My Toastmasters Journey by Eileen Hopkins, CC. CL. On 9th March 2017, I made my first visit to Toastmasters feeling very nervous & self-conscious. However, I somehow plucked up the courage to speak during the topics session. I received much encouragement that first evening and many members applauded me for speaking at this, my first meeting. I left that night full of enthusiasm and I returned to every meeting since that. I delivered my first speech, ‘The Icebreaker’ on 29th May 2017 and once again, I received so much encouraging feedback. I was hooked, so much so that I received my Competent Communicator award on 23rd April 2018, just eleven months later. On 29th April 2018, I reached second place in Division C in the International speech contest. I may not have won that competition. However, I truly won for my club and for me because I gave it my very best in every way. It was a much bigger audience which I found nerve-wracking to say the least, however many of my club ‘buddies’ were there to support me. In October 2018, I entered the humorous speech contest, again I reached the division but wasn’t placed. Early in 2019 while I was snowed under with college work, I received a call from Barry Lane (Division C Director) asking if I would consider representing Division C in Norwich at the district final as the 1st, 2nd & 3rd place speakers were unable to attend. After giving it some thought, I decided that I couldn’t miss an opportunity like this to participate at this level. Planning and excitement then began. The speech, the outfit, flight, tickets & lots of practice. In the run-up to Norwich, I was invited to deliver my speech in many clubs & I have to say that the encouragement, support and kind words of the many toastmasters I met during this time was unbelievable. Ohh, and college…well, I never did assignments so quick! In Norwich, the semi-final was on Friday & I dared to dream of reaching the final on Sunday & I was thrilled to make my dream a reality on Sunday 12th May. My vision for the final was to do my best & enjoy the experience. I was drawn to speak first. As I stood at the back of the room, connected to a microphone, pacing up and down. My heart was racing, palms sweating, breathing rapidly. Yet, I kept telling myself that I was so excited. My name was called, and I walked onto the stage to the cheers & applause of the whole audience. I delivered the speech of my life and I had an absolute ball. While I didn’t reach the top three in the final, I realized that I had just beaten my biggest opponent…. Myself. I am almost three years in Toastmasters, and my journey has been incredible. On 9th March 2017, I never imagined that I would be competing in the district final. What this proves is that if you are passionate about doing something and are prepared to dedicate your effort into it, you can truly achieve it. What made all of this possible for me? Everyone in Toastmasters is there because they want to better themselves. However, they also want to help others better themselves. In every club, some mentors willingly give of their time to guide & support you, and also to provide constructive feedback and encouragement with every step of the way. I was very privileged to have Ted Corcoran as my mentor. There were times that the input may not have been what I wanted to hear, but I took it all on board and I improved as a speaker because of that. Today, I am no longer terrified of getting up to speak in front of people. I still experience some ‘nerves’ before a speech, but it’s more like nervous excitement now. Toastmasters has helped me to ‘think on my feet’ and express my thoughts coherently. My self-confidence has also significantly increased. I have also met so many beautiful people in my club and in the other clubs I have visited. Tony Robbins once said that; ‘Where the focus goes your energy flows’. I have found this to be so true in many areas of my life, most notably in Toastmasters. I would encourage you to join Toastmasters. I can guarantee that you will receive a warm welcome. I am so glad that I took that first step on 9th March 2017 as it has been a life-changing experience.