Toastmasters the Transformer

In mid-2016, my family decided to move to South Florida from Singapore. At that time, we had a 1 year old so I quit my job as a researcher and became a full-time stay-at-home mom. As we settled down, I wanted to get involved in an activity that gives me a break from baby talk and interact with adults. My husband suggested that we join Toastmasters. I visited a couple clubs and joined Club Outspoken Toastmasters.

Today, a year and half later, I have completed my Competent Communication (CC) manual. The past year with Toastmasters was not only a fun once-a-week getaway from my mom role. It transformed me into a more confident speaker and enthusiastic educator.

I learned that storytelling is the key to the transfer of knowledge. During the first meeting at Outspoken Toastmasters I attended, DTM Jeanine Kinsey gave a speech about how to get people to remember you. I remember three things from her speech – use personal stories, use dialogue and keep it simple. As an educator, I was always trying to deliver the facts of the subject I am teaching. Today, I tell a story that conveys the facts. I noticed that my students always do better when I tell a story, plus, my classes become more enjoyable!

I learned that body language, imagery and vocal variety work as good if not better than a slide presentation. As researchers, we always use slides during our presentations. Sometimes slides are full of words and complicated diagrams. That takes the attention away from us because our audience is trying to decipher that slide instead of what we are trying to say. I have heard amazing speeches in Toastmasters that use no slides at all. For many, a slide presentation may have made the speech less effective. This transformation is still a challenge but I’m working on it!

I learned that evaluations are the best way to improve. I can practice a thousand times on my own but it is only when I hear the opinion of an audience that I really know how well I did. After leaving school, or graduating from college, we don’t get evaluated on what we do anymore. When we start working, we are often told, “you did great” or “that was a terrible job”. But what did I do good at? What did I do badly at? Toastmasters provide a great platform for professional development because the speech evaluation highlights my strengths for me to keep improving and my weaknesses for me to work on. I am thankful for my mentor, DTM Andy Bern, who helped me construct my first three speeches and then provided evaluations after I delivered it. I am also thankful for all the evaluators who evaluated me on my CC manual.

What meant to be a fun activity for me had transformed into a valuable personal development activity. I hope to keep improving myself so I can give back to the club what the club had given me.

Zarraz Quick, CC