When I joined Toastmasters, I couldn’t speak. I would look down at the floor. I could only say “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.” Dick Moser, a member of Columbia Center Toastmasters, looked after me and was like a father. I couldn’t see the sky. It was like walking through the storm.
Toastmasters provided a safe environment, with a network of positive connections. I chose to go with the light and stay away from the dark. Now I can hold my head high and walk through anything.
In 2012 – 2013, I focused on leadership. I was Area Governor for Area 54 and I worked on my High Performance Leadership Project (HPLP)
To be Area Governor, I prepared by being an assistant to Shelley Dalmau when she was Area Governor and Division Governor. I volunteered to be Area Governor several years in a row but was not appointed. I studied the rules and everything about being an Area Governor. Finally, I presented a plan to the incoming District Governor Rose Wellman showing how I would act as Area Governor and became Area Governor for Area 54 for 2012 – 2013
While I was Area Governor, I had to be business-like and not downgrade myself. I was a resource to others in the district. I organized Area speech contests in the fall and the spring.
At the end, I was asked to be an Area Governor again, which felt great.
To work on my HPLP, I prepared by recruiting a team to be my committee, Shelley Dalmau, PJ Kleffner, Brinn Hemmingsworth and David Johnson. And I recruited Toastmasters for my project.
While working on my HPLP, I met with my committee 5 times. I evaluated myself at the beginning and the end on facets of leadership.
For Vision & Goal, I dreamed of starting a club for learning disabled people like myself. I learned about the Special Olympics club in Hawaii and about their Global Messengers program. I brainstormed about this with my committee members.
For Persuasion, I helped my team understand where I was coming from. I prepared to meet with the president of Special Olympics Oregon, and I got Toastmasters to support the idea of helping Special Olympians.
For Direction, I made sure we scheduled meetings in advance and started on time.
For Appreciation, I scored high at the start and at the end.
The result is I improved my scores in all areas, but also Special Olympics agreed to two things. They would help Olympians outside of Portland to find Toastmasters clubs. They agreed to have a demo meeting for a club for Special Olympians inside Portland after their busy season.
Toastmasters gave me confidence so that I could walk through the storm and I hope I can give that opportunity to many others like me.
Ruth Geislinger is currently a member of Columbia Center Toastmasters Club #9521 of which she has been a member for over ten years, during which time she served as a club officer, including President. More recently, she served as the 2012 – 2013 Area 54 Governor.
David Johnson joined Columbia Center Toastmasters in February 2009 because he found himself lacking in speaking and leadership skills in his new position as a product manager in a local online marketing software company. He credits his improvement to the officers, mentors and members of the club who provided a mutually supportive learning environment. He is paying part of this forward by serving as president for the 2013 — 2014 year.