Mari-Lou Wong-Chong

Mari-Lou Wong-Chong is a chartered member of the Brunswick County Toastmasters Club, Chair, Brunswick County Intercultural Festival, Board member BC Literacy Council

I am a Toastmaster. How many of you have introduced yourself this way? 

Nowadays, I can, with confidence and with comfort.

Years ago, I attended a support group meeting. I was so impressed with the speaker’s confidence, speaking skill and sincerity. I later found out that she was a Toastmaster. I was invited to the Club meeting. Every time I visited, I was greeted with warmth and friendliness. In the beginning I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the excellence and quality of the speeches and the speakers. But instead of getting discouraged, I told myself: I want to be like them— a Toastmaster who wears many hats! I want to use this to help me cope with my Anxiety disorder.

Years later, here I am. It is my hope that one of you will say to yourself:” I want to accomplish what she has as a Toastmaster.”

I remember vividly the first time I did impromptu speaking (think on your feet?) Mine was excruciatingly painful. I was so nervous, my knees were knocking, and I couldn’t open my mouth. Sweat coming down my eye brows and armpits. All that came out were 23 ah’s and hum’s the whole minute I was in front of an audience. Enough to say, “this is not for me.” But, I had so many Toastmasters behind me with encouragement and support. It took me almost a year to get the courage, motivation and the desire to give Toastmaster a try.

The road to my first book of 10 speeches was rough, but mostly positive experience. I started my Icebreaker at the bottom of this huge mountain.  “What a climb,” I thought to myself. But I was determined. I made baby steps and before I knew it, I was half way up the mountain. I paused and looked back. I like what I have done so far. I looked up and thought, “Not too far to go!” After 10 months, here I was on top of the mountain hugging my precious Competent Toastmaster award. Oh, what an exhilarating feeling of accomplishment. 

All along the climb to my competent Toastmaster award, I never walked alone. I had more than enough support and encouragement from my fellow Toastmasters. Along the way, I was encouraged to keep going, take on leadership roles, which in turn gave me a sense of ownership to the Club. I made numerous mistakes, but it did not matter because it was part of my learning and personal growth.

As I travelled through improving my communication and leadership skills, things got better, improving and getting more comfortable with my fear of public speaking, my awareness of the importance of teamwork, and always mindful of my goals, especially diligent in following through goals I have set for myself.

My continued involvement and experience with Toastmaster has also taught me valuable coping skills in dealing with my anxiety disorder. Thankful to say, the discomfort and extreme fear has taken a “back-seat.”  Again I never walked alone. My Toastmaster family held my hand as I grew one step at a time.

My continued journey and commitment to personal growth rewarded me with the ultimate award of Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). I felt like a kid having the first taste of ice cream or having a toy I never before received! My exuberance felt like the first time I saw snow when I first arrive to the United States as an exchange student. Communication and leadership skills are learned, and just like a muscle-if it is not exercise it dies! Therefore, skills learned need to be constantly exercised.

What are the benefits? What do we get out of being a Toastmaster?

Leadership, public speaking,  listening skills, parliamentary procedures, effect evaluation ,company and employee benefits, better attitude, effective evaluation, managerial skills, creative thinking, impromptu speaking, accepting criticism objectively, and much more. 

BCTM meets every Tuesdays virtual at 6:00pm EST. We have members of all backgrounds, culture, ages, and years of experience. 

Come visit with us. This is a special invitation to our high school students. Let us help you with your communication and leadership skills.

For information: Check out BCTM Facebook and website: Brunswick County Toastmasters Club. Contact: Mari-Lou Wong-Chong at 910 842-6566   Colt Cash at (250) 492-2362