Why Toastmasters

Cds 2009 08 15 17 48 13 Canon Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL XT

I was asked to write a short piece as to why I have been a member of Toastmasters for over 15 years. I have shared it below.

My intention when I joined Toastmasters was to be a member for a few months – just long enough to improve my business speaking skills. More than 15 years later I am still a member, and I am asked why? Here is the answer. Toastmasters has not just improved my business speaking skills, it has played a major role in my career, from being more confident at work to being called upon to deliver presentations to fellow staff members, customers and suppliers.

I regularly chair meetings and design sessions, helping teams develop software applications for some of the largest companies in South Africa.

Without the communication and leadership skills I have developed from Toastmasters I would not be in same position as I am.

I have met some amazing people and make some great friends, not just at home in Cape Town, but quite literally all over the world. I have Toastmasters friends in every continent that I can call and say hi to.

It truly is an organization where leaders are made, and more importantly where friendships are made.

Craig Strachan, District Governor, 2009/2010

Pic: Congratulating the 2009 World Champ of Public Speaking, Mark Hunter at the Toastmasters International Convention

You know that you are an “old” Toastmaster when…

A tongue in cheek look at some of the changes in the Toastmasters organisation over the last few years.

You have been a member for more than a few years if:

  1. You achieved a CTM award. Do you remember the Able Toastmaster award?
  2. Your CTM manual had 15 speeches in it
  3. As VP Education, you had to fax programmes to members, and if you were a member the programme was faxed to you by the VPE
  4. You remember carbon-copied area visit reports which needed to be mailed to the district governor
  5. Club and district performance reports were mailed to clubs and district on a quarterly basis. You could not view them online
  6. Membership application forms needed to be mailed or faxed to WHQ
  7. Educational awards needed to be mailed or faxed to WHQ
  8. You were not admitted to a club meeting unless you were wearing a jacket and tie (ok some clubs still enforce this, but very few)
  9. New membership dues was $16, and renewals $18 (or even less)

While this list is in jest, it shows how the organisation has progressed over the last several years, and how it continues to be a dynamic and growing organisation. Now we have:

  1. A very strong communication and leadership track
  2. Programmes are placed on club websites and emailed to members
  3. Area visit reports are electronically processed and automatically emailed to relevant people
  4. All club and district reports (as well as archives) are available online
  5. Most forms can now be processed online, including new membership applications, dues payment and  educational awards
  6. It is far less formal than in the past, and clubs have adapted their formality to suit their markets
  7. We now have a podcast, and online training
  8. Yes dues are now $20 and $27 respectively, but still astonishingly good value

What should be added to the list?

11 Tips for free PRO for your Toastmasters Club

Do you want free publicity? Then use these tips.

  1. Website –crucial; keep it simple. Free!
  2. Community adverts in newspapers; consistent. Call the editor and ask him for lead times; make friends!
  3. Facebook page
  4. Community papers – tell them success stories
  5. Advertise at venue (do they have a newsletter); leave back issues of the magazine at the venue (with contact details)?
  6. Members – advertise at businesses
  7. Speak to district and see what they can give you.
  8. Download free flyers from the Toastmasters International website
  9. Guest list; add everyone who contacts you to the guest email list (ask them if you can add them to the list)
  10. Follow up immediately to guests that have attended and that contact you
  11. Ensure club details are correct with WHQ!

Speaking off the cuff – a resource

You often hear me speaking about the value of impromptu speaking, and why learning to speak off the cuff is as important as learning to speak prepared.

Here is a great resource; an entire website dedicated to the art of “table topics”, or speaking impromptu.What I like about the site is  that he gives you a lot of templates, or outlines you can use for practising unprepared topics.

Here is an example:

Split Personality

Number of participants: Two

The majority of the information we convey doesn’t come from what we say, but from how we say it. Bodily gestures are a large part of this. The goal of this template is to separate these different aspects of communication between two people. One participant does the talking, the other does the gesturing.

There are two ways to use this template. Either one participant talks, and the other creates the corresponding gestures, or one uses gestures, and the other talks about what the gestures are indicating.

Doing this effectively requires a reasonable amount of cooperation from the participants. It can weaken the delivery if both participants end up gesturing (once you do it, it can be a difficult thing to put down temporarily!). This should possibly be made clear to the participants.

It’s interesting to see the different ways people can take this, sometimes you may have one participant controlling the flow of the entire topic, while others will work together to figure out how the talk or story will evolve.

The purpose of this template is to give people the chance to carefully consider what their gestures are saying to an audience.

Thanks to Andrew William’s for creating the resource.

Podcast: Interview with the Times

I have received a copy of my recent interview with the times. This was recorded at the dinner at the Toastmasters conference in Johannesburg.  I discussed Toastmasters, the importance of communication and leadership skills, and why the Toastmasters programme is so important.

[podcast]https://www.craigstrachan.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/audio/CraigStrachanDistrictGovenorIinterview.mp3[/podcast]

Thanks to Ian and Michael Bratt, as well as the Times for the copy.

Interviewed for the Times

Listen on Times Live to Michael Bratt interviewing myself, as well as Keynote speaker Gary Bailey and C&L award winner Bassie Kumalo.

I was interviewed at the Toastmasters conference recently held at Gold Reef City. I spoke about the value of communication, leadership, and the Toastmasters programmes.

PowerPoint Karaoke slides

sidebar_logoOn Monday evening, I ran a PowerPoint Karaoke contest at the Cape Communicators Toastmaster Club. This is the first one that I have ran, and it was a fantastic evening!

We had about 10 people who were each given a random deck of PowerPoint slides, and they were given about three minutes to present a presentation using their slides. It was all in good fun, and we had some very interesting takes on the topics.

It is a great way to both practise your impromptu speaking skills, and to have some practise with PowerPoint.

Here is how I did it:

  1. Draw for random speaking order
  2. Draw for random topic order – I didn’t want to be too nasty and give somebody a topic that they knew absolutely nothing about, so they could select topics beforehand. I also gave them 3 minutes to prepare – basically while the previous speaker was speaking. If you are feeling nasty, give them a topic just before they speak, and let them go – much as for a Toastmasters table topic session
  3. Each speaker got 3 minutes to speak. Timing lights at 2, 2.5 and 3 minutes
  4. I used the Toastmasters Table topics contest form as a “judging form”
  5. You are basically pretty free to make up the rules, so the above is what I did; feel free to adapt and let me know what works for you.

Here are all the decks that I used:

Each deck was approximately 5 slides long. Note that they are not “real” slide decks, but made up to give the speaker something to play with. Some of the topics are a little off the wall.

Many people have asked me for a copy of the slides so that they can present the Karaoke contests at their own clubs, so here they are. Please feel free to steal and disseminate. My only request is to let me know how it goes.

Please note that I have created these slide decks from a variety of publicly available material and slides that I have built up over the years. If I have inadvertently used copyright material, please let me know and I will remove it.

Finally, thanks so much to Imation for sponsoring the event. They gave us memory sticks and  tee shirts as prized. The sticks are 1 gig, and about 1cm square – really cute. They also gave me an amazing remote wireless projector adapter. This little device plugs into your USB port on one end, and the projector on the other, and voila, you have a wireless projector!

Leave a comment and let me know how your session goes!