From Jakub Pawlowski, Division B Governor
There is hardly anyone who hasn’t recently been excited with London 2012 Olympics and admiring those astonishing athletes who, through years of hard work and incredible persistence, reached for medals.
In Division B, we recently have had a few people who in a similar fashion made their way to the highest Toastmasters’ accolade – Distinguished Toastmaster. I am joined today by one of them, Kate McNeilly.
Kate, why did you take up public speaking? I had no voice as a professional listener and I knew I had to learn to speak in public. I was a verbatim reporter used in the High Court and in top level meetings involving Downing Street, the Palace and the City, listening to others speak. Signing the Official Secrets Act precludes me from saying more. When I joined London Athenians in August 2001, I thought I would be in and out in 6 months. Now I have a voice, I’m still here and I will always be a Toastmaster.
As a direct result of lively weekly meetings, the year I was President of my home club (2005/06) membership grew to 89. That prompted me to offer 3 months’ support to each of London Olympians, Harrovians and Trojans when they set up which, in turn, gave me the experience to co-found Northern Lights Speakers 8 years ago (with Carin Schwartz) and West London Speakers 7 years ago (with Alastair Schreiber), where I was a member at both clubs for the first 3 years and my home club concurrently. I was also a member of Excalibur Speakers, our London advanced club, for 3 years.
At any point in your journey did you feel like it was too hard, and what did you do about that? Three years ago, on my way to ACG, I almost left Toastmasters because a new young dominant member was a real challenge to me. Friends encouraged me to stay and that was when I set the goal of being a DTM. Lord knows, I could have been that twice over had I filled in my CL manuals! I was busy and it didn’t seem important at the time. Chatting to Hilary Briggs and Teresa Dukes about the High Performance Leadership gave me renewed focus. All along, Toastmasters has been like family; meeting weekly, I saw them more often than family. Together, we weathered the ups and downs of life, the successes and personal losses.
What top three things do you feel you have gained? Confidence, leadership experience and wonderful friendships!
How does it feel to be a DTM? A real achievement - my ‘professorship’ in public speaking, so to speak. What a year! The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics … and my Distinguished Toastmaster award. I am not likely to forget 2012, ever.
How will you now use your acquired skills and this qualification? DTM will go after my name with pride! I will continue to speak, teach and mentor, mainly youth and women, who most need to find and use their voice to contribute their talents to the world. And I might have a crack at becoming an Accredited Speaker. Check it out and make that your ultimate goal too. It is beyond Gold, and it is beyond Distinguished!
Is there anyone you’re particularly grateful to? I am deeply grateful to David Thompson, my extraordinary encourager and mentor; to Andy O’Sullivan, Division Governor of the Year 2011 in District 71 for his direction and support when needed most; and to Paul Walsh, Division B Governor 2011/12 and his Council for the hard, outstanding work put in to realigning London Toastmasters, which will be the solid foundation of continued growth for years to come. I had an active part in that because when I joined Toastmasters 11 years ago, there were 6 clubs. Now there are 42, with more in the pipeline, and I have contributed directly to 13 of those to date. I couldn’t have done it without the support of dear friends and exceptional Toastmasters!
Photograph taken by Jacqueline Purcell, Area 45 Governor, at London Athenians