Member Spotlight: Ines Ben Cheikh

by Rovina Suri

Q: You received the Annual Award of Area Director of the Year 2019-2020. Can you talk about what this award entailed and how you earned it?
A: It was an honor for me to receive this award.

During my tenure, I always kept in mind the district leaders who entrusted me with this role. I also thought of the club officers and members who relied on me to provide them with the latest updates from the district and to be there for them throughout the entire Toastmasters year. This required a high level of commitment.

It was a valuable learning experience and an opportunity for me to hone my leadership and communication skills.
I learned a lot from my collaboration with my Division Director (Shoba Rao) and my fellow Area Directors. We supported each other and exchanged tips and ideas to better serve our respective clubs.

At the beginning of the Toastmasters year, I organized a potluck/picnic for all the clubs I supported. We had a great turnout. It was an opportunity for officers and members from various clubs to get to know each other in a fun and friendly environment.

One of the responsibilities of an Area Director is to hold Area Council meetings. For those meetings, it was crucial to prepare an agenda ahead of time with all the updates from the District (programs, events, workshops, officer training, etc.). This enabled our meetings to be well structured and run smoothly. It was also a good opportunity for clubs to share their successes and talk about their struggles.

During my stint, I made sure to visit all the clubs in my area. These visits were important as they allowed me to build a rapport with the officers (understand their goals, aspirations, and needs) and give them my support. If a club did not want me to get involved, I stepped back while monitoring their progress from afar. However, if a club requested my help, I did my best to give them suggestions that would help them improve. It was a learning experience for me as it taught me how to balance my involvement based on the club’s needs.
I extracted the following recipe from my experience as an Area Director:

Club Officer Recipe to Success (A.C.C.O.R.D.)

Accountability: Honor the responsibilities that come with the officer role.
Customization: Tailor each officer’s tasks to the club’s needs.
Collaboration: Work as a team. Teamwork makes us better leaders and communicators.
Organization: Be organized. Time management allows us to work efficiently and productively.
Review: Assess our own and the team’s performance and exchange constructive criticism.
Delegation: Learn to delegate whenever officers cannot fully perform their roles.

Q: What is the greatest contribution that joining Toastmasters has had on your personal life?
A: Joining my True Talking Toastmasters club had a big impact on my life. My husband and I belonged to the same club. We were able to give direct feedback to each other on our respective speeches. In fact, he would hear me rehearse my speeches several times at home to a point where sometimes he would know some of my speeches by heart.

From the evaluation portion of the meeting, we both learned that we should point out the positive before we suggest areas where one can improve. This really helped strengthen our relationship. Friends and family could see the changes in how I communicated and approached them.

Q: Please describe who and what positively influenced you in Toastmasters and pushed you further?
A: My home club True Talking Toastmasters has been very supportive. It always felt like a second family to me. Everyone has always been encouraging and willing to help. I remember when I first joined this club, some members consistently pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and encouraged me to give speeches and participate in contests. There are 2 members in particular that I am grateful for — Afif Farhat and Angelina Geiger. Both Afif and Angie pushed me to take on new roles and made me discover a whole new world outside our club. In addition to these two members, my husband, Hedi Moalla, has helped me tremendously in my Toastmasters journey. I would like to also recognize my mentor, Marylou Avanzino, who has helped me do better, do more and step out of my comfort zone.

Q: I know that you are taking a break from Toastmasters. Are you focusing on another area of development or growth?
A: Yes, I am. I am currently working on a personal project that is giving me strength and motivation.

Q: Do you have any final words of advice for our members?
A: Yes!
• “Step out of your comfort zone. Just do it! Many people are there to support you in your journey.”
• If you take on any leadership role (District, Division, Area, or Club) please keep in mind that it is a responsibility that should be honored. Don’t shirk them.
• Care about the role you have been assigned and the community you are serving.

Written by Rovina Suri, Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), of Cupertino Toastmasters Club