Several times over the past few days I have had cause to reflect on the power of the spoken word. Over last weekend, I was at the Toastmasters International District 71 Spring Odyssey Conference in Windsor, and had the opportunity to listen to a great number of moving and thought-provoking speeches, as well as to attend workshops run by Toastmasters colleagues such as Alan Donegan and Bob Ferguson. Both these gentlemen are fellow members of Toastmasters International and are helping me to pursue my dream of being an award-winning public speaker. I also had the privilege of listening to Jim Key, the 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking, twice, and heard a keynote address from Ms. Pat Johnson, DTM, the current International President of Toastmasters International and a very warm and down-to-earth lady.

Pat spoke about having discovered her ‘tribe’ in Toastmasters, something that resonated with me and brought a tear to my eye, as since I joined Toastmasters International in 2003 I have been amazed and delighted by the support and camaraderie that pervades this organisation, like no other collection of people that I have experienced. Pat has a huge head start on me, as she has been involved with our ‘tribe’ for 26 years, and looks after a six-figure international membership in 113 countries. Toastmasters is now helping people to develop oral communication and leadership skills in China; Pat told us of the challenges of translating all of Toastmasters International’s training material into Mandarin.

Then there was Malachi. Malachi Talabi is the young man from South London who won the U.K. and All-Ireland International Speech Contest with his speech ‘Keep On Walking’. He certainly brought a tear to my eye when he spoke and now he has the opportunity to go to Las Vegas in August and compete in the Regional Finals of the International Speech Contest and perhaps become the World Champion of Public Speaking 2011. From what I saw and heard on Saturday, I think he has an excellent chance!

Jim Key gave me two questions to ask myself every time I get involved with something new or challenge myself to do something different in my life.

‘What did you expect?’

‘Are you satisfied?’

I will put these questions on my office wall, and I will use them in the future to define business and personal relationships as well as activities that I get involved with. I will also turn the questions on their heads when I am involved with others, whether as a speaker, trainer, coach, writer or friend:

‘What did you expect?’

‘Are you satisfied?’

I plan to use these questions to define every day from now on. Today I went to the funeral of a friend who I had not known for very long. His name was Philip Salmon, and he and his wife joined Huntingdonshire Speakers, my second club, about two years ago. He was a gentleman, an accomplished and warm speaker, a great speech evaluator and fine impromptu speaker. I was privileged to be in the packed village church in Southoe today to hear his friends and family speak about him. I discovered that he was a great friend and mentor to many more people as well as being a tremendous husband and father. Now that’s a legacy that anyone would be proud of. Philip was only nine years older than me, and had a healthy and active lifestyle, yet he died far too young. I had tears in my eyes throughout the service.

The events of the past few days have  strengthened my resolve to follow my dream of being the best speaker, trainer, coach and writer that I can possibly be.