You must have heard of the interesting story about how Toastmasters International was formed – each one of us at Islamabad have an equally interesting an moving story to tell.
Like a story has many little storylines running in the background, we had many parallel initiatives in Islamabad (totally disconnected from each other) - I could tell you mine.
I was at an International conference in Lahore arranged by COMSATS on 2nd and 3rd January 2008 (yes the fateful political events did not deter them), the conference allowed students to also present their pathetic attempt at research work and provided them a platform to overcome the ‘fear of public speaking’ – while we the participants suffered by listening to miserable speakers. Just during my grumbling and complaining sessions, a guest participant from USA informed me about Toastmasters and how it has helped many. I was sold to the idea from the word Go of forming a club in Islamabad to make a difference in my community at least. I was warned to google for toastmasters as one word and not TOAST MASTERS. I was soon to learn the joke was universal and boasted of quite proudly by toastmasters. I found linkages to Karachi Toastmasters Club and pleasantly found others in Islamabad also trying to gather 20 members to start a club – to cut the long story short, within 20 days, we had a group, a sponsor and an initiative to charter the club. We met on 27 Jan 2008 where most of us had only communicated over email and had a tough time to learn each others names; by 24 March 2008 we were chartered with not 20 but 23 members, started holding our demo meetings regularly twice a month and have ended-up creating quite a stir in Islamabad.
The art of making/offering a toast is not part of our social culture perse, but we do have similar structures now only referred to in literary circles as ‘shama-e-mehfil’ (quite poetic) and in rural areas as Bhand (not very flattering), but none to fit in the professional circle of presentations and negotiations. I believe that we must link the toastmaster idea to our cultural heritage for continuity but nonetheless learn from toastmasters very well formulated communication and leadership skill and eventually demonstrate our oratory skills at global level.
If the notion is still vague and if the energy of the club is not speaking out from my words – I implore you to visit our club meetings and talk to the members for whom it has already started working in enhancing their communication and leadership skills. If distances don’t permit you to visit our meetings, do watch out for pictures, minutes of meetings and our e-newsletter to give you the feel of it all.
I can confidently say that there is no such program in Islamabad that helps an individual overcome stage fright, fear of public speaking and developing leadership skills.
Best of luck in your pursuit of self growth.
TM Maliha Elahi