My Toastmasters’ Experience

I joined Toastmasters in October last year. When you join, you’re assigned to a mentor, or rather, you choose a mentor. Your mentor’s role is to guide you through your first three speeches. However, the relationship doesn’t end there. It’s a relationship that can last for a lifetime. For your mentor actually guides you all through the competent communication manual and even beyond.
Sorry, I didn’t tell you what Toastmasters is. Toastmasters International is an international organization with a mission to empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. It was founded in 1924 in the United States by Ralph C. Smedley. The Toastmasters educational programme takes place in clubs scattered across the world. The interesting thing about the Toastmasters programme is that you learn by doing. You give impromptu talks as well as prepared speeches and afterwards, you’re evaluated. You’ll be commended on the things you did well, and will receive recommendations on those you didn’t do very well. You also get to play different leadership roles during meetings. This is also evaluated. You get two manuals upon joining: the competent communication manual and the competent leadership manual. Both manuals contain ten projects, and on completing the projects in the manuals you attain the status of “competent communicator” and “competent leader” respectively. There are advanced communication manuals which lead to higher awards.
I’m a member of Ikeja Toastmasters club and when I joined I was asked who I wanted to be my mentor. I chose Owolabi Ibrahim, DTM. My reason? He’s the youngest DTM in Toastmasters and I heard there are only two DTMs in Nigeria. Who can better be your mentor than the one who has gone through it all. I must say that my relationship with my mentor is built on mutual respect, trust and friendship. I cannot quantify all the things that I’ve learned and continue to learn from him. I always have the assurance that he wants nothing but the best from me. I did my first speech, the icebreaker, on the 14th of November last year and the second speech the following week.
In January this year when I was writing down my goals for the year, one of the goals was completing the competent communication manual by April. When I discussed it with my mentor, he too had the same plan for me. So the race began. I did project 3 and 4 in January, then 5, 6 and 7 in February. On the 10th of March, two days for our first meeting for the month, he sent me a message informing me that I’d be delivering projects 8 and 9 in that meeting. I protested that I wasn’t ready. I didn’t even plan to attend the meeting! But he insisted. So I agreed. I meant that we had to work overnight rehearsing the speech. The following day I did both speeches and was voted best speaker. And finally last Saturday I did project 10 and achieved the ‘competent communicator’ status. The original plan was to achieve CC by April. Now I’ve achieved it in March, a month earlier. I’m grateful to my mentor for believing in my goal and pushing me to achieve it. I must say that I’m very lucky to have him as mentor. Now I am a mentor to someone else. My experience with him will help me in my relationship with my new protege.
Apart from the tremendous improvement in my communication and leadership skills, I’ve also had the privilege of meeting very interesting people at Ikeja Toastmasters, and I’ve learned a lot from them. One of them is the club president, Ibrahim Fatoyinbo, CC, ALB, who acted as my stand-in mentor sometimes. I must confess that I feel extremely lucky having two great people mentor me.
The journey wasn’t all uhuru though. It was stressful and tough. But it was fun all the way. And it was totally worth it. Looking forward to beginning the advance communication manuals.