Interview with Distinguished Toastmaster Carshena Gordon, Division Director I
Toastmaster Gordon firmly believes:
"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
What brought you into Toastmasters?
I am a meteorologist by profession, which involves interacting with the public. I have to conduct radio and television interviews as well as tours at my office. I was not very confident about my presentation skills and I decided to join Toastmasters. I heard that it helps with developing communication skills and this would assist me in communicating better with the public.
You commented that Toastmasters is more than giving speeches. Can you explain what you mean by that statement?
When I joined Toastmasters, I thought that it was about helping persons improve their presentation and communication skills. Over the period of about two years, I realized that Toastmasters also helps with your leadership skills and provides the opportunity for members to serve as Club Officers or at the District level.
It also helps with networking because I have attended a few conferences and learned that I can become friends with many people from different backgrounds across the Caribbean. It is beyond anything that I imagined in the beginning.
You have served as the Vice President Education on two occasions, 2017 to 2018 and 2018 to 2019. You are a Club Sponsor and in 2019, you were an Area Director. Of all of the roles that you have performed, which was the most challenging?
The most challenging role was that of an Area Director. Although many members think that the role of Vice President Education is possibly the most challenging, it was easy for me to reach out to people. However, with the Area Director role, I functioned as a leader at a more responsible level.
In the beginning, it was challenging because I had to surround myself and work with persons from a different territory. I was accustomed getting things done on my own and advising persons on the best way to accomplish a goal without being forceful. Over a period of time, the members assisted me in further developing my skills and I learned a lot in the end.
You have been a Triple Crown winner ever since you joined Toastmasters. You are a member of three clubs, Souliga Corporate Toastmasters Club, Creative Intellect Toastmasters Club and The Power to Serve Toastmasters Club. How do you juggle being a member of three clubs and still achieve all of your goals?
Toastmasters has helped me with time management. Each club has its unique culture, Soualiga Corporate Toastmasters Club is a corporate club for government workers. As a government worker, I try to use that club to network with my fellow civil servants. The Creative Intellect Toastmasters Club is a community club and I set aside time to network with people from the community.
The Power to Serve Toastmasters Club is a corporate club which has a lot of dual members. I have a strong support system to assist me with any projects with which I am having a challenge. They support me in a different capacity because most of them are experienced Toastmasters , as such I set aside time on different days to work on a specific challenge or a goal within that club.
What were some of the goals that you set for yourself when you became the Division I Director ?
One of the main goals that all Division Directors has is for all clubs to become President’s Distinguished. We are working diligently to support our members to achieve their goals first. That will in turn help us to become a President’s Distinguished Area and Division.
Another of the goals I initially had was to pursue an alliance between Toastmasters and the Rotary Club. We have started an alliance with the Rotary Club in Saint Martin. The membership is increasing and there is information sharing about the two programs.
Some clubs have only English and French speakers while others are bilingual. We have created programs to accommodate members who are bilingual and although Toastmasters is about developing and enhancing skills, it is also about having fun. For example, we had a games night conducted in English and French so that both English and French speaking members could participate. I hosted a Debate Competition and the debate team reached the finals for the first time. I think that was an amazing accomplishment by our members.
Was there any particular goal that you set for yourself that you did not achieve?
Yes, membership retention. We were severely affected by the pandemic, as many persons from various clubs have migrated and some have lost their jobs. Nevertheless, we are conducting different membership campaigns whereby we have expositions and speech contests. In spite of the fact that many of the clubs are below charter strength, we are working to build membership before the end of the Toastmasters term.
How have you, as the Division Director been encouraging your members to adopt Pathways?
Division I does not have a 100% Pathways adoption rate and a Pathways training programme was organised in English and French. We used experts who served as Pathways Guides to deliver the training programme. The Area Directors organized additional training deemed necessary for their Area. We visited various clubs in the Division and performed roles so that members were able to witness our involvement in the programme.
What is the message that you would want to send to the members of your Division?
Division I members, I know that we are in challenging times. It may seem that we may not accomplish our goals. You have the leaders from your clubs, leaders from your area, and the entire Division as a support team to help you in improving your skills.
We will organize whatever training programme you need. We are here to help you accomplish your personal goals and intend to continue to develop and encourage a friendly and supportive environment for all members to learn and grow.