To call Toastmasters a public speaking organization is to sell it short. The organization, whose tagline is “Where Leaders are Made,” helps its members to maximize their potential and build self-confidence and self-awareness in the mutually supportive environment within a club meeting. While Toastmasters has clubs in 143 countries, the local club, which provides a learning laboratory, is the foundation for the organization and member achievement. It in the club where one learns to build a speech, do impromptu speaking, develop listening skills and provide feedback to and inspire other members.

I joined Toastmasters in 2006 while working as a telecommunications industry analyst. During a performance review, it was suggested that I join in order to improve my handling of Q&A sessions following stand-up presentations and to network and mingle more comfortably. I joined a club and quickly worked with the foundational manual and began to feel more relaxed when speaking though still nervous to speak without notes. My leadership journey began as club officer where I learned to encourage others in their Toastmasters journey. A few years’ later, I was asked to serve as an area director, the liaison between a group of five clubs and the larger district. It was during this tenure that I learned the importance of respect for the opinions of individual clubs, which while following the Toastmasters program has its own culture. I continued up the district leadership ladder, serving as a division director, Public Relations Manager, conference co-chair, club quality director, program quality director and currently district director. As district director, I serve as “CEO” for a district of 172 clubs, close to 4,000 members, and over 50 district officers. At the Toastmasters International Convention in Denver in August, the district received recognition as a Distinguished District and I was honored to receive an Award for Excellence in Program Quality. As a district director, I also had the opportunity to be a flag bearer in the opening ceremonies.

opening ceremony Manny Willie Lynda with awards D83 Distinguished banner

It is an ongoing process to develop my leadership skills. NRPR Group has posted several blogs discussing leadership and it is a topic near-and-dear to my heart. Giving back is truly what characterizes a leader and as a Toastmasters leader, I help others to achieve their goals. In the words of Nicole Rodrigues, CEO of NRPR Group, “everything a leader does should be meaningful, informed and representative of the top of the game. Leaders inspire others — especially our future leaders — through encouragement, mentoring, and motivating them to pursue dreams, while also highlighting where improvements can be made. Leaders help others to achieve their goals. Whether it is staff, clients, or family members, leaders work to find each one’s strengths.” Being a leader is teaching me to respect the opinions of others, make fair decisions based on the circumstances not what is best for an individual, how to prioritize, when to be steadfast, and always to keep one’s calm.

Toastmasters International truly has changed my life and helped me to evolve as a leader and professional. I highly recommend the organization for those who want to develop all that is best within them.