By: Kelly George, CAE, DTM, Wilderness Medical Society
I was early in my career when my boss at the time signed me up for Toastmasters. Although I was terrified of public speaking, I assured myself that I could do anything for a short amount of time. Afterall, sure it was probably a 6 -month program, at the most, and then I could check it off my list, right? Boy, was I wrong! Turns out Toastmasters is a self-paced program with more than 16,000 clubs in 143 countries, and many people are members for 10, 20, 30, or more, years. Eleven years after that “dreaded” assignment, I’m still a proud member and just earned the highest honor, the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) recognition.
A fellow club member once told me that if there was a poster child for Toastmasters, then I would be it. Not because I’m an expert now, but because of the improvement I’ve made over the years. It might have been an insult considering how terrible I was at the beginning, but I’ll choose to take it as a compliment. Initially, I spoke entirely too fast and was so nervous that I’d physically be sick to my stomach. Over time, I have learned to view public speaking as an enjoyable challenge, an adrenaline rush. I’ve been given feedback that I look very comfortable and natural, which is honestly always surprising to hear; however, the number one thing you can do to overcome a fear of public speaking, is practice, and I have gotten a lot of practice over the years by investing in myself and my club.
In addition to the progress I’ve made in the area of communications, Toastmasters has enhanced my leadership skills. After serving two terms as the club president (which refined my time management, delegation, listening and meeting-running skills, among others), I was recognized in my industry with a young professional award. Long story short, this recognition eventually paved the way for a promotion and corresponding raise, and even recruitment for my subsequent job. The meetings were not only a fun way to form deeper connections with my peers, but they turned out to be one of the best professional development steps I could have taken.
I recommend Toastmasters to everyone I know. Take the first step and join a meeting as a guest. You’ll get as much out of it as you will put into it, so go all in, and I promise you won’t regret it. The benefits are multifaceted and have the power to be life-changing.
If you are interested in learning more, visit the Toastmasters website, where you can learn about the programs, find local clubs and more. And because I have to give a shoutout to my local club, TSAE Toastmasters.
See You Soon, IRL
By: Clayton Holmes, Forge Craft Architecture + Design
“No one needs reminding that we are smack-dab in the middle of an historic pandemic. Perhaps you are reading this from your dining table workstation, taking a "bio-break" from an hours-long Zoom call, or fixing your children's lunch before all hell breaks loose.”
-The Forge Craft White Paper, “See You Soon, IRL”
We are rightfully normalizing many of the comforts we now enjoy in the work from home (WFH) environment, in large part thanks to technology. But there are many other inadvertent behaviors that are in fact detrimental to our mental and social health as well as our urban fabric; these should be identified and improved as we look toward the “next normal.”
This White Paper, provided at the link, provides examples of architectural design for our shared urban and social environment, introducing compelling arguments for expanding our “social bubble” to include our “work bubble” as we safely push ourselves back toward each other. Even though it may not feel comfortable at first, it can be done safely and responsibly. More importantly, downtown Austin is depending on us, all of us, to survive. Easy Tiger, Second Kitchen, Sway, and Alamo Drafthouse are all leaving downtown because we are simply no longer there.
When our public spaces suffer, so do we all. At this point in the pandemic, our downtown urban environment is sicker than we are. What is the downtown we want to experience when we come back to the office? Will we embrace it or regret it? Will we want to stay downtown and enjoy it?
How do we return to the downtown office effectively in the Post-Covid world? How can our physical office spaces perform better for our employees, now that most of the “heads-down” work can be accomplished from home? It is our hope that, as stakeholders, we can all contribute to this important conversation together, shaping the future of the Office and of Downtown Austin as a community center and economic hub, resilient enough to survive this and any other future pandemic.
You can read the entire paper here.
-- Forge Craft Architecture are a collective of Architects designing for Humans. Our work in affordable housing informs our work in public and commercial spaces, and vice versa. We advocate, above all, for equitable and successful urban environments through creative design and dogged advocacy for public policy that reflects the aspirations of our local communities, which include RECA, AIA, Downtown Austin Alliance and the Austin Creative Alliance.
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