Welcome to Toastmasters Southern Africa
Since joining CIS Toastmasters in March 2014, Linda van Deventer has gotten a lot more than she bargained for. Initially motivated by a desire to gain confidence and speak to people about her network marketing business, Linda was quick to learn that speaking was just one of the skills she could add to her warrior armour.
At first a bit daunted by the requirement to write her own speeches, she found that after the encouragement and other warm responses to the delivery of her ice-breaker, she was well on her way to Toastmaster stardom. With the first flush of confidence under her belt, she grew a huge appetite for goal setting with equal aptitude for going after them.
In just one year she completed a triple crown with the help of Margy Sneeden, who Linda says, “made it so easy”. A triple crown is the achievement of Competent Communicator, Competent Leader, and Advanced Leader Bronze in the space of one toastmaster year. She was recognised as a club emissary in the same year and remarked “by visiting other clubs one can gain experience from fellow Toastmasters”
Continuing to attract accolades, Linda was recognised with the Bright Spark Award on 16 May 2015. What made it more thrilling was the double celebration – during the award ceremony presented at the MayCon, Linda was home celebrating her son's 4th birthday. Linda says receiving this recognition was a huge surprise “It’s better than a pay cheque.” The Bright Spark Award recognises an individual who has made a significant contribution to District 74 that results in a wow experience.
What's most remarkable about Linda is that having reached a major milestone by completing CC10, she literally took it on the road. A CC10 Toastmasters road show. She presented the same speech (‘technically’ the same) at nine different clubs around Gauteng, each time taking into account a new audience, a different environment and adapting to include the theme or word of the day, or an impromptu comment here and there to make it fit with the tone of each club. Linda says she did not want to get used to presenting to only one audience. While the fear of talking to people in a formal setting has gone, Linda says she still gets nervous. “But it’s a good nervous!”
Speaking skills aside, in July 2014 Linda was inducted as VPPR for her home club and this role lead to her being the editor and blogger for the CIS website, with the help of webmaster, Nico du Plessis, commenting that “This is the most fun I've had in a role,” and realising, “All these skills are transferable.” She has also participated on many training and leadership teams.
“Because of Toastmasters,” Linda says, “I am a better mom, better listener, have learnt how to give feedback and how to motivate people. These benefits apply at work, at home and socially.
What's next for Linda? In the short term, she is currently working on completing her Advanced Communicator Bronze award and will always continue promoting Toastmasters as “the most amazing organisation”. Currently she is the club VPE for her home club and, for the long term, she has her sights set on achieving the ultimate goal in Toastmasters – to be recognised as a Distinguished Toastmaster.
Written by Iza Grek
Photographs by Mark Eifler
(An extract from the advanced speech presented by Linda van Deventer – Speaking in Praise – in honour of Joe Garmeson – Founding member of CIS Toastmasters Club)
I am standing here, a member CIS Toastmasters club, with the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth, purely because of the efforts of one person. District Director Paul Jensen is fond of using the phrase “we stand on the shoulders of giants” when he speaks of extraordinary toastmasters who have gone before us. Tonight I say “thank you” to one such giant, Joe Garmeson, Mr Toastmaster Southern Africa.
Ask any toastmaster about the history of district 74 Southern Africa Toastmasters and the first thing they will tell you is had it not been for Joe, then Toastmasters Southern Africa would not have been recognised as a district in 1978. Closer to home, Joe tackled another adversary - during the apartheid era he lobbied the South African government to allow non-whites to attend toastmasters meeting, explaining to them it would benefit the country as a whole. Once again, Joe was persistent and it’s been said that he sat on the doorstep of the office of the minister of home affairs’ for days, until he was granted an audience with the minister.
A Toastmasters District exists to grow its network of clubs and strive for excellence. District 74’s goal is to support 250 Healthy Clubs in Southern Africa. The focus on “Healthy Clubs” is important as we are not just chasing a number. Therefore it is important to understand how District 74 defines “healthy clubs” when we start and support
What is a healthy club?
A healthy club is a club with strong Vital Signs that is distinguished every year. Vital Signs provide an ongoing indication of club health and an indicator on what the club will accomplish during a Toastmasters Year (for more information on the Vital Signs read Erich Viedge’s articles, soon to be published).
Toastmasters International’s Recognition Programmes
The Distinguished Club Programme
(DCP) defines ten goals for a club to achieve during a Toastmasters Year. Based on the number of goals achieved (and a membership pre-requisite) a club is recognised as Distinguished, Select Distinguished or Presidents Distinguished. The number of Distinguished Clubs in a District is one of the goals of the District Recognition Programme (DRP), thus contributing to the measure of our District’s overall health.
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.
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.