Month: July 2009

Trifecta ?

trifecta I am a “virtual bachelor” for the next 9 days (OK, technically I am a “real” bachelor until I get married in October) but my fiancee has left the continent …
So I am going to see how many Toastmasters meeting I can attend. Today I hope to get to 3.

The first one was “breakfast” 7:30 a.m open/community club. Having it in the back of a large corporate cafeteria helped – there was coffee available in the cafeteria. (I usually get up after this meeting has ended)
3 great speeches – I know people often say this – and like them 😉 – I mean it. An ice breaker speaker talked about the inspiration she got from her mother’s early life – and when someone get’s up at 3:30 a.m. to study by lamplight in taiwan before going to do the farming so she can not be prevented form attending school, I quit complaining about the “early” hour of this meeting.
I also liked how the Grammarian stressed the listening challenge of the role.

Listening as a part of communication is – for me – not stressed enough in Toastmasters. When I see people at a meeting looking at the agenda while a speaker is introduced or speaking (I guess I think it is OK to watch the audience a bit while a speaker speaks 🙂
I think, ” I want to be sure to ‘be in the moment’ and focus ‘”
Next stop, I get to be guest grammarian at 13:00 meeting.

I ended up doing Grammarian at next 2 meetings.
Now I reaffirm that this is the most undervalued and underutilized role in Toastmasters.
I presented my role as Grammarian as the most divers and most challenging in the meeting:
1. Prepared speech
2. Visual aids
3. Listening skills
4. feedback and evaluation
5. impromptu speaking

The whole shebang in one role!

Go ahead, shake things up a bit, ask for 3 minutes at each end of the meeting when you are grammarian and knock their socks off!

Let the Games begin (sooner)

I love Toastmasters contests. Well not everything about them.
I love the contestants performing – and I love competing myself.
I love chairing contests and chief judging.

I hate the briefings usually given by contest chairs and chief judges.
And now, I present “My ideal contest preliminaries”:

Sgt At Arms (SAA)
– opens meeting
– directs all attenders to shut off all things electronic including cameras and communication devices
– explains that door will closed during contestants on stage

The Chief judge reports that all officials have been briefed
(I recommend that anyone who insists that everyone in the audience be informed of a summary of the rules: print them on a separate sheet or on the agenda. People CAN read.)

The Chair reports that all contestants have been briefed, then announces the order they will compete and opens the contest

The audience, there for entertainment and enjoyment rather than hearing all about the rules, checks their agendas one last time and sits UP and enjoys the show!

Pleading the 5th

Also subtitled: Thou shalt not compete (more than 4 times)

Here’s The Facts:
TI is an educational institution.
TI believes that Districts are/will be diverted from their mission if they hold or allow to be held a 5th contest in a calendar year.

This means that in a District which holds 2 fall and 2 spring contests at the conferences, no matter how much interest and how many resources are available at an interclub level – there cannot be a “contest” such as “debate”, “Interpetive Reading”, etc.

Clubs can do anything they want as long as no one outside the club is invited. But inter-club at any level is NO NO (NO NO!)
There can be talent showcases but no judging and no awards – that “smells” like a contest …

Here’s My Opinion:
Let the Districts decide what specific activities contribute best to enabling and helping its constituent members meet their eduational goals. 1 contest is required (International Speech) but 4 is the limit (arbitrary limit?)

I am not saying Districts HAVE to HAVE 6 contests a year. I am saying if a few clubs want to get together and do a fun debate or interpretive reading CONTEST – yes, a CONTEST – why not let them?

Oh no, something might CHANGE if we tried something a little above the bar! How scary is that?

No Laughing Matter …

Many clubs include a JokeMaster or Humor Master or have the timer or “Toaster” give a Toast, tip or joke.
So far so good.

I regret the internet for one reason only – I used to be the best joke teller almost anyone had ever met (before the Internet I didn’t know a lot of people 🙂 I can tell a mean joke and, and I can remember a lot of jokes – and – before the internet, I had a secret list of punch lines on a couple pages in very small print.
When I got my hands on a new crowd, I’d excuse myself, pull out the punch line “database” (papers) review a few punch lines and go back in and knock ’em dead.

Now, virtually every joke has been emailed to every person 400 times.
The good news is that many people still don’t remember jokes (or apparently don’t read every single email they receive like me) and the art of the joke is not dead. Great jokes never dies – unless someone tries to kill a joke by reading it

Jokes are made for TELLING. C’mon Toastmasters – it;s not an original speech of 5-7 minutes, review the joke and then TELL IT – embellish, act, play but PLEASE don;t read jokes to me! Just rehearse it a couple times, PREPARE it ahead of time – it will give you a chance to smile (or frown) and make eye contact during the joke. Someday you will be Jokemaster – find a joke now and get it ready
No Reading.
It isn’t funny. I’m not kidding!

Thank You (for not thanking me) …

Honestly, I love going to Toastmasters meetings and I enjoy them …

Here’s some more stuff I don’t like 🙂

When speakers (in any role) say “Thank You” at the end of their talk.
If they have some gratitude to express and can be specific about who and why, great!

But No “Walk-Off” Thank You please.
It is the audience who thanks you! Just return or pass control, don’t “turn it over” to the person next in charge of the meeting.

and … Thank You! 🙂

A Lectern is a Podium

It isn’t really – but it has been (mis) used so much that a second definition of Podium is now Lectern.

It’s similar to imply and infer. Infer DOES mean the same thing as imply in secondary definition. I am not happy about this but I have come to peace with it.

Lectern vs. Podium

Heeeeeeeere’s Johnny!

Until you have hosted a nationally televised talk show for 10 or more years you need a GREAT introduction to your talks and presentations.

Let me be more specific. The talks, speeches and presentations which you deliver need great introductions.

And the best introductions are not about YOU – they are not even really about your talk as much as about the audience and why the audience should listen and care.

I think speech introductions are the most neglected thing in Toastmasters. Week in week out, at so many clubs, I hear uninspiring intros. Last week was no exception, I heard something to the effect:
“So those are the objectives. I don’t have his title, but please welcome up John to give his speech.”

Yuck! Not even a title? That means that the speaker couldn’t be bothered to come up with or at least communicate the title, let alone write an introduction. AND, the Toastmaster didn’t check with the speaker for an introduction ahead of time!

And don’t give me your bio. I DON’T CARE. I want to know about your speech and why it will be worth listening to!

Craig Valentine says it better than I can: Read his article here

Toastmasters: C’mon print out the objectives – let people read them to themselves. Give the Toastmaster of the Day an introduction that puts the audience on the edge of their seats!

But, please, for ME, never give a Toastmasters speech again without writing an introduction which fires up the audience!

Update: 6 July … And then today I visited a TM club which chartered about 2 months ago and the Toastmaster had great, spot on introductions for both speakers- Ice breaker Speakers – way to go IO!

How Transparent is TOO Transparent?

Is it a good/bad/great idea for Toastmasters websites to make available to District POTs (Plain Old Toastmasters) the weekly District Performance Reports.
These detail, among other things, the District goals and performance against those along with list of people who have sponsored members, achieved educational awards, clubs which have not submitted officer lists yet, etc.
They are available in a format which makes easier perusing that one at a time on the TI site.

Is that TOO much information? Is it Too Transparent? Can one be TOO Transparent in a non-profit self-improvement organization?


By the way, I am not asking if those reports are essential to POTs, but whether they should be made available – for the sake of Transparency. And maybe the side benefit of having POTs get a peek into some behind the scene workings at activities and data up the TI chain …

But they meant well

I recently attended a local Toastmasters club as a guest and it was a great meeting: Run crisply on time, with energy and enthusiasm with a nice. welcoming. inclusive community feel. A very nice group of people. (Of course, I made some recommendations to the club at the end 😉

They are an appreciative bunch – one of them bought gifts for each of their outgoing officers in appreciation of their efforts. At the meeting, one member raised a motion to reimburse the cost from club funds and the motion passed unanimously.

I raised my hand and told them I applauded their sentiment. I also told them what they were doing might be in violation of the
club constitution (pdf). I suggested they check and amend their club constitution if they like.

I told them I was sorry! 🙂

What would you do? Do we have an obligation to point this stuff out or is it better to “look the other way”?
For better or worse, and meaning well, I find the latter harder to do

Article XI Legal Status and Dissolution:
Sec. 1. This Club is an unincorporated association formed solely for
the purpose of privately educating its individual members. This Club is not legally affiliated with
any company, agency, or special interest group from which this Club may draw its individual members.
The use of the funds of this Club shall be limited to educational purposes. They may not be used
for social or political purposes, or for the benefit of any individual.

Additional comment:  4 July
Based on various offline discussions, I am very glad I raised the issue and informed the club of official policy…

Come Over to the Dark Side …


I mean it – I heard a speech evaluation this week which ended with:
“And I tried really hard but I couldn’t come up with any suggestions”.That is WHITEWHASHING. And it does little to benefit the speaker or anyone else in the audience.Today, I talk about why Whitewashing is Bad, Bad, Bad –  and how to make it good, better, best.

By the way, it irks me when people start (or “middle”) “I’ll also tell you what I didn’t like about your speech.”
WHAT? That is not evaluation.

Our growth and improvement comes through the repeated cycle of action, effective feedback, and (re)cycle.

As Randy on American Idol would say, “Dog, check this out,”: PEOPLE DO NOT WANT YOU OPINION.

It is worth saying again: PEOPLE DO NOT WANT YOUR OPINION.

They want your ANALYSIS (Sorry for all the shouting, I do get worked up about this.)

Competent Evaluation (I will soon revive my proposal for Toastmasters to offer “Competent Evaluator Bronze, Silver and Gold) involves suggestions.

WHITEWASH EXTERMINATION PROPOSAL: IF anyone – including you or me – ever gives a whitewash speech evaluation, the General Evaluator and all club members will take action.

Action: Gently but firmly counsel the Whitewasher. Give them feedback, which might be something like, “You did a good job in pointing out positive things and parts of the speech you liked. We are all here to develop and grow further, of course. That comes from analysis of what we do and specific recommendations.

Further Action:

  • Put  them in the “Whitewasher doghouse”. (OK, call it the “Evaluator Improvement Throne” if you like 🙂
  • The Whitewashers must attend and observe at least 5 speech evaluation before they are asked to do another one.
  • Ask them to consider presenting the Successful Club Series Program: Evaluate to Motivate – If one has to teach something, they will usually remember 95% of it it.

Come over to the dark side (we have cookies) and help stamp out whitewash speech evaluations!