Nancy Lesser, DTM
Northwest Perimeter Toastmasters
Sandy Springs, Georgia
Something to Say
In my 10 years as a Toastmaster I’d never entered the International Speech Contest; I was afraid. But this year, I had something to say. Although my son had been diagnosed with autism years ago, I was finally ready to talk about it. My speaking journey began in February at the club contest with a speech about how to connect with a special needs family.
After the contest, I invited my audience to provide panel feedback on the speech and learned that many parents could identify with my challenges. I also learned that in other cultures, it is considered rude to acknowledge a misbehaving child.
With a new focus, I refined my speech for the area contest. When it was over, several mothers of special needs children came up to speak to me, but soft alarm bells went off in my head: To be effective, I needed to appeal to a broader audience than just other moms in my situation. I was thrilled to go on to win the second-place trophy at the division contest. Yet I was sad that my journey had ended; I felt like I hadn’t quite delivered the message I wanted to send.
Then, three weeks before the district contest, I found out the division winner had dropped out—I adjusted my speech and was back in the running. With the help of a friend, I reworked the speech’s focus to “What a special needs family can do for YOU.”
My delivery wasn’t perfect at the district contest, but I felt like I belonged up there with those seven incredibly talented contestants. To meet the time limit, I had to drop everything but my section introductions and stories. But my message was clear, and this time the whole audience responded.
I faced my fear and learned more than I could have imagined through this journey. Now I’m wondering what the next step will be.
Jay Jani, CL
Amdavad Toastmasters club
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Standing Up for Safety
In 2015, I joined an oil rig in the oilfields of India as a safety officer. My boss and I were new to our respective roles. Because of an accident on the rig a few months prior, our work was under scrutiny; it was imperative that we ensured a safe working environment.
I quickly analyzed the policies, but found the implementation was where the work unit suffered. Initially, I followed a strict and stern approach. I vigorously ramped up safety meetings and mock drill sessions. While they turned out great, the popularity waned after a few months. This is quite common, as any new guy in the system brings fresh energy, but the remote locations and harsh weather conditions don’t sustain that energy. I found crewmembers’ attention and enthusiasm suffered during meetings and drills.
After participating in Toastmasters, I had an idea to inculcate humor and stories into our meetings, just as we do with our role-player introductions. Guess what? It worked like strong coffee and improved the audience’s alertness. As a result, people remembered and retained thoughts for a longer duration. Moreover, I learned that stories generated significant interest in a boring pool of data. Hence, we started a “Safety Story a Week” campaign.
Taking on several leadership roles in Toastmasters helped me learn the art of delegation, and these measures have helped us achieve more than 1,200 days of accident-free operations and win an award for excellence in safety.
Lorna Boyle, CC
Delta, British Columbia, Canada
No Longer in the Shadows
I have always loved singing. I distinctly recall an evening in the late ’60s walking home after seeing the movie Funny Girl and singing all the songs. I thought I was Barbra Streisand!
But there was one small problem: I would never be a star—I was too scared! I was in a choir at school, but completely petrified to move to the front for a solo. I stayed in the shadows, away from the limelight, for most of my life.
Fast-forward 40 years to 2008. My mother had died, and my brothers had persuaded me to give a eulogy at her celebration of life. Fear seized me, but I did it. My voice trembled; I shook like a leaf and rushed through it far too quickly. I was so cross with myself! Then I watched in utter awe as my brothers gave their speeches. I don’t think I’d ever been so envious of their natural ability to speak from the heart with such ease, telling their stories that left everyone in laughter and tears. I remember thinking … “I want to do that!” I need to do that.
My husband had been sick for many years, and I knew I would need to take over our company one day, so someone suggested Toastmasters. I have never looked back; Toastmasters changed my life! In September 2012, I took another huge step and auditioned for a women’s choir called The Richmond Singers, and have Toastmasters to thank for giving me the courage. The past six years have been an absolute joy!
My Toastmasters journey helped me tremendously. I no longer stay in the shadows and have moved to center stage in my life. It’s never too late to stretch your wings and take flight. So, Ms. Streisand, you better watch out … because I’m coming!
Avital Miller, ACB
Stepping Out of My Shell
About a year ago, I moved to a home just outside Newport, Oregon, to work on my book, Healing Happens: Stories of Healing Against All Odds, and prepare for my book tour launch. At first, the only time I went to town was to buy groceries or attend a Yaquina Toastmasters club meeting at the Pig ’N Pancake restaurant. To my surprise, Toastmasters provided all I needed: connection to community, refined preparation for my speaking tour and an excellent breakfast!
I have had opportunities all over this region to tell my healing stories and success strategies, and regularly run into familiar faces in town, making me feel like a welcome member of this community. Club members have encouraged me to take on bigger roles within Toastmasters to step out of my shell, which helped me as a public speaker, leader and in communicating during everyday conversations.
At a recent training with performance coach Brendon Burchard, he shared his theory that your product or service can’t be perfected until it has been launched; only then can you see how it will be perceived. Yet, at Toastmasters, we can practice launching our work repeatedly, until our messages are honed. The members are articulate with their feedback, so I always feel great about my accomplishments and inspired to grow. Now I feel ready to step out into the world and share the inspiration.
Do you have a Toastmasters success story you’d like to share about yourself or another member? Write it in 300 words or less and send it with a high-resolution photo.