Raising a Toast to Our New Masters The AECOM Los Angeles Toastmasters Club has elected new officers for the 2011-2012 term. Kevin Lee will serve as president. Richard Beltran was elected vice president for education. James Suk is the new membership VP. The ebullient Bryan Musson will serve as public relations VP, Julia Peng is the new treasurer, and Sudhir Agrawal is sergeant-at-arms. Congratulations to all, and our thanks to the outgoing cadre that served so well this past year.
Talk like your career depends on it.
AECOM Senior Vice President James B. Hilton on the critical importance of great communication skills
WORDS, WORDS, WORDS!
This Time It's Personal In her tenth AECOM TM speech, engineer June Susilo sought to “inspire the audience through noble motives.” Aptly titled "Think About It," her speech did exactly that.
“I read an article about a 38-year-old woman with no immediate family who donated a kidney to a total stranger. It had little long-term effect on her, but she saved a stranger’s life. She made a huge difference,” explained the former AECOM TM president and six-year AECOM TM veteran. “My father-in-law is on the waiting list to receive a kidney, so her story touched me deeply. And that’s what my speech was about. It was personal for me.”
Integrating information, anecdote, and emotion, Susilo moved the crowd. Although divulging such personal content can be risky, Susilo believes it was worth it.
“I knew the club well enough to know people would be open to it. And that comfort, that confidence is just one of the benefits I’ve derived from AECOM TM. That has helped me both personally and professionally. Now, I’m not afraid to speak out.”
Water, Water Everywhere Puts a City at Risk Inspired by a National Geographic article (“Vanishing Venice,” August 2009), Manuel Ponce delivered his eighth Toastmasters speech to the group at 300 South Grand Avenue. His six-minute talk on “Venice Underwater” explored the chronic flooding challenges that confront the 272,000 residents of this historic Italian city.
Using dramatic photographs and diagrams, he documented how the “acqua alta” conditions are driving away residents and tourists alike. (One memorable shot shows customers nonchalantly wading through several inches of water to shop for groceries.)
Manuel then described an experimental engineering solution that is targeted for completion in 2014. This series of 79 movable pontoons will use inflatable barriers to keep the water from cascading into the lagoon that surrounds the city. Costing several billion euros, the system is not cheap—but it could preserve an international treasure.
Mr. Ponce likes things that work. So he is particularly fond of Toastmasters: “It has really improved my public speaking skills and my confidence going up in front of people.”As the current president of his TM group, he notes that people respond well when you’re prepared, knowledgeable, and energetic. Point taken: He won the day’s vote for best speech.
Taking the High Road, One Castle at a Time In her fourth TM speech, Rosa White, an assistant vice president with High Mark Capital, treated the club to a vicarious tour of Scotland and Ireland, presenting a vivid talk on “My Trip to Europe.” Her energetic delivery won high marks, and her emphasis on sampling trips to the purveyors of adult beverages—such as the Guinness brewery and the Jameson distillery—tickled even this sober audience’s fancy.
Rosa also expounded on the beauty of the highlands, the mystique of Edinburgh, and the awe-inspiring castles that dot the Scottish countryside. Moving on to Ireland, she described her visit to Trinity College (the oldest university in Ireland) and to Blarney Castle outside of Cork, home of the famous Blarney Stone—reputed to impart the gift of eloquence to those who kiss it.
There’s no word on whether Rosa osculated the rock, but her eloquence was applauded by the appreciative audience.Rosa enjoyed the speaking experience too, remarking that “Everyone is nervous when you start speaking, but it feels great once you get into it and the audience is with you. TM is a wonderful organization, and it can help advance your career."
Life Therapy: Through the Eyes of a Child AECOM/LKG-CMC project control administrator Robert Watson broke the Toastmasters "ice" with a perspective-altering speech called “Through the Eyes of a Child.”
“Kids walk around looking for the fantastic or magical. They stop suddenly and enjoy whatever special thing captures their attention. It could be a bug, something blown by the wind, or an odd-looking shiny rock. We’ve been given front row seats to this show, too, but we have to learn anew how to enjoy it.”
While echoing Thoreau and Wordsworth in intent, Watson is more down-to-earth in his approach to Toastmasters.
“My cubicle was right outside their meeting area. I could always hear something fun going on inside. Curiosity prevailed and I joined. And I’m glad I did. With technology’s pervasiveness, face-to-face communication feels like a lost art. I enjoy people more than technology. But learning to speak publicly is not easy. AECOM TM provides the perfect forum to sharpen those skills— skills that are still critical to a successful working environment.”
A Dog’s Day After All David Yee is an accomplished hiker; his dog, Buck, is not. And in his entertaining speech, “An Ordinary Saturday,” the senior bridge engineer described the misadventure that occurred when Buck was unable to continue a recent trek.
“After two-plus hours of strenuous hiking in the heat, Buck started to lag. I went back and found him lying down, refusing to move an inch. Buck is usually an active dog, so that was really scary. I immediately went for help. In the end, a potentially terrifying experience became a comical animal rescue adventure involving park rangers, emergency vehicles, and a long trek with a 55-pound dog in an overly stressed baby stroller.”
The incident offered insight into Yee’s character, as well as his engineering philosophy. And the real message? “Don’t panic,” says the former president of the AECOM chapter of Toastmasters. “Deal with each challenge calmly. That’s a valuable skill that I use at work every day.”
I Came, I Listened, I Spoke. Now Can I Have Lunch?
Poignant, revealing, and educational, the first-ever Toastmasters speech by AECOM graphic designer Bryan Musson made an indelible impression. His title was “Here I Am,” and his message was equally blunt.
Musson captured the audience with his opening. “One year of finger painting, lunchtime naps, and missing my mother. Three years of being bullied in primary school. Three more years of being the bully in elementary school . . . ” Using that past as prologue, Musson then built the narrative, describing his first job as a junior art director. Imparting wisdom gained through experience, he stressed the need for collaborating with others.
And how did his first public-speaking foray feel?
“It’s a lot like swimming. You jump in, and for the first five seconds you know you’re going to die. Then you get used to it. But I had to do it. I ate free lunches for a whole year before an ultimatum was issued: ‘Either you give a speech or stop eating our sandwiches!’ So I spoke—and it was worth it.
“As a graphic designer, I often have to explain my designs and ideas, usually to a committee or team. Even though that setting may not require a formal speech, Toastmasters still gives me practice in organizing and delivering information. And that helps me feel comfortable talking to people.”
A Revolution in Evolution: Hobbit Habitat Harbors Bona Fide Whodunit AECOM media relations officer Alexandra Spencer thinks you should reconsider Bigfoot, Yetis, UFOs, and the Loch Ness monster. And in a fascinating Toastmasters presentation, she explained why. “What I love most about science is the constant questioning. Whenever we think we have all of the answers, something comes along to turn ‘fact’ upside down. Consider the discovery of skeletal remains of Homo floresiensis, a hair-covered, one-meter-tall hominid that may have lived alongside modern man. Can you imagine a European explorer meeting a Hobbit?” That possibility could turn our knowledge about evolution on its head. It already has touched off a firestorm in the scientific community. But that’s a good thing. “It’s fine to trust science, but never trust it blindly," says Spencer tongue in cheek. "The next time you hear someone talk about a Bigfoot or Yeti sighting, don’t dismiss them out of hand.”