Monday, December 01, 2008

Teaching a Horse How to Fly

I felt it was a Christmas gift intended for me! – to have taken the role of "Table Topics Master" in the last regular meeting of Butter N’ Toast for 2008. It may not be something that other members would consider a great achievement, but for me, it was a major breakthrough.

I’ve always been afraid of stepping out of my comfort zone. Come to think of it, I feel that I haven’t even defined my comfort zone yet as a member of Toastmasters. The roles of Toastmaster of the Evening and Table Topics Master are two roles I couldn’t imagine myself doing. And right after screwing up with my last two speeches? “No, I don’t think I can do it.”

I was a bundle of nerves when I agreed with my mentor Alvin Tan, to do the Table Topics Master. Actually, I didn’t remember agreeing with him! Aha, he coerced me, he volunteered me without my consent and left me with no other choice. “Kasubuan na”. I didn’t exactly know what he was up to, but maybe he had that gut feel that only a mentor would know.

To console me and show his support, he announced to take the role of the Toastmaster of the Evening, only to tell me later that he won't be able to attend the meeting for some reason. As the thoughtful guy that he is, he didn’t leave me in the lurch. He sent me some tips condensed from an article about Table Topics he got from the TM website. I learned later that he spoke to Boom, who, took over the role of “TM of the PM.” Boom’s reply to my email when I told him I was going to be late: “If you come late, we’ll do Table Topics after the Prepared Speeches. Alvin said that you need it.” Alvin was really insistent to put me in that role.

And so it was. Last Thursday was one of the rare evenings when Table Topics came after the prepared speeches because I was late. I felt relieved, that at least, I would only have a few more minutes left to sulk in embarrassment if I mess up again. It was also a rare night when my prophecy of failing was not fulfilled. Instead of being messed up, it was probably my best speaking performance as a Toastmaster. I had the usual grammatical lapses, few awkward actions, but those were easily shrouded by some humorous lines.

I passed a new milestone in my Toastmaster career. I proved to myself that I can handle the role of a Table Topics Master and that I can make my audience laugh. Immediate Past District 75 Governor, Gina Mapua, who served as the General Evaluator that night, also made me realize I can get my message across, when she commented that my explanation about Table Topics and its importance was one of the best explanations she’s heard so far. I was in an overwhelming natural high after the meeting that I missed to congratulate the other speakers for the great speeches they delivered. I couldn’t believe I didn’t mess up, and that I actually did well. It was the happiest, most glorious night for me at the Old Makati Stock Exchange as we rode our way down in the elevator and to Starbucks.

It was exactly a year ago when I first attended Butter N’ Toast. It was also their last regular meeting for 2007. I had second thoughts of not joining because I was really intimidated when I saw how good these people were. I couldn’t see how a jargon-filled, stiff, and aloof individual like me would fit in.

Well, let me say this now -- joining Butter N’ Toast Toastmasters Club was probably the best decision I made last year, and it was all worth it. It was worth the time I spent preparing for my speeches and rehearsing them, worth the money I paid for the membership, fuel, toll fee, parking and coffee, worth driving from Bulacan to Manila only to find out that I am one week early for the meeting, worth sacrificing meetings and going out with friends. Toastmasters is a school worth attending, a school where we learn lessons, face challenges, learn to lead, achieve goals, receive rewards, sometimes bullied (that's if either Ed or Boom is around.. hehe.. peace Bros) and more importantly, make friends.

In the world of public speaking, it’s hard to teach a horse how to fly, but if there are people who can teach you how, they are in Butter N’ Toast. I haven’t flown yet, but with a mentor like Alvin to stretch my limits, the support of intelligent but down to earth club officers, and the camaraderie exuded by old and new members alike, its only a matter of time before the horse that I am sprout wings and fly! – Thank you, Alvin, and thank you Guys! See you at the Christmas party!


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gege said...

Entertaining, inspiring read, Owen. You are making the most of Butter N Toast!

Major correction: you did not mess up your last two speeches. Let the audience be the judge of that.

Ed Ebreo said...

I love the metaphors Owen, and yes I agree with Gege, your audience (and that includes me) don't think you messed up your previous speeches, in fact you did great. You can't argue with your audience about that because we were the ones listening, watching and fully appreciating what you did. If you really think you messed up those two wonderful speeches, I wonder how much greater they'd be if you didn't.

shy said...

another great article, owen! we're so happy to read about your struggles, and how, inspite of obstacles, you constantly try to stretch your limits. and what do you mean, you screwed up your last 2 speeches?!?! i haven't been absent from the meetings yet, and i don't remember you screwing up a speech. it's all in your head! snap out of it! :)

you're a great role model, for all Toastmasters, whether they be newbies or oldies. keep up the good work, owen! we're here to support you every step of the way.

Boom San Agustin said...

Aba! So, bullies pala ha? Well I'm glad that we bullied you to reach your potential! And we'll continue bullying you to reach even higher! If that's what it take then that's what we'll give!

But honestly, you didn't need bulls to push you up. You already had the balls to achieve great things! Keep it up, Bro!

Ed Ebreo said...

@Boom: Wow! bulls rhymes with balls, you're a poet Boom!


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