Rita Barber is an accomplished executive presentation coach of over ten years. She advises groups and individuals about effective communication to empower them to reach their potential as leaders. Rita is also an experienced Toastmaster, serving as District Governor for District 4, which includes over 6500 members of community and corporate clubs in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Monterey. Under Rita’s leadership, District 4 was classified as a Select Distinguished District, the largest district in North America, and among the largest in the world. Rita is a talented public speaker, having earned the District 101 Toastmaster of the Year award in 2018-2019. In 2016, Rita was selected by Toastmasters International as a recipient of the Toastmasters International Presidential Citation Award for her work in promoting communication and leadership excellence. Rita currently serves as Vice President of Membership for Aptos Toastmasters Club, a President’s Distinguished Club. Today, Rita continues to promote Toastmasters, as she works towards her third Distinguished Toastmaster distinction, and seeks out ways to help her community.
Q: When did your Toastmasters journey begin?
A: A friend recommended Toastmasters to me after she attended a program I was volunteering at for high school students. Throughout the program, I had been comfortable leading workshops, but I wasn’t comfortable speaking publicly. On my friend’s recommendation, I joined Toastmasters and found that I really liked the people and the highly organized meeting structure. I stayed with Toastmasters because I enjoyed the sense of community. Throughout my journey, I strove to say “yes” to requests, learn on the spot and figure out tasks later. People helped me grow in ways I never expected.
Q: What were some of the biggest takeaways you gained from Toastmasters?
A: My biggest takeaways were not necessarily related to public speaking. In Toastmasters, I gained experience with taking on different personas and learning how to approach professional and personal situations in new ways. I also gained a strong sense of support from my club community. One of my club members, Ron Goodman, was a particular inspiration for me. Ron had a very positive attitude and was constantly rooting for others. I have since moved away from the Toastmasters club I started with, but I still consider it to be my main club today.
Q: You have achieved the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) distinction not once, but twice. You are also working towards your third DTM. Can you explain how you attained these distinctions?
A: Regarding my journey towards each DTM, there were so many choices I was interested in that I was like a kid in a candy store. I continue to work toward this distinction repeatedly because I want to explore many different learning paths and DTM projects. Because there were so many choices, it was easy to complete both DTMs. I am currently just shy an HPL for my third!
Q: How do you come up with topics for your speeches?
A: My kids are my biggest inspirations. I learn from them and see how they navigate different situations. I want my kids to consider who they are and not let someone else consider them to be less than who they are. Many of my topics stem from this belief. I also enjoy exploring how I can provide hints for my kids to guide them towards making their own choices in certain circumstances rather than outwardly telling them what to do. This exploration is also a subject I explore in my speeches.
Q: You currently work as an executive presentation coach. What compelled you to pursue a career in executive coaching and mentorship?
A: I love watching people grow and change. I love seeing an individual getting excited about something he/she has accomplished and then sharing that with me. For example, one of my clients recently received a huge promotion at work. After receiving this promotion, he called me and was ecstatic over the phone. He told me that he gained so much from our interactions. When people love seeing what you do, they come back for more. The way my client was able to move up in his company was a reflection of him trusting himself. Seeing changes in my clients, like the example I just mentioned, motivates me to keep pursuing my career as an executive presentation coach.
Q: Of all the lessons you’ve learned through Toastmasters and your career, in your opinion, which is the most important?
A: Bad things may happen to you, but don’t put yourself in a place where you can’t recognize good things as well.
Q: Do you have any final words of advice for our members?
A: When it comes to attending Toastmasters, there is no reason why you should not. Toastmasters is not just about communication and leadership. It is about confidence and trusting yourself. Toastmasters provides people with the opportunity to be more self-reflective, so that they can do things in life that are most beneficial to them. I have met so many people who have changed their career paths because of joining Toastmasters. Through Toastmasters, these individuals came to know themselves better and felt more comfortable to switch career paths. Toastmasters offers members a playground. It does not stand there in judgement of you. In the real world, things judge you. When you are in Toastmasters, you can really stretch. As far as you think you can stretch yourself, you can always stretch further.
Q: What is next for you?
I would like to write and produce more content. I would also like to dive into publishing. Additionally, I want to give a Ted Talk and pursue career opportunities in San Jose and Almaden Valley. Overall, I want to help others and actively work on that.
Written by Ramya Ramachandran of Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters Club