My first Toastmasters meeting in June 2006 was quite memorable for a number of reasons. TNT was basking in the glow if its recent 25th anniversary celebration, which included tuxedos and an article in the Irving newspaper.
Having no idea of what to expect, I was impressed when the person who invited me, John Arnott, Sr., walked to the front of the room to begin the meeting as TNT President. (Wow, they have officers, and John is President!) During the meeting, I marveled at the structure, pace and flow of the meeting. I also couldn’t help noticing the name tents, and especially the name badges, with unusual combination of letters following the names (DTM, ALS, CTM, ATB). When told about the dozens of speeches and numerous other requirements to obtain these “Educational Levels,” I was amazed.
I left that first meeting with my head filled with everything I had witnessed and experienced. Swept away is the best way to describe my emotions. I originally thought Toastmasters was just about getting up in front of people and talking. There was obviously way more substance to Toastmasters, and those people with name badges and mysterious letters were serious!
After a few months of attending every TNT meeting, I decided to make myself useful by offering to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms for six months. My Toastmasters “AHA! moment” came at the subsequent Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) officers training. Seven hundred Toastmasters from north Texas to Shreveport, LA descended upon Richland Community College. They were fired up, ready to learn and all wearing name badges, some with pins and medals attached. I thought, “These people are REALLY SERIOUS!” That’s when it really hit home for me, Toastmasters was all about building Speaking and Leadership skills.
I took this lesson to heart, and became part of a great TNT leadership group between 2007 and 2009. This group included current members, Charlene Sims, Ron Amberg, and former members Sandra K. Samuel and Scott Hudson. TNT members of the immediate-prior “leadership chain” not only served as our mentors, but picked up bigger leadership positions in Toastmasters District 50. That group of TNT leaders includes recently-awarded Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM) Rita Johnston and Kelly Page, as well as Ann Logan-Lubben.
The TNT leadership chain of the “2000’s” traces its roots back to TNT’s first two DTM’s of this decade, Mary Mukhtarian and Cynthia Brown, who continue to be broadly active serving and mentoring at TNT and throughout Toastmasters District 50. And of course, the fabric of TNT Toastmasters is interwoven throughout by our longest-termed members, Pauline Shirley, DTM, PIP and Jerry Coen, DTM.
While the historic TNT leadership chain is quite remarkable, I am personally impressed by the good hands TNT is currently held. The first group of the current decade’s leaders, Tish Gray, Sharron O’Neill and Lori McCaghren have already stepped outside TNT to take on broader Toastmasters roles. Meanwhile, the current TNT Executive Committee, led by President Bruce Arfsden, is committed and off to a great start.
The assessments I made after my first TNT Toastmasters meeting and my first TLI training remains true:
“Toastmasters is all about Building Speaking and Leadership Skills and These People are Serious!”