Top 5 Lessons From 5 Years in Toastmasters

Today marks the 5th year anniversary of my primary Toastmasters club, All Nations Toastmasters in Anaheim, California. I have experienced exponential growth from my membership with the organization, and learned both from the people I have met as well as the education program.

Lionnel at Toastmasters

As I take a moment to reflect on the achievements of the past and look ahead to the victories of the future, some of the lessons drawn from this endeavor surface. Here they are, with some of my thoughts on them:

  • Self-confidence is a skill

It can be improved. When I joined Toastmasters 5 years ago, my confidence level was at about -10/100. Today, it hovers around 70/100. What is different today compared to then is that I am aware that just like playing soccer or using the guitar, self-confidence is a skill that I can keep getting better at. Here is a great TEDx talk that elaborates on self-confidence as a skill: The skill of self confidence | Dr. Ivan Joseph

  • Courage is not the absence of fear

The fear of speaking in public is not logical, but so isn’t falling in love.  I have seen terrified people step up to their fears and thrive. Fear is normal, and should be embraced, not fought. The more you step up and face your fears, the more courageous you become.

  • Serious work beats talent

I have been told that I am talented as a public speaker, and it might be true. However, I have also put it an incredible number of hours into developing my communication and leadership skills. I have seen countless others do the same. Talent is the seed. Hard work is the soil and nurturing that grows the seed into an oak tree. If you lack talent, hard work will make up for it. If you already are talented, serious work will make you extraordinary.

  • Humans are not that different from each other

I have heard hundreds of stories throughout the past 5 years, and we all live our versions of the hero’s journey. We go through similar challenges, face similar evils, have similar aspirations, and all strive to live happy and fulfilling lives. That’s one of the fail-proof ways of connecting to anyone you interact with. Relate to others the way you wish they would relate to you, and you will build better relationships. If you need a friend, be a friend.

  • If you don’t use it, you lose it

This has been my first hand experience. It relates to the third point. I have friends who have been active Toastmasters for the past 20+ years. They don’t need to be members anymore, but they know that the best way to remain sharp is to keep sharpening oneself. If you don’t use your good health, you will lose it. Similarly, if you use the skills and talents you have or are acquiring, you will lose them.

I personally believe that the largest room in the world is the room for improvement. No matter how good I think I am, or how bad others see me as being, I am only getting started. My best is ahead of me, and it is exciting to be moving towards it.

PS: If you want to learn more about Toastmasters International and find a club near you, visit

How to increase your influence on people around you

how to have greater influenceThere are probably a few people in your life who have a great influence on you, just like there are in mine. Those people could be in your family, at your workplace, in your church, or any other place or group you are affiliated with. To have an influence on someone is to be able to impact positively or negatively the decisions that person makes. For example, most people are influenced by their parents and close family. However, in general we are influenced by people we spend time with. That is why it is important to spend time with people whose influence is positive, and not negative.

Regardless of the circles of people you currently frequent, you are already having an influence on them. In order for that influence to be increased, there are a few key personal attributes you must pay more attention to:

  • Competence. There is no substitute for competence, good performance. When you perform well in your areas of expertise and are consistently recognized and acknowledged as an expert, you will have a greater influence on people who value the work you do. Competence is a product of pursuing excellence in all you do. One of the easiest ways to appear more competent to people around you is to do less, but do that little so well that it is impossible not to notice how much caring and involved you were at the task.
  • Reliability. Being reliable is being dependable. In other words, sticking to your own expectation, and the expectations of others to whom you made a commitment, however small. For example, scheduling a meeting and not showing up (extreme) or showing up late without notifying the parties you are meeting with. Those are simple examples that will show people that you are not reliable. Your reliability will be assessed mostly by watching if always do what you say. If you have an issue with reliability, being by making less promises and commitment to people around you. Don’t say anything that implies you will do something if you have not decided and agreed with yourself to do it in the first place.
  • Compassion. Being compassionate is being mindful and thoughtful of others and the situations they experience in their lives. There is a saying: people don’t really care how much you know until they know how much you care. That is very true. If you are to become a person of greater influence to the people around you, show genuine care and sensitivity to their issues. After all, the most favorite topics of conversation in any conversation is “me”. If you care about “me” (the other person), me will be likely to be more sensitive (influenced) to what you say and do.

Exhibit competence in what you do, become reliable by being true to your words, and develop genuine care and affection for others. Those are just three basics attribute you can bring to your awareness and develop more if you want to have a greater influence on people you interact with. What other attributes can one develop to become a person of greater influence?

Lessons from Linda Brown (Executive Coach, DTM) for Area Governors

Area Governor LeadershipOn August 8, 2013, Founder’s District Division A had its first council meeting led by its Governor, Dr. Diana Dee. The meeting was attended by about a dozen Division A leaders, including five Area Governors. The meeting started on time and ended at 8:00 pm on the dot in true Toastmasters fashion. The Division’s Executive Coach, Linda Brown took the 5 Area Governors in attendance through a goal setting and success planning session. Linda shared with the Area Governors her life experience and the impact she was able to make when she had the opportunity to serve as Area Governor, during the 2012-2013 Toastmasters International year.

Linda has over 27 years of experience serving as an empowerment coach and life strategist. As it applies to serving in Toastmasters International as an Area Governor, here are some of the nuggets of wisdom she shared:

  • Work exclusively through club presidents. Area Governors are the only leaders in the district who normally interact directly with club members. It is easy to get carried away and want to be as effective as possible by touching base directly with every club member or club officer. However, you can simplify your tasks by creating an empowered relationship with your club presidents. If you provide caring, clear direction and support for your Presidents, they will take good care of their club members. You will see how directive leadership and teamwork synergize and produce greater-than-expected results.
  • Know when to ask for help. Every single member of Toastmasters International is driven by very unique and oftentimes very different motives, but one thing all members seem to share is a desire to serve, to be of help. Leverage that at every possible opportunity, otherwise you can easily get overwhelmed quickly. The more you courteously direct, inspire, acknowledge, praise progress, empower, and recruit a Team (i.e., inspire team-building), the more effective you will be with less efforts.
  • Find out what the club wants. Every club has its own culture and tradition. As an Area Governor never criticize the way a club operates, if that is their tradition. Acknowledge the unicity of every club and find out what the club does well and compliment them on that. Be aware of the clubs’ needs and wants, and do not impose your wants (or needs) on your clubs.
  • Don’t fall victim to quotas. Every district has set goals and targets to become the best in the world, which is a worthy ideal. Those goals are met when quotas are set and the division and area governors work with other district executives to meet those goals. Quotas can appear very challenging when you get fixated on them instead of abundantly meeting members’ objectives. Like the saying goes, take care of your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. In other words, if you have thriving clubs in your area, the quotas will be met without you even thinking about them.
  • Take it easy and have fun. Everybody around you in your Toastmasters circle wants you to succeed as a leader and an individual. Don’t take the whole assignment too seriously and remember, if it is not fun, it’s up to you to learn how to make it fun. Call upon your Area Governor and Division Governor colleagues to brainstorm. Everybody wants the experience to be easier, more effective, and more fun. Why not make the experience a happy memory for you and those you have the privilege of serving ?

Linda Brown is available for executive coaching and she can be contacted through her website,

Update: Significant editing for improvement has been made to this post by Linda Brown after the article was initially published. Thank you Linda!