It is said that participation is the essence of Toastmastering. I realized and confirmed it throughout the following experience of mine as a Toastmaster.
Before noon of a spring day in 1975, a Chinese scientist working in the same building knocked the door of my office and invited me to free lunch. At that time I was working as a guest researcher at NBS, now called NIST, National Institute of Standards and Technology, located in Maryland, U.S. Actually it was a special offer of NBS Toastmaster Club to a guest for the first visit to a lunch time regular meeting.
The first meeting of Toastmasters was very impressive. Especially the evaluation session was surprise. It was almost culture shock to me who had not been familiar with evaluation without criticism, nor encouragement without trace of flattery. Encouraging evaluation with appropriate suggestions for improvement drove me to join the club in a few days. Even now, I can clearly remember kind and humorous evaluation for my Icebreaker speech. And then I was very glad to find words of advice, even it was not so easy to find defects or mistakes in a speech.
After I came back to western suburbs of Tokyo in 1975, I managed to find and joined Tokyo Toastmasters Club. The majority of the members of the club were working for trade companies, banks, and embassies. Only a few of them were scientists or engineers. So, I really enjoyed speeches based on various of view points, professions and daily lives.
In 1979, I moved to Tsukuba with my laboratory, ETL. For about five years, I had been merely attending Tokyo TMC meeting once less than once a month. One night in 1984, DTM Mori called me and asked me to help people for starting new club in Tsukuba. He had been a leading member of Tokyo TMC and founded Kanto Toastmasters Club, the daughter of Tokyo TMC, and then created ACCJ Club. It was a wonderful revelation for me. Since I had not imagined to start a new club in Tsukuba, even spending about three hours on train for attending the meeting of Tokyo TMC.
Following DTM Mori's instruction, I met Mr. Horiuchi, Mr. Inaba, Mr. Ohshima and Mr. Burton-Lewis. I believe that one of them consulted with DTM Mori about starting the club in Tsukuba. This consultation seemed to be beginning of the earnest guidance of DTM Mori as the father of Tsukuba TMC. He visited Tsukuba many times to give seminars and lectures for instructing and encouraging us to establish a new club in Tsukuba.
Under his guidance, a model Toastmaster meeting was held in April 1984 at University of Tsukuba. Several experienced Toastmasters of the clubs in Kanto area made the meeting a real good example. More than 20 attendants from Tsukuba seemed to be deeply impressed by the meeting. And some of them contributed to Tsukuba TMC in her early days.
For about one year after the first regular (actually training) meeting was held on September 22nd, 1984, the principal purpose of the effort of the small group of people was to hold the next meeting. Adding to DTM Mori, I really appreciate TM Ronald Linden, our first president, TM Beryl Linden, TM Harry Burton-Lewis, and TM Richard Douglas for their kind help, guidance and encouragement, especially in that period. Now, I realize that I have obtained many valuable things in those challenging days. The experience reminds me of "No pain, no gain", words of an American football manager.
In the long run, Toastmastering deliberately and steadily improve my capability of speaking in English, of thinking during speaking, understanding others, putting opinions together. It is now clear for me that I was helped by helping friends, and I was improving myself as far as I was making even a little effort.
And I am asking myself, "Are you ascending or descending?"