Member Iana Vitkova relates how the Toasmasters experience taught her to enjoy public speaking and empowered her to share her experiences with others.

Like many people I used to find public speaking daunting and scary. Add to this the fact that I am fairly introverted and need time to fully process my thoughts before I speak and you can imagine that my natural tendency was to avoid speaking in front of large groups as much as possible.

Two years ago I joined Constant Contact, a digital marketing platform for small businesses, as an engineering manager. Soon after I joined, I realized that knowledge sharing was a very big part of the company culture. Everyone in the organization was encouraged to share ideas in forums of various sizes, from team level lunch and learns to presentations before the entire engineering organization in our “Great Room” which holds over 300 people. In keeping with this company culture I pushed myself to speak up, to present and to ask questions in large meetings. While this was a good start, I realized that having courage wasn’t enough. I needed to develop public speaking skills. This became clear to me after attending a training in which we were asked to speak about our company’s mission while being recorded. Watching that recording was a turning point for me. My language was not clear. I wasn’t as articulate as I would have liked. And worst of all, throughout my speech I was swaying back and forth, which was incredibly distracting. After watching that video, my mind was made up. I was going to join Toastmasters.

Joining Toastmasters was easy. Meetings are open to anyone and you are free to attend as a guest and observe for as long as you like. Sitting in my first meeting was a great experience. Just by observing different speakers, I was learning. What I found really helpful though, were the evaluations, where Toastmasters members provide feedback on the speeches they heard. I realized there is a lot more to public speaking than I had initially thought. How you stand, how you move across the stage, eye contact and vocal variety were all aspects of the speech that were evaluated. I was intrigued.

The first speech every new member gives is called an “Icebreaker”. It’s a speech about yourself. This is a topic which most people find easy to talk about. Toastmasters gives you a framework to follow for organizing a speech which makes it easy to quickly put together your content. After delivering my first speech on how I grew up travelling the world, I received amazing feedback, both positive and constructive. I was encouraged by all the positive feedback I received: on the interesting topic, on not using notes and on my vocal variety. I also loved the tips for improvement: speak louder and move with intention, don’t just pace back and forth during your speech.

Over the course of the next few months I gave many more speeches on all kinds of topics that I found interesting: the Panama Canal, my love for skiing and what I learned from my very extroverted daughter. With each speech I gained more skills and confidence. Soon I was ready to take my skills out into the world.

Being in Toastmasters made it easy for me to say “Yes” to speaking opportunities outside of Toastmasters. When we needed a manager to say a few words in front of the engineering organization I raised my hand. I quickly came up with a speech and practiced it at Toastmasters. I received some great tips for improvement from the group which I incorporated when delivering the speech to the engineering organization.

And then an even bigger opportunity presented itself. I received a message on LinkedIn from the organizers of the Women Impact Tech conference. They wanted me to give a speech and lead a panel discussion at their upcoming conference in Boston. Before joining Toastmasters I would have never dreamed of actually exploring an opportunity like this. But being a Toastmasters member gave me the confidence that I could do this. Moreover, I knew that I would be able to practice my speech at Toastmasters, multiple times, before delivering it at the conference. So I said yes, and embarked on preparing for it.

Once again, the Toastmasters framework made it easy to organize my speech on the Gender Confidence Gap and what women leaders can do to address it. The first time I gave the speech at Toastmasters I was pleasantly surprised at the impact it had on the audience, especially the women, who clearly related to what I was saying. The first time I practiced the speech I received great feedback. My fellow Toastmasters noticed things that I would have never realized myself. Evaluators noted that during the speech I would pause and look down, which was distracting, so the second time I practiced the speech I focused on that and made sure to maintain eye contact with the audience throughout the speech.

The day of the conference everyone kept asking me: “Are you nervous?”. And guess what? I wasn’t nervous. Not at all. I had practiced my speech, received and incorporated feedback so many times that I knew I had this. I was excited! I couldn’t wait to deliver it. When I stepped onto that stage in-front of over 250 women engineers I had a blast! After the speech women came up to me and shared with me how much my speech spoke to them and how relatable it was. It felt amazing to have had such an impact on so many people.

If you are intrigued by the possibility of expanding your influence and learning how to scale your communication I encourage you to look into joining your local Toastmasters club. If you are in or around the Waltham, MA area we would love to see you at our club, which meets at the Constant Contact office on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Wednesdays of the month at 6:30 pm. Send an email to our VP of Membership, or just show up to a meeting and take the first step in this amazing journey.

by Steve Burnell

We’ve all seen it – the unprepared presenter. After being introduced, the presenter opens the PowerPoint file in design mode and searches for the slideshow icon. Meanwhile the audience looks at the list of slides in the left column, perhaps reads the presenter notes at the bottom of the screen. It’s an awkward moment for all involved. With proper preparation, that scenario can be avoided and the presenter can maintain some dignity.

By default, PowerPoint saves files in the PPTX (PowerPoint Presentation) format. When your presentation is complete and ready to go, saving it in a different format will allow you to immediately fire it up in full screen slideshow mode. No more awkward moments! That format is PPSX (PowerPoint Show). To save in this format, go to Save As and change the “Save as type” drop down box from PowerPoint Presentation to PowerPoint Show.

If you make any changes to the original PPTX file, be sure to save it again as PPSX and overwrite the existing file. Otherwise the changes you expect to be in the presentation will not be there. If you have deleted the PPTX file and need to make changes, open PowerPoint and use the Open command to edit the PPSX file. If you double click the file name or icon, the file will just open full screen as intended.

Take it a step further

It’s your turn to speak but you want to address the audience before displaying your first slide. Just open your file when you’re ready to proceed, right? Wrong! Be prepared by adding a black slide at the very beginning of your presentation. A black slide is simply a blank slide with the background color set to black. Since black cannot be projected, it will appear as if the projector is off. With a single click of a remote control or wireless mouse, your first slide instantly appears making you look pretty slick in the process.

At the end of a presentation, PowerPoint displays a black slide with the message “end of slide show, click to exit” across the top. Yeah, we know it’s over. Hide this pointless message by adding a black slide of your own to the end of your presentation.

With these few simple steps, you can avoid looking like an unprepared, awkward presenter to one in control from start to finish!

by Dave Gilman

Colored signals are commonly used in Toastmasters clubs to show speakers when they have reached minimum time, an in between time, and when they have reached maximum time. In addition, the signals help keep the meeting running on time.

Just like traffic lights, green, yellow, and red indicators are shown to indicate a particular signal. While some clubs have electronic lights similar to a traffic light, most clubs use colored hand held devices made from paper.

A green indicator will be shown to the speaker when a speaker has reached the minimum time, a yellow indicator will be shown when the speaker is in between the minimum time and the maximum time, and a red indicator will be shown when the speaker has reached the maximum time. In some instances the red can also suggest that the speaker has 30 seconds to conclude.

To give you an example, if you are delivering a typical prepared speech which is 5 to 7 minutes, a green indicator will be shown at 5 minutes, a yellow indicator will be shown at 6 minutes, and a red indicator will be shown at 7 minutes.

If a speaker needs additional or less time in the case of a non-standard speech, speak with the Timer, explain your timing requirements and have it adjusted accordingly.

Now that you know the meaning behind the colored signals, plan and practice accordingly.

Clolored Chart

By Alison Tozier

While it was over 100 years ago that John C. Crosby defined good mentoring as “a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction,” it still rings true today. We continue to rely on the experiences of others, who have gone before us, to act as guides as we pave our own path for growth. For those who join Toastmasters, the primary goal is to develop public speaking skills. Who better to ensure the success of new members that someone who has already started this journey?

Clubs set their own guidelines as to who may become a mentor. Some require a Competent Communicator or Competent Leader award while others allow a mentoring relationship with any club member in good standing. For first time mentors and even those more seasoned to the role, the president of Sales and Marketing Toastmasters, Jeff Shaw, has provided three key actions, every mentor should follow to ensure new members are set up for success.

Engage with new members

Begin by setting time aside with the new member every other meeting. Initially a 10-15 minute chat before or after a meeting should suffice. Be sure to include one on one feedback. Often a mentor can provide insights one on one that are very helpful and sometimes don’t come out in the meeting evaluations.

Be a cheerleader

It can be scary and lonely in front of a group of unknown faces. Knowing that someone is in your corner really helps. Be on the lookout for the new member at meetings. Attendance is critical upon first joining the club, when they may be inclined to slack off due to anxiety. Roles like timer or grammarian help to keep new members involved. Check the sign-up sheet and suggest opportunities when needed. Guidance is key. Engage new members when they first join to and it will go a long way.

Set goals

Goal setting helps new members achieve what they set out to accomplish. Meet with the new member to understand their goals and work with the new member to develop a plan to accomplish them. Earning the Competent Communicator award is a major accomplishment for those new to Toastmasters. Set a date and work out a schedule.

The key is to be an active mentor. Engage with your new member and work to make them a success.

By Joe McGurn

Some people think that to be an effective speaker you have to be on the offensive, much like the offensive line of the the Boston Bruins.  They feel that they have to take control and outwit the opponent or the audience to get their attention, but in reality to be an effective speaker, all you really have to do is be your authentic self. While there are many people who are  successful at taking the stage by storm,there are just as many others who succeed in other ways. Speakers, like Wayne Dyer, and Steven Covey, feel that what they have to offer can change the world and make it a better place. They do not demand it or scream about it, they present quiet cerebral arguments for it. As a result intelligent people come to know and respect them. Do what feels natural and you will succeed.

First time speakers should realize that their speech has an important message in it and that it will never see the light of day unless they get up to present it. Nervous about your first speech? Here is what you need to do: 1) practice the speech 10 times a day for a few days prior to your presentation 2) An hour before the meeting take a walk for  15 or 20 minutes.  3) Visit with as many people in the room before the meeting as you can, introduce yourself, shake hands, and say hello to them (now they will be friends and not strangers). 4) Do some deep breathing exercises before you speak. 5) When you get before your audience, pause and smile at the audience, because you know them and they will all be cheering for you just like the crowds at the Boston Garden cheer for the Bruins.  Be yourself, you will be a success.

by Dave Gilman

Have you ever wondered how to lighten up your speech, in other words how to add more humor? If so, this speech tip is for you.

Please keep this in mind, your goal is not to become a stand up comic. Stand up comics are expected to get a laugh every 10 seconds. Imagine the pressure that would create! Rather your goal is to place occasional humor throughout. In a 5-7 seven minute speech, three to four entertaining moments would suffice. Too much more may be overkill.

The good news is, Toastmasters and presenters in general aren’t expected to get a laugh every 10 seconds, so when you deliver a funny line and get a laugh, it is a happy surprise to your audience. Before I get to three techniques that you can use to add more humor, I’d like to outline why it is important to lighten up your speech.

Humor in a speech or presentation accomplishes many things. To name just a few, humor makes you more likable as a speaker, it shows that you don’t take yourself so seriously. Humor also helps you you to connect with your audience as people like to laugh and are drawn to positive things. Now, getting back to the three techniques.

Number 1. – The Clash of Context

Many humor practitioners use this. The Clash of Context introduces an element of surprise. American humorist Jack Handey gives this as an example: “Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”

Clash of context is about situations or comments that clash unexpectedly with the “normal” expectation of an observer. For example, with Handey’s remark you expect him to use the “walk a mile in their shoes” phrase as a figure of speech. He then upends your expectation by using the phrase literally, which gives the context a funny twist.

Number 2. – You Are the Joke

Light-hearted self mockery instantly creates laughter and likeability. By poking fun at yourself its show the audience that essentially that you are just like them, that no one is perfect, and that you have the confidence to simply be yourself.

In order to use this technique, choose something that could be perceived as a negative, and then make a statement that relates to it in a humorous way. One way to do this is by making a list of obvious physical attributes that an audience would notice when you walk up in front of a room or on stage. Suppose you are delivering a speech at a gardener’s convention. An example could be “Just the other day, I was complimented on my leather gloves, however, I wasn’t wearing any.”

Number 3. – The List of Three

Three is a magic number in our universe. Let’s face it, there is the Holy Trinity made up of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit, the fact that we live in a 3-dimensional world which includes height, length, and depth. And last but not least, Miley Cyrus recently had three hit singles. Just as three is a magic number in our universe it is also a magic number in comedy. Using the “List of Three” formula, the speaker sets up a pattern with two serious ideas, and then adds a twist on the third.

For this formula to work, it’s an absolute necessity that your first two statements be real and serious. You want to lead the audience down a path of sincerity and then surprise them with a joke! The surprise is what makes people laugh. There are two easy ways to set up this formula which are Big-Big-Small and Small-Small-Big. 

Big-Big-Small: “It’s a scary world out there: We’ve got terrorism, the war in Iraq, and … Lindsay Lohan is out of jail.”

Small-Small-Big: “There are three subtle clues that your marriage might be over: You’ve stopped sending each other love notes. You’re not kissing as much. Your husband’s new girlfriend has issued a restraining order.”

In summary the Three Techniques are:

Number 1. – The Clash of Context – this is where you change the context of what is normally expected
Number 2. – You Are the Joke – where you poke fun at yourself with confidence
Number 3. – The List of Three – where you list two serious items followed by putting a twist on the third

In your upcoming speeches, consider adding in any of the three techniques. By adding in humor you can create a much deeper connection with your audience and help them lighten up.

Source: Toastmasters Magazine October 2012

by Dave Gilman

“There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”
― Mark Twain

Most of us can reduce our anxiety of public speaking and increase our confidence by avoiding a few poor habits, while incorporating some helpful tips to reducing public speaking nervousness:

1. Don’t Expect Perfection from Yourself
One of the keys to public speaking success: to keep going gracefully. The audience will never know most of your mistakes, unless you halt your speech, break down, and confess them. Carry on with poise. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.

2. Avoid Equating Public Speaking to Your Self-Worth
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably a successful professional who has worked hard to get to where you are today. Public speaking is only a small part of your overall professional ability. If you’re not confident at it, there are many ways to help you improve. Whether you’re good at public speaking or not has nothing to do with your value as a person. It’s simply a skill that you can learn and become better at with practice.

3. Avoid Being Nervous About Your Nervousness
Nervousness is our adrenaline flowing, that’s all. It’s a form of energy. Successful speakers know how to make this energy work for them, and turn nervousness into enthusiasm, engagement, and charisma. They have fun with it. It’s okay to be nervous. Make the energy work for you.

4. Avoid Trying to Memorize Every Word
Attempting to memorize every word will simply increase stress, and cause greater nervousness if the sequence of the words you’re trying to memorize goes amiss.

5. Avoid Reading Word for Word
Dry reading disseminates information, often at the risk of the audience tuning out. Speaking is creating an impact with your content and personality, so that not only is your message understood, your professional profile rises. I will provide more tips in the future on how to memorize your speech, but not word for word. Donna Denio’s speech tip presented at a recent meeting was right on point and worth trying too.

By Dave Gilman

Did you know that many people who stand in front of a room are never heard by the audience? This is not because speakers aren’t projecting their voices loud enough, it is referring to the audience members who are simply tuned out or distracted. That is the topic of this speech tip: How to maintain the audience’s attention.

In order to connect with your audience and jar people out of their daydreams you need more than just a good speech. Some speakers make the mistake by thinking that because they have a well written speech it will maintain the attention of the audience. That is a mistake. Let’s face it, many people have short attention spans and wandering minds. It is strictly up to the speaker to not only gauge the audience’s level of response, but also to hold their attention as well.

There are three techniques that you can use to in order win back the attention of your audience. But before we go over that, it is important to understand the signs of a fading, bored, or distracted member or audience. You first have to take note of eye aversion, facial expression, and body language. Members who are not looking at you, or who have blank expressions staring off to space are most likely tuned out. Conversely members who are tuned in will have solid eye contact, their heads will turn with your movement, and their faces will light up. If you get down the level of micro-expressions you can actually see foreheads wrinkle.

Now that you know a few examples on how to spot the signs of the disconnected audience, I will outline three techniques that you can use to win back the attention of the room:

Number 1.) – Use a Power Phrase – One example is how the speech tip is opened with “Did you know…”. If you listen carefully you’ll hear this phrase used repeatedly in television ads. Some say that curiosity killed the cat, but as humans I believe we are just as curious, and this is why the phrase works so well, we want to know!

Number 2.) – Do you have any idea of what number 2 is? I will give you a hint: It’s what you just read? Encourage Audience Participation – Ask a question, ask for a show of hands, take a poll, or have people stand up to be counted. By encouraging participation, which can appear seemingly small, it can actually shift the energy of the entire room.

Number 3.) – Tell a Story. Simply by saying “Let me tell you a story” never fails to stir people. Stories connect with us at the deepest level and make emotional connections. No amount of data can add up to the impact that a story can make. Tell more of them.

The three techniques explained are by no means a complete list, but rather a few ideas to get you thinking on how you can add in various elements throughout your speech that will help you to connect with a disconnected or distracted audience. As a recap remember to:

Number 1.) – Use a Power Phrase
Number 2.) – Encourage Audience Participation
Number 3.) – Tell a Story

By adding in any one of these three techniques, more people who stand at the front of a room will be heard. Didn’t you know?

By Dave Gilman

If you are familiar with a vineyard, it takes a dedicated team to keep it well maintained in order for it to grow. The land needs constant tending, the fruits need to be cultivated, and the bad elements need to be kept out. By doing these things it produces the best fruit.

In the bible there is a scripture in Song of Solomon Chapter 2:15 that states:
It’s the little foxes, that spoil the vines.

Often in life it’s usually not the big things that disrupts our life, rather it is the multitude of many small things over a period of time that causes us the greatest difficulties.

Our club is very much like the vineyard just mentioned. It takes a dedicated, committed team to keep it well maintained and growing. Also, it takes some effort in order to keep the little foxes out. As you know our club is certainly well maintained and were always growing new members. They are the fruit of our club.

If you’ve been a member for any length of time, you’ve probably heard it stated from a multitude of guests that they’ve searched the land far and wide, visited many clubs, and that they often find their way back to our club due to its bountiful harvest of professionalism, organization, and entertaining meetings.

They are right, our club is unique, and although we have a terrific club there are things that we can do to make our club and our vineyard even greater. Currently we have a few little foxes that are spoiling our vines.

At a recent meeting when I was the General Evaluator our club President Jeff Shaw heard me state a reminder at the beginning of the General Evaluation portion of the meeting. Jeff asked me if I could expand upon the list of reminders and discuss club protocol. Listed below are ten of the most common little foxes that spoil our vines. In addition a solution is offered so our vineyard can flourish and grow.

The 10 Most Common Little Foxes:
1. Leaving the Lectern Empty – When you finish a speech end with Mr. or Madam Toastmaster and wait for the Toastmaster or General Evaluator to shake your hand before you leave the lectern.
2. Ending a Speech with a Thank You – At the end of your speech, simply end with Mr. or Madam Toastmaster.
3. Showing up After 6:30 p.m. – Please allow adequate time to arrive before the meeting starts.
4. Addressing only your Assigned Prepared Speaker – When giving a speech evaluation, be sure to address the entire room and speak about your assigned speaker in the 3rd person, this gets everyone in the room involved.
5. Table Topics – Give priority to members that are not on the agenda, this permits all members to make a contribution to the meeting and makes it worth their trip.
6. Misspelling of Member Names on the Agenda – Copy and paste any names on our membership list, without doing so it often leads to misspellings.
7. Missing Elements on the Agenda – Be sure to include speech number, purpose, manual, and speech title on the agenda when you are the Toastmaster.
8. Talking During the Meeting – Sometime it is absolutely necessary to discuss club business while someone is delivering a speech, if so whisper with caution, otherwise wait until between speeches.
9. Distracting Noises – This one is speaking to your subconscious. Sometime members continually click a pen, play with a candy wrapper, or make a continual distracting sound. Please be aware of any tendency to do so and stop.
10. Not Ending the Meeting on Time – We all need to be mindful of keeping each and every speech within the time specified on the agenda.

I hope you will keep these reminders in mind so we can make our club even greater, continue to help it grow, while keeping the bad elements out. Remember, it’s the little foxes that spoil the vines.

By Dave Gilman

Ask any professional speaker what his or her experience has taught them, and most will respond, “To get an arresting opening, something that will seize the attention immediately.”

Here are five examples of how you can open your speeches more effectively, one that will seize the attention of your listeners immediately.

Number 1. Ask a Question

A few years ago, we heard Toastmaster’s member Ken Jacobs open a speech by stating “I’m going to begin by asking you to reflect on a question: “If a decision had to be made about you, would you have it made by a machine or a person?” Opening with a question works instantly with an audience, and in Ken’s instance he even got every person in the room involved. He got us thinking, he got us involved at the outset.

Number 2. Begin With a Story

I will give you an example “Last summer I traveled to India. It was during this trip that my life was changed forever.” Who would not want to know more? From ancient times to today people love to hear stories. We want to know what is going to happen next. We get pulled in.

Number 3. Present Shocking Facts or Statistics

To be an effective speaker you must demand attention immediately. This can be achieved by stating a shocking fact such as: “Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs. Don’t worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” It is at this point you could then go into your speech, that supports your shocking fact or statistic.

Number 4. Arouse Curiosity

A good example is “Eighty-two years ago, and just about this time of the year, there was published in London a little volume, a story, which was destined to become immortal. Many have called it the greatest little book in the world.” It is after these two first sentences that you draw in your listener, arouse curiosity, and hold them in suspense. At the outset they may be wondering what is this book? Where can I get it? What is it all about? And your listeners will be seated at the edge of their seat wanting to hear more. Who isn’t susceptible to curiosity?

Number 5. Use a Quotation

Here is an example “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” This was stated by Joseph Campbell an American mythology professor, writer, and orator best known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion. By opening with an effective quote, your audience will pay attention.

In summary, the five possible ways that you can open your next speech is:

1. Ask a Question

2. Begin With a Story

3. Present Shocking Facts or Statistics

4. Arouse Curiosity

5. Use a Quotation

Remember, a good opening in a speech will jar us out of our daydreams, seize the moment, and hooks the attention of your listeners.