Manner of Speaking: Finding Sunshine in Sechelt
British Columbia Toastmaster
paves fresh path to success.
By Margaret Page, ACS, ALS
When I joined Toastmasters in the fall of 2003, I was a brand new divorcee, aged 48. I was starting over in a new-for-me community, Sechelt, in a new-to-me Canadian province, British Columbia. How would I ever fit in?
I was determined to make this new place home. At the very least, I promised to meet the challenge half-way. Still, I didn’t know one soul in town. So when I heard I could meet new people at Toastmasters, off I went to my first meeting. Like others who had been newcomers before me, I carried a lot of apprehension in my pockets. Luckily, I wasn’t called on to speak the first time I attended a meeting of the Sunshine Toastmasters in Sechelt. The second time, I was asked to participate in Table Topics. Feeling shy, I declined.
But over time, I felt comfortable sharing information about who I am and what I feel passionate about with the caring people in this group.
A Sudden Opportunity
About a year after joining Toastmasters, I received a call from a fellow member who had been scheduled to moderate a political debate for candidates seeking a federal seat. Unable to make it, he asked me to fill in. Did I mention the debate would be televised?
At first, a nasty voice in my head said, “You can’t do that! What do you know about politics?” But aloud, my mouth said the words, “I’m glad you asked me. I’d be happy to stand in for you.”
My part in this debate went off without too many hitches. Several times I had to think and act skillfully, and speak quickly, to maintain the tone the sponsors were looking for. I gratefully thought to myself, “Toastmasters has been my blessing in disguise.” Not only had I made a group of new friends among the Sunshine Toastmasters, but I had developed skills and confidence that helped me meet this unexpected challenge.
Several months later, I bumped into one of the camera people who had been part of the team televising the debate. “Would you host the TV interview program for the local cable station occasionally?” she asked me. “I’d love to,” I responded. When the show’s producer called soon after to see if I would host the politically oriented program, again that nasty voice in my head said, “Margaret, you can’t do that.” But my mouth said the words, “I don’t know much about politics, but I’d love to try.”
I went on to host six programs for this producer and became a regular on the annual Elves Club Telethon, a TV fundraiser for Christmas charities. And not long after that came an opportunity to do a TV clip for Business News Network out of Toronto. My Toastmasters experience helped make that a successful adventure as well.
A New Career
Professional opportunities continued to come my way. In the spring of 2005, a seasoned Toastmaster asked if I’d meet with a political candidate running for a seat in the provincial legislature. My job would be to coach her in delivering speeches and communicating her message to audiences. This time, no nasty voice spoke up; I enthusiastically embraced the invitation. That meeting has led to a new career and passion: supporting women running for political office and, through their successes, helping create changes in their communities.
In March of 2008, I chaired the Sunshine Coast Women’s Dialogue, an event where 120 women came to discuss issues of importance to them. The emcee was Toastmasters Past International Director Dawn Miller. Two months after that, I helped create an all-day program to discuss such issues as campaign strategies and campaign ethics for female political candidates. We particularly praised the learning value available through Toastmasters.
Why am I writing about all this? So you can see that, through Toastmasters, the people you’ll meet and the things you’ll do can go beyond your imagination. Six years ago, I was in a crucial transition period in my life. Toastmasters enabled me to have wonderful new experiences and opportunities, leading me to work that I care deeply about. Today, I can clearly say that I’ve made this community – and my Toastmasters club – the place I call home.
Margaret Page, ACS, ALS,is the president of the Sunshine Toastmasters in Sechelt, British Columbia. In addition to her work on behalf of women in politics, she is a Vancouver-based etiquette and protocol consultant. Reach her at www.pagethecoach.ca.