The Aha moment!

I had an ‘aha!’ moment recently. I had taken the role of grammarian for our recent Toastmasters meeting at Leeds (5th Jan 2012). My role involved choosing a word of the day and encouraging members to use the word of the day within their speeches or when they came to the front to speak as part of their role.

I was excited to be doing the role. It had been a long time since I had taken the role of the grammarian. I had prepared well for the role and had my printouts of the word and blue tack ready. When Anthony Day (DTM) who was the Toastmaster called me to the front, I literally ran to the lectern. The word I had chosen was ‘Flagrant.’ I explained the word flagrant, which meant – conspicuously offensive <flagrant errors>;  so obviously inconsistent with what is right or proper as to appear to be a flouting of law or morality <flagrant violations of human rights>. I also used a small story to explain the word of the day – we were travelling to the Toastmasters meeting; I was speeding and Vaishali who was sitting beside me in the car shouted,’ Slow down! You are flagrantly breaking the law.’

After explaining the word, I stuck the printout of the word to the lectern as well as to the back of the room and sat down. I began noting the usage of the word throughout the meeting. I was also looking out for good uses of grammar. I was diligent in the way I noted and at the end of the meeting; I went to the front to present my report. I was feeling good about the way I had performed the role. I waited for Celia Berrell (visiting Toastmaster from Mt Sheridan Toastmasters) who was performing the role of General Evaluator to provide her report. I was feeling smug thinking she would find nothing as an improvement area for me. I was after all an experienced Toastmaster!

Soon Celia started her evaluation. She was excellent. She had a point of commendation and an area of improvement for every person who took a role. Soon she reached the Grammarian’s role. I waited with bated breath.

‘Dinesh, that was a very well performed role. I liked the way you explained the word and provided an excellent report summarising its usage by members and good uses of grammar.’

I gave myself a silent high five.

Celia continued, ‘One area of recommendation for you would be to look at people – call their names and challenge them to use the word of the day. This makes it personal.’

I had not realised it but my mouth was open. Silently I paraphrased Celia’s feedback – Don’t just put the word out. Instead make it personal. Challenge people and make them feel involved.

That’s when I had my Aha moment!

The power in a name

There is a lot of power in a name. I had read about this when I first got interested in self development as a teenager. Being introverted by nature, I found it difficult to make friends. At that stage of my life, my only friends were my books. During my younger days, I used to scrounge the roadside book stalls in Mumbai looking for bargain books. One particular book caught my attention. Yes, you guessed it right, it was called ‘How to win friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie. This book changed my life. The ideas in the book are so simple and yet extremely powerful. One of the key things the book talked about was the power of a name. How to remember names and call people by their names making it personal. This works only as long as you are genuine and not into manipulation of any kind. As sincerety is something that cannot be faked.

It was like a trip down memory lane for me as the light bulb clicked. Yes, I shall try and incorporate this feedback into the roles that I perform.

This is the beauty of Toastmasters. You get to learn by doing. It is the best form of peer based learning in the world.

So if you are around in Leeds and want to have fun, join us at our meeting in Leeds City Toastmasters or White Rose Speakers. You never know, you could learn something new. If the learning does not push your buttons; I guarantee that you will definitely have lots of fun.


Dinesh Kaulgud -ACB, CL