What is Toastmasters – a 5 minute movie.

Apr 3rd, 2011 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Project: What is Toastmasters? A 5 minute movie explanation.

Objective: Make an xtranormal movie which explains a little bit of the Toastmasters International program for a person who knows nothing about it.
Use humor, and self deprecating humor to make it go viral!

Time: 5 to 7 minutes

This is not supposed to explain all of Toastmasters. It completely ignores leadership. Hopefully it is a fun and funny skit which can poke a little fun at ourselves and also be useful to potential visitors and others interested in Toastmasters. Enjoy!

Comments and feedback welcomed!


A blast from the past: “Basic Training for Toastmasters”

Mar 1st, 2011 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Toastmasters International has started an online Virtual Museum. The first item is the early (full contents) “Basic Training for Toastmasters”.

The first artifact is an online copy of “Basic Training for Toastmasters” (then it cost $1)


Judge training for 2011

Jan 31st, 2011 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Judge training for 2014

TI has online judge training which covers the basic forms and rules,

0. Judges need to be told that more than anything else – they should do their best to be fair and unbiased towards all contestants.

1. CONFLICT OF INTEREST: At Area+ (area or higher) contest, all judges become ineligible to compete in this type contest at this or any higher level this ‘season’

2. ELIGIBILITY: All judges must be members in good standing (implied: of a club in good standing). For Area+ (area or or higher) International speech contests only: Judges must have completed a CC (or CTM) award and been a Toastmaster member in good standing for the past 6 months.

3. Apart from the Chief Judge, judges do not need to concern themselves with timing of any contestant or whether the contestant was over or under time. they can ignore time completely and just judge the effectiveness of the speech/topic/evaluation ….

4. Judges do not need to concern themselves with deciding on a speaking area. Judges are free to penalize, enhance or do nothing to the score of any contestant who goes beyond the announced speaking are.

5. Judges are free to ignore the score guide and use any criteria they want. No one will see or check your scoring. This is important and part of the rules since using the guide is NOT required and is open to interpretation anyway. Note: The contestants expect the judges to use the suggested point values and criteria and TI recommends that strongly!

6. Judges need to tell the Chief Judge if they believe a prepared speech is not original

7. Judges need to be told to destroy their scoring materials and to not discuss their decision with anyone. Note: after the contest, the chief judge will destroy all ballots, the timing record, and the tally sheet.

8. Judges need to know that they need to break their own “tie” and write down the name of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best speakers and sign their ballot.

9. Apart from being fair and unbiased, judges should identify themselves as to what club they are a member of in case they are not permitted to judge a particular contest because of the club affiliation of any contestant – which should be determined by the Chief Judge anyway (cat Division+ no judge may be from same club a contestant represents.)

10. Judges should vote for who they thought presented the best speech/who was just the best speaker during the contest (using whatever fair and unbiased criteria they apply)

11 Any other “training” and discussion of what the contest scoring guide means category by category is subjective and – in my experience – means slightly different things to different people. There is NO right answer. so it cannot be trained into judges. Maybe that sentence needs to be part of judges training.

See #0 again, That is the most important thing.


I like image galleries – TI magazines

Nov 19th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

TI magazine content (at least some of it) is publicly available when the month is past. I made an image gallery of the magazine covers of the past 4 years with links to all back issues:

http://toastmasters60.org/mags.php Enjoy!


Video Training: How to use the Tie-Breaking Ballot

Nov 11th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Judges training is not that complicated …

Nov 10th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

TI has online judge training which covers the basic forms and rules.

0. Judges need to be told that more than anything else – they should do their best to be fair and unbiased towards all contestants.

1. Apart from the Chief Judge, judges do not need to concern themselves with timing of any contestant or whether the contestant was over or under time. they can ignore time completely and just judge the effectiveness of the speech/topic/evaluation ….

2. Judges do not need to concern themselves with deciding on a speaking area. Judges are free to penalize, enhance or do nothing to the score of any contestant who goes beyond the announced speaking are.

3. Judges are – by rule – free to ignore the score guide and use any criteria they want. This is important and part of the rules since using the guide is NOT required and is open to interpretation anyway. Note: The contestants expect the judges to use the suggested point values and criteria and TI recommends that strongly!

4. Judges need to be told that if they believe a prepared speech is not original to tell the Chief Judge.

5. Judges need to be told to destroy their scoring materials and to not discuss their decision with anyone.

6. Judges need to know that they need to break their own “tie” and write down the name of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best speakers and sign their ballot.

7. Apart from being fair and unbiased, judges should identify themselves as to what club they are a member of in case they are not permitted to judge a particular contest because of the club affiliation of any contestant – which should be determined by the Chief Judge anyway.

8. Judges should vote for who they thought presented the best speech/who was just the best speaker during the contest (using whatever fair and unbiased criteria they apply)

9. Any other “training” and discussion of what the contest scoring guide means category by category is subjective and – in my experience – means slightly different things to different people. There is NO right answer. so it cannot be trained into judges. Maybe that sentence needs to be part of judges training.

See #0 again, That is the most important thing.


Video Training: Update Club Information

Nov 8th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Same video – watch on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSEXMgVpXDI


What (almost) Every Toastmaster Should Know

Nov 5th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

This only applies to 99.9% of Toastmasters so if that isn’t you, feel free to ignore it.

1. You will not become World Champion of Public Speaking.
– you will not even become your District champion.

2. You will not become a professional speaker, earning your living through speaking.

3. The great majority of professional speakers did not get to be professional speakers by being Toastmasters.

What does all that mean?

A. “if you believe it you can achieve itis wrong, but “if you don’t believe it you will not achieve it” is probably right. Keep believing – while it is not sufficient, it is necessary.

B. Toastmasters does not make professional speakers. It makes more competent communicators, people able to give better feedback and better leaders. You will never get rich or famous by becoming great at 5-7 minute speeches. What a Toastmasters club can do is provide the environment for people to improve and self-help themselves and others to life changing gains in confidence and competence.

C. That is all very good. Most Toastmasters only participate inside their own club, and they enjoy becoming and building a local community/network of supportive friends.


New (for 2011) Contest Rulebook issued

Nov 2nd, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

TI has issued a new speech contest rulebook effective Jan 1, 2011 http://www.toastmasters.org/rulebook.aspx. It has many very good clarifications and several rule changes. It is overall a very good update making the rulebook better, clearer and more useful.

Some of the clarifications

  • The tiebreaking judge does not attend the judges’ briefing.
  • When the last contestant finishes speaking, the contest chair will ask for silence until the ballot counters have collected all ballots. (no more 1 minute or 2 minute …)
  • Judges are directed to discreetly discard their scoring forms, the chief judge is directed to keep all materials confidential – there is no need for a “motion to destroy the ballots”
  • Protests: Any protest shall be lodged with the chief judge and/or contest chair prior to the announcement of the winner and alternate(s).
  • The Chief Judge ‘provides a list showing placement of all contestants to the contest chair.

Some of the changes

  • Contestants
    To be eligible to compete in ANY contest, a member must have completed at least six speeches from the Competent Communication (Item 225) manual prior to the club contest. (Note, Toastmasters who completed older speaking awards like CTM or Able Toastmaster are considered to have met the 6 speech requirement)
  • The above change was rescinded on November 10, 2010.

  • Judges
    All judges at area, division, district, semifinal, and International speech contests must have been a Toastmasters member in good standing since July 1 of the previous year and have completed at least six Competent Communication (Item 225) manual projects. (Or be CTM, ATM, …)
  • Timing
    Two timers are appointed by the chief judge. One is provided with a stopwatch and the other with a timing device**(will be changed to signaling device) that displays green, yellow, and red colors
  • Tiebreaking
    The tiebreaking judge’s ballot must be collected by the chief judge while the counters are collecting all other judges’ ballots.
  • Official Forms
    Only official forms may be used for speech contests

What more could be done: If we want to be 100 % clear on things – some guidelines:

  • Do NOT announce whether the tie-breaking ballot was used or not
  • There is no need for a “motion to destroy the ballots”

** There is one typo in the timing section and Joe at TI is making sure it is fixed in the print version soon available for purchase. That is where the second timer uses a signaling device’ rather than a ‘timing device’.


Toastmasters Alphabet Soup – video for new members

Oct 24th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Watch "Toastmasters Alphabet Soup" and learn about the key acronyms in the Toastmasters World.

The video also does a brief review of the communication and leadership education tracks.

watch on you tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lqpZTmZe6E


10 things you might not know about Toastmasters

Oct 13th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Who Knew?1. Clubs are required to vote into membership every new member – before they officially become a member – before the application is sent/submitted to TI. (” … your club must vote in members in order to retain its charter”)
2. Speech contest contestants are not required to attend a contest briefing.
3. To get credit every speech project must have a written and oral evaluation – even if done outside Toastmasters club meeting.
4. The first Ralph Smedley led ‘Toastmasters’ meeting was not in 1924 (although previous Toastmasters clubs closed and did not lead to what is TI today)
5. There is no specified penalty in a speech contest for going outside the official speaking area. It is all up to the judges.
6. You do not have to do the speech projects in order (in any manual – not even in the CC manual)
7. You may do a speech more than once, with different objectives, for credit as a different speech project (hopefully it will be better the next time)
8. A person may not be elected to second consecutive 12-month term as club president (although TI does not ever seem to enforce this)
9. You can complete more than one CC manual in a single year (but each club may only get credit for one CC award/member). This applies to ANY individual educational award – not just a CC.
10. You can only get credit for one Speech and one CL role per meeting.

Did I get something wrong?


Just monkeying around …

Oct 8th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Bali monkey forest


Website of the month – 2010-September

Oct 7th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

A blog based club website.
I have reviewed club websites and awarded ‘UmErYouKnow.com Website of the Month’ award to a custom website and to a freetoasthost website. This month, the winner is a 3rd method: a blog based club website.

and the winner is …

This is a very nice looking and well working website!

A long list of very small suggestions:

  • The link in the top menu: Meeting Resources goes to a page named “meeting-roles” (this is a bit confusing). The page could be improved by making the
    list of items into live links to pages (on this site or TI) which provide details about each item. Similarly for the ‘Tracks’ pages, add links

  • The ‘Contact Us’ page is a bit bare and ‘cold’, Adding a simple bit of text might make the page seem friendlier and less intimidating to non-members.
  • On the calendar on the right, every meeting has a mouse over with the same location/time info. It would be better to have that standard info on the page without a mouseover.
  • It would be nice to see a link to their District website
  • If one drills through ‘How to Join’ then clicks on ‘I’d like to attend a Meeting’ the bland ‘Contact Us’ page is presented. It might be better to take the user to a page with the upcoming meeting time, location and a map – do they need to send an email to attend?

So many good things done well!

  • The site is clean, neat and organized throughout. It looks classy. It exudes confidence, welcoming and competence. Nice logo!
  • The calendar on the right side is great in showing that the club is alive and that the website is live and recent.
  • The website has info for visitors as well as members (Club Awards Received)
  • he FAQ page is excellent, easy to read and understand, lots of useful info.
  • The home page is important on a website like this – people may leave if it is not well done. The TDT home page is well done. It is neat, clean, organized and has lots of white space.
  • The icons on the home page are bright, colorful and interesting.
  • The list “Past Debate Topics” works well – it is fun, provocative and gives a great insight into the nature/culture of the club.
  • The bold Q & A on the top right on the home page is perhaps the most excellent, simple, and highly effective to-the-point feature.

I could go on :-) but I recommend that you visit this site and see for yourself what a nice blog based club website can be!

Previous Winners:


Fill-er Up!

Sep 30th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

For Toastmasters Ah-Counters, what, exactly, is an “Ah” that you are to count?

I think the intention is to count and report on usages of fillers and other verbal tics that speakers may not be aware of, and if you notice any patterns provide suggestions about what the speaker can try to be aware of.

For example, at recent meetings, one Ah Counter noticed that one speaker was moving their hands just before a ‘pause … Um.’
I have already made the case in this blog for trying to avoid saying a leading “THEE” for “THE” … [ HERE ] since we rarely the “the-uh”, but we do say “thee-uh”

There are several unofficial classes of “Filler words” (and tics)

1. Pause filler words – uhm, er, ah, em

2. Bridging filler words – and, so, now, but, ok

3. Useless filler words – actually, literally, basically, really, like, you know, basically, (I) personally, as a matter of fact, honestly, truly, at the end of the day
(Not all of the above are always fillers, sometimes they are appropriate…)

4. Repeats of words

5. Restarts of sentences

6. Physical speaking tics – lip smacking, etc.

Drive carefully and please, don’t Fill-er up!


DRAW! Choosing Contest Speaking Order – Rules, Myths and Good Practices

Sep 18th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

In Toastmasters clubs and areas and on up, sometimes ‘customs’ get in the way of following the rules and being as fair as possible to the contestants.

As Joe Friday of Dragnet said, “Just the facts, ma’am.”**

1. There is NO Requirement to attend the contestant briefing
Contestants are NOT required to attend the contestant briefing to compete. Contestants are required to be “present when the person conducting the contest is introduced“.
When there are 2 different contests held in the same venue, one after the other, the second contest is not opened when the first contest is opened.

2. The rules call for “a draw for speaking order”.
The draw for speaking order should not put any no-show automatically first, last or in any other pre-specified position in the order.

My comments and recommendations.
Since the rules do not require that a contestant attend the briefing, there should be no penalty for skipping it.
An easy way to do a fair draw is to take playing cards Ace-2-3 … up to the number of contestants. Shuffle them and lay them all out on a table/floor.
Invite all contestants to “select a card and go get it”. If any contestant/representative is not present, the chair will then select a card for each missing contestant and assign that speaking position to them.

3. There is no rule that specifically restricts contestants from trading or exchanging their drawn speaking order before the chair records the final speaking order.

My comments: This could be done for a variety of valid reasons and should be allowed if any 2 contestants mutually agree to change drawn speaking positions.
One example is perceived competitive advantage where both speakers feel they get an advantage with the switch. Another valid example is if one speaker in a prepared speech contest would like to hear another but is too nervous to listen to the other speakers before they present.
A third example is an evaluation contestant who would like to hear more of the other contestants’ evaluations and prefers to go earlier than their draw.
If they want, let them switch!

Here are the relevant sections from the Toastmasters 2010 Contest Rulebook:
Before the contest, contestants and the contest sergeant at
arms are briefed on the rules by the contest chairman. Judges,
counters, and timers are briefed on their duties by the chief judge.
Contestants will then draw for their speaking position with the
contest chairman.
C. If a contestant is absent from the briefing, the alternate
speaker, if present, is permitted to attend the briefing in place
of the primary contestant. If the primary contestant is not
present when the person conducting the contest is introduced
to conduct the contest, the primary contestant is disqualified
and the alternate officially becomes the contestant. Should the
16 Speech Contest Rulebook
primary contestant arrive after the briefing but before the person
conducting the contest is introduced, the primary contestant
is permitted to compete, provided the primary contestant:
1) reports to the contest chairman upon his/her arrival, and
2) has all required paperwork in good order before the person
conducting the contest is introduced to begin the contest.
The primary contestant waives the opportunity of a briefing.

** Yes, I know he never actually said it! Wikis’ take: ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragnet_(series)#.22Just_the_facts.2C_ma.27am.22


2013 Speech Contest Judges briefing …

Sep 12th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main


Many people recommend “judges training” for anyone judging in Toastmasters contests. Some organizations even unofficially require it.

I have participated in and conducted several judges’ training workshops in various roles.

A simple 2-minute briefing / training might be most effective. It can enable anyone to have an informed go at judging. Judging is easy: be fair, have an opinion. Anyone can do that.

If you are the chief judge, print out these training materials and have all the judges read them with you.

Overview: The speech contest rulebook changes every year. Judges eligibility and requirements and paperwork changed for 2013

0. Know your audience: Ask every potential judge: ” What experience judging this or other types of Toastmasters contest do you have? At which levels? How recently?”


1. You must be eligible to be  judge.
For Area+ (area or higher) contests, by rule you must have been a member in a club for the past 6 months without any lapse in membership dues to TI (grace period counts OK). You must have completed 6 CC manual speech projects. At the Intl convention, there are more requirements.

1.1 At Division+ contests, if you are a member in the same club as any contestant, you cannot judge this contest.
1.2 If you have any issues with any contestants which would affect you in any way so that you would not be 100% fair to al contestants, you cannot judge this contest.
1.3 You must compete form 1170 (Judge’s Certification of Eligibility and Code of Ethics) and sign it.

2. Your #1 job as a judge is to select the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. If you are the tie breaking judge, then rank ALL speakers. Ignore the timing lights,signals and ignore any concern if a contestant is over/under time.

3. You must be as unbiased and fair to all contestants as you can be. Pretend they are all your mother (or someone else you care about)

4. The scoring guide on the ballot is a guide. Please review it. If you don’t understand, don’t agree with it or don’t like it, pick another method that you apply to all speakers fairly and evenly. See #2.

5. Prepared contest speeches must be original (at least 25%). If you think a speech isn’t, tell the chief Judge.

6. Sign your ballot

7. After the contest: Keep your judging decisions private, destroy and throw away your scoring notes. Don’t tell the contestant or anyone else how you voted. Like any other Toastmaster, feel free to tell the contestants what you liked in their speech.

8. Finally, are there ANY questions?


Building a Better Sandwich

Sep 7th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Evaluation, Main

New research shows that the traditional Toastmasters sandwich evaluation method, as it is most often implemented, needs a makeover.

In the book, “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop (What Machines Teach Us about Human Relationships)” authors Clifford Nass and Corina Yen
present “Counterintuitive insights about building successful relationships-based on research into human-computer interaction.” Nass’s research shows: “Mixing criticism into praise – a popular tactic for managers – is a destructive method of evaluation.”

Don’t panic! The Toastmasters evaluation sandwhich method of ‘praise – suggest – praise’ still works. To be most effective, it just needs a bit of an emphasis shift.

What we do now:

  1. Some praise and specific examples of what the evaluator liked
  2. Then a suggestion for improvement and
  3. finally some encouragement or another positive comment.

Unfortunately that is an ineffective way to communicate the suggestions and praise.

What works:

  1. A single, specific positive praising.
  2. The the suggestion(s) then
  3. as much praise (again, specific and believable) as you have time for

Why it works best: Several aspects of how we listen and what we remember work together to make the new sandwich “taste better” and be “more (ful)filling”.

  1. What we hear last we remember most – and most strongly. Therefore lather on the specific praise and encouragement AFTER the suggestion (or criticism.)
  2. We remember criticism (or perceived criticism – even if it is portrayed as suggestion) no matter if it is early in the feedback. Putting it towards the front won’t make the evaluatee forget it!

That basically means: put the good stuff at the end, and put most of it there. It will be remembered most if it is AFTER the suggestions/criticism.

Of course, the research shows what we all know already: Specific, concrete suggestions work best. The same goes for praising. Be specific, saying “you are good” is far less effective than saying what it is, specifically, that you liked.

It’s not my theory, it’s the advice of communications experts after studying the effectiveness of various evaluation/feedback approaches.

Will you adapt to new expert advice and remake your sandwich?


Website of the month – 2010-August

Aug 31st, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

UmErYouKnow.com Toastmasters Club Website for the Months for 2010-August … And the award goes to

Voice of Burtonsville Toastmasters club!
( burtonsville.freetoasthost.ws/index.html)

This is a freetoasthost site and come with the default navigation, which is normally easy to use.
Reviewing a freetoasthost is quite different than reviewing a free-form Toastmasters club website.

Here are some comments and suggestions about this great club website.

One of the best things is that the default home page is not used.

It might be good to move the “About Us” link higher in the menu. On the About Us page itself: the paragraphs are laid out more like citations than text with the first line indented. I don’t see any benefit to that. The centering looks a bit off on the top 2 items.

From the Membership Information page, the link to “visit a meeting’ goes to the directions page. It would be better if the destination page included meeting time and frequency.

The link to the District 36 website takes the browser away from your website – it would be better to open a new tab/window so the user stays on your site. This is the same for several external links, check ALL links in the site for this.

The page “Why Should I Join the Voice of Burtonsville?” had a stern feel to me. It is not as upbeat and welcoming as other parts of the site. Perhaps a friendly image and some statement about ‘going at your own pace’ might soften it.

The “Moments of Enjoyment …” page is pretty bare and could use a better layout. If you only have 1 statement and 2 links, the page needs to be laid out with some images to make it appear more interesting. Perhaps a thumbnail from each the items linked to.

On “Meet our members” it might be better to remove empty listings than to just list a name “no photo available”

Club news forum is a great idea, interactive and with meeting notes. It seems that there have been no updates since June, that is a concern, and may be a concern to prospective guests.

The link to Area 5 is a great idea. I checked the other clubs and none for them has a reciprocal link – that might be a good thing to check into with those clubs. Also, the upcoming speech contest could be highlighted.

Overall, I like this freetoasthost website and congratulate Burtonsville Toastmasters on their efforts.



Comparing the New “new CL” to the old “new CL”

Aug 26th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

<– Rev 5/2010 / Rev 2006 …

As usual, CL evaluators are directed to “read the project carefully before the meeting”. The fact is, unless you have a rev: 5/2010 CL manual you will be seeing the evaluation questions for each role for the first time when someone hands you a new CL manual.

How are you handling getting all in your club ready to be effective CL evaluators?

What I mean is, how are you handling this?
Many older members may have only used the older CL manual (Revision: 2006) and may have only seen it as evaluator and never owned it and read it because they did an “Old CL”

Do you NEED to bother to do anything?

The main changes apparent to me in content of the 5/2010 Cl manual:

1. Reduction of the introduction text for each project. Well, it take less time to read the project now! Some project introductions have been reduced by as much as 80%.

2. Elimination of the “Practice In Your Club” section in every project which had that section in Revision: 2006 (another change which that makes reading the project carefully” take less time)

3. Evaluation/Feedback format:
Change to a set of three to four questions for a role which are scored by circling 1,2 or 3 ( 1=Needs Work, 2=Average and 3=Outstanding) followed by 1-2 questions in small italic font to be answered by essay.
These 1-2-3 score questions and essay questions are often significantly different from the Revision 2006 CL manual. Some are improved. Some are big improvements from Revision: 2006

4. A much better and better positioned tracking sheet (near the front of the manual)
17 minutes ago


Toastmasters Website of the Month: July 2010

Aug 5th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Um Er You Know presents the Toastmasters Club Website of the Month award for 2010-July to ….


This is a quality website for a quality club. The site deserves this award because it has some great examples of how to do things right. Below are some comments and suggestions for consideration to make the site even better – at least better in my opinion! Please feel free to comment below ….

***** Good stuff: I like the organization and layout of the site, the navigation is easy to find and use and is consistent throughout the site.

- Homepage link: “to learn more about Toastmasters International, click here” – the “click here” link directs to a different website. You might want to have this link open a new window/tab so that users do not leave your site. The same is true for the “Club Status” link in the navigation menu.

- Images: More images throughout the site would make the site more appealing. Best would be authorized images of members of your club “in action.”

- Inconsistent type size: On your sample agenda page, the first section ( President 7:00) is a smaller font size than the rest.

- When I mouseover the menu buttons, the white font on blue background is barely visible, a darker color for mouseover would be better.

:( :( Broken Links:
- On the Officers list page the names are links, but nothing happens when they are clicked on. Either make the links work in all browsers or removed the link formatting.
- On the Gallery the first link (in 2009) goes to a page which no longer exists

**** Usability
– For the members area, it would be better to have a regular web page to log in (rather than a little pop-up window) because when I’m unable to log in (click cancel), it takes me to a “page not found”. Same with the Videos link – but this is more important since people without a login may try “Videos” and get trapped.

**** Readability/Accessibility (14/15) –Your “Guests” page is a little disorganized. Perhaps adding details about visiting, proving “prospective members” with the application, etc. would be good. Very helpful would be a separate FAQ page for all of the answers to other questions.

*** Appearance/delivery
- Freshness issues – The top banner looks like it was made with a simple paint program. You could get a graphic designer to make a snappy one for $5 on an outsourcing website and make it look more professional/attractive.
- Originality – This website looks pretty standard and straightforward. It’s great in that it is easy to navigate and use, but by adding a few images and perhaps a subtle background style it could be made more visually provocative and appealing.

***** I like that the site uses language which makes it feel very friendly and easy to read. The grammar and spelling looks great.

**** Overall a well designed, easy to use website. Could be a bit more “spicy/jazzy” and what it does it does well.

Nominate your club website or a club website you like for the next Toastmaster Club Website of the Month!

Other Winners:


Toastmasters club Website of The Month award…

Jul 11th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under WebsiteOfTheMonth

We will be announcing a Toastmasters club website of the month starting in July 2010.
We welcome nominations, reviews and comments!


Easy (50%) Fix your ums: stop saying theee …

Jun 12th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Some thoughts on filler words – after reading what other people had to say – and talking to my wife.

Filler words, aka pause fillers, crutch words, clutch words and even vampire words can be tolerated, genderly better understood and – fairly easily – reduced by half.

  • Women have been accused of using “you know” and “like” much more often than men. It seems true to me. Stephen M. Croucher in his paper: Like, You Know What I’m Saying: A Study of Discourse Marker Frequency in Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking contends that the reason is cultural. He is right about that. then he goes on to suggest that it is related to the “Valley Girl” talk we learned in “Fast Times at Riddgemont High” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. I think he misses the uh- boat here.
    Women tend to look for collaboration more than men and choose the pause fillers “you know” and “like” often as part of their speech /communication for the goal of community rather than as a crutch. You know?

  • Stop saying “theee” when you mean “the”.
    Since ‘um’,'em’,'er’,'uh’ and ‘ah’ all begin with a vowel, we end up saying “theee, uh, book” when we mean “the book
    Hmmm, so we know ‘theee’ um/uh/er is coming!
    If we were going to say “the” book, we wouldn’t start with ‘theee’ (the with a long ‘e’).
    My modest proposal is to drop the “theee” form of ‘the’ from your speech: if you never say “theee” it becomes pretty hard to say “theee um”. Of course now you will have to insert an adjective every time you talk about “the” (adjective) elephant :-(

  • I read the book “Um” by Michael Erhard. It is well written and a bit of fun. It left me just a tad disappointed – I wanted more science.

    check this out



2 heads are better than one …

Jun 10th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main


Even if they are both YOUR head?

It’s time for Toastmasters Club Officer Training (COT) again – does that make you :-) or :-( ?

Many people need to be dragged to this, especially veterans – too bad, they can often add a lot to the discussions – especially in Phase I training.

But what about people who are officers for the first time or holding a specific office for the first time. Of course, “we” STRONGLY recommend that they attend club officer training, and most do – mainly because they are trying to help get that DCP point for 4 officers trained.

Here’s a thought, if one COT session is a GREAT idea for all ‘new’ officers, how great is attending 2 (or more) COT sessions?

If you are a new club officer, new to your role, don’t stop at one! Plan to attend at least 2 COT sessions in Phase one – an extra couple hours now and you may get a head/jump start that will pay off for the rest of the year!

What you might get: cheap edibles, great networking opportunities, and a chance to rethink what you just thought (learned) about :-)


Club Officer Trainer? Time to “RTFM” …

May 14th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

It’s almost time for the first round of Toastmasters Phase I Club Officer Training (COT) – and here is a call for Trainers to “RTFM” (Read The FINE Manual :-)

If you are attending training you will hear most trainers say, “Make sure you read the ‘When You Are Vice President Membership manual” (for example). That is great. In fact these manuals change every year.

I wonder how many COT trainers download the freely available manuals ahead of time (They are usually mailed out to clubs in late May.)

Many trainers like to train using their “vast experience” – that is GREAT – but they do need to be informed on what Toastmasters International is telling the officers in the manual – this year. These manuals in fact change most years.

The 2010 editions are available from links of the officer pages at
http://www.toastmasters.org/Members/OfficerResources/ClubOfficerResources/ClubOfficerRoles.aspx (go to the specific office and look for the manual link at the bottom of that page)

When you get an email from District or Division officers telling you about upcoming COT – email them back and say “Thanks!” and add – “please ensure that the trainers have reviewed the new “When You Are… ” officer manuals before finalizing their training plan …”

You will be helping the trainers and EVERYONE they train!


Competent/Advanced Evaluator Track proposal

Apr 20th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Anyone who is a Toastmaster surely values effective evaluations and excellent feedback. I propose the development of the “Competent Evaluator” track. TI is missing a formal education and recognition program for development of evaluation and feedback.

Please join in let’s get TI to add this worthwhile program. We need your help to brainstorm and design the program: This has evolved into a 2 part track, “Competent Evaluator” and “Advanced Evaluator”.

Next steps include
Where does it apply?

Performance Appraisals
Conflict Resolution

1. Drafting outlines of materials for the manuals. The manuals need to have evaluation/feedback forms for the evaluator, lots of advice, best practices, hints, tips and resources.

We need to explain how these processes will benefit people beyond “Toastmaster” activities and into their lives and professional careers.

2. Draft requirements for each track – subject to revision.

Proposed Competent Evaluator requirements:
- have completed CC
- Evaluate 10 CC manual speeches (no more than 3 for any speech project type and must include a speech project #9 or #10 evaluation)
- Evaluate an educational module presentation
- Present “Evaluate to Motivate”
- Serve as General Evaluator 3 times or more

Advanced Evaluator requirements: – subject to revision.
- have completed Competent Evaluator
- have evaluated an additional 3 speeches outside home club
- have evaluated 2 advanced manual speeches
- have presented “the art of effective evaluation”
- Serve as General Evaluator at 2 outside clubs
- Evaluate at least one activity for each of the 10 CL projects



What I Don’t Like about BSS 278

Apr 12th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

I disagree with several parts of Better Speaker Series (BSS) 278 “Preparation and Practice.” Some of it is good (there is the positive remark :-) but I find the module to be of less value than most other BSS modules.

Some of it I think is silly, some wrong, some short sighted and I see a lot of questions without answers that seem to miss the mark. The module seems to concentrate on speaking outside of Toastmasters where the speaker is unfamiliar with the venue and audience. It seems to have less value to the POT – and POTs are most of the audience and most will never make many speeches outside the club environment. I think materials focused on how to prepare and rehearse for speeches IN the club environment/club contest setting would be of more benefit to most Toastmasters attending this presentation.

When I present it, I change it almost completely from the provided script.

Am I bad? Wrong?
Do you like module 278 “Preparation and Practice”?
What would you change to make it better?

1. Page 6: I don’t like the analogy to professional marathon running – it really does not seem to “fit” to me. Realistically, 90+% of people who run a marathon – not counting professional marathoners – do not “study the course and consider the terrain months in advance”. And I think it is overstated fro the pros.

2. Page 7: “.., if a majority of your audience members are over the age of fifty,
…using a microphone will help keep you in control”
(tacky? What about teens who have blaring iPods permanently attached to their heads?)

3. Page 8 “… you’ve probably found that relentless practice tends to be a frustrating experience, even to the point of undermining your presentation.”
(I think this is a silly claim – I know almost no toastmasters who practice relentlessly to the point of frustration, but maybe it’s just me – almost everyone I know, including me, could use a little more “smart” practice but not restraint from “relentless practice” )

4. Page 9: “If outside opinions are not available, record your speech on audio or videotape and play it back for self evaluation.”
(only if ???, I think mirror practice, audio and video taping are incredibly powerful techniques for practice and improvement. I would recommend them separately and strongly rather than as a fall back if your – perhaps non-expert in feedback and evaluation – family and friends are not available. What about work or professional/ industry colleagues? What about a coach/mentor?)

Page 10: “If you suffer from a dry mouth, try a cup of herbal tea with honey and lemon, … or fruit juice.”

(there are lots of better suggestions than this for dry mouth. And even perhaps WAY more important to consider – a trip to the restroom a few minutes before you go on stage?
Other Extras:
-Voice/throat warm up
-Appearance check by yourself in a mirror or by a buddy
-Breathing techniques to energize or relax

What is your take on 278? Is it excellent?
Posted 7 days ago | Delete discussion


A Better Contestant Interview

Mar 24th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

At speech contests, are you – like me – tired of the same old – “What club are you from? Why did you first join Tastmasters?” interview questions of contestants (while the votes are tallied?)
Hate filling out “biodata” forms just to have them ignored anyway?

Here is my proposal:
Replace biodata from with “Contestant Interview Form”
1. Name – with phonetic pronunciation
2. Club name and location (with pronunciation)
3. How long have you been a Toastmaster?

The above will be used to introduce you after the contest when we
interview the contestants. In other words. The contest chair will tell everyone your name, club affiliation and how long you have been a Toastmasters – per your written answers. THEN they will interview you.

About you:

4. Is there something specific you would like me to ask you about?

5. Is there anything you DO NOT want me to ask about?

6. May I ask you about the content of your speech?

7. Please list some hobbies, interest or unique/interesting things
about you that I may ask about:


Gracefully Handling a contest protest (originality)

Mar 7th, 2010 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Although protests for originality in Toastmasters speech contests may be rare, it would be nice to have rules/guidelines on how they are best handled.

I could not find an official guide to handling a protest for originality in a Toastmasters speech contest, so here are my initial suggestions.
THESE ARE ABSOLUTELY NOT OFFICIAL! They are also a first draft. How would you improve them?

(I am not sure anyone if anyone could claim the individual did not “… alone prepared [their] speech …” so this addresses only protests of originality)

1. Anyone in attendance may believe that a contest speech is not “substantially original”. (From the 2104 speech contest rulebook: ”Twenty-five percent or less of the speech may be devoted to quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing another person’s content. Any quoted, paraphrased, or referenced content must be so identified during the speech presentation.”)
Although protests may only be lodged by contestants and judges, anyone may request to speak with the (identified to everyone) chief judge or contestant and present the information specifying the published source of what they think is the original and uncredited source of a substantial part of the speech.
Note: Only contestants and judges may file a protest! If they receive compelling information that a speech is not original, it is their duty to file a protest.

2. The chief judge (or contestant or judge who is protesting or received the protest information from an audience member) would write down the evidence presented to them by any person, whether a contestant, judge or audience member.

NOTE: a protest can ONLY be filed by a contestant or judge – but a contestant or judge they may decide to file a protest if they receive evidence from someone who is not a contestant or judge. This is allowed, despite the fact that judges identify is not openly publicized. Most likely someone would tell a contestant to file the protest, since they have a strong interest in the contest being judged fairly and the rules followed fairly.

3. The contestant or judge officially lodging the protest with the Chief judge should present the evidence to the chief judge verbally and be given some time (maximum 10 minutes) to prepare a written originality protest. The Chief Judge should inform the Contest Chair that a protest is being lodged and that some time is required.

3a. If the contestant has been disqualified for time, the chief judge should end the protest process here.

4. If the evidence alleged is not available in writing at the contest (this is probably close to 99% likely) a web search via computer or mobile phone could be done. Bear in mind that not all information on the web is accurate. The chief judge could allow an additional 10 minutes for this online research.
The contest chair should be advised if this time is required.

5. All evidence collected should be duplicated if possible, with enough copies of the written protest and any printed evidence/references for each judge and the challenged contestant.

6. The chief judge should convene the judges and the challenged contestant in a private area. The chief judge should chair the meeting and maintain control (including passing control of who is the speaker and time limits.) The Chief judge should read the written protest and distribute copes (if available) to all judges and the challenged contestant. All attendees should be given “adequate” time to review any written material. Do NOT include or identify the tie-breaking judge – they are NOT of this process.

7. The contestant should be given 3 minutes to orally make their case defending their speech as substantially original. If they chose to withdraw from the contest, that should be done in front of the chief judge and the convened judges at the meeting in progress. If the challenged contestant has already left the contest meeting for the duration of the contest and is not available, the process should be completed without them present.

8. The judges should be allowed 3 minutes (total) to question the contestant if desired.

9. The Chief Judge should ask all judges if any of them prefers a written ballot. If ANY judge requests a written ballot, then all voting should be done by having each judge take a piece of paper, print their name, sign their name and write “Contestant Disqualified” or “Contestant OK” on their paper. The Chief Judge  collects the ballots, tallies them and announces the results to the judges. One judge should selected to audit the counting.The Chief Judge  does NOT get a vote.. In the event of a tie vote, the Chief judge should cast the deciding vote.  

If ALL judges agree to oral vote, the judge should poll the judges for an oral Yes/No vote on the protest. Each judge gets one vote and may abstain. In the event of a tie vote, the Chief judge should cast the deciding vote. If a majority of the judges (more than half) vote for the disqualification, the contestant is disqualified. There is no requirement to inform anyone, audience or contestants about any originality protests filed, voted on or enforced.

10. If the Contestant is disqualified, the chief judge should revise the final standings of the contestants.

From TI judges training pdf:
“If the Contestant is disqualified, the contest chair will notify the contestant of the disqualification prior to that announcement before the meeting at which the contest took place is adjourned.”

This process should be done in the event of a protest no matter what the results of the voting are.
This process should not be skipped because someone believes that “it doesn’t matter in the results”. There are many cases where runners-up further down and the top three have been eligible to compete in the further rounds of contests.
Of course all protests on originality must be done before the results are announced.


Gag me with a Gag Order

Sep 25th, 2009 | Posted by | Filed under Main

Message from the Official Toastmasters Facebook Group -
From Gary Schmidt:

Effective immediately, I have asked Board members to refrain from responding to questions about policy and guidelines on social media sites and all social networks, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Ning. If you have specific questions regarding Toastmasters International policies and guidelines, please visit http://www.toastmasters.org/contactus to select the appropriate contact for your inquiry.

Members of the Board, myself included, may remain members of this forum to listen to and learn from your feedback and ideas, but will not be responding to discussions. We do value and listen to the voice of every member, not just on social networking sites, but in all forms of communication.

Well, how is that for effective oral communication?


7 Habits of Frequently Failing People

Sep 1st, 2009 | Posted by | Filed under Main

OK, I don’t know 7.

subtitle: I Fail therefore I am (likely to improve).

But what successful people do is … do small things consistently well over an extended time.
And they learn how to do that by failing. A Lot.
I mean failing many times.
Maybe it isn’t really failing but it is the ERROR part of Trial and Error.

Want to be SUCCESSFUL?
Maybe ask yourself, “What have I failed at today?”

Step out of your comfort zone…
Find a safe place to experiment (Toastmasters Clubs are a great place)

Try chairing a contest or running a PR campaign – ESPECIALLY IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT!

Go on, you have permission to Fail (which is really permission to Succeed.)