Friday, September 25, 2009

Three People I Met at Toastmasters

Opening Remarks at the Officer Installation and New Member Induction

Speaker: Gege Sugue
Speech Project: Uplift the Spirit from the Specialty Speeches Manual
Time: 8 to 10 minutes


Good evening, Pat, Jun, (the missing Alvin Tan), Shel, Christian, (the absent Christine), Sheila, Boom. Congratulations for accepting the challenge and the responsibilities of leadership of this club. I salute you for your courage and commitment.

Good evening, Toastmasters. Your being here tonight is also an indication of your commitment to and faith in the Toastmasters organization.

Much has been said about the benefits that the Toastmasters organization offers its members. One of the least harped about of these benefits is the fact that you meet a lot of people. And I don't mean that in a networking kind of way; it's not just about expanding your business contacts. I mean we meet different types of interesting, engaging people. Some of them become your friends. Some become your mentors, or tormentors, or all of the above. I've met a lot of people who have encouraged me, inspired me, and taught me lessons.

I only have time to talk about 3 of them. These 3 have taught me 3 lessons that have been useful in my stints as officer of this club.

One of them was Mar Sy. For those who did not have the privilege of knowing Mar, he was one of the charter members of the club. That means he was one of those who had the vision for a community of human resource practitioners learning and developing together. From day one of this club, he was an active participant of the club, shaping this club to be what it is now.

I met and got to know Mar here at Toastmasters. And he taught me to seize the day.

I'll be honest. Mar was not a cookie-cutter type leader. No leader-like demeanor; no gregarious, extroverted personality. He was rather shy, laid-back, soft spoken. But he did not let his shyness stop him from answering the call to lead. He was a charter officer. And on his second year in Toastmasters, he was an Area Governor.

I wouldn't also consider him a natural born speaker. Like most of us, he really needed Toastmasters to bring out the speaker in him. But did he let his limitations stop him? No, he grabbed every opportunity to speak and to develop his speaking skills. He didn't miss any opportunity to participate in Table Topics as either speaker or host. Who knows how much more he would have grown as a speaker given the chance.

Unfortunately, death robbed him of that chance. However tragic that loss may be, for me it has served the purpose of reminding me to seize the day. Not to waste opportunities. Not to let moments for growth pass me by.

Last term when I was the president of this club, that was the longest year of my life. One full year, 525,600 minutes of thinking, talking, breathing Toastmasters. A year divided into segments of 2 weeks, the first part of which spent on planning the meeting, and the last 2 days of which fixing up the messed up plans because speakers backed out and evaluators canceled.

It was the longest year of my life. But it was also the shortest. Because at the end of it, when the leadership was wrestled away from me (insert smile here) I still haven't had enough. Still a lot of unfinished business. Things I should have done but didn't. But I had to move on, because as Mars has shown me with his life and his premature death, time is valuable, and the day is there for me to do more and be more. I will seize the day. I will grab every opportunity to lead, learn, and live life to the fullest.

The second person I met in Toastmasters is Michelle Lim, the founding president of this club.

John Maxwell said that the arena where one can truly challenge and develop one's leadership is in volunteerism. Because the members are not paid. Because they are not beholden to any boss and their careers are not at stake if they mess up. Toastmasters is such an environment. Everyone is free to join and leave. So a leader needs to know how to charm, coerce, communicate to lead and motivate.

Maxwell also stresses the importance of communication skills to lead.

Michelle is the embodiment of that twin pairing of leadership and communication. Communication skills ooze from her pores. She inspires with a vision. She motivates, encourages, mentors. She did such a great job of leading this club that on its first year, with just 9 months to do it, she led us to achieving Select Distinguished Club status. And a huge part of the time, she was out of the country. That's leadership.

Michelle is a good leader because she can talk, and she can walk the talk. What she has taught me is to lead the way. She does not pressure members to deliver speeches. She shows us by delivering speech after speech after speech. She earns a minimum of 2 norms a year. So, when I was president, I tried to follow her example. I wanted the members to deliver speeches, so I delivered speeches, and earned my Advanced Communicator Bronze as a reward. I wanted people to work on their Competent Leader Manual. So even if I did not have to do it, because I was already aiming for Silver, I still did. Because Michelle showed me that that was the way to lead to the way.

Dear officers, there is no avoiding it. Lead the way. Tell us why and then show us how.

And now, on to the third person.

I truly think that the most difficult post in Toastmasters is that of VP Education, and this person has been VP Education 1 1/2 times, the 1/2 being when he took over when Mar could no longer attend the club meetings. Being VP Education can make or break you.

It almost broke this man. Every other week, he would feel like killing himself as he worked on the cumbersome Program. I saw him wanting to gouge his eyes as he worked on a multicolored matrix, size 6 font, trying to schedule the roles and speakers. And in the end, no one even used that matrix.

But did he break? Nah.

Did he come to the meetings, bitter at the no-shows, angry at being VP Ed? No, Ed Ebreo, with bandaged wrists and red-shot eyes came ready to have the best meeting possible. Ed is right; meetings without him are just not as fun. He reminds me all the time that BnT is about fun, about learning in an environment of fun. He reminds me of celebrating victories and laughing at miseries. He was always willing to be the butt of jokes, all for the sake of having fun at Toastmasters meetings. He taught me the 3rd lesson of leadership -- make it look like play.

Ed makes leadership look so easy that last term, we had an unprecedented number of people wanting to be officers. They wrestled the gavel away from us, wanting to be the new officers, wanting to lead.

And so here you are -- our new, spanking officers. The people who will lead this club to higher levels of excellence and achievement.

As I turn this gavel over to you, I challenge you.

Learn and apply the 3 lessons I learned from the 3 people I met. Listen to Mar, Michelle, and Ed. This is your chance to:

Seize the day.
Lead the way.
Make it look like play.

It's your chance to make a difference and help others become better leaders and communicators.

It's your time to inspire. So that by May 2010, you will have a new set of eager officer-wanna be's, raising their hands, shouting, me! me! choose me! I want to lead.

I know you'll do well. And I am hear to support you. I promise. And I seal that promise by banging this gavel and saying for the last time, as outgoing President of Butter N Toast Toastmasters Club, I now call this meeting to order.


1 comment:

Ed Ebreo said...

Beautiful, beautiful speech Gege! You're my benchmark for delivering great speeches! :)

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