“We must travel in the direction of our fear.”
Before I left the Philippines, when the Czech Embassy in Manila was still being ambiguous about how long it would take my visa to be processed, I told myself that I needed to learn something. I wrote a list of things that I should do, such as driving lessons, classes on presentation skills, graphic design, etc. During this gap period, I rediscovered Toastmasters, a non-profit organization that hones leadership and communication skills. I had heard about it in college, but always dismissed the option because the sessions in the Philippines were located far from the university where I studied. However, after graduation, distance or no distance, I told myself that I’d try to attend at least one session — but then I got Shengen visa, packed my bags and left. So much for that plan.
But while I was surfing the net, I stumbled upon it yet again, here in the Czech Republic. Today was my first session in Toastmasters Brno.
The meeting was held in a building in Holandska 5 — a street that is filled with international corporations like Monster and Infosys. I was a bit intimidated going inside the appointed room, since I had no idea what I was in for, but when I entered I was greeted by maybe ten people — all men. Well, I wasn’t expecting that, but it was certainly an interesting feeling.
The session was both professional and casual. We strictly adhered to the typewritten agenda for the day, which began with each of us introducing ourselves. After that was a “Word of the Day” speech by a member, followed by a prepared speech titled “Learning Languages”, given by one of the guys who attended the previous meeting.
The highlight of the entire Toastmasters session for me was something called a “Table Topic,” in which we had to pick a number from a cup, and then speak about a certain topic. The numbers were also duplicated, so one person out of the pair of people with the same number would have to do the talk, and the other would do an evaluation speech. It was a mini competition, and the best speaker and best evaluator would be voted on, and then awarded.
Perhaps it was because I’m a girl and a native speaker of English, but I won both (teehee). Chocolates for moi! But seriously, I could feel myself tensing up again. Luckily though, I didn’t shake, as I usually do. My speeches (I did two) weren’t so well-timed, and the structure needed improvement. But honestly, the people there were so amiable, funny, and kind that I had no reason to fear them. It was truly different from school, which you figuratively feel heavy due to the gravity of importance of the presentation/oral exam/defense. Instead, I felt good — like I was doing something worthwhile.
Also, there was a visitor from Toastmasters in Prague, who said he wanted to start a business in Brno. His program will be funded by the European Union, and it’s all about teaching communications and presentation skills to companies. I will cease this babble and simply say: he wants to contact me for a part time job.
I’m definitely going back in two weeks time. 🙂