Toastmasters and Me


Odia was my first language which I studied in school as I was born and brought up in Odisha. It was my tool for communication for close to two decades. My entry to corporate world was challenging as the language of communication was unknown and unfamiliar. Thoughts were as clear as it was earlier but tool to communicate was replaced.

Coincidently our company HR department introduced Toastmasters Club and we all were enrolled to it. I was excited to know there is a club to help improve communication. Till then I knew watching English news in television and speaking to friends in English was the only way to improve English communication. But these methods hardly worked.

I attended first few meetings as observer later I dared participating in table topics. Which is an impromptu speech section. A topic will be given to you and within 30 seconds you have to give a two minutes long speech on that topic.

In my first speech I fumbled and mumbled but ensured I stood there for two minutes. It was embarrassing but I was more embarrassed than this when I was reprimanded due to by inability to translate my thought during work.

Upon several attempts I realised that thought is not the challenge but the language is. I ensured I just spoke my mind without caring the grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary so that flow is maintained. Vocabulary was the biggest challenge but I used some Odia or Sanskrit words as fillers. Interestingly every toastmasters meeting has an assigned grammarian to catch the wrong usage of grammar and improper usage of English language, Ah counter to catch each and every fillers used during speech and a timer to tell you how long you spoke. So all my incorrect usages were clearly shared with me for my improvement. I was embarrassed by that but when I saw they gave similar suggestion to another member who was a manager I felt better. If a manager with so much experience can make grammatical mistakes whats wrong with me making such mistakes. It felt safe environment to make mistakes and I continued my journey. In few weeks I was known as an ardent speaker and my colleagues were surprised to see the improvement in my English communication. I won best table topic speaker award several times which I pinned at my desk to remind me that language can’t kill a communicator and thanked toastmasters for this transformation. My career zoomed since then. Unfortunately Toastmasters club stopped after few months due to various reasons.

After more than one and half decades in the software industry and mostly on leadership role thoughts started jumbling up and I started questioning my own philosophy and behaviour often. My instinct suggested me to do things in a way but certain questions arose on those approaches. My growth in career ladder made me think I should always stay humble and benign but it affected my role as a leader to hold myself and people accountable for their actions. I kind of bored with my own style as well hence questioned it all the moment. So all these made my thoughts unclear all the time. Although I had necessary hold on English language but the thoughts were not in order.

Once again to my rescue our organisation came up with Toastmasters. I joined the club with appropriate encouragement and support from friends in my organization. This time my target is to clear my thoughts unlike last time. Over the years I have learnt to face vulnerability as a dear friend, hence it did not bother me to fail and learn. I could clear the table topics comfortably but prepared speech became a challenge as my unclear thoughts popped up to distract me while speaking for a long duration speech. But once again the environment of toastmasters club which is safe to fail and fun making me comfortable to put sincere efforts to sort my thoughts to become a better communicator once again.

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Toastmasters has three major sections

  1. Prepared speech
  2. Table Topics (Impromptu speech)
  3. General Evaluation (Feedback section for the speeches)

It also has several opportunities to play different roles which helps in communication. You can get more information about it at https://www.toastmasters.org.

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A Struggling Communicator

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