Corville faced his fears and now helps people find their voice
Corville Hylton is the person to contact if you need help finding your voice.
He struggled with his own for years. Asked to read a scripture at church he was so anxious he still can't recall what he actually said; at his first Toastmasters meeting in 2012, he sat at the back of the room hoping to go unnoticed among the 26 people there.
"But then my fears came true. They asked for my name and that was enough to scare me. My heart started to beat faster, my throat started getting dry; my hands were shaking. I was just really nervous like I was about to blackout. It was that terrible for me."
It was the first step in his "tremendous transformation". Mr Hylton is today a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters programme, plays in both the Somerset Brigade Band and the North Village Band, is an executive member of the Jamaican Association and a volunteer with St John Ambulance.
He is also an executive member of Toastmasters Bermuda, having twice served as its president, and he holds a record here for twice achieving the title of "Distinguished Toastmaster"; in his native Jamaica he leads 20 Toastmasters clubs.
"Covid is a bad thing for a lot of people but it does have some benefits and this is one of the benefits," Mr Hylton said. "We can attend conferences all over the world, we can network with people all over the world and now we can even join clubs that are outside of Bermuda. Covid has allowed us to be able to do that."
The invitation came from Fabiola Cleofa, a Distinguished Toastmaster in Jamaica who was giving Bermuda insight on how to become part of the international body.
"She thought of using me in the outside world, outside of Bermuda," said Mr Hylton, adding that online meetings made it possible.
"Without any hesitation I trusted her judgment and said yes. She asked me to serve as an area director where I was responsible for four clubs in Jamaica. I did that for one year. Then the second year they asked, 'How would you like to go to the next level and become a division director?' Instead of four clubs I had 20 clubs and I had other folks working under me."
The move "put Bermuda in the spotlight" as it was the first time anyone here had served in such a capacity.
"It opened up so many opportunities for me and Bermuda as well. We are participating in conferences, we get people from outside to come here and give us lectures to help to develop us."
Mr Hylton hadn’t heard of Toastmasters when he left Jamaica to join the Bermuda Police Service 21 years ago.
Although the skills have proven "very helpful" to him as an officer, it was his duties as an elder at Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church that pushed him to get involved.
"We are on the radio, on the TV every week. We are on the internet – YouTube, Facebook and all that – so it takes some level of public speaking because you always, as an elder, have to participate and be mindful of the audience. So I figured that joining Toastmasters would be a great idea and it has helped tremendously since I've been a part.
"I've been able to do so many speeches. It assisted me to be more comfortable, more confident. Now when I go to speak, I look forward to it. I have no nervousness any more and that’s not only in church because at Toastmasters you learn to speak in all different settings: funerals, weddings, preaching at church …. anywhere. You can call on a Toastmaster in any situation."
Mindful of his skills, students have sought his help in preparing for school speeches and debates; adults have contacted him about presentations at work; he has even coached fathers before they spoke at their daughters' weddings.
One thing Mr Hylton has spent years trying to explain is that there is more to public speaking than having the confidence to talk before an audience.
"That’s really just half of the battle," he said. "You can go there and say the wrong thing. You have people at funerals saying the wrong things; I've heard people at weddings say the wrong things; you have people at work, you have people in the media saying the wrong things and having to apologise. So it's not just being brave enough to go and speak before the public."
The change in his personality is obvious to anyone who has known him for several years.
"To see me hiding at the back of the room to becoming the president of that club twice. In fact I've served in every area, every office in the club. So the transformation that it can give to you as a public speaker is just tremendous. It just covers every area."
Based on his own experience he believes the club can help just about anybody.
"I would encourage everybody to join Toastmasters because it’s a skill that you need. It doesn’t matter what you do in life.
"At work you also will have an advantage over your tongue-twisted and tongue-tied colleagues. If your manager wants someone to represent them or they're going to do a presentation and need help, they’ll come to you."
On joining the club each person is assigned a mentor to guide them through the process. It took Mr Hylton two-and-a-half years to become a Distinguished Toastmaster while another person in the club took 19 years to reach the same level.
"It's self-paced. It depends on how you work and how you apply yourself and what you want to achieve from it that makes a difference.
Simple presentation tips from Corville Hylton:
Get all the information you can about the organisation, occasion, audience and the time you have been allotted to speak.
Practice your presentation as many times as time will allow. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be.
3. Speak with confidence
Avoid apologising for being nervous or not feeling well or anything else. Your audience expects you to do well, don't disappointed them.
"We always have somebody there for you who is going to guide you through the process so you're not just thrown in at the deep end and you sink or swim.
"Whatever your reason is, you will discuss that with the vice-president education and they will tailor the programme to make sure you achieve your goals. And they keep checking on you to make sure that you are realising your goals. We don’t want you to just come and be a part, we want you to be making progress in your own way. Everyone works at their own pace; whatever works best for you."
The best part of his volunteer work is seeing the development of the students he works with at CedarBridge Academy.
"It helps them when they are preparing for interviews to go to college and university. And what is so satisfying is when they come back and say thank you so much for what you did for us, the way you have invested in our lives, and they give you an update of what they're doing. That’s the pay that you receive."