I was invited for my first Toastmasters meeting (Executive Club, Harare Zimbabwe) sometime in 2006. I was not employed having been affected by a retrenchment exercise at my previous employer. I showed up at my first meeting in casual wear and everyone was formally dressed. I felt out of place but this quickly faded as the members were so welcoming and warm, I felt at home. I was blown away by the quality of speeches delivered and the adherence to parliamentary procedure that I witnessed, and inwardly I felt intimidated.
I kept coming for meetings, this time dressed right of course, I had a decent green trousers, and blue jacket, a white shirt and a floral tie which became my trademark for meetings. I could not afford to buy any other formal outfit since I had lost my income.
In the next Toastmasters year I was availed an opportunity to be the SAA of the club. I was blown away by such an honour and I resolved to pull all stops to execute this role to the best of my ability. Part of my responsibility was to buy juice and water for every meeting and bring clean glasses for the meeting.
On meeting day I would start by cleaning my glasses, walk to the shops and buy juice and water, then walk for about a kilometre with my heavy luggage on my back and head sometimes because I had no vehicle. I would get to the venue 45 minutes before meeting time, ensure the venue is set up and all equipment is in good order, the juice is mixed and glasses are set. I also made sure I participated in the meeting by doing my presentations, and one step at a time my confidence grew.
Fast forward to today, because of Toastmasters I aced interviews and work for the biggest bank in Zimbabwe, I sit on the bank’s executive committee representing the Marketing department, I am one of the spokespersons for the bank, I do radio programmes on all major and national and provincial stations in Zimbabwe. I have spoken at local, regional and international conferences. I have been a President of the Executive Toastmasters club among other roles, started the first corporate Toastmasters club in Zimbabwe (CBZ Holdings) and am the current Area Director of Area Z1.
I will need a whole book to share the benefits that have come my way by being a Toastmasters… I can’t leave this one out, did I mention I got a personal invite to visit USA on a leadership programme for 6 weeks by Senator Hilary Clinton, 1 of just 23 people from all over the world…all due to the networking skills I learnt in Toastmasters
It’s been an epic journey, key lesson is whatever responsibility you are given in Toastmasters, do it so well and of course don’t be a back bencher, follow your dollar and make the most of your Toastmasters experience.
Joel Gombera ACS ALB
Area Director Z1
CBZ Toastmasters Club