Honing leadership and communication skills at Toastmasters’ youth camp
By Jude Toyat
For the fifth year running, the annual Toastmaster’s Youth Leadership and Communication Development Camp (YLC) programme helped build leadership skills among its students as well as enhance their soft skills, especially in public speaking.
Themed ‘Get a Life, Live the Dream’ the programme run entirely by volunteers mostly from various local Toastmasters clubs was held at Kem Juara in Serian recently.
“This year, 191 campers from over 30 schools in the Kuching and Samarahan division attended the three-day, two-night camp and they were accompanied by 60 facilitators who were Kuching Toastmasters Club members,” said Kuching Toastmasters Club (KTC) president Laura Kho when met during a recent get-together and post-mortem meeting for the organising committee and volunteers.
Initiated in 2012, YLC was conceptualised by its organising chairperson Stanley Ngu, principal facilitator Michael Lim and senior member Margaret Loh under the patronage of Assistant Minister of Housing cum Assistant Minister for Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah. It is spearheaded by the KTC.
“Apart from fostering friendship among students, YLC serves as a platform for them to be trained in their communication skills particularly in public speaking and showcase their amazing talents in front of a public audience.”
Students attended workshops on speech writing, speech delivery and impromptu speaking throughout the camp.
“The participants were given opportunities to have lots of practice, both within their groups as well as subgroups, with facilitators who were mostly experienced Toastmasters on hand to guide them by giving individual mentoring and coaching through the process.
“Students would then go on stage to deliver their speeches, either prepared or impromptu where we also gave them random topics to speak on. On the final day of the camp, we organised a speech contest which also provide chances for them to become judges at the event highlight,” added Ngu.
Apart from delivering speeches, participants were also divided into teams and put through obstacle courses.
“Several professionally trained national service camp instructors helped us to engage with the team building activities and we stressed on safety as our utmost priority. After the campers are done with the activity, we asked them on lessons that they have learned in this experiential learning process.
“The team building exercises witnessed campers working together to overcome the obstacle course as a team, and many conquered their fear of heights through the flying fox experience,” said veteran public-speaking trainer Lim.
Vast knowledge on source material with lots of practice are essential elements in becoming a successful public speaker, Lim revealed.
“If you do not know substance, you got no right to be on stage. In my opinion, a good speech should have an interesting opening to grab people’s attention and it needs to be logically arranged from a point to another before you end it with a very impactful closing which will make people remember you for that.
“The way you present is also vital. That is when the voice, eyes, gestures come in. Despite the various presentation styles, work on what suits us the best, something that rings true to yourself,” said Lim, commenting that the public speaking skill level in the state have lots to be improved.
Lim advised aspiring public speakers out there to “Just go for it.
“We all make mistakes and all you need is a thick skin and a voice. Do not aim to be number one but always try to improve yourself. You are your own benchmark and you are not competing with other people but yourself.
“If you have the commitment, look for some role model. Practice does not make perfect, rather perfect practice makes perfect. Again, it comes down to what really drives you and how much you really want to spend time and resources.”
During the camp, participants were also given opportunities to showcase their inner talents, including singing, dancing and acting in which they referred to as the ‘Oscar Night’.
“Participants were divided into teams at the Oscar Night to allow them to work together to showcase their talents as a group. This year, some of our highlights included a Bollywood dance, dramas complete with soundtracks, and singing. Each team also came up with a war cry to foster their team spirit.
“We hope that the participants will be able to appreciate their friendship built during this camp and nurture high confidence in themselves for them to not only become successful public speakers but also to face challenges in their lives,” added Kho.
This year, several corporations came in to support in terms of funding the camp’s activities including Cahya Mata Sarawak Berhad, Titanium Foundation, Sarawak Energy Berhad, Hock Seng Lee Berhad.
On their future activities, Kho said that they will keep their updates on their Facebook page www.facebook.com/kuching.toastmastersclub as well as during their bi-weekly meetings held on the first and third Sundays of every month.
“During these meeting, we encourage members to deliver their prepared speeches. Evaluation will be made and from there they will know how good they are and how much they need to improve.
“The key thing in our club is that we have a mentoring system and when you join us we assign a mentor not so much to teach you and help you by giving feedback. There are mentors and mentees. The atmosphere that we want to create is a supportive environment where we encourage each other to learn.
“We are not experts but we come together to try and help each other to become better public speakers by telling their strengths and weaknesses and generally we try to encourage them to speak and hopefully become a more confident speaker,” she added.
Kuching Toastmasters Club has currently a total of 55 members. Those 18-year-old and above who are interested to become part of the club are invited to attend their bi-weekly meetings which they will post the detail on their Facebook page. Alternatively, contact 012-8876889 (Laura) or 013-8382213 (Ning).
For more information about Kuching Toastmasters Club and its activities, visit www.facebook.com/kuching.toastmastersclub.