If you were presented the opportunity to speak in 10 different countries, would you say yes? My club did. In October 2021, Advanced #ArdentSpeakers, an advanced club based in Malaysia, launched Project 10, an ambitious global speech challenge for some of its most experienced Toastmasters.
How Did It Work?
Project 10 called for 10 club members to deliver 10 Pathways speeches in 10 countries, for a total of 100 speeches. The project was inspired by two members’ personal initiatives to deliver speeches in different clubs. I took the role of Team Leader, finding speaking slots for each member, who then reported their personal progress by using a collaborative online spreadsheet. The aim was to complete this project within 10 months (or one speech per month, per member). By the end of the project, we believed our participants would gain invaluable skills and experiences in speaking to an international audience.
Our first speech was delivered in Nepal. We managed to secure around 25 speaking slots from about 17 countries, thanks to personal connections and initial publicity on the Official Toastmasters Members Facebook Group. However, by January 2022, we were facing challenges to obtain speaking opportunities from new clubs, as we were running out of contacts. What happened next was a reflection of true hospitality and support from the international Toastmasters clubs.
As a last-ditch attempt, we reached out to clubs individually using contact details from the Toastmasters website “Find a Club” function. Although we introduced ourselves, we were aware that the club might not be able to verify our identity. (We could be Zoom bombers!) However, club after club responded warmly and some were even excited to be part of this journey. We secured slots in the Middle East, South America, Scandinavia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. This “cold-calling” method sustained us till the end of the project.
Participants included past and current Division Directors, Area Directors, and speech contest winners from Malaysia and Singapore, and all are multilingual. This worked to our advantage as one speech was delivered in China, in the Chinese language, while the rest were delivered in English. As experienced as our speakers are, there were still some challenging moments that caught them off-guard. For example, one member was delivering the “Engage Your Audience With Humor” project in Togo, West Africa, and most cameras were turned off! She took it in stride and had to amend her approach on the spot to still deliver the humor.
The Challenge of Time
The major challenge for most speakers was the time differences in the countries where they spoke. Some had to stay awake past midnight or wake up early in the morning for the meetings.
European and African time zones were the most challenging. Their evening meetings would typically commence at 1 to 2 a.m. Malaysian time! For our first speech in Europe, Toastmaster Chong Min Poh, DTM, was scheduled to deliver a speech at a Ukrainian club at 1 a.m. Malaysian time. A few of us sacrificed sleep to support her and we were all there at 12:55 a.m., waiting for the meeting room to open. When the meeting didn’t start on time, we realized something was wrong. It turned out that we were mistaken on the time difference, as European daylight-saving hours ended a week earlier so we were technically an hour early! Min Poh waited and went on to deliver her speech to the Changemakers Club at 2:40 in the morning. And she was at work a mere six hours later. Despite the unearthly hours, six out of 10 members delivered speeches across six continents!
"One of our newest members was pleased to see that, despite different cultures, the Toastmasters program remains the same.”
–Donna Knight, DTM
Confidence and Cultural Awareness
We liked how some clubs took special effort to turn this project into a cultural exchange opportunity. Sagicor Group Jamaica Toastmasters Club organized a special session during the meeting where the Malaysian delegation introduced their local food, nasi lemak, and the Jamaican club introduced reggae, as it was Reggae Month. Other clubs used the experience to organize open house meetings and promote them to local guests. I was invited to deliver a speech in Japan’s Shimonoseki Toastmasters Club; I spoke about my career and how Toastmasters has impacted it positively.
The project ended with speech No. 100 being delivered on June 29 at the First Canadian Toastmasters Club in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. It was the first active club outside the United States when it chartered in 1935.
During this project, all our speakers experienced a transformation. Low Chooi Ping said that she was “gently led out of my comfort zone and gained more confidence in speaking to unfamiliar audiences even though it was virtual.” As some members are club leaders, they have learned a lot from meeting practices in other countries. Sasi Kumar Munusamy, DTM, gained new insights from a “Who Said What?” session in Brunei, and a “Round Robin” session in Kenya, which can now be applied to Advanced #ArdentSpeakers.
Members such as Liew Tiam Foo gained cultural awareness. “Project 10 has opened both my eyes. If it wasn’t for this, I would have never pushed myself to not only finish 10 speeches in four months but also do research about the countries. Now I’m 10 countries richer in my mind, and have 10 more countries I would love to visit,” he says.
What We Learned
At the end of this global project, the 10 members delivered 103 speeches to 97 clubs, covering 14 Toastmasters regions and 45 Districts, in 63 countries, across six continents! Numbers aside, the whole journey inspired us in three ways: willpower, welcome, and world peace.
The members showed that sheer willpower can help overcome various challenges—from sudden power outages to time zone differences.
Next, the incredibly warm welcome from the clubs reflects the DNA of Toastmasters—a safe and supportive environment.
Lastly, by speaking in all these different countries, we hoped to contribute toward restoration of world peace through two important ingredients: communication and understanding. As Donna Knight, DTM, from Sagicor Group Jamaica Toastmasters Club, put it, “One of our newest members was pleased to see that, despite different cultures, the Toastmasters program remains the same. In accepting an international speaker, the members explored how to honor our guests while online. We considered what may be welcoming or offensive to our guests of a different culture.”
Is Project 10 trademarked? Absolutely not! In fact, I encourage all clubs (especially advanced clubs) to try a similar project to challenge and retain their members. All Project 10 participants are still members of our club today, and this project has brought Advanced #ArdentSpeakers to the fore. It has even helped the club to gain two new international members from Myanmar and Taiwan.
Give it a try today and enjoy the global Toastmasters experience!
Albert Khor Yee Shin, DTM is a member of Advanced #ArdentSpeakers, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He took on the role of Team Leader for his club’s Project 10 global initiative.