“…Let Toastmasters be the means to your end…”
Oh my goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My dreams coming true in small river action moves. As a little girl, I always dreamed to meet key influential decision leaders. From an early age, my passion for leadership was ignited through Social Studies classes taught by Ms. Marylin Antonio at T.N. Kirnon Primary School in Junior 3, followed by my time at Princess Margaret Secondary School. These lessons drove me to stay informed about global news and key decision-makers, even though access to information was limited, reserved for a privileged few. You see back then, the only local channel that was on our island broadcasted everything, having Cable TV and internet and the big screen desktop computer was only affordable to the top 1% percent, the ones who had it all or, in the words of my late grandmother “…you born with silver spoon…be content with what you have…”.
Little did I know that this love for influential figures and leadership would fuel my personal journey of self-development and leadership. As an entrepreneur navigating the waves of right and wrong choices, and in my dedication to HIV/AIDS causes, Toastmasters emerged as my lifeline. While working as an Accounts Manager at Cable and Wireless (now FLOW), I struggled with communication due to past experiences that had stifled my expression. My speeches was just horrible, and I needed help. My communication was poor because my grandmother always told me to “shut-up” and this wasn’t because I talk a lot which I don’t unless I really know you that well and comfortable about and with you. The repetitive injunction to “shut up” during my upbringing had left me reticent, shy, and lacking in effective communication skills. This was also coupled with other major life situations that I triumphed over which is shared in details in my upcoming book. But my commitment to growth led me to Toastmasters, where I found the tools to overcome these barriers.
My volunteer work at a shelter for Hurricane Irma victims in 2017, NTTC Center, further shaped my journey. Amid the unexpected arrival of King Charles (then Prince) which my Head Ms. Burnette surprised with the news, I was humbled and thrilled, wondering what I would say if he approached me. I was “happy nervous” but, kept thinking to myself “Lord Jesus, what to say if he comes to me?” While the international and local media teams focused on him having conversations with specific individuals, his inquiry about my tasks provided an opportunity to engage, demonstrating newfound clarity and confidence in my responses. We shared a light moment over a display of women’s shoes, a memory etched with laughter. Soft spoken, His Royal Highness turned to me and said “Can you imagine women wearing heels that high?’’ “Oh yes” I eagerly responded, “we women love our heels” said with the snapping of my fingers, a dip to the side with my right knee bend, and foot tilted slightly off the floor and clapped my tongue all at the same time. King Charles, His Excellency Dr. Sir. Rodney Williams, Governor General of my island Antigua/Barbuda, Ms. Burnette and everyone in the room roared with laughter.
Similarly, meeting UN Secretary General António Guterres during his assessment of hurricane damage on Barbuda stands as another surreal moment. Even my phone seemed starstruck, freezing during our selfie. His Excellency stated to everyone in the hotel gallery “wow, even the phone is a fan over me too…” we all laughed. These interactions showcased the leaders’ balance of humor and dynamic leadership.
Toastmasters meetings provide a quick thinking segment called “Table Topics” also known professionally as rapid fire questions. This helps us build our analytical thinking skills, answer questions with clarity on the spot. Thank God for Toastmasters, thank God for having been exposed to this! Being a member of this prestigious ninety-nine (99) year old non-profit organization, has helped me to know how to, when to, and timing of my communications. Listen, understand what is spoken, then speak with clarity. As a member of Toastmasters, I’ve completed the Competent Communication program then, now I have already completed five (5) educational pathways plus Pathway Mentorship (equivalent to Human Resource manager being trained to coach, mentor and train staff). These Educational pathways are focus both on communication, leadership development and software presentation skills.
Toastmasters mirrors the real world’s demands, equipping us to lead in our immediate communities. Noteworthy leaders like the current Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Hon. Philip Davis, KC MP, himself a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM highest award in TM), exemplify the value of skills nurtured within Toastmasters – Service and being a servant in influential key decision-making seats require Innovative Planning, Leadership Development, Effective Coaching, Motivational Strategies, a lot of Persuasive Influence, Presentation mastery, Strategic Relationships, Team collaboration and Visionary Communication. All of these are incorporated into the curriculum of Toastmasters.
Create thirst for your growth, take your self-development seriously with no excuses, let Toastmasters be the means to your end as you leave a positive legacy behind.
Created by Françoise Bowen, Leadership Speak Toastmasters
Françoise Bowen is the current Area Director of Area 91, Division T in District 86 Southwestern and Central Ontario, Canada. She is currently member of an advance club in D86, Leadership Speak, and is the Immediate Past Club Secretary. Leadership Speak ranked 5th out of 14, 700 clubs globally in Toastmasters. Besides being a member of Leadership Speaks she is also current member of the Antigua Toastmasters Club District 81 Caribbean, Division E Area 26 on the Caribbean Island of Antigua/Barbuda and is the Immediate Past Club President who lead the club to rank 35th position The only club in District 81 to rank that high globally in Toastmasters for the Caribbean and ranked #1 in the Caribbean.
Outside of Toastmasters, she is a member of the St. Johnstons Church of the Nazarene, member of the Church of the Nazarene International. Professionally an Administrative Assistant to His. Excellency Ambassador Dwight Gardiner in the office of the Antigua Department of Marine Services and Merchant Shipping (ADOMS) with offices in Antigua and Germany.