Toastmasters Club who will hopefully charter shortly. Because these Clubs are mostly corporate ones, they often approach their meetings in a different way than I was used to in Rathfarnham. Nevertheless, they also have the Toastmasters friendly and light-hearted approach to public speaking and members learn by doing. I would now recommend you take on the Advanced Leadership track. It is another way to develop your confidence and it has helped me greatly in my professional career to date. Without Toastmasters I would never have taken on many roles and responsibilities at work. So, keep on speaking, get involved on your Club committee or take that leadership track. Your Area and Divisional teams need you. Happy Toast mastering and be the leader you wish to be.

My journey to the District 71 title

By Phillip Khan-Panni

The 2019 District 71 Conference at Norwich was an amazing event, with no less than 12 speaking contests. But my focus was on just one – the International Speech Contest, first the semi then the final. As you probably already know, I won the title against a talented field. It was my fourth victory at this level, and it followed an 18 -year gap since the last time. Let me tell you the story of my journey and what I have gained from it.

It all began in 1992, when a fellow-Round Tabler invited me to join him in setting up a new Toastmasters club in Bromley. It was the first I’d heard of Toastmasters, but the chance to make speeches appealed to me. At the time I was still traumatized by the recent tragic death of my first wife, and my memory was shot to pieces. For my Ice Breaker (all about myself, of course) I had to use notes! But when a fellow founder member, Giles Robinson, delivered his previous International speech, I decided to follow in his footsteps.

Twelve months after joining, I completed my CTM and reached the District 71 final for the first time. It was in Dublin’s Killiney Castle and my speech, “Where the honour lies”, was in support of the underdog. The loudest applause I got was when I applauded the Irish football team that Jack Charlton had taken to the World Cup Finals. With that victory under my belt, I was off to Toronto for the Inter-District contest against the best of the non-American world.

I was clearly under-prepared and came third. Australia’s Jock Elliott (World Champion in 2010) told me I’d started in the wrong key (too high), with nowhere to go when I got excited in the speech.

Two years later I won the District 71 title again, this time in Galway. Throwing Fortune Cookies into the audience, I established a great connection with them. Next stop was San Diego, and the Inter-District contest. At the last minute I inserted a Margaret Thatcher joke that got a big laugh, breaking my concentration. I blanked for four l-o-n-g seconds! Fortunately, I recovered and got the nod from the judges. I was in the World Championship Final!

People told me I was close to winning but had to settle for second place. I talk about that in my current championship speech. In the years that followed I built up a training business called Speaking & Presentation Skills and co-founded the Professional Speaking Association (PSA). It was only in 2001 that I was able again to win the District 71 title, travelling to Anaheim for the World Championship. But in the semi (i.e. Inter District) my microphone became dislodged, and I came third. I then took a break from Toastmastering.

Towards the end of 2016 I re-joined TM, having come to live in Ireland. After visiting perhaps, a dozen clubs I settled on Society in Dublin’s Pearse Street. What an amazingly supportive and friendly bunch they turned out be! My speech on being Forever Second found favour at Club, Area and Division levels, and brought me to the coveted District 71 title in Norwich for a record fourth time.

And what have I gained along the way? Top of my list is my wife. Evelyn and I met at a TM Conference in Crawley. I have had the chance to pit my speaking skills against a variety of talented speakers, developed a training business and become a professional speaker on the process of verbal communication. It enabled me to become a published author of 13 books and to find a set of like-minded people, both in Britain and in Ireland, some of whom I call my friends. Yes, it has been a worthwhile journey. I recommend it to you.

A Club That Broke All the Rules

By Elaine Gallagher, President of Dublin Toastmasters

Have you ever discovered a family secret, something that you would have never guessed? I discovered Toastmasters in 2012 and joined Dublin Toastmasters, the oldest Toastmasters club outside North America. Never for a single minute did I consider that Toastmasters had a family secret that would intrigue me, and that Dublin Toastmasters was determined to make an impression.

What is the intriguing Toastmasters family secret?: A constitution outlawing lady members. Members were to be composed “of male members at least 21 years of age.” Dublin Toastmasters was a club determined to right this wrong largely because the club’s first President Paddy Cunningham was ‘a woman’s man’, a man of vision, a man of foresight.

The Dublin club chartered, over 60 years ago, on 12th April 1958. The founding members included women, not a controversy by today’s standards but following the chartering of the club, this became a point of contention.

In a letter dated December 1965 form the Toastmasters International Territorial Council of the British Isles to the Secretary of the Interclub Committee stating:

“We are quite aware of the origin of lady members in Ireland in 1958. P.D. Cunningham Esq., seeking a method of keeping together a group of people (male and female – also former students of his own) turned to Toastmasters International for the answer and in so doing – inadvertently, or otherwise, included some of the fair sex.”

Women in a Toastmasters club was out of bounds contrary to the Toastmasters constitution at that time and “could not be permitted”. The alternative proposed to the existing “lady members’ was to join a separate “Toastmistress Club”. The powers that be stated “As to the fairer sex, God bless them…” Even if women were to be bestowed with heavenly blessings, these could not include membership of Toastmasters International. Bravely, this idea was flat out ignored and requests for permission to allow a visit from a Toastmistress was also flatly ignored on a few occasions. If Toastmasters International would not allow female membership, Dublin Toastmasters would pave the way for the new world and facilitate membership of both men and women. Registration with Toastmasters International would be by way of surname and initials. Until Toastmasters International changes its rules, Dublin Toastmasters at least had plausible deniability and the good people in California would have to deal with the consequences.

Sixty years later, Dublin Toastmasters is dealing with the consequences. Sixty years later Dublin Toastmasters has a serving President who is a woman. Sixty years later, the membership of Dublin includes some of the most inspirational women and men I know; women and men who serve side by side on the Committee; women and men who compete and succeed in Toastmaster International District Finals; women and men who encourage other women and men to serve with integrity respect and excellence.

It’s been an honour to serve as President of Toastmasters during its 60th year. I have nothing but gratitude to Dublin Toastmasters for sharing the Toastmaster experience with both women and men. This has allowed me to enhance my career, deepen my friendships and to meet my husband, also a Toastmaster, and a Past President of Dublin Toastmasters. I often wonder did Paddy Cunningham, the man who broke all the rules realise the power of his perseverance…

My road to winning the #Norwich19 District Humorous Speech

By Dermot Carey, Uncensored Speakers Club and Dublin Toastmasters Club.

I arrived back from lunch one afternoon in 2003. There was an email waiting for me. It read “A meeting of all staff will take place in the board room at 2.30pm. Everyone must attend”. That day became a turning point in my life. I found out that day that I was losing my job.

I wasn’t too upset as there were plenty of jobs out there, then my friends told me about a new trend requiring job applicants to make presentations to interview panels as part of the recruitment process. The idea of making a presentation to an audience filled me with terror. I had previously left a job when they decided to promote me and give me my own list of clients. I was the type of person who was quite happy to sit at my desk in the corner, just me and my spreadsheets.

Then a friend suggested that I try Toastmasters. I checked out the details of my local Toastmasters club and went along as a guest to their meeting. I was particularly Inspired by one member who told how they had overcome a speech impediment and now loved to speak in public. I decided to join the club while at the same time thinking to myself that perhaps in 6 months I might venture to stand up and speak. I found rather quickly with the help, support and encouragement of the club members that delivering a speech in public wasn’t so terrifying after all. I began to enjoy the experience of getting up and speaking in public.

In 2007 I entered my 1st humorous speech contest and I got to Division Final. I had never heard of a division final up to then because no one from the club had progressed that far during my time at the club. The division final was like a whole new world to me, but I realised that I needed to up my game if I was going to win. In the intervening years I had made several attempts to get in the District Final and taken time out to be a district officer, to help organise 2 district conferences and to help start Uncensored Speakers Club. In 2017 I came 2nd at the district humorous final in Sheffield and in 2019 I finally achieved my goal of winning the district humorous speech final in Norwich.

What have I learned by being in Toastmasters? I have learned that speaking in public is not such a huge insurmountable obstacle, that with time and practice it can be quite enjoyable. I have learned all the other things that are so important in our professional lives such as organising a speech, managing time and meetings, all the things we take for granted in Toastmasters. I also learned that feedback is important and when you take on board what others are telling you then you can really progress.

The most important thing that I have learned about humour is that you need to keep to a simple topic that you have experience of and that when you exaggerate a simple situation it can have comic effect. Whoever thought that being an “accountancy super-hero” would make people laugh? Well neither did I. I also found out how supportive your fellow contestants are at a contest.

I would encourage every member to take a chance and enter a contest. If you are not a member of Toastmasters, well just take a chance, I did, and it has had a profound and positive change in my life, giving me the confidence to try many new things outside of Toastmasters and it has led to a new career.

Go on have a go.

Guest Division Section – G

Guest Editor Division G Director Alex Knibbs, ALB ACS

Alex Knibbs, Division G Director

It’s my privilege to assume Division Director responsibilities this year, a Division in which we have three Areas and 15 clubs. My own personal Toastmasters journey began in 2015, starting up a new Corporate Club with PPD LLC. Not long afterwards the opportunity to start up a new community club presented itself and, before too long Saffron Walden Speakers was born, a club that’s gone from strength to strength, realising President’s Distinguished status one year after Chartering. My vision this year is centred all around ‘support’. Supporting my ADs [Area Directors]; supporting the District Officers and continuing to support and mentor club members who are progressing via Pathways and non-Pathways educational routes.

One of the pleasantly reassuring things I learned at the outset of taking on the Division Director role is that it’s perfectly fine – in fact, recommended, to have an assistant Division Director. Fortunately, I knew the perfect candidate …. over to Natalie King to introduce herself …

Natalie King, Assistant Division G Director

OK so who am I? This is a question I often ask myself but seeing as this is a brief introduction to me as a Toastmaster, I will leave the deep thoughts for another time and provide you with a brief synopsis.

I joined this institution nearly four years ago, just to learn to speak to two or more people, as my self-confidence was at an all-time low. After six6 months of attending meetings, doing a few roles and the odd table topic, I gave my ice breaker speech. From there I just kept planning to do my speeches as I felt that I should commit to completing my CC [Competent Communicator] manual, that was all I wanted to do. I was slowly plodding my way through the CC manual, when over a year after joining toastmasters I did my fifth speech and realised that I liked and enjoyed giving speeches.

From there I was challenged by my mentor to get my DTM [Distinguished Toastmaster]. Needing my DTM meant that I had to do a leadership role, so I became an area director. This was a role that I very much enjoyed. Near the end of my term as area director I was asked if I would do Division Director, a role I did not feel ready for, but luckily, I knew someone who would suit the role and who needed the leadership role for his DTM. As you can perhaps imagine there was a big sigh of relief from me, that Alex took on the role. But I did not want to leave him hanging and knowing that this role would be a challenge for him, due to other commitments, running a club as well as being new to toastmasters. I offered to help him as his assistant Division G Director.

So far, I have enjoyed the role and Alex is a capable leader, so I look forward to the year ahead. Now all I must do is complete my Advanced Communication Gold [ACG] and I will have my DTM. Not bad for someone who panicked if they had to speak to more than two people!

And speaking of Area Directors(AD): here’s a glimpse of my stalwart AD companions in Division G ….And a few members from around the Division

Area 1 Director, Karen Bellerby

My name is Karen Bellerby and I joined TI just over seven years ago by accident and a very happy accident it has turned out to be!

Not equipped with a crystal ball but in 12 months I hope Area 1 will be once again boasting five clubs and, personally, I hope to be sporting my ALS [Advanced Leader Silver] and maybe an ACS [Advanced Communicator Silver] to go with it having decided to stay on the traditional route for the moment :- the 2020 deadline has certainly focused my mind!

I just want to learn and view everyday as school day, so I expect this year to gain far more knowledge than I could ever impart.

My vision is about firstly getting the area and its members comfortable with and fully embracing Pathways. It’s a great program that is fit for 21st Century purposes and not something to be scared about. I want to be a resource for the clubs to use to facilitate an easy pick-up and transition. A fifth club is also very high on my agenda/wish list too.

I’m really looking forward to it all and as Donald Rumsfeld said, “at the moment I don’t know what I don’t know” but it’s going to be one hell of a journey!

Area 25 Director, Ray Mitchell

Currently holding ALB and ACB, I am a former VPPR and have been a public speaker in varying guises for about 30 years.  I am in some ways a perpetual student (6 degrees), and once upon a time was a naval infantryman.

Area 41 Director, Martin Horner

I joined Toastmasters in 2009 and shortly afterwards worked with two other Toasties to keep Cambridge City Communicators alive after the sudden loss of two Founder Members. We decided that by running enjoyable Meetings, people would attend, join and stay with us and this has proved to be the case. I progressed through my CC, ACB [Advanced Communicator Bronze] and ACS and have now obtained my ACG as well as ALB. I was instrumental in helping regularly with last year’s Speechcraft sessions in Cambridge too. My pastimes include walking (in previous years around the coast of East Anglia and nearly half of the SW [South West] Coastal Path plus in the summer more than 80 miles of the Wales Coastal path along the Pembrokeshire Coast).

Are we having a laugh?

By Guy Doza, Cambridge Speakers, Area 41

I recently entered the Toastmasters District 71 Humorous speaking contest. The objective was simple: deliver a 5-7-minute humorous speech. Be funny. Make people laugh. Try not to embarrass yourself too much…. Sounds easy, right?

The main danger with giving a humorous speech is that if the audience is expecting a humorous speech it is much harder to be funny. The key to humour is surprise and it’s hard to surprise someone who is anticipating it. Spontaneity is key to making something funny. Is it a coincidence that people tend to laugh a lot more during table topics than they do during prepared speeches?

I knew that if I were to win this competition I would have to do something new, something daring and something utterly and totally random. So, that’s exactly what I did. I did push-ups on stage, I ripped off my shirt, and I attempted to flirt with an uncomfortable looking middle-aged woman on the front row.

One of the things that I did differently from a lot of the other speakers is that I reacted to the audience. I pointed out when they were laughing, and I commented when they looked sceptical. As a result, the speech felt a lot more spontaneous and my jokes got a better response. If you rehearse a speech too much it is no longer a speech and it becomes a performance. At Toastmasters we are not actors, we are speakers and it is important to remember that. To deliver an effective humorous speech (in my opinion) it’s crucial to keep it real, keep it friendly, and leave some space for spontaneity. And most importantly, enjoy it!

Turning my biggest weakness into my biggest strength.

By Vibesan Illampooranan VP Education at Cambridge Speakers

I have always struggled to communicate with other people due to my stammer therefore I avoid talking to people, which can be quite lonely. I couldn’t even introduce myself to them. University was a difficult period especially through fresher weeks. For example, I struggled to introduce myself to the cleaner in my accommodation halls. She asked me for my name and I said, “I don’t know”. She couldn’t stop laughing, from then on. I told myself I needed to change.

So, I joined Nottingham University public speaking group and finished a level four presentation skills diploma with my degree in biochemistry. I usually stammer on single words when I present or deliver a speech. At the end each speech, students told me that I was an inspiration and gave them motivation to join the public speaking group which increased in strength from 10 to 30.

After I graduated, I still wanted to carry on public speaking, so a friend introduced me to Toastmasters, I joined quite a few clubs. As I believe that the more speeches I do, the less anxious I am, so I don’t stammer as much. Usually making the audiences laugh a lot, really does help to relax me hence I don’t stammer as much.

I end up finishing 18 speeches with Toastmasters, but this doesn’t mean I am perfect at public speaking however I don’t feel afraid to speak in public or introduces myself. There’s still a lot I can do to improve public speaking, that’s why I still go Toastmasters.

Toastmasters is like a gym, you can only improve by doing roles and speeches, and that is how you put yourself out there. Yes, it’s very difficult and yes, you may feel completely naked when you’re on stage, but your own voice and opinion count too. Just give Toastmasters a go and it will change your life for ever.

Paige Skelton of Brandon Speakers and Crossroads Communicators

Going through school, I was always the quiet student in the back of the class. I never had the confidence to speak out in front of people. I didn’t want to draw any sort of attention to myself. I was even scared to pay for things in a store because I was shy, scared, and insecure. It wasn’t until University when I had to give a presentation that I realised I had never spoken in front of more than a couple of people in my entire life. That is when my father signed me up for Toastmasters. I cannot describe how welcomed I felt from the first meeting. The welcoming and supportive environment and members got me from not speaking during the meeting to volunteering to do a duty, then from a duty to a table topic, and one year after I joined, I did my Icebreaker speech. I have now done all duties, including being Toastmaster of the Evening, I completed my CC Manual in June 2018 and was awarded our club Toastmaster of the Year trophy in July of this year. Looking back on my progression throughout the couple of years that I have been a member, I am elated. I have seen myself grow from someone who was scared to talk to anyone and the words ‘public speaking’ made me want to faint, to someone who can stand up in front of a group of people and deliver a speech with confidence. And although sometimes I get nervous standing up in front of people to talk still, I know that the people looking back at me are so supportive and I could not have achieved what I have without the love and support of my fellow Toastmasters.

Charles Greensitt, VP Education, Saffron Walden Speakers.

I am Charles Greensitt, for those who know me I have the name Charles Grenoir Greensitt on Facebook. Why the name Grenoir? – it derived from school after having the sixth form art scholarship, scientifically as a formula, for those of you technically minded, Greensitt + Renoir = Grenoir. Grenoir is also the name for my website. Creativity is a large part of my life, in my engineering and my photography and artwork. When a poster came up in Saffron Walden for a speaker’s club, I jumped at the opportunity, having previously seen Bob Fergusson, a few years before, at an engineering conference. From the outset the Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership manuals were like a scholarly article to me, held close to my heart and guiding me on the Toastmasters International journey. The club offered a positive community and allowed opportunities in speaking and something more… if you want to be creative and experiment then here is a safe place. Table topics can be simple, from word association to objects. If you want to push the boundaries for independence and impromptu speaking, then push Table Topics to the limit. This allowed me to fully exploit my creative bent, first with an ‘Only Connect’ board, a BBC production converted into a plug and play board, easy to adapt. Then came the complexity of ‘Turnip of Fortune’, a real spinning Wheel of Fortune with a fantastic formula to entertain and prizes. The best table topics that I have seen include mystery and variety, with a personal approach. The Turnip of Fortune is a ‘spin to win’ concept – it’s been a well-received concept at a few different clubs now and episodes can be seen on YouTube.”