Sunday, December 30, 2012

Table Topics Evaluation Tips

Table Topics Evaluations helps the Table Topics Speaker to understand his strengths and areas for improvements. There are times when you would feel "I would rather have been a Table Topics Speaker instead of a Table Topics Evaluator". This article provides you some tips to effectively perform your Table Topics Evaluator role.

Also read:

Handling Table Topics - 6 ways of getting the initial thinking time
Speech Evaluations - Right & Wrong usages

What are some common mistakes done by a Table Topics Evaluator? Here are certain things that I've observed.
  • Spends too much time in setting the stage for the Table Topics Evaluation or in appreciating the Table Topics Master
  • Spends more than a minute for the first Table Topics Speaker
  • Not following a uniform structure for the evaluation of all Table Topics speakers
  • Trying to point out 'too many strengths' or 'too many areas of improvements' for a speaker
  • Not giving any feedback for improvement for some Table Topics speakers. (Note: The mantra of Toastmasters is 'Any speech can be improved')
A Table Topics Evaluator gets about 30 seconds to evaluate each Table Topics speaker. So, what can you do in the 30 seconds that you are given to evaluate a Table Topics speaker?

Here is a set of guidelines that you can use to evaluate Table Topics speeches. You can apply the criteria given below when you take your evaluation notes. When you go to the stage to share the feedback, pick the top 1 or 2 items.
  1. Was the speech organized / structured (i.e., clear introduction, body and conclusion)?
  2. Content – Was the speech relevant to the Topic? Do not expect new toastmasters to adhere to the speech topic. Encourage them to talk even if they can’t talk about the topic.
  3. Did the speaker speak against the speech topic? (Normally, everyone speaks for the topic. When somebody speaks against the topic and makes it interesting too, you can mention that)
  4. Were there any references or quotes? Was there a story? Were there rhetorics?
  5. Was the speaker nervous?
  6. How quickly was the speaker able to assimilate his/her thoughts and speak?
  7. Delivery – Did the speaker use Vocal Variety? Eye Contact? Gesture? Stage Usage? 
  8. Did the speaker speak for less than a minute? (Encourage speakers to talk for the full 2 minutes. Appreciate new toastmasters when they try to talk for the full 2 minutes)
  9. Did the speaker show any improvements when compared to the previous TT speeches that he/she delivered in the club? (mention only if you see an improvement)
Also read:

For each speaker, you can point out 1 or 2 nice things about the speech and 1 area for improvement. This will help you in staying within the time. Pick the ones that are 'very important' to mention on the stage. You can share the rest of your observations with the speaker, offline.

Table Topics Evaluator does a crucial job of encouraging, educating and evaluating the Table Topics speakers. Hope this article provided you some tips to do your job as a Table Topics Evaluator, better. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

3Rs of a Successful Toastmaster

How to be a successful Toastmaster? 

A copy of the article which got published in Chennai Speakers Forum & TCS Maitree Orators Toastmasters Club Newsletters.

It was the year 2010, I was serving as the President of Chennai Toastmasters Club. A guest in his mid-20s approached me at the end of the meeting and asked, “Sir! I’m completely impressed by the meeting. Can I complete the entire course in just 1 year? I’m very busy with lot of other activities and I want to complete this course soon”. 

He is not an exception.  Very recently, I was approached by a young toastmaster who said “Sir! I am doing my under graduation now and I have lots of spare time. I want to complete my DTM in the next two years”.

I have seen several toastmasters who want to complete their speaking projects and leadership assignments, soon. Public Speaking and Leadership are skills that are developed by practicing, participating and performing. There are absolutely NO SHORTCUTS. If there is one magic pill that you can swallow before going to the bed and wake up as a competent speaker the next day morning, everybody will be a competent speaker today.

So, how can you get the maximum out of the toastmasters program? The fullest benefit of toastmasters program can be achieved only when you follow the 3Rs:

1.             Regularity

Being regular is the most important trait of a successful toastmaster. What happens to an athlete, when he/she doesn’t exercise regularly; when he/she doesn’t attend practice sessions regularly? Mastering the art of public speaking is very similar to sports – it requires regular practice. What better platform can you get to regularly practice your skills than a toastmasters club?

·         Regularly attend club meetings
·         Regularly take a diverse set of roles in the club meeting
·         Regularly deliver speeches in your club and in other clubs
·         Regularly participate in contests and benchmark your performance
·         Regularly take leadership roles in your club and outside your clubs

2.             Research 

Performing adequate research is important for any assignment that you do – not just in toastmasters. Charles E. Jones, a famous author said "Five years from now you'll be the same person you are today except for the books you read and the people you meet”. It is very true. As a toastmaster, we need to develop habits of reading books, reading newspapers, attending educational programs, participating in contests and continuously learning new things by research. Research helps us to discover new ways of doing things, it helps us to constantly innovate and discover a BETTER YOU!

3.             Rehearsals 

Our District 82 Champions TM Alexandar Babu, and TM Guruprasad delivered a 7 minutes humorous speech to win the prestigious 1st and 3rd positions respectively in the district conference, Reverberations 2012. Can you imagine how many times they would’ve rehearsed before their most memorable performance at the District? They rehearsed at least a 50 times for months together, before their final performance at the district. If great champions have to rehearse for at least 50 times before their performance, how many times should we rehearse before giving our speech at the club? A successful toastmaster, rehearses multiple times before they do any performance in toastmasters.

Let us take the following resolution to become a successful communicator and a leader.

I’m a toastmaster…             
participate in meetings, but don’t precipitate
I’m always prepared, so I’m not afraid
help others to perform, so that their skills can reform
give everyone a pat, that’s the best way to get them to act

I’m a toastmaster …
I remain positive, even if my blood group is negative
treat everyone fair, they being a guest or a DTM doesn’t matter
I’m ready to serve the club, because my heart says so with every single lub-tub
I’ll follow the rules, as it helps the club to reach its goals.
I’m a toastmaster!!!

Friday, December 14, 2012

How to organize YLP (Youth Leadership Program)?

Organizing a Youth Leadership Program (YLP) is a wonderful experience. YLP makes you feel that you can put your toastmastering skills to the best use, in the development of the community and in grooming the future leaders of the society. If you are interested in organizing a Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program (YLP), this article will help you.

Also read:

Youth Leadership Program at Anjuman School
High Performance Leadership - Project Ideas / Requirements

Who can organize an YLP?

According to Toastmasters International, a local toastmasters club should sponsor/organize a YLP.

Where can I conduct YLP?

You can conduct YLP in schools, colleges, scout groups, and other communities for youngsters.

What do we do in a YLP?

During YLP, we help the participants to become better communicators and leaders. The YLP sessions will be similar to that of your toastmasters club meetings. However, the students/participants will run the show and you should coach them to do their roles. You'll also have to conduct educational sessions for them on "How to use their voice effectively", "How to come up with a speech script?", "How to use their body language", etc.,

What is the age group of the participants/students?

YLP is meant for teenagers. You can do it for students who are in the age group 13 - 18. For adults, you can consider conducting Speech Craft program.

How long is the YLP program conducted?

YLP program is conducted over a period of 8 meetings. The meetings can happen during the weekdays or weekends.

What is the minimum and maximum size of the YLP students group?

The effectiveness of the program will be realized when you conduct the program for smaller groups (very similar to your toastmasters club meetings). An average size of 15 - 20 students in a group (not exceeding 25 students).

I have more than 25 students who are interested to participate. What should I do?

If you have more students who are interested to join, you can split them into smaller groups and have two co-ordinators for each group. For example, if you have 100 students in a school interested to participate, you can split them into 4 groups of 25 students each. You can have 4 * 2 = 8 co-ordinators for each class room.

How many coordinators would I need to run the YLP program?

It depends upon the size of the students group. You need at least two coordinators for a group of size 20.

How should I pick trainers/coordinators for the program?

It is recommended to have somebody who has completed at least their Competent Communicator / Competent Leadership manuals, as trainers/coordinators.

Where should I get the funds for running YLP?

The club can fund the program or can get outside sponsors to fund the YLP program. Students should not be charged for the YLP program.

What are the items/manuals that I should order from Toastmasters International?

Coordinators handbook (one for each coordinator)

Participants note book (one for each student)

Coordinator certificate (one for each coordinator)

Participant's certificate (one for each student)

You may also consider to order trophies, pins, best speaker ribbons and other materials from Toastmasters International website - depending upon your funds availability.

What is the approximate cost of organizing a YLP?

Coordinator's handbook:     No. of coordinators * $5 each
Participant's handbook:     No of participants  * $5 each

Coordinator's certificate:  No. of coordinators * $0.60 each
Participant's certificate:  No of participants  * $0.60 each

If you have a group of 25 students, and 2 coordinators, your approximate cost of materials would be ((25 * $5) + (2 * $5) + (25  * $0.60) + (2 * $0.60)) =  $151.2

The other things that you should consider when calculating the cost of the program:
  • Shipping cost for the materials/manuals
  • Refreshments (tea, snacks) that you may serve to the participants/coordinators
  • Transportation cost, if any
  • Hall/Venue expenses, if any
You can use the currency converter to calculate the cost in your local currency.

Will I get a credit if I organize a YLP?

Yes. The Chief Cordinator who organizes the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) can get a High Performance Leadership credit. The other coordinators can get credit for their speeches / performance in their respective project manuals (CC / CL / AC )

Where can I find more information regarding Toastmasters Youth Leadership Program (YLP)?

You can find the latest information in the following link:

This article is a compilation of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about YLP from my mentees. If  you have any other unanswered questions, leave a comment here.

Also read:

Youth Leadership Program at Anjuman School
High Performance Leadership - Project Ideas / Requirements

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Handling Table Topics - 6 ways of getting the initial thinking time

"What should I talk about?" - This is the first question that will come to your mind when you are called to the stage and given a Table Topic. Your brain cells will fight with each other to bombard you with thousands of thoughts in a few milliseconds time. However, you would need some time to pick the right thought and expand on it.

How would you get some thinking time for organizing your thoughts during Table Topics? This article outlines some techniques for getting a few extra seconds of thinking time, right after you are given a Table Topic.

(Also read: How to write attention grabbing introductions?)

1) Acknowledge & Address the Gathering

As soon as you get the topic from the Table Topics master, don't just jump into the Table Topic. Begin your speech by thanking the Table Topics master and by addressing the audience.

For example, by starting your speech with the following statements you will get approximately 5 seconds of thinking time.

Thank you [Mr|Madam] Table Topics master for that wonderful topic. Fellow toastmasters and my dear guests ... or

Mr. Table Topics Master, Fellow toastmasters and my dear guests ...

2) Read out the topic again

By reading out or repeating the topic again, you'll get at least a few seconds of thinking time.

For example, when you get a topic such as "What is your most memorable Christmas celebration" and if you repeat the topic, you'll get 5 seconds of thinking time easily.

3) Ask Questions

Asking questions will not only help you to get some thinking time, but also will help you to grab the attention of the audience.

You can start your speech by asking questions to the audience.

For example, if your topic is "Reduce, Reuse and Recycle", you can start by asking some questions such as "How many of you take a walk to the local store, instead of driving a car? How many of you carry a bag with you when you go for shopping, instead of asking for a plastic bag?".

If your topic is "What is your most memorable vacation", you can start by asking some questions such as "How many of you took a vacation recently?". If somebody respond back by raising their hand, you can ask them, "What is the place to which he/she went to?".

Then, you can continue the speech by saying "Great! My most memorable vacation is the one that I took to Ooty with my family".

4) A witty prepared remark

You should have some witty/humorous remarks in your kitty. Starting your Table Topics speech with a little humor will get you some extra thinking time. Some suggested witty remarks are given below:

  • Our Table Topics Master doesn't realize that it is always easy to ask questions, but it is very difficult to answer them.
  • From next week on wards, I'll promptly sign-up for a meeting role, so that, I can esape from Table Topics
  • I think they should change the name of Table Topics session to Terror Topics
  • Last time, I got a topic "Craziness is the welcome mat at the doors of Creativity". This topic is much better than the topic that I got, last time.
  • Fellow toastmasters and guests, you don't have to be GREAT to START, but you've to START to be GREAT. You may be wondering what is the relevance of this quote to the topic. My mentor advised me to start any speech with a quote to grab the attention of the audience  (Read: Spice up your speeches with quotes)

You don't have to use this technique always. When you gain experience in handling Table Topics, you may not have to use this technique.

Opening your speech with a humorous remark that is relevant to the topic, is always good.

5) Use the "Theme of the Day" or "Word of the Day" in your opening statement.

Referring to the "Word of the Day" or "Theme of the Day" will get you some applause from the audience. Each applause will last for approximately, 5 seconds. You can use that time to think and organize your thoughts in handling the Table Topic.

For example, if the Word of the Day is "dexterous" (meaning skillful), you can start your speech with the following statement.

"Mr. Table Topics Master of the Day, fellow dexterous toastmasters and guests"

6) Ask for a few seconds of thinking time :)

If you are not able to use any of the above techniques and if you are a new toastmaster trying to get your arms around Table Topics, I would recommend you to openly ask for some thinking time. I've seen Toastmasters asking for 30 seconds of thinking time, explicitly. The timer will buzz to indicate the speaker that 30 seconds is reached.

Using a combination of the techniques given above will easily get you 30 seconds of thinking time. It would help you to organize your thoughts and deliver a short speech during your table topic. Initially, it may be a little challenging to follow some of these techniques. But, if you continue to practice them regularly, you'll be able to handle Table Topics with ease.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

High Performance Leadership (HPL) Project Ideas / Requirements

How can I complete my High Performance Leadership (HPL) Project? What are some projects that I can do to complete my HPL? What are the requirements of HPL? These are some questions that come up from budding toastmasters who would like to transform into great leaders. If you are looking for project ideas to complete your HPL, you've come to the right place. This article summarizes some of the email conversations that I had with my mentees on this subject of "High Performance Leadership".

Always, look at Toastmasters International website for the latest information. The information contained in this article is accurate as of the date of writing :)

(Also read: Leadership Lessons - What works when you are a Leader)

What is High Performance Leadership (HPL)?

  • An "action-learning" program that will help you to develop your leadership skills
  • Uses a 3 part learning process - study, action, and feedback
  • A 5 phase program which involves:
    • Recruiting a guidance committee
    • Choosing your objective / Setting Goals
    • Winning commitment to your objective from your team 
    • Working the plan with your team
    • Analyzing and Presenting Results to the Guidance Committee, regularly
What are some projects that I can do for HPL?
  • Starting a club from the scratch
  • Running a division or district conference as a Conference Chairman or Conference Co-Chairman
  • Organizing Youth Leadership Program 
  • Organizing Speech Craft 
  • A project at your workplace that involves a large team
  • Activities that you do as an Area / Division Governor 
  • A project in your local community/church etc., involving a large team
& any other project that is legal, ethical and socially responsible 
Where can I find more information on HPL?

There is a manual that you can follow to complete your HPL (includes Guidance Committee Workbooks). You can purchase it from Toastmasters International.

How big should be my team?

HPL manual doesn't call out a specific team size. However, your team size can be anywhere from 6 - 12 people.

Should the results of the project work be "successful" for me to claim for a HPL credit?

The results of the project work may not be successful. HPL manual emphasizes on the experience, process and procedure that you go through, than the "results" of your project. For example, if you start a project of raising $20,000  for your church and if you end up raising just $10,000 you can still claim a credit for your HPL, documenting your experiences and learning from the project.

Who should I have in my guidance committee?

You can have a mix of toastmasters and/or non-toastmasters who can who can guide you in your decisions and acknowledge the completion of the project.

What is the procedure to get HPL credit?
  • You have to deliver a 5 - 7 minutes speech in your club or during the felicitation ceremony. Your speech should get evaluated by a toastmaster. 
  • Your "guidance committee" members have to sign the application and provide their contact details.
  • Your VP Education has to mail the applications to Toastmasters International with your Membership # & club #. You'll get credit for Leadership Excellence (towards your ALS).
How should I fill the HPL application?

You can find below a sample HPL Award Application.

I have already completed a BIG project. Can I get a HPL credit for it now?

The value of the HPL program is in the process, procedure and experience that you go through when following the High Performance Leadership manual. When you just submit your HPL application for the project that you had already completed, you'll not get the REAL benefit of completing a HPL.

If you have more questions, leave them as a comment here and I'll try to answer your question. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

10 things you SHOULD NOT DO in a speech contest

In toastmasters contests, judges are supposed to be 'invisible'. Though there are mechanisms to SPOT a judge in a speech contest, as contest organizers we should ensure that the identity of the judges are not revealed to the possible extent. Here are some tips the 10 things that you SHOULD NOT DO in a toastmasters speech contest.

  1. Don't do the judges briefing and contestant briefing in the same hall and that too at the same time
  2. Don't do the judges briefing near the entrance of the contest venue
  3. Don't take pictures of the judges, during the judges briefing
  4. Don't give special notepads/writing pads/folders to JUST the judges
  5. Don't make ALL THE judges to occupy the front row
  6. Don't make an open announcement on the stage - "All the judges are requested to meet the Chief Judge immediately" (because, all the eyes of the audience will now be glued to the Chief Judge to find out who is approaching the Chief Judge. They are most likely to be a judge in the contests)
  7. Don't ask from the stage "Judges and role players, can we begin the contests?"
  8. Don't start the contests without ensuring that ALL THE JUDGES are in the meeting hall.
  9. Don't read the names of the contestants very fast - read the names at least twice and very clearly for judges to note down
  10. Don't make the Chief Judge to collect the ballots from the judges, after the contests (because, the Chief Judge is known to every body)

(Also read: How to spot a Judge in a speech contest)

10 leadership skills by DTM Ted Corcoran

I had an excellent opportunity to listen to DTM Ted Corcoran's educational session on "10 leadership skills for toastmasters", at Reverberations 2012 in Cochin. This blog post is a quick summary of the key lessons from the educational workshop.

(Also read: 3 types of people taking leadership roles - builder, maintainer, destroyer)

1) Great leaders have a clear vision
2) Great leaders have positive core values/ethics
3) Great leaders accept responsibility - both failures and successes
4) Great leaders have clear goals
5) Great leaders are team builders (TEAM - Together Everyone Achieves More)
6) Great leaders are able to delegate and empower
7) Great leaders are excellent communicators
8) Great leaders are disciplined
9) Great leaders  "Encourage the heart"
10) Great leaders are enthusiastic and always have a positive attitude.

(Also read: Leadership Lessons - What works when you are a leader?)

Some interesting quotes/remarks from DTM Ted Corcoran's educational session,

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality" by Warren Bennis

"Leadership is action, not positions" by Donald H. McGannnon

"Leaders don't force people to follow, they just invite their members to join their journey"

"If you as a leader don't know where you are going, almost everybody in your team doesn't know as well"

"Paint a picture of what the end goal looks like, to your team"

"If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, and at any time" from the book Five Dysfunctions of a Team

"A leader says "Let's Go". A non-leader says "Go!"

"Motivate them, train them, care about them and make winners of them", by J.W. Marriot (Founder of Hotel Marriot)

"Money won't make you happy, but happy people will make you money"

"You'll be fired with enthusiasm or you will be fired, with enthusiasm" by Vince Lombardi

"I'm NOT DONE yet" by Charlie Kleane

Also read:
Importance of communication when leading without a title
3Ps of leadership by Prof. Debashis Chatterjee

 DTM Ted Corcoran is the past International President of Toastmasters International.

3 fundamental elements of leadership - by Prof. Debashis Chatterjee

I had an excellent opportunity to listen to Prof. Debashis Chatterjee's educational session on "3 fundamental elements of leadership", at Reverberations 2012 in Cochin. This blog post is a quick summary of the key lessons from the educational workshop.

(Also read: 10 leadership skills by DTM Ted Corcoran)

The 3 fundamental elements of leadership are:

1) Purpose
2) Productivity
3) Passion

Prof. Debashis related the above 3 elements to head, hands and heart. Purpose is defined by your mind (aka "head"). Productivity is achieved by your "hands". Passion is created at your "heart".

(Also read: 3 types of people taking leadership roles - builder, maintainer, destroyer)


A leader should have a clear/well defined purpose.

  • You've to live for something that is bigger than you
  • If you do not have a PICTURE of something that you want to be... you are not going to be successful in achieving that.
  • If you have nothing significant to die for, what is the point of living?
  • Have a purpose that is BIGGER than you
  • Corporations reward employees for not just achieving individual purpose, but collective purpose
  • Only somebody like Gandhi can say, "My life is my message". He narrated an incident, where one of Gandhiji's shoes fell in a railway track when the train departed. Gandhi immediately threw the other shoe also into the railway track saying... a poor man who will find one of my shoes can find the other pair also and use it".


A leader should work hard to achieve his purpose, together with his team.

  • When you work hard, the body will revolt, but until the mind revolts do not give up
  • As a leader, Gandhi always traveled in 3rd class because that is where his followers were. You should always be with your team.


A leader should always lead his team with "passion".

  • Mother Teresa's definition of leadership "Small work, Great love". An example of that is "When Prof. Debashis visited Mother Teresa, he forgot to take his briefcase while leaving her place. A lady with a pacemaker came running with his brief case down the stairs and handed that over to him with lots of passion"
  • Always respect others (both superiors and followers) with the attitude "I'm great to myself as you are great to yourself, therefore we both are equal"
  • A politician was able to win the election because he did not miss a single wedding or funeral in his locality
  • A politician cannot win the next election, unless he/she can connect with the next generation. 

Key remarks from the Q&A session

When answering a question about leaders who just do not "retire", Prof. Debashis said,  

As a leader,
- You've to be good at what you do
- You should enjoy what you do
- You should stop when it is right enough :)

When answering a question on poverty, he said

"Poverty is largely mind made". You should know "How much more I need to have to be happy. How much less can I have and still be happy". You've to balance these two always.

When answering a question about "How to sensitivize people about the mistakes that they unknowingly do", he narrated an interesting story,

Mother Teresa was traveling to some place in a flight. She asked the air hostess to make an announcement in the plane..."If there is left over food, I'll take it with me and serve it to the needy, because there are a number of people in this world without food". Nobody in the flight had the meal that was served in the flight that day. They gave all of that to Mother Teresa. In fact, Mother Teresa was able to get much more from other kind hearted passengers that day. We need Mother Teresas to sensitivize people on "What difference they can make on others' lives".

When answering a question about "How to discover your TRUE passion", he gave an anecdote

A small kid was regularly urinating on the bed during the nights. His mom advised the kid not to urinate. The kid asked his mom to wake him up, just when he gets the urge to urinate during the night. His mom told "Kanna, you are the only one who would know when you have the urge to urinate. How would I know?". You are the only one who knows what your TRUE passion is :) When you get the URGE, you'll discover it automatically.

About Prof. Debashis Chatterjee

Prof. Debashis Chatterjee is a ACC Research Fellow, IIM Kolkata, Pre-Doctoral Fulbright Fellow, UST and MIT and Post-Doctoral Fulbright Fellow, Harvard University. He has taught for more than a decade in IIM Lucknow and IIM Kolkata. To know more about him, visit Prof. Debashis' IIM page.