“I urge everyone to step outside their comfort zone, step up to the challenge and seize the opportunity”
1. What was your first Toastmasters meeting like? Please describe it to us. And what convinced you to become a member?
The first Toastmasters meeting which I attended was the demonstration meeting of the Whitsunday Club in North Queensland, Australia. Lesley, my wife, and I were encouraged to investigate and found an enthusiastic group of young potential members together with a team of existing members from the sponsoring club all having a great time. Unfortunately the timing was not right for us and in fact it was two years later when we actually became members. Neither of us joined to improve our public speaking or to become leaders, but as we lived in a resort holiday town on the Great Barrier Reef there was little social life after the sun went down so the reason was do something socially together. We have not been disappointed.
2.How different would your life have been without Toastmasters?
I find it hard to imagine life without Toastmasters. After over 26 years it has become an integral part of my life. A life with the friendship, challenges, personal development and travel opportunities provided by Toastmasters. The hardest thing to describe to a potential member is just how life changing Toastmasters can be.
3. What is one quality that you believe every leader should possess?
There are so many qualities that a leader needs but there is one that stands out in my mind and that is integrity. I place that above all others for, without integrity, the other qualities can mean little. There is one other quality that is vitally important and that is the ability to listen.
4. Which leadership role in Toastmasters did you find most challenging?
The most challenging Toastmaster role was a club role, that of Vice President Education. Being directly involved with the programming of 20 plus members, ensuring that each gets the opportunity to reach their individual goals without favoring one over the other, can be challenging. Additionally there are times when the VPE has to be firm and gently encourage some members when their enthusiasm or self-confidence is at a low ebb, yet maintain a certain perspective, always putting the members’ needs first.
5. Three things you learned from your Toastmasters journey
The three things I have learned on my Toastmaster’s journey are:-
- Enjoy the journey, it is a life changing experience that has to be lived to be appreciated.
- Personal communication is the glue that binds our communities together. The ability to have something to say, the ability to know how to say it and the confidence to say it permits individuals to make a difference.
- Communication and leadership are inextricably linked. I know of no leader who is effective who is not also an effective communicator. We all have roles to play in our family, community and professional lives and Toastmasters provides the skills in both leadership and communications to enable us to contribute in each arena.
6. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
To those considering taking on a leadership role for the first time, be sure you make the commitment taking into consideration the motivation, is it to serve and add benefit to those you seek to lead? Do you have the time to devote to the task? Are you aware of what the role entails and what support is available? Toastmasters provides the skills you need in order to enable you to take the opportunity to lead when it comes your way. Do not expect to know everything about the prospective leadership role, remember that Toastmasters is an experiential learning organization and we learn by doing the job, not necessarily knowing all there is to know before we take on the leadership role. I urge everyone to step outside their comfort zone, step up to the challenge and seize the opportunity.
7. What legacy do you hope to leave behind at Toastmasters International?
The legacy I want to leave behind is that of an organization that truly “Remembers the Member” by providing an equality of service and opportunity to all our members irrespective of where they live, their social status or their language or cultural differences. In addition I believe that we need to concentrate more on our membership retention by recognizing the obligation we have to look after the members we already have, whilst still seeking to expand Toastmasters into new and developing markets.
8. What do you love most about being a Toastmaster?
For me the answer is easy, it is seeing ordinary people achieving extraordinary results. To participate in some small way in the growth of others by being a mentor and possibly a role model and at the same time personally developing one’s own skills is an experience not to be missed. We are not here to make better Toastmasters but to make better people.