The latest edition of Faces of Four features Elliotte Mao, longtime Toastmaster and chair of the upcoming District 4 Fall conference. Elliotte has put in a tremendous amount of work to plan the upcoming conference. Let’s take a moment to get to know our esteemed chair.
Tell us a little about your Toastmasters career (e.g. How long have you been with the organization, what clubs do you belong to, what made you join, etc.).
I joined Toastmasters 18 years ago, which began with an invitation to a speech contest. Many of the speeches were spun so beautifully that it triggered fond memories of childhood stories told by a neighborhood ‘uncle.’ I remember saying to myself “I’d like to talk like that, make words come alive!” I went to a meeting at High Spirits of Toastmasters and the rest is history.
History, of course, included starting a dozen clubs, mentoring six, holding membership in four (High Spirits TM, San Francisco Mandarin/English TM, Wellness TM, Study Group TM), competing in countless speech contests, and now chairing my second District Conference.
How has Toastmasters helped you in your professional career?
There is almost no distinction between my professional and personal endeavors anymore since I walk/talk/live the Toastmasters skills in everything I do. I’ve transitioned from an art director to a Tai Chi teacher, and believe me, the ‘Toastmasters difference’ is evident in how I have effectively leveraged communication and leadership finesse with clients, students, friends, even strangers.
What is the best public speaking advice you’ve ever received?
I have two favorites:
“Feel the fear. Do it anyway.”
Since I believe fear will always be there, even for the most advanced speakers, I like that it leaves me with no alternative but to speak! In Toastmasters, you will fearfully speak better and better.
“Know thy Audience.”
This seems so basic, but I’m surprised to see how many speakers hold their audience responsible for ‘not getting it’ or for being bored. No, You’re boring! You didn’t reach your audience. You don’t get it.
I started off with one Tai Chi class, and now I have 18. I see every class, every student as a fresh audience.
What has surprised you the most about yourself since you joined Toastmasters?
I am amazed at what a Toastmasters junkie I have become. I can’t say “No” to a Demo meeting, even though that is how I got hooked into sponsoring/mentoring so many clubs.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of Toastmasters?
Besides teaching Tai Chi at hospitals, fitness centers, and corporate offices, I have the coolest job of selecting the most amazing movies to show at the Center for Spiritual Living Peninsula, then I lead the discussion afterwards. We cover the whole gamut of films – classics, indies, documentaries, new releases. Some are uncomfortable to watch, but they all reveal that kernel of human resilience or brilliance.
How would you describe the perfect meal?
The perfect meal is ….one that I DON’T HAVE TO COOK! After preparing 3 meals for 4 people for 2 decades (how many meals is that?) I am so ready to be wined and dined.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
That I won the loudest burp award in 5th grade.
Thank you Elliotte for all your hard work on the upcoming conference. For those who are interested in attending but need a reason to go, check out, 10 Reasons to Attend the Fall Conference.