Thursday was my final Toastmasters meeting. I had planned this for a while.
I joined Menifee Toastmasters in October 2015 after having moved here in May. I really enjoyed it. I liked the way the program was structured and the progression involved. The program was based on a series of print manuals with a nice range of variety. After I finished the Competent Communication manual and got my Competent Communicator award a whole new world opened up with a selection of fifteen advanced manuals on a wide variety of topics. Through those I got my Advanced Communicator Bronze and Advanced Communicator Silver awards. In amongst all that I got my Competent Leader award through the Competent Leadership manual.
And then Toastmasters International had to go and change it all. They replaced the previous program with a new one called Pathways. It is all web-based and focused on corporate-sponsored clubs, as opposed to the community clubs. It has a distinct career-based bias, neglecting the wider range of experience. I was not happy with the new program.
Thursday’s meeting marked the end of my tenure as president of the club, so it seemed time to make the break. There are other things I can do on those Thursdays. There is the Farmers Market, there is the local interfaith council on the second Thursday, and always the noon Eucharist at Good Shepherd Episcopal.
In counting my ribbons I found I had twelve best speaker awards, thirteen best evaluator, and nine best table topics, the impromptu segment. The count is not exact, as there were ties and sometimes I got the ribbon and other times not. So I feel good about my accomplishments.
Nonetheless, it is time to move on.
I have enjoyed Toastmasters, but recently Toastmasters International (TI) has rolled out a new program. The previous program used print manuals and had a very clear progression. The new program, Pathways, is entirely computer-based and is focused on workplace and career skills. The previous program had a much broader base and addressed a diversity of interests.
We had a visit recently from our area director and she was asked if the attrition in membership was related to Pathways. She simply nodded. She also said that TI was much more interested in corporate-sponsored clubs at the expense of community clubs such as my own Menifee Toastmasters.
It is a sad and unfortunate thing. As president of my club I did receive a survey about a pilot program for more extensive local advertising, so provides a bit of hope. But the new program remains unchanged.
I’m not clear about my future in Toastmasters.
Normally in a Toastmasters meeting everyone has a chance to say something. In addition to the speakers, evaluators, and table topics participants, the grammarian and ah counter (usually the same person in our club) gives his or her report, as does the timer.
In a speech contest it’s very different. I have had the experience of running a speech contest, but only recently have I had the experience of judging a speech contest. More specifically, I was chief judge. In a speech contest the judges are given tally sheets and each category is worth a certain number of points, totaling a possible 100. After each speaker the judges are given one minute to tally up the points. When all the speeches are done the judges sequester themselves and compile the points. In larger clubs or at higher level venues there is an official counter. At our club contest as chief judge I was the counter. I tallied and compiled the rankings of the three judges and designated the third, second, and first place speakers. I wrote that down on an official ranking sheet and silently handed it to the contest chair, who announced the results.
Throughout the contest I said nothing. A very different Toastmasters experience.
I recently completed my Toastmasters Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS). I’m pleased with having achieved that. I somewhat accelerated my reaching that goal, as Toastmasters is moving to a new program called Pathways. As vice president for education at my club I felt that I needed to be leading by example with respect to Pathways, but I wanted my ACS first.
At the same time we are moving our physical location. The church where we had been meeting has sold its property and is downsizing to a leased facility. We are moving with them, for just two weeks until we move to our permanent home at the bank up the street.
It’s a liminal time and perhaps time to think about where I want to go with my Toastmasters experience.
It is to be determined.
I am overdue with respect to updating you on my ailing Toastmaster friends.
I wrote about Diane, who was diagnosed with terminal stage four ovarian cancer and about Betty who had a stroke.
Diane looks well, fit, and healthy. She’s not. She is well aware of her situation and does not hide it. She has opted not to undergo chemotherapy which would only prolong the inevitable and seriously degrade her lifestyle in the meantime. She knows what the ultimate outcome will be, and has accepted it. In the meantime she tells us that what is important is what is going on between one’s ears. And she lives that way. Happy. Vital. Active.
Betty is not comfortable taking on any meeting roles or making speeches, but otherwise she seems to be her usual self. She’s glad to be with us where she is appreciated and accepted.
Here’s to our strong women in Toastmasters.
There are two tracks in Toastmasters. There is the communication track which almost everyone pursues. But there is also the leadership track which is less actively pursued, at least in our club. I had help from our current president and former VP of Education in doing some backfilling, which allowed me to recently receive my Competent Leader award.
This means I filled a variety of leadership roles, including evaluating, being Toastmaster, running a speech contest, and being a mentor. With my Advanced Communicator Bronze award, in the Toastmaster world I am now Mike Christie, ACB, CL.
There is more to do, however. The process continues.
Two members of my Toastmasters club: Diane and Betty.
Diane was a member before I joined. She was a vivacious, outgoing person. She was also somewhat scattered. There is a certain order in which you are supposed to give your speeches in the Competent Communication manual in order to get your Competent Communicator award. She did not give the speeches in order and she often gave speeches completely unrelated to the manual. Consequently I got my Competent Communicator award before she got hers, and by the time she qualified for her award I was vice president of education and was the one to submit the award.
Betty was a senior citizen who decided to join Toastmasters. She was also an outgoing person who was determined and intense. She suffered from some serious vision problems, having macular degeneration, so she required a lot of assistance. She also got confused easily and had to have things explained multiple times. She was, however, a thoroughly enjoyable person and gave some really good speeches.
Diane had surgery several weeks ago for what turned out to be ovarian cancer. On Thursday we learned that the doctors had deemed Diane’s cancer to be terminal. We also learned that Betty had a stroke.
I am therefore taking a moment to shed a tear for Diane and to send healing prayers to Betty.
This also gives me a moment to pause and be grateful for all the blessings that I enjoy.
I recently passed another Toastmaster milestone. I received my Advanced Communicator Bronze award.
To get my Competent Communicator award, I had to complete the ten speeches in the Competent Communication manual. The next level, Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB), required completing two five speech sets from two of the fifteen advanced manuals. I did that by completing the speeches in the Storytelling and Speaking to Entertain manuals. I submitted my application and received the award.
I was getting somewhat burned out with Toastmasters and was thinking about making some changes, but with getting my ACB and given my role of Vice President – Education, I am re-energized.
My next speaking goal: Advanced Communicator Silver. And with my mentoring a new member I am close to my Competent Leader award as well.
I turned my recent jury duty experience into a Toastmaster’s project from the storytelling manual, “The Moral of the Story” and I won best speaker. That was nice.
I described how the defendant, though a convict in the state prison system, wore dress slacks, a dress shirt, and tie, exemplifying the Toastmaster maxim “dress the part.”
I described how the attorneys, both young women, worked to engage their audience, potential jurors, and described their personal situations in order to connect.
I talked about how the defense attorney drove a point home with simile and humor. When a potential juror said he would “try” to be fair and unbiased, she asked, “If you are going to Vegas with your buddies for the weekend, and your wife asks you ‘Will you be faithful to me when you’re gone?’ Would ‘I’ll try’ be a sufficient answer?”
The prosecutor used an example, asking, “If a friend shows up at your front door wearing a yellow rain slicker and they’re covered with water, wouldn’t you assume that it was raining outside?” The defense attorney countered with, “Wouldn’t you look out the window to see for yourself?” I said that I was sorry not to have been on the jury just to learn what that line of questioning was all about.
I took my moral not from Aesop, but from Dr. Seuss:
From here to there,
From there to here,
Toastmaster skills are found everywhere.
One of the things I love about my Toastmasters group is that we’re a welcoming bunch. Visitors are received with open arms.
Often visitors are asked to come up and speak in the Table Topics impromptu part of the meeting. We tend to give visitors preference in voting for best Table Topics. Last week a visitor gave a very nice Table Topics speech and indeed got best Table Topics.
The week before, we had a speech contest – different from our usual format. I managed and hosted the contest. We had Table Topics, but there were no ballots to vote for the best. However, our president, Hans, did leave out a ribbon for Best Table Topics.
A visitor gave a great Table Topics speech. Al, our Table Topics manager for the day, said “We don’t have ballots or ribbons today, but we wanted to show you what Table Topics was about.”
I came back up to the front and said, “We don’t have ballots today, but we do have ribbons,” and gave the best Table Topics ribbon to our visitor. Our president said to me, “Good job.”
I love my Toastmasters club.