“We don’t need to search where you are in the building, your voice is enough to find you!”
This is what my friends and colleagues say. I am the one who cracks a joke in the group and makes the decision for a picnic spot for friends to hangout.
During high school, when there was a discussion about who will be the best class representative, I got anonymously nominated without an election. I have always been that “cool” kid!
While growing up, watching my mother on stage inspiring thousands of people through her powerful words has been my main source of inspiration. Deep inside I always wanted to be like her.
All this triggered my internal journey to find a platform where I could freely express my ideas and inspire others, just like I had seen my mother do.
As I grew older, immediately after my bachelor’s in engineering, the entrepreneurial bug had bitten me and I was pitching my business idea to investors. It was heartbreaking for me to get rejected. I couldn’t understand why. Up until now, my communication had always been on point!
At that time one of my sister’s close friends mentioned trying something called Toastmasters. It sounded interesting and I attended the first meeting in Mysore, India at the club called ‘Palace City Toastmasters’.
I immediately fell in love with the people there and (as a bonus) aced my first ever Table Topic! Needless to say, I joined the club.
I did my Ice breaker speech within a month and was observing and learning other meeting roles. By this time, I landed my first job and had to move to a different state.
Since it was my first corporate job, it demanded time, energy and focus. First time, staying away from the family added to the complexity of life.
As I found my routine life in the new city, my focus shifted to theatre. Like every other Indian kid, acting was inbuilt in my DNA and I studied theatre on the weekends and even completed a theatre course. As I started doing theatre shows, my Toastmasters journey took a back seat.
This, as I would soon realise, was a mistake…
Why did I join Toastmaster again?
I moved to Sydney, Australia to pursue an MBA. As part of my academics, every subject had allocated marks for presenting research studies.
Since I had always been a confident person growing and spent quite an amount of time on stage with theatre experience, I thought the presentations would be a cakewalk.
But, surprise surprise! I was wrong and my grades went down in the first semester. I wanted to fix this by finding out what is going wrong. I joined the debate society in the university and understood structured dialogue. But that still wasn’t enough as I needed a ground to continuously practice!
One day I came to know about a Toastmaster’s club next to my University accommodation.
I went along with my friend to check it out.
The club was called Community Speakers Toastmasters and, once again, I fell in love with the people there.
During the same time, the club was running a speechcraft program and I did not want to miss the opportunity to fast track my Toastmaster’s journey. I completed the speechcraft program and joined the club.
Within three months I was not just a fun speaker, but a confident communicator.
I was excelling at my university presentations and got a hold of the structured way of communicating to an audience.
Then came the Toastmasters Speech Contests…
I have always been a competitive kid and contests were at a whole different level of adrenalin. Writing a contest speech, practicing and getting ready to compete was the process I enjoyed.
During this journey, I felt that – “This is my tribe”! I learned while I enjoyed and Ralph Smedley’s (the founder of Toastmasters) quote – “We learn best in moments of enjoyment” always stayed with me.
Becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM)
I am a highly driven and goal-oriented person. I was looking for the next step in Toastmasters. After being in Toastmasters for 1 year, I had met a lot of DTMs and most of them had that unique aura of speaking to the audience’s heart.
That’s what I wanted to communicate like. That was also the time I was moving into leadership roles in my professional life.
It seemed to fit.
I could see myself achieving the DTM status. The best part about DTM is not just the status of it, but the fact that it helps you strengthen your communication skills as well as your overall leadership abilities.
The DTM journey gave me an ample number of leadership opportunities to strengthen my existing skills and learn new aspects of leadership.
Why do I continue to be a part Toastmasters?
I am currently part of Divine Mercy Toastmasters club in Australia. Over this journey, I have found some incredible people.
The Australian Toastmasters community does not only have competent communicators but also have humble human beings. The culture of lifting each other up is inspiring.
During the course of my DTM, I had inspiring members who selflessly dedicated their time to my success. I want to continue that legacy and help upcoming Toastmaster members.
I come from a learning mindset and believe everyone has something new to offer. Toastmasters gives me that platform and framework where I can learn and share at the same time.
If you are thinking about where to start your Toastmasters journey, just Google “Toastmasters clubs near me” and rock up to a meeting and trust me you will not look back and if you ask me “when to start” and I say “now”.