Sunday, March 10, 2019

10 tips for establishing a new Toastmasters club, the "proper" way

"Saro! We are trying our best to establish this club. However, it is becoming very hard to attract guests and even harder to convert them into members. What should we do?". This is the common question that I hear from sponsors and mentors, who are trying to charter a new club in the community.

I see a lot of budding and enthusiastic Toastmasters rolling up their sleeve to start a new club. However, they need to strategize a little bit for success.  To me, establishing a new club is like "farming" - you've to plough the soil, plant seeds, water the plant, remove weeds, apply fertilizer at the right time to get a good harvest. This blog post will share some tips for establishing a new Toastmasters Club.
  1. Start the meeting on time: Starting the meeting on-time is not only critical for new clubs, but also for established clubs. When you start the meeting on time, you are indirectly conveying to the members and guests that Toastmasters meeting is a serious business. Read "How to start and end club meetings on-time"? When you delay the start of the meeting and wait for members/guests to arrive, even the members/guests who are punctual this week would come late next week. It will result in a downward spiral. 
  2. Every role player should have a proper script, well rehearsed: Imagine a SAA going to the stage and starting the meeting with sweat all over his face, hands trembling, not knowing what to speak on the stage and to top it all, not speaking good English. This is what happens in most clubs. They say "First impression is the best impression". When a SAA starts the meeting like this, it sets a wrong tone for the entire meeting. Every role player should have a proper "script" in their hand (including the SAA). A "script in hand" means that the role player is prepared. It also gives the role player a lot of confidence to speak. I would also recommend the role player to rehears properly, before the meeting starts. Role player templates for ALL roles can be downloaded from Successful Clubs Templates/Worksheets.
  3. Get all the "props" ready for the new club, even before your first meeting. Here are some props that you should have for a high-quality meeting.
    1. Create booklets for Timer, AH Counter and Grammarian roles. Download from Successful Clubs Templates/Worksheets and print those spiral bound booklets  
    2. Get a Gavel for the club. You can buy them online for $20 (Rs. 1000 or less). When you submit the Application to Organize to Toastmasters International, they would send you a kit with manuals and a Gavel. Read Steps involved in Chartering a new club.
    3. Get a "standee" or a "banner" printed for the club, with the club's name and Toastmasters International logo. 
    4. Get printed ballots for the members/guests to fill the "Best speaker/evaluator/role player/TAG role player"
    5. Get some ribbons from Toastmasters International for giving to the "Best speaker/evaluator/role player/TAG role player". If you are cash strapped, print some certificates (without the Toastmasters logo) and hand them over to the "Best speaker/evaluator/role player/TAG role player", at the end of the meeting. 
    6. Pamphlets that give details regarding Toastmasters and regarding the club (benefits of joining the club, membership fee details etc.,). Search Google for "Toastmasters new members kit", you'll find a lot of samples. You can also reach out to your District for some brochures. 
    7. New Membership form - It is very important to have this document printed and available during "every club meeting". When a guest says "I'm interested to join this club", immediately ask them to fill this form and ask them to bring the cash/cheque next week (better yet, you can make them to do an instant money transfer via mobile apps like Paypal or PayTM).  
  4. Print an agenda for every meeting and hand it over to the members / guests. I know we want to "Go Green". These days, many Toastmasters who are not so organized / disciplined are covering themselves with the "Go Green" blanket. Some clubs use a board to write the meeting agenda - but, according to me, that should complement a printed agenda ... and not replace it. Having a printed agenda is very critical to show members/guests that "Toastmasters is serious business". If your agenda doesn't change much, you are indirectly conveying to them that this club is super organized and sticks to the plan. 
  5. Display signs to the meeting venue - Clearly display sign-boards or posters that help the guests to find the meeting location / venue. At times, Toastmasters meetings happen in buildings that have multiple floors or buildings with multiple meeting rooms. Display a poster near the building entrance which guides the guests to the meeting venue
  6. Identify "temporary" club officers from "day one" - In most clubs, I see that either the club sponsors or the Area directors, who run from pillar to post to get the meeting going. I can understand them doing it for the first meeting. However, they should start identifying club officers soon enough. At times, you may have to just appoint temporary club officers for critical roles such as President, VP Public Relations (VP PR) and VP Education. These officers can in-turn wear multiple hats, by taking over other roles such as VP Membership, Secretary, Treasurer, and SAA. Club Sponsors / Club Mentors / Area Directors can train / coach these members to effectively do their roles. When you get closer to chartering the new club, you can finalize ALL of the club officer roles and make them permanent role players. 
  7. Kick start the PR engine, which works non-stop: VP PR plays a very crucial role in bringing members/guests to the new club. He/She should find creative ways to bring guests to the club. Some new clubs have the habit of inviting educational speakers for their club meetings. However, ensure that the VP PR adequately promotes the educational session / speaker to entice members/guests to attend the club meeting. If you are not promoting the educational session / speaker in advance, you will not be able to reap the benefit of bringing the educational speaker to the club. 
  8. Conduct a high-quality meeting, every week - VP Education should conduct a "high quality" meeting every week. Do not conduct half-baked meetings. Ensure that you give the guests a flavor of the prepared speeches, table topics and speech evaluations. Do not skip any segment of the meeting. It is OK to conduct a 1 hour meeting - instead of a 2 hours meeting. However, it is important to cover all of the segments and give speaking opportunities to all of the members/guests. VP Education . Read "How to identify role players for your club meeting".  Ensure that you are picking a set of new + experienced people for playing roles, to increase the quality of the meeting. 
  9. All role players have to be "coached" - Ensure that every role player is coached in advance, before the meeting. More importantly, you'll have to coach role players like the Table Topicsmaster - who plays a critical role in retaining the current members and persuading the guests to become members. Read "How a Table Topics master can hurt your club membership". 
  10. Stay in touch with the guests - Create a whatsapp group and add guests (with their consent) Share a crisp summary of the meeting to members/guests who attended (or not-attended) the meeting. In addition, you can also circulate the agenda for the next week's meeting when it is ready. It is important that one of the club officers reach out to every guest who attended the previous week's meetings. It increases your guest to members conversion rate. In today's digital world, you can also drop a quick Whatsapp note to them... thanking them for attending this week's meeting and requesting them to attend the next week's meeting. 
Zig Ziglar, a famous author and motivational speaker says "You can achieve everything that you want in life, if you can help others achieve what they want". Establishing a new club provides a lot of leadership and inter-personal skills development opportunities to all of the Toastmasters involved (Club Mentors / Sponsors / Members / Area Directors etc.,). If you follow all of these tips, you'll be able to charter your club in less than 25 weeks time. The club should be able to develop roots and start sustaining on its own, there afterwards. Along the way, you would've also gone through a tremendous transformation. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Speech Crafting Checklist for International Speech Contests

Cracking the World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS) Contest requires lots and lots of preparation, planning, practice and performance. During the contest season, our speakers scramble to find the "winning formula" to ace the International Speech Contests. The truth is "There is no winning formula". I always feel that the winning formula continuously changes or evolves, with time. We've quite a diverse set of speakers, who have won the WCPS contests in the last decade. If you find it difficult to come up with a speech topic for WCPS, you can look at the International Speech Contest Topics Selection Ideas or look at the past WCPS winning speeches. In this blog post, I've captured some techniques used by most WCPS champions to ace the WCPS contests.
  1. Tell Stories - They say "Facts Tell, Stories Sell". Telling stories is the most powerful technique to keep your audience engaged. Almost ALL world championship speeches include stories or incidents from the speaker's life. It is easier for a speaker to include the story of Barack Obama or Mahatma Gandhi. However, those stories are heard by people 1000s of times and they wouldn't be as engaging as your personal stories. Also, do not pick any stories from the Internet. Thanks to social media - in today's connected world, people get to read most popular Internet stories via Whatsapp forwards. So, it is highly recommended to include a personal story. A personal story would be "fresh" - most people in the audience wouldn't have heard your personal story. So, they would be curious to listen to you. A story well told has 3Cs - Characters, Conflicts and Climax. So, spend adequate time in your speech to describe the characters, the settings, the conflict and the climax. If you don't have a story, you don't have a speech.  
  2. Create a "foundational phrase" - The first time I heard this term "foundational phrase" was during Ovation 2011. Craig Valentine was one of our educational speakers and he shared with us a number of speaking tips. He told us about the importance of having a "foundational phrase" in our speeches. Foundational phrase is a crisp one line summary of the speech. It has typically less than 10 words and can be written in large fonts behind a business card (i.e., visiting card). For example, Dananjaya Hettiarachchi's "I see something in you",  Ed Tate's "One of those days", Ramona Smith's "Still standing" are good "catchy" foundational phrases. These phrases get used again and again during the 5 - 7 minutes speech and helps in reiterating your "core message" to the audience. 
  3. Add rhetorical devices - Rhetorical devices add more color to the speech. They help audience to visualize your thoughts. Rhetorical devices are also powerful tools for increasing the memorability of your speech. There are different rhetorical devices such as similes, metaphors, alliterations and triads. Once you are done writing your speech, see how / where you can add rhetorical devices in the speech, to maximize the impact. Read "Rhetorical Devices (Ideas & Examples" to learn more about rhetorical devices. 
  4. Add Quotes - Brendan Behan, an Irish poet once said "A quotation in a speech, article or book is like a rifle in the hands of an infantryman. It speaks with authority". Quotes would spice up your speech, and it can explain what 1000 words cannot. Do not try to fill your speech with quotes. Add one or two quotes maximum for a 5 - 7 minutes speech. It is best to add them either at the Introduction or at the Conclusion of your speech. You can find quotes for any topic at https://www.brainyquote.com/.
  5. Include "conversations" in the speech - Having conversations and dialogues in your speech add variety to the speech. Conversations and dialogues also help you to recreate the incident / story from your life, thereby enabling the audience to visualize the incident/story, better. Having conversations in the speech also would help you to demonstrate some vocal variety. It is easy to bring-in some natural voice modulation during conversations than during third person narrations. For example, during a regular narration of an incident you would say "I scolded my friend nicely for taking my bike keys without asking me". You can recreate the incident through conversations. For example, you can say ... When my friend entered the house, I looked at him and shouted "How dare you take my bike keys without asking me? My friend looked at me and said "Sorry pal ! I wouldn't do it again". Refer to Vocal Variety - 4Ps of Voice for additional information on voice modulation. 
  6. Add Humor - Most people think, WCPS speeches are serious speeches. However, if you watch the past WCPS speeches, almost ALL the world champions include humor generously in their speeches. Adding humor to the speech, is like the icing on the cake. It increases the engagement and connect with the audience. However, it is not an easy task to add humor in the speech. Don't worry! There are some techniques available to inject humor into the speech script. You can find them at Humorous Speech Writing Techniques. Ensure that you are making the audience laugh out loud at least 3 or 4 times in your 5 - 7 minutes speech. Be a little cautious when adding humor to your script - stay away from common pitfalls such as the ones captured in the blogpost 11 mistakes to avoid in a Humorous Speech Contest.

International Speech Contests - What's your message?

“If you want to be a World Champion of Public Speaking, every speech of yours should be a world champion speech” said Dhananjay, District 82 winner of International Speech Contest. Isn't that true? You are not in the World Championship race, with a one trick pony approach. You are participating in the contest because you want to master the art of perfecting your speech. World Championship journey helps you to learn the art of perfecting your speech so that - your ordinary speech becomes an extraordinary speech, your simple speech becomes a star speech, your club class speech becomes a world class speech. The core of any World Championship speech is the "Message". This blogpost provides some tips about coming up with a message for your International Speech.

A few years back, I attended a workshop conducted by a fellow Toastmaster on "How to come up with topics for International Speech Contests". During the workshop the Toastmaster said, “If you are going to die tomorrow, what is that ONE message that you want to tell the world?” I thought it is an interesting tip. So, I noted it down immediately and used it in my next workshop. After the workshop, a 18 year old young Toastmaster came to me and said “Saro! Why are you talking so negatively? I’m still young and I don’t want to think about dying tomorrow… and I also don’t have any message to tell the world. What should I do?” That young Toastmaster added “I have not lost crores in business... I don’t have a mother or sister in wheel chair... and most of all, I haven’t gone through any alcohol rehabilitation". Now tell me, what should I talk about?

The moment you ask somebody to come up with a speech idea which has a message, they pick serious topics... like "Stop drinking alcohol", "Economic divide between the rich and poor", or "Why you should attend your club meetings regularly". Well, the last one was introduced to bring humor. Don't take it seriously.

You don't have to talk about serious subjects and make audience look for a kerchief when you finish your speech. I believe that if you can make the audience laugh and cry in the same speech, you've made the sale. The incidents need not be "larger than life" incidents. The incidents in your speech can be simple ones. However, the message that comes out of those examples should be powerful.

  1. Presiyan Vasilev, WCPS 2013 delivered a speech on “Reach out”. He told us how he wasted a lot of time pretending that he knew everything to fix a punctured tire. Finally, he was able to fix the tyre only by reaching out to a man in the nearby gas station. His message to the audience was to "Reach out" to people around them for help. 
  2. Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, WCPS 2014  gave a speech on the topic "I see something". He shared examples from his life where great mentors discovered his true potential and transformed his life. His message to the audience was "Discover your true potential".
  3. Ramona Smith, WCPS 2018 gave a speech on the topic “Still Standing”. She told us how she faced setbacks in life and how she got up, bounced back into action and achieved success. Her message to the audience was to bounce back and stand up, when something knocks you down in life. 
The good thing about International Speech Contests is, they don't give you a topic and force you to speak on that. They allow the participants to come up with their own speech topics. This provides a lot of flexibility to speakers, to pick any speech topic of their choice. Read: International Speech Contests - Topic Selection Ideas

When you are preparing for International Speech Contests, try to identify an interesting story or incident from your life, first. When you have the story ready, ask yourself... what message does the story bring out. Great speakers can do the opposite - you give them a topic or a message, and they can easily come up with a story or example to convey that message. However, for novice speakers, it is easier to come up with a story first and then look for the message.

A story without a message is like a car without wheels. It will not take you anywhere. If you are doubtful, deliver the story as a speech in front of your club members and ask them "What message do you infer from this story?" You would be surprised to hear their feedback. The same story can at times, convey more than one message. So, you'll have the option of picking the best message to share with the audience. Preferably, pick a message which most people in the audience can connect with or relate to. As a general practice, it is good to revise your script as you move from club to area to division to district to International - as the audience demographics change.

Mehmet Murat ildan, a famous author once said "There is no message valid for all times! Each message has a life span, sometimes a hundred years sometimes five thousand years, but ultimately the mission of each message ends! When you give people a message, you should know that even if your message is as bright as a sun, one day, like the sun, it will fade away!”. So, don't squeeze your brain and push yourself too hard to share a message that lasts forever. Look for a message which is relevant to share, today!.

[Also read: Speech Crafting Checklist for International Speech Contests]

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

World Championship Winning Speeches - Speech Title, Videos and Message


This blog post will serve as a quick index of various World Championship speeches. This compilation will help you to watch, observe and learn from the experts. I've captured the winning speech's Speech Title, Link to the Speech Video and the Message from the speaker.

(Also read: Tips for Contestants)

Year
SpeakerSpeech Title (with link to Youtube Video)
Message
2000
Ed Tate
Never worry about bad times – eventually something good will happen

2001
Darren LaCroix
Bounce back. When you fall, fall forward and you would’ve made some progress

2003
Jim Key
It is never too late to pursue your dreams

2004
Randy Harvey
Love people – not the material things. Love lasts for a life time.

2005
Lance Miller
Do you validate (appreciate) others? When you appreciate others, you become important to them.

2013
Presiyan Vasilev
Reach out to others when you need help – don’t pretend that you can solve it yourself
2014
Dananjaya Hettiarachchi
There is something special in each one of us and great mentors help in finding that “special in you”
2015
Mohammed Qahtani
How you can use words to make people believe, feel and to impact
2016
Darren Tey
Handle inner bullies by acknowledging, standing up and  fighting against it. 
2017
Manoj Vasudevan
Give more and take less in relationships for it to last longer
2018
Ramona J Smith
When life knocks you down, stay in the ring, look for the lifeline and stand back up. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Pathways - Understanding your Leadership Style - Confessions from the Coach

Pathways - Understanding your Leadership Style - Confessions from the Coach (Dynamic Leadership Path / Level 2 / Project 1)

Yesterday night, I told my wife, “Honey! I have to attend an early morning Toastmasters meeting tomorrow. Can you pls get my breakfast ready by 7 am? You can probably make some uppma or kichadi quickly in the morning”. My wife looked at me and said “These days you are very bureaucratic and authoritative. Let me decide what I should do for breakfast”.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Setting the stage

All along, I thought I was a “Servant Leaders” … but, when I took the “Understand your leadership style” questionnaire for this project, I realized… each one of us have multiple types of leadership styles burnt into our nerves, buried under our nerves and soaked in our blood.

At times, you are bureaucratic, at times you are democratic
At times, you are altruistic, at times you are authoritative
At times, you are affiliative, at times you are innovative
At times, you are a pace setter, at times you are a coach

We are all like the 8 legged spiders that walk on the 8 different leadership styles. However, unlike the spider, each one of us have a dominant leadership style… and to me, it is “Coaching”. I’m going to tell you a secret, today! Would you just keep it with you …

Club Mentoring Experience 

The year was 2010. I was appointed as a mentor for a brand new club. This was my first ever experience in mentoring a club. I thought I should make this club, one of the best clubs in District 82. So, I started visiting the club regularly week on week.

The SAA would say “Sir ! I forgot to bring the Gavel this week”. I told him “No worries. Let us use the white board duster instead of the gavel to start the meeting”. Next week came… but the SAA didn’t come. The following week, SAA said “Sir! The Gavel is lost. But, I’ve the whiteboard duster to open the meeting”. And the whiteboard duster became the perpetual gavel for the club.  I just accommodated them.

When they don’t start the meeting on time… I accommodated them.
When they don’t have a printed agenda …I accommodated them.
When they don’t prepare for their roles… I accommodated them.

I became a very accommodative mentor, and in-turn lowered the standards.

They asked “Saro! Can you please help with evaluations?”. I said “Oh! Sure”.

They asked “Saro! Can you please help with TT evaluation too?”. I said “Why not?”.

Eventually, they asked “Saro! GE is NOT IN today. Can you please play the GE role too?” I said “No problem”.

I started wearing multiple hats and drove the club myself at 100 mph, knowing that the wheels are punctured, gas is running out and windshield is cluttered with dust.

Weeks moved on, months moved on… slowly members also moved on…! At first, the guests started vanishing, then a few members started vanishing and eventually, the club officers also started vanishing. By the time I finished my term as a club mentor, I successfully converted a 20 members club into a 2 members club. I felt very ashamed.

Kartik’s Coaching Skills 

Then came Kartik Srinivasan, who took over the club as a Club Coach, the following year.

He called those 2 members for a meeting and told them “Look! I want this club to achieve the President’s Distinguished Club status, this year. My job is to help you and support you in that mission. Do I have your commitment?". They gave the commitment to the mission.

The first thing he did was… He made them to buy a Gavel and banner for the club.

The second thing he did was.. He made one of those 2 members as the Club President.

The third thing he did was … He jump started the club by guiding the Club President to conduct a demo meeting again in the organization and by recruiting new members

He set a very high bar for the club and its members.

  • When the meeting didn't start on time… He told them “You better start the meeting on time, otherwise, don’t expect me to attend this meeting next week”. 
  • When they didn't have a printed agenda… He told them “You better have a printed agenda next week, otherwise the meeting doesn’t start”.
  • Instead of doing the various roles himself, he trained the club members to do the roles effectively and made them to do the roles.

Kartik’s coaching helped the members to improve the quality of the meeting. Slowly the guests inflow increased. From 2 members they grew to 10 members. From 10 members, they grew to 17 members. Eventually, the club had 21 members in the roster, achieving 9 / 10 DCP points, becoming the President’s Distinguished Club during that year.

Conclusion

Dear Toastmasters and Guests, I learned 3 critical coaching skills from Kartik:

  1. Don’t be like a wheel that drives them, be like a GPS that guides them.
  2. Don’t give them the fish, just teach them how to fish
  3. Don’t lower the standards, for members to catch up. Increase the standards, to make them rise up.

Dear friends… don’t forget that this is a confession… Will you keep this as a secret? People in our community think that I'm a great coach and I don't want to spoil that reputation.

In Tamil, they say "You've to kill 1000 patients for you to become a half-doctor". I will tell you that you have to kill a few clubs for you to be become a half-DTM.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Rhetorical devices from "The Art of War" book

Rhetorical devices always add color to the speech. However, it is very hard to come up with the apt rhetorical devices (simile, metaphor etc.,) for conveying a thought. Recently, I read the book "The Art of War" and it had some interesting rhetorics. I've listed a few of them below:

  1. If you looked at the stars from inside a well, no more than a few stars would be visible to you. If you look from a hilltop, then you can see when they first appear and when they fade away. It's not that they're any brighter - but your setting changes what you see. Subjectivity is the inside of the well, impartiality is the top of the hill. When intelligence rides on subjectivity, it knows little; when it rides on impartiality, it knows a lot. 
  2. A rigid building may be solid, but under the stress of an earthquake, it may cause it to crumble. Whereas, a tree standing next to it can bend and flex to absorb the shock and therefore remains intact. 
  3. Those skilled in warfare move the enemy and are not moved by the enemy. 
  4. A victorious army is like a ton against an ounce. A defeated army is like an ounce against a ton. 
  5. A victorious army is like pent up waters released bursting through deep gorge.
  6. Those skilled in warfare manoeuvres are as endless as the heavens and earth, as inexhaustible as the rivers and the seas. Like the sun and the moon, they set and rise again. 
  7. An army that acts with full force is like a stone thrown at an egg
  8. An army's formation should be like water - adapts to the ground when flowing.
  9. An army advances like the wind, marches like the forest and invades like fire.
  10. During conflicts, balance can be a hinderance; Inequality is what helps put a quick end to the disorder. This is analogous to a sick person relying on medicine to get well. If the medicine and pathogens are of equal strength, what good would taking the medicine be?
(Also read: 10 Servant Leadership lessons from "The Art of War" Book)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Pathways - Project 4 - Tick Tick to Kick

I was 10 years old then. We were all watching a magic show, as a family. The magician pulled a lot of plastic straws one after the other from his mouth… I clapped my hands in excitement, jumped up and down. We were wowed by his trick.

(Also read: Pathways Ice Breaker - Who am I?)

Last week, I saw a video in Youtube. I saw a guy pulling out plastic straws from the mouth… but, this time I was not wowed… I was not excited… I was not jumping up and down. In fact, I was shocked … because the straw was pulled out from the mouth of a turtle… and it was profusely bleeding from the mouth… and moaning in pain.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and Guests,

Plastic production has increased 20 fold since 1964. Despite the growing demand, only 5% of plastics are recycled effectively, while 40% end up in landfill and oceans. Much of the remainder is burned to generate energy.

According to a new Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, there will be more plastic in the ocean by 2050, than fish. The world's oceans are clogged with plastic debris - plastic spoons, plastic plates, plastic covers and fishing nets.

Every year, nearly 8 million metric tones of plastic pollution enter the oceans from the coastal countries. Thats equivalent of dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.

In 2014, researchers from Gujarat did a post-mortem on the 1-ton carcass of a whale, which got washed away to the shore. They found four large plastic bags in the whale’s stomach. It appeared that the plastic had blocked the whale’s digestive system, which caused its death.

Why should you worry about it?  

You may think “Oh! Who cares if these species become extinct”. Wait a second… There are multiple ways in which plastics can creep from the oceans to the human food chain: The plastics in the ocean get disintegrated into smaller pieces over the times and they become what is called “micro-plastics”. Fishes mistake them for food and consume them,. Eventually, plastics fill their digestive system and they die. Or, a carelessly discarded plastic bag can break down in the sea, especially in warmer waters, and the process releases toxic chemicals that may be digested by fish. When these fishes end up in the human food chain, we get impacted too.

Whats the story in India? 

In 2017, Indians generated about 72 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, according to an ICRIER estimate. Out of this, about 10% was plastic. The problem was that India was mismanaging over 80% of its waste, while in the U.S. it was only 2%. We just throw plastics into regular trash bins or on the road.

What can we do about it? 

Tamilnadu Government has imposed a ban on using plastic items such as carry bags, plates, cups, flags, small sachets used in packaging water. Clock is already ticking and the ban will be imposed from the 1st of Jan 2019, to kick plastic out. However, the ban excludes using disposable plastic for packaging milk, curd, oil and medical utilities. So, there will be still some plastic around us… in our everyday life. How can we help the government and save our environment from plastics? I would like to share a 3 step segregation process that we follow at my home, to handle plastic:

Consolidate - We have a separate trash bin at home to put all the plastic waste - right from chocolate wrappers to empty oil cans to faulty mobile chargers, go in there.

Separate: Once every month, we identify plastic trash items that can be sold in the local waste paper mart and convert items such as water bottles, milk cover, broken mobile chargers into cash. We keep the rest of the plastic items such as thin plastic bags, chocolate wrappers, tooth brushes etc., at home. The moment someone buys your plastic waste, you can be rest-assured that it will be recycled. 

Facilitate safe disposal: We handover the plastic trash which cannot be sold - to the municipality conservation worker. He/she ensures that it is handled separately and sent for recycling. Most of the times, government uses such plastic waste for manufacturing cement or for laying roads.

(Also read: Pathways - Project 2 - E = M3R2)

Conclusion

All of us have a role to play in plastic waste management. Roz Savage, a famous ocean rower says “It is not right to manufacture billions of objects that are used for a matter of minutes and are then with us for centuries”. My request to all of you is to do CSF - Consolidate / Separate / Facilitate Safe Disposal of plastics, in addition to coming to CSF (Chennai Speakers Forum). We can’t wait… time is running out… to kick plastic out.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

How to start and end club meetings on time?

One of the important skills that we develop through Toastmasters is "Time Management". Imagine going to a movie that doesn't start on time, and goes well over the time, irritating the audience who paid to watch the movie. It has a significant impact on the audience experience. When a club meeting doesn't start on time and end on time, it impacts the members experience. It affects the members' ability to plan their personal activities. Eventually, it results in loss of membership.

On time club meetings have a direct impact on the quality of the club meeting. This blog gives you some tips on how to start and end meetings, on time.

  1. If a role player is not at the meeting venue, 15 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting start time, swap the role player. Even if the role player calls you and tells you "I am on my way", politely tell them that you are swapping their role with someone else. Do not "wait" for them to reach the venue. If you keep waiting for people to start your meeting, you are indirectly punishing the people who came on time. Moreover, the members who came on time the previous week, would come late this week, because they know that you would wait for them.  VP Education should maintain enough backup role players who can jump-in and play the role. Alternatively, someone can double up the roles by playing multiple roles. For example, the Toastmaster of the Day and General Evaluator role can be combined. Or, the General Evaluator and Speech Evaluator roles can be combined.
  2. Time all the role players. In Toastmasters meetings, most roles are timed. So, the role players would know when to end. However, there are roles such as Sergeant At Arms (SAA), Presiding Officer, Toastmaster of the Day which aren't timed and they end up consuming a lot of time. Don't give more than 2 minutes for each of these role players, during the beginning of the meeting. 
  3. Corporate clubs cannot afford to have a 2 hours meeting. Most successful corporate clubs meet for just an hour. However, it is critical that they start and end the meetings on time - so that, members can return back to take care of their official commitments. If a member had signed up for another back2back official meeting and if the Toastmasters meeting doesn't end on time, the member may miss an important official meeting. If you don't adhere to the meeting timings in a corporate club, you are sure to lose the members. 
  4. Clubs would often combine meeting roles such as Toastmaster of the Day and General Evaluator (especially the corporate clubs), to minimise transitions and save time. The Toastmaster of the Day, after explaining about the meeting flow would go ahead and ask the Timer, AH Counter and Grammarian to introduce their roles and proceed with the meeting.
  5. Table Topics segment is the best segment to fine tune the flow of the meeting and catch up with the time lags, if any. The Table Topics master can decide on the number of speakers to call on the stage, based on the available time. In fact, the Toastmaster of the Day has the responsibility to alert the Table Topics master during the meeting, so that, the Table Topics master can wrap up, on time. (Also read: How Table Topics master can kill a club?)
  6. If the General Evaluator observes that the meeting is running late, he/she can cut down Timer, Ah Counter and Grammarian (TAG) report and can request members to get an offline report from the TAG role players.
  7. If the Presiding Officer notices that the meeting is running late, he/she can skip the "Guest Feedback" segment and request guests to share feedback offline. Alternatively, the Presiding Officer can just get feedback from 1 or 2 guests and request others to share feedback offline. 
  8. If you have guest speakers or educational speakers, inform them in advance about the timing rules being followed by the club. Time their speeches too.
If we know the art of starting meetings on time and ending them on time, we can take that experience and skill back to workplace. We can use the skill to estimate resources and plan for projects well ahead of time, minimise project risks by having multiple backup resources and optimize the execution plan to finish projects on time. 

[If you have other tips for time management, please share them below and I'll update the post to capture them]


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Pathways - Project 2 - Evaluation & Feedback - Change is constant

Saro! Study well upto 12th standard. You can start relaxing after that”, told my well wishers. So, I changed myself from a not so studios boy to a studious boy. I studied well and came out of school with flying colors. When I joined college, the same people said “Saro! Study well for the next 4 years and you can then start relaxing in life”. If the books in school were like Karina Kapoor, the books in College life were like Kushboo Sundar. If memorizing the content from school books was like climbing the stairs in IIKM, memorizing the content from college books was like climbing the 7 mountains in Tirupathi. 

Somehow, I graduated, got a job offer and joined a company. And the first thing my boss told is “Saro! Technology keeps changing rapidly in this industry. You’ve to learn pretty much every single day”.

Dear Toastmasters and guests, in this ever changing world, Change is the only constant. 

Take for example my Toastmasters career. Toastmasters have brought great changes in me and my life
  1. During those days, I used to have a Head full of hair but today, I have a head full of shine... I mean wisdom. During those days, I had more hair to comb, these days, I have more face to wash. 
  2. During those days whenever I went to the stage, I used to be scared ... but today whenever I go to the stage, my club members are scared
  3. During those days, when I don’t achieve my goals at work, I used to get feedback.. today, whenever I don’t achieve my goals at work ... I start giving feedback to my manager, before he starts giving feedback to me.


My food habits have also been continuously changing ...
  1. There was a time in my life when I used to eat only the things that my mind asked me to eat - which, in those days, was almost EVERYTHING. Right from the things that grow on the land to the things that move on the land. Right from the things that float on the water to the things that swim inside the water.
  2. Those were the times when if someone had asked me in Tamil “Saro! How much marks did you score in English exam or Saro! What did you eat for lunch ... I would give them the same response”. But over the years...my proficiency in English language as well as my diet have changed

Changes are rapid and almost everywhere. Look at changes happening in our lifestyle because of  Technology today -
  1. During those days, televisions used to be of XXL size and our T-Shirts used to be of small size. Today, because of the time we spend in front of Televisions, televisions have become small and sleek, but humans have bulged to XXL size. If we continue to change like this, we wouldn’t have traffic jams at all. Because, humans will develop ability to start flying in the air like hot air balloons. 
  2. Technology is enabling our directors and producers to create and distribute more movies today. With 200 movies getting released in a year, there are at least 3 or 4 movie releases, every week. By the time you see a movie poster and decide to go to the theatre to watch a movie, the movie is gone ! And unfortunately, good citizens like us are forced to watch the movie online at www.thiruttuvcd.com.
  3. I remember the days when movies were called a blockbuster when they run In theatres continuously for a year. Movies like Batcha ran for more than a year. But today, movies run for just 2 weeks and they are called a blockbuster. If they run for 3 weeks, it’s called bumper hit and record collections. Occasionally, a movie may run for 4 weeks and that’s because the theatre owner is the producer for the movie.

Dear Toastmasters, the world is changing fast and our Toastmasters curriculum is also changing, to keep pace with the world. Toastmasters has brought all of us into the Pathways. No pun intended. Who knows… one day, we’ll be having this club meeting from our home sitting in front of our computer, eating our breakfast and sipping our coffee. Bharti… International Speech Contests may not happen in an international location in the future - but, it will happen right here in Sowcarpet, in your home, in front of your computer. Who knows, we may be doing a virtual handshake with the Toastmaster of the day in the future, through a hologram image. Until that change happens, let me do a physical handshake with our TMOD. 



Sunday, July 29, 2018

Pathways - Project 2 - Evaluation & Feedback - E=M3R2

Imagine getting stuck in a dark cave, with a bunch of young kids, staring at the continuously rising flood water, with limited supply of food, with limited oxygen to breathe and without knowing whether you are going to survive or not. What would you do?

Good Morning Fellow Toastmasters and Guests,

How many of you heard about the great Thai Cave Rescue that happened a few weeks back? A bunch of 12 kids from a soccer team and their coach got stuck in a flooded cave for nearly 2 weeks, before they were rescued out by a group of cave divers. Today, I’m going to explain to you the concept of Emotional Intelligence with the story of the Thai Cave Rescue event.

[Also read: Pathways IceBreaker Who am I?]

The name of the soccer team coach is Ekk. He is just a 25 years old young man, who displayed high levels of emotional maturity during the crisis. To me, Ekk is an epitome of Emotional Intelligence.

What is Emotional Intelligence? 

Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to:

  • Recognise your feelings
  • Recognise others’ feelings
  • Manage your emotions
  • Manage your social relationships
  • Motivate yourself


If the coach Ekk is an emotionally weak person like many of us, he would’ve shouted at the kids. “Its all because of you guys… YOU wanted to celebrate the birthday. YOU wanted to go to the Cave. I told you its late. I told you its going to rain. Now, you got me into a BIG trouble.”.

Or, he would’ve blamed the environment and circumstances “God.. Why did you punish us like this? Don’t you have any kind heart? What mistake did we do? Why did you flood the cave?”

Or, the coach could’ve also got demotivated and said “Guys! Thats it. We are going to be dead”.

Dear friends… don’t we all go through these emotional bursts, in a crisis situation?

But the coach Ekk didn’t do any of this. He was aware of his emotions… he was aware of the emotions of the kids. He put a brave face to the kids and told them “Kids. Don’t worry! Let us conserve our energy. Let us meditate and keep ourselves calm. Let us share the food that we’ve. Let us drink the water that is seeping out of the cave. I’m very hopeful that someone will come and rescue us”.

Coach Ekk not only managed his emotions. He managed the emotions of the kids also. He kept himself and the kids motivated during the first week, when they were isolated from the external world. When the cave divers found them after a week, he sent a note of apology to the parents of the kids, displaying his ability to manage social relationships well.

Coach Ekk is a perfect example of a person with high Emotional Intelligence.

How many of you want to develop your Emotional Intelligence?

You are at the right place. You are learning all of these skills at Toastmasters. Whenever you are playing a role in Toastmasters - be it a speaker or a club officer or a speech evaluator, you are learning to build your emotional intelligence.

When you are practicing and delivering a speech, you become conscious of your feelings and emotions. You learn the art of managing your emotions, to suit the mood of the speech.
When you deliver evaluations, you learn the art of recognising other’s feelings - especially, the feelings of the speaker whom you are evaluating.
When you walk into the club, you get to interact with various members and guests, learning to manage your social relationships
And, last but not the least, you are learning to keep yourself motivated to attend the meetings regularly and play various roles week after week.

[Also read: Pathways IceBreaker Who am I?]

Conclusion

Dear Toastmasters and Guests, research says that “An individual’s success at work and life is 80% dependent on EQ and only 20% dependent on IQ”. And what that means is “The time that you spend in learning Java or doing your CA inter, is less influential in deciding your success, when compared to the time that you spend here in Toastmasters”. You can look at some of the Toastmasters in our own club, who have developed enormous emotional maturity at a very young age and become successful … TM Shriram, TM Siddharth, TM Gautam Sharma… and many more.

If you want to be successful in life… start attending our meetings regularly… and start playing various roles… and develop your Emotional Intelligence… in the most intelligent way, through Toastmasters.