From the world of computers, Justyn made a tree change to beautiful Lorne, and in addition to Alpacas and cattle, Toastmasters still figures greatly in his retirement. As Toastmaster’s Division Governor for Oxley this year, Justyn is a passionate advocate for good communication skills.
Hi Justyn. Where are you from originally – and how long have you lived in the Hastings area?
I was born in Taree. When I was about 7 or 8, I moved to Sydney.
I went to Sydney University and did a Bachelor in Science, majoring in Chemistry. It’s ironic … I’ve never been paid to pick up a test tube! I started work with CSR as an industrial chemist, working with gyprock, and then I moved into computers back in the early ’70s – when no-one had even heard of computers!
I had other roles within computing over the years. I moved to Apple and worked in corporate sales in the ’80s. I was one of only about 8 people in Apple who wore a suit! After Apple, I worked for one of their biggest resellers, then moved to Optus Vision.
I also worked for SOCOG – not so much with the Olympic Games systems themselves, but all of the work people organising the Games were doing. I had to work out what was needed, where to source it from, how much it would cost – and get it all approved. It entirely changed the way I worked – I learned to dot every i and cross every t!
When it was time to retire, my wife and I started looking for blocks of land and eventually found 50 acres at Lorne, which was already set up as an Alpaca stud. My wife was interested in Alpacas – we have 38 Alpacas running around and about 26 Hereford-cross Angus cattle.
How did you discover Toastmasters?
I first joined Toastmasters (chuckles) in about 1974. Someone I knew at CSR was already going there. It really does become a part of your life, if you let it. My wife and I had always decided we needed a few outside interests in our marriage, so there was always something to talk about.
Toastmasters is really a self-help organisation. Once you’re there, you really do start to learn to improve your communication.
This works through impromptu speaking, where you respond to a statement or question and you talk for one and two minutes – this happens at Toastmasters meetings.
For example, one of our questions was, “Which is more important – intelligence or common sense?”
Toastmasters allow you to do this in a non-threatening environment. If you make a mistake – no-one is going to remember it!
The other side of speaking is formal speeches. We usually start with getting people to talk about themselves for a few minutes, and then we teach people how to write a speech – how to arrange it. Basically, there are really only 4 reasons people perform a speech – to entertain, inform, persuade or inspire – or a combination of these. We help people to identify what they’re hoping the audience will get out of the speech, and it then becomes much easier to write a speech.
You’ve held quite a few roles within Toastmasters over the years, but what’s your current position?
Since I joined Port Macquarie Toastmasters, I’ve been President, Vice President Education (twice) and Treasurer. I was also Area Governor (twice), looking after Port, Taree and Great Lakes Toastmasters clubs. This year I am Division Governor for Oxley Division, responsible for all clubs north of the Hunter River, East of the Great Divide and as far North as Coffs Harbour.
In my position, I need to make sure the clubs in my division are running well. I visit the clubs at least two times a year.
My role also requires attending about 8 meetings in Sydney each year, and I convey the information from those meetings to the clubs. It’s really a liaison role.
Some facts about the organisation?
There are some 270,000 current members of Toastmasters world-wide, in 13,000 clubs based in 116 countries. These members can all potentially compete in the World Championship of Public Speaking each year.
This year’s finals were held in Las Vegas in August, and Australia and Region 12 had its second world champion in three years, with Jock Elliott representing District 69 in Qld winning the final.
Kwong Yue Yang, representing China, was second. Kwong went to school and grew up in Canberra before returning to China.
The 2009 winner was Mark Hunter, also from Queensland.
Is Toastmasters for everyone?
Absolutely. If nothing else, it does wonders for your self-confidence.
It’s about communication – learning to speak well, arrange your ideas, becoming a confident speaker.
Once you start becoming involved with the executive area of the club, you get more into a leadership role, and that is effectively training for management.
The younger age limit for members is 18. Below this age we do a youth leadership program in the high schools. Within some high schools, Young Toastmasters clubs are formed.
What’s on the agenda for Toastmasters in the Port Macquarie-Hastings area?
We’re looking to open a new Toastmasters club in Port Macquarie that will be very different and leadership-oriented.
We’re looking for soon-to-be leaders and soon-to-be managers.
With the upcoming Council elections next year, Council and the Business Chamber of Commerce are going to run some seminars on how to be a Councillor, and we’ll be there as well to help – we can help with the communication side of things and how to run a meeting.
Whom do people contact if they’re interested in joining Toastmasters – either one of the existing clubs or the new more-leadership-oriented club?
They can contact me on 0412 288 320 or Peter Loveday on 0417 289 115.
There will be a breakfast meeting on 2 November to discuss the new club – the details are still being finalised for this, but interested people can ring me or Peter for details.
Interview by Jo Atkins.