My name is Allen Assaid, and I am a Member of several Toastmasters Clubs throughout South Carolina who wishes to help promote Toastmasters throughout the State and especially the Columbia area. We just had our Annual Conference in May, where Columbia Resident Minnie Thomas won the International Speech Contest at the Conference and advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals last month. I had the opportunity to interview Thomas recently regarding her experience with Toastmasters, and here is the article I have written: “Toastmasters, A Love Story”. I have also included a few photos of Thomas, one of which includes me.
The Toastmasters International Speech Contest is the consummate platform for Toastmasters all across the Globe to share their fine-tuned speaking skills and open their hearts to their captivated audience. In the last 5 years that I have been a Toastmaster, I have heard many inspiring stories and have been blown away more than a few times. Yet few Individuals have graced the District Speech Contest Stage with as much grace, style, and effervescence as the fabulous Ms. Minnie Thomas. The 2-time Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) rightfully took the 1st Place prize at the District 58 Annual Conference last May, besting 2 previous D58 Champions with her compelling story “Bent, But Not Broken”.
“I wanted to continue to hone and perfect my skillsets”, and “I felt the call the serve”, said Thomas, regarding why she joined Toastmasters in 2005 and has been a dedicated Member ever since. Throughout her tenure, Thomas has hosted 4 Youth Leadership Programs and is currently working on her 5th. She has a strong passion for developing Children and Teenagers into future Leaders, a passion she has passed on to her own Children.
When Thomas applied for a Corporate Trainer position at Blue Cross Blue Shield, her skillsets captured the attention of her Superiors, who summoned other Managers to observe her in action. This ignited a state of panic in Thomas, at which point her Colleague encouraged her to join Toastmasters, in the hope that the skills Thomas would go on to acquire would alleviate her on-the-job anxieties. Suffice it to say that Thomas has more than excelled both in Toastmasters and in her career.
Regarding the desire to compete, Thomas has taken full advantage of the “learning laboratory” that is Toastmasters, as there is an infinite supply of “knowledge free of charge”. She practices frequently with her Husband, an “excellent listener” who provides ample feedback, as well as all of her fellow Club Members. Thomas collected countless notes from her Peers in preparation for the International Speech Contest. “I studied those as if I was trying to pass an exam,” she said, and the studying and practicing led her to victory several times throughout this most recent Contest Season. Thomas had a compelling message for her audience with her speech “Bent, But Not Broken”. “Things will happen in life that cause you to be bent, but I don’t want people to take on a self-defeatist attitude; the future will be controlled by you.” Now for the big question: does Thomas plan to compete in the future? “Absolutely, I want to be a model for others.”
Several Individuals have played a pivotal role in Thomas’ success. She credits fellow DTM Brian Woolf, another veteran Toastmaster who previously advanced to the Finals in the World Championship of Public Speaking. Woolf gifted her with 3 personalized books penned by Woolf: “The Speaker’s Toolkit”, “The Speaker’s Blueprint”, and “The Non-Humorous Handbook”. Thomas also paid homage to fellow DTC Deborah McCray, a Data Intelligence Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield. McCray chartered Blue Streak Toastmasters back in 2005 and took Thomas under her wing when Thomas first joined that Club.
Throughout my Toastmasters journey, I have seen countless Members and Guests grace multiple Clubs with their presence and with the best of intentions. However, Families, Careers, Education, and other personal commitments always competed for their attention, and Toastmasters inevitably took a backseat. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times others have stated that they don’t have time for Toastmasters. This is definitely a commitment just like anything else, but I can attest that the benefits equal or surpass the time invested. Thomas is a firm believer that the skills and knowledge acquired through Toastmasters “builds discipline” and teaches Members to “work smarter, not harder”. One of Thomas’ biggest successes was being able to give a presentation to the CEO Compliance Team of
Blue Cross Blue Shield, a task that Toastmasters gave Thomas to confidence to tackle. “It’s almost like I’ve won the lottery,” she exclaimed.
You may currently catch Thomas at Blue Streak Toastmasters and Next Level Toastmasters in the Columbia, SC area. I would strongly expect her to grace us with her presence at several upcoming Contests and Training Events. Thomas is also willing to support and mentor anyone who is interested in Toastmasters and pursuing their own goals, and she may also be reached at email@example.com. “You can shine wherever you go with Toastmasters,” Thomas stated. My sentiments exactly. I strongly encourage all of you to visit a Toastmasters Club in your area to see what a positive impact this Organization may have on your life. You’re always among Friends, and the investment will yield many long-term gains and dividends.