“At a time when social media has brought the public within reach of each of us, it is especially important to get rid of public speaking. This is why people who don’t have a judgmental audience can really hone their speaking skills. In fact, more and more Emirati professionals have found value in membership,” he added.
The club was founded 27 years ago in the UAE capital and is said to be the first Toastmasters chapter in the UAE. Like its parent organization, Toastmasters International – which was first established in the United States in 1924 – Abu Dhabi Toastmasters teaches public speaking and leadership skills. In Abu Dhabi, members meet every other week for two hours and develop their public speaking skills through a series of rounds and speaking opportunities.
About 75 people attended the 750th meeting, with members flying down from Jordan. Several former club presidents spoke at the event, with a 13-year-old schoolgirl giving the keynote address.
People join clubs for many different reasons, but most want to gain confidence.
“For example, one of our members tried to overcome his stutter. Another high-ranking female official said she just wanted an audience different from her colleagues with whom she could hone her skills, Khatoon said.
A business trainer and human resources manager by profession, Khatoon himself joined the club in 2018. Since then, he has opened his own YouTube channel and says he is exposed to hundreds of people with different backgrounds and ideas very different from his own.
“I’ve noticed that a lot of people can be ignorant introverts, which can make them afraid of public speaking. Overcoming these fears and becoming a more persuasive communicator can often be the key to professional success,” said Khatoon.
Another longtime member, Saravanane Rajalou, joined the club four and a half years ago after her own sons benefited from Toastmasters clubs for children, called Gavel Clubs.
“I had heard from my friends that the club helped build leadership skills, and I enrolled my son, then 13, in the Gavel Club. My younger son also joined a few months later, and I noticed how they became better listeners and young people who could approach the conversation more clearly and logically,” said Rajalou.
He soon enrolled, and today he testifies that the club’s activities have helped him become a more confident speaker and individual. His older son remained a member until he left for university in the UK, and Rajalou said he now plans to sign up for another Toastmasters chapter there.
“I am honored to chair the club at its 750th milestone meeting and I have no doubt that we will soon see its 1,000th meeting within a few years given the way it benefits the community,” Rajalou said.
Keeping up with the times
Looking ahead, the club itself keeps up with the times.
“We often welcome a ‘roastmaster’ who ‘roasts’ club members in the spirit of comedy, as has become very popular recently. Humor is also an integral part of our stressful lives. Abu Dhabi Toastmasters has also launched its own podcasts and regularly recognizes budding YouTubers” , Khatoon said.