The Toastmaster’s Journey

Toastmaster's Journey1


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 and start your journey today!

David Johnson
Camden Toastmasters
28 April 2017

Viewing Life

Back in the year 2000, my wife and I were touring around southern NSW and visited (among other places), Yarrangobilly Caves. They are but one of a number of beautiful examples of limestone caves here in Australia.

We received a guided tour that day and apart from the memory of the caves, I remember a conversation I had with the tour guide as he, like me, was into photography for a great part of his life. This was until one day, after a 20 year love affair with the medium, he gave it away, citing that, ‘he was tired of looking at the world through a rectangle…’.

I didn’t think of this again until recently when I began reflecting on my photographic journey. Unlike the tour guide, I have not given up photography (as I will love it till I pass from this world), however I now have other interests as well and these days I am a bit more selective of what I photograph with my DSLR (and at this point I’m refining my ‘Light Inspired’ photography business as well). My phone is with me just about everywhere and images from that end up on Instagram.

Starting my photographic journey in 1982, I too have looked at the world through a rectangle via 35mm and through a square via a medium format camera. When I wasn’t with family, friends or at work, I was involved in photography in some way, shape or form since that time, either photographing, developing, printing, editing, reading about the subject, attending a Camera Club (or two) or judging photography. The ‘other’ interests I speak of are Toastmasters/public speaking (since 2008), drawing/painting (since 2010) and writing/writing poetry (since 2013).

Whereas once I would only be thinking and communicating about the world via photography, I now attempt to do this in a number of ways (depending on how I feel that I want to communicate it) and it is a lot of fun.

Life is about having experiences, fun, creativity, overcoming challenges, helping others, growth and communication.

I now enjoy seeing the world in different ways, not just through a camera. In some ways, I feel like my journey has just begun…

Written by David Johnson
June 2016

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

Why Toastmasters?

Logo Website Tagline LockupI was a ‘born introvert.’ At school I would not volunteer to ‘read things out in class’, at parties (even as an adult) I would only talk to people I knew, and at meetings at work I would have an idea though I would be too nervous to speak in front of others.

What led me to Toastmasters?

It was a chance meeting with a former work-friend, Wendy White in 2008 who was then President of a Toastmasters Club. (Wendy is currently District Director of District 70 in Australia).

I saw the changes in her (from when I knew her previously) and suspected that Toastmasters had something to do with this.

So what is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. It has 313,000 members around the world in 14,650 clubs in 126 countries.

Members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending the meetings on a regular basis, either weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on the individual Club and applying themselves through the Educational program.

I joined Toastmasters in March 2008 for the following reasons:

1. To gain a greater general confidence
2. To improve my photographic judging evaluations at Camera Clubs
3. To overcome nerves

Joining and putting myself well and truly into the programme has been a life-changing experience because it has helped me in 18 different ways/areas of my life i.e.

It has helped me in the following ways:
– gain greater general confidence
– am able to control my nerves prior to and during photographic judging/speeches
– am able to take photos in front of others without getting nervous
– am now able to walk up to strangers and introduce myself
– has improved my networking/business capabilities
– have no fear of speaking in public
– have no fear of taking on leadership roles
– has made me a better leader
– it has made me a better listener

– to evaluate better
– I can now ‘think on my feet’ better (impromptu speaking)
– improved my performance at job interviews
– has enable me to write & deliver coherent speeches
– has enabled me to win speech contests (who would have ever thought)!?
– has improved my writing capabilities to the point that I am now in the process of writing a book
– has given me the confidence to start writing poems (133 at last count)
– has opened up ‘outside of Toastmasters’ speaking opportunities including me being able to accept an MC role at a wedding & being able to speak at community clubs
– has enabled me to have a positive impact on people within and outside Toastmasters

As with life in general, the learning never stops! In all of the above areas there are still improvements to be made but when I look back I am thankful I had the courage to walk through the door of a Toastmasters Club.

Members, both experienced and new will be there to support you and cheer you on!

Whether you are an employee or are in business for yourself, consider visiting/joining a Toastmasters Club.

It will change your life for the better!

Click on to find out more and ‘Find A Club’ in your area.

To your Success!!!