Reflections of my 25 Years Journey in Toastmasters – Part I
It was a normal day in the Spring of 1996. I was a senior at Kansas State University in the College of Engineering and had just driven home from a day of lectures at the university. Amongst a bunch of standard brochures, the one that read something, or the other TOASTMASTERS caught my eye. I had no clue what that word meant. I anyway decided to check it out and give it a try.
A week later I walked into a room with bright timing lights, a bell and some sheets and ballots. It would take me 8 long years to get the name of that meeting right “demo meeting”. That day I told myself in all my 4 years at college this is the most interesting activity. Little did I know, however, that the decision I made would be a life-changing one for the better. I quickly started speaking and taking up leadership roles.
The Kansas State University College of Engineering Student Club known as Power Cat Masters was eventually chartered on 1st May 1996 and the Guest of Honor at the Charter Night was the Dean of Engineering. I was the Table-topics-Master. I am happy to say that I was not nervous that night but humbled and happy to be given an opportunity to showcase my facilitation skills!
I made it a goal to get my Competent Communicator (known as the Competent Toastmaster (CTM) at the time) within 2 years and become familiar with all the meeting roles from the timer to toastmaster of the day. I saw them as real useful skills.
Well in about a year and a half, when I graduated, I achieved my competent toastmaster designation with the filing of the award yet to be done as I had moved shortly thereafter to California.
I nevertheless was armed with a solid foundation in presenting manual speeches which led to an improvement in my presentation skills. Evaluation skills further polished my skill of being able to see a situation objectively to impromptu speaking skills further enhanced through table topics.
My mentor at the time was the Assistant Dean of Engineering Tom Roberts who provided me with rigorous and useful evaluations that included providing detailed and rigorous feedback for being a “Toastmaster of the Day” a skill in being the Master of Ceremonies which would come in handy in the corporate world a few years later.
Within the first five years, I had moved from Kansas to California to New York to Singapore. I was a member after leaving the college and held on tight to the magazines and all that I had learned in toastmasters, including highlighting it to all prospective employers as one of the most useful and beneficial activities outside the core engineering curriculum in university.
Even though I was moving from state to state due to my work schedule, I was determined one way or another find a toastmaster club to settle into for the long term which happened at the start of the next five years. The first meeting had really created a spark for staying in the program for the long haul. In the first five years, I didn’t know that there were leadership positions, speech contests, and events outside the club environment! And the journey continued…