My Story: What Happened at the District 51 Leadership Forum (I Met Daniel Rex!)

By Dinesh Jayabalan

Promotional poster for the District 51 Leadership Forum

The reason why our organisation is called Toastmasters International is because we are an international organisation, consisting of members from various countries and continents. Sadly however, not everyone gets to experience the true ‘Internationalness’ of the organisation because for many members — their life in Toastmasters only revolves around their respective clubs. To me however, I have always looked for opportunities to widen my horizon by making full use of my Toastmasters membership and one of the ways of doing so, is by constantly being engaged with the recent happenings in Toastmasters International World Headquarters.

With that said, when it was announced that leaders (The Top Three District Officers) together with Region Advisors, International Directors, Our First Vice President and the man who signs all our certificates (Our Chief Executive Officer Daniel Rex) were coming to Kuala Lumpur for their mid-year training, I made sure I attended the leadership forum to meet these reputable Toastmasters who have been serving their respective districts and regions. And this was certainly one of the highlights of my journey as a Toastmaster.

Yours truly with Toastmasters International CEO Daniel Rex

The leadership forum began with a presentation by Daniel Rex. He explained the rationale behind the notion why Pathways is the way to move forward. I was certainly impressed with the manner how he engaged with the audience and made his content to be unique and relatable to all of us. His sense of humour showed evidently when he compared Pathways to iPhones and the traditional program to traditional telephones that were used ages ago. The event continued with us hearing from our First Vice President who shared with us his journey and experiences about being a member of Toastmasters.

The key highlight of this event for me was the Leadership Forum that was held after the presentations. Various leaders were called to be panel members and the audience was given an opportunity to address their questions and concerns to the panellists. Distinguished Toastmaster Gowry, our Region Advisor, moderated the panel discussion.

Dinesh Jayabalan asking a question at the panel discussion at the District 51 Leadership Forum

I took this opportunity to pose a question that had been lingering in my mind for quite some time. My question to the panel was:

In our life and journey in Toastmasters, we will come across various points where we will feel tired and burned out. What would you say to a Toastmaster who feels burned out?

The panel member who responded to my question gave a clear explanation, agreeing that in our lives, we will come across such situations. Her suggestion to this question was to take a break and look forward to new challenges. If you haven’t served the club as an officer, do so. If you haven’t serve the district, do so. Look for new opportunities that will empower you to develop and grow to become a better person.

Some other interesting questions that were raised in the panel session were these matters:

1. How Speech Craft could be woven into the Pathways Education System.
Answer: World Headquarters is looking into this and a revised Speech Craft Program would be launched in the near future.

2. How does it feel like to be a young leader and serve the district?
Answer: Toastmasters benefits people of all ages and taking up leadership roles from a young age benefits those who are willing to learn.

3. Feasibility of Conducting Online Meetings
Answer: There are many clubs who already practice this and it is feasible if you have the right resources

4. Will there be new titles under the Pathways Education System? For example. Competent communicator and etc.
Answer: World Headquarters is working on making Pathways better and this will be looked into in the future. 

5. Why do we now have Regional Quarter Finals in international speech contests?
Answer: There has been constant growth in the number of districts and there might not be enough resources to conduct more than 10 rounds of semi-finals during the Toastmasters International Convention.

Hanging out with friends- Azizah and Edward at the writer’s favorite hangout, Starbucks

The event ended with District 51 Leaders presenting a token of appreciation to the panellists and speakers. Many stayed back for a while for fellowship. All in all, this event was enlightening and enjoyable in which I got to see so many leaders and hear their stories. I was inspired and ‘recharged’ to serve my roles to the best of my abilities. Kudos to District 51 for pulling off such a great event!


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The Top 3 Fears of Public Speaking and How You Can Overcome Them

By Sarah Teoh

Like most people, my first page understanding of public speaking started with fear. 

What if nobody likes me? What if I can’t remember my speech?

What if nobody is interested in what I say? 

What took me from fear to stepping on stage is understanding – the right understanding of public speaking. 

As Marie Curie phrased it beautifully, “nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” 

Fear 1: What if the audience members do not like me? 

Before we answer this question, let’s talk football. 

If you are playing in a football competition, do you focus your mind on scoring the goal or do you focus your mind on the trophy? If you focus on scoring the goal, you score the goal, and you will automatically be given the trophy. But if you focus on the trophy, you lose focus on scoring the goal, you lose the game, and you won’t have the trophy. What we focus on determines our performance.  Public speaking is very much like a sports competition. There is a goal that we aim to score, and there are trophies to be won. The main goal of public speaking that we aim to score, is to share a message that the speaker believes will benefit the audience. This is the goal you should focus on. 

Being liked by the audience is a trophy which will automatically be given to you when you have shared a message that has benefited/blessed the audience in any way. Next time, whenever you find your mind drifting into fear, into another series of “what-ifs”, re-anchor your focus back to this basic but fundamental goal of a public speaker. It will take you from fear to perspective, and thus, calmness. 


Fear 2: What if people do not like the topic/message that I speak on? 

I used to spend a lot of time wrestling with this fear, and ended up speaking on opinions/messages that are an echo of what the society thinks. This way of speaking did not hurt my ego, but it did not build my confidence and growth as a speaker neither. 

As I exposed myself to more speakers, I realised the speakers that impacted me the most and stayed in my mind are speakers who speak who they are. They speak what is important to them at the core. 

In other words, they are authentic. They are real people with real feelings who speak about real issues in life. In fact, often times, when you speak on issues close to your heart, you might find yourself making an impact without even you realising it! 


Fear 3: I’ve tried speaking, but I don’t see myself picking up as a speaker… Maybe I’m just not good enough, maybe I should just quit… 

Hey! It’s not what happened, it’s what you do after that. Remember, you are not who you are, but what you are willing to learn. A winner is not someone who never loses, a winner is someone who keeps learning until he wins. 

In fact, if we probe deeper, the foundational question is beyond winning or losing. The foundational question is, are you learning the right way? Studying about being a powerful/impactful speaker on paper is one thing, experiencing the impact of a powerful speaker is another level of learning. Reading about an apple on paper increases your head knowledge, but personally tasting the apple in your mouth increases your knowledge of all other senses, which reading alone is insufficient to teach. 

Therefore, I would recommend other than just reading about public speaking do’s and don’ts, watch and listen to speakers who impact you, regularly. They could be speakers whom you know in person, or they could also be speakers whom you admire from afar and know through Youtube or TED. As you watch and listen to them, you get exposed to and understand the full dimension of public speaking which words alone cannot fully describe.  

Other than learning the right way, setting the destination of your speaker journey is also crucial. The start of all sails begins with setting its destination. The destination of a speaker is the three objectives that you want people to associate you with as a speaker. Some call it the “personal badge”. For example, it can be “humorous, articulate and charismatic”, “enthusiastic, original, fun”, “conversational, inspiring, and alive” or any combination of three adjectives that you want to be seen as a speaker. 


Every expert was once a beginner. You may not have the confidence to speak boldly now but if you are willing to learn to grow as a speaker, you will definitely become the speaker of your dreams one day. 

As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “you may not be able to change your destiny overnight, but you sure can change your life direction overnight.”

As you grow as a speaker, you will find yourself growing as a person as well. This is because the skills that you build up and acquire in public speaking do not lie squarely within its practice, it trains the core of who we are as a person– courage over fear, boldness in adversity, thoughts organisation over disorganisation, strength over defeat. Don’t let fear hold you back from public speaking, but let your story of overcoming the fear of public speaking become an inspiration for your future audience!


OPINION: Here’s WHY You’re Having a Hard Time with Millennials!

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Our Story: Toastmasters Made Our Love Stronger Than Ever!

By Aster Lim

While newlyweds and Toastmasters powerhouses, former Area C4 Director Ivan Chow and ex-club president Ng Lai Leng may not have met through Toastmasters, they found common ground through the organisation that helped feed and foster a love that grew so strong, it eventually led to marriage.

Ivan and Lai Leng are the epitome of young love – demonstrative with each other and engrossed in their own world. On the day of the interview, the loving couple breezed in through the glass doors of the Craftsmen Cafe in Aman Suria emanating radiance and that special aura of happiness only newly married couples exude.

They had stopped by the cafe on the way to visit a relative in Ara Damansara. While we got comfortable over coffee and apple cider, the blissful couple proceeded to share how they met.

TM: How did both of you meet? Was it through Toastmasters?

Ivan: Lai Leng came to my company (British American Tobacco) to audit the firm (FYI: Ivan is still working at British American Tobacco (BAT) and has been working there for over 10 years). One of my colleagues asked Lai Leng to join us for lunch one day and when we chatted, we discovered we were both in Toastmasters.

That’s why the story I always tell the others (friends) is that I sacrificed myself so that my company could pass the audit.

TM: Ivan, when you found out that Lai Leng was also from Toastmasters, how did you feel? 

Ivan: Well, I thought that we would have a common topic. That’s why we could click and become friends.  We actually didn’t start the relationship immediately. We were friends for about a year before starting the relationship. At the time I liked to network and wanted to know more people – men and women.

TM: When did you realise that you would like a deeper relationship with Lai Leng?

Ivan: We hung out a few times, especially on weekends, and we had more conversations. She likes to talk and there’s a great deal of substance in what she says – she’s very wise…intelligent.

Lai Leng: …because I’m an auditor (laughs), I like to ask questions. I can talk about a lot of things given that’s the nature of my job, so probably he felt he had never met such a talkative girl before.

Ivan: Yeah, more and more, we realised we had things in common. We like to grow together in terms of personal development and we attended courses together (some of them Toastmasters workshops)

TM: Did Toastmasters bring both of you closer together?

Lai Leng: Back then, I had just become the president of my club (Friendship Toastmasters Club in Dataran Prima, PJ). I was very new to Toastmasters. Meanwhile, Ivan had been a club member for quite some time. He’s very knowledgeable (about Toastmasters). He taught me a lot about how to manage the club.

When we were still friends (in that one-year period), I was giving my CC7 speech at an external club (the School of Hard Knocks) and I met him there. I didn’t know (he would be there)! It was a surprise that he turned out to be my evaluator.  And when I delivered by ‘graduation speech’…CC10. Again, he surprised me. He came to my club without telling me.

Ivan: I like to surprise.

Lai Leng: He’s always surprising me. There were a few instances where he would suddenly turn up at club meetings and I was very unprepared.

Ivan: That was on purpose… (laughs)

Lai Leng: I think I would have presented better if Ivan was not there…

Ivan: Then she surprised me! There was a time when I was in my club and was giving a speech and then she turned up. I didn’t know that she would attend.

Lai Leng: Once, he was talking about our relationship (in a speech) and at the evaluation, someone said, “Ivan, I think it would be better if you can introduce the main actress to us.”

Lai Leng: Hui Jen. Hui Jen said that.

TM: Did the public speaking skills you picked up at Toastmasters help your relationship? 

Lai Leng: Communication…it’s really about how you communicate with each other. Understanding and listening skills. Ivan has very good listening skills, I think that’s really important. At that time I was contemplating a career change as I was very busy (in my auditing job).

He’s a very good listener and that has made him a very good observer. He’s very analytical and he could tell me the pros and cons of leaving my job.

Ivan: …she’s getting advice from someone who’s never changed his job (laughs).

TM: Can you share, what did you have in common, in Toastmasters?

Ivan: Lai Leng was pursuing the leadership path (in Toastmasters) at the time. She took up the VPPR role in the first and second year (of her joining Toastmasters). She was willing to then take on the president’s role and she received a lot of feedback and when she took up the role, I gave her a lot of advice. She…capitalised on my network.

Lai Leng: Yeah, there was a time when I helped him organise his Speechcraft workshop so I recycled the speakers…the materials…and that was really beneficial to our club.

Ivan: Through me she got to know more of our members, so quite a lot of our members (from Sunway) were being invited to her club for roles – maybe not the new members (but the senior ones) like Rubein, Ben…

TM: It’s really interesting to see how your relationship has grown through Toastmasters and made it better. Do you agree?

Ivan: Uh hmm… when you have two Toastmasters in the house, right, they’re always evaluating each other. Maybe less now…but at that point of time, especially after we had just completed a Toastmasters workshop, we would (subconsciously) apply those techniques with each other. Like, I would notice us using triads in our conversation, that kind of thing. Sometimes, I would say to Lai Leng, “Aaah, you’re evaluating me?” It’s part of the conversation.

Lai Leng: I remember when we used to talk on the phone, I would tell him a lot of things. He would then pause and ask, “Lai Leng, so what is your point?” Sometimes, you really don’t have a point. You just say what you want to say (laughs).

Ivan: This brings us back to Project Two (in the Competent Communicator manual): To inform, motivate and inspire… Now, you are on Pathways, right? But the old manual was about purpose (in a speech). You would need to determine the purpose of the project.

Lai Leng: So when I tell him something and he doesn’t understand, he’ll ask, “Can I clarify this. What is your purpose?”

TM: And in an argument, does Toastmasters help you as well? 

Lai Leng: It did. In the beginning, when we argued, I would ask, “Ivan, why are you raising your vocal variety?  I think that helped calm him down a little and he would start to think more rationally. Sometimes, as humans, we get frustrated, and we raise our voice and it shows in our body language. That happens to men…a lot.

Ivan: In terms of raising one’s voice, I think my usual volume is different from hers. What to me is a normal tone, she claims is raised. It made me realise that while I didn’t think that I had raised my voice, she thought that I had.

I feel we have not quarreled before from the start of our relationship until now, by my standards, but she (Lai Leng) disagrees. There were a few incidents when she felt that I had made her angry…I provoked her…so using this as an example, I feel she is more volatile.

TM: As both of you were so involved in Toastmasters, did you feel as though you didn’t have time for each other?

Lai Leng: Yes, when he became the Area Director. Occasionally, I would have dinner alone, because he needed to visit clubs, so in the end, I decided to join him as his back up.

Ivan: Part of my job was to help clubs find role players. At times when I couldn’t find anyone, she would be my back up, but she doesn’t always say yes.

TM: Is there life after Toastmasters?

Lai Leng: There was a time, we said, “I think we should stop talking about Toastmasters. We felt we should talk about other things because we were always talking about Toastmasters.

Ivan: We felt that was important because we decided to move in and live together in October 2017, after about one and a half years of being in a relationship.  The only quality time we have is when we have dinner together, otherwise, we would be at work or Toastmasters so it was important to strike that balance.

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