Member Moment – Gun without Bullets

… How Toastmasters gave me a bullet
Its wartime! Your comrade hands you a gun to shoot a charging enemy but as you pull the trigger, you realize there is no bullet! Imagine the trauma, confusion and despair! It is too late to take to your feet or to take cover and the enemy pounces.

That is my story. After graduating with a first degree in Communication studies, I celebrated. Despite the fact that unemployment continued to rear its ugly head in my country (Zimbabwe), where thousands of graduates are jobless, I was lost in the graduation euphoria. As if to confirm Nanette Mathews’ words that; “If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in? Slow down and enjoy the moment you’re in and live your life to the fullest.” Four years was a long journey and to me, it deserved every pop of champagne!

Reality set in. It was time for job hunting. By twist of fate or divine intervention, though I am more inclined to believe the latter, I landed what looked like my dream job a few years later. Whoa! A great challenge awaited me…. Public speaking.

As someone who had a communication/media/public relations qualification, one of my job descriptions entailed speaking in public and to be able to speak in public. Well, because that is what I studied. However, reflecting on my degree courses back in University, there is no single course, I could recall that addressed the “how” part of public speaking. The courses focused on the theoretical aspects of the profession. I had the gun but no bullet!

I knew I needed to do something, first to secure my job and secondly to be the best at what I do. This required moving out of my comfort zone. I attended workshops on personal development, enrolled for a leadership program, downloaded several books about public speaking but all these did not fill the gap I desperately needed filled. I knew I needed something else but I did not know what.

One afternoon, as I was checking updates on LinkedIn, I came across a post by Dr Fungai Mtisi, DTM. She was advertising her book titled, Confidence is Key to Success. It was captivating and eye-catching. I thought, well… maybe, these are kind of books I should read. I got in touch with her and bought the book. I read it that very night.

In one of the chapters she talked about Toastmasters and described how the organization can help one master the art of public speaking, build confidence and become an effective communicator and leader. Wow! How do I join this organization? How much is it? How long? I asked her a lot of questions. As they say the rest is history. A few weeks later, I joined Toastmasters.

I vividly remember my first meeting. The speakers spoke like the world’s renowned speakers, with no notes and no ahhh, hmmm, you know… these unnecessary gap fillers. To be honest, I was intimidated. I wondered how I could possibly reach their level. I attended a few meetings before I did my first speech, the Ice Breaker. During that period, a challenge came at work. I was expected to present a speech at a workshop. I immediately went straight in the last project of Competent Communicator Manual, I read and crafted my speech based on it.

After the workshop, a lot of people said to me, “Wow that was a powerful speech, so inspiring! Another one said, “You speak so well and you know how to engage the audience you should be a politician” Ah! Apparently, I had engaged the audience with a chant before I began my speech. Contrary to the famous Toastmasters quote that, “Every Toastmasters Journey Begins with a single Speech” mine began with a single meeting! Just recently, I stood before about 1 000 people to give a speech.

It has been an exciting journey, filled with leadership opportunities too. Three months after joining, I was nominated Vice President Education of a vibrant club – Waterfront Toastmasters Club. Our club had two contestants who won the ticket to represent our Area Z5 at the recently held Division Z Contest. The two members, Christina Nyirenda-Chimuka, incoming 2019-2020 VPPR took part in International Speech and Table Topics Contests while our VPM Commissioner, Nancy Matshe battled it out in the Evaluation Contest. Waterfront Toastmasters Club is also one of the few clubs that achieved all its 10 DCP goals by 31st March 2019! We are a President Distinguished Club #PeopleMakingHistory, thanks to the fabulous leadership of our outgoing President, Busi Chibaya. We made history, and we aim to continue in that path.

I am the incoming 2019-2020 President for my club. What a challenging post at the same time, the best position to master leadership. I am a proud Toastmaster and I know this is the beginning, the best is awaiting! Toastmasters is indeed the best bullet one can use to massacre the enemy of Public Speaking – “Fear”.

Sikhanyisiwe Mlotswa

Waterfront Toastmasters Club Zimbabwe