Toastmasters and Learning about Leadership

My love affair with Toastmasters continues. I joined to improve my confidence couple of years ago and have never left them since then. I got the confidence I was looking for within a first few speech projects and then I started a path I had no idea I would love so much - the path of leadership. One of the club officers in my first Toastmasters club (Sunset Speakers' Steve Waszak) asked me to volunteer as a VP of Membership of that club. I wasn't quite ready for it, but I accepted the challenge anyway. I said to myself, what the heck, I can put together a few fliers and talk to people once in a while to keep the membership going. But then I found out that I was passionate about it. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, the job change forced me to move and had to let go of my stint with Sunset Speakers. But as soon as I landed here in Chattanooga, I found Monday Mumblers and joined the club right away. Since they didn't have a VP of Membership, I volunteered to run that job and decided to continue my learning in this setting. After the year was finished, I had learned a few things about how to market our club and how to maintain the roster and keep the membership building. Talking to people was a major part of that job and I enjoyed every moment of it. I even enjoyed crafting a contest for club members to invite guests which I think did generate some interest among members. I learnt valuable organizational and presentation skills during my stint as VP-Membership.
The following year, I decided to change my role to be VP of Education. Now remember, all officers of Toastmasters clubs, even with fancy names and all, are ultimately volunteers. Club business can consume a lot of your personal time. And AFTER I chose to be VP-Education, all the leaders who do the training of officers patted my pack for choosing that role. I was like, why? I mean, I just want to do my best and all. But no, what I didn't know was that VP-Education is the most time consuming of the officer roles and by far the most important function in the club's business. This person is supposed to make sure members meet their educational goals and arrange schedules. VPE is responsible for many things the club does, including new member orientation; their mentoring, continual education of experienced members and most importantly keep the club meetings varied and interesting at all times. That's not an easy task. I soon realized the hot water I had got myself into. The first challenge I faced was related to scheduling. I can't write enough about this topic, but that experience taught me how tough it can be to handle complex meeting schedules. One of my achievements while I was in office as VPEducation was to get our club a space on the internet. yes, with the help of a webmaster, we now post weekly on http://www.MondayMumblers.com.

I enjoyed working as VPE enough that after a year's work, I volunteered to continue. But suddenly another opportunity opened up, this time beyond my own club. I was offered to work as Area Governor for District 63 of Toastmasters. It meant, apart from my own club's success, I will now be expected to visit 3 other clubs in Chattanooga, and make sure they are following the success plans. This I wasn't sure about, but after a careful evaluation, I accepted the challenge. Now, about 3 months into it, my volunteer workload has increased quite a bit and so is the learning curve. When you go beyond your club, you see the bigger picture in Toastmasters. As Area Governor for Area 30 in Division C, I have visited East Brainerd Toastmasters Club, Cleveland Wordspinners and Chatter Masters Club (Downtown Chattanooga) and learned how they do things in their meetings. Meeting and guiding some of their new members and officers has been a very good exercise in leadership. I learnt very quickly in Toastmasters that we learn by doing, and Being an Area Governor is an exercise in practicing all your people skills. Our next challenge is coming up next week when we conduct Area wide Speech contests for winners from about 12 clubs in the Chattanooga area. This will be a Humorous Speech contest and also Evaluation Contest. I remember participating in these events, now I get to see how we conduct one.

Over the last three months, I have also attended meetings with other Toastmasters, who are higher up in the leadership chart. They have been learning the leadership principles for very long and it shows in their dedication and knowledge. It’s great to be able to learn from such experienced players rather that learning just from books. And making these connections has also helped me understand Toastmasters on a different level.

All this Leadership talk is not distracting me away from my speaking path. I am now about 3 speeches away from my next award (Advance Communicator Bronze). My next speech presentation is coming up soon with the Chattanooga Engineers Club where I am going to talk about the benefits of blogging from a business perspective. In other words, can blogging help your business? I will talk about that a bit later...