Saturday, January 22, 2011

Toastmasters movement - A flywheel that runs forever

"For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever"

- Alfred Lord Tennyson, "The Brook".

Toastmasters movement in Chennai, is like a huge flywheel. 6 years ago, this flywheel was set to run by a group of toastmasters. It took lot of commitment, hard work and compassion to set this flywheel to run. Thanks to the founding members, the flywheel picked-up speed and could now self-sustain its momentum.

Whether it rains or shines, toastmasters meetings happen every week. In fact, the committed toastmasters once said "Chal... Let us go to the meeting", despite the tropical storm "Jal". It is because of the commitment, enthusiasm and passion of fellow Toastmasters, the flywheel is running NON-STOP.

Men may come, Men may go, but Toastmasters movement in Chennai goes on forever.

Get rid of your BAD habits - substitute BAD habits with GOOD habits

Bad habits keep us from going forward in life. They prevent us from becoming Great... They force us to simply rationalize by saying "I cannot do this because...". It all would have started with just one bad habit.

Take for example - you may be having a habit of "spending more hours at work". When you spend more hours at work, you won't have time for yourself. You may not be able to prepare your food at home. You'll start to dine outside, a lot. On top of that, you won't have time for a regular exercise. You'll start to gain more weight and become obese over a period of time. Having spent a lot of time at work, whatever little time you get over the weekends will be spent in relaxing - mostly by watching television, or movies. You will not find time to read good books. You'll start to assimilate hundreds of other bad habits.

Clinging on to bad habits is simply there in our genes. After all, we all originated from monkeys, right?! Monkeys have the same problem too. Do you know how hunters trap monkeys? Monkey hunters use a box with an opening at the top, big enough for the monkey to slide its hand into. Inside the box are nuts. Thee monkey grabs the nuts and now its hand becomes a fist. The monkey tries to get its hand out, but the opening is big enough for the hand to slide into, but too small for the fist to come out of. Now, the monkey has a choice. Either let go off the nuts and be free forever or hang on to the nuts and get caught by the hunter. Guess what the monkey does?! The monkey hangs on to the nuts and get caught.

Stephen Covey, the author of the famous book "Seven habits of highly effective people" says "substituting a bad habit with a good habit" is an easy way to get rid of bad habits. Habits always come in series. So, try to bring in just one good habit into your life. It will trigger a chain reaction. It will create a ripple effect. In a few months, you'll be surrounded by a bunch of other good habits. You don't have to wait till New Year to take a resolution. You can do it today.

Difference between Right & Wrong - Mentoring

Recently, I read a story that highlighted a unique dimension of mentoring - teaching the difference between right and wrong to the mentees.

There was an ancient school in India which followed Gurukulam pattern of education. Students from all parts of the country had joined the school. One day one of the students was caught stealing. The fellow students who stayed with him, brought him to the Guru (teacher) and told the Guruji "Sir ! This student stole money from his neighbor. He should be expelled from the Gurukulam". Guruji looked at the students and said "Students... you guys know what is right and what is not right. This poor brother does not even know right from wrong - who will teach him that, if I don't. I'm going to keep him here, until he learns that". Tears ran over the face of the brother, who had stolen. He was grateful that the Guru didn't expel him from the school and the Guru decided to continue teaching him.

Similarly, in Toastmasters, the mentors have to focus on mentees who are not doing their project regularly, who aren't attending the meetings often, and who needs more help and assistance. As mentors, we shouldn't just focus on the "Varadarajans", but also on the "Varaaadharaaajans".

Hope to become adroit speakers and leaders

"Hope, like the gleaming taper's light
Adorns and cheers our way
And still, as darker grows the night
Emits a lighter ray"  - Oliver Goldsmith, "The Captivity"

Hope, this 4 letter word has transformed the lives of millions of people.

A little boy, who was raised by his mother and grand parents, whose family had to depend on "food stamps" for living, became the President of United States... because of his HOPE (Barack Obama)

A bus conductor in Karnataka, who had the passion to act in cinema, became the Super Star of India, because of his HOPE (Rajnikanth)

A young student from a village in Rameshwaram, became a prominent scientist and later became the president of India, because of his HOPE (APJ Abdul Kalam)

You, the toastmasters in Chennai, have assembled here on a "Sunday" evening because of your HOPE that you'll become an adroit speaker and a leader.

The journey called Toastmasters

The toastmasters journey is very similar to a train journey. There are lots of similarities between the two.
  • In the train, fellow passengers are important for making the journey pleasant. In toastmasters, fellow members co-operate with each other to provide a pleasant learning experience to everyone. 
  • Like a Train Ticket Examiner (TTE), our Area Governor visits the club regularly to make sure the club is in good standing and provides an outstanding learning experience to everyone.

  • Like the two tracks that carry the train to its destination... In Toastmasters, we have two tracks - Communication Track and a Leadership Track. Both are equally important for the success of toastmastering journey. Our destination called "Distinguished Toastmaster Award (DTM)" cannot be achieved without excelling in both communication and leadership tracks. If you just focus on one, the train may get de-railed.

Toastmasters - Making a difference in each other's communication journey

Toastmasters provide a mutually supportive environment for all those who want to improve their speaking and leadership skills. Believe it or not, knowingly or unknowingly we are making a difference in each others' communication journey.

An old man was taking a morning walk, along the side of the sea shore with him grand son. He noticed that there were hundreds of star fish washed to the shore. He started picking one by one and throwing them back into the sea. The grand son silently watched his grandfather and asked "Grandpa ! There are hundreds of starfish, washed to the shore. What difference does it make if you throw a few of them back to the sea". The old man picked one more from the sand, threw into the sea and said "for this one.. it makes all the difference".

Similarly, be it toastmasters or in public/professional lives, "Don't give up or procrastinate tasks because they are HUGE. Do whatever little is possible. It is better to do SOMETHING, than doing NOTHING". Look around the hall and identify the star fish that you can help and make a difference.

Toastmasters - a safe environment to fail

Zig Ziglar, a powerful motivational speaker said "You can achieve everything you want in life, if you can help others get what they want". Similarly, in Toastmasters, we learn NOT just by delivering speeches. But, also by helping others to excel in communication. Toastmasters provide an opportunity for everyone to take up leadership and mentoring roles. If success in communication is a huge mountain to climb, you see toastmasters lending a helping hand to pull you from the valley to the mountain top.

Toastmasters provide you a safe environment to fail. You cannot afford to fail in your work place. When you fail at your work place, your promotion and pay hike may be at risk. You cannot afford to fail in your college. When you fail in college, your degree completion may be at risk. But, within these four walls of toastmasters, failing is encouraged. Because, the more we fail, the more we learn. Fellow toastmasters do not discourage you when you make mistakes. They give the same quality applause, to all the speakers. They help you to identify your strengths and areas of improvement. They give you constructive feedback. They help you to achieve excellence in communication and leadership, thereby helping themselves to excel.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Successful Club Series - Mentoring

Project: Successful Club Series - Mentoring
ACS - Project 11
2nd Jan 2011

Warren Buffett had Ben Graham,
Our late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran had Annadurai,
Super Star Rajnikanth has Balachander

What is it that these successful people had?

Each had a strong person who recognized their potential, cultivated their talents and helped them to succeed. Each had a mentor.

Good evening toastmasters, and guests. Today, I’m going to talk about “MENTORING” and “HOW MENTORING CAN HELP NEW & ESTABLISHED TOASTMASTERS TO ACHIEVE THEIR POTENTIAL”.
Who is a Mentor?

A Mentor is a CAR.
·         C (Coach)  - A mentor identifies your potential, teach you effective ways of achieving your goals and helps you to succeed
·         A (Advisor) - A mentor is the go to person when you have questions / doubts
·         R (Role Model) - A mentor inspires you and persuades you to reach greater heights

How can a Mentor help?

Mentors can help both new and experienced toastmasters.

Like a MOM who assists her kid to get adjusted to the world, mentors help new members by “easing the transition”. A new member who enters the club faces unfamiliar situations & unfamiliar people. Like a MOM who teaches the basic life skills to you, mentors help new members with the basic life skills in toastmasters.

·         Mentors explain what an “AH Counter” is … what a “Timer” is etc.,
·         Mentors educate you on the club standards and customs (for ex.,
·         Mentors provide you individual attention and support
·         Mentors shorten your learning curve

If MOM can teach everything, kids do not have to go to school. Mentors also play the role of a TEACHER. Like a TEACHER who assists his/her student to learn advance skills, mentors help experienced toastmasters to “develop special skills”. An experienced toastmaster already knows things like club standards, the meaning of various roles in “Toastmasters” and other basic toastmastering skills. However, an experienced toastmaster may need to develop special skills such as “Humorously speaking”, “Motivational speaking” and “Leadership skills”.

·         Refine your skills
·         Learn new special skills

What are the qualities of a Mentor?

Having known what is mentoring, I know, you all want to be a mentor. What are the qualities that you need to have or you should develop to be a mentor? You just need to have the SPARK, to be a mentor.

·         S (Supportive) – Help your mentees in reaching their goals.
·         P (Patient) – Listen to your mentees views
·         A (Available) – You should be available to your mentees. You must have at least 15 minutes or more each week to help with speeches and answer questions
·         R (Respectful) – Everyone is different. A mentor should respect the differences between himself, the mentee and others.
·         K (Knowledgeable) – First of all, you should be knowledgeable and familiar about the club, its operations, and the educational program. You should’ve completed several speeches in the basic manual, served various meeting roles, and develop enough personal speaking skills to be of help to the mentee.

What are the qualities of a Mentee?
Having talked about the qualities of a Mentor, let us see what a Mentee should have. Basically, a mentee should be a GIRL.
·         G (Grateful) – Mentees appreciate the help their mentors are giving.
·         I (Ideas) – Mentees should be open to new ideas. Mentees should be able to see things from other perspectives.
·         R (Receptive) – Mentees must be open to feedback, viewing it as an opportunity to improve themselves
·         L (Learn) – Eagerness to learn new skills and take on new challenges

What are the steps involved in Mentoring?

·         Explain the various part of the meeting (business section, TT, prepared speeches and evaluations). Explain the various roles in the meeting.
·         Orient the new members to Club customs and procedures – For example, taboo topics, how to use the club mailing list, how to reach out to the officers etc.,
·         Explain how to sign-up for various roles – Ask the VPoE to schedule your mentee’s Ice Breaker speech as soon as possible. Advice the mentee how to sign-up for roles and who to contact if he/she is scheduled to fill a meeting role, but is unable to attend the meeting
·         Help with the Speeches/Assignments – The first few speeches are the most difficult ones to come up with. This is because new members are not only uncomfortable speaking before a group, but also speaking before strangers. Your assistance can help mentee overcome fears and get off to a good start.
·         Make mentees aware of resources – TMI website, Club Library, TMI Magazine, District/Division conferences, Speech Contests etc.,
·         Acknowledge Progress and Provide positive feedback – Assess where your mentee is and provide constant feedback on what they are good at and what needs to be improved

For experienced toastmasters, a mentor should offer suggestions for improving their leadership skills by participating in various division and district events, introducing them to District offices, serving Area Governor or helping to form a new Toastmasters Club. What are the books to read and how the mentee can enhance their humorously speaking skills?


Righ now, each one of you look around this room. Whom can you help become familiar with this club? Whom can you help learn new speaking leadership skills? Who may be able to help you learn new speaking or leadership skills. A mentor/mentee relationship provides many opportunities, offers many challenges and has many rewards. Experience them for yourself. Benefit from the skills of a mentor – then, become a mentor and share those benefits with others.

Presidential Thank You Speech (Chennai Toastmasters Club)

Dear Chennai Toastmasters,
I wish you all a very happy & educative new year 2011.

The last 6 months were very adventurous and very colorful.
I THANK ALL THE CLUB OFFICERS, VETERAN TOASTMASTERS, AND CLUB MEMBERS, who helped us to elevate Chennai Toastmasters Club to greater heights. 

I take this opportunity to highlight some of the key achievements and milestones that we reached together, during the last term (July - Dec 2010).

Educational (Leader: Rajesh Natarajan)
  • No canceled meetings & meeting agenda sent on time.
  • Added "Test Your Listening Skills" segment to the meeting 
  • 2 DTM Awards - Aditya Maheswaran & Sastharam (Thank you guys)
  • Evaluations training workshop conducted by Ravi Baskaran Sir !
  • Aditya made the Chennai Toastmasters Club flag fly high, in District 82 conference, by coming out as the 2nd winner in District Evaluations contest
Membership (Leader: Prabakaran R)

  • We added 30+ new members to the club
  • Club won "Smedleys Award" for adding more folks in a short time
  • Prabakaran played additional roles as Treasurer & SAA, whenever there is a need (Thank you Praba)
Public Relations (Leader: Vijayaraghavan)
  • 4 club newsletters released in 6 months (by involving lots of Chennai Toastmasters Club members)
  • 275th meeting celebrated very well -despite Hurricane "Jal" there was a good turnout of members for the celebration
  • PRSense e-magazine talked about Toastmasters movement in India/Chennai (We brought the Chief Editor K. Srinivasan as a guest to one of our meetings)
Secretary (Leader: Sadayappan TM)
  • Meeting minutes were sent on-time and with lots of good content, since the time Sadayappan took charge
  • Sadayappan raised the bar as high as the sky for secretary role - Meeting minutes became more informative, educative and entertaining. Sadayappan added lots of color & creativity to the role. He exceeded the bar set by our previous record setter TM Mani.
Treasurer (Leader: Balaji S)
  • Achieved high levels of transparency - for the first time after a very long GAP in the history of Chennai Toastmasters Club  income & expenses data was shared with the club members
  • Need to learn the art of delegation from him ;-)
SAA (Leader: Subadra Ashok)
  • Kick started the meetings that she attended with a beautiful smile, warm welcome & a colorful introductions
  • The club now has a library of all the Advance Project manuals. Subadra took the initiative of collecting all the manuals and creating a library for Chennai TM.
The club achieved 9 out of 10 DCP points in less than 6 months. We'll get one more DCP point on Jan 9th, which would make Chennai Toastmasters Club  "eligible" for the prestigious Golden Gavel Award. DCP points are supposed to be achieved in a year and Chennai Toastmasters Club achieved the milestone in just 6 months time.

We had a motto of "Participate, Practice and Perform" when we started our journey, 6 months ago. I'm proud to say that we excelled in all the areas and exceeded all the goals that we had set for ourselves. I wish all the very best to Rajesh & his team, to take the club to the next level. 

- Saro
Immediate Past President,
Chennai Toastmasters,
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