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
Just a quick note to let you know that I recently contributed to an article for Destiny Man Magazine.The article is about common mistakes we make when speaking in public, and on how to avoid them. You can read the article online here.
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:
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.
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.
On 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:
Draw for random speaking order
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
Each speaker got 3 minutes to speak. Timing lights at 2, 2.5 and 3 minutes
I used the Toastmasters Table topics contest form as a “judging form”
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!