Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Every visitor is a potential member - 26 February

After fifteen years as a Toastmaster I still get a kick out of every meeting. Last night though, I saw something quite amazing – of the thirty people at our meeting, fourteen of them were visitors!

As usual, our President asked each visitor to give a short introduction. Their responses were all similar: “I want to improve my public speaking skills” or “I want to overcome my fear of speaking in public.” What became overwhelmingly evident to me was what we at Toastmasters have known for so long:

1. Many people really fear speaking in front of others;

2. Being able to speak confidently to groups of people is the key to personal confidence and to career success.

Many of the visitors indicated that the requirements of their jobs meant addressing groups of people in order to train them or to try to sell a concept to them. They recognised that it was a skill they would have to master in order to succeed. There exists in all of us a desire to grow; to improve and to fulfil our potential. Why else would so many people have deliberately put themselves in a place where they would have to acknowledge and face their fears?

That got me thinking about how clubs succeed. I believe in serendipity or synchronicity and last night’s meeting was yet another example of such a chance encounter. Antoinette Baatjes gave a delightful educational speech on How to Motivate People, which started with words attributed to Dr Phil (but which I have subsequently discovered to have been used by a host of other people): “You can’t give what you don’t have”.

I believe that is the root of the success of a club like Algoa – we give what we do have. It all starts with club members who are already motivated. When individual members are feeling a little down, or not as ‘on track’ as they would like to be, there are others who are ‘up’ and that enables them to act as a motivating force. Regular attendance at meetings therefore ensures a level of motivation. We keep going because of the encouragement of others.

Motivation, according to Antoinette, can take three forms:

Praise - people are motivated when they feel appreciated or encouraged. There is little that spurs one on more to further action than acknowledgement of a job well done, whether that is a project speech or a task performed in service of the club. Evaluations should always be positive and encouraging, while at the same time making constructive suggestions for improvement.

Public recognition - as above, people enjoy this recognition at a meeting (in the form of an award like the Top Toastie, or Best Table Topic) or in a newsletter or club blog.

Promotion – this entails opportunities for advancement in the organisation. Members may be asked to serve the club in executive positions, in this way recognising their value to the club.

Fourteen people came to visit last night; fourteen people took a risk. Were we at Algoa motivating enough in our encouragement of them and of one another that they will stay to become members?

Until next time
Ricky Woods

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's all a matter of changing your perspective - 12 February

We are often quick to bewail our fates and to find excuses for the lack of success in our lives. Or should I say, I am? This weekend though, I read something in the newspaper that made me realise that it really is all about perspective. The writer of the article challenged his readers to try to re-tell every incident from different perspectives: he suggested four, but I would like to focus on two: victim and hero.

If, for example, you find yourself passed over for promotion at work because (according to you) the person who could have made it happen for you has a personal issue with you, you can choose to see the situation in one of two ways. Firstly, she doesn’t like you and she doesn’t realise your innate potential. You are far smarter than she is and she feels threatened by you. With an attitude like this, you might as well resign because you will transfer those negative feelings into every work scenario. Sadly, you will probably take that attitude with you into the next job, where things will probably not go any better.

Or, you could see the situation as an opportunity to grow. The person responsible for your promotion (or not) is in that position because those higher up have recognised qualities in her that they consider to be capable. If you are mature about it, you could ask her for advice or mentoring to ensure that when the next promotions come up, you will be sure to be in line. Another advantage to this kind of attitude is that you might even gain a friend in the process.
Ridiculous? Perhaps, but the second way will help you to sleep better. Why not try it? Even when it comes to progress with your Toastmaster's goals, a change in your perspective on matters can make a big difference. It really boils down to ‘glass empty or glass full’, doesn’t it?
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I have been so impressed with the level of presentations that we are having at Algoa lately and this last week was no exception. Our Division Governor – and Algoa member – Glenis Whitehead, gave a particularly informative and educational CC8 (Getting comfortable with visual aids) using a PowerPoint presentation, about recognising and dealing with ADHD in our children.

Since more and more of us are using data projectors and electronic media to do presentations, perhaps it is time for us to have an educational input from one of the experts in the club on this subject?

Congratulations too, to Gideon Smith, Trevor Wells and Dxy Madikizela on completing CC2, 6 and 8 speeches respectively and to Mariannah Lourens on her AC26. It was wonderful once again to see such a range of speeches being completed. I am sure, from the comments of the visitors, that we will soon have more new members wanting to follow in your footsteps

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Early Saturday morning, 16 February saw carloads of intrepid Toastmasters from Port Elizabeth make their way to Grahamstown for the first SummerCon, which was hosted by the very enthusiastic Area E1 members at Rhodes University.

David Preece, our District Governor, flew in from Johannesburgto preside over the training session, which a group of about 50 Toastmasters from all over Division E attended. Claire van Zyl and Glenis Whitehead provided training. Our very own Megan Judd and Marlene Vosloo assisted David in the training of Club Officers, new and old.

Afterwards, a picnic lunch was enjoyed by all.

Division E is set to host MaxiCon next year in May. To that end, the Rhodes Toastmasters presented a very spirited proposal.
That reminds me - it’s time to start registering for LeaderCon, which will be held from 23-26 May at the Indaba Hotel at Fourways in Johannesburg. Details are available on their website Trust me, it is an unforgettable experience.

Until next time
Ricky Woods