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August, 2001
Take Two:
Value Derived from performing Roles A Second Time

We live in a world where people are quick to proclaim “been there, done that.”

Yet in my experience it’s often the second time I go somewhere or do something that I receive the full benefit of the experience. This has definitely been true in Toastmasters.

For instance, the first time I served as a club president it took me four months to even feel comfortable in the role. It was only several years later, when I became president of a specialty club, that I really came to appreciate the role of presidency and what I could do in that role to lead our club to success.

As an area governor it was all I could do to survive my first contest in the fall. Yet when it was time to plan the spring contests I was filled with confidence, experience, and a better understanding of what was expected and what possibilities existed.

We are constantly learning, both within and outside of our club experiences. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of how much we’ve grown until we find ourselves in a similar situation and realize we have new skills and qualities to bring to bear.

I remember the first time I served as a meeting's Timekeeper. I was so proud of the precision with which I timed each speech, table topic and speech evaluation. Yet it was later when I served as Timekeeper a second time that I began to uncover other ways I could add value in that role: helping us start our meeting on time by giving a 30-second visual warning to our members, timing officer reports and giving flashes of yellow when unscripted portions of our meeting threatened to disrupt our day's timetable. It was when I served the second time as timekeeper that I realized I could assist our president and Toastmaster of the day in driving the meeting from the back of the room, just as a hook and ladder firetruck has a driver leading from the front and another one steering from the rear. Together they deftly navigate the terrain. As Timekeeper I provide the same direction and leadership throughout the meeting from the back of the room.

The first time I played the role of Grammarian in our club I diligently counted peoples' "ums' and "ahs" and the occasional "and um." I then gave my report of peoples' shortcomings in this area. I noticed I wasn't the most popular member that day as I issued the news of peoples' misuse of filler words. When they next asked me to fill the role I initially demurred. Oh, I've done that before. Can't someone else do it. Then a past president told me how much she enjoyed the role. She liked to catch people doing things right, using appropriate words and employing nice turns of phrase. Suddenly it opened my eyes to the possibilities. Now I relish the role of Grammarian. I credit our speakers who use alliteration, double entendres or draw nice analogies. I bring my dictionary to the meeting and define words used that day that I feel some may not know the meaning of. I still count filler words but do much more too. Only the second time around was I able to look beyond and stretch the envelope of my role as initially defined.

I’ve completed the Communication and Leadership manual twice since I’ve begun Toastmasters in 1992, and will rework for the third time in 1999-2000. Each time I open it I find ways of building on my current experience to get that much more out of each assignment. Just as people will reread the Bible, textbooks and classic novels, I too reread Toastmasters curricula I've completed previously. Each time I get something new. If you're not, read a little deeper! Albert Einstein said "The important thing Is never to stop questioning." Ask yourself how you can improve the quality of your club, meeting and District each time you serve.

Whether it is a Club or District office you are asked to serve a second time, or a role you’ve already played before in a meeting or special event, I challenge you to approach it with new eyes, new curiosity and newfound enthusiasm. The rewards will seem twice as sweet!

Craig Harrison DTM is a professional speaker and member of LaughLovers #596430-57, in Oakland California. It's his second club!

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