Celebrating World Toastmasters Day – Trini-style!

Every year on October 22nd the Toastmasters International (TI) community around the globe celebrates World Toastmasters Day. This year Toastmasters in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) have much to be grateful for. At the recently held Regional conference in Grand Anse, Grenada, T&T took some of the top prizes in the speech competitions. Carlyle Fletcher of Winners Club captured first place in the Humorous Speech category. This is Carlyle’s second stint as the “Funny Man” of District 81 which is comprised of seventeen areas throughout the Caribbean. He won the same title in 2008. Humor is as integral a part of the TI educational programme as it is in Trini culture. Whereas developing one’s repertoire of jokes has become an unofficial rite of passage, the mastery of humor in speech delivery has become formally woven into TI speech projects. T&T Toastmasters are also proud of the accomplishments of Stacey Foster. Foster, a member of Talk Tsu club and a first time participant at the Regional level placed third in the Speech Evaluation Category.

World Toastmasters Day activities in T&T began Friday, October 19th, with a community outreach exhibition at NALIS Arima. The exhibition shifted to NALIS Port of Spain on Monday October 22nd. Later that evening, scores of Toastmasters from around the country converged on Shalom House, Valsayn to witness the birth of a new club – MDA Toastmasters Club. With the passing of their charter ceremony MDA club joins a network of over 13,500 clubs in 115 other countries. Consider the current scope of operations of this nonprofit educational organization. One must wonder if founder Ralph C. Smedley envisioned that the small meeting held on October 22nd 1924 in the basement of the YMCA Santa Ana, California, to assist boys with the development of their speaking abilities would become a movement of over 4 million people with manuals in eight languages.

The evolution and development which transformed Smedley Club Number 1 into the present day entity is further evidenced by the appointment of Distinguished Toastmaster John Lau as International President 2012 – 2013. Lau is the first Malaysian to serve in the role. As global head of Toastmasters International he has committed to focusing on emerging markets to stimulate the advancement of the TI ideology. Lau, who holds a Ph.D in Strategic Marketing, steers the course, using the tenets of membership which remain the same as they were 88 years ago when Ralph Smedley introduced the Toastmasters concept:
1. Keep it simple
2. Do it yourself
3. Belief in the individual
4. People learn in moments of enjoyment

In fact these four basic communication and leadership principles resulted in the introduction of Toastmasters to Trinidad & Tobago in the early 1980s. A senior executive at National Commercial Bank was looking for a training programme to develop managers’ public speaking ability as he felt this would give them the confidence to participate and interact with staff more and particularly at company social events. A corporate club was suggested and formed to achieve this objective – members being restricted to NCB management. In 1985, non-management staff formed the NCB Sports Toastmasters Club under the mentorship of Courtney Garcia, Nazeer Sultan and Philip Rochford. This club was renamed Dynamic Speakers in 1988 and still meets on the 3rd Saturday of every month.

Upcoming activities include demonstration meetings with the aim of forming of the first club in Tobago and the first bilingual club (Spanish/English). Also carded for later this year is a screening of the documentary SPEAK! Interested persons are asked to call 477-7548 for more information on these events. See the Clubs Tab for the dates and times of all Area 12 club meetings.

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