Welcome to Toastmasters Southern Africa
An obstacle that is sometimes overlooked by club members was highlighted to me when I was the Public Relations Officer (PRO) for my Division. As a Toastmaster, it is often said that we speak a different language. This article, I wrote in 2011 for our Division newsletter and I remember receiving a phone call from a long-standing Toastmaster, thanking me for sharing my views on a topic that is often overlooked. I feel that this topic is as relevant now as it was then and would like to thus share it with all of our Toastmasters in District 74.
As a new member or a guest at a club meeting, one is inclined to hear something like this being said before a speaker takes the floor, "Tonight, Jane Smith, our VPE will be doing her CC5 on her experiences at COT earlier this year. She has indicated that she would like to complete her CC by the end of the Toastmasters year and so assist the club in achieving its DCP. She will be evaluated by John Brown, who has his ACS and ALB and well on his way to achieving his DTM."
As a new member hearing this mouthful for the first time is probably what an Englishman feels like in a foreign country. I recall a time when I was still very young, travelling to Sweden to visit family. On a day trip to one of the many islands within Sweden, I managed to get lost. Not being able to speak Swedish, I started panicking especially when the locals refused to assist me when they heard my English tongue. It was hopeless, each time I approached someone, I was shown a negative shake of the head and all I knew to say in Swedish was "hello" and "good-bye" which didn’t help me either.
When I was eventually found, after nearly 2 hours, I burst into tears. I was relieved that finally someone understood my anxiety of not being able to communicate what the problem was because I couldn’t speak the language.
I have been a Toastmaster for a few years now and suddenly I find that I speak the Toastmasters language quite fluently. Because of this, it is sometimes easy to forget that there are 'foreigners' amongst us tuning out when the lingo begins and in turn we are alienating them from joining this great organisation.
In our haste to achieve greatness, we can overlook the person who has taken a big leap of faith to walk through the door of our club and face a roomful of strangers only to have to listen to a language that is completely foreign to them.
In your meeting roles, take the time to explain things for the benefit of your guests. Learning how to speak Toastmasters is not that difficult, so be the translator for your guest and see the difference. I know am constantly striving to make a conscious effort to make my guests understand what I am saying so that I am not one of those local Swedes who refused to talk to me when I was clearly lost on their island.
Division D Governor
The time may come when you ask yourself this question; a question to which there are many answers. This article provides the good, the better and the best reasons why it is a good thing to do.
People become Toastmasters for a variety of reasons, mostly to improve their communication and leadership skills. This is done through completing educational programmes to achieve Toastmasters qualifications. The highest award, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), is achieved by completing both the communication and leadership streams. To achieve the Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) qualification a Toastmaster must either start a new club or rescue an existing non-performing club. This is the primary reason why many Toastmasters decide to start a new club: to complete their ALS. It is a good reason but not the only reason.