adventures in the far east — of canada!

Workplace pics! And I’m a free-riding guest Toastmaster

In friends, internship on July 9, 2009 at 2:10 am

At last, I woke up to a sunny morning! I quickly packed my camera to bring to work to snap the pics I’d promised weeks ago…

Firstly, don’t think that I mean this has been the first sunny day in St. John’s; what I mean is, in this city, mornings typically begin grey. It may be wet or it may be dry, it may be cold or it may be warm…but it is usually grey. And then come afternoon, the sun’s out. Unfortunately, my department on the street level is sunniest when it’s early–because the suns not far up the horizon, it can send its golden rays through. Upstairs in account management or word prcessing or research…whenever I’ve had occasion to visit, it’s like a greenhouse because of all the glass, but it enjoys the most natural light throughout the day.

Anyhow, it was such a beautiful morning, I also took some time to snap images of the War Memorial, right beside where I work. As I mentioned in my Canada/Memorial Day post, Newfoundland has a proud and long military history, and this memorial is another lovely tribute to all their souls that perished in the Battle of the Somme, and the common person’s wartime efforts.

Inside Target, I mostly took pictures in my department (creative), and next door (production, because we work so closely with them).

**It was a co-worker’s birthday coming up the next day, but she’s off work then. Every time there’s a birthday in the office, a truly delicious ice cream cake from Moo Moo’s is brought in (its remains on my dish can be seen). This is the second one I’ve had, as there was a previous birthday–they’re heavenly…and this from someone who doesn’t prefer ice cream cakes at all. I should amend that and say, “Dairy Queen ice cream cakes suck.”

Lately, I’ve been reworking a few maps for the travel guide that tourism in this province puts out, an annual project for Target. Sadly, we’re not really a hybrid design/advertising agency, but more exclusively do ads. There are a few designers and concerned people (myself included), but much of the design input is not followed–the guide is not horrible, but in a recent meeting I was invited to (which I appreciated), we agreed it was certainly not as pretty as it could be. For example, the powers that be likes to fill up space, while we’d like to inject some white space…the designers will know what I mean!

Long story short…the maps are a little bit of a disaster. To our credit, we didn’t make them…but we haven’t done much to improve it, either.

Oh! One of our people recently returned from Cannes (top honours in advertising), and shared a truly amazing gold winner. I urge you to see the link below; it is truly inspiring, moving, and a testament to what good advertising can work towards (and as many fellow ACAD-ians know, we probably unfairly get the most flak). I’d be happy if I could come up with something half as great:

Trillion Dollar Campaign

And something else shared by my fellow intern (not from Cannes):

Coca Cola Grip Bottle

After work, I stir-fried a hurried dinner that turned out far better than expected, and rushed off to MUN (Memorial University) for my first Toastmasters meeting.

You probably dunno what it is…the average person doesn’t. I didn’t, until I was looking for activities and clubs a little over a week back. That was before meeting a ton of people, but I was determined to do this anyway.

It is an international group that has chapters all over–St. John’s itself has 3 such groups, I would not be surprised that Calgary has more if you were to look. Basically, members of this meet 2 hours to improve their public speaking and speech skills. It was a lot more fun than you may think.

I admit it may not be for everyone; the #1 reported fear amongst people is, unsurprisingly, death. However, surprisingly (to me), the second most cited fear is public speaking. Hmm…well, I can believe it, but I guess it from my perspective, it’s alarming that such a fear is so high up there. I’m not sure what I’d put next myself, but it’s certainly not public speaking…

I don’t think I’m horrible at it, but everyone can improve in this area. Frankly, the idea of getting a random topic and doing a 1 minute, impromptu speech excited me, though some people I told thought I was a little nuts. “Why would you put yourself through that?”

Because I like a challenge, and to me it’s fun and interesting. And, I figure if I make it further as an art director, this can only improve my pitch! 🙂

The people there were great, and very diverse. There were a lot of older folks, but some young guys and girls and well, and the cultural mix surprised me for such an activity. While I don’t feel unwelcome here in the least, certainly I acknowledge there is much less ethnic diversity here, and the groups to me seem…insular. So it was good to see such different people help each other become better orators.

I think living in St. John’s has emboldened me, particularly the detail that I didn’t know a soul and had no roots. I find without a comfortable safety net I can rely on, I am more willing to forge new links. It seems counter-intuitive…but it seems to me now that when you have a lot of friends somewhere, you don’t go out of your way to make a whole lot more, you know? I don’t think I was shy back in Calgary, but I believe I’ve become more outgoing in my short time here. The trick, I think, will be in keeping that up if this gets comfortable as well…

Anyway, as a guest, I could choose to participate or not, so I did. It was fine, and I was pleased to see that everyone is so supportive and determined to improve themselves–it was evident a handful of the full members were still quite shy, but determined to gain that confidence, and already had a number of speeches under their belt. Best of all, there were a lot of ESL students there. At Toastmasters, people are not out to make you uncomfortable, and some folks with broken English and less than stellar grammar were not penalized at all–the focus is creating more confident people and speakers, in poise and delivery (in fact, one of the highest ranking members there was a passionate Japanese lady who I could barely understand).

Lemme explain the system…it’s almost like Scouts. It’s a program you pay once a year for, and you receive a book, exercises, and almost…tests. Like in Scouts, you perform a skill, and you get the associated badge. Here, members can begin their track by completing their first speech, known as the icebreaker speech, anything about themselves. As they sign up to do their other ones and progress, the topics of the speeches focus, but still leave a lot of room for the person to do their own thing. After 10, they become a bronze member; another 10 later (and more advanced exercises), silver; and then lastly, a gold member with 10 more, at which point I believe you receive a certificate to declare you’ve finished the program, and are a confident or expert communicator or something.

They’ve got a good system going. There’s a new timekeeper every week that makes sure you don’t go longer than 1 minute 15 seconds (because we must be eloquent and articulate, but also be concise and not ramble); an “ah” counter that at the end tells everyone how many “ahs,” “ums,” “likes” and so on they uttered; a wordmaster who presents a word to the group to expand vocabulary and notes who uses it correctly; and someone that encourages good listening skills by noting interruptions, or quizzing anyone over a detail of a speech (if noted or answered incorrectly, they make a 25-cent donation to the group’s refreshments and cookies during the 15-minute break). In the end, people who made speeches were given constructive feedback, and the best ones were awarded.

It was both professionally run and fun, I see it like a social game, almost. I’m free-riding, because I can remain a guest for as long as I like, but I can’t advance…that’s all right. In summertime, we’ll only meet once every 2 weeks–1 more in July, and 2 in August before September. I can pay the membership fee and get the books…but I’d have to pay again on September. Not very economical for just 3 more meetings… If I’m still in St. John’s then, I’ll become a member.

In the end, guests were invited to comment, and I was only 1 of 2 guests to do so (of a night with many guests). I expressed regret we did not get random topics (just this once, the group tried one person starting, and the next person continues with a theme from theirs, and so on–it began with walking, and everyone just stayed within the realm of that, running, hiking, exercising…you get the idea) to keep everyone on their toes, and I finished off with–“If I may be so bold, can anyone offer me a lift home?”

They laughed and I got a ride home, and a pair of new friends who says they’d be happy to pick me up to go next time as well. I think I’ve made an impression, and look forward to the next Toastmasters meeting. 🙂

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  1. That Trillion Dollar Campaign was incredibly inspiring! Thanks for sharing. 🙂 I’m glad you’re having such a good time and it sounds like Toastmasters was great. Hope you get to stay there as long as you’d like! hehe… especially since I’d still love to visit but that’s not going to be possible anytime soon.

    • Wasn’t it?? 🙂

      On the staying front, I’ve spoken to a few coworkers, and they’ve urged me to start the dialog, because this sorta thing is usually decided a week before–I’d like some earlier indication of whether I need to uproot again, you know?

      So glad to hear from you again, Amy! I hope all’s well in LA? When will you stop contributing to brain drain/talent leech and return your lovely self to Canada?

      • lol!

        I think there might be reverse osmosis happening on that brain drain pretty soon if the economy here keeps tanking.

        Yeah, it’s definitely nice to have a heads-up on news that might cause you to uproot your life. Do they often hire from their pool of interns?

        • Apparently yes…but I can’t assume that, of course. That path only leads to extreme disappointment…

          You’re right about that for sure…hehe, I sort of guffawed at the reverse osmosis thing! 😉

          I don’t know what’s being said down in the States, but for a week or so now, officials, bankers, and analysts here have been flirting with declaring the recession is over in Canada. They’re cautious, so I don’t believe anyone’s outright officially said it yet, but the suggestion’s been floating around the news for a bit. There was a humorous top 10 list on CBC radio yesterday, about signs the recession is over…one was, “The Conservatives are no longer cutting the arts to save money, they’re cutting the arts because they want to.”

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