The Toastmaster in Me (and in YOU!)

WHEN I WAS told by our EIC that I had to write my long overdue entry about my Toastmasters club, I was still in the midst of procrastinating and am now scrambling to file in my article. The thing is, I didn’t know how to start talking about such a huge part of my life. You would think that it should be easy  to talk about it given that train of thought; but it’s how to begin the story that had me fumbling. 
See my Toastmasters experience so far, is something I hold dearly to my heart. It is something that has permeated my life’s work over the past year and I can truly and honestly say that I am passionate about my work in this field — and perhaps that is why I struggle to create a moment wherein I shall share this with you.

But as all things go, we must all start at the beginning. 

The Toastmasters International Logo
What is “Toastmasters”?
The name “Toastmasters” refers to a group/club/individual who is under the program of Toastmasters International – a global, non-profit organization that aims to promote and develop public speaking and leadership skills in a positive and constructive learning environment.
At present, there are more than 12,500 clubs worldwide and Saudi Arabia is one of the 92 countries who is actively pursuing the goals of Toastmasters International since its inception in 1924. Toastmaster programs have no instructors – each club member serves a role in the weekly/bi-weekly meetings and all of the efforts of every member is based on commitment and done on a self-paced manner. The program is a time-tested method that has helped improve people’s personal and working life by primarily strengthening their confidence and self-assertion through speech deliveries and leadership projects.


Why is it relevant to you, as an individual?
If you’ve ever been in a situation wherein “a cat got your tongue;” or if you have trouble saying what you mean, especially in English; or you’re simply too shy to talk in front of others — and you envision yourself rising above these situations — then it is relevant to you! 
The art of communication is often taken for granted for being too commonplace in everyday life. Hardly anybody cares about handwriting, or grammar, or spelling, and even proper pronunciation anymore. A lot of people say that as long as the thought is there, then that should be enough. (especially in Saudi Arabia where English conversations walk a very thin line between “straight” and “broken”). Meanwhile, other people like to talk and talk and talk – but they lack in message, they lack in relevance. Don’t you think it’s such a shame that despite us humans being gifted with the power to communicate with words, that we don’t use them for something that matters? 
Don’t get me wrong, Toastmasters isn’t about being the perfect speaker (with a halo beaming over your head). In fact, we always say that it’s the perfect place for people to speak and make mistakes along the way. Club meetings include evaluators and meeting leaders who take the time to listen, observe and document each member’s participation and in turn, provides supportive feedback so that they can learn what their strengths and weaknesses are as a speaker. 
Public speaking is a cause of worry for a lot of people. There is a high level of anxiety and hesitation involved in public speaking because of the fear of embarrassment, lack of confidence and the possibility of not delivering a clear message across. As professionals though, we need to keep this skill in check should the need for it arise in our respective line of work. Nurses need to communicate efficiently and effectively with their colleagues and patients while Managers must be well-versed in the art of addressing their staff and customers. Since we are all working in a multinational setting, proper and effective use of the English language is vital for everyone to understand and work with each other. Trust me, being able to express yourself and be understood by another person is a significant validation to your existence.


My personal experience
It was love at first sight, but the passion for it came along the way. — I was looking for an activity here in Riyadh that would allow me to put my Speech Communication degree into good use. A good friend of mine, whose parents were pioneer Toastmasters here in Riyadh, invited me to one of the club meetings as a guest back in September 2009. It was then that I first witnessed the Toastmasters program and fell smitten with the discovery of such an organization here in Riyadh. Eager to sign up, I became a member three weeks later.

When I won Champion in the Club Level Table Topics Contest.
When I competed at the Division Level of the Table Topics Contest.
Fast forward to present day, I have been participating in numerous club speech competitions in debate, humorous speaking, table topics (impromptu speaking), speech evaluation and international speech contests. I have served as a leader in our club activities and events and have also been elected as the VP for Public Relations followed by becoming the VP for Education (now on my 2nd consecutive term). But what began as an extension of my academic endeavor slowly evolved to a passion to serve others by helping and encouraging them in their communication and leadership track, by making sure that their goal in joining Toastmasters is not put in vain. 

My inspirations

I may make it sound so “heroic” but wait til you see a 50-something-year-old man, who is an accomplished professional in his own right but with a difficulty grasping the English language and yet he perseveres and enthusiastically delivers one speech project after another – seeing this man’s determination and commitment to improve his communication skills, despite his age and status, is a sight to behold. Or when you see a new member, reluctantly participating in our impromptu speaking session (aka Table Topics), his hands shaking and his knees trembling, and yet the focus in his eyes to merely answer a question with the best of his wits is so strong that he pushes through and exits the stage with the crowd in loud applause – that person had just conquered his fear…and I was there to witness it. And of course, there are the great and seasoned speakers, who at their first utter will put you under a spell of silence and devotion to hear what they have to say – they are the speakers who we all aspire to be, and as a part of the audience, you will be in awe and admiration of their great talent and wish that someday you could be as great as them

The “Best” Club in Town
I belong to the one of the oldest and the best Toastmasters Clubs in Riyadh called the PICPA Riyadh Toastmasters Club (PRTC). I can say that with conviction because the records for this term in Toastmasters International, District 79 speak for themselves. PRTC was initially organized to cater to CPAs here in Riyadh more than 15 years ago but nowadays, the club hardly has any accountant members and is made up of mostly mixed professions. PRTC is an all-Filipino, family club, meeting weekly. Now of course, we are not the only club in Riyadh, there are several others who cater to a particular group: the all-male clubs, the company sponsored clubs, the strictly ladies club (english/arabic), the family clubs, the nationality-specific ones and the non-specific ones — They all meet at varied days and time and one is free to choose which club best fits for him/her in general. For me, PRTC will always be the best choice. 🙂

Our club was featured in the local newspaper, Arab News, Pinoy Xtra Section

Toastmasters in the Community
Part of being a Toastmaster allows one to enhance leadership skills as well, and apart from the weekly meeting roles that members perform, we also have community work in the form of workshops and seminars that we offer to help others in the field of communication. PRTC, in particular, is a regular trainer for the contestants of Bb. at Ginoong Pilipinas Saudi Arabia by SE Productions. We also provide Speechcraft seminars to mainstream companies here in Riyadh as well as conducting the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) to several of the Filipino international schools at least once a year.

I was Asst. Coordinator for the YLP at Palm Crest International School in 2010.

My Toastmasters journey has allowed me to meet ordinary people with amazing qualities. They may appear to be regular joe’s or a run of the mill OFWs, but for every person who have decided to become a Toastmaster — they all shared the same spirit and desire to improve themselves; and they’ve taken the first step to learn and achieve. And for me to be a part of that process — to help someone to discover that he has a voice, and that he will use it to speak his mind and that he will become confident and motivated to unleash his potential in all the facets of his life — that means a great deal to me that words can hardly encompass.

From these ordinary people, they have become my friends and we treat each other like family. Spending time, telling our stories and sharing the same vision for others has brought us together in a very tight knit. To be very honest and very cheesy, I love them all very much.

And now, my passion for this organization is taking me to new heights once again as I leave for Amman, Jordan tomorrow for the District Toastmasters Annual Conference (DTAC) 2011. I am not a contestant in any of the contests and I am also not running for any position in the organizational structure at the District or Division Level. I decided to be a part of the Conference to simply experience it and be amidst the bigger sphere of people who share the same burning passion for this as I do. I have longed to travel for the past three years, and who would’ve known that my Toastmasters journey will be the answer to my prayers?

Our motto in Toastmasters read: “For better listening, for better thinking, for better speaking, we learn by doing.If you possess the desire and the spirit to be a better communicator and a better leader, then there is a Toastmaster in YOU! 

Don’t miss the opportunity to be a better version of who you are. Toastmasters is here to help.

Eyecandy

To read more about the specifics of the Toastmasters Program and Toastmasters International, please view their website at: http://www.toastmasters.org/

For more information on PICPA Riyadh Toastmasters Club, search us on Facebook with the keywords: “PICPA Riyadh Toastmasters Club” – it’s an open group. You can also email me at thepinktarha@gmail.com if you are interested to join or be simply a guest. 

{This is the first entry in our People+Features category where we write about groups in Riyadh that you might be interested in joining in. – EIC}

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Janelle
Janelle

The Editor-in-Chief speaks 7 languages: Filipino, English, Wit, Sarcasm, Truth, Creativity, and The Pink Tarha.

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