Marianne Bjelke, CC, ALB, couldn’t have found a better Toastmasters club.
Bjelke, a member of Albuquerque’s Off-the-Cuff, is exactly that — always ready with some joke or anecdote off the cuff to keep a conversation going.
The Staten Island native, a former standup comic, serves as District 23’s Division B Director. She is the Operations Director of Hospital Services Corporation and oversees both HSC’s Customer Service Desk and Bjelke describes herself as tall, mischievous and fiercely loyal. She is adopted and maintains a relationship with her biological and adoptive families.
How did you find out about Toastmasters, and what brought you into that first meeting?
Sam Newton was a speaker at a New Mexico Hospital Association event. I had been giving thought to working toward being a keynote speaker for years. We struck up a conversation, he recommended Off-the-Cuff and the rest is history.
What was it that brought you to your second meeting?
It was everything I hoped it would be. I’d considered Toastmasters previously, but never found the motivation to be the stranger who doesn’t know anything and goes in cold. It was a warm reception. The ability to speak and hone my skills with these people, it seemed like a really good fit.
How are you using your Toastmasters skills outside of the organization?
I address the New Mexico Medical Society, the New Mexico Hospital Association board, different hospitals in my role as operations director. I’m working with others to form a business. I don’t want to be too specific on this interview, but we have a plan.
What was the light-switch moment where you realized what you did in Toastmasters had a tangible effect on what you did outside of Toastmasters?
When I started at our quarterly staff meetings, where I deliver updates to our whole organization, people from other departments who didn’t work with me came up to me unsolicited and said they really enjoyed my presentation.
Assistant director of the New Mexico Medical Society, Annie Young, said, “After you spoke, they applauded, and that’s never happened.” It’s become obvious, because I feel more confident. The audience reactions are what I’d hope for going in.
If you could go back in time and see yourself attending that first meeting, what would you tell yourself?
The first thing is to stop writing your speeches and start recording them in the creation process. I spent far too long typing speeches and not enough time performing speeches.
What would you like to do with this office in the coming year?
I am hoping we can create new clubs, help any club that is struggling with membership, to offer guidance, to be there for resources and leadership, and offer everybody success in their goals and on the Toastmasters path.