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Meet Toastmasters’ 2016 Golden Gavel Award Recipient: Tony Buzan


Toastmasters International will honor Tony Buzan with the prestigious Golden Gavel award for his leadership in the field of memory research. The award recognizes Buzan’s influence as the creator of Mind Mapping, a popular technique for improving memory, innovation and thought processes. A British author of more than 140 books translated into 40 languages, he was nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. He is an authority on principles of learning, productivity and efficiency.

Buzan will be honored this August at the 85th Annual Toastmasters International Convention in Washington, D.C. Toastmasters’ Golden Gavel award is given annually to an individual who is distinguished in the fields of communication and leadership. Last year’s honoree was Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, for his work in microfinance. Other recipients include notable speakers and authors such as Susan Cain, John C. Maxwell, Tony Robbins and Dr. Deepak Chopra. In fact, Chopra endorses Mind Mapping and says: “I have used Tony Buzan’s techniques for the past 10 years and find them enormously helpful in writing my books and as an aid in the creative process.”

Buzan describes the concept of Mind Mapping as the “Swiss Army Knife of the brain” and teaches its use through training events around the globe, including at prominent companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Walt Disney, British Telecom, Goldman Sachs and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

A Mind Map is essentially a diagram that represents ideas and concepts branching off from a central idea. It enhances memory through the visual representation of ideas and concepts.

Here is how iMindmap.com, describes it: A Mind Map is a visual thinking tool that can be applied to all cognitive functions, especially memory, learning, creativity and analysis. Mind Mapping is a process that involves a distinct combination of imagery, color and visual-spatial arrangement. The technique maps out your thoughts using keywords that trigger associations in the brain to spark further ideas.

Buzan’s interest in brain power and Mental Literacy started when he was an undergrad attending the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He realized his grades were slipping and traditional note-taking was not helping. He asked a university librarian for a book on how to use his brain. “She pointed me to the medical section,” he said in a 2011 interview. “I told her ‘I don’t want to operate on it; I want to know how to operate it!’ She told me there were no books on that. I began plotting it.” 

“It’s like a gymnasium for your mind and gives you a multiple-level workout. I use it when I’m planning my day, giving a speech or writing a book.”

— TONY BUZAN

He has since spent more than 40 years researching how the brain works and perfected his Mind Mapping technique. In the 1970s he hosted a popular TV series called Use Your Head for the BBC. As a result, the BBC subsequently published his best-selling books Use Your Head, The Memory Book, The Speed Reading Book and The Mind Map Book, and Buzan imparts his knowledge and expertise on three ThinkBuzan Licensed Instructor courses in Mind Mapping, Memory and Speed Reading, which he both leads and accredits. In 2008 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Creativity Association and launched his Mind Mapping software iMindMap.

Buzan is the originator, co-founder and president of the Brain Trust Charity, which aims to “maximize the ability of each individual to unlock and deploy the vast capacity of the human brain.” In 1991, he cofounded the World Memory Championships, an annual ­competition where participants ­memorize as much information as ­possible within a given time.

Buzan says his own memory is better now than when he was a university student thanks to Mind Mapping. “It’s like a gymnasium for your mind and gives you a multiple-level workout,” he says. “I use it when I’m planning my day, giving a speech or writing a book.”