by Angela Chapes, Manhattan Toastmasters
Since I wrote my last blog for Toastmasters International in June, I have had some great experiences and some great opportunities will be coming my way. I was nervous about being a Toastmaster for the day the last time. I have been a Toastmaster of the day twice. Both times I went outside my comfort zone and learned new things about myself and what I could do. My confidence has grown enormously by taking on those challenging roles. Everybody in my club is very supportive and they give me pointers for which I am grateful. I have been the Grammarian once. I have been watching others and how they approach this role. By volunteering in the future, I know I can one day continue to improve my public speaking. Toastmasters International has taught me a lot but I also have a lot more to learn. I am thankful for my mentors who are very patient and are very supportive of me.
I enjoyed Toastmasters International so much that I joined additional clubs and I am now a member of three clubs. There is a fourth club I have visited; I can only participate occasionally because the meeting time sometimes conflicts with my work schedule. I learn so much from my participation is these three clubs.
In October, I gave an international speech. It was for parents and teachers in Malaysia. Through contacts with my Manhattan club, I met a fellow Toastmaster who has a school and helps parents who have children with Autism. He wanted me to speak to parents who have children with autism. I was asked if I could answer questions and I agreed. That said, I was nervous about it and I practiced and practiced with my Toastmaster mentors. The day of my speech I was really nervous. Nevertheless, I talked for ten minutes and I answered questions. It was a blur! I did better than I thought I would. When I was asked questions by parents and teachers some of the questions threw me because I hadn’t anticipated those particular questions. It was challenging because I have trouble formulating what I want to say when I speak. However, I was able to answer pretty well. I found this experience to be one of the most rewarding and life changing experiences I have ever had. Moreover, I felt like I was making a difference. I was making my dream of being an autism advocate come true.
I have worked on getting better at answering questions with my Toastmaster mentors and parental figures in my life. My parental figures encourage me to dig deep and learn more about myself. This is so I can improve for my next challenges.
In March, I have an opportunity to talk with Autism Society – The Heartland organization. Another adult with Autism and I will be speaking to parents about our lives. We will answer questions and, as I said, I have been working on my question answering skills. One key point we are working on is childhood/adolescence and when we got diagnosed. We were both adults when we were diagnosed. We plan to talk about what happened in our lives and the highs and lows when we were diagnosed. I have been practicing my eleven-minute speech for it. I will practice with my clubs to get their feedback and to make sure I’m prepared. I have already practiced with one club and have gotten good feedback. I am very excited to have this opportunity.
I have another opportunity to speak in April via Zoom to adults who have autism along with staff members of the college. They are located in Utica, NY. The lady who asked me to speak found me through an article I wrote for Autism Spectrum News. The details are being worked out but it will be very exciting.
Perhaps my most challenging speaking opportunity will be in May. I have been asked to speak at the annual Toastmaster International Conference. I am supposed to give an inspirational speech. This will be tough but I am practicing what I want to say so that I am prepared. I have practiced this speech with one of my mentors and will continue to work on it occasionally until March or April; then I will rehearse it with my clubs. I am so honored to have been given this chance. Now I need to keep my speeches organized in my head so that I don’t mix them up when I talk.
One of my mentors in my Manhattan Club always talks about participating in clubs around the world. He kept talking about it till I thought it was something I could do. I would like to visit clubs in Ireland, Greenland, Iceland and New Zealand. Indeed, I have been in contact with a lady who is in the Irish club. That club meets on Saturdays and I was planning to get up at 4:00am so that I could join them. Ireland is six hours ahead of us. Unfortunately, the past couple of Saturdays I have been so tired from my new job that I missed getting up for the meetings. However, I still plan on visiting that club in the future along with others. Very exciting!
Toastmasters International has helped me to improve my public speaking and presentations. It is one of the best clubs I have ever joined.