Tuesday, 21 June 2016 22:10

“Be a Practitioner, Not a Theorist” – Year End Reflection

Written by Pan Kao, DTM, PhD
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Lou Correa and Pan

Time flies! You are probably curious about what I have learned this past Toastmaster year as the first District Director of the Founder’s District. I’ve learned that in order to become a successful communicator and leader, one needs to “be a practitioner, not a theorist.”

In personal and professional learning and development, there is a commonly used formula (70:20:10 Model) within the training profession to describe the optimal sources of learning. The formula shows that 70 percent of knowledge is learned from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with peers, and 10 percent from education.

The speaking tips that we learn from club meetings are education and theories if we only practice them in Toastmasters meetings, not in the real world. To be successful in communication, members need to apply their knowledge to the real world as a practitioner. 

The vision of this past year was “Join & Serve to Prosper.” I sincerely believe that serving in Toastmaster is a wonderful learning and practicing opportunity. Motivating more members to step up to the plate to serve as mentors, coaches and leaders was one of my goals. Serving in Toastmasters is one of the best opportunities to practice the 70 percent in the 70:20:10 Model. After a year of serving as the District Director, my vision has not changed and is confirmed through a few lessons learned. Let me share a couple of stories; one was from Toastmasters and the other was from work.

If you attended the keynote session at LACE Chapman on June 11, you probably knew that I recognized and presented a plaque to Lou Correa, not because he was a California State Senator and running for US Congress. It was because his connection and deep roots in Orange County and his passion and contribution to children’s programs in Orange County schools.

But why? Did I forget about three unwritten taboo subjects in Toastmasters: politics, religion and sex? No, I did not. The night before the LACE, I spent a lot of time to research, write and practice how to introduce Lou because I did not want to violate the taboo subjects. In the end, it proved that I was just over concerned. Lou connected to the audience very well by sharing a couple of inspiring stories. He probably practiced and shared these stories hundreds of times to different audiences. He knows how to connect with audiences through his stories. My concerns about taboo subjects was unnecessary. I give the credit of Lou’s success to his serving in the public offices that gives him many opportunities to practice speaking in the real world. He is a successful communicator because he is a practitioner, not just a theorist.

Two months ago, I attended a legal conference for work. One of the speakers was sharing his knowledge about document management systems and project management practices. At the end of his presentation, I asked myself why he was presenting, and not me. I felt I had better information than he was sharing and better presentation skills.  My conclusion was that he always looked for volunteer opportunities to present and share his knowledge. That’s why people treat him as a leader in his area, because he is a practitioner and not just a theorist.

Toastmasters give us the opportunity to practice and develop our communication and leadership skills.  Are you ready to serve in a leadership position this coming year?

It takes a village to run a Toastmaster District. I wish I could list all the names in this article to recognize them. However, I still want to take this opportunity to thank all the volunteers and leaders who stepped up to the plate and served the District this past year.

Please give your support to Siri Payakapan as she takes on the role of Founder’s District Director and be a practitioner, not a theorist.  

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