It is indeed true that it takes just a simple step to change your whole life. Exactly a year ago, I took that step and joined Gaborone Toastmasters. Being one of the most ‘soft spoken’ person(in the entire world, I would like to believe!), my voice often disappeared in conversations, and I set out to find that voice through Toastmasters.
Little did I know that, after a whole year, I would be standing in front of Gaborone Toastmasters members as the club president; and little did I know that in that year, I would meet and make more friends in and outside of Botswana, than I have done in my whole entire life!
I could spend hours expressing gratitude about my Toastmasters experience but my highlight about it, is how warm and welcoming the members are. Over the year of being a member, I had the pleasure of expanding my Toastmasters experience outside my home club and country.
My 1st experience of Toastmasters outside my country, was attending Club Officer Training in Johannesburg in February earlier this year. When I got invited by the Area Director, I decided to travel for training blindfolded; with no expectations or unnecessary worries. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn and get the feel of toastmasters outside Botswana. Being a socially awkward person (generally), the only concern I had was , ‘was I going to be safe’. Safety, that was my only concern I had .Rest assured, the Area Director explained that homestays were organised for us by the division director. We arrived in the busy-city Jozi around midnight, and the most humbling experience was that , there were toastmasters waiting for us, at midnight!
They welcomed us into their places, and the treatment we got felt like just being at home. The level of energy at the training is beyond words! It was great to see so many excited individuals! It was amazing to see and feel people so pumped up about their personal development! And so, I got pumped up as well and was encouraged to share the experience with my fellow tTastmasters in Botswana.
Warmth! It is rare to find such a character in the world nowadays, but in Toastmasters, every single person has a warm and welcoming smile. My second experience was in Sandton in June at CIMA Sandton toastmasters club. I had gone to Sandton in my personal capacity, and 2 weeks prior to the visit, I decided to search and look up clubs in Sandton. I made friends at the club officer training, so it was easy to get easily connected, and so I eventually booked a speech at CIMA Sandton Toastmasters. Again , I decided to go blindfolded; with no expectations or worries.
The club is relatively small when compared to my home club, but the energy and the commitment to learn is as huge as I witnessed at the training. The meeting had an attendance of about 10 people, but there were 3 speeches and 3 evaluations successfully delivered throughout the meeting. If a meeting has 10 people in my home club, we would panic! But at CIMA Sandton, I was humbled again about how smoothly the meeting went! It proved to me the concept of ‘ the magic number of 8’ in toastmasters. And I left the meeting pumped up and educated! And I promised myself to take the experience and share with my fellow Toastmasters in Botswana.
The biggest experience I had outside Botswana though was the induction dinner held at Melrose Arch. As soon as I heard about the dinner, I immediately booked a table for Team Botswana and encouraged other members in Botswana to attended and get humbled, amazed and inspired! And the event was nothing short of that! We, again felt at home, made friends, got inspired and learnt more and more. Our eyes were opened ! , and again we will use that experience to grow the toastmasters in Botswana!
Within a week after the dinner, I travelled again to Mafikeng to support and help launch the club there! And yet again, we were welcomed warmly, and learn different techniques of how to bring energy to meetings and how to get every single person involved and inspired.
With just a year of being a toastmaster, I have seen my life turn around. I am still soft spoken, but I have learn to play around with my voice, to use my body and I have found and acknowledged my voice. And I am certain, that wherever I travel around the world, I will always have a home, I will always learn and grow! So fellow toastmaster, if you have started feeling ‘safe’ in your home club, it is time to step out of that comfort zone and expand your toastmasters experience outside your club; better yet, why not outside your country!
Dr. Marea Gaenamong, CL, CC
President – Gaberone Toastmasters Club