As we approach a big milestone for Dublin South Toastmasters, our 10-year anniversary, we caught up with President Ruairi Farrelly. Ruairi has been a member of the club since 2014, taking up numerous roles on the committee on his way to becoming President. Ruairi has also become one of the most accomplished speakers at our club, achieving Competent Communicator, Competent Leader, Advanced Leadership Bronze and Triple Crown awards – along with becoming the Most Improved Toastmaster of the Year in 2018. He has also completed 2 levels of the Dynamic Leadership path on Pathways.
We talked to Ruairi to discuss why he joined Toastmasters, what advice he would have for people who are thinking about joining and what it has been like to be President of the club in such a unique year.
1. When did you first attend a Toastmasters meeting and what did you think of it?
I First attended a meeting in October 2014. I did not know what to think. I had a preconception that it was just speeches. I did not know about evaluation, timekeeper roles etc. When they did the dry toast, I thought it was some sort of Cult. I was lucky to sit beside Peter Graham who talked me through the meeting, what it entails and what the benefit of all the roles were.
2. Did you join immediately after attending the first meeting?
Yes, I joined straight after the meeting. I signed up to do the Poetmaster role at the next meeting and completed my first speech in March.
3. Why did you join Toastmasters?
I worked in HR and when I first started working, I felt that I was very shy in meetings. If I had a point to make, I would not make it during the meeting. I would wait until after and then say it to the boss. I felt that if I wanted to progress in HR, I needed to change. Someone mentioned Toastmasters and I said I would give it a go. What helped me the most, was the different roles. Getting up and explaining the roles really helped build my confidence. I also felt that the dreaded table topics session was a great confidence booster – being called up to talk about a topic which you had not prepared! This can happen a lot in HR.
4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about joining Toastmasters?
Come visit the club and see what it is all about. The beauty is that you will not be asked to speak. You can sit, relax and enjoy the meeting. Have a chat with a member and ask questions. They will be happy to talk to you. Toastmasters is something that I feel very passionate about. I have spoken to a lot of guests and they have been in the same position as myself. They are shy and they don’t want to say anything. Within 3 months of Toastmasters, you will notice the difference. After the first year in Toastmasters, my boss asked for a volunteer to present an induction in front of 100 people. I volunteered. This would not have happened if I had not joined Toastmasters.
5. Why did you join Dublin South Toastmasters?
Any toastmasters club is about self-progression. I joined Dublin South because, when I joined, I felt welcome straight away. There was a great friendly atmosphere. All members wanted to talk to me and help me. Over the years, I have seen what a great positive environment Dublin South Toastmasters is. Guests have said to me that they have visited other clubs and they did not feel as welcome as they did in Dublin South Toastmasters.
6. When and why did you join the committee?
I joined the Committee in 2015. Cathal Deasey sent me a text message asking if I would be interested in taking up the role of treasurer. When I joined toastmasters, I said to myself whatever was asked of me, I would do. When talking to Cathal at the next meeting, he said “you’re an accountant aren’t you?”. I said no and he replied, “I’m sure it will be alright!!!!”. And the rest is history.
7. How did you find it?
I thought it was brilliant. I learned so much about the workings of a committee. I got to see how a club functions, what it costs to run it and I learned about the Distinguished club programme. Personally, I felt it was great because I was an important part of team. People listened and my opinion counted.
8. Taking on the presidency role sounds like a big challenge, but you also had a pandemic to deal with. How have you found the year so far?
I have found the role of president brilliant. We, like most clubs, are in a different place compared to this time last year. We have managed to move online and yet we are still able to conduct the meetings at the same high standard. A lot of this is thanks to the committee – both this year and last year. A special thanks must go to Pauline Flusk who put in a lot of work to move us online initially. The role of President is tough but with a great committee, it is a lot easier.
9. What advice would you have for a member who was thinking of joining the committee?
I would advise them to take it on. When I joined the committee, it was a new challenge and I never looked back. The confidence I gained from Toastmasters has come through as a committee member. It’s a great opportunity to improve your leadership skills. It also looks great on your CV.
10. A lot of people have joined toastmasters during the pandemic. Why do you think that is?
I don’t think we will ever be where we were a year ago. The days where meetings need to be face-to-face are behind us. It’s a new skill. Being comfortable on screen is something that we all must learn. There is also a certain convenience online. I found toastmasters a great source of stress relief. I am on the computer all day in work and while I do have meetings, I have very little social interaction. I find that Toastmasters gives me a real boost on Tuesday.
11. What impact has Toastmasters had on your personal and professional life?
Since I joined Toastmasters, I have become more confident both in my personal and professional life. I have become more assertive. If I am not happy with something in a restaurant or a shop, I will raise the issue. In an office environment, I now volunteer to give presentations at team meetings. I also speak at workplace relations and labour court hearings. I could not have done this without Toastmasters.
12. What has been your greatest memory since joining Dublin South Toastmasters?
My greatest personal memory was when I achieved my Competent Communicator award. I had to give a speech that inspired people. I gave a speech about something that I found very hard to talk about. However, I knew that I would be able to do it with my Toastmasters experience behind me.
13. What does the 10-year anniversary mean to the club?
I think this is a big milestone for the club, but it is just another milestone. This club has achieved a lot in 10 years, but it will be around for a long time to come. Since I joined six years ago, members have come and gone but the club continually attracts new members. This is on account of the excellent reputation of the club. It has been a pleasure to be the President of this club, but more importantly, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be a member of it.