Tuesday, November 20, 2012

10 ways of identifying role players for club meetings - VP Education

When you begin your term as a VP Education, the first challenge that you may face is "How do I get role players for the club meetings". In established clubs, it is going to be a easy job. Most likely, the club may have some role scheduling systems such as www.sandyeast.com. In a club that is doing well, members will sign up for roles automatically.

(Also read: My pitch for VP Education during club elections)

The real challenge is when you are sworn-in as the VP Education, when your club is not doing GREAT. VP Education should become creative in lining up role players for the meetings.

The most common practise that VPEs do is send repeated emails to the club mailing list or Facebook group regarding roles availability. It helps to some extent, but doesn't help in filling all the roles at the club.

What would members think when they receive such reminder emails for VPEs to sign-up for roles:

1. Senior toastmasters will think "OMG ! It is so sad to see that members aren't signing up for roles. Poor VPE ... I pity her... Anyways... I'll let one of the new toastmasters to sign up for roles and improve. I don't want to grab the slot and deny opportunity for a new member".

2. New toastmasters will think
"I'm not sure if I can take up the role of a Table Topics master. I don't have enough experience. I'll wait for some other toastmaster to take it". (or)
"I've played the role of AH Counter several times in the past. What am I going to learn if I do the same role again?" (or)
"Somebody will sign-up for the role... If I sign-up for a role, I'll have to definitely go to the meeting. I'll want to keep my options open" (or)
"Let me wait for some more meetings before I take any of these roles".

So, how can a VPE really fill all the meeting roles?

1. Send emails directly to members addressing them and asking them to volunteer to take a specific role. Sending an email direct to a few members will force them to reply and make them more accountable. Normally, members think group emails are for "others" to respond back. Some people may not be checking emails or may be traveling. Sending an SMS will help too.

2. Talk to the new members of the club directly and help them answer some of their questions/concerns regarding the role. You can also give enough confidence when you talk to them directly. VPE education is a career coach for new members.

3. You should also ask the mentors to talk to their mentees directly to encourage them to take up roles. (Also read: Mentoring a new member - Checklist)

4. Towards the end of the club meeting (before the meeting gets adjourned), VPE can fill the various roles that aren't already taken up. Before coming to the meeting, VPE can come prepared with a list of available roles for next week.

5. Conduct a orientation session for new joinees and walk them through the procedure to sign-up for roles, online. Make the procedure publicly available in your club website for quick reference.

6. Cultivate the habit of scheduling the meeting roles at least 3 - 4 weeks in advance. It will help in bringing some discipline and will encourage the members to plan in advance and prepare adequately for the roles. Use www.sandyeast.com, if you are not already doing it.

7. Establish and maintain contact with VP Education of other nearby clubs. If you are not able to fill all of your roles with members of your club, ask the neighbor clubs to provide speakers/role players. It will help the members of other clubs to perform a role in front of totally new audience.

8. Create a system to reward people who sign-up for roles regularly and appreciate their performance once a month by giving award (say, "Star Role Player" of the month). Include their picture in your club newsletter and website. It will encourage more of your members to actively sign-up for roles.

9. Get help from VP Membership & President to follow-up with inactive members. A call to an inactive member can easily bring them to the meeting and make them play a role. Everyone has some starting trouble. When a fellow toastmaster doesn't show up for the meetings continuously for several weeks, he/she may have some starting trouble. You may have to give them a jump start.

10. Use Facebook to promote your club meetings - post pictures, and circulate flyers before and after the meeting. It will help in creating an audience for your meetings and keeping the crowd engaged.

I'm sure there are other ways of persuading fellow toastmasters to sign-up for roles. I've tried all the above techniques and they are very successful.

50 words to use instead of "good" in your speeches

When I joined toastmasters in 2006, the only words that I used for appreciating people are “good” and “very good”. If I was asked to evaluate a speech, and if the speech is too good, I used to say “The speech was very very good”. It makes my speech evaluations a little boring; especially when I use “good, very good or very very good” often in my 3 minutes speech evaluations.

Today, I realize that Toastmasters has heavily contributed to my vocabulary – directly or indirectly. Being part of toastmasters, I’m forced to read books, magazines and newspapers for coming up with speech topics. Today, I know many words that I wouldn't have dream't of using 6 years ago. I thought of sharing the wealth with others.

1.       Awesome
2.       Amazing
3.       Admirable
4.       Adorable
5.       Attention Grabbing
6.       Astonishing
7.       Best
8.       Brilliant
9.       Breath taking
10.   Champion
11.   Commendable
12.   Extraordinary
13.   Exceptional
14.   Excellent
15.   Effective
16.   Fabulous
17.   Fantastic
18.   Fantabulous
19.   First class
20.   Fine
21.   Flawless
22.   Great
23.   High quality
24.   Incomparable
25.   Impressive

26.   Incredible
27.   Interesting
28.   Invaluable
29.   Memorable
30.   Mesmerizing
31.   Marvelous
32.   Magnificent
33.   Mind blowing
34.   Outstanding
35.   Outperforming
36.   Phenomenal
37.   Perfect
38.   Remarkable
39.   Reverberating
40.   Super
41.   Super Duper
42.   Superb
43.   Superior
44.   Supreme
45.   Stupendous
46.   Stunning
47.   Spectacular
48.   Terrific
49.   Tremendous
50.   Wonderful

Will increase the count to 100, as soon as I pick up some new words !

Speech Evaluations - Right & Improper Usages

Speech Evaluations - Right & Improper Usages

Improper Usage

“I would like to point out some weaknesses in your speech”
“I would like to point out some negatives in your speech”

Right Usages

“I would like to suggest some areas of improvements for you”
“I have some recommendations for you”
“I have some suggestions for you”

(Also read: CRISP Speech Evaluations)
Improper Usage

“You did not use the stage properly”

Right Usages

“I wish you had used the stage space better”

"You were mostly standing in one position, when delivering the speech. Your speech had 3 distinct chronological ordered stories. You could've divided the stage into 3 sections and used one section for each story".

(Also read: Methods to organize your speech evaluations)
Improper Usage

“Your speech was not up to the mark”

Right Usages

“I feel that you can do more improvements to meet the project objectives”
Improper Usage

For an Ice breaker speech,

“You didn’t use the stage space well (or)  I think you should’ve had more vocal variety”

Right Usages

For an Ice Breaker speech,

I learned more about you

You didn’t use notes – though you were allowed to use notes. Great job.

You were keeping your hands in the pocket, which is a sign of nervousness. You can feel comfortable to let your hands down when they are not in use.
Improper Usage

“I have so much feedback to share, I think I’m going to run out of time. But, it is fine. I want you to learn as much as possible from this feedback” I’m going to share with you the top 2 areas where you can focus to improve

“You should’ve improved your vocal variety”

Right Usages

“You said … I saw a huge elephant and a tiny little rat. Instead, you could’ve said … I saw a HUGE elephant and a TINY LITTLE rat”
Improper Usage

“You need to improve your eye contact”

Right Usages

“I felt that you can improve on your eye contact. Divide the audience into 4 groups; establish eye contact with at least 1 person in each group. You’ll give a perception to everyone in the group that you are looking at them. Then shift your attention to another group. Do it repeatedly until you cover all the 4 groups”
Improper Usage

“It was evident to everyone that you didn’t rehearse your speech”

Right Usage

“I would recommend you to practice in front of mirror a few times to gain more confidence. More rehearsals will give you more confidence”

(Also read: 50 words to use instead of "good" in your speeches)
Improper Usage

Yours was a boring speech (or)

You put all the audience to sleep.

Right Usage

I felt that if you had some stories to convey your message, the speech would've been much more interesting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CC Speech Project 4 - Rhetorical Devices (Ideas & Examples)

Toastmasters CC Speech Project 4 - Rhetorical Devices

Writing a speech that meets the objectives of Project 4 in Competent Communicator manual, is not that easy. It is not just "yet another speech". Your CC Project 4 speech should be specific, should use vivid words, should incorporate rhetorical devices, and use words economically, avoiding jargon.

(Also read: Competent Communicator Manual - Sample Project Speeches #1 - 10)

Many of my mentees ask (despite the examples given in the CC manual), ask me the following questions when writing a speech for their Project 4 CC speech
  • What are rhetorical devices? 
  • How do I use rhetorical devices effectively in my speech? 
  • What are the benefits of using rhetorical devices in my speech? 
  • Should I pick a special speech topic that would allow me to use rhetorical devices?
Rhetorical devices help your audience
  • - to understand your thoughts better 
  • - to remember your ideas for a longer time

The objective of this post is to equip you with enough ideas/examples to use rhetorical devices effectively in your Project 4 CC speech. You don't have to pick special speech topics for your Project 4 CC speech  You can convert an ordinary speech to a Project 4 CC speech by modifying some sentence structures to be specific, to have vivid words, to include rhetorical devices and by eliminating jargon.

The toughest thing to do is modifying your speech to include rhetorical devices. Toastmasters CC Project 4 encourages you to use the following 4 categories of rhetorical devices, that make the maximum impact:

1) Simile - A simile is a comparison that uses words "like" or "as". Some examples are given below:

  • She was as beautiful as a rose
  • My heart shattered into pieces like a glass bowl that was dropped on the floor
  • Like a sea that pushes waves constantly to the shore, great leaders ensure that the organization continues its journey of excellence
  • My happiness vanished in a moment, like a stone thrown into a deep valley.
  • Like a stone that creates ripples when thrown into the pond, his speech created several controversies
  • This project group is like an atom... you create more energy when you are split
  • Denying education to kids is like not watering the plants
  • He ran fast like a horse
  • Your experience will always come with you like a shadow 
  • Knowledge can spark innovation, like a match stick that ignites a forest
  • Like a tsunami that wipes of an entire community, the wealth of the family was wiped of
  • All the money that I carried in my valet was gone, like a camphor that vanishes in air
  • My passion was buring like fire in my mind

2) Metaphors - Dictionary definition of metaphor is "a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable". You may ask, "What is the difference between Metaphors and Similes?". All similes are metaphors, but not all metaphors are similes :) Metaphors are much more broader than similes. The Colombia Encyclopedia, explains the difference as - "a simile states that A is like B, a metaphor states that A is B or substitutes B for A". Some examples are given below:

  • "All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players" from Shakespeare is a famous metaphor.
  • Flags waved their hands to say NO, when Kovalan and Kannagi entered Madurai
  • He became a food for the hungry sea
  • Corruption is a cancer in the society
  • You have to identify the Goliath that is controlling you from reaching your goals
  • The fire in me kept me going towards my goals
  • If you are around, I can achieve my goals because you are my energy drink.
3) Alliterations - In alliteration, the initial sounds in words (or in stressed symbols within the words) are repeated in a pleasing or memorable manner. Some examples are given below:
  • Let us protect and preserve peace
  • The facilities are underutilized or unused
  • He was disappointed and dejected, when he heard the news
  • Beast and the beauty.
  • Practice, Participate and Perform for becoming successful (This is also an example of a triad).
4) Triads - Triads are ideas, or points grouped and expressed in threes. Some examples are given below:
  • Practice, Participate and Perform in our club meetings for becoming a better communicator 
  • Democracy is for the people, by the people, and of the people
  • Our vacation was memorable because it was entertaining, energizing and exciting
  • This government made us to lose our jobs, our fortunes and our lives
  • Let us lead an environment friendly life, by reducing, reusing and recycling plastics

Hope these examples give you enough ideas and tips to use rhetorical devices effectively in your Toastmasters Project 4 CC speech. If you are interested to learn about more such rhetorical devices, here is a repository that you should look at.

(Also read: Competent Communicator Manual - Sample Project Speeches #1 - 10)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Table Topics: Theme "Winners are Grinners"

Table Topics: Theme "Winners are Grinners"

Good evening to all the winners, grinners and the ones who are dreaming about their dinner.

"It takes me 3 weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech" said Mark Twain. If you actively participate in Table Topics session you won't require 3 weeks to prepare for a impromptu speech, you may hardly take 30 seconds to think.

If you want to be better than Mark Twain, make use of the platform in Toastmasters to practice and develop your impromptu speaking skills.

Each member who gets called to the stage will be asked to speak on a topic (for/against). You'll have to speak for at least 1 minute and a maximum of 2 minutes. I encourage everyone to use the Word of the Day (Triumphant) in their speeches.

1) A champion needs motivation above and beyond winning

2) A champion is afraid of losing. Everyone else is afraid of winning

3) What is your most memorable win? (A Contest, A competition or a life event)

4) The trophy stays in the shelf, the experience comes with you forever

5) Dieting is the game where you win when you lose

6) The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back - Vince Lombardi

7) I love winning because ...

8) Obstacles are challenges for winners and excuses for losers

9) Who is one person against whom you would love to lose? Why?

10) What do you think about India winning world cup last year?

11) Who is the real winner in your home - you or your spouse? Why?

12) Who is your most favorite sports champion? Why?

13) My dad is my champion / hero

14) I hate to win because ...

15) You are competing for the post of a President in Chennai Communicators Club. Your opponent is TM ______________________. What would be your pitch to get the votes from the audience to win?

(Table topics session conducted at Chennai Communicators Club, Velachery, Chennai on 4th Nov 2012)

Friday, November 2, 2012

How to write attention grabbing speech introductions?

6 techniques for writing attention grabbing speech introductions 

If writing a speech is difficult, coming up with an effective speech introduction is even more difficult. Best speech introductions are the ones that help you to grab the attention of the audience quickly. This article will help you in coming up with attention grabbing speech introductions.

Imagine traveling to a new city. It is late in the night. You are very hungry and you are driving around looking for a restaurant. You see two restaurants ... one with a well-lit name board saying "Hotel Ananda". There are plants on both the sides of the walkway and the walkway is maintained neat and clean. You see another restaurant, with a flickering light that hasn't been repaired for a while. The name board isn't very visible. The walkway to the restaurant is covered with dry leaves, used paper cups and trash.

You haven't  dined in both the restaurants before. Which one will you choose? You don't know the quality of food inside? But, you decide based on your first impressions.

That is the power of speech introductions. Will you listen to a speaker who starts with a dull 'n boring introduction that make you to yawn (or) the one who starts the speech  with full of enthusiasm and tries to grab the audience's attention.

Speech openings should
1) Grab Attention
2) Introduce the Topic to the audience
3) Build Rapport

(Also read: Speech Writing - 5 Wives & 1 Husband technique)

Arouse suspense or curiosity

When you start your speech with a suspense, the curiosity of the listeners increases many folds. Think about the movies that start with someone lying in a pool of blood ... you'll be curious to know who committed the crime. This will keep you glued to the movie, throughout. You can use this technique to write your introductions in toastmasters speeches also.

Here is a method of creating suspense or curiosity in the minds of the audience:

Today, I'm going to talk about a person who was a shy kid during his school days. A person who was very determined and was even ready to give up his life saying "I would rather die instead of eating animal food". A lean old man... who united an entire country for a common cause. A true believer of non-violence. Friends, "Yes... I'm going to talk about the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi". 

Make a startling statement

Shock the audience by beginning your speech with a startling statement. Audience typically expect you to begin your speech with the usual "Yada... Yada... Yada...". So, when you begin your speech with a startling statement, you'll put them in a shock. It will help you to get their attention quickly.

Instead of starting with a speech introduction like, "Cancer is a deadly disease. It kills a number of people. Today, I'm going to talk about Cancer and its impact on the society", you can make a startling statement like "17,000 people die of cancer every day. Are you going to be one of them?"

Tell a story 

Audience love listening to stories. That is the reason why the movie halls are filled with people, when a movie has a good story line.

Instead of beginning your speech with "I'm going to talk about drink and drive", you can start with a short story like the one given below:

"A dark chill night... time was 12 o'clock. I was walking alone in the road... there was absolute silence... my heart was beating lub dub... lub dud.. rain started drizzling... all of a sudden I heard a loud noice... A car had rammed into a tree. I rushed to the car. The driver was unconscious. There was smell of whisky. Friends, this is what happens when you drink and drive."

Ask a rhetorical question

Politicians are good at using rhetorics to their advantage. They always make (actually, force!?) you to think about the hard facts/reality by asking rhetorical questions.

Instead of beginning your speech with "I'm going to tell you about how to become fit", you can ask "How many of you want to stay fit, but do not have a regular exercise routine? How many of you here take 'new year resolutions' but do not follow them? How many of you have personal goals for which you hardly spend any time? In the next 7 minutes, you are going to learn simple techniques to achieve your goals faster."

Begin with a quotation

Quotes help you to get the attention of the audience quickly. Instead of beginning your speech with an introduction like... "Fellow toastmasters leadership is an important skill that we need to learn. Leadership will make you successful. So, I'm sure you are curious to know more about leadership", you can use quotes to begin your speech.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” a beautiful quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Friends, toastmasters provide an excellent opportunity to become leaders - to create a path for fellow members to follow. Today, I'm going to talk about the benefits of taking leadership roles in toastmasters".

Reference the occasion

Advance speakers, begin their speeches by making a reference to the occasion. In most cases, you'll have to do it off the cuff. Professional trainers begin their training sessions by talking about a news that they read in the local news paper that day ... or by referring to an event that occurred just before the training session.

For example, if you are giving a speech in the chartering ceremony of a toastmasters club, you can make a reference to the occasion. This will help you also to establish yourself as a speaker who is more observant.

Fellow toastmasters and guests, six months ago when we started this club – we had just 7 members in the hall. Look around and see the number of people we have today. That is the power of belief, that is the power of team work… that is the power of leadership. You have come a long way in the last 6 months

(Also read: How to select a speech topic?)


1) Arouse suspense or curiosity
2) Make a startling statement
3) Tell a story  (Read: Story Telling manual speeches)
4) Ask a rhetorical question
5) Begin with a quotation
6) Reference the occasion

This is the summary of the workshop that I did for Medleys Toastmasters Club Chennai, during one of their milestone meetings in 2012.