20 Years In The Making

It was one cool December 2004 evening when I had dinner with a university friend. It had been years since we saw each other, and it was an excellent opportunity to reminisce about our school days.
One thing that night stuck in my mind; a new strange word I hadn’t heard before. Toastmasters.
I started to become curious about what it was about. First, I thought it was a group of people baking and cooking something; like a pastry club.
My friend told me it’s a group that deals with public speaking and moulding your leadership skills.

What happened next?

I was interested in learning more about Toastmasters, but at that time, all the meetings were in-person and restricted to corporate clubs.
Being from outside Manila made it even more difficult, as commuting was not easy, especially with the heavy traffic in the city.
The circumstances prevented me from visiting open clubs and participating in Toastmasters.
In that particular year, I was preparing to embark on a new chapter of my professional career in Saudi Arabia, where I worked for over a decade.
As I developed my career in the oil and gas-rich country, I spent a lot of time delivering presentations to clients and colleagues.
Although I thought I knew everything there was to know about public speaking, I realized that there was still room for improvement.

One door closes, and new ones open.

When my family decided to migrate to Canada, that was the moment when Toastmasters found its way to me.
Initially, my good friend and former colleague, Ed Sacurat, who is also now a Distinguished Toastmaster, suggested that I explore Toastmasters.
At that time, I ignored it with the excuse that I was too busy.

In March 2021, my luck changed when my manager forwarded an email inviting me to an open house for an online meeting.
I was curious and excited to join a Toastmasters meeting, something that I hadn’t experienced in 17 years.

Eliyya Shukeir, Sneha Srinivasan, Kathy Tam and Verge Monton

It was during this meeting that I met my mentors at the Speak Upside club, including Cindy Hands, Kathy Tam, and Ann Nakaska.

Building leadership skills while working on public speaking

Leading a volunteer organization is a challenging task that requires dedication and hard work.
When I was elected as the VP of Education at Toastmasters in my first year, I realized how humbling it was to create the agenda, assign roles to members, and motivate them to take on the Toastmasters International World Class Pathways curriculum to improve their public speaking skills.
It was a fulfilling experience to see every member grow and become a better speaker.

Toastmasters became more exciting

Initially, I believed Toastmasters was solely about delivering speeches to the club and preparing evaluations.
However, I soon realized that my expectations were too shallow.
I had a big challenge ahead of me: participating in the contest.

Then, I understood that I needed to compete with my fellow club members.
I was fortunate enough to proceed to the next level of the Area contest, then the division level, and eventually, I found myself competing in the District 42 Tall Tales 2021 contest, where I won 3rd place.
This opened countless opportunities for me with the district.
What I enjoyed most during the contest season was not winning but having the chance to participate in the Circle of Gold events.

There, I met mentors Ron MacTavish and Mary Schoendorfer, who led me to join the Connected Communicators Club with Kevin Verberk, Chuck and Bev Leblanc, and the rest of the club’s amazing people.

I also had a very memorable experience in the district when Alwa Majzoub and Grace Wang invited me to be the master of ceremonies for the first in-person leadership training after recovering from social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was humbling to meet everyone in person for the first time after being used to seeing them only online.

The obstacles are the way

The journey of DTM is not easy; it requires dedication, perseverance, and determination for 20 years. And if only I could turn back time, I would have joined Toastmasters earlier.
It’s not only about public speaking and knowing how to speak confidently.
One must be a servant leader from the club to District Leadership are Area Director for C21 – Calgary downtown clubs.

Thanks to the guidance of Daisy Wei and Alwa Majzoub, I completed my Club sponsor tenure after helping to charter the Pembina Toastmasters Club in downtown Calgary.
I was honoured to serve as a mentor for the Mosaic Masters Club in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, along with Margaret Ustupski.

What is next?

As a member of the Club extension committee, I am currently serving in the district alongside Debbie Stearns and Brad Korbo.
Our primary objective is to emphasize the significance of creating new clubs by involving local members and clubs within District 42 and various Areas to identify potential leads for new clubs.

Throughout my DTM journey, I faced numerous challenges. However, I always found aid when I sought it. This journey is a testament to the fact that I cannot do it alone.
I received help from many sources, including my fellow Toastmasters worldwide, and even guests who wanted to try public speaking.

I am forever grateful to them for allowing me to get to know them.

As I conclude this blog, I would like to share the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Let us continue to learn and serve, for it is through these actions that we truly grow.

Verge Monton, DTM
Club Extension Committee Co-Chair

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