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
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.
On 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:
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!
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.
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!
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!
This is something that I have heard so many speakers talk about, but I have only recently found out how powerful it really is.
I recently completed the Toastmasters humourously speaking advanced manual. This manual requires you to use humorous stories and jokes in your speeches. Almost every time, I got a better response from using my own stories, than I found by using a joke that I found, or from somebody else?s stories (not just for humour, but for making a point in general).
A story is a bit like a new word, once you first hear it, everybody seems to be using it (think the starfish on the beach story). Even though it may be a great story, it gets boring very quickly.
There are several reasons for this:
Your own stories or jokes
Have a personal meaning to you
Are easy to remember
Have a message that you can convey in a unique manner
Keep the audiences interest
Other people?s stories or jokes
Have been heard before (possibly many times)
Are not original
Tell somebody else?s message
Lose the audience
One of the best ways to use your own stories is to keep a story file. Whenever anything interesting happens, or something strikes you as interesting, make a note of it in your story file. It can be as simple as a word document. Here is an example (that did happen to me).
Recently, I was cycling up a steep hill (next to the Cape Point Nature Reserve)
I got tired and was about to stop when I saw a pack of baboons
I raced up the hill faster than I have ever done before
You can do anything with the right motivation
No matter how tired you are, you always can always find that extra energy
Now, when you are looking for a story to illustrate a point, it is a simple case to look through your story file. A story file is also a great place to look for ideas when you are getting stuck on a speech.
I also use my digital recorder to jot down ideas and stories when I think of them, and then add them to my story file later.