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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

In front of the Concordia Club Success Goals Chart with
my Best Evaluator trophy, and big cheesy grin.

CANADA - Kitchener (Wk.7 of 16 weeks)
Week 40 of World Tour

Toastmasters In Canada

Toastmasters is an international organisation, teaching and promoting public speaking skills to the general public, with clubs in most countries around the world. And if it wasn’t for Toastmasters, I don’t think I’d be travelling around the world today. It was my Toastmasters training over 7 years which gave me the skills and confidence to write my books and perform my speeches and my play all over the world.

So I decided to visit several Toastmasters Clubs in Kitchener so I could see how they operated, share my experiences and give a speech at each one. The response to my offer was very encouraging, with 3 Toastmasters Clubs agreeing to give me a Guest Speaker’s spot on their agenda.

With Gordon Wray, Concordia TM Club President.

Wednesday, March 3
Concordia Toastmasters was the first club I visited. I’d met the Club President, Gordon Wray, a few weeks earlier, and he seemed keen on the idea of having me speak at his club. I was the last speaker for the night, and I performed my Demosthenes monologue, from The Glory Of Athens. I chose this part because it was probably the best ‘speech’ to give to a Toastmasters club because Demosthenes was an ancient Greek public speaker, so it was appropriate. And it was also very humorous, usually being voted by my audiences as the play’s most popular character.

Fortunately, the members loved it and seemed keen on having me visit again.

A couple of great ideas I picked up from this meeting were:

The Club Success Goals Chart – Clearly displayed on the wall at the front of the meeting room was a chart listing all the goals which the club was aiming to achieve for the year. And each goal achieved had a coloured star placed beside it. So, at a glance, all the members could see how the club was performing and maybe get motivated to help the club achieve more of its goals.

Name Place Cards – Each member and guest had a large name card (made from a full sized sheet of paper folded lengthways) placed on the table in front of them. The members’ names had been printed in large type by a computer, and the guests’ names were hand written as they entered. As a guest, I found it very helpful to address everyone by name, which created a much friendlier atmosphere.

Evaluation Forms – Each member was given several Evaluation Forms to write their own personal evaluations for the speeches given. These were then given to the speakers at the end of the night for added encouragement and support. I felt this was a great way to get members to develop their evaluation skills and give speakers more feedback.

After the meeting, a few of us went for drinks at Eastside Mario’s American Italian Restaurant. And, boy, what a mess! There were thousands of broken peanut shells all over the floor. And soon I realized why. Along with our drinks we were given a free bowl of shelled peanuts. And we did what everyone else was doing. We broke the shells, ate the peanuts and threw the peanut shells on the floor.

With the Grand River TM Club President and my Bright Spark award.

Tuesday, March 16
My visit to Grand River Toastmasters was equally enjoyable. I’d met Gary Jones at one of my LETS presentations in January, so he was able to successfully introduce me to his club. Again I gave my Demosthenes speech and again I noticed the club had similar practices as Concordia TM.

But I also noticed an improvement on one of Concordia TMs ideas.

Name Place Cards (improvement) – This club had names printed on both sides of the card, so the people sitting in the same row could still read the names on the reverse side. A very simple but clever addition.

But there were no drinks afterwards, so it was a shorter night.

Tuesday, March 23
The last club I visited was KW Toastmasters. I’d met Trish Robinson at the Concordia TM Club where she was also a guest speaker. In fact, I was chosen to evaluate her speech as well. So after seeing my Demosthenes speech, she was keen to have me perform it at her club as well.

The performance went very well yet again.

Afterwards, eight of us went to the Duke Of Wellington Irish Pub for drinks. This was a much younger group of members, most of whom worked for RIM (Research In Motion), which is where the club met. And they were a little crazy, but in a fun way.

We ordered meals with our drinks, and I soon found myself eating coloured tacos. This was first time I’d seen red, blue, green and yellow tacos on a plate. The guys had lots of questions to ask me about my play, The Glory Of Athens. So when I mentioned that I’d designed a web site for it at www.TheGloryOfAthens.com Tom quickly got his Blackberry palm computer out and found it for me on the internet, complete with photos. I was amazed! I’d never seen anything like it. But that’s the business RIM is in, and all of these guys were packing a Blackberry.

Mike had just had a serving of chicken wings in suicide sauce. And when Tom asked if it was too hot for him, Mike just said casually that it wasn’t half as hot as he’d expected. Mike, seeing a fun opportunity opening up, then challenged Mike to drink a shot of suicide sauce for a toony, which is a slang term for a $2 coin (a loony is a $1 coin). Mike, feeling a little pressure, accepted the challenge. I was surprised that the waitress accepted the ‘shot of suicide sauce’ order, though I’m not sure she actually charged Mike (or Tom) for it. But when the shot arrived, Mike just stared at it apprehensively.

“I’ll make it 2 toonies”, Tom said, slamming $4 on the table in front of Mike, and hoping he wouldn’t back out.

And within seconds Mike had sculled the red-hot suicide sauce, staring back at Tom as if he hadn’t been affected at all. But as the night went on, I noticed a glaze in Mike’s eyes and some regular sipping from his glass of cold water. Yes, Mike was being cool about it, even though he must’ve been boiling up inside.

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

About the book

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