Monday, 22 March 2010

And She's OFF!!

Well, I was going to be disciplined and tell you all about my second day's training, followed by my third... so much for that idea!

On Tuesday, two days before my second day's training, received a phone call from a lovely man named Roy Austin, a fellow toastmaster with the English Toastmasters Association. I knew his name, because he'd been kind enough to contact me to welcome me to the association (such a lovely bunch of lads, I'm thinking!) and I thought he was calling to arrange a coffee date or something.

No such luck.

It was better.

He referred me a job! My first real job! I was so excited I literally jumped for joy. Of course, I'm now back down to earth and the job isn't mine until I've received full payment, but the client seemed very positive and didn't have any problem with my fee. I called the client on Wednesday, full of nerves at first until I remembered something very important a dear friend of mine told me. The client is just a guy with a problem, and I have the solution. With that frame of mind I was able to confidently talk about his needs, sent him off a quote and now I'm just waiting for the money. I still need to set up a business account though, otherwise I'm not going to be able to cash the cheques....

So, to my second day's training.

Again I flew anti-clockwise around the M25, smiled at the SwissAir jet as it passed in front of me on its way to land and thanked God over and over and over for the blessing of this new change in direction for me. I was even later leaving than last week (no surprise there) but I arrived by 9.30am which was perfect.

Much of the first half of my second day's training was spent talking through my concerns and issues with my first client. Richard is just the most generous man with his time and knowledge. Sometimes I find myself sitting there on the couch while he's talking, wondering what he's getting out of all this, other than my money. He's a man on a mission and it's not an insignificant one. He wants to take a profession steeped in tradition and standardise it. He wants to see all toastmasters working to a high standard of ethics and professionalism and I tell you what, he's got me on board, for certain. As he talked about standards of service, dealing with venues and other wedding professionals, I realised he and I think very similarly and excitement overflowed once again. I did a role-play where I interviewed Richard and his office assistant Lindsay for the planning meeting and it was incredibly valuable. The form made sense, the flow of the day really came together for me and I left the farm filled with confidence that this indeed is the career for me.

The next week was spent in a haze of activity, designing my business cards and website, getting the right domain name and setting it all up, investigating business bank accounts, thinking about how to administer the business and keep track of everything... it was a brilliant week!

The following, final week was not so smooth. I woke up feeling dreadful and just felt worse as the day wore on. I met another guy finishing his training and we went out for lunch with Andrew Morgan, a lovely man who was very generous with his time, advice and stories of the fabulous and interesting experiences he's had in his three years as a toastmaster. Unfortunately though I ended up with a migraine so had to leave early. I tell you, being stuck in stationary traffic at the Heathrow junction due to an accident was not fun at all. Still, I made it home, crawled into bed and passed out.

Now I've finally managed to get my web site up and running, I've got two clients on the boil and I'm feeling more confident about it all the time. I'm itching to do my first function, I know it's going to be fantastic fun!

In closing, I would like to say how much I appreciate all the positive, encouraging comments I received via Facebook from so many friends all over the place. Words can't express how much your words have meant to me, and if I am a success in this toastmastering caper it will be thanks in no small part to you. So, THANK YOU!!

Much love,
Vanessa King, professional toastmaster

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Toastmaster Training, Day 1

On the road to Essex by 8am, not bad going for me, considering I intended to leave at 7.30am! As I sailed past Heathrow (yes, I really sailed, the traffic was flowing beautifully) a 747 passed in front of me and watching it seemingly stapled to the blue sky I was filled with such joy and excitement that brings true meaning to the phrase 'my cup overflows...' I felt immense gratitude for the wonderful man at home looking after my children and who encourages me to fly daily, for my husband Peter who let me go, and I wonder what I have done to deserve such happiness and fulfilment.

Then I hit the traffic at Junction 18 *lol* Even that wasn't a problem, really. I stopped at the South Mimms services and enjoyed a tea and toastie with the businessmen before finally arriving around 10am at the farmhouse near Chelmsford in Essex where my training was to be held.

A warm welcome from Richard and the first installment of a bottomless cup of tea from Lindsay commenced my morning of education in the art of the professional toastmaster. We sat on comfortable couches and Richard and I discussed some of the history of the profession of toastmasters, touching on Richard 'Beau' Nash of Georgian Bath, William Nightsmith, the first toastmaster to don the distinctive red tailcoat and moving on to matters of protocol and ettiquette. Then Richard showed me a dvd of a function he served at a few years ago and pointed out the little things he does that make this most special of days in the life of two people who have decided to dedicate themselves to each other. I was in awe of all the things he does, but left in no doubt at all that this is the career for me!

Lunchtime came upon us quickly so we made our way to a local venue, where we met David Court, Master Photographer. David was delightful company and so generous with his time and advice. From him I learned two very important things - never undervalue yourself, and find out what it is that makes you different from everyone else. The first is almost completely counter to everything most people are brought up to believe, perhaps women more than most, but it's something that I'm willing to change! The second is going to be quite a challenge. Of course, I will stand out as a lady toastmaster, but there will gradually be more ladies joining the profession and there has to be something more than that. I'm sure I'll find something. At the moment, I can help clients with speech-giving, I intend to have some more dancing lessons so I can offer help with that, I can sing and I'm improving my public speaking skills all the time. Who knows what more I can offer, I'm open to anything.

David asked me why I am becoming a toastmaster and the simple answer is this: it's a profession that brings together all the skills I'm very good at and all the hobbies I love to do. I can't think of a better job to have, and I hope I never retire! I'm looking forward to meeting many different people from all over the country and from all walks of life.

My first business lunch ended at about 3.30pm, and Richard took me back to the farmhouse where we watched a dvd of the toastmaster from hell. It was so encouraging, not only because I was able to spot easily the things he was doing that were so wrong, things I would never dream of doing. I was greatly encouraged by the dvd, because I thought if this toastmaster of many years' experience, could get work, I will certainly hit the ground running, because on my worst day I know I will be better than that guy!

By 5.30pm I was yawning. The day had been full of fun, information of course and affirmations that this career is indeed the one for me. I'm looking forward to my next session with much anticipation and excitement.

The highlight of the day was definitely putting on the uniform of the professional toastmaster for the first time. Of course it was borrowed, but I felt fabulous in it. Do check out my website, it's only very basic, but it's a start!