In 2013, I started working for a NPO in the disability sector. I was tasked, originally, with doing their social media but my job description grew quite rapidly as they discovered my various skills.
I am a C4 quadriplegic. This means that I have very little use of my body below my chest, but it also means that there is absolutely nothing wrong with my mind.
In fact, since I exercise it on a daily basis, I’d say that I function on an above average level, cognitively speaking. As it happened, one of the additional jobs I was eventually tasked with was to give talks to corporates, local government bodies as well as conduct training for other NPOs wanting to know more about disability. It was here that the speaking bug bit me,and it bit me HARD.
It turned out that people not only liked what I had to say, but wanted to hear more about my story. In 2016 I was invited to give a 45 minute keynote address at a Disability Expo at the CTICC. It was after delivering that talk that I wondered: Could I do this for a living? I asked around and was told that the first thing I needed to do was join a Toastmasters club.
I searched Google and discovered that there was, indeed, a club not too far from where I live. I decided to take the plunge and, in June 2017, I joined Table View Toastmasters club. A month later I was inducted as the club’s VPPR.
For me, it’s always been a case of “in for a penny, in for a pound”. I’m a firm believer that you only get out of something what you put in. So began my Toastmasters journey. Nothing could have prepared me for what I would experience during my first year. I set off, as I always do, with lofty expectations and ambitions.
I did my Icebreaker at my very first meeting, as a member. I found out that you could co-opt another Toastmaster as a mentor and, a few meetings later, I chose who I believed to be the best speaker in the club. I wasn’t going to hang around and wait. I wanted to learn! As I began to make progress through my CC and CL manuals, I got stuck in right away. I gave my first evaluation at my second meeting. By my birthday at the end of July, I had taken on bigger roles such as Table Topics master and had reached CC 5. I had started visiting other clubs. I was flying. Yes, the VPPR job was keeping me extremely busy and it was a steep learning curve – but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. And then the wheels came off, pardon the pun.
Shortly after completing my CC 6 speech in mid-August, I had an accident on a bus which saw my Toastmasters journey put on hold. I broke my shoulder and was subsequently confined to my bed for four months.
However, I’m far too stubborn to quit and so, instead of resigning my VPPR position, I endeavoured to be involved as much as I could, if only in getting the public more aware and joining up.
I’m an online marketer. It’s what I do. 2017, as far as my speaking, however, was over.
I rejoined my club, in the flesh, in January 2018, and picked up where I had left off. I finished my CC manual in February ,my CL manual by June. I completed my ALB shortly after.
My biggest challenge came about after I volunteered to represent my club in our area contests. I was up against one other Toastmaster, someone I deeply respected both in what he’d achieved as well as a speaker. I didn’t take it all that seriously, to be honest. I didn’t think I stood any chance. As I’d expected, I came solidly second in the Table Topics and Evaluation contests. I expected the same for the Prepared Speeches and had to do a double take when they announced that I’d won. We’d both go through to the next round, of course, but now I’d shown myself to be a decent speaker. No one was more surprised than me. Over the next month, I practiced with my mentor until I knew the speech inside and out, sometimes until 2 AM. As much as I learned about myself as a speaker, my mentor showed me what it meant to serve, and I thought to myself: Now there are two things I would like to be as good as her at. I didn’t feature when it came to placing at the next level. That would have been extraordinary for a Toastmaster of less than a year.I achieved a lot during my first year as a Toastmaster.
However, more than the five awards, more than the contests, more than the great meetings I attended, my highlight was that I discovered is the kind of person I’d like to be. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a professional speaker. What I do know is that, through Toastmasters, I’ll become the man I was meant to be
Will Scott CC ALB
Table View Mountain Club Cape Town