Monday, May 2, 2011


 "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

                                          ~ Confucius

Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) is the highest award bestowed upon a Toastmaster. Yet it is one which very few have achieved, let alone set out to work towards when joining a Toastmasters Club. Here, two of our DTMs share how their own journey has been.

DTM Soh Fong Wai is a Distinguished Toastmaster and served as Division W Governor during the term 2009/2010.

Hoo Sze Ling : When were you awarded the DTM title?
Soh Fong Wai : 2008. Myself, Siva and G.Jayam recieved the award at the same. I remember D'Utama gained 3 DTMs all in the same year.

HSL : When you first started as a Toastmaster, did you think you would become DTM?
SFW : In 2003, I just wanted to improve my language. My target was merely to complete CTM (the old title equivalent to today's CC). DTM was too far a goal for me.

HSL : Was there anyone who encouraged, motivated or inspired you to gon on this journey?
SFW : Yes, my first mentor, Alex Tan was very active when I joined Toastmasters, I was inspired by his ability to deliver quality speeches. Then Wei Seong always encouraged me to progress through the advanced speeches. I am also lucky to have met other 'gurus' like LeAnn Tang, Ramdas, Dr Arul, Dunstan Chan who arose my interest in advanced speeches and I decided to progress through one level ever year, i.e. complete ACB, ACS and ACG in 3 years.

HSL : Did you face any obstacles while working towards DTM and how did you resolve them?
SFW : Yes I found it challenging when I initially attempted the advanced speeches. I was not satisfied with the evaluations and feedback given at club level; I always felt that I could learn more. Then the formation of ACM (Advanced Communicator Meetings) came about where I could get 20 minutes feedback for 1 advanced speech. That was where the fun began.

HSL : Do you have any memorable moments to share with us?
SFW: Yes I was involved in the formation of the first bilingual club in Malaysia (Klang Bilingual Toastmasters Club). KBTC give members the opportunity to deliver speeches in English and Mandarin by paying only 1 club membership. Before the formation of KBTC,members needed to join English clubs to deliver speeches in English and Mandarin clubs to deliver speeches in Mandarin, which means you need to pay 2 club subscriptions if you want to speak in both languages. I have a lot of satisfaction seeing the growth of bilingual clubs … from 1 bilingual club to a multiple bilingual clubs in our district…

Another memorable moment is the formation of ACM…my 4 year-journey with Advanced Communicator Meeting(ACM), I have witnessed so many advanced speeches delivered (no other place to witness such a “pool” of advanced speeches). Members from over 120 clubs in Div B, C, G, P, W take turns to deliver their advanced speeches every month. I always appreciate the learning opportunities provided by ACM.

Memorable moments in terms of leadership, serving as Area Governor and Division Governor gave me plenty of opportunities to visit clubs, organized Toastmasters activities and friendships from club to Area to Division… and even District Level. There are many great leaders in Toastmasters from whom we can learn and work with . Amongst them are LeAnn Tang, DTM, DR Arul, DTM, Ho Fong Ming, DTM, Sivaganam, DTM, Ramdas Nayar, DTM, Dominic Joseph, DTM and many more who are always ready to help Junior Toastmasters. I also gained many friends as I visited clubs in Division B, C, G, P and W.

HSL : How have you benefitted from pursuing this award?
SFW: In short, PERSONAL GROWTH and Friendship. Toastmasters provides a “friends helping friends” environment, growth, sharing of experiences, where we can help others to achieve personal growth and we gain good friend. Of course I also gained confidence in public speaking,  evaluation skills and leadership ability (Thanks to the opportunity to lead Division W Term 2009/10 , the largest Division with close to 1000 members)

HSL : What advice would you given someone who is thinking about pursuing the DTM award?
SFW :  Believe that the program is a step-by-step program to help individuals to achieve personal growth. Actively participate in the program. Serve the club when you are called upon to be serve as club Exco officers, serve the Area (take up the role as Area Governor) after club president. The experience you gain is valuable and the journey is fun and rewarding. Most importantly, practise the 4 core values of Toastmasters:

1. Dedication to excellence
2. Integrity
3. Respect to the individual
4. Service to members

Siva is a very keen and committed Toastmaster who has been actively involved in Toastmastery for close to 10 years. 

He talks about how he ended up a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) because he certainly never thought he would set out to be one!

The Accidental DTM

It’s nice to be addressed as DTM Siva, and I am proud to be a DTM, but the truth is that I’m really an accidental DTM.  I never really planned to be a DTM, which is why the journey took me 10 over years, but as I look back a few things strike me, which I’d like to share with you.

Firstly, most, if not all the benefits of being a DTM, come from my journey of becoming a DTM.  For example, one of the requirements to be a DTM is that I had to serve one full year as a District Officer.  It gave me the extra push to volunteer to become a District Secretary when the opportunity presented itself; otherwise I might just have said to myself – ‘some other time, there’ll always be another chance’.  The other thing is that it helped me to grow by stretching me, for example when I realized that the only thing left to achieve my DTM was the High Performance Leadership(HPL)programme, I had an incentive to go and look for a project.  Very briefly, since the HPL required me to carry out a project where I had to work for a team, I chose to run a two step project, where the first step was fundraiser to get funds(around RM1000 if I recall), and the second step was to use the funds raised in organizing the club’s installation dinner, by subsidizing the ticket prices for club members.  I learnt something important in the project, that is when two major projects are carried out in a volunteer organization like Toastmasters, you need to give plenty of time in between, because I found that my helpers, and me, were drained by the fundraiser, and to a certain extent, did not do the best possible job in organizing the dinner itself, which was after all the ultimate purpose.

Secondly, you don’t do the DTM journey alone.  A lot of people gave me a helping hand along the way, but I’d like to single out Nancy Liew in particular.  Nancy was the one who gave me the final push to complete my DTM, by pointing out that all I required to complete my DTM was my ATM Gold award and my HPL.  I had honestly forgotten this as I completed the requirements gradually over the years.  The other thing she did was to prod me to complete it, and this final push was what me complete me ATMG and the HPL, and achieve my DTM.

Finally, although I think 10 years is a little long to complete my DTM, yet I wouldn’t encourage other Toastmasters to rush to complete their own DTMs.  The reason is that some requirements such as forming a new club as either a sponsor or mentor, can be extremely taxing.  For example, when I was the mentor for CPA Toastmasters(which has another name now), attended all their meetings for one year, as well as D’Utama’s meetings, meaning I was attending at least 4 Toastmaster meetings a month.  It may not necessarily be this strenuous, as certain circumstances for my situation were a little unusual.  Having said that many of the leadership requirements for the DTM can consume a lot of time and energy, so my suggestion would be deal with the requirements one at a time, unless you personally are comfortable with what you need to contribute.

In closing, I’d like to note that I have no regrets whatsoever with my journey to DTM, as I have received so many benefits.  One of the most valuable is the friendships I have made, among them friends in the CPA Toastmasters club, some of whom have been good friends for over 10 years now, right from the formation of the club. 

I wish all of you the very best in your own DTM journey, and trust that it will be as fulfilling as my own.