Michael Notaro, president of Toastmasters International, is on a South Asia tour to launch more clubs and promote new goals
The toastmaster most of us know is dead. He was silver-tongued, equipped with jokes and anecdotes to take on any oratorical platform. The new toastmaster who has risen from the ashes of the old is a suave opinion-maker, whose lines are less practised but more effective in moving people to action. And he continues to inspire and build people even when not holding a mike. The new tagline of Toastmasters International (TI), coined in 2011 — “Where Leaders Are Made” — defines this change.
TI president Michael Notaro explains the new emphasis as an outcome of burgeoning industrial growth and the attendant demand for leaders. The Information Technology industry in India best exemplifies this demand, says Notaro, who addressed engineers of a software company in Siruseri during his recent visit to Chennai. Notaro clarifies that his organisation is not a new entrant in the field of leadership training. It has offered training in communication and leadership for decades, recognising the link between the two — now, its leadership programmes have been sharpened and reshaped to meet the requirements of a globalised economy and a multi-cultural business environment.
It's remarkable that TI offers such specialised services while operating as a not-for-profit organisation, says Notaro. Spread across 117 countries, the organisation is sustained by the subscription fees of its members — numbering over a quarter of a million — and by the small income accruing from the sale of its educational products aimed at developing competence in communication and leadership.
Notaro attributes his own growth in law practice and the realty business to 27 years of unbroken association with TI. “When I was a student at the University of California, I discovered TI and joined a local chapter,” says Notaro, now a trial attorney.
Over the decades, Notaro has watched TI respond to the changes in social, political and economic landscapes. “We live in a world where borders between nations are getting increasingly blurred and the regional is often sacrificed for the global,” says Notaro. In this context, TI promotes what is called multi-cultural communication. “The redesigned logo — where the organisation's name is displayed in bold font inside an oblong box that is stretched across an image of a globe — illustrates the multi-cultural nature of Toastmasters International.” Expansion is among the new goals driving the organisation. Notaro's itinerary for South Asia includes a visit to Bangladesh, which started out on the TI path pretty late in the day. Notaro has ambitious plans for that country: “It has only one club, but we are planning to get a TI district started there.” The drive for expansion is rooted in TI's respect and love for diversity — actually, diverse voices speaking English.
To find a TI club in your region, log in to toastmasters.org.