Toastmaster: Before and After

Years ago when I was in school, one day, I was walking from the dormitory to class with my roommate. Suddenly, a dog came running and barking at us. I was about to run when my friend grabbed my shoulder and said, “Don’t run. It’ll chase.” She took a few steps toward the dog and yelled, “Argh! Hah! Hah!”

Contest chair, fellow toastmasters, beautiful people,

That day, my friend taught me a lesson on miscommunication. She said, “Since we don’t understand dog language, we only heard it barking. It was probably just saying, ‘Please walk and talk slowly. My puppies are sleeping.’ ”

In toastmasters, we learnt that it is good to give vivid and precise description to avoid miscommunication. I found that it is also useful when it comes to giving direction to people. Before I am a toastmaster, when I gave direction, I used to do it like this. To describe short distance, I would say “You go straight”. To describe long distance, I would say “You go straaaaaaaaight”. But now, I describe it vividly, “You go straight until you see a building” or “You go straight for about five minutes”. Vast improvement!

Public speaking has always been associated with nervousness. I can still remember my first table topics where I started with greetings, followed by a quote and two other sentences, and … until I saw the green light was on and I say “I think that’s all. Thank you”. Nervousness can never go away. But as you do it over and over again, you simply find ways to hide it or fake it. Now, if I am ever lost for words, I do this. I look to the audience on my left, shift my gaze to the right and finally look in front and say, “Fellow toastmasters, ladies and gentlemen” so that it looks like a deliberate pause, when the real thing that’s going on in my mind is ‘Oh, my God! I forgot my script’, ‘What’s the keyword? What’s the keyword?’, ‘Oh, I remember now! Here it comes’, “Fellow toastmasters, ladies and gentlemen”.

Toastmasters’ environment taught me to always say positive things even when we are highlighting people’s weaknesses. This is what we learn when we do evaluations. My brother doesn’t like to be told what to do, especially by me. I guess this is true for most guys. Most means all. Before I join toastmasters, when I don’t like what he was wearing, I would say, “That shirt doesn’t go with the sneakers. I think you better change.” He wouldn’t change and I thought he simply didn’t care about fashion sense, until I cared to put it this way to him, “I like it when my brother looks nice when he goes out with me. And you look nice when you do your hair like that time.” He changed the hairstyle immediately. “Now, nice?’

I am known among my friends as an honest person. I understand that when they said honest, they meant blunt. Problem is I always see things as black and white, yes or no, success or fail, when I gave opinion. Evaluations taught me to consider both sides thoroughly and balance it. You’ve got to highlight strengths and give recommendations for weaknesses. Years ago when a friend asked me during shopping, “What do you think of this shawl?”, I would look one time and say “Ugly. Don’t buy”. Full stop. But now, I would give it one good, long look and consider my thoughts and come out with something like this, “That’s pretty. The one you are wearing is also pretty. The one in your closet that I remember is also pretty. Considering that, you already have too many. I suggest you keep your money. Not that it makes the shawl less pretty.”

Fellow toastmasters,

I believe all of us are a changed person after we became Toastmaster. In these seemly tiny little small changes, we found that we have been a bigger person, set out to make great changes to the world.

‘How do you eat a big, fat elephant?’ ‘One bite at a time’

Johor Jaya Toastmasters Club
Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest

Thanks, in advance, for your feedback.

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