Celebrations call for a toast, and this Cloverdale club’s 25th anniversary is sure to have an exemplary one.
Since 1994, the Cloverdale Toastmasters have been meeting once a week to help one another develop speaking and leadership skills. Today (June 19), they celebrate their 25th year.
There are 16,600 Toastmaster clubs in 143 countries across the world, but the Cloverdale group is unique for two reasons, according to founding member Gordon Monro.
Firstly, the club has achieved rare recognition within the current goals program, consistently rising to the 10 challenges set out by the international club leaders every year. “We are one of only 40 clubs in the world that have completed all 10 goals consecutively for the last 15 years,” said Monro.
In fact, in the 20 years since the goals program started, they completed all the goals every year but one, when they scored a 9 out of 10.
The international recognition, and proven success of the club, supports its members. “We have this culture that says we’re a successful club, we can help you,” said Monro.
Though the club has achieved a serious status amongst others, its members work to keep things light — another aspect that makes them unique. “We decided a number of years ago that we wanted to make our club open, inviting, friendly, relaxed, and, above all, fun to be a member of and to be a participant in,” said Monro.
“We have a lot of laughter in the group. We continue that because most of us are parents and we realized that children learn best when they’re having fun. And so why shouldn’t adults?” he said.
When someone comes to the club for the first time, the reaction is often one of surprise, he said. The fun, welcoming atmosphere isn’t one that is expected.
Newcomers are “blown away” by the speakers, and they think “maybe someday I could be like that,” said Monro. “And if they vocalize that, we would say, ‘This room is half full of people who thought like you. Maybe even full.’”
Even those who are fairly confident in their speaking skills can serve to learn a thing or two. Gordon and his wife Loralee are both founding members of the Cloverdale Toastmasters club, and have each served in every executive role (more than once, in some cases) in the years since. But when it was first starting, they weren’t so sure about joining the club.
One of their friends, Colleen Tackaberry, wished to become a distinguished Toastmaster, and to do that she was tasked with starting a new club.
“Loralee and I said, ‘Well, we don’t have any problem getting up and speaking,’” Monro remembered. “And she said, ‘Well, you could learn a lot. We all have.’
“And that has been the truth,” he said.
They began to sign up members in October 1993 and by May 1994 they had the 20 committed members needed to officially start the club.
“Of those original 20 [members], Loralee and I are the only ones who are left,” said Monro.
Often, he said, “people come to Toastmasters to overcome something, to achieve a goal.”
Some join temporarily to get tips for wedding speeches, and some need to be coached through a job interview. Some join to reach a certain level of proficiency, and once they reach it they begin to dedicate their time to new goals.
Toastmasters supports lifelong skill development, but the club also helps those who have specific goals in mind. New members, and new goals, are always welcome.
The Cloverdale club has kept its core principles — of being friendly, welcoming and educational — over the past 25 years, but there have certainly been changes.
This year, for instance, the Toastmasters educational system will move to an online resource. The new “Pathways” framework will be the first major overhaul since the goal system was created in 1999.
But other things have changed too, said Monro.
The biggest shift is the around-the-clock pressure members feel from their careers, he said. “People in a lot of positions have to be at the beck and call of their business.”
It’s not unusual for a member to receive a phone call as they are walking into a Toastmasters meeting that pulls them away from the club for the evening. Between that and the increasing demand for overtime work, Monro said that a meeting agenda will often need to be changed at the last minute to make up for absent members.
“It’s a new challenge for us,” he said. “But that’s a fact of life.”
Of course, problem solving is part of what Toastmasters is all about. “It’s part of the leadership challenge,” Monro explained, “to fill in those roles, [and] find people to step up.”
If someone’s curious about the club, they are welcome to come check it out, said Monro. The Cloverdale Toastmasters Club meets every Wednesday at Clayton Heights Secondary, from 7:15 to 9:15 p.m. During the summer months, they find other locations within the Cloverdale area.
Meeting locations and other information is available through their website, cloverdale.toastmastersclubs.org.