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.

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 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, 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.