Denise Suyama and Angelica Godinho are two spirited Toastmasters who have made it their mission to help grow Toastmasters in Brazil. Suyama and Godinho are members of the Vila Olimpia English Toastmasters in São Paulo. Godinho runs her own consulting business and Suyama helps environmental companies with digital marketing.
Their native language is Portuguese, but they learned English in school, and by traveling and participating in Toastmasters. They hold volunteer positions on Toastmasters International’s developing markets team and recently helped organize Brazil’s first Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI), which provides training for club officers. The TLI was attended by 52 members and guests from several states in Brazil.
Toastmasters in Brazil has continued to expand within the last year, with 11 chartered clubs, one Gavel club and six prospective clubs.
How did you learn about the club in São Paulo?
AG: In 2013 I was enrolled in an e-Distance learning course on public speaking where I interacted with a number of people from different countries. They mentioned Toastmasters a lot, but I was living in Southern Brazil and the closest community club was in São Paulo. I told myself that as soon as I got a client in São Paulo I’d join the Vila Olimpia club.
DS: I saw a post on Facebook by a friend about the club. I wanted to use my English more, and went to my first meeting as a guest. I loved the environment, people and speeches. I became a member in May 2014.
How has Toastmasters helped you grow in your careers?
AG: I used to deliver speeches professionally and also talked to the press; however, I want to speak more at work. I’ve improved a lot in my communication and leadership skills in general. I’m more assertive with feedback for my team at work, and the small things we learn in Toastmasters make a difference on the stage, too.
DS: I’m more confident giving speeches in English and even speaking English in normal conversation. As a volunteer on the developing markets team, I can improve on my professional leadership skills, like managing a team of people from around the world and working within many different cultures.
Tell us about your club.
AG: Since Vila Olimpia is an English-speaking club, everyone has at least an intermediate level of proficiency in English. In Brazil we don’t have many opportunities to practice it, since most people speak Portuguese. We don’t find English speakers in ordinary places like supermarkets or even when taking a cab! In our club we get several visitors who travel all over the world and it gives us an opportunity to interact with people of different cultures.
What are your responsibilities as volunteers on the developing markets team?
AG: As the team’s events lead for Toastmasters in Brazil, my main focus was the TLI in January. I also make sure all the volunteers are committed, and I distribute tasks and ensure we are keeping Toastmasters’ high standards.
DS: As a public relations lead, I post all the events, articles and new information about clubs on our club website. I also share what’s going on in Brazil on our Facebook page, with articles related to public speaking and leadership, as well as advertise our events. I contact local media to bring more attention to Toastmasters in Brazil and brand management. I have a team that helps me a lot with these tasks.
What are you doing to help grow Toastmasters in Brazil?
AG: I’ve been contributing by using my professional experience in marketing. I have a huge network in Brazil and abroad, so I’ve spread the word about Toastmasters among my acquaintances, friends, family and colleagues through Facebook as well as LinkedIn, where I have more than 5,000 connections.
DS: We are helping other clubs to charter. To be successful, we need to stay close to the club officers and members to engage them. In Brazil it’s really common to have a WhatsApp group (a cross-platform method of communication) to talk to people. For the TLI, we created a group for all the vice presidents public relations and we are sharing best practices and advice with everybody.
Additional members who helped with the TLI: Shelby Hutchings, Claudio Watanabe, Marina Lima, Ana Rezende, Bill McCrossen and Susan Hawkins.
Shannon Dewey is digital strategy and engagement editor for the Toastmaster magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.