It was the middle of March when most of the companies started to announce “Working From Home” as an option to counter the COVID-19 situation. For the toastmaster community that met face to face every week, this was a nebulous situation. Intel I Speak club (District 92, AreaN2) was also in a dilemma as to how we should conduct our meetings. Toastmasters International announced that we could start conducting our meetings online in the middle of March. As the president of our club, it was daunting to convince our members about the value of meetings when conducted online. The Executive committee members of I speak managed to convince ourselves and our members that we can add value with online meetings.
At the beginning of March 2020, I was at a point in my Toastmasters journey, where I had to complete 17 speeches across three different advanced projects before June 30th, 2020 to complete my Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG). Even if I were to give one speech in our club every week, it would not suffice and I was unsure how I would get there, given the amount of prep needed for every speech. Since the toastmaster curriculum would move to pathways completely starting July 2020 and the traditional communication program would cease to exist, I would not get a chance in the next term to complete my ACG. It was almost the end of May and I still had 13 speeches to get to my goal. For a person who had taken almost 5 years to complete 25 speeches, this was a mammoth task, but I was still committed and desperate.
As I was talking to my fellow Toastmasters and mentors in the Toastmasters community, they suggested I leverage the online platform and recommended that I start giving my speeches in other clubs as well. I was fortunate that many clubs opened doors for me and in fact prioritized my speech over their own club members’ speech to support my goals. After these discussions, there was no looking back and I almost delivered 13 speeches in a span of 20 days. In a way, this accomplishment also motivated me to apply for the Area Director role and currently I am fortunate to have been selected as the area director for H1 in District 92.
This journey was a challenging one and would not have been possible without the support of our Toastmasters community and that of my own family. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of them. For my toastmaster journey, COVID and online meetings created an opportunity to complete my projects at an accelerated pace. I am sure when we look at our own life and work, there are several opportunities that might have opened because of COVID-19. When we change our lenses to look at opportunities instead of shortcomings, the sky is the limit.
In these six years of my TM journey, there are three important lessons I have learnt:
Life is all about giving and receiving automatically happens when there are no expectations. In Toastmasters or even outside, I always look for opportunities to uplift people and, in the process, my upliftment automatically happens.
Perfection is always a moving target: There is a never a day in my life, I can claim to be a perfect individual. Life is full of learnings. When I think I may be perfect, the target has already moved and the cycle continues.
Feedback is a bliss: Toastmasters is one place where we receive instantaneous feedback. Career is never that way. As one grows higher in their careers, the amount of feedback one gets would be lesser and lesser. So always appreciate the feedback and the giver.
As Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, famously said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” I am confident that each one of us would emerge much stronger coming out of the pandemic.
I wish all the readers good luck in their Toastmasters journey!!!