Rodney Lovell, ACG, ALB
Q: When and why did you join Toastmasters?
A: I joined Doncaster Toastmasters (now Manningham Toastmasters) in Victoria, Australia in November 2004. At the time, I was a volunteer speaker for a community service organization. I thought I was a good speaker, but a professional speaker acquaintance gave me some tips; one was to practice and improve my speaking at Toastmasters.
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I save lives and families as a Cognitive Educator and Workshop Presenter. I offer men the opportunity to discover peace of mind by overcoming depression. It is a thrill to help a man who initially didn’t want to speak to anyone about his problem. I help him, not to change himself, but to become himself. If you hear a man say, “I need to find myself,” please send him my way! It really is the adventure of a lifetime — for both of us! If you’ve witnessed the satisfaction of new speakers “discovering themselves” at Toastmasters, you know what I’m talking about.
Q: How do you use communication skills in your career or daily life?
A: My career is built around communication. Whether I’m presenting workshops, seminars or having confidential discussions, I’m regularly presenting information that may be at odds with people’s beliefs about their depression. Those beliefs often have a “use-by” date, or were developed from an erroneous interpretation many years earlier. It is a challenge to have people accept and believe information they had previously never known. The little changes in their beliefs create huge changes in their lives.
Q: How have you grown as a communicator and leader since you joined Toastmasters?
A: I thought I was a good speaker, yet my evaluators informed me that I used “um” too much, didn’t use enough vocal variety and could improve my stage movement. After completing over 40 Toastmasters speech projects, I am now a better speaker. There is still so much to learn. That’s exciting!
When I first joined, it was all about me. Being part of a club is like being part of a team. Helping each other is one of the pleasures of Toastmasters. I like helping talented people develop.
Q: If someone asked you to give a presentation on short notice, how would you react?
A: It’s happened! An audience of 100 was waiting on a keynote speaker who didn’t show up. The organizer looked toward me. All I asked was, “What’s the objective and how long?” On I went. The following year I was asked back! It’s especially good when it’s a paid presentation!
What better way to gain fulfillment than by standing in front of an audience and giving a presentation! Some people jump out of planes for a thrill. I like to jump on stages! That fulfillment invades all aspects of my life. I’m happier and motivated, and that influences people around me.
Q: What do you like best about your club?
A: My club, Sunrise Toastmasters in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, is one of the few clubs that meets on a Sunday morning. [The club meets in Carindale, a suburb of Brisbane.] I enjoy the relaxation of strolling (it’s always sunny in Brisbane) to the club and listening to a wide variety of speech topics and styles.
At each club meeting or executive meeting, somebody says or does something new. Often they don’t realize the impact they have made. For example, a new speaker’s first speech may be “just” an Ice Breaker, but to me it is somebody inspiring me with his or her life story. Additionally, to see somebody learn the skills of club secretary is to see somebody challenge him or herself and overcoming fears of not knowing what to do. People often don’t realize how powerful their tips, hints, speeches or actions are. I’ve been privileged to be influenced by a wide range of people. We always get to hear something different — sometimes inspirational, sometimes educational or sometimes simply surprising!
Q: What have you done in Toastmasters to gain leadership experience?
A: Formally, I’ve been a president, vice president public relations, treasurer and a webmaster. I’ve also filled in as the vice president education, sergeant at arms and vice president membership. However, I’ve found leadership experience comes largely from providing a supportive environment in all parts of the club, not only in the meetings. Even if that means making decisions that someone may not be pleased with. (It pays to read the Toastmasters Club Constitution for Member Clubs of Toastmasters International!)
Some members have asked me to be their mentor. I’ve found the best way to demonstrate leadership, gain influence and respect is to give it away. The club awarded me a certificate of thanks, so I’m doing something right.
Q: Now that you have come this far, what is your next step?
A: Toastmasters is my training ground. It’s no different from practicing sports before a big game. At Toastmasters, I’ve fine-tuned my game.
What’s next is application. I take my pauses, tonality, gestures, stage use and other presentation skills, and I apply them in my big game, which is speaking to groups about how easy it is to overcome depression. If I find I need to develop a skill, I can go back to my Toastmasters training ground and work on it.
Q: What surprised you the most about Toastmasters?
A: The standard! I was already doing public speaking when I joined Toastmasters. I thought I was a good speaker. I soon realized that I had much to develop; the more I learned, the more I realized how much I didn’t know! I may be a better speaker now, but I feel I have more to learn than ever, and that is exciting.
Q: What is the most important thing you would tell your friends and family about Toastmasters?
A: I simply ask them two questions: In any field of endeavor, do the best communicators and leaders have coaches, advisors, mentors and evaluators? Would you like some too?
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