Journey Of A Lifetime!

Now that I have been a member of Toastmasters International for 10 years, it’s a goodToastmastersLogo-Color time to reflect on the experience.

It has been a life-changer for me.

As a born introvert I know only too well the ‘apparent fear’ one experiences when one stands up before a group of people to speak, whether it is in a work or business meeting, or if you are asked to give a speech somewhere.

After 10 years of ‘investing myself’ in the programme, here’s what I have learned:

* The old adage ‘you only get out what you put in’ is totally true.

Out here in Australia, Clubs meet twice a month and I’ve missed perhaps 15 – 20 meetings in those 10 years. I would say that I’ve been to at least 240 Toastmaster meetings if you count the other Toastmaster clubs that I have visited in that time.

* The benefits I have gained/positive impact on my life are immense.

I wrote an article back in 2015 for this blog and will post the link at the bottom for I identified 18 ways my life has benefitted from being involved in Toastmasters.

I’ve even managed to progress from Introvert to Ambivert as well!

* I sometimes get asked, ‘Why do you keep going?’

Simply put, Education, Motivation, Friendship & Fun!

I can’t remember how many times that I felt like just going home and vegetating because I had a hard day at work or whatever. Whenever I went to the Toastmasters meeting, I always came out at the end, revitalised and re-energised.

Every meeting you learning something new, either about yourself or about public speaking/leadership and with each time you do a role and/or speak you grow that little more in confidence.

I’ve made so many great friends who are so supportive, and we have loads of fun.

* It gives you a chance to have a positive impact on other people’s lives

I can easily relate to how other people (especially Introverts) feel and can help them through my experiences. The membership individually and as a whole want people to succeed. We support them through their mistakes, want them to progress and use their skills out in the World at large.

Toastmasters Clubs also run Youth Leadership courses in schools and Speechcraft courses for adults.

I’m really looking forward to the next 10 years and beyond in Toastmasters. Here in Australia, we’ve just taken delivery of the new PATHWAYS Education programme. 10 Paths to transverse. I’ve selected, ‘Presentation Mastery’ as the one I’d like to begin with.

There is another old saying that says, ‘It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey…’, well this journey is one that I am ever so grateful for!
David Johnson
17 March 2018

To find out the way 18 ways being involved in Toastmasters has helped me, click on
https://communicatingcreatively.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/why-toastmasters/

If you would like to find out more, click on https://www.toastmasters.org/

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Inspiration Plus! – Lions Club International Youth of the Year!

Yesterday, I had the most marvellous experience of being a member of a panel of 5 Judges on the Lions Club International Youth of the Year District 210 N2 Final here is South-West Sydney, Australia.
Initially, there were supposed to be 6 contestants, all aged 15, however, the only boy withdrew from the contest prior to the day.
As a panel, we interviewed each of the 5 contestants on subjects such as Leadership, Sporting & Cultural activities, Citizenship & Community involvement, Academic and general knowledge of Local, State, National & International affairs for a period of 30 minutes.
We then had to judge each contestant on two Impromptu Speaking questions, one 5 minute speech and on Presentation and Personality.
It was a fascinating process. Seeing and hearing the students present themselves via three different formats, handling the nerves as they did was a credit to themselves, their parents and their schools.
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Congratulations to all the contestants and in particular the Public Speaking Winner and the Overall Winner. Best wishes in the forthcoming State Titles!
In all-in-all, it was a very inspiring day! It was such a pleasure to interview and hear the contestants. They were so inspirational!
It was also wonderful representing Toastmasters International on the Judging Panel.
Congratulations to Lions Club International for conducting such an event and a HUGE THANK YOU for the opportunity!
Thank you also to fellow Toastmaster, Anne O’Keefe who put me onto the opportunity.
If you ever get the chance to be part of the Judging Panel for this contest, I would highly recommend that you take it.
Written by David Johnson
11 March 2018

Opportunity Awaits!

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Joining Toastmasters International has affected my life in many positive ways and opened up a lot of opportunities that would not have been there had I not taken that step, and continued the journey.

From my first speech at a Toastmasters Club meeting (where I could not sleep the night before and could hardly eat on the day) in front of 20 members to the amazing experience I had last Sunday is testament to the wealth of personal growth, in terms of confidence, communication and leadership that Toastmasters International provides.

Last Sunday, I was the ‘Test Speaker’ for the District 90 Toastmasters Evaluation Contest at the Annual Conference which was held at Rooty Hill RSL.

A ’Test Speaker’ in Toastmasters delivers a speech that is then evaluated by contestants, who are then judged to see who is the best evaluator by a panel of judges.

18405363_10209459931199732_1520567314_oGetting to deliver a 7 minute speech in front of over 100 people with many Distinguished guests including Mike Storkey, the current International President of Toastmasters International, is an experience that I will cherish for a long, long time.

Receiving speech evaluations from the Top 6 Evaluators in District 90 is something I am very, very grateful for. I learnt a great deal that day.

18426614_10209459931719745_1134015842_oIf you are looking for a way to gain confidence, grow personally and develop your communication and leadership skills, Toastmasters International is waiting for you…

Click on ‘Find a Club’ in the link http://www.toastmasters.org and start your journey today!

David Johnson
Camden Toastmasters
28 April 2017

Public Speaking In Your Pocket!

Back in 1986 I joined Campbelltown Camera Club (now known as Macarthur Photographic Society). After 4 years there I was asked if wanted to present a talk on ‘Close-Up & Still-Life’ Photography.
Apart from a basic Presentation Skills course, I had never done any Public Speaking courses. Over time, I did some other Camera Club presentations and the ‘passion for Photography got me through.’ 😃
In 1995, I took on the challenge of becoming a Photography Judge and visited Camera Clubs, evaluating images and judging at Exhibitions up to National level etc.
I didn’t like being up in front up people but again, the passion for photography saw me through.
As time went by I started to source out material that would help me be a better speaker in public.
Long before I joined Toastmasters International (in 2008), I started purchasing public speaking/communication books and now have a collection of nearly 100 books relating to communication.
One of the early books I purchased is a very handy little book that is packed with tips and it’s small enough to fit in a coat pocket. I often still take it with me, and when I am waiting in a queue or waiting for an appointment, I will flip through it and ingest another brilliant piece of advice.
Contents include:img_7486
  • Your Voice
  • How Your Voice Works
  • Being Heard
  • Variety in speech
  • Clarity in speech
  • Microphone technique
  • Voice Care & Development

112 pages of public speaking Gold!

Over time, I will highlight some of the other Communication books that I find valuable and still refer to from time-to-time.
Written by David Johnson
7 February 2017

Opportunity Knocks!

In July 2015, I was offered a speaking spot at Campbelltown Probus Club on 27 January 2016 by Nola who was on the Executive at the club, whilst we working at an Election Day Polling Booth.

A Probus Club is an organisation for retired or semi-retired business or professional people, and operates worldwide.

In Toastmasters International, we are taught that, ’if you are offered a speaking opportunity then you should take it’ whether that is inside or outside Toastmasters.

Remembering this, at the time, I had absolutely no hesitation in saying, yes! As Nola began to fill me in some more details, like the speaking time (40 minutes) and audience (up to 120 people), I started to realise the enormity of the experience, compared to what I had done previously…

It is amazing sometimes how fear and doubt can creep into the psyche.

The choice of the topic was left up to me and I decided to speak on the subject of ‘Communicating Creatively’ a subject that is very dear to my Heart. The one thing I didn’t want it to be though was ‘ok, this is what I do’ and that’s it. That would only be an information talk only and if the audience wasn’t particularly interested in photography, poetry, writing or painting then it could be quite dry for them.

What I needed to do was to involve the audience as it is they, the audience who are the most important people during the speech, not the speaker.

There were two main objectives that I had set for the speech:

  • To convey and obtain agreement that we are all creative to some extent
  • To show people ways that they can communicate creatively

One of the best ways to commence a speech is to involve the audience straight away via a question. There were 100 people attending that day and I asked for a ’show of hands’ of those who thought that they were creative in some way? 3 hands went up…

I explained to them that often the word creativity is often thought of only in terms of Arts & Crafts and went on to say that if we were to list all the previous occupations in the room, there would (I imagined) be quite a diverse range or White Collar, Blue Collar workers: Accountants, Engineers, Retail, Teachers, Public Service etc.

Engineers e.g. need to be creative to solve problems, don’t they? Henry Ford wanted 8 cylinders cast in one block. His engineers told him it could not be done. Henry Ford told them to find a way. They used their creativity to solve the problem.

Another show of hands was requested. This time about half the room put up their hands.

After opening their minds as to the fact that they were creative, I began to show them ways I communicate creatively, i.e. through Photography, Writing, Poetry & Painting and how they could too.

The presentation over, a number of people came up to me asking questions and stating that they intended on exploring photography, painting etc. This pleased me.

If I had said no to the opportunity I would have missed out on the following:

  • A chance to converse and connect with 100 people and hopefully inspire them
  • A chance to practice my presentation and public speaking skills
  • Presenting my longest presentation/longest PowerPoint to the largest number of people
  • The chance to present using a microphone
  • A chance at getting another speaking spot with another Not-4-Profit organisation

Was I nervous? Yes, definitely! In fact I was probably 10 times as nervous as when I competed at a Division Final International Speech Contest (a 5-7 minute speech in front of 100 Toastmaster members), probably because this presentation was outside the Toastmasters environment, i.e. the real world.

I said yes to the opportunity because of my involvement with Toastmasters, which has given me the confidence to step outside my comfort zone and take on new challenges.

It is only by practice, making mistakes, revision, more practice etc that we improve. I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be as a Public Speaker but am sure having fun on the journey!

 

David Johnson
March 2016

“Leave Them On The Desk” or “The Night My Invisible Umbilical Cord Was Cut”

It was late 2008 and I had been enjoying my Toastmasters experience for approx. 6-7 months and was looking forward to delivering Speech #5 from The Competent Communicator manual.

Upon delivering my speech I sat down and a Toastmaster of some 25+ years of experience said to me ‘next time you do a speech, I want to see you leave your speech notes here on the table.’ I remember looking at him a bit aghast, saying “you mean I have to try to do my speech without having notes to refer to?” He said “Yes.” Gulp!

This was something I had not contemplated doing at all, ever.

What if I forgot where I was up to? What if I had a ‘mental-blank’ up there?

He reminded me that Toastmasters was a ‘mutually-supportive environment’ i.e. every member sitting in the audience ‘wants you to succeed’ so that in the event of any hiccups they would understand. This is one of the great things about Toastmasters. It’s where we learn and practice so that we can take our skills ‘to the real World’, outside.

Preparation is but one of the successful keys to the success of the speech. Preparation in terms of not only writing a speech but preparing your mindset as well.

I had it in my mind that I could not do a speech without notes. This was true up to that point in time.

With the support of the members of my club, I delivered speech #6 without notes as challenged. Since that day I have only used notes on a small number of occasions, being my incoming and outgoing Club President Addresses at a Changeover Dinners and others being when using bullet points during PowerPoint demonstrations.

Accepting and delivering that challenge to use ‘no notes’ that night changed my mindset on what was possible for me in that regard and built my confidence a little more, which is one of the things being a member of Toastmasters International can do for you.

In my next article on Public Speaking, I’ll be talking about “A Speech Contest. Are You Crazy?”

Written by David Johnson
26 September 2015

Two More Lessons Learned or ‘How I Managed To Get Through Speech Project #4 Alive!?’

Over the course of my time as a member of Toastmasters International, I have learnt many, many things to help me communicate better in my speeches, presentations, evaluations and endeavour to become a better leader. I still have a lot learn as well.

On joining Toastmasters you receive two Manuals, the Competent Communicator manual (10 speeches) and the Competent Leader manual (10 Leadership Projects).

One of the earlier prominent lessons I learnt was in my fourth speech of the ‘Competent Communicator’ Manual. Speech Project #4 was “How To Say It?

I recall writing a speech called ‘Art, An Anaesthetic To The Problems Of The World.’ Hmmm, yes, it still strikes me as a dry title and speech for that matter!

It was two pages long, in 10 point font and I recall vividly that I memorised the whole speech and forty times I was able to ‘recall it by wrote…’

Come the Toastmasters Club meeting, I was very nervous.

All went well, for the first four lines…then came the fifth line and ‘I was nowhere…’ You guessed it, due to nerves I had forgotten what the fifth line was. Silence, awkward silence followed…

I had notes with me but nerves, being what they are took control and I endeavoured to just read the notes but that was not working and I felt awkward again. Then a thought occurred to me…’you know the speech, just tell them’ and I did.

I was able to finish the speech, not with the words I had written, but words that ‘just came out…’

Two lessons were learnt in this speech project.

  1. Never try to memorise the full speech. Know your Beginning & Ending well and know what you want to say in the middle without memorising it. (This was the kind advice from a DTM {Distinguished Toastmaster}, the highest level achievable in Toastmasters International).
  2. We write differently to the way we speak.

The above lessons have served me well, as in speeches since I have written the speech out but because I know what I want to say, I deliver it without having to go ‘word-for-word’ and this has worked well for me.

In my next article on Public Speaking, I’ll be talking about how ‘My Imaginary Umbilical Cord Was Cut…’

Written by David Johnson
23 August 2015