I got to know about Toastmasters program from my father who was the advisor to the IBBM Toastmasters. He first introduced me to the Youth Leadership Program during secondary school days. There I learnt some basics on table topics and co- evaluators. It was not my cup of tea then and I only attended a few sessions after much persuasion from my dad. Little did I know with that short encounter has caused my body to be equipped with the ‘T’ blood cell.
Months later, my dad introduces me to the Toastmasters Speech Contest. Two advices I got from my dad before we entered the contest hall are to go to the washroom before the contest starts and to keep my mouth shut at all times. It was memorable to see his subordinate won in the area contest. Being a supportive person by nature, he took the whole family all the way to Kedah to encourage his subordinate for the division contest. It was exhausting… My sibling and I slept in the car on our way back home.
Then there was period of silence due to closure of IBBM Toastmasters… When I finished college and started my working, my dad directed me a random question about self development one evening. He suggested that I should enroll myself in a Toastmasters program. Toastmasters… the ‘T’, blood cells which has been dormant for so many years suddenly became active. I listened to my dad’s advice and searched the internet for the closest club. Jackpot!!! Bayan Baru Toastmasters only 10 minutes drive. It took me 2 meetings before I made the decision to sign up. I am glad on my decision as I have learned so much and made so many camaraderie.
Mah Swee Chin
In 1990, my friend Ms.Tan invited me to join them – a group of insurance friends to form a club. She told me the minimum requirement to be a member of this club was to be able to communicate in simple English. I told her my English was very poor but she reassured me as I can understand English. I was curious and at the same time eager to find out what is it all about. After all, I am keen to learn and most of my friends also there to participate.
The club was Darul Aman Toastmasters Club. Mr. Khaja Mohideen was elected as Protem President and Mr. Peter Balan was the first President. Since joining Darul Aman Toastmasters Club, I got to know many friends from difference professions. I also learnt a lot from the President Mr. Peter Balan. He corrected my English language usage and grammar every time when we gathered. That was the first time I had a chance to shake hands with the Raja Muda of Kedah during the Chartered and Installation night.
In 1993, a changed in my career stopped me from joining the club. I went to Penang but never stop looking for club that nearby to my working area.
One day in 1996. I saw an advertisement in Kwong Wah Yit Poh that Bayan Baru is forming a club. I contacted Ms. Margaret Chan and attended the first meeting at Bayan Baru Residential Association. I volunteered to take up the role as Treasurer. Mr. Adrian Ung was the Chartered President of Bayan Baru Toastmasters Club.
I was timid, shy and scared because there were many great speakers in the club like Mr. Adrian, Mr. Joachim Xavier, DTM TK Mah, Ms. Janet, DTM Margaret Chan, DTM S.L.Liew, Mr. Chor, Mr. Michael, Ms. Mary Phuah and so on. The other member whom I like to mix with was the friendly and always smiling Ms.Rosalind Chan.
I was encouraged to act in the script as Ms. Suzie Mah during our Chartered and Installation night where Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye was our VIP who represented our Chief Minister at Bukit Jambul Country Club.
I seldom do assignments because I felt embarrass to deliver my speech in front of a crowd of good speakers. I was involved in the committee most of the time. When we decided to sponsor Bayan Baru Mandarin Club, I was told to be one of the mentors of Bayan Baru Mandarin Club. I completed my fourth assignment and stopped for more than five years. I continued my project till I achieved CTM during Rosalind Chan’s term as President. That year was the first time our club achieved President Distinguished Club status.
In 2004-2005 was the turning point of my Toastmasters journey. I was elected as the 9th Club President of Bayan Baru Toastmasters Club. I had never envisaged since I joined Toastmasters that one day I will lead a club of more than fifty members. I stood and delivered my first President speech in front of an audience of two hundred. It was my dream to stand in front of a crowd to deliver my speech like successful speakers have done. I fulfilled my theme “Turning Dreams Into Reality” during my term and achieved another term for President Distinguished Club. I have improved a lot in my speeches. I have also learned a lot of leadership skills in achieving my goals, handling club issues, overcome obstacles and conflict during my term. Thanks to all the senior members who had guided me along the way.
In 2006-2007, my Toastmasters journey elevated to another level. I served as Area N2 Governor. I got to know many friends from PDC Toastmasters Club, Intel Toastmasters Club, Intel Speak-Up Toastmasters Club and Mas Tanjong Toastmasters Club. I learnt a lot from them and built up good relationships with them. At the same time, I developed confidence in Public Speaking and Leadership Skill. With the help of District Governor DTM Sivaganam, I achieved President Distinguished Area during my term served as N2 Area Governor.
Toastmasters programme is a fantastic programme. It has transformed me into a different person. All these years, I learned as much as possible from experienced Toastmasters like DTM Margaret Chan, DTM SL Liew, DTM T K Mah. DTM Rosalind Chan. Past President Dr. Janet Lim, Dr. K.J. Tan, Poh Seng Chuan, Koay Kah Hin. The Champion Speakers TM Michael Xavier, TM Ong Swee Keat, TM Saw Chin Bin. I also learned a lot from the new, young and energetic Toastmasters. I know that through persistence, I can achieve what they have achieved one day.
At the same time, I wish to thank those who have helped and supported me throughout my Toastmasters journey. I also like to advice those who are already members to take full opportunity to learn as much as you can. You never try you never know. Take up difference roles and learn as much as you can. To those who are not a Toastmasters member, it is still not too late for you to join now.
You Never Try You Never Know!!!!!!
FROM A CHICKEN TO AN EAGLE- I have never dreamt of being a Toastmaster, let alone a DTM! You may ask, “Then how did you manage to achieve the DTM award?” Fellow Toastmasters and friends, I wish to share with you how I finally became a Toastmaster, my journey towards achieving the DTM and what are the benefits that I have gained from being a Toastmaster.Before- I remembered back in school, I dared not speak up nor answer any question even though I had the correct answers. Towards the end of my Sixth Form, when I handed over the autograph happily to my classmate to be signed, she remarked, “I never knew you existed. Next time, speak up more!” Not only I was small in stature then, I was also inconspicuous or invisible! I loved to watch Elocution Contests and admired and envied my friends who could speak in front of an audience. I admired Toastmasters who could speak so eloquently. I told myself I could never do that because I was a chicken. Chickens do not speak up, chickens have no focus, chickens have wings but do not soar. Some of you may be going through or have gone through that same experience and will understand what I mean. My sister Margaret Chan, DTM and Past District Governor SL Liew, DTM were keen to form the Bayan Baru Toastmasters Club in Penang in February 1996. When my sister invited me to be a guest during the demonstration meeting, I told her, “I’ll attend but don’t ask me to speak”. She chartered the club and invited me to be a member. I said, “No way”. She said, “Got way, I’ll pay for you”. Then I told myself, “I’ll do it My Way. I will join just to enjoy the free refreshments. I will not speak!” For seven full months, I refused to speak. No one could make me speak, not even play a role as an Ah Counter, Timer nor Grammarian. The new exco was organizing an International Speech Contest and for any new club, the contestants are exempted to have done up to Project No. 6 from the Communication and Leadership Manual. Tell you what, the committee made it compulsory for ALL members to participate in the contest. I was cornered. I almost cried, I almost died because I knew this time I could not escape. I rehearsed my speech over and over again in the office, in my house, in the shower and even in my dreams. Imagine, my maiden speech was at a speech contest! The First Experience- The contest day came. Even before my name was called, I could hear my heart beating and I was sure the whole hall could hear it too. I stood there hoping the ground would give way and swallow me up! It didn’t! I had cold feet, my knees shook, my face was flushed BUT I managed to remember and deliver the whole script! I spoke quite softly but it did not matter. That was my first breakthrough and ‘Ice Breaker’ speech. Benefits- How have I benefited? Taking up leadership roles made me a better communicator and leader. As a President, I had to speak at least 48 times, that is, at all the 24 club meetings – at the President’s Opening and Closing Speech. Bayan Baru, being an active club, organized a grand club installation dinner at a 5-star hotel, joint meetings, Millennium meeting, speech contests, Assignment and Achiever’s night and Christmas party. I had to deliver speeches at every meeting. Socially I have benefited. I feel that the more I speak, the more confident I became. My audience of 20 plus people grew steadily to a hundred, two hundred and over 1,000 when I was invited to be the Master of Ceremonies for a dinner at the Shangri-la hotel in conjunction with the launching of the Penang Junior Orchestra by the Penang Symphony Society. My children were playing at the junior orchestra and when the Exco heard that I was a Toastmaster, they grabbed hold of this chicken! My first reaction was, “NO” but I could not let Toastmasters down. I took up the challenge and did a lot of preparation. His Excellency, the Governor of Penang was the Guest of Honor. That evening I managed from the beginning to the end of the dinner all alone. That was another breakthrough and proud moment for me. Career-wise I have benefited. I work as an Administrative Secretary in Malaysia Airlines at the Customer Services Department based at the Penang International Airport. After going through the Toastmasters training, I learn how to pacify irate passengers face-to-face with confidence although they may be twice my height. These passengers sometimes would march into the office demanding to see my manager who would be away at a meeting. At the end of the conversation, they always left satisfied that someone cared to listen to them. I find I can now converse with complaining passengers with confidence over the phone too. At the end of the conversation, they were always satisfied because someone on the other line takes the trouble to Listen to them, to Think before she Speaks and Communicated effectively. Leadership Training Taking up the position of an Area Governor not only helped me to achieve the Advanced Leader (AL) award, it also gave me great opportunity to understand the Toastmasters organization as a whole, to get to know the TI staff, great District Officers, Division Officers and Area members. I had many opportunities to organize speech contests, club officers training and speak at a lot of functions. The most challenging was dealing with people and to motivate them to achieve excellence – only Toastmasters gives us this opportunity. When I took over as Area Governor, I had to handle four clubs, that is, my own club Bayan Baru which is a community club and the top club in Division N and 3 weak in-house clubs, that is, Komag, Intel and PDC. When I took over, one in-house club ‘died’ and I had to work hard to revive it. Besides, I had to build new clubs. Dr Dilip Abayasekara, our 3rd Vice President, mentioned in his speech that the higher you go up in leadership, the more dependent you are on people. I fully agree with him. However, in my case, there were not many people to depend on. I told my clubs that I would help to lift them up a level or two higher than when they started. I learnt patience when I was the Area Governor as I had to constantly ‘push’ my clubs patiently and with a lot of tender loving care. At the end of my term, we added one more new club ie Penang Seagate into our area. The rest of the clubs either achieved Distinguished, Select Distinguished and President’s Distinguished status and Area N2 became a President’s Distinguished Area.
Conclusion- Dear Toastmasters, are you already a CTM? If not, go for it. Are you a CTM? Be an ATMB, ATMS and ATMG. If you are an ATM, be a DTM. If I can do it, all of YOU can do it. Last time I cannot last 1 minute in front of my audience, now I speak until I do not stop! Go for excellence in whatever you do, Go for the DTM and your life will never be the same again.
It was 12 years ago as I fondly recall coming out into the working world. I was inexperienced and green but I had the burning desire to do my best in whatever I pursued in. As time went by, I realized that more often than not I tend to run into problems with my peers, customers and even my bosses. I can get very vocal on issues and at times pretty emotional and I figured I needed to do something about it.
At that time, my brother Joachim was the charter member of this club in 1996 and together in the family, my mother and my brother encouraged me to join the Toastmasters Club. That decision to join the club led me into a whole new world, totally different from the kind of working environment I came from. I learned that in a Toastmasters Club, everyone is equal. Everyone learns from each other with a strong “member-help-member” concept. There is healthy competition, abundance of evaluations to gauge my progress and well-wishers who always give me the much needed nudge to pursue further.
From just a normal member, I progressed to becoming a speech champion, to an Executive Committee member and finally President. It took me 12 years to learn, unlearn, relearn, to grow, and to flourish. Through the Toastmasters program, I found my passion and that is to become a Professional Speaker. With only my Toastmasters credentials and experience behind me, I decided to take the plunge of leaving my comfortable 9-5 job to pursue my dreams of taking up professional speaking. Every time I am left to compete for a speaking bid, I feel that thrust behind me, Toastmasters, that separates me from the rest of the speakers out there. More often than not my clients tell me that they chose my services because of my Toastmasters experience. My success as a speaker in the real world out there is attributed to the one decision I made 12 years ago to join a Toastmasters Club, the Bayan Baru Toastmasters Club.
In a nutshell, if all of us begin by saying “Yes” to the various roles and responsibilities in the club, we are surely going to taste success in communication and leadership. When I was approached to take on the club speech contest in 1999, I said “Yes” and I ended up the Champion of International Speech contest in 2000 where I represented District 51 in USA the same year.
When I was approached to take on the VPE role in 2000, I said “Yes” and we had a successful term where I too ended up completing my CTM and CC the same year. When I was approached to take on the Presidency in 2007, though initially I was saying a lot of “No”, finally I said “Yes” and we went on to become the President’s Distinguished Club in 2008. And more recently when I was asked to take part in the Humurous Speech and Evaluation Speech Contest in 2008, I said “Yes” and went on to become the Division N Champion and District Champion, respectively. So it all starts with a “Yes”. When we say “Yes”, possibilities open and success is hands reach. Next step is to take the “Yes” into the family, the workplace and in business.
Toastmasters is best used in the real world and not only in the Toastmasters environment, I say that by personal experience. I am truly grateful to the past and present exco and club members for their wonderful support in my journey as a Toastmaster and I shall always be a proud member of the Bayan Baru Toastmasters Club.