In less than two years in Toastmasters, Abhijeet Joshi already won the District 101 Club Officer of the Year 2019-2020 award, became an area director, the VP of Education in his home club, the creator of a series of video conversations for the district blog, and in the process of forming three new clubs. Oh yes, and he also has a full-time job as a materials engineer in Nvidia, specializing in batteries.
I was fortunate to have an intriguing conversation with Abhijeet, and I was happy to meet a man that is truly motivated and energized by helping and contributing to others. An individual who thrives when working with groups of people on mutual goals. A person who is full of gratitude for his mentors and acknowledges them in every opportunity.
Q: Congratulations on winning the annual club officer of the year 2019-2020. What, in your opinion, were your actions that led to winning this award?
A: With the encouragement of Vinod Nagarajan, I became VP of Education in my home club, NSpeak. One quote from Michael Chojnacki made all the difference for me: “When people come your way, try to truly connect with them”. Following this advice, I helped increase the number of members from 27 to 43 members. I also started to mentor the new members, helping them with the various roles in the meetings, and reviewing their speeches. I noticed the changes were multifold: the culture of the club started to change for the better, a community was building, which is not easy to do in a corporate club, people felt more connected, and the morale of the club increased. I decided to continue with educating and initiated an evaluation workshop, followed by another, due to its success. Eventually, I conducted a different workshop every three weeks, inviting different fellow toastmasters who are experts in their field. These workshops not only helped me learn faster, but they also helped increase the quality of the club: the club had eight contestants for the evaluation contest and seven contestants for the humorous contest.
Q: Please describe who and what positively influenced you in Toastmasters and pushed you further?
A: I was fortunate to come across many great people, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today:
- Sonya Kleshik, who encouraged me to join Toastmasters in the first place by saying: “it will change your life!”
- Dan Merget was my first mentor, he helped me in the first couple of speeches and helped create a strong foundation.
- Michael Chojnacki, during the VP of Education club officer training, advised that the best approach to take is to connect with people, which was a true changing point.
- Visiting and giving speeches in other clubs early on, helped me learn and improve faster.
- I sought Dennis Dawson as my mentor, who advised me that I can influence more than 100 people by being an area director, which is much more than the influence I can make by a 5-7 minutes speech. This convinced me to attempt the role of an area director.
- Pavan Datla helped by pushing me forward and presenting new opportunities, such as being the contest chair for tall tales and other roles which helped expand my horizons.
Q: You are also the man behind the “heart to heart conversation” initiative which launched in the district 101 blog. Can you talk about the process of making this initiative happen?
A: I felt that we are surrounded by many people but we don’t know their stories. I wanted to be inspired and inspire others through personal stories. I discussed this desire to have a heart to heart conversations with other people until the district director offered to move forward with this idea. I collected a very supportive group of people to brainstorm on how to make it happen. The brainstorming meetings transformed and shaped the initial idea to the final outcome. The learning process didn’t end there, but with the experience of one heart to heart conversation, the next one was even better. I hope this series will inspire people and will also provide opportunities for people to experience conducting interviews and being interviewed. I am deeply touched by the stories that are shared in these conversations.
Q: In what way do you feel that your experience in Toastmasters has changed these last months of the pandemic? Can you find positive aspects of the transformation?
A: The change in my life due to the pandemic was significant. I started to invest an increasing amount of time in Toastmasters, which is changing me as a speaker and as a leader. It brings me closer to many people, by having the opportunity to mentor and contribute to people, who are physically distant.
Since all meetings are online, it is easier to visit many different clubs. Over the last six months, I gave over 100 speeches to different clubs. I even managed to squeeze 4 speeches in different clubs on the same day.
Since the location of the club is no longer an obstacle, I am working on building three new Toastmasters clubs that could only have been formed thanks to the online meetings:
- A new Intercontinental Club that I am forming with the help of two fellow toastmasters from Canada. This club will include members from different countries. They will learn from one another, share their different experiences, and will raise their own standards. The members are enthusiastic about this club, overcoming the challenge of the time difference by joining the club’s meetings even at very late hours. This proves that it is important and beneficial to them.
- Helping to form a new club in India, to the request of an Indian woman who wanted people in India to benefit from Toastmasters as much as she did. I meet with this club every week and try to help as I can.
- Inspired by how toastmasters changed the life of a woman who visited my home club, I decided to start a Women Lead Club which with the help of fellow toastmasters, we will be chartering the club in a few months.
Q: What is the greatest contribution that joining Toastmasters had on your personal life?
A: The most significant contribution of Toastmasters is that it helped me connect with my purpose of giving back. It was a desire of mine but I didn’t have an avenue for it. Toastmasters provide such avenues for me, first of all, by making me feel accepted, and then by presenting the opportunities to open up, connect and contribute to others. I feel I am completing my life’s purpose.
Q: What is your next goal in Toastmasters?
A: I would like to help people prepare for international speech contests. I am curious how the finalists prepare for the contests, how do they get so good? I want to learn from them and share it with everyone. I am contacting finalists from 2020 and forming a three-part workshop called “The road of the world championship of public speaking”. The first meeting will focus on planning, the second will be a panel discussion with the three finalists, and the third meeting will focus on how to prepare for the international speech contest at the district level.
In our conversation, Abhijeet mentioned that he might have taken too much upon himself, that maybe he should slow down and make more time for his personal life. To me, it seems that Toastmasters and Abhijeet’s personal life is one, and bound together.
My main take-away from our conversation is that to truly listen and learn from other people’s advice by connecting to them, and to recognize and grasp every opportunity that comes, are two very helpful skills, that Abhijeet possesses both, and that I would love to earn them as well.