Toastmaster Sonal Dave on living by ‘dare to dream, dare to be different’ motto

Toastmaster Sonal Dave on living by ‘dare to dream, dare to be different’ motto

Reena Ranger, Chair of Women Empowered, is In Conversation with Sonal Dave as part of her regular series for ‘iGlobal’ to explore some inspirational facets from the life and achievements of prominent Global Indians.

Sonal Dave is an award-winning Public Speaking Expert for both children and adults, an actress, a published author and a British Indian Female Toastmaster and Ceremonies Celebrant in the UK for weddings, corporate events and life events for multiple faiths and languages. She also serves as a Magistrate on the north-west London bench.

Your daily portfolio of activity is so diverse. What are the similarities and challenges with all your roles and how do you manage them all?

With all of my roles, there are many similarities and these can be expressed through working with people, knowing the art of communication and being able to use the skills in the right way at the right time. Also, having confidence in myself to deal with whatever life throws at me, going through the house of emotions and coming out stronger, being able to engage and understand others regardless of their age or background, an awareness of needs for both children and adults, to be able to survive from childhood to adulthood, and continuous learning in my life in all my roles.

One of the biggest challenges would be that the world is constantly changing, there are new ways of working and many options for choice. However, many people find difficulty with change and see it as negative, so are not willing to try anything that is different from their comfort zone. Yet, if people viewed change as an opportunity, they would be able to look outside the box and see so many more options available to them.

Covid-19 has impacted you both personally and professionally, please share your experiences with us.

Professionally the impact has been huge as all my events have had to be postponed. In my role as a Toastmaster and Celebrant, a majority of my events are from the Asian community, multi-faith as well as LGBTQ and trying to make them happen with less than 30 people has had its own challenges. To date, there have been at least two postponements for each couple. I do keep my couples updated as and when I have them, but it is a very uncomfortable time for all couples and suppliers in the industry.

In my Public Speaking role, as I could not run any face to face workshops I had to quickly turn my workshop content into online courses that could be done in the comfort of people’s homes. This was not an easy task as I had to script videos and activities and get them professionally created, including subtitles and onto a platform that was easily accessible.

I was not only able to do this but was also able to create articles to support parents struggling with children at home or were feeling anxiety and mental health issues at work. There are blogs to read and videos to watch with tips to help as well with Public Speaking. I am pleased to share that my online communicating with Confidence courses now have CPD accreditation, which is great for professional development. There are now courses and workbooks for children from the age of four upwards through to adults, including storytelling and interview skills support.

Personally, Covid-19 has had a major impact on my personal life. Although I have tried to stay mentally, physically and emotionally positive, it has not been possible all of the time. I fell ill early on in the pandemic and have not fully recovered almost a year later. From breathing difficulties to heart palpitations, temperatures to chest pain, rib and stomach muscle pain and a dry cough. It just seems to be never ending.

Now diagnosed with long Covid, I have to plan my days so that I can do as little as needed on some days and more on other days when I can. It’s a traffic light system. On red days, I may send a social post or message someone, otherwise its rest. On an amber day, it will be a little more but definitely lots of rest points through the day. On a green day, I will pace my day to do a little more each hour. Having this system allows me to make sure that I allow my body to rest and recover, although I have to say it’s a very slow process.

What is the one lesson or words of wisdom that you try to live your life by that you would recommend to the next generation?

A motto that I live by is: “Dare to Dream, Dare to be Different; The World is Your stage”.

Being born with a disability, namely congenital hip dysplasia, and then having a number of underlying health issues, plus three accidents with cars (not my fault,) from teenage years to adulthood, could have left me thinking: “I’ll just sit on the sofa and do as little as possible in life”. But this was not who I was or wanted to be.

As a young child, I was selected to be a child performer with the English National Opera & Sadler’s Wells. It was very unusual at that time for a young Asian female to be doing this and I was excited to have been chosen. This is where my journey of breaking down barriers from a young age starts, on a stage.

I have a love for acting and singing, which has opened doors to other experiences through my years. From commercials, films, stage shows and events both UK-based and international.

It is through these experiences as a child that I continued my journey, to be different. I was appointed a magistrate in my 30s and still continue to sit and in my 50s after 20-plus years as a public servant, I launched my own entrepreneurial business.

This is why when I say I live by my motto, I really do.

If you could have dinner with four people, living or dead, who would they be and where/what would you eat?

I do love this question. The four people would be my mum, who watches me from above; my husband Dhani as it would feel weird not having him there; Oprah, as I just love everything about her and I would love to know the secrets behind an awesome chat show host as I would love to be one; and US Vice-President Kamala Harris because I admire her for her journey and for following her passion.

My husband Dhani would be there to make sure all of us ladies were looked after, our drinks were topped up and that he not only listened but participated in the dinner discussions. My mum would drink J20 although she would call it O2J, my husband would have whisky, Kamala would have Chardonnay and I would have Tattinger Brut.

My mum would be eagerly waiting to hear all about my latest projects and wins, as well as asking me what I fancied eating at the weekend. For mum, it was always about what next for me, food and looking after me.

Oprah and Kamala would be sharing stories of difficult childhood through to success and continuing to support others, as well as letting us get to know more about women and politics in the US. Plus, I would take the opportunity to tell them about the collaboration book I have written a chapter in ‘It Starts With Me’.

For dinner, the menu will be:

Starters: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cream

Mains: Choc Ice and Chunky Chips

Dessert: Cake and Champagne

Followed by a Cognac to end the evening.

All of my favourites.

Reena Ranger is the Chair and Co-Founder of Women Empowered. In this exclusive multi-media “In Conversation” series for ‘iGlobal’, the dynamic entrepreneur-philanthropist catches up with high-achieving Global Indians across different fields to spotlight some insightful life lessons.

*The views expressed in the answers are of the interviewees.

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