So the adventure for week 2 was, after a lot of contemplation and dread I finally stepped into a Toastmasters Club Meeting as a guest! For those who are not aware about Toastmasters International – Toastmasters International is a non profit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills. Through its thousands of member clubs, Toastmasters International offers a program of communication and leadership projects designed to help people learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking.
And then came the interesting part – prepared speeches by 3 members. We had varied topics chosen like ‘Live for Today’ by Shelby, Excerpts from ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Wolfgang and The Winning Proposal: Getting new members for Plantation Toastmasters Club by Daniel. Each speaker was appraised by an independent evaluator who gave their evaluations at the end of the speeches.
We had the Table Topics Master coming up on the stage later who randomly picked up people from the audience and asked them to talk on a particular topic. The Table Topics Master for the evening Alain beautifully wrapped his talk around current affairs and asked folks opinions on sports, weather, time capsule, animals etc. I loved the way he conducted his session!
And then we had the raffle. One ticket for $1. The amount collected is divided into half. Half goes to the raffle winner and other half to the club. We bought one ticket and when the winning number was being called out, Sujoy was not even looking at his ticket. He was so sure that he will not win as he kept on telling me, “I have never won in such things. Even during playing Housie, I never won.” But I kept an eye on his ticket no. And guess what? We won!! I told Sujoy, “I am your lucky charm. Take me everywhere and you will win.” So there was some incentive received for our visit!
The raffle was followed by prizes! Who doesn’t like to win! There were prizes for best speaker, best evaluator and best Table Topics speaker. The winner is decided by votes cast by all the members. The winners for the day were presented small trophies. What a way to motivate!
There was a Grammarian for the session who kept an eye or should I say kept an ear on everybody’s speeches and noted down grammatical errors. Also at the same time he noted down any beautiful usage of the language which made the audience paint a picturesque picture with the help of those words.
There was a ‘Ah! Counter’. Now this is the person whom all speakers must be hating from their heart. This person keeps a count of your Umms, Ahhs, So, Like that, blanks – anything other than a proper English word. And why people hate him so much? As he has this whistle which he rings every time you do this mistake. Imagine you saying Umm 5 times in your speech and then that whistle blowing 5 times like a leash on your body. Ya he is a man to be scared of!
Throughout the session, there are notes flowing all over. I myself must have passed some 12 notes from one end to other. Initially I was irritated with this and failed to understand what is going on. But then later came to know these are appreciation notes from one member to another on how well they spoke. And suddenly my irritation was converted into a BIG smile! Appreciation is what makes you put in bonus efforts and go that extra mile. And all these folks had imbibed it so well!
In the end, the guests were asked what did they like about the session. For me it was the energy of the group which I found remarkable. All of them were from different work groups, different ages, different cultures. I think what bound them together was this energy. The second thing was the appreciation notes. It is a nice gesture to let someone know that their work was liked!
Noah, the 11-12 year old boy said “I liked being here today. This is so much better than playing video games at home.” Now that I think is the biggest compliment this club can ever get!
So overall it was a very refreshing experience for me! The warmth of the Club is welcoming. And I think, I will go for the next session also!
****I eventually joined Toastmasters and it has been a phenomenal journey till now. Anyone can come as a guest. So please find a Toastmasters Club near you and experience this super motivating setting at least once!