training

Paws for Thought on Trains

the image shows a wet Fiji on the beach, with Lois kneeling beside her.

I don’t like trains.

I think train travel must be important, because I hear lots of trains whistling and screaming past my house from early morning to late at night.

Clearly lots of people travel on trains. Which means that some guide dogs must also go on them with their humans. But I don’t think I’d like to take Mom on a train unless I had no other choice.

I see trains often when Mom and I are walking on the road that is next to the trainline. To me, trains look like giant snake monsters that want to gobble me up. And they make a dreadful rumbling and moaning sound. They shake and shudder as they go from one place to another and their wheels scream and shriek as they go by. And their horrible unearthly whistles try to shatter my poor eardrums. Sometimes their doors whoosh open and sometimes they don’t, which is also intimidating. Is it any wonder trains make me a little nervous?

Admittedly I’ve only travelled by train once, back when I first met Mom and had to help teach her how to work with me. All of us guide dogs took our new humans to the train station and caught a train to Fish Hoek beach. While I loved having the chance to run, wrestle and play with my guide dog friends on the beach, while the trainers made sure our humans didn’t misbehave, I honestly would have preferred to travel there by car.

I know my guide dog sister-aunts Leila and Eccles used to take Mom to work on the train before I was her guide dog, so I know it must be possible for us to go on a train and not get gobbled up by the nasty snake monster-type thing. I’m sure I would probably also get used to it if I had no other choice. But I honestly think it would be far better to go by car or by Uber. Or simply to walk there, provided it’s not too far. But since Mom now works from home, it’s all hypothetical anyway.

So, while I know trains are good and are important to help humans and some guide dogs get to where they need to go, I’m just as happy that I don’t have to use them. Unless it’s the only way to travel to the beach. In which case I might be willing to consider taking Mom on a train again.

PSASA Cape Chapter President – A New Role

10Monday was the first meeting of the new Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa year, and my first as President of the Cape Chapter.

After years of volunteer leadership through Toastmasters International you’d think I’d be immune to the anxiety of leading a new team through our first event, but somehow that anxiety never goes away. I think it’s something to do with me wanting to ensure that all the attendees gain value from the event.

Of course, I should have known there was no need for me to feel nervous. On the one hand I couldn’t have asked for a more motivated, efficient and willing team, and on the other hand, the interactions I’d had with the main keynote presenter left me in no doubt that he would offer immense value.

And so it was – everyone on the team went over and above the call of duty to ensure the event ran smoothly and I firmly believe every attendee left with real techniques of how to focus their marketing to grow their brand.

Sincere thanks to Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman for demonstrating some simple yet effective techniques to use on our websites and marketing materials, to our MC Bradley Day, and to our 5-minute speaker Chris Adlam for the value they offered our members and attendees. And to the PSASA Cape Chapter team – Hani du Toit, Ian Hatton, Sisanda Dlakavu and Chris Adlam – for all their hard work in preparation for the meeting.

And, of course, Fiji was more than happy to walk me up to the speaking area and back to my seat like the great guide dog she is… though I suspect the treats I promised her also helped. I was amused when she flatly refused to find the door out of the room so we could go to the main entrance to let in a latecomer, But after an attendee graciously helped me through the doorway, Fiji’s fine training clicked back into place and she assisted me perfectly I guess she was just reluctant to miss any of what Waldo was sharing with us!

Do I think Monday will mean I won’t be anxious for future meetings? Probably not entirely. But I will have the confidence of having had a successful inaugural event, and the certainty that I have an amazing team working with me.

Oh, and many thanks to Charlotte Kemp for presenting me with a bottle of wine on behalf of the Past Chapter Presidents to wish me a successful year at the helm of the Cape Chapter – the gesture was very much appreciated!

A New Experience

Cds IMG 3022Tomorrow I’ll be trying something new as a facilitator. In fact, I’ll be trying several new things in a training session for Toastmasters leaders in Cape Town. Not only will I be co-presenting a session for the first time, but I’ll also be incorporating video into the session… and trying to transition between the three different elements of the presentation.

As you can no doubt imagine, as a blind person I’m pretty anxious about how the visual aspects are all going to fit together.

The way I’m handling the anxiety is by preparing as much as I can ahead of time. I sent the presentation and video link to both my co-presenter and the event organiser several days ago, and met with my co-presenter to talk about how we’re going to run the session. I’m preparing myself for the Q&A session by reviewing all available material so I can effectively handle any questions that the audience ask.

Yes, all this preparation is time-consuming but, far more importantly, I think that it’s the best way for me to ensure the attendees gain as much value as they can from the session – and that’s by far the most important thing to me!

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