Saturday, February 12, 2011

Maintaining Eye Contact when addressing a large gathering

When you are speaking to a large audience, it may not be possible for you to establish eye contact with everyone in the room. So, how do you give the perception to everyone in the room that you are talking to them?

You can divide the audience into logical sections/groups. When delivering your speech, look at one person in each section/group. The others who are sitting around that person would also get the feeling that you are talking to them. You can even pick a person who gives you more comfort feeling, in a group. Make sure to give each section of the room,  equal time and energy. Also, do not neglect the people in the back!

Stories help people to remember your message

Have you listened to great speakers? If you carefully observe, they would've mastered the art of storytelling. They weave stories into their speeches to retain audience' attention. What makes a story very interesting? There are 3Cs that make a story to stick in audience mind - Characters, Conflict & Climax. Look at all the successful movies - they will have all the 3Cs, too. 

You can improve the effectiveness of your story, by focussing on delivery. Including appropriate vocal variety, stage presence, drama and eye contact can go a long way. Children are good story tellers. Look at how they use their voice, hand gestures and facial reactions to convey the message. Adults have a lot to learn from them.

The next time you prepare a powerful speech, don't forget to include a story or two.

Also read: Sample Story Telling Manual Speeches

Read newspapers - stay current

Do you read English newspapers, daily?  As a toastmaster, there are three key benefits of reading newspapers daily.

1. Reading news papers help you to stay current with what is going-on, around you. It helps you to expand your knowledge. This in-turn helps very much during your Table Topics participation and also to start/sustain conversations with new people
2. Reading out news papers loudly will help you to improve your English pronunciation. It is like exercising your tongue. This will tremendously boost your confidence, when speaking English.
3. You'll learn new words and phrases by reading news papers, which helps in improving your vocabulary

Humor - keeps the audience engaged

Humor is a power tool to use in your speech, to grab audience’s attention. Making others to laugh is an art. But, practice will make you perfect. Don’t search the Internet for humorous quotes or events. Look at your own life for humorous incidents. Make sure the humor is funny to you. If you don’t laugh or smile at the joke, pun, one-liner, story, or other forms of humor, then you certainly cannot expect an audience to do so. A key to using humor is only using humor that makes you laugh or smile.

Also read: Sample Humorous Manual Speeches

How to bring a unsettled crowd under control?

You are going to deliver a speech to a group of people. But, the group is very unsettled and busy talking to each other. They weren't paying attention at all, even after the Master of Ceremony (MC) called your name, to speak.  How do you take control of the group/audience? You might have memorized a captivating introduction. But, what if nobody is listening to you? Do not start delivering your speech when the crowd is unsettled. Go to the stage and silently look at the audience, without showing any facial reaction. Just look at various sections of the audience, especially the groups that are still busy talking. In a few seconds, the crowd will calm down and start to focus on you.  When everyone is focusing on you, it is time for you to unwrap the covers of your flawless speech.

Saying "Sorry" during your speech - unnecessary

When you make a simple mistake while delivering a speech, just move on. You don’t have to ask ‘Sorry’ or apologize in-between. There are folks who apologize – when they forget portions of their speech, when they make grammatical errors, or when they make a mistake due to nervousness. Many times, such simple mistakes are hardly noticed by others. Apologizing during the speech “highlights” your mistakes and also affects the speech’s flow. So, the next time you make a simple mistake on stage, due to nervousness… just move on.

Speech Preparation - Murphy's Law

 "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" - Murphy's Law

You should take Murphy's law into consideration whenever you are preparing for an important speech. For example, if you are preparing to make a power point presentation, ask yourself these questions - What would I do if the projector fails to recognize my computer? What if the power goes off during my speech?  What if my computer crashes? What if my computer doesn't connect to the network to access the presentation material?

It is hard to beat Murphy ! But, it is absolutely possible to minimize Murphy's impact on our speeches/presentations. Experienced speakers learn to identify all the dependencies in advance. They'll have sufficient back up plans, in case there are technical issues. Simple things like going to the speech venue in advance, verifying the functioning of the props before the speech, carrying a USB stick with power point slides (instead of relying on a network storage), having a backup laptop, having handwritten charts etc., would help ease many anxieties caused by technical glitches.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Successful Club Series - Going beyond our Club

Successful Club Series - Going beyond our Club
ACS Final Project (#12)
2nd February 2011


As toastmasters, we know from experience that the more we practice our speaking skills, the more likely we are to improve those speaking skills.

A concert pianist doesn’t play the piano for just 15 minutes a week. In order to remain at the top of his profession, he practices at the keyboard for a set amount of time each day. Professional athletes know that daily workouts are a necessity. Even those of us involved in an exercise program realize that jogging or playing tennis just once a week doesn’t achieve our fitness goals. We need to exercise at least 3 or 4 times a week. Similarly, practicing and using Toastmasters skills outside our club are an important part of Toastmasters Fitness.

Ladies  & Gentlemen, how can you achieve “Toastmasters Fitness”? My speech today is going to help you understand how you can achieve excellence in communication & leadership by Going beyond our Club.

Before we get into the speech, let us see how many of us have achieved Toastmasters Fitness…
  • How many of you have participated in a contest (either as a contestant or a judge or other role player)? Raise your hands …  Keep your hands raised
  • How many of you have been Area or a Division or a District level officer?
  • How many of you have organized or participated in conferences, seminars and other educational events conducted by Toastmasters?
Now look around the room to see how many folks have benefited by “Going beyond Our Club”.


Speech Contests provide you a variety of opportunities to master your Toastmaster skills.
  • Table Topics
  • Evaluations
  • Tall Tales
  • Humorous Speech Contests &
  • International Speech Contests
The various roles that can be planed in a contest are:
  • Contestant – The most obvious participants at any contest, of course are the contestants. Contests are held at area, division, district, regional and International level. Regional winners of the International Speech contest get to compete at the International Competition at the annual Toastmasters convention in August where they compete to be the next “World Champion of Public Speaking”
  • Emcee – An Emcee (i.e., the Master of Ceremony) introduces the speakers and keeps events on track.
  • Judge – Toastmasters contests require fair and impartial judges. You can be the chief judge of a contest where your job is to appoint contest judges, then train them on the procedures and oversee the judging and ballot counting.
  • Counters – Person who counts and tally the ballots.
  • Timers – Person who keeps track of the timing in a contest
  •  Audience members – Hey! We need an appreciative audience. If all the other contest roles have been filled, take the opportunity to participate in this capacity.
Contests are not just competitions. Contests are not aimed at differentiating the Bronze from Silver and Silver from Gold. Contests are meant for transforming a gold ore to be a golden ornament that decorates a women’s neck as necklace.

Beyond serving as a Club Officer

Beyond serving as a club officer or participating on a committee, leadership opportunities occur at

  • Area Level – Once you’ve served as an officer within our club, becoming the Area governor may be the next step. Or simply, you can assist the area governor by volunteering to serve on committees.
  • Division Level – Division officers are the link between areas and districts, providing assistance in club building and support to areas. They are a valuable resource to area governors.
  • District Level – Districts usually contain 50 or more clubs, all of which need attention and guidance. District officers help in building new clubs and help existing clubs increase their membership. District leaders work with people at club, area, division and international levels. They also work with corporate and community leaders outside of Toastmasters. You can serve the district as a district governor, lieutenant governor education and training, lieutenant governor marketing, public relations officer, secretary, treasurer, or as a committee chairman or member. It provides terrific opportunities to develop planning and goal-setting techniques as well as motivational and coaching skills.
  • Board of Directors – You can even be the Board of Director of Toastmasters International. The folks who are part of the Board were once a Toastmaster like you working through their manuals and gradually taking on different leadership tasks.
  • Conferences – District conferences is an excellent way to demonstrate your leadership skills. You can be a committee member involved with registration, hospitality, magazine, or part of the organizing committee.
o   Seminars
o   Speech Contests
o   Toastmasters from different background, experience, and even countries.


I remember watching an interesting advertisement on the TV.  There was an ape and a donkey living under a tree. The donkey was contended with staying under the tree. However, the ape, after swallowing “mentos” goes outside, watches other animals in the forest and learns from them. It starts hunting and learns to wear a dress. It invents fire and starts cooking its own food. In the process, the ape transforms to be a man. The man invents a wheel, designs a cart and puts the donkey to carry his load. Had the ape stayed under the tree, it would’ve remained an ape. The ape transformed to be a human, only because of “Going beyond the Tree”. Similarly, as toastmasters, we can transform to be an excellent communicator and leader, only when we start “Going beyond our Club”.