Jeff Oliver

Toastmasters can be an Enchanting Phenomenon
It can be a portal, a horcrux, a Platform 9.75, or a wart on an elephant’s bottom (expurgated version).

I am sure that the founder, Smedley (poor man) like Moses, didn’t fully comprehend what he had in his hands.

‘It’s what you do with what you’ve got’.

I have had the pleasure of starting to learn how to be a well-treated old anachronism in a kind, polite, hardworking Toastmasters club in Tainjin (Tientsin), a Platform 9.75 if ever there was.

So what happens? People learn to stand up and take their time … and some don’t.

They learn to systematically prepare, out of respect for their own development and transformation, and for the time and the goodwill of their patient and supportive fellow club members.

They learn their particular club’s attitude to English – ‘the language’ having escaped from the class-defining sensibilities of Anglo-US colonial ancestry, and now increasingly shaped and simplified (thank goodness) by, soon the majority, second-language speakers, into an international, momentarily quasi-universal, second language, and index of the quality of one’s education and capacity to function transnationally. Whew!

… or they work in the effective and maybe timewarped local version, looking out for their clensions, reflecting, as the saying goes, whatever ‘school they went to’.

To be fair some folk just enjoy a night out, being entertained, and space from their spice; in some cases it’s like bingo or church attendance … it’s a free country.

For others, it’s like a Firefox feathered wand add-on, at 7am, a convivial if quick warm-up of their professional voices before the working day fires up.

Like any example of reality, Toastmasters is what we make of it, a curates egg, good in parts, and perhaps transforming for some folk.

It all depends upon how we search, what we are looking for, and whether we can notice 9.75 when we see it, find our Hogwarts, gird our loins, and deal with our personal Riddle.

Maree Pickens

I read about Toastmasters in a book by a US author and entrepreneur I admired. She couldn’t speak highly enough of the value of Toastmasters in helping her become a successful business woman and even better mother. I jumped on the web and was immediately impressed at the breadth of information provided by Toastmasters at international, country, state and even club levels – they had so much to offer and all seemed so welcoming!

I took their advice and visited several different clubs before deciding that St George’s had the right mix of people, rofessionalism and fun that I was looking for – no pressure from any club to join. Even now, four years later, I love visiting other clubs to see new delivery techniques, hear new ideas and feel the energy from a different group of people. Even better is that my husband joined a different club at the same time and we now enjoy a wonderful shared ‘passion’ that benefits our relationships with each other, our children, and our workplaces.

Nicky Quekett

I was invited to join toastmasters by a discerning friend who felt that I would find it both interesting and enjoyable. It was more than that and I am eternally grateful to her.

Although I had been exposed to public speaking for many years, I had never had to give a speech and bring it to a conclusion within a really short time span. I am talking of minutes, even seconds.. That is an art in itself. Toastmasters also teach you how to ad lib, on demand, again for a limited length of time. These disciplines are not always easy to master, especially as they include many more skills on the art of speaking itself. They are vitally useful tools.

However Toastmasters is more than learning how to improve your speaking ability. It introduced me to a whole new group of people , all with the same goal in mind, who meet weekly in a friendly and social way. This alone added another dimension to my life.

For these reasons I recommend anyone keen to improve their skills in the use of the English language, should join the Toastmasters. They would be amazed at the difference it makes in their ability to express themselves, and all in a friendly congenial atmosphere. No wonder members join for years and years. They climb a ladder of harder and harder tasks and compete with other clubs all over the world.

Cybele Katavatis

In Toastmasters I have learned to structure my thought process better. This becomes possible as we construct speeches. I now make better sense, not only with speeches but also in everyday interacting. The second thing that I now try to correct, has to do with voice technique.

Again Toastmasters provides the perfect environment to improve on any additional skills as we become more and more comfortable with speaking. Finally I have found that Toastmasters have the most updated program to offer and also the most pleasant meetings for anyone to practice and achieve their goals.

Peter Dhu

As a person who stutters, public speaking has always been my greatest fear. I would do everything possible to avoid speaking. Since joining Toastmasters I have gradually grown in confidence, overcome my fear and now I actually enjoy public speaking. My stutter has also improved.

Debbie Falck

I am not a “natural” at public speaking. In fact, a couple of bad experiences while presenting papers at conferences should have put me off getting up in front of an audience ever again! A colleague suggested I try Toastmasters. So glad I did.

The people at our club are very warm, welcoming, enthusiastic and encouraging. The format of the meetings provides members with opportunities to learn and practice all types of speeches; impromptu or “off the cuff” type speeches, in addition to more formal speech presentations, both short and long, with or without notes. I appreciated being able to go at my own pace, and draw on the advice and experience of other members. Everyone at Toastmasters is genuinely keen to help each other develop their skills; an important aspect of the Toastmasters program is the opportunity to receive (and provide to others) positive and constructive evaluations or feedback on every speech, so you get to hear what you have done well, but also receive some valuable suggestions on how you can improve for next time.

From time to time the more experienced members of our club present “educationals” on various topics to provide useful tips on different aspects of preparing and delivering speeches. I have found these sessions on techniques such as voice projection, effective speech introductions and conclusions, how to tackle impromptu questions (also very useful for job interviews, cocktail parties or participating in work meetings!) extremely helpful, for my Toastmasters life, and my personal and work life.

Participating in Toastmasters meetings has definitely improved my confidence and ability to present research papers at conferences and give presentations at work meetings (my original purpose for joining). Toastmasters has also helped me develop my speaking skills in a range of work and social situations.

Please don’t just think about joining Toastmasters, just do it. You will be very glad you did.

Gerard Woerlee

For many years I have been a member of two Toastmasters clubs. During that period I have visited many affiliated clubs, especially in various states of the USA. while on holidays.

My final membership years were spent with the Victoria Quay club. On reflection I have come to the conclusion that this association with the Victoria Quay club has considerably increased my fellowship skills. Through the many workshops given as part of a brilliant conceived training cycle, I have not only learned to speak with ease, but also to structure my way of speaking to make it of interest to an audience. An important part of this process was evaluating other speakers, thereby learning from their mistakes, but at the same time making friends with positive criticism. All this proved to be of great value in later life while dealing with other people. The way Victoria Quay, under the skilful leadership of David Nicholas, ismanaged has shaped this club into a top club with an enthusiastic membership

Andrew Dix

Joining Toastmasters has given me a great deal of confidence with speaking in public and this has enhanced job opportunities, improved negotiating skills with employers and staff members.

In addition my confidence in speaking to customers face to face and on the phone has increased. Toastmasters has also taught me listening skills and how to react to impromptu questions. I owe a lot to this opportunity.

Bruce McCallum

Toastmasters has meant a great deal to me. Throughout my past life I had difficulty with public speaking. I felt I lacked the skills to speak persuasively and authoritatively to an audience and hence my confidence tended to be low. I therefore looked forward with trepidation to those occasions on which I was obliged to speak in public. There are a number of features of the Toastmasters experience which have reinforced significantly my speaking skills, hence my confidence and also, in my opinion at least, my performance as a public speaker.

First, Toastmasters provides an incredibly supportive audience of great people who help one acquire the basic skills for improving one’s public speaking without the trauma. Friends and colleagues within Toastmasters provide a team which actively support one’s development as a public speaker.

Secondly, within Toastmasters essentially one learns by doing. While there are manuals and workshop presentations by experienced speakers one learns most from being called upon to give a variety of different types of speeches, from receiving feedback from one’s peers, and from listening to feedback given to others. The approach is very practical.

Thirdly the opportunity to participate in a variety of roles within a meeting and also to become eligible for various awards reinforces one’s motivation to participate in Toastmasters.

Finally, a Toastmasters meeting is just so interesting. People from a great variety of backgrounds take part and just listening to their presentations is both fascinating and enjoyable.

Sue Voloczi

The wonderful thing about Toastmasters is that in addition to developing my speaking skills, I get to explore ideas – both other peoples’ and my own. Each presentation is an opportunity to glimpse another world.

In this nurturing environment, new Toastmasters blossom into competent presenters through self paced learning and the support of experienced speakers. Meeting by meeting, skills and confidence grow as Toastmasters share their interests. I look forward to each session and wonder what will unfold.

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