Interview after becoming DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster)

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1) Looking back now, what were the most amazing moments that you had at Toastmasters?
I have had amazing moments at Toastmasters right from the first month. I’d like to share two of them with you:
a) When I joined the club as a member, I was requested to serve as the Vice President of Public Relations right away. So my first week of Toastmasters was all about creating online profiles for our club. I used all of my social media marketing skills on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. I even created a website using FreeToasthost and started inviting our members to join the club network on each of these platforms. All the club members really appreciated my efforts and it gave me a chance to connect with each of them on a personal level. As we worked together as a team, we were able to accomplish a lot. It was an amazing time as I got to share my first few months at Toastmasters with the most enthusiastic members of the club, the executive committee.
b) The second amazing thing I’d like share would be the phone call I received one night from the Division Director in India. Before that call, I was only aware of the roles and responsibilities of a club officer. But then, I was told that I have been nominated by the District Director for Area Director’s post. I was not sure what has happened, as it took me some time to connect the dots. It turned out that the District Director had visited our club during one of the Area Level Contests, and I was the contest chair on that day. The stage control that I exhibited on that day and the short meeting I had with the District Director, made her nominate me for the next cycle. I took the opportunity and it changed my perspective towards Toastmasters. I met a lot of passionate people who were using their skills even outside of Toastmasters to make the world a better place.

2) How did you plan your goals at Toastmasters, was it always your plan to become a DTM?
DTM was not one of my goals until I achieved Advanced Leader Bronze. When I was working on the ALB submission form, I saw the blank columns against the projects related to DTM and I decided to fill them up soon. It’s always good to have a proper plan in Toastmasters. In fact, planning is one of the important skills we learn here. So I always try to complete one or the other project when I attend any of the Toastmasters meetings. Getting all the check marks on your manuals is a great feeling and we should never shy away from following them.

3) What does a DTM mean to you?
A synonym for distinguished is “well known” and that’s what it means to me. After going through all the projects and meetings and serving as a District Officer, you are bound to be well known and this title helps people identify you. It means that I have good experience of Toastmasters and can help fellow members by sharing my experience. It also means that I have got a chance to meet some of the most amazing Toastmasters while completing all the projects that are designed for this journey.

4) As the first DTM in XHTMC and 2nd DTM in Division H, what suggestion would you give to those who want to become a DTM?
I would suggest performing a good research whenever you set a goal. I have always double checked the rules and guidelines either at the website or by emailing membership@toastmasters.org directly. Since Toastmasters is such a big organization, it’s easy to get confused or misunderstand the rules which might have been translated or reinterpreted. I joined Toastmasters at a corporate club and we used to communicate via emails. It taught me the importance of being professional, especially when it comes to things like rules. So I would urge the fellow members to always stay updated and only rely on the single source of truth: http://toastmasters.org

5) With great power, comes great responsibilities. What is your plan for the coming future?
There are a lot of projects in the journey of a DTM which requires us to help fellow members. In fact, one of the requirements that I recently fulfilled for submission of my ACG award was to Coach a new member with his or her first three speeches. So helping fellow members have always been a priority and it would stay as it is, while I plan my future projects.

6) Would you like to be a club officer again?
I have served as a club officer 4 times and I understand the kind of responsibilities that come along with it. Since I have been moving from one city to another, serving as an officer has not been possible recently. But I would definitely serve as an officer when I have a concrete 6 months plan. I want to make sure that I am able to meet all the expectations, not just from the members but the ones I have from myself as an officer.

7) Would you be joining the Pathways program?
I already have! I am pursuing a path called “effective coaching” and I can see the difference Pathways is making in our lives. The online content makes it easy to get the required information and training while providing us with a tailor designed path to follow.

8) What does your family think about your Toastmasters journey?
My parents have always been supportive and I remember explaining the importance of Toastmasters to them. My wife has been very understanding and is always the first audience for all of my speeches. She even helps me by taking notes and suggesting changes.

9) You secured the second place at District 88 International Speech Contest held in Harbin this year. What would like to share about that?
Participating in contests can be scary since you will be judged by a panel of judges. Also, because of the expectations from fellow club members. In fact, my final speech was about conquering this fear itself. I would suggest to all Toastmasters, that they make sure they participate in the contests, irrespective of their level of preparation. You can watch the interview taken after the contest as well as the Division level speech at http://blog.kushalashok.com/2018/05/18/runner-up-district-88-toastmasters-international-speech-contest/

10) What would you like to say to Hi-Tech Club officers and members?
I would like to thank all the members and club officers of Xi’an Hi-tech toastmasters club for helping me get 4 awards in the last 8 months. These have been the most progressive 8 months of my Toastmasters journey. It would not have been possible without the support that I got and the friendly environment maintained during and after the club meetings.

Runner Up – District 88 – Toastmasters International Speech Contest

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I am writing this post to share my journey of 2018 Toastmasters International Speech Contest which started in Xi’an on 11th March and ended for me in Harbin on 13th May, when I got the 2nd place at District Level Contest.

The club contest was announced in advance but I simply didn’t have time to write a speech. I kept procrastinating and, the day of the contest arrived. I woke up at 5am and started writing the speech. After finalizing the main points I rehearsed for a few times and went to attend the contest.

I was lucky enough to get second place at club level contest, since I was not very confident about my delivery. I wanted to make sure that I write my speech in advance when it came to the Area Level Contest. So I wrote it one day in advance. One day before the contest, I got a few suggestions from my buddies Kent and Carol and finalized the content. I delivered the speech called “It’s like a dance”. The speech was about communication, and I included a few examples from my life in China which made the audience laugh. I got a lot of appreciation from the audience and secured the first place.

My Club President Madison and I were securing the 1st as well as 2nd position for each of the contests till now. She helped me book the train tickets for Taiyuan where the Division Contest was to be held. This time I finalized my speech even sooner, 2 days before the contest.

The contest chair had created a WeChat group for all the participants and wanted us to share the speech title 4 days in Advance. I had to tell her that I do not know the title of my speech yet. I used this situation as an example during my speech later. You can watch the video shot during the Division H Contest Below (China Only):

As you could observe, the audience response at Division Level Contest was fantastic and it helped my speech delivery a lot. Once again I had secured the 1st place.

After a few weeks when I delivered the same speech at my club, I was unprepared and exhausted. I delivered the speech while forgetting some parts here and there. Though the audience still liked it, I was simply not satisfied with my delivery. I made it my goal to not forget the speech at District Level Contest. So I practiced my speech around 35 times. To confirm that I am ready, I started using a trick called “Speed-Up”. I shot the following video after the contest for demonstrating this trick:

It was a fierce competition at the district level. The best speakers from 8 divisions were competing for their ticket to the Semi-finals. Beautiful stories were shared, from throwing the skates to playing the violin, all performances were action-packed.

All in all, I had a great time in the past few months and learned a lot during the process. I hope I can participate in the future contests as well.

Why do you need a website?

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This is the question that many of us have asked ourselves several times, “Why do I need a website?”; and the answer becomes quite obvious after reading this post.

Individual

If you think that you don’t need a website because you are just another employee, you are wrong! You are special, and you need a special website that reflects your profession and personality. It is obvious that you are going to change your job sooner or later and thus having your portfolio on your website is going to help you during those phases. But this does not mean that you should have a website only when you are looking for a new job. A website takes time and efforts to make it credible and if you want it to be counted as one of your achievements, you definitely need to work on it in advance.

You need a website, irrespective of your profession. But some of the professions have more use of a website than the others. For example, a web developer who doesn’t have his own website is simply wasting his chance to showcase his skills. Same is true for web designers and other related professions. On the other hand, if you are in any profession that deals with anything that can be put on a screen, you need to have a website.

As for prerequisites, I would suggest that every graduate should have a personal website. A good place to start would be about.me. Consolidating all your public profiles on a single page will allow your visitors to learn more about you via different platforms. Following are a few examples:

myWebsite

Software Engineer

Author of 3 books

Author of 3 books

Business

If you are a businessmen, having a website is even more important for you and your business. There can be two kinds of businesses. Ones that can sell their services or products online and ones that can not. With the advent of technology, the percentage of businesses lying in the second category has become very less. Today, you can buy anything online; from a safety pin to a private jet.

Even if your business provides services or goods that can not be sold online, you still need to have a website to create your brand’s identity, to provide a platform where your customers can reach you, to impress them enough so they can visit your store or office; with confidence. Most importantly, having a website will make sure that you have a credible online presence. For example, there are millions of businesses listed on websites like justdial.com. From a customer’s point of view, your business is just another listing until it is connected with a website. This website in turn will showcase your work and let your customers determine, how good you are.

Now let’s talk about businesses that manufacture or market products. With the increasing popularity of e-commerce, it is very likely that you will be selling your products on websites like flipkart and snapdeal. Let us spend us time on understanding why you will be doing so.
No matter how much money you put into the marketing your products, you can not compete with the prices offered on these websites. This is because they are being funded by Wall street. Big investors like DST global and Soft Bank Corp. have been funneling billions of dollars into India’s consumer internet story. In 2014, Indian e-commerce websites raised around 3 billion dollars. These online players are likely to spend around 6000 crore rupees on discounting and  marketing in 2015.

Case-study: During Diwali promotions in 2014, Flipkart, Snapdeal and Seattle based giant Amazon had consumed around half a billion dollars for giving discounts, cash back and flat out sales. Also, they have spent around 1200 crore rupees on advertising via different means including social media, television and newspapers.

By now you must have understood, why it is important for businesses to list their products on these websites. Again, the consumers will have a lot of options while making a purchase and the only way you can make a difference is by having your own presentable website. Have a look at this website created for Ashuraj Plastic Industries:

Ashuraj Plastic Industries Website

Government and non-profit

This is not just true for private businesses, even government has started moving in this direction. One recent example I can quote, is that of Himachal Pradesh State Agricultural Marketing Board. They have now created a website for marketers and farmers dealing with apples and other produces of Himachal Pradesh. This has brought them one step forward as they can now easily brand their produces in national as well as international markets.
The state has been known for it’s production of apples which are being exported to various countries. Apples in fact play a very important role in Himachal’s economy. 9 out of 12 districts produce apple and apple economy is pegged around rupees 2500 crore. The area under apple cultivation has increased from 400 hectares in 1950 to more than 1 lakh hectares today.

The goal of this website is not just branding, but also to make sure that farmers can get rid of the middlemen system. They would not be required to travel outside to sell their produce anymore. Everything can be done online as CCTV cameras are being installed to provide live streaming on the website.

Other than the government, non-profit organizations have also utilized internet in various ways. Collecting funds is very important for any such organization which is only possible by having an effective online presence. Other than social media which allows any one to create a profile and page, having a website makes these organizations more reliable. Mostly, a simple 5 page website is enough to create an impression:

Chandigarh based NGO

Chandigarh based NGO

There is always a scope of improvement when you move your business online. Around 3,027,217,800 people were online when I was writing this post. As for India, around 243,198,922 people have access to internet which are increasing by 14 percent each year. And with this, I rest my case.

 

Defining Toastmasters with Infographics

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I was preparing a sales pitch for introducing the idea of Toastmasters to my audience. That is when I decided that I shall use the most popular medium of conveying information these days, called infographics. I started off with a google search which took me to the list of tools at hongkiat.com. I first created an infographic by providing my Linkedin profile details to vizualize.me. After going through a few more options and watching some videos, I finally started working on easel.ly. This post has some of the infographics that I created with this online tool within an hour or so. I am planning to use them in my presentation about Toastmasters and will be looking forward to the audience’s response.

Transcript:

“Every day above ground is a good day.” But what makes that day better is something that you can decide. After working for more than 9 hours (on clock) you need something to make you feel better. Unless you are an Apple developer with a 7-figure salary, your job is not going to do that for you. Toastmasters international has given us an opportunity to do just that; to come out of our 6 by 6 cubicle and use our voice to communicate our thoughts. Yes, this cannot happen over a Virtual classroom session, and yes this does not need a 6 digit passcode. But the way we interact in this room is far more clear and meaningful than any of the conference calls that you have attended today. And we are not alone in this. We have more than 292,000 comrades spread over the globe. That is more than twice the population of our favorite holiday destination Shimla. There are about 14,350 clubs functioning now in 122 different countries. Today I am going to put many such facts in front of you and let you decide the definition of a Toastmaster.

Toastmasters map

So where did this all begin from? There must be someone who thought about this first. Do any of you know the name of that person? Yes. It was in 1924 when Mr. Ralph C. Smedley organized the first ever Toastmasters meeting in Santa Ana, California. It took him two years to open a second club in the same city but then it gained momentum and within a year, the federation of toastmasters clubs was established. With the number of clubs increasing, it became difficult to keep up similarity, to follow the same rules. Because no matter how well you communicate with a person, you can never create a carbon copy of your thoughts in his mind. That is when the first manual for Toastmasters clubs was introduced in 1928.

In 1930, Toastmasters International got incorporated and the newsletter was rolled out. Thus it was clear that clubs were being formed outside of United States. The first of which was chartered in British Columbia, Canada. With more and more clubs being chartered, in just 8 years the count reached a 100. Remember that when I refer to 8 years as ‘just’, I am talking about chartering 100 new clubs when the task of introducing the idea of Toastmasters was totally different from giving a power-point aided presentation. And with the advent of the 100th club, began the inter-club speech contest.

30 years went by, and Mr. Smedley continued serving this non-profit educational organization. Thus, in 1963 he was acclaimed with the Golden Gavel award. After 2 years, he died; but he left an idea; an idea that we all are celebrating here today; an idea that has changed thousands of lives. But did you know that Toastmasters clubs were only open to men? It was only in 1973 when women were welcomed as club members. And as I will show you with the help of my next graphic, this gender base got quite strong.

As with the timeline, technology was developing fast. In 2007, the toastmasters.org got completely redesigned. Though I am not very impressed with the present design either; I felt better when I learned that not only a twitter feed was launched, but also an e-learning platform was developed in the year 2009. Finally in the year 2011, a major step was taken which is most important for any brand’s development. A unique logo was designed and was propagated to all the clubs via various brand refresh techniques such as the video brand contest.

Toastmasters International Timeline

When I compared the member count to the population of Shimla, I was talking about a specific group of people. So definitely, we need to look at who these people are. In contrast with the fact that women started joining 50 years late, the average percentage of female members in a Toastmasters club is 52%.

It is often said, “Behind every successful man there is a woman”. But in this case, along with every successful man, there was a successful woman. This fact gets established when we look at the average annual income of toastmasters which ranges from 50,000 to 75,000 dollars. 30% of these members earn more than 100,000 dollars annually. And I assure you that I am not talking about billionaires like Dhirubhai Ambani or Subhash Chandra Goel who never attended any college. Most of these members have a Bachelor’s degree and 35% of them have completed their masters too. These masterminds are working at renowned corporates like Google, Apple, Sony and Disney.

Toastmasters member demographics

So what makes you a Toastmaster? I mean, who is a Toastmaster? What does this person do? I will take the help of this Venn diagram to explain. The three essential ingredients are confidence, voice modulation and content. To have an effective stage presence you need proper gestures that you can use while showcasing your acting skills. Your expressions play an important role in convincing your audience. You should try practicing in front of a mirror and learn when to change the pitch and tone of your voice. While such practice sessions help you remember the content, only with experience can you meet mastery. And as you gain confidence, the importance of the other factors starts reducing. For instance, if you don’t have this big pie of content ready. Just take part in the table-topics and try to speak impromptu. At the end of the day, this wish to speak is what makes a toastmaster.

About a Toastmaster

Reference: Wikipedia and toastmasters.org