My Journey As A Toastmaster In Kulim

I first learnt about Toastmasters Club when I was in primary school. Naturally, the curious me was filled with questions, such as how to become a member? What kind of activities do they undertake? How can it help develop my communication skills? Is it some sort of tuition class? Turns out no, it wasn’t a tuition class when I joined them in 2021. Follow me as I embark on my journey of becoming a toastmaster in Kulim.

Kulim Toastmasters Club Outing to Sedim
Kulim Toastmasters Club was chartered on 1st of April 1998 by a group of like-minded friends just like the three of us *wink*. Left to right: Sek, yours truly and Winstedt. The picture was taken during our outing to Tree Top Walk at Sedim.
Poster by Kulim Toastmasters Club

Kulim Toastmasters Club: How An Interview With My Dream Company Leads Me To It

In the year 2020, an interviewer asked me, “Shaalni, what do you do besides working?”. I paused for a moment. I was searching for an answer but nothing came to my mind. It drew a blank. I began to ponder and reflect on my life. Apparently, there was nothing else in my life other than work. My life is ONLY about work. That really shook me up. After the interview, I realised that I needed a hobby and a chance to meet new people. That was when I started to search for Toastmasters in the search engine. It popped out – Kulim Toastmasters Club. Wow! Who would have figured out that there would be a well-known organisation in rural Kulim.

2021 New Year Resolution – Joining The Kulim Toastmasters Club

It is not par hasard I typed Toastmasters Club in the search engine. I knew the existence of a corporate Toastmasters Club. In fact, after the interview at my dream company, I actually searched for company clubs and that was when I found it on Google – the Toastmasters Club. I then narrowed it down to my immediate area, i.e. Kulim. I began to follow the club webpage – Kulim Toastmasters Club (the Club). Their meetings are held every second and fourth Thursdays of the month from 8pm to 10pm. And, I saw an advertisement by the Club regarding a membership drive in January 2021. I thought, why don’t I grab this promotion and join the Club as a member now? Hence, I texted the page moderator and he shared a Zoom meeting link for me to join. First time joining as a guest is free and no payment is needed.

Attracted To The Charming Table Topic Master

I was initially nervous and hesitant to turn on my video during the online meeting, so I didn’t do it. Hence, I was merely a silent observer during my first meeting. I didn’t quite understand the entire meeting and the terms they used – Table Topic Master, Toastmaster Of The Evening and Ah-Counter. Nevertheless, I tried my best to follow through the meeting until the table topic session where I let my guard down. A young guy with a charming smile and eloquent voice was the Table Topic Master (TTM). His name is Sek. He asked, “Guest, would you like to try the Table Topic?”. Table Topic is an impromptu session where speakers could pick a random topic to give a short talk for about two minutes. And, I responded yes to the charming TTM.

My first meeting as guest in Kulim Toastmasters Club.
It was my first meeting as a guest. I’m at the bottom row, second from right whilst Sek is a row above me, second from left.
Screen capture by Shaalni Param during Zoom meeting

Racing Thoughts During Table Topic Session

”There is nothing to lose, right? There is no expectation towards your speech. How are people going to judge you when you are clearly not prepared? If they judge or laugh at you, they are definitely undermining your bravery. You took up this challenge. You deserve an applause for bravery even if the speech is not up to par with the other amazing speakers in the Club.” Those were the thoughts which were running through my mind. I spoke like a beginner with lots of filler words like “Ah…”, “Uhm…” and “So…”. I ended my speech in less than a minute, but no one laughed. In fact, they congratulated me for taking up the challenge. I was surprised by how they made me feel at ease to deliver a spontaneous speech in front of an unfamiliar audience.

Bizarre Induction Ceremony

When I finally joined them as an official member, I had an induction ceremony online where I needed to read some phrases and make a pledge. Okay, to be honest, it felt weird. Almost as if I was joining an occult group and forced to recite strange mantras. I almost burst out into laughter during the oath taking session. It reminded me of morning assembly during my school days where all the student needed to take the pledge and recite the National Principles to show a sense of patriotism. That was a cute memory of my childhood. Now, as an adult, I was doing the same thing. It was an enriching experience despite the déjà vu.

Induction Ceremony of new members in Kulim Toastmasters Club
This is how a typical induction ceremony looks like in a Toastmasters Club. From left: Sri Kugan, PK Chin and Asyraf. PK Chin, our seniour member read out the text and it was followed by the new members, Sri Kugan and Asyraf, during the oath taking session.
Photo by Shaalni Param

Kulim Toastmasters Club’s Mentor And Default Grammarian

One of the members, Johnson, was assigned to be my mentor. Cool! I have my own mentor! I was really excited and the most anticipated thing about my mentor is that he is an English teacher by profession. From the first time I laid my eyes on him, I thought he looked stern and unfriendly. I rarely saw him exude positive energy during the meetings. He gave me chilly vibes. Slowly, my opinion about him changed during our first video call to discuss on speech preparation. He guided me in great detail and advised me to improve on my speech pacing. He was so dedicated even when I texted him at odd hours, he still found time to check on my speech grammar. I felt lucky that Johnson is my mentor.

Introducing my mentor, Johnson
It is one of the rare moments in which I see my mentor, Johnson, smiles. He was awarding Sri Kugan with vouchers for being the Best Table Topic Speaker.
Photo by Shaalni Param

Toastmasters Pathways Programme

I was introduced to the online pathways programme where each member had to choose to start their journey of self improvement in Toastmasters Club. And, I choose Persuasive Influence Path because I wanted to be a persuasive speaker. The path was well curated with specific objectives and projects. There are five levels to achieve pathways completion. Thanks to my mentor, I progressed rapidly to Level Three within a year. As for my Level Three project – Connect with Storytelling, there was a guideline on how to craft your speech in the Toastmasters website, and I was referring to it when drafting my speech. I decided to share my eerie horror story about my rented house at Besançon. I practised the speech for a week every night before sleeping, as I retain information better at night, being a night owl.

Practice Makes Perfect – Won Best Speaker Award

On the day of the meeting, I delivered my speech in under six minutes. Not too short, not too long, just nice. I looked at the screen and saw that everyone had a serious look on their faces. Clearly I spooked them with my story.

My evaluator was Ali and he is from Intel KM-Force Toastmasters Club. It is a corporate club for the company employees. He gave a long evaluation on how much he liked my speech and a small suggestion to improve my speech. He advised on my voice tonality because I didn’t play with my voice tone. Lowering down and raising up the voice to give a creepy and suspense kind of effect. Other than that, I met the speech objective and completed Level Three. And, the best part… I won the Best Speaker Award! It was a euphoric moment! It shows that hard work does pay off.

I won the best speaker award for the first time
Kulim Toastmasters Club awarded me as the Best Speaker. I received an online certification as a form of recognition.
Screen capture by Shaalni Param from Zoom call

Breaking Out From My Comfort Zone

If there was a meeting role that I dread performing and still hesitant to take over, it would be the TOE, an acronym for Toastmaster of the Evening. It not only requires great stamina to stay alert throughout the meeting, it also requires immense creativity to keep the audience engaged, and feel at ease. The energy radiated by the person in that role is what will determine a good meeting or a bad meeting experience. Sek encouraged me to take up the role, and he elevated me to the role of TOE after five months of joining Kulim Toastmasters Club.

An online poster of Kulim Toastmasters Club with the theme "Diversity"
The theme that I chose was diversity because our Club has diverse members, from a retired office worker to a young student aspiring to be a surgeon.
Poster by Kulim Toastmasters Club

Nailed My Role in Kulim Toastmasters Club

The day came, and I greeted everyone in the meeting with a wide smile. We had round table introduction, and I asked the members, ”What does diversity mean to you?” All of them shared interesting aspects of diversity. Then, I introduced the Grammarian to read out the Word of the Day. Afterwards, I introduced the prepared speakers and Table Topic Master. Finally, I handed the floor over to the General Evaluator to conduct the evaluation session. It was Steven Wee, the General Evaluator from Seberang Jaya Toastmasters Club. He complimented my welcoming smile. Overall, he was satisfied with the meeting and its standards. Pheww… now, that’s a job well done.

Is There More To Toastmasters Club?

Definitely. In my next article, I will unfold how I became a writer for Espoletta, and leading Kulim Toastmasters Club for the term 2023/2024. It was a journey of self improvement. As we’ve move into 2024, I’m pretty sure all of you have your own resolutions and goals to achieve. Drop your comments below on your new year resolutions. I would love to know and I hope my story inspires you to take action on your goals. By the way, if your goal is to join a Toastmasters Club just like mine, feel free to visit their official website and you can also ask me questions related to it. I would be glad to help you with it.

Are you interested to master public speaking and improve your communication skills?
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About Shaalni PARAM

A mechanical engineer, polyglot (she speaks English, Malay, Tamil, French and German), and a travel junkie, Shaalni is a self-professed introvert who loves meeting new friends. Highly ambitious, with many goals in life all neatly lined up, but most importantly, to have fun pursuing them.

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