Club Experience – On Becoming Distinguished

I’ve had the honour of attending several Club Meetings at Soweto Positive Speakers and can’t quite put my finger on what it is that really gives them that ‘je ne sais quoi’ but they have it. Ask anyone who has visited this group of lively and energetic Toastmasters – the energy and overall atmosphere is electric!

The Exco members there lead by example and are always on the speaker line-up. Club President, Sandile Selaule, is the Division S Evaluations Contest Champion. The quality of the speakers is just out of this world. The passion of the members to serve and take up meeting and Exco roles, even as sub-committees, is commendable. It, therefore, came as no surprise to me when they were announced as the FIRST Club within Division S to receive, not Distinguished or Select Distinguished but President’s Distinguished. If that is not a big enough motivator, nothing is.

The scene was set with a line-up of five eloquent speakers, three of these being Pathways speeches by Msizi Nyembe, Salomie Mabe and Yanga Nkumenge. Following them was the reason we were all in attendance – the DTM speeches.

The first Epic Event speech by Gaoretelelwe entitled Exposure breeds Experience stressed the importance of exposing oneself if you want to be good at anything because this is how experience is bred. The curtain call was a moving tribute speech by Division S Director and fellow Toastmaster Tebogo. Gone too Soon was Majokana’s attribution to his Toastmasters journey, by recognising the anchor in his life– his late mother. Dead silence, an emotion-filled energy and a few tears filled the room.

The Club Meeting on Saturday 25 May was aptly entitled Epic Event and was indeed a curtain raiser as fellow Toastmasters, Tebogo Majokana and Gaoretelelwe Molebalwa would complete their final speeches in achieving the highest educational achievement in Toastmasters on their personal journey to Becoming Distinguished. When VPE, Nobuhle Mthembu, asked me to serve this special event as Toastmaster, I knew how important it was that I was adequately prepared. These fellow Toastmasters have delivered more than 100 speeches between them to reach this moment and the special event needed a suitable approach to it. The presence of several cabinet members, including Frank and Andrew Tsuro and Enkromelle Andrew made it even more distinct. Also present were Eric Kaila, Soweto Positive Speakers former Club Coach, Karen Levy Strauss, who played a pivotal role in the starting of the Club and Elaine o Gorman, a regular Toastmaster to the Club.

I too, as Toastmaster, I had to compose myself. The pending DTMs were now activated and the gentlemen were now Distinguished Toastmasters.

After the meeting, I asked each of the DTMs about their journey to becoming distinguished and what was evidently clear was that it was a bumpy one for them both.

Gao: “The journey was a great deal of challenge to self-discovery. I vividly recall the day when I started, I sat with my mentor, David Preece DTM PDG, who shared with me what DTM was and I thought I would achieve the award in three years. David thought it was possible to achieve it in three years, however, he suggested I achieve it solely to learn and not to boost my ego. That advice remained with me through my journey that took two years longer than I had hoped. I have thoroughly enjoyed the five years journey to DTM and have learned a lot about myself.”

Tebogo or Tebza, as he prefers to be called: “My journey to DTM was not an easy one as it took longer than I had thought – four years to be precise – but finishing all my manuals brought joy in my heart. It also helped me to know different facets about Toastmasters besides speaking, I learnt to lead, train and HPL was an eye opener too. As you lead, you somehow forget your journey and focus on getting other to be better speakers and leaders but that is what made the journey worthwhile for me.”

Both gentlemen had echoed the same advice to any Toastmaster wanting to pursue a journey towards becoming distinguished. “Get the full value for your Toastmasters investment by not shying away from taking up speaking roles or participating at every meeting because the more you speak, the better you get. Evaluations also help you to improve on your craft and change bad habits you may have adopted along the way. Be consistent, and don’t forget you joined to share your message with the world use it as your story might change someone’s life. Never forget the ‘Why’.”

Although the morning was primarily about recognising success and a superior level of achievement in both communication and leadership, I received a lot of personal and insight from the entire experience. Firstly, as I embark on my journey as Club President of Randburg Toastmasters, I am fortified to spearhead our club through the upcoming tenure to becoming more than just a Distinguished Club. It’s going to be a tall feat, but like Sandile Selaule, I hope to lead by example in getting the club through to the finish line.

Secondly, Toastmasters is indeed self-paced. Some people take two years whilst others complete it in a longer (or shorter) time. How you finish doesn’t matter – it’s finishing what you started (whilst remembering why you did it) that does.

But, mostly importantly, what was clear to me was that Becoming Distinguished requires something more extraordinary that merely delivering speeches. As John Maxwell said in his address Going from Ordinary to Extraordinary, “If ordinary people gave a little extra effort, spent a little extra time, sought a little extra help, made a little extra change, showed a little extra attitude and did a little extra planning, they would become extraordinary.” Saturday 25 May was indeed an extraordinary moment.

Here’s to Soweto Positive Speakers being President’s Distinguished and to Gaoretelelwe and Tebogo becoming Distinguished Toastmasters.

Here’s to Becoming Distinguished!

Maud Nale

Randburg Toastmasters Club