Why Toastmasters

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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.

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

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.

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 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!

Conversations with the Champs

Here is a six-part conversation by some of the World Champs of Public Speaking. These are the guys that you get to hang out with if you attend the Toastmasters International Convention.

Here is a six-part video – Conversation with the Champs. For many more free educational videos from Darren, check out his YouTube site.

Anyway, here are the videos – enjoy!

DG in the news

Hi All

The recent Toastmasters Induction Dinner has made it into the Cape Town local papers. Cape Community Newspapers ran an article which was syndicated to most of the local community newspapers.

Correction: I am the second youngest District Governor. Howard Steinberg beat me in 1980.

You can read the article below.

Craig Induction Dinner

I hope that it brings some new members in.

Toastmasters Induction Speech

On Saturday 4 July, we celebrated our incoming Toastmasters district leaders by holding a gala Induction Dinner.

I was installed as District Governor in a ceremony chaired by Past District Governor, Frances Boshoff, after which I presented my incoming address, where I spoke a little about what Toastmasters means to me, and I presented the district theme – Toastmasters, Growing People.

District Governor

The outgoing officers were also released from their duties, allowing them to handover the leadership duties to a new set of officers, and Lois Strachan was installed as the IPDG (Immediate Past District Governor), which means that she will be chairing the PDG advisary committee for the next year.

Anyway, if you missed the dinner, it was a fantastic function, and judging by the noise level, was enjoyed by all. If you didn’t manage to get there, I have a video of my speech, you can watch it below. Anyway, keep talking, and remember that Toastmasters Grow people!

District Governor (gulp)

Growing People

As of two days ago, I am the District Governor for Toastmasters District 74, Southern Africa. Geographically, we are one of the largest districts in the world, covering 9 countries in Southern Africa. I am also the youngest District Governor in D74
ever, but I feel ready for the challenge.

I joined Toastmasters in 2000, with the aim of simply becoming a better public speaker, but it did not take very long to realise that Toastmasters is not just about public speaking. It is about learning to become an effective communicator and leader, and I have been on a remarkable journey
of growth. Through Toastmasters, I have

  • Trained in South Africa
  • Trained in Malawi
  • Trained in Namibia
  • Travelled three times to USA, each time carrying a flag of our District
  • Spoken in the four largest cities in South Africa
  • Opened conferences
  • Emceed meetings, conferences and events

Zimbabwe Zambia

Now, please don't think that I am bragging, because I am not. I am showing
you this list to demonstrate that I have learned to do things that I would never
been able to do in the past, both through the acquired skills, and through self
confidence that I have developed.

Whenever Toastmasters has provided me with an opportunity, I have grabbed it,
which is why I have got so much out of it.

Our district theme this year is "Toastmasters – Growing People". And the more
that I am involved, the more I realise that the best way to grow is help others
to grow. By giving, you receive back tenfold. So, it is with great excitment, a
little nerviousness, and hugh anticipa……..tion that I look forward to the
next year!

10 tips to add humour to your presentation

Humour tips from Bo Benet of Talking Toastmasters – you can listen to the podcast here.

  1. Never take credit for somebody else’s joke
  2. Don’t tell the same joke over and over
  3. Be appropriate to the audience
  4. Keep it short – long jokes are confusing, and prone to mishaps
  5. Be smooth – delivery is as important as the content (if not more so)
  6. Timing is important in delivery of humour
  7. Make sure the humour is relevant to the situation and occasion
  8. Do not make jokes at other peoples expense
  9. Don’t overdo it. Be fully, but you don’t need to be a stand-up comic
  10. Don’t be corny

Winning the humour hop-about contest

Humourous HopAbout Competition 24th November 2008 - Copy
Monday evening was the annual humour-hopabout contest, hosted by Table Bay Toastmasters club in Cape Town. Since I am a Toastmasters district officer, I am usually not allowed to enter contests. However, because this is not an official contest, I was able to enter.

The humour-hopabout contest has been running since 1980 and it always draws fierce competition, a large audience, and lots of laughter. To compete, you need to present a 3-4 minute long humorous speech. I believe that the more you speak, the more you learn (stage time), so I entered the contest.

Well, imagine my surprise when I won the contest with my speech, which examined the lighter side of mobile phones. Clearly, I must be learning something from the Champions Edge. I also re-listened to Darren?s Make em Laugh set the week before the contest, which helped me to focus on and edit my speech.

So, at least for the next year I am the humour champion in Cape Town!