It was the year 2002. I was 35 , doing well professionally, working as a Senior Manager with a reputed organization in Dubai. Life was good and I loved my job except for one challenge! I just could not muster the courage to speak to a group of people. When it came to one on one conversation or to speak to a group of friends, I had no issue. Be it within the organization where I worked or outside in the community, put me in front of an unknown audience and I would be tongue-tied. My memory would give up on me. I preferred to be uncommunicative at the management team meetings in my company, I am sure people thought I didn’t have much to say. But it was not that I didn’t have anything to say, it’s just that I was scared to face the audience. I suffered from,what is called in today’s world, Glossophobia. .
But I was greatly in awe of people who could! So I nurtured this secret dream, to be a speaker & trainer, some day, some time. But I thought that it would remain just a dream, because to be a speaker and trainer one needs the guts to speak in front of people which obviously I didn’t seem to have.
Those days I came across a gentleman who also happened to be the friend of our CEO . He would visit our organization occasionally on the invitation of our CEO to give us some coaching and education sessions. I loved the way he spoke. One day as he was stepping out of our office I gathered enough courage to ask him “Sir, I want to be a speaker like you. How can I improve my speaking skills?”. In reply he had just two words to say, “Join Toastmasters”. At that moment ,I would never have had imagined ,that those two words had the capacity to give my life a 180 degree turn. I had no clue what Toastmasters was all about but he gave me the contact details of Dubai Toastmasters Club and that’s when the magic of Toastmasters began in my life
I joined this club in the year 2002 and it’s been 14 years since I have been a member of this club without any break in membership. But these 14 years with the Toastmasters program have changed my life completely. From being a person who couldn’t utter a word in front of an audience, today speaking is what I do for a living. Today my dream of being a speaker & trainer has come true. Today my dream of being an entrepreneur and running my own business has come true. The Toastmasters program has a lot to do with these positive changes that have happened in my life. Today I am a better person because of the Toastmasters program.
The journey in Toastmasters initially was not easy. I would run away from most of the roles that were given to me. I was scared to go up there and do those roles. But the encouragement, support and motivation from my club members slowly helped me to come to terms with my fear and the transformation process started. It took me 7 months to do my icebreaker speech. Each time the VPE slotted me to do my icebreaker speech I would chicken out. I was forced to do it the fourth time.
Today after 14 years, to achieve my DTM recognition was a dream come true for me. At the outset of my Toastmaster journey,achieving DTM was the last thing on my mind. It was a goal which was there in the horizon. I knew I would reach there one day but wasn’t sure when. I was never in a hurry to reach there either. What was more important for me was to keep improving and becoming better as a speaker and leader. I was enjoying this journey of learning and that was more important than reaching any milestone. The milestones just kept happening and finally after 14 years of enjoying this journey and learning so much I happened to cross the final milestone of being a DTM.
I am so glad I came across this wonderful life-changing program and as a Toastmaster I can never thank enough, Dr. Ralph C Smedley for creating this program for us. Today I try to do my bit in promoting this program within the community so that more and more people can benefit from the Toastmasters magic. We also bring this program to children through our Gavel clubs and Youth Leadership Programs. The earlier children get exposed to this program the better it makes them! As they grow up they cope much better in the competitive environment that they are thrown into.
The Toastmasters program has brought into my life some amazing friends. This program has given me so much confidence that I am better equipped to cope with the various ups and downs that I face in life. In short, this program has helped to bring out a better version of me.
As a new year 2017 beckons us, I wish all Toastmasters and their families a very Happy New Year and wish you all the best in your Toastmasters journey. This is one journey that never ends because there is no end to improvement. In the Toastmasters journey “The Journey Is The Destination”. May this Toastmasters program help you in its own way to transform your dreams into reality!
Valsakumar P Menon is the Managing Director & Co-Founder of UV Consultants LLC, a training company based in Dubai, UAE, which specializes in offering trainings that add Unique Value to both corporates and individuals. He can be contacted through email@example.com.
This article is an excerpt from THE ORATOR Magazine, Issue 2.
To read the complete magazine click the image below: