Toastmaster wants you to listen more, talk less

Balraj Arunasalam

Toastmasters International, a world leader in communication and leadership development, has more than 352,000 memberships worldwide. With a presence in in 141 countries, it helps members improve their speaking and leadership skills.

Balraj Arunasalam, DTM, International president of Toastmasters International, was in the city recently to address Toastmasters here and see how they can improve communication growth in India.

In a conversation with Surupasree Sarmmah, the Sri Lankan talks about his 27 years as a toastmaster. 

What made you join this organisation?

I suffered from stage fright when I joined Toastmasters International. When I joined them, we were only one club in the country. Funnily enough, I didn’t speak up for six months because of stage fear. 

Now you are the chairman and managing director of Gemtrans Engineering Company. How did that happen?  

It is a given that whoever joins Toastmaster will get transformed if they are keen to learn and grow. In leadership, that transformation helps you to get control of yourself and help others and create more leaders. For the last nine years, I have not lost a single member from my company and I attribute that entirely to Toastmasters. It has helped me to train my staff, build a team and helped me to change from being a hard boss to opening a closed-door leadership policy.   

How have these 27 years of being a toastmaster been? How has it helped you?

It has helped me to change my core within and it has helped my family life. I got married in 1988 and it has been a very peaceful journey. Both my wife and I are able to communicate and more importantly, there is a huge positive impact on my children. When it comes to the corporate world, I think this is the least expensive form of in-house training; almost like a transformative process.

Tips for a shy person to turn into a confident version of themselves. 

Take shyness and fear out of ourselves in anything that we do. This is why we need to get into a programme where we are compelled not to be shy. If your shyness is towards facing an audience or interpersonal communication skills, it originates from somewhere and if you wish to beat that problem.

How does one acquire confidence?

Communication skills will make a person confident. Once you hear your own voice, you will be confident to speak to others and to speak to yourself. Most times, we don’t believe in ourselves. By joining Toastmasters International, you will learn cooperative skills you need in your professional world and then you will get all those soft skills you will need to run your own life. 

Two things that always work and help break the ice...

When you walk into a club and there is food there, that is when you should join the club. Nothing works like food. And if you want to attract people, this is the first thing you must serve.  Also, learn to listen; especially when you go back home after a day of work. That is the biggest lesson I learnt from this programme. Invariably, when you listen, 90% of the problem is solved. Speak to the world and shut up at home. 

One joke that never worked for you...

People might think that we are great joke masters but when you crack a joke and no one laughs, the biggest joke is you. This happened to me four or five years ago when I was in China. I tried to imitate the Chinese and tried to talk to them and that never worked.   

Tips to impress a date...

Firstly, never try to express or impress too much. Be the person you are. That is what is welcomed by the millennials. Secondly, listen more and talk less. Get the preferences right before the date. A 15 minutes date can be dragged to two hours if you know what to order.

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Toastmaster wants you to listen more, talk less

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