For the past eight weeks I have been involved in running a Speechcraft course for one of the local banks. Someone from their HR department had attended a course earlier in the year and was convinced that it was the kind of thing that could be done at a corporate level, so we did.
As I think back over what has been an amazing journey, I am reminded of a young lady who, at the first meeting, was unable to participate in the Table Topics – she was simply terrified. Despite her fear, she continued and before the programme had run its course, she had volunteered to be Toastmaster – quite a leap, as we all know.
Then there was a man who was confident and charming; quite at ease in front of an audience. I wondered whether he even needed our help. But tragedy struck when his wife miscarried their first child and I recall his face filled with pain when he spoke at the next meeting of trust in times of trouble.
During our time together we learned that one of the young men in our group had been selected for a project to work in London; and of the promotion to branch manager of a motherly, caring older woman. We discovered that amongst us were mothers and fathers, single parents and foster parents. There was one who had been raised in an orphanage and a couple who had been born in Zimbabwe. Although they all worked for the same company, many of them had never met before they embarked upon this adventure together.
Last Tuesday saw the culmination of the course, complete with Graduation certificates and a time of celebration afterwards. I invited Glenis Whitehead, as our Division Governor, to be the guest speaker at this event and it was suitably fitting that she spoke on Choices and challenged us all to make a bucket list of things we still wanted to do and to achieve. I found myself thinking about the people in the group who, despite their own particular challenges, had chosen to do this Speechcraft Course and whose lives would forever be changed – and connected – as a result.
I do believe in serendipity – some wonderful things just happen; but I also believe in the well-known lines from the poem, Invictus by William Ernest Henley, ‘I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul’. So, much as Glenis challenged us last week, I want to extend that challenge to you: In your Toastmasters world and in your private life; decide what you want to achieve and make it happen!
While we were there, Algoa had another of its usual fun-filled meetings. Despite some initial panic owing to the fact that some of the role players were not able to attend, others stepped up and it made for a really special meeting.
Toastmaster for the evening, Mariannah Lourens, introduced a theme on the joys of public speaking. In her introduction, she enumerated some positive tips from Dale Carnegie, which make a lot of sense:
• Do the thing you fear the most – it’s the quickest way to conquer that fear
• Give your best to the small jobs
• Do the difficult stuff first
• Act enthusiastic – and you will be enthusiastic.
Tom Horne had the group make good use of their linguistic abilities, as they had to describe various items in such a way that a Martian would understand them. Mr Table Topics Martian . ! Once again the prepared speeches covered a range of CC levels. Anton Barkhuizen (CC3 – Get to the Point) informed club members of the factors involved in having and maintain a Magnificent Mind. Included were the food we eat, exercise, water – and avoiding a toxic environment. Food for thought? Trevor Wells (CC5 – Your Body Speaks) had the audience captivated as he recounted his attempts to find the woman of his dreams on the dance floor with his speech entitled Searching for Love. Finally, Marlene van Wyk gave a very well received educational speech from the Leadership Excellence Series entitled Motivating People. One piece of advice that pertains to everyone, but to Toastmasters in particular is the following: “Practice will help you go from bad, to good, to great, to gold”
The Toast of the evening, by Liandra Schoultz, was a bit of a shock. It was to holidays and festivities – because the Christmas decorations are already up in the shops! That takes me back to the idea of bucket lists.
Surely it feels as if it were only a short while ago that we were making resolutions for 2012? Now we are planning year-end functions.
What had you planned to do that you have not done?