Toastmasters Clubs offer lifelong learning

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I attended the Connections Toastmasters Club’s International Speech Contest and Table Topics Contest last Thursday and went home much inspired by the speeches I heard.

Toastmasters Clubs, which are part of Toastmasters International, are good organisations to join if you want to develop your communication and leadership skills. Improved communication and leadership skills result in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through its network of clubs in the world.
Toastmasters International’s World Headquarters is located in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, USA.

Even though the membership fees have shot up because the Malaysian Ringit has fallen against the US dollar, your investment in joining a Toastmaster Club is relatively cheap compared to the value you get from it.

I am a member of the Connections Toastmasters Club, one of the home clubs of former International President of Toastmasters International, Datuk John Lau who has made it to the Malaysia Book of Records by being the first Malaysian to hold the distinguished post.

Connections Toastmasters Club is currently also the home club of John’s daughter and District 87 Director, Ivy Lau.

I consider myself to be lucky to be rubbing shoulders with such distinguished personalities and learning from their experiences.

John won both the Connections Toastmasters Club’s International Speech Contest and Table Topics Contest hands down last Thursday.

For someone who was not a born speaker, I really enjoyed his presentations that night.It was a privilege to listen to him and see him in action. He did not even write down his International Speech; it was all in his mind!

He later revealed that when he was touring USA as International President of Toastmasters International, he had to deliver up to nine speeches in front of different groups of Toastmasters. Practice, my friends, indeed makes perfect.
A speech must have four components – the main points, introduction, conclusion and transitions and John had them all perfectly lined up in his head. He delivered them with ease and perfection!

It was motivating to listen to him during the International Speech Contest as he talked about how he initially hated his Chinese name and later grew to love it and himself.

“When you find the real you, you will achieve wonders. Accept ourselves and move on to achieve wonders,” he said in his interesting speech.

I have been a Toastmasters since 1998 and was awarded the Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM) title by Toastmasters International in 2014. I also met John, my mentor, in 1998.

Toastmasters International presents its highest title, the DTM, to members who have achieved both the Advanced Communication Gold and Advanced Leader Silver awards.

It normally takes a Toastmaster five to eight years of dedicated service and leadership at the local club and area (or higher) levels to achieve the DTM title.
DTM candidates must perform more than 40 public presentations (as part of earning the prerequisite Competent Communicator and Advanced Communicator awards).

My DTM journey has been long and not easy. A newspaper editor who works the night shift, I have to find time to attend Toastmasters meetings.

I became a Toastmaster to overcome my fear of public speaking. One day, I was asked to present a speech on behalf of my colleagues at the end of an inhouse training course. I trembled for five minutes in front of the lectern before I uttered my first word. That convinced me it was time for me to join a Toastmaster Club.
The first club I joined was Hornbill City Toastmasters Club and I later became its President and Area E4 Governor.

Over the years, I have also taken part in many workshops and seminars including those organised by Datuk John Lau when he was a Division Governor and later, District 51 Governor.

In October, 2012, I won the division-level Humorous Speech Contest organised by Division D of District 87 in Kuching – proof that I had really benefited from my Toastmasters training.

When I received my DTM award from John, I dedicated my DTM title to Connections Toastmasters Club, to him, to all Toastmasters who had encouraged me in my journey as a Toastmaster as well as my friends in the New Sarawak Tribune office who made it possible for me to attend the Toastmasters meetings.

There are many Toastmasters Clubs in Kuching and in Sarawak. All offer a positive, fun and encouraging environment where members learn vital skills that promote self confidence, enhance leadership and human understanding.

Participants support each other as their communication and leadership skills improve using the Toastmasters International curriculum of programmes. The oldest Toastmasters Club in Sarawak is the Kuching Toastmasters Club which is still very strong today.

Different Toastmasters Club have different cultures so many potential Toastmasters find it useful to visit different clubs before joining a club they like.

One of the benefits of being a Toastmaster is that you can do your speeches in different clubs provided there is a slot for you.

The first communication manual that a Toastmaster has to complete is the Competent Communication (CC) Manual which contains 10 speech projects, each designed to develop your speaking skills one step at a time.

Once you have completed the CC manual, you are recognised as a Competent Communicator (CC) and receive the CC award and certificate which you can display in your office or home. Before you get your CC, you are addressed only as a Toastmaster (TM).

After finishing the CC manual, you proceed to the speeches in the Advanced Communication Series.This series consists of 15 manuals with five speech projects each. Some focus on career-related presentations such as public relations while others touch on topics such as interpersonal communication, humour and storytelling. You pick the manuals you want to do and the skills you want to acquire.

When you finish the 10 projects in the Competent Leadership manual, you get to enhance your leadership skills.

On your journey to DTM, you get to win many educational and leadership awards including Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Communicator Silver and Advanced Communicator Gold, Competent Leader, Advanced Leader Bronze and Advanced Leader Silver.

If you become a Toastmaster, my friends, you will never stop learning. Even after getting my DTM award, I am still learning from the other Toastmasters, young and old, new public speaking and communication skills and general things about life. This is the truth straight from my heart.

Continous learning is good for us. It makes us healthy, adds depth to our lives, keeps us from becoming bored and puts us on the fast track to success.
Through Toastmasters, I have also made many interesting friends like Datuk John Lau and Ivy Lau as well.

My friends, do join the nearest Toastmasters Club if you believe in lifelong learning.

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