Some of you may know that this year I have joined Toastmasters Spinnakers Speakers because it gives me the right environment to improve my speaking and presenting skills. The group provides a non-judgemental forum where I receive peer support without peer pressure.
Recently Gavin Meikle The Presentation Doctor who recently released his book The Presenters Edge, shared with us a great speech that reminded me why it is so important as leaders to trust ourselves and keep going.
As a leader be it in business or the home you have to have confidence in your own decisions and then resilience to stick to with them. This speech sums it all up for me:
A Very Special Man
I’d like to tell you about a man who I never met and yet who has undoubtedly changed my life, and indeed the lives of all of us here tonight. A man that most of you have probably never heard of!
Mr Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and welcome guests, I’d like to celebrate the life Ralph C Smedley, the founder of the Toastmasters movement.
As well as outlining his contribution to our organisation, I’d like to tease out some of the qualities that made him who he was, and to ask you to consider what you can learn from him as a leader and communicator.
Ralph’s story is one of passion, commitment and determination in the service of his fellow man.
He was born in Waverly Illinois in 1878. He wasn’t a great business leader, or war hero. He didn’t have a dazzling academic career and his fame, if you can call it that, was mostly limited to the organisations that he served namely the YMCA and then Toastmasters International. And yet his legacy and influence lives on.
Ralph started his first public speaking club in 1903 after taking up the post of Education Director for the YMCA in Bloomington.
His inspiration was the clear need for communication skills training within the young men who walked through the doors of his “YMCA”.
Ralph called the group “his Toastmasters Club” and even in it’s infancy, its early meetings were a mixture of prepared speeches and evaluations. Not so very far removed from our own meeting here tonight.
When Ralph was moved to Freeport YMCA to take up the role of Secretary General, he hoped that his original Bloomington club would thrive. Unfortunately it lasted barely a year
Undaunted, Smedley set up another Toastmasters club in Freeport which grew rapidly to 75 members. But once again he was moved to another YMCA and the Freeport club died too.
It appeared that Toastmasters Clubs simply could not survive without Smedley’s inspiration and enthusiasm. Indeed it is recorded that Ralph himself said that “within the YMCA, Toastmasters Clubs were seen as a sort of idiosyncrasy of Ralph Smedley”
It wasn’t until 1924, when Ralph set up a club in Santa Anna, California, that the Toastmasters flame finally took hold.
As the Santa Anna Club grew, Individuals from neighbouring communities heard about the club, visited it, and then transplanted the idea to their own towns.
From then on Toastmasters has never looked back, and Smedley’s dream has been fulfilled. Today there are almost 300,000 members in 14,350 clubs in over 120 countries including here in Portsmouth.
So what can we learn from the life of this ordinary man?
Well the first thing that struck me was his willingness to take action.
When he saw the clear need for communication skills training, he didn’t bemoan the lack and point the finger at government or business. He simply set about creating a programme that would fill that need.
The second thing that struck me was his determination.
Despite the fact that all of the clubs he started between 1903 and 1924 died within a year of him moving on, he kept on creating new clubs. His belief in the ideals behind Toastmasters was unshakeable and he kept the faith.
How many of us would have had the determination to keep going in the way that he did.
My third and final observation is that he played to his strengths.
Whilst he was clearly the driving force behind those early clubs, he recognised that his real strength and passion lay, not in administration but in education.
Once Toastmasters International was successfully established, Ralph stepped down from the Executive secretary’s role. He wanted to concentrate on the development of the learning programme and its associated materials. A role he maintained until his death in September 1965.
How to make a good decision and resilience to stick with it?
What do you know now?
What needs to happen for you to make a good decision and stick with it?
Not sure then don’t miss the free self coaching workbook “Success Without Stress in 8 Simple Steps”
Please do share your thoughts below