18 June 2017

Rwanda: Toastmasters Comes to Kigali

"In today's world, we are constantly faced with or will find ourselves in situations where we will be asked to give a speech, make a presentation, or just deliver a few words.

The ability to speak confidently and convincingly to an audience therefore is such a crucial skill to possess, not only for professional or work purposes, but also for personal and everyday life.

However, it seems to be the least common of all natural abilities of humankind," explains Joshua Tahinduka, the chief organizer of the upcoming Best of Toastmasters East Africa Conference and abstract public speaking contest.

Tahinduka is also president of 1Rwanda Toastmasters' Club, the biggest toastmasters club in the country.

Slated for the Kigali Marriot Hotel on the 23and 24 of June, the conference will bring together toastmasters from the East African region to learn from each other, network, plan for Toastmasters in the region and above all, conduct East Africa's biggest public speaking contest - the Best of Toastmasters East Africa (BOTEA).

Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.

The organisation boasts more than 332,000 members worldwide, who develop their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 15,400 Toastmasters clubs spread out in 135 countries.

It was founded in October 1924 by Ralph C. Smedley.

Nurturing future leaders

Toastmasters was introduced to Rwanda in 2011, by Imbuto Foundation. Since then, it has grown to include seven local toastmasters clubs spread across the country, and which have benefitted many Rwandans, making them better public speakers and leaders.

Last year, Tahinduka made history as the first Rwandan to emerge overall winner of the first ever Best Toastmasters East Africa (BOTEA) public speech contest in Nairobi, Kenya. At the time, Tahinduka headed a delegation that included 11 other toastmasters drawn from the different clubs in the country.

It was the second time that Rwandan Toastmasters were traveling to Nairobi for such a contest.

"That is when they actually learnt that there were Toastmasters clubs in Rwanda. We had three minutes to make a presentation about Rwanda, and that shone a little bit of light," Tahinduka revealed at the time.

It's upon such a background that Rwanda was chosen as host for this year's Best of Toastmasters East Africa Conference and abstract public speaking contest

"For the first time in Rwanda, all the Toastmasters clubs in East Africa are coming together for a mega ground-breaking event in the region, a Toastmasters conference where members of all the Toastmasters clubs in East Africa will meet and learn from each other as members showcase their prowess in public speaking in contests evaluated on different attributes of what makes great speakers," an excited Tahinduka explained.

Best of Toastmasters East Africa (BOTEA), the largest East African Toastmasters community event was launched in Nairobi, Kenya in 2015.

"After a Nairobi speech fair in 2014, Toastmasters clubs in Kenya increased by 25% in membership..

This conference is the ultimate experience you will surely enjoy with East Africa's most practiced speakers," Tahinduka further explained, adding that BOTEA is not solely for Toastmasters but is an opportunity to learn, interact and network with individuals keen on personal growth and self-development:

"This event will also be attended by people from different walks of life within and outside the region. Apart from the speeches by participants and the keynote speakers there will be wining, dining and merriment as clubs jostle in a friendly competition to outdo each other for the coveted prize of the top Toastmasters Club in East Africa."

Tahinduka contends that the past five years have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of Toastmasters clubs in East Africa, with a presence in five of the six East African member states.

"The need to collaborate among clubs is higher now than ever. The need for young clubs to receive mentorship, creating a chance for Toastmasters members to share experiences and the desire to form a Toastmasters District constantly creates reason for the Toastmasters in the region to meet at least once a year."

The conference will include a panel discussion on a topic related to public speaking and leadership, as well a speech contest in which all club members will be open to participate. This will be divided into a prepared speech session and a table topics (impromptu speech) session in which one winner and two runners-up will be selected. There will also be a networking session during which all the participants will be able to mingle and create connections.

"This will be an opportunity for participants to discover and learn more about communication and leadership and how the Toastmasters Education program approaches the two critical skills. It's also an opportunity for all the Toastmasters clubs involved to gauge their progress in improving the communication and public speaking skills of our members.

A great learning experience for all individuals in attendance, both regular Toastmasters members and non-members, as it will permit them to witness more experienced Toastmasters in action, to learn from their presentations, and to see, first-hand, the benefits of being a Toastmaster," Tahinduka concluded.

He was all praises for the Imbuto Foundation for making Toastmasters a reality in Rwanda. He reveals that the story of Toastmasters in Rwanda started in 2011, while he was studying Telecommunications Engineering at the then Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), now

University of Rwanda's College of Science and Technology (CST).

The foundation was looking for 20 bright students with good communication skills that could be trained or given the opportunity to be leaders. The foundation paid membership fees for the twenty students to Toastmasters International, and further sponsored them with Toastmasters materials.

After equipping the students, the Imbuto Foundation went on to sponsor three Toastmasters clubs - one at the then Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, at the former School of Finance and Banking (SFB), and another in Butare in the Southern Province.

The foundation went further and flew in an experienced Toastmaster from Kenya who gave the students motivation and basically oriented them into the whole system of Toastmasters.

How Toastmasters clubs work

The clubs typically execute their tasks in small sessions of between 20-40 people that get together to know each other and share knowledge.

A typical session may last for about two hours, depending on the number of attendees. These are organized in three major categories;

Structured speeches, impromptu speeches, while the third and most important part is giving feedback to other toastmasters. There is a specific person chosen to give speech evaluation after every speaker.

"Giving feedback is an art that we learn from Toastmasters. We make sure to give not just motivation, but also make recommendations and suggest areas for improvement.

So Toastmasters is really about communication and leadership, because the two really go hand-in-hand."

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