A journey to district - by Chris Neville Smily

Posted by Chris Neville Smily on Monday, October 13, 2014

Hi Two Oceans


So, I am at the airport and thought it would be a good idea to pen a few points about the humorous competition and my overall experience. It sure has had its ups and only a few downs, it has been an emotional journey which I am super glad to have gone on and been a part of. 

When starting TM, I had no idea that these competitions existed and it was only from being at the club for some time that I fully become aware of them. My entry into the humorous competition was from attending the Wintercon workshop on impromptu speaking. The speaker said we should take every opportunity to get up and speak. Maybe I would have entered anyway, but those words were the fuel to get me going. Those who attended that talk would remember.

What is also interesting is this was my first speech of many, OK 4, that I used a mentor.  I have always understood the principles behind having a mentor. So I am not sure why I did so many speeches without one. It probably has something to do with the fact that I have always been in the mentor role, rather than the mentee role and it took me some time to get my head around this.

What a difference from having a mentor and I know we always go on about the talent at Two Oceans, and I would like to mention it here again, we are a club that has UBER talent which I really got to experience first-hand.  Verity provided the mentorship and took significant time, for which I am really grateful, though everyone else provided immense support and were also on hand dispensing some very crucial advice, help and support.

Support at the various Area and Division contest from the members was fantastic, having Two Oceans members there is a huge bonus and boost when you are speaking and they make it fun. What also made a massive difference to me was the continual support, through encouragement, emails, woohooo notes, including the whatsapp messages that really kept me energized.

As an example, Friday night, parking off at the BNB I was feeling fairly flat, Sure it, it could have been that my MR Delivery order of Nandos with perinnaise sauce had not arrived after 2 and half hours, a number of phone calls before I called it quits and cancelled the order, after all I had bananas, not a squirrels favourite food, but it will do in an emergency!

Maybe it was that the BNB staff told me no one else was staying at the BnB and then the house alarm went off, after going downstairs to investigate I see this woman at the front door trying with all her might to get it open. Being a good upstanding member of TM, I said ‘hello’ instead of ‘who the f… are you, and what are you doing in here’. She turned round and said hello, I am staying here and trying to get out. See TM does pay off, if I gone with the latter, I think the rest of my stay would have been a bit on the awkward side.

Probably though, it was nerves kicking in before my speech and it was the continual messages of support that by the time I got to the conference centre, I was truly ready to hunt a squirrel. Sure the nerves were still there. Of course I still got, ‘what are you doing here, run before they lock you in’ thought, but this time it was not nearly as strong with all previous speeches. 

Then something quite amazing happened when I was on stage during my speech, for the first time I actually truly truly started to enjoy myself up there, and it was an amazingly liminal moment for me. Is this how it is, going forward, I really hope so. Previously, I was immediately relieved when my speech was over, this time though I was disappointed when my speech ended. I wished for more time and for something else to say. 

To be honest, TM has not been all that easy for me, and I am sure my struggles have been on par with most other TM members when they join. One of the speakers during the Impromptu said we are all different and all individual, though I would argue against that statement and say we are more alike than different. It is a difficult area that a lot of people struggle with, that is why we joined TM. 

One of our new TM member always asked me, does it get any easier, when going up to present your talk, meaning the nerves, or as Marion says ‘our butterflies not flying in formation’, and I remember  saying after my 3rd CC “this time, was actually worse than the 2nd CC. So at the time it was getting worse not better. In hindsight, this is probably to be expected as our club sets a high standard just by the level of speeches and effort everyone puts in, not only are we hoping to make it through your CC speech, but you are also hoping  you don’t drop the Two Oceans ball.

I noticed gradual improvement in in other areas from toastmasters, but my goal of being a better public speaker or more to the point of being comfortable giving a speech in public was not progressing all that well. Sure my speeches were better structured but that crazy fear I would feel before delivering the speech was still there. I often questioned whether TM would ever help with that. 

Well, I think I got that answer, yes it does get better; in fact if how I felt on stage at District is anything to go by then I am totally excited about future speeches. I think it was Kay saying to Karin after her speech that public speaking could be addictive, a rush and she had better watch out and I remember thinking…really, could it be that way. Now I know, it can. 

So, through this competition, I was the recipient of my clubs amazing support, which is special, I will hopefully get the opportunity to return this when Two Oceans sends another humorous winner to district to claim the title and bring it home. As Verity said,  year of the beard, year of the squirrel we will have to wait and see what next year’s organic animal turns out to be. I will also be able to tell newer members, it does get better, stick at it and stick it out for the long run. 

Started at the airport, mostly written on the plane, Finished from my stoep

Thanks Two Oceans :) you are all SUPER squirrels to me!


Please Note:

District 74
means the 9 countries of Toastmasters Southern Africa (approximately 125 clubs)

Division D means Namibia & the Western Cape of South Africa (approximately 30 clubs)

Area D1 means the 4 Toastmasters clubs in Fish Hoek, Tokai, Claremont & Newlands 




Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
(Winston Churchill)

To be a person is to have a story to tell.
(Isak Dinesen)

"All the great speakers, were bad speakers at first."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)