Monday, July 8, 2013

Don't be a Toastmaster

"Don't be a Toastmaster" - This is the speech that I delivered at Wordsmith Toastmasters Club's 250th meeting on 6th July 2013. Most of the information in this speech are exaggerated for entertainment :)

 “If you get out of Toastmasters all there is to get out of Toastmasters, you’ll never get out of Toastmasters” – said our Past International President Helen Blanchard. The first time I heard this quote, I never understood the true meaning. However, I learned the true meaning of this quote only in the last 2 years.

My personal friends got substituted by my Toastmasters friends

My personal get togethers got substituted by my Toastmasters get-togethers

My personal family got substituted by my Toastmasters family

My personal wife got substituted by … OOPS! Let us not get there.

When I was pondering over the transformation that was happening in me in the last few years… Toastmaster Bharath Kumar from wordsmith popped up one day and said, “Saro! We are celebrating our 250th milestone meeting on 6th July. I want you to do a session at Wordsmith… not your usual boring inspirational talk… but something that is Wackky!”. That was the context for my session today. I’m going to tell the guests the reason why they should not be a toastmaster.

Reason #1 - Toastmasters don’t get to the point

Toastmasters never get to the point… Let me give you an example.

A Club officer would go to the stage and make an announcement… “Imagine it is 24th Aug 2013… a bright sunny day… you are attending the Toastmasters International convention at Cincinnati, USA…. the finals of the World Champion of Public Speaking Contest… the hall is filled with people… people are busy talking to each other … you can smell the coffee brewing … your name gets called on the stage… Contestant #1, Rajeev  Nambiar… Rajeev Nambiar, Contestant #1… the crowd starts to cheer… Rajeev… Rajeev. All of a sudden, the Chief Judge walks to the stage and stops you from talking “Rajeev… You are not eligible to contest. You haven’t paid your membership dues for this term”. Fellow members, if you don’t want to lose an amazing opportunity to participate in WCPS contest, pay your membership dues now

All that the club officer wanted to say was “Dear Members… the last date for membership renewal is Mar 2013. Please pay your dues before that to be eligible to participate in the contests”

Reason #2 - Toastmasters are great liars

Toastmasters are great liars. For example, you might not have prepared well for a speech… you might’ve gone to the stage and made a number of mistakes… and even forgot a few lines here and there. Your speech might’ve been very boring to the audience.

But… after listening to your pathetic and boring speech, the evaluator would come to the stage and say “What a wonderful speech it was… I couldn’t find words to describe your speech” Your speech had a perfect flow… like the water in the river that flows smooth… I have so much nice things to highlight about this speech and it would take an entire hour for me to list all of them”.

Toastmasters just don’t lie within the meeting hall. They do that in the Facebook groups also. If a fellow toastmaster posts a flyer… immediately you’ll get a response from others saying “Nice flyer”… irrespective of whether the flyer is great, average or pathetic.

Is that a “Nice flyer?!... No…. You are a liar Mr. Toastmaster

Reason #3 - Toastmasters crave for entertainment

Toastmasters crave for entertainment. They want you to crack jokes, tell story, or make them laugh/cry. They are not used to listening to ordinary speeches. They get disconnected very fast from the speaker or feel bored.

For example, you might have shared an ordinary story in which your aunt went to Singapore for a vacation and had a great time visiting places with your uncle.

After your speech, the evaluator would go to the stage and say “Now, how can you make this already great speech into a greater speech?” This is the standard phrase they normally use to give you suggestions to improve. Any speech delivered in a Toastmasters club is already considered to be a GREAT speech.

This is how the feedback would be … “May be, you could’ve made the story interesting by making your aunt lose her hand bag … passport (or) by making your aunt meet with an accident and getting hospitalized for a week or…. your aunt losing her uncle in the crowd. I mean, “Not her uncle… but, your uncle”.

Toastmasters crave for entertainment… they want you to share stories that are humorous… they want you to share stories that are touching and make you cry!

Do you know who has the most number of best Table Topics speaker ribbons with them?

#1 – Toastmasters International… #2 – Kartikeyan Srinivasan … Toastmaster Kartik has so many best Table Topics speaker ribbons piled up in his home… not because he shares lots of knowledge & wisdom with people… not because he inspires us with his speech every time… but because he is entertaining and humorous.



Reason #4 - What you see is not ALWAYS what you get in a Toastmasters meeting

Let me share with you my first Toastmasters’ meeting experience.

It was the year 2006... Yes! I was very young... with lots of hair on my head. My friend took me to a Toastmasters club that he was part of. It was a special meeting. The hall was filled with people and it was very colorful! Rajesh knows what I mean... It was a one hour meeting … an educational session, a humorous speech, some table topics and evaluation. I learned SO MUCH in SO LITTLE TIME. I was completely SOLD on Toastmasters. I immediately filled the application form, borrowed money from my friend and became a member of the club on the first day that I attended.

I was eagerly longing for the next week's meeting. The next week came. I went to the club and climbed the stairs to reach the meeting hall. Right there at the stairs, I saw the President of the club Sai. He greeted me with a beautiful smile ..."Saro! I'm so thrilled to see you again. Welcome". I thought ... "What a wonderful President he is... the President comes out of the way to greet everybody.... leaders should be like him".

Sai said... "Saro... Congratulations... you are nominated to be the Table Topics Master for the day".

"Wow... this club provides opportunity even to a brand new member. They follow the Toastmasters' vision... in its true spirit... equal opportunity to everyone".

I walked to the meeting room and opened the door. I was completely shocked... There was NOBODY inside". I asked Sai... "Sai.. have we changed the meeting room?"

Sai quickly responded... "No Saro! It is just you and me so far".
"But,... it is already our meeting time..."... Don't worry... members will come soon. We waited for another 15 minutes and 4 more members came. We started the meeting with just 7 members.

Immediately after the meeting was over, I went to Sai and asked… “Sai! What happened to all of those people who came to the meeting last week? Why didn’t they come this week?”.

Sai said “Last week’s meeting was a special meeting and hence members from other Toastmasters clubs have come to our club. This week’s meeting is a regular meeting”.

For all the guests who have assembled here today… This is a special meeting. Come back for next week’s meeting and then make the decision.

Reason #5 - Toastmasters Love to Talk

Toastmasters love to talk !

You won’t believe… one of our Toastmasters spoke for 3 days in a row continuously … and won the Guinness World Book of Records. We, the Toastmasters do not even care whether there is somebody who is listening in the hall or not. For that matter, we do not even care whether there is somebody in the hall or not.

Let us take a look at a typical Toastmasters club. The club meeting starts 15 minutes late. The SAA goes to the stage, shares a story, starts the meeting and invites the President. The President goes to the stage… feels very sorry for starting the meeting late. He goes almost to the extent of crying. Then the President talks about the importance of time... he shares with us a story about how we should value others' time... and his address goes on for 15 minutes. He then hands over to the TMOD, who in most cases would be an impromptu role player. Due to the interest of time, the President skips the TMOD introduction".

The impromptu TMOD "Due to the lack of time... I'm going to be very short. He talked about his recent vacation for 10 minutes and told us why he was late today for another 5 minutes.

Conclusion

Despite all of these shortcomings, Toastmasters is a wonderful place to groom your communication and leadership skills.

Toastmasters don’t cut to the chase… but, would any soup be tasty if it is bland and without spice and salt?

Toastmasters are great liars … but Tamil Poet Thiruvalluvar once said “Poymayum Vaymayidathu… Purai Theerndha Nanmai payakkum yenil”… which means even a lie is good, if it produces some good results.

What you see is not ALWAYS what you get in a Toastmasters meeting – Who are all “married” in this hall, raise your hands… you can understand this statement better. It is no different from the experience that you had before and after marriage.


Toastmasters Love to Talk – “Come on man! After all you are coming here to talk and practice your speaking skills… If you want to go there and talk… so do everyone… “
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