What is that one quality all great leaders invariably possess?..it’s their ability to communicate impeccably. It was with this very intention toastmaster clubs were first organised by Ralph C. Smedley during his time working for the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) in Bloomington, Illinois, United States. Almost a 100 years later, toastmasters spans across a 149 countries with several hundred clubs and thousands of members, all united in their singular quest for greater communication and leadership skills.
This very dream led a bunch of trainers and coaches to start their own toastmasters club in August 2020, amidst the pandemic . Honestly, we had no clue what we were getting into, driven only by our desire to better our oratorial skills. Thus ‘The Gabbys’ toastmasters club came into being. Each member was committed to this cause and attended online meetings all over the globe, from Lebanon to UAE to Singapore and even in North America ,despite the time difference, along with attending our own meetings. The learning was immense and we brought it back home, implemented the best of it in our own meetings and worked hard to keep away the not so great ones.
Gradually, every member continues to hone their ability to deliver speeches with great ease at various occasions like office presentations to formal ceremonies, they have sharpened their wits to construct impressive short format speeches on the go, understand the nuances of communication but more importantly we built a safe learning space for ourselves and everyone who chose to join us.
So what exactly happens in our meetings and why are they effective?
a) Our weekly meetings are planned to the ’T’
In every meeting the role takers are well prepared with mentor guidance and this is vital for members to learn specific skills like the ability to understand what their strengths & improvement areas are or learn how to build good quality speeches, to build an appetite for constructive feedback and even deliver one. Also, every minute of the 2 hours are well planned to ensure it delivers the value that members and even our guests look for.
b) Robust support system amongst members
Learning is a shared process, so every member is assigned a mentor who hand holds them through their improvement areas, pushes them to step out of their comfort zone and ensures they have the required preparations to do it all. At the Gabbys, we also have a shared camaraderie because of which we step up to help out one another, cheer for their growth and achievements, all this without any judgement.
c) Individual Goals vary
Everyone join the club to learn for different reasons and they learn in different ways. It depends on various factors like the stage of their careers and life in general. This is something that is acknowledged, as it impacts the level of commitment, pace of growth and avenues they wish to venture into in toastmasters. Some just want to make speeches, take a few roles and be done with it, while others dive deep into toastmasters taking up leadership roles, contesting and much more. Both the approaches are accepted.
The result? multiple wins at coveted contests in just 2 years along with achieving several awards and becoming a President’s Distinguished Club, all in one year. A feat achieved by only a handful new clubs in our toastmasters district.
But these did not come without their challenges, enabling optimal learning of each and every member in the club required constant work, feedback and strategising, ensuring everyone had a wide berth to practise, perform and ace their skills. Balancing ambition with education was possibly the greatest learning of it all and one of the truest indicators of it is the quality upheld in every single meeting till date. A feat Gabbys has upheld even after almost two years, proven by the fact that guests are often sent over to our club to witness a fine toastmasters meeting lasting two hours over a Saturday morning and they leave with a smile and an eagerness to return.
If you want to know more about The Gabbys or visit us as a guest, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org