By G Santoshi (14S06C)
In a dingy basement in Santa Ana, 1924, a small, excited group of young men gathered at the first ever meeting of their own little experimental club. The men had been brought together by a singular goal: they wished to train in the art of public speaking, and wanted to do so in a supportive, friendly atmosphere. Exactly eighty-six years down the road, this goal is being realized by 292,000 members in 122 countries in what has flourished to become the renowned public speaking and leadership organization, Toastmasters International. Toastmasters has become such a popular phenomenon that it even has numerous affiliates for the younger population known as Gavel Clubs dotting the globe. One such club is proudly nestled right here at the heart of 1 Raffles Institution Lane.
Like the young men gathered at the basement all those years ago, members of the Raffles Gavel Club share a passion for public speaking and the belief that speaking and leadership go hand-in-hand. We follow the established step-based approach undertaken by Toastmasters, completing a total of 10 speaking and 10 leadership projects over the course of a little over a year. The projects get progressively more challenging as additional skills and techniques are introduced at each stage. While the skills honed through each speaking project may differ, members are always given the liberty to speak about any topic they are passionate about, and encouraged to do so with a personal authenticity and sincerity. What distinguishes this process is that it empowers our members to stand up and speak, but also teaches us to sit down and listen, something that many often forget to do. It is also worth noting that upon completion of all the projects, globally-recognized Toastmasters accreditation will be given, making each and every member a certified speaker and leader.
The Gavel Club has its weekly sessions on Wednesday, where club members embark on their projects and train in “table topics”, an impromptu speaking segment, in a 2-hour meeting. Additionally, for members interested in community work, the Gavel Club collaborates with the Children’s Cancer Foundation, making use of speaking as a confidence-builder for teenagers battling terminal illnesses through weekly service sessions. There are also numerous other opportunities for personal development in Gavel Club, from national public speaking competitions to workshops conducted annually by experienced external trainers.
Beyond the multitude of benefits and opportunities it offers, Raffles Gavel Club is at heart a positive, warm home for a diverse set of people unified by their passion for public speaking – just as its Toastmasters predecessors had envisioned. Due to the sheer diversity within the club, every speech adds a fresh perspective and every club session is an eye-opening experience shared by a group of enthusiastic, forthcoming young individuals as invested in their peers’ learning as they are in their own.
The Gavel Club gladly welcomes applicants from all backgrounds. All interested candidates will undergo a selection interview and will be selected primarily on their passion for public speaking and willingness to be committed, with some consideration of their current speaking ability as well.
Speaking, besides being a necessary life skill, is a process of self-expression and mutual discovery. Raffles Gavel Club provides an avenue for aspiring speakers to make the most out of this process, with the guidance of the holistic Toastmasters curriculum and the support of peers who constantly provide constructive criticism and encouragement. The club welcomes the batch of 2015 to join our energetic team, bringing with them passion, dedication and humility.
The Raffles Gavel Club will be led in 2014 by chairpersons G Santoshi and Sumitha Grace Pandiaraj.