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Article – Pitching a Message of Hope

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Since I joined Seberang Jaya Toastmasters Club and reinstated my membership in Toastmasters Club, I didn’t receive any magazine. A few months later, the president, YC Ng, helped me to write to Toastmasters International about the incident, and I realized that, they kept my address wrongly. That was why the magazines didn’t reach to my house.

Now, I have received all magazines for the past 6 months! It will take me quite some time to finish reading them!

** You may click on the picture to view the original size **

There are always 30 pages in a Toastmaster magazine. I guess, since it is a monthly magazine, they design it with 30 pages, so that we can read one page every one day.

Similar to Toastmasters Club meetings, every Toastmaster magazine has a theme, which is stated on the cover page itself, with the featured articles being published in the magazine.

Well, today, a relaxing Saturday morning, I sat in front of my table, reading the articles in the magazine, and it triggered a feeling in me – I wanted to write a blog post on any of the articles that I had just read.

So, here is the one that I read. I’m not going to post the whole article, but I’m writing up the summary, together with my thought after reading this article.

Pitching a Message of Hope
Toastmaster magazine, October 2010 (page 12 ~ 13)

Byron Embry, a black child of a single mother in Richmond, Kentucky, grew up in poverty and had severe stuttering problem. Putting a sentence together and then uttering it aloud was not only excruciating but humiliating, as people quickly lost patience with his slow and often incomprehensible speech. As a result, he endured cruel taunts from others.

During Embry’s childhood, he wanted to be a television weatherman, but his schoolmate told him, “By the time you spit out the words ‘A storm is coming’, people’s house would have already been blown down!” Gradually, he turned inward to avoid further public embarrassment.


Although his mother tried to consult many professional, nothing seemed to help. However, Embry gravitated towards sports, towards baseball.


He perfected his fastball while attending Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa. He enrolled in Professor Enfus McMurray’s freshman speech course, but stopped attending after he failed his first two speeches. Yet, Professor McMurray told him, “You don’t have a speech impediment; you have an excuse.” She told Embry that he would have to attend Toastmasters to pass her class. Embry attended Toastmasters meetings, and eventually the the meetings gave him confidence to finish the course and he graduated.


In 1997, the Atlanta Braves recognized Embry’s pitching talent and signed him right out of college. Ten years into his pitching career, Embry faced a third elbow surgery and began to wonder what life after baseball would look like. By this time, he had married with two daughters.


On afternoon, he saw a poster promoting Toastmasters, he decided to give it a try. Thus, he joined the Pikes Peak club. He was assigned a mentor, and as he gained experience, speaking became second nature. Embry began to seriously contemplate leaving baseball to become a motivational speaker, despite objections from friends and family members. His Toastmasters mentor, Tom Lachocki, says it was a natural transition from successful athlete to successful speaker.


Says Embry: “Baseball gave me the confidence to stand in front of huge crowds. Toastmasters afforded me the confidence to speak to those crowds.”


In 2009, Embry started his company, Closing Remarks. The name originated from his experiences as a “closer”, which is a particular type of relief pitcher.


In the spring of 2009, Embry attended a Toastmasters club as a guest speaker. A member was practicing her speech for the International Speech Contest and Embry instantly realized this was something he wanted to participate in. Entering the contest himself, he subsequently won competitions at the club, area, division and district levels. In August 2009, he found himself standing on the stage of Mashantucket, Connecticut, with nine other finalists in the World Championship of Public Speaking. It was the culmination of a dream born from much encouragement from others.


Your handicap may just be your greatest assets,” he says. “You have an entire story to tell and no one can tell it quite like you. Toastmasters can give you the tools to tell it effectively and powerfully.”


I was impressed by the two sentences highlighted in red.

“You don’t have a speech impediment; You have an excuse.” Yes, we can do anything if we want to. Handicap is not an excuse for a person to achieve his dreams. Recently, I received a few season cards posted from handicap non-profit organization. The people from the organization are incapable with their hands, and yet, they are able to produce nice paintings using their mouths or legs. If they can do it, why don’t we?

“Your handicap may just be your greatest assets.” Some people work harder because of the difficulties that they face, and because of their hard work, they turn to be more successful in their life. With this situation, eventually, their handicap helps them to be stronger, to be successful in their life.

In addition, below is the link to Closing Remarks, for your reference.

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. :)

What it Takes to Become a Great Leader

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

What it take to become a leader? The ability to communicate fluently and effectively. Communication is the fundamental social and leadership skill.

What is take to become a GREAT leader? Beside communication skill, there are other crucial characteristics as well. Find out from the below article from Prof Glynis…

Leaders such as Churchill, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Gandhi, Mandela, Napoleon, Darwin or Einstein seem to have special capabilities that set them apart from the rest of us. People commonly regarded as great leaders, no matter what sphere of activity, whether it be in business, politics, the arts, the military, academia or sport, tend to have certain characteristics. These may be manifested in different ways in different walks of life but there are underlying features:

Six Characteristics of Great Leaders

1.) Determination – single-mindedness.

This can be evident in many ways. Perhaps the best recent illustration comes from the resolve shown by the Burmese pro-democracy campaigner and leader of the National League for Democracy party (NLD) Aung San Suu Kyi. Sentenced to a further 18 months of house arrest in August 2009 after being found guilty of violating security laws, 64 year old, Nobel Peace Laureate, Suu Kyi, has spent 14 of the last 20 years in some form of detention. In 1990, the NLD won the last elections to take place but was not allowed to take power and the country has been controlled by a military junta ever since.

Suu Kyi has become an international symbol of heroic and peaceful resistance in the face of oppression. This is an interesting example of leadership – through her moral resilience and determination not to succumb to compromise.

2.) Energy – endurance, tirelessness.

Autobiographies of great leaders frequently describe punishing work regimes: long hours and tremendous physical and mental demands. James Dyson, best known as the designer of a revolutionary vacuum cleaner, illustrates the tenacity and directed energy of a great leader during his fight to ensure that the patents on his design were not breached by pre-existent large manufacturers.

3.) Capacity to inspire respect – whether reflected in love or fear.

Many ingredients call forth respect, they differ according to context. In sport, being the best at the game might do it. In business, making vast profits might do it. But in essence, respect is offered according to the value system of the group concerned.

A person gains respect through embodying quintessentially the qualities that are valued, and these differ across groups. In 2005, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry received the Victoria Cross for twice saving members of his unit from ambush in Iraq despite incurring serious injuries himself. He showed great courage and professionalism, behaviour stereotypically valued by the military and the respect his leadership earned is undoubted.

4.) Capacity to action solutions to problems

Different from finding the solution in the first place. High levels of intelligence are linked to success in leadership. However, great leaders are often not the most intelligent person in the teams they lead. Great leaders are more likely to be able to recognise the talents of others and then to use them in concert to effect a solution to a problem or to be creative. Picking the right subordinates and then marshalling their contributions to maximum effect is the mark of a great leader.

5.) Self-confidence – self-belief, self-esteem

Leadership means taking decisions that are difficult and, if wrong, will have fearsome consequences. Unless you are convinced that you are good and are most likely to do the right thing, taking hard decisions becomes nightmarish.

Great leaders usually have self-confidence in abundance. Sometimes they have unrealistic self-confidence and it can ultimately lead to their downfall. Yet, without it, it is impossible to achieve or retain a leadership. Followers are sensitive to the leader’s self-confidence – if it deserts, they are not far behind.

6.) Ability to communicate fluently and effectively – not always verbally, sometimes through action, sometimes personally embodying the message by being themselves.

The best leaders know that their communication style needs to change according to circumstance. Researchers showed that revolutionary leaders who failed to change their communication style after they achieved power did not remain in power. On a more mundane level, as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher dramatically altered the way she spoke in order to meet the expectations for a leader in power prevailing at the time.

Strangely, just being more talkative in a group tends to get you singled out as a potential leader. Nevertheless, it is worth remembering that communication is not just about talking, it is also about listening. Great leaders tend to be adept, if selective and purposeful, listeners.

For more inspiring articles, visit

Professor Glynis M Breakwell is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath

Toastmasters Then…And Now!

Friday, November 20th, 2009


A basement in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), in Santa Ana, California, is exactly where Ralph C. Smedley(Founder of Toastmasters) held the first meeting of what would eventually become Toastmasters International.

The date was October 22, 1924.

Smedley began working for the YMCA after he graduated from college. Observing that many of its young patrons needed “training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings,” he decided to help them with a training format that was similar to a social club. During the early 1900s, the word “toastmaster” referred to a person who proposed the toasts and introduced the speakers at a banquet. Smedley named his group “The Toastmasters Club” because he thought it suggested a pleasant, social atmosphere that would appeal to young men.

At that first Toastmasters meeting, members practiced speaking skills and the seedling club blossomed. Then another sprung up in nearby Anaheim. Word spread about Smedley’s experiment and soon people in other communities, and even other states, began to request permission and help to start their own Toastmasters meetings.

As more clubs emerged, it was a time of firsts: Smedley created the first Toastmasters manual, and publication of The Gavel – the first Toastmasters newsletter – began in 1930.

In the 1930s, the organization grew to an international level by incorporating and chartering its first club outside the United States — in British Columbia, Canada.

The first Inter-Club Speech Contest was held in 1938.

At 1962, the staff of Toastmasters International moved into its first World Headquarters building. The Santa Ana facility wasn’t far from the YMCA where the first Toastmasters club met.

In 1973, Toastmasters met an important milestone by opening membership to women.

By 1982, membership reached 100,000. To better serve its growing worldwide membership, World Headquarters relocated in 1990 to its current building in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, 20 miles south of Santa Ana.

In July 1997, a bold new offering was developed for the educational program: An improved two-track educational recognition system that allowed members to pursue awards in both leadership and communication.

… And Now

As Toastmasters International celebrates its 85th anniversary this year, the organization stands at a historic high point. Toastmasters leaders have developed innovative strategies to keep up with advances and shifting cultural dynamics of the global age. Indeed, while many organizations around the world are downsizing because of the economic climate, Toastmasters International is growing; thousands of people are taking advantage of the organization’s programs to enhance their communication skills. Membership is at an all-time high, with more than 250,000 members in 12,000 clubs in 106 countries. As of June 30, a record 1,073 new clubs were chartered, and 56 districts were recognized as Distinguished or better, a number surpassing all previous years.

Toastmasters grew by nearly five percent in 2009. Tens of thousands of people have seen the value of the Toastmasters training in their personal lives and careers. They know the program can see them through a lot of challenges and there is no limit to the growth potential of Toastmasters International.

Toastmasters Web site, which is continually expanding through new product and service offerings. The organization’s first e-learning tool — Toastmasters Learning Connection (TLC) for district officers – is a recent addition to the Web site. TLC provides access to Toastmasters’ officer training in a virtual learning environment.

This distance-learning program is an exciting development, blending education with the power of the Internet. And it won’t replace face-to-face training – just complement it. A new film about Toastmasters is scheduled for a 2010 release. SpeakEasy, a feature-length documentary produced by Tumbleweed Entertainment, explores the 2008 World Championship of Public Speaking and the larger Toastmasters world.

From a gathering in a YMCA basement in 1924 to the 12,000-plus clubs that meet in 106 countries today, the Toastmasters story is one of dramatic growth and success. And with accomplishments come opportunities. Toastmaster offers the most valuable service imaginable and helps people improve their lives. That’s what the Toastmasters mission is all about.”

Source: Toastmasters International