An acquaintance I met on Couch Surfing a few nights ago is a member of a local Toastmaster’s club here in Almaty. A day ago she informed me that she would like me to be the guest speaker at their upcoming bi monthly meeting which draws both students and expats.
Toastmasters started in Santa Ana California as one small club in 1924 and now has local chapters in over 120 countries often with multiple meetups/groups in the same city. Their focus is to help members work on and improve public speaking and leadership skills.
The meeting this evening was held at a local university. The meetings are held on very strict time schedules – after the President makes opening remarks, a word of the day is introduced (in this case ineffable) and then several speakers give their speeches. Ideally each speaker has 2 weeks to prepare. I had no time to prepare so other than the topic “how to build a lifestyle around travel” I delivered the speech on the spot with no preparation.
Fortunately the speech came off well (which isn’t always the case with impromptu talks) – and focused on how I was introduced to International travel (a Nepal trip in 1996), why I travel (broaden perspective, meet locals, try different foods), and how I make money from travel (always the challenging part!).
Most of the rest of the meeting centered on a specific subject (in this case Leonardo DaVinci) and the president randomly asked those in the audience to give a 1-2 minute impromptu talk on various questions he provided at the last minute. At the end of the meeting a “monitor” stands up and informs the audience of how many “ums, mmm’s and so’s” mentioned in each of the talks.
The membership is an interesting mix of students interested in practicing and improving their English as well as speaking skills and also some accomplished expats from various countries. One distinguished lady I met commutes between San Francisco California, Almaty and Lahore Pakistan several times a year.