Viewpoint: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Toastmasters

Viewpoint: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Toastmasters

A message from our International President.

One year when I was lieutenant governor, two other district leaders and I drove together across the district, attending club-officer training programs and division speech contests. We spent hours and hours in a small car, talking strategy and planning our district year. We also shared stories about our leadership experiences. We had so much fun! I never laughed so hard as when I was on those car trips – which was a challenge when I was the driver.

Now, a decade later, I still meet with these dear friends to reminisce about those memorable Toastmasters experiences. (Thank you, Beryl and Adele!)

Effective leaders have many common traits: courage, integrity, focus, passion, service and vision, to name just a few. But one of the most important qualities is to be a master of merriment. That means fun! Every leader I admire and emulate, both in Toastmasters and my profession, creates fun memories and encourages levity from their teams.

Whether it’s sharing stories on car rides, hosting recognition celebrations or coordinating a unique club theme meeting, how do you create an atmosphere of fun in your club and on your leadership teams? Do you embrace gales of glee?

My Toastmasters memories all revolve around fun. I remember dressing up as Darth Vader from Star Wars at a district conference fun night – and everyone knew the Vader character was me before I even said a word. Or traveling to Disneyland with some Toastmasters friends and enjoying rides like “It’s a Small World,” “Enchanted Tiki Room” and “Splash Mountain.” Or attending a club holiday meeting where a Table Topics speaker uttered a sentence that kept the audience laughing for more than 10 minutes.

Having fun experiences does not diminish the respect you get as a leader. Rather, they enhance and strengthen your leadership. Building personal relationships is essential to leading others, and fun opportunities build and cement relationships.

As we begin a new Toastmasters year, where does fun fit in your agenda? Find ways to encourage creativity and novelty in all that you do. Make fun a priority in your Toastmasters, professional and personal life.

Toastmasters founder Ralph Smedley said, “We learn best in moments of enjoyment.” As a leader, plan on frivolity! Your fellow club members and high-performing teams are counting on it.

Your focus on fun begins now!

Gary Schmidt, DTM
International President