Retired Dubai police officer named president of Toastmasters International
DUBAI // An Emirati has been named international president of the Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members to improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.
“It is definitely an honour and a privilege to represent the UAE as international president,” said retired Dubai police officer Lt Col Mohammed Murad.
“I hope to highlight the fact that Toastmasters is present here and that there is a platform to develop leadership skills.”
Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 313,000 in more than 14,650 clubs in 126 countries.
Lt Col Murad joined Toastmaster after a friend invited him to a session.
“I didn’t really participate in that session, but I was fascinated. The next session I gave a two-minute speech on a subject, I can’t remember what it was, but I was voted best tabletop speaker of the night,” he said.
Lt Col Murad joined the Dubai Toastmasters Club in 1996 when it had less than 35 members and just one club.
“Today it is totally different, we have 75 clubs, about 1,400 members in Dubai alone. Our district [District 20] covers 350 clubs in all of the GCC, except for Saudi Arabia, as well as Jordan and Lebanon,” he said.
“Everyone needs to improve their communication, it is not just about speaking but also about listening and enhancing leadership skills.
“Personally I have developed drastically. I built self-confidence and learnt how to relate to people and approach them, be able to persuade them.”
Lt Col Murad said that Toastmasters gave him the courage to retire early and start his own business. “People were asking me why are you retiring, you have a secure high paying Government job. But I wanted to do more.”
Toastmasters awards its highest level Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) to members who have achieved both the Advanced Communication Gold and Advanced Leader Silver awards. To achieve the DTM typically takes five to eight years of service and leadership at the local and area levels.
Lt Col Murad worked his way through the Toastmaster leadership and communication tracks to become a DTM by 2006.
“To become a distinguished toastmaster you have to complete both tracks, but it is done at your own pace. You teach yourself. There is no one pushing you into something you’re not ready for or restraining you from moving as fast as you want,” he said.
An entrepreneur and managing director of three companies, Lt Col Murad holds an MBA and a Master of Quality Management degree from the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia.
He wants to see more of his fellow countrymen join the organisation.
Last year 29-year-old Shurooq Al Banna was the first Arab to compete in the finals of the 2013 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. She stood third.
“She is very talented, but so are so many Emiratis. I see hundreds who can achieve this, many of whom are not even members. The talent is there,” said Lt Col Murad.
“I want people to know there is a platform for you here to improve yourselves, take advantage of it.”
Updated: September 1, 2014 04:00 AM