My name is Aristotle.
I never knew about Toastmasters International until a friend invited me. I kept on politely declining his offer. He was persistent. I finally attended my first Toastmasters Club meeting in November of 2017. I did not attend because I wanted to. I attended because I had run out of excuses. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I presented a Table Topic at my very first meeting. I was surprised when I got to the front and ideas started rushing through my mind and words popped from my mouth. It was an incredible experience. The audience was receptive and they laughed at my jokes. Needless to say, they awarded me the Best Table Topics Speaker.
I felt a sense of achievement and a sense of belonging. I felt this was the right environment for me to learn and receive immediate feedback in a family, not a club.
I remember volunteering to present another Table Topic in my second meeting. The boldness had already been built up from my previous experience of speaking in front of strangers who already felt like family. I quickly grew weary of the Table Topics. I wanted more and I registered to become a Toastmaster in February of 2018. By April, I was competing in the International Speech Contest in the Table Topics category. I barely managed to get through to the Area contest. However, I scooped position one at Area Contest and proceeded to take position two at Division level. I was barely 3 months old and Toastmasters was already celebrating me as the 2nd best impromptu speaker in all of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Come July 2018, I was elected Vice President of Education in my club. I quickly realised the gravity of that position but I settled in relatively well because of the wonderful support of my fellow club mates. I am still learning and they continue to mentor and assist me together with the bigger community of the other club members within our Division.
Toastmasters is an incredible journey. Firstly, it helped me realise a gift I never thought I had. I thought I was bad at public speaking because of two nasty public speaking experiences, one in primary education and another in high school. Toastmasters helped to remove the layers that were hiding this gift from myself and from the world. Today, I speak confidently and competently in from of any audience because of Toastmasters.
Secondly, I am learning to become a better leader by taking up Top Table roles. These are an effective tool of learning to listen, to think critically and to mentor others. I already have a Toastmaster whom I am mentoring and this pushes me to learn in order to be able to teach.
However, being Vice President of Education has been the greatest test of leadership for me.It is a crash programme in learning to put a world class meeting.
I call it events management. I would have never known the demands and intricacies of creating and managing an event were it not for Toastmasters International. Here is the secret, I do not do it alone. The secret to a well organised and effective meeting is TEAMWORK. Truly, teamwork makes the dream work.
My Toastmasters journey has been exciting because I have found a second place that I call home, a second family. I am surrounded by people I can depend on. They assist me even on personal and professional issues that have nothing to do with Toastmasters. These are people who desire nothing but the very best for me. They encourage and challenge me to pursue greatness and that is why I remain a Toastmaster.