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The morphic boons of Toastmasters


(BY: RIC ADJAWIE, ATM-B/CL) Toastmasters International’s (TI) twin-track development program offers all  club members a threefold advantage:  Practical presentation experience, a safe place to make mistakes and learn from them, and mentorship opportunities. And the benefits the TMs stand to gain are the following:  Develop critical thinking skills, build listening skills, give and receive constructive feedback, become more confident in front of a group, learn time-management skills, benefit from a supportive environment, and develop leadership skills.

Based on my experiences and observations as a senior member of the Zambo

TM club, I venture to humbly add what I call the morphic – transformational – boons of TMs, which may be categorized into the technical and psychosocial benefits. The technical gains are as follows:

1.  Improvement of public speaking skills.  Through a learning-by-doing approach, a TM has the opportunity to develop and improve his/her public speaking potentials and skills with the help and support of a chosen mentor and the other club members, especially the assigned evaluators. The TM will also be encouraged to play a role every meeting, which gives him/her the chance to regularly practice speaking before an audience and gradually earn the communication track awards.

2. Improvement of leadership skills.  A club member has the chance to be elected as an officer or as a committee chairperson. This will enable him/her to develop his/her leadership potentials while at the same time trying to earn the leadership track awards.  Plus the communication track awards, these give the TM the chance to achieve the highest possible development level – the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) recognition.

3. Become a better communicator.  TI’s self-based and self-directed training program is designed to develop the four (4) skills a club member needs to become an effective communicator – thinking, listening, writing, and speaking.  If a TM puts his/her heart and mind into his/her decision to join a club, he/she has “nowhere else to go but up,” to revive a cliche’.

The psychosocial boons a TM stands to gain were the subject matter of my article which this widely read newspaper had published a few years ago.  But since all TM clubs are celebrating the 90th founding anniversary of TI this month, I have decided to include them in this write-up.  By the way, the TM movement was founded by Dr. Ralph Smedley on October 22, 1924 in Santa Ana, California, USA.

Now, following are the psychosocial benefits of Toastmasters:

1. The warm friendship of hale and hearty individuals. Generally, my fellow Zambo TMs – and all other TMs the world over, I’m certain – are strong and healthy more in the intellectual and emotional senses than in the physical sense of that idiom. Their intellectual strength is evidenced by the quality of ideas they discuss in the prepared as well as impromptu speeches they deliver during our weekly educational meetings.  Depending on the meeting’s theme and other relevant guidelines, their ideas may be about the latest news, political and economic progress, controversial issues, or significant events that take place in society.

Their intellectual strength can also be discerned in their humbleness and realistic attitude of admitting the need to correct their own errors and to improve their use of the English language, especially in public speaking.

Their improvement depends considerably on the evaluation by a selected panel of usually more advanced club members.

The TMs’ emotional strength shines through when they gratefully and modestly accept the panel’s evaluation. Positive or negative, evaluations are presented in a friendly manner with the honest purpose of helping fellow club members become better persons and public speakers. Over time, this process catalyzes the evolution of the warm – genial, sympathetic and trustful, that is – friendship among TMs.

2. Enhancement of religious devotion. Invariably, our club meetings begin and end with a solemn universal prayer to ask God for his constant blessing and guidance. Thus, whatever is the chosen religion of a TM, his/her faith in God is continually strengthened and enhanced even without the aid of a priest, imam or any other religious head.

3. Good humor that facilitates learning and spices affable relations. This is ensured by a program number called “Light Moments,” during which the assigned TM may crack jokes, sing a song or two, present anecdotes or conduct any activity to amuse the meeting attendees. Since it usually precedes the nerve-racking delivery of manual speeches, it also serves to ease the tension felt by the scheduled speakers and enables them to conquer, albeit momentarily, the innate fear of public speaking.

In reality, however, good humor permeates our club meeting from start to finish. It is apparent in the gladness we feel each time we meet and when, as a group, we cordially welcome the guests – invited or walk-in – to the meeting or any other club activity.  Good humor makes learning fun and enjoyable; it also makes a club member look forward to the next meeting as a time to unwind, to enjoy the camaraderie of friends, or to reinvigorate oneself in the face of life’s daunting challenges.

4. Reaffirmation of patriotism. Invariably, a “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag” follows the Opening Prayer in every club meeting. It is the first thing TMs learn by heart. For an individual like me who has been taught to sing the “Pambansang Awit” (National Anthem) and recite the “Panatang Makabayan” (A Citizen’s Pledge) from the elementary school to the university, the pledge to the flag has a profound impact. Surely, all TMs experience the same emotion. In a word, this simple ritual reaffirms our loyalty to country and our patriotic fervor.

5. Opportunity for advocacy of a unique global mission. As its mission states, TI “is the leading movement devoted to making effective oral communication a worldwide reality.” Therefore, TMs everywhere are expected to promote TI’s mission by organizing more clubs or by undertaking any relevant activity, such as a public speaking contest. And to uphold TI’s mission, a TM club exists “To provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”

This happens when club members apply the “learning by speaking” approach, deliver impromptu and prepared speeches, and mutually offer constructive evaluations.

Thus, beyond the advantages and benefits TI’s twin-track development program has in store for people who join the movement it had started 90 years ago, a TM club member stands to gain other morphic boons. These may be classified into technical and psychosocial benefits, which my own experiences and observations – and those of my fellow TMs in Zambo and elsewhere, I venture to say – amply corroborate.

Anyone who wishes to confirm or verify the foregoing postulations is welcome to attend our weekly Friday meeting as Guest from 7:00 – 9:00 PM in the Emerald Room, 2nd Floor of the Grand Astoria Hotel along Mayor Jaldon Street. The number to contact, just in case, is 09173032577 or 09159906923.

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