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June 28, 2010 [More archived home pages here]

My Twin Oaks Toastmasters History


The above image is, Don's TOT History Chart

Today's song is Sweet Talkin' Guy, by The Chiffons, released in 1966.

I spent five years as a member of Twin Oaks Toastmasters from April 2003 to April 2008 improving my leadership and speaking skills. During those 60 months, I attended 238 one-hour meetings. Because I attended so often, I discovered new knowledge about helping people overcome their fear of leading and speaking.

I served in every elected position in the club except VP of Public Relations. I attended many Officer Board Meetings where the club's direction is established. Those meetings are above and beyond those 238 regular meetings. I attended Area and District meetings, finding those experiences very rewarding as well.

The chart at the top of the page indicates the number of prepared speeches I heard. I always gave written comments to each speaker and served as an Evaluator so many times I lost count. In any case, I was often sought out by members for advice. I always let them know that every advanced member's advice should also be requested. We had a powerful group of people in the advanced levels.

You'll also see in that chart that I heard close to 1,000 impromptu speeches (Table Topics) lasting between 45 and 75 seconds. I participated in hundreds of those opportunities too.

I originally joined to improve my listening skills. I found I could learn to provide different kinds of oral presentations. That was one of the most surprising aspects to me.

Our club awarded three ribbon each week for: Best Speaker; Best Evaluator; and, Best Table Topics Speaker. I have many of each one. There were others in my club that gained more than I. It was always tough competition each week.

One of the downsides to my Toastmasters experience is how quickly we members begin to notice the terrible habit of ah's and um's uttered by each other and anyone else who we listen to when they talk. The chart shows I heard an estimated 5,000 crutch words in just my meetings alone.

Those two crutch words and others should be omitted when we speak. We should use silence instead of saying those and other crutch words. Doing so makes our listeners more comfortable and more likely to hear every word we say. Otherwise their attention tends to drift away from us, because we cannot speak coherently and consistently.

I worked hard early on to not use crutch words when speaking. I discovered my audience paid more attention to me and didn't drift. That means more of what I say stays with them after I'm done speaking and that's a key point.

On the leadership side of Toastmasters, I found it hard work to persuade other members to work diligently towards their individual goals and thereby, the club goals. I mentored over 15 members, often I had many protégés at one time. Many of those I mentored became advanced members themselves, holding leadership positions and mentoring new members. I promised each of my protégés that I would always be their mentor, regardless of the passage of time.

We watched people attend meetings for the first time. Many of them joined. Each was assigned a mentor and guided through the process. We watched people afraid to speak in the beginning. After they completed their first ten manual speeches, they were comfortable speaking in public, without notes, using gestures, exercising vocal variety, and exuding confidence. That was the reward of helping them along.

At times we faced difficulty in running our club. Sometimes we departed from the typical way to run regular meetings and in one occasion we departed completely. It had a disastrous result on membership. It proved to me that we are there to follow the Toastmasters process and not deviate too far from the normal way to conduct meetings. Members do not come to be primarily entertained. They come to learn and improve expressing themselves. When those two elements are not primarily accomplished, people will find other ways to spend their time.

After five years I had reached the educational goal of Advanced Communicator Silver and Competent Leader. I had given 35 prepared speeches in my time and several special presentations. I gave all that I could and decided it was time to leave the group and pursue other activities, including spending time as President of Newbound, Inc.

I am proud that for each of my five years, Twin Oaks Toastmasters achieved the highest club award, Presidents Distinguished Club. For my efforts during those five years, the club gave me a great expression of their appreciation on my last meeting, March 28, 2008. The award shown below is one of my proudest possessions.

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At home we decided to use my 101 Sunset digital art image on the wall of our living room. Now it is placed there in a white 16 x 20 inch frame (shown below). It brightens up the room in any light.

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My friend, Nancy, sent me this, Remembering 'Blues Brothers' 30 years later. In one very short scene of that movie, there is a Holiday Inn shown. At the time of this film's filming, I worked across the street from that Holiday Inn in Melrose Park, IL, as a machinist at the International Harvester building.

Don


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