One Off The Bucket List: Attend a Toastmasters meeting outside the country

…in a Native English Speaking Country at that! I looked through the Toastmasters.org site before I left Manila for meetings I could barge in on while in Sydney. I was overwhelmed by the amount of clubs that I could go to. The one club that stood out was one that was very accessible from one of the places I was staying. So I wrote the president and kindly asked if I could go and visit.

And that’s how I got to visit the Manly Multilingual Club at their gorgeous venue. (I promise to update this with proper pictures later) They hold their meetings at the International College of Management Sydney. This cathedral like structure that overlooks the beach on one side and the ferry wharf on the other. Given the location, I was expecting a bunch of really stiff and proper (read: BORING) people. Boy, was I wrong! The toastmasters spirit + the Aussie laid back lifestyle was a cocktail for a great evening. Without going too much in detail, here are some of the things that they do a bit differently from what I’m usually accustomed to back home.

MEETING STRUCTURE – the first thing I noticed was that the structure was a bit different. We usually have the Table Topics, speeches Then The Evaluations then the technical evaluations, which then segues to the business portion and the adjournment. They have the speeches and the evaluation after. a recess, the businesss portion, table topics, technical evaluations, then a summary by the GE. Then Adjournment… This was good too because no one could weasel out of table topics (“I have a speech, don’t call me for table topics”… naahhhh) The meeting structure also somewhat changes the roles a bit.

MEETING ROLES – CHAIRMAN – unlike back home, the presiding officer/chairman has a lot more to do in the meeting. While in Manila, we have the chairman only introducing the toastmaster of the day and then it’s the toastmasters and General Evaluators show. The chairman then comes back only at the end of the meeting. Here, after the Evaluations, and the recess, the chairman then conducts the business portion enforcing parliamentary rules all the way. The chairman then calls the table topics master, the technical evaluators after that, any educational speakers til adjournment.

MEETING ROLES – GENERAL EVALUATOR – Back home, the GE becomes the toastmaster of the day during the evaluation portion. Takes care of introducing the evaluators, doing the follow-up evaluations AND doing the evaluations of the evaluators. Here, the toastmaster still does the intros of the evaluators with the GE just showing up after all the evaluations are done. I personally think the GE doing the intros and the evaluation segues is a bit more time efficient (and more instant feedback–ish (?) sorry, kinda sleepy) as the GE would have the evaluation fresh in his/her mind to comment on.

TABLE TOPICS – not sure if this is standard but i coulda sworn the table topics session was not the usual 2-3 minutes. I think it was closer to 30 seconds to 1 minute. It was okay for me because it forced people to be concise with what they needed to say. On the other hand, it IS a skill to fill up the 2 minutes. So it kind of works both ways. Oh and it’s not true that District 75 is the only one that evaluates table topics… There was a rudimentary table topics evaluation immediately after the session.

BUSINESS PORTION – perhaps the biggest difference is how orderly the club business portion was held in contrast to the chaotic way we hold it back home. Parliamentary Procedures as strictly followed with the Chairman of the meeting presiding over the session. Each officer gives his/her reports and must be submitted to the body to be accepted into the minutes of the meeting. This is something I thing my own club should start doing. This makes the officers more visible and should give the members a better view of how well their officers have (or have not) been performing. It may be a hassle for a club with weekly meetings like Makati TMC, but this could be done at least once a month.

Except for the Executive Toastmasters, i couldn’t think of any club in Manila that will have Merlot, Chardonnay and cheese at a meeting (mmmmm…) I did tell the guys that it would be FUN to serve the wine BEFORE the speeches. That would really calm the presenters up (or knock em out, either way they’d end up pretty relaxed)

It was also a privilege to watch an excellent educational talk on gestures and body language. (Bravo Charmaine!) The presentation was very energetic and the Ellis/Tarzan-Jane story made it more fun. The premise was that since Tarzan doesn’t speak or comprehend English, how would Jane communicate with him. And it goes on from there. A fun night as usual. Thanks to the members for giving me my Toastmasters fix even if I was away from home. The Toastmasters warmth is always present no matter where in the world it may be. Another shout out of thanks to the Manly Multilingual Toastmasters Club for welcoming me to their meeting.