Thursday, November 21, 2013

Inner Essentials of Communication by Preethi Srinivasan

Division N Toastmasters conference happened in Chennai, last month. Preethi Srinivasan, founder of SoulFree, a public charitable Trust was invited as a guest speaker to address the gathering. She delivered a speech on "Inner Essentials of Communication". Preethi couldn't resist from motivating people about the larger purpose of life, though her speech was about communication. In fact, a girl who was sitting near to me was very emotionally moved during the speech and she was crying for the most part. Preethi was able to appeal to the hearts of several toastmasters.

Here are the key points from Preethi's guest lecture, that are related to communication:
  1. You can have brilliant ideas, but if  you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere - Lee Iacocca
  2. Make yourself vulnerable instead of giving up. You've nothing to lose, but everything to gain.
  3. Communication is the ability to look within and express yourself with words. It should be an understandable and authentic representation of truth.
  4. Unless the audience knows the speaker, the speech will not be clear
  5. There is no shortcuts to improving communication. You should master Vocabulary, Cadence, Pronunciation, Grammar, Usage
  6. If you want to learn new words, use them at least in 3 different sentences as you learn them
  7. Go down to the level of audience to communicate
  8. You won't be afraid when you know everything or when you are a stupid
  9. 4Cs of Communication - Connection, Clarity, Conciseness, & Confidence
  10. 4Cs of Mis-Communication - Confusion, Compartmentalization (disconnected thoughts), Convolution, and Code (Cryptic or inppropriate gestures)
  11. The single biggest problem in Communication is the illusion that it has already taken place - George Bernard Shaw
  12. Come out, speak and be willing to be judged. The world is going to judge "no matter" whether you are scared or not
  13. We are as small or as big as we want ourself to be - our body is our own prison.
  14. Reacting out of needs makes you an animal
  15. Core concepts of Communication - Empathy (looking from others' point of view), Self Knowledge (thoughts), Vision (larger perspective), Connection, Conquering fear, Humility (knowledge/respect to others), Listening, Equipose, Consciousness
  16. When you think "I'm separate from you", communication is needed.
  17. If you can't explain something simply, you simply don't understand it well enough.
  18. Communication to a relationship is like oxygen to life, without it... it dies - Tony Gaskins

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

11 mistakes to avoid in Humorous Speech Contests

Why are some speeches more humorous than others? Why do some speakers make audience laugh, while others don't? What are the common mistakes done by our speakers in humorous speech contests?

Also read: How to spot a judge in a contest?

This is the contest season in Toastmasters. I see a number of new members participating in Humorous speech contests. Some of the contestants may be still wondering "Why am I not able to make audience laugh?" or "Why was my humorous speech not a winning speech?". I'm not an expert Humorous speaker, yet! I'm still trying to master the art by delivering humorous speeches. So, I cannot write an article on "How to make people laugh?". This article is a summary of my notes from the various Humorous Speech Contests that I attended recently. This article provides some insights about the common pitfalls to avoid when crafting and delivering a speech in humorous speech contests:

1. Don't forget to pause before the punch

Pause is a powerful tool used by great communicators to persuade the audience, to make them think and to arouse their curiosity. A pause when used effectively can bring in humor in your speeches - especially before delivering the punch line or before breaking the surprise.

"Take my wife .... please" is a classic example of "pause before the punch". Pause increases the curiosity and lets the audience's imagination buds to do some homework. Then you surprise the audience with the punch line. If you give away the surprise too fast without the pause, audience aren't going to laugh.

2. Don't make the audience to feel uneasy 

Normally, speech contests are attended by at least 20 or more people. When you make it too uncomfortable for the audience, they aren't going to laugh for your jokes. Instead, they are going to be thinking "Why did this guy include this line in his speech? Can't he think of something better?" Speaking about things such as Farting, Sex and other vulgar/discriminating topics are going to create uneasy feelings for the audience. To give you an example, one of the speakers had this line "She had BIG eyes, She had a BIG smile, She had a BIG ... BIG... Car". This line didn't bring any humor. So, consider avoiding such phrases.

3. Don't laugh for your own jokes

I've seen novice contestants laughing for their own jokes. If you carefully observe stand-up comedians, they keep their face straight when cracking jokes. What happens when you laugh for your own jokes? You may be breaking the surprise for the audience too fast. Your face starts reacting even before  the audience starts to laugh for your jokes.

4. Don't forget to use the right words/phrases, to bring in humor

You don't have to be an English professor to be a humorous speaker. However, at the same time, you should use the right words to bring humor. For ex., "One year into the married life... I realized, men are from mars, but my wife isn't from venus". If somebody delivers this line as "After a year of marriage, I realized men always come from mars and women always don't come from venus", the humor effect will be lost. There are some speakers who may not be good at English - I would recommend them to rehearse the speech/delivery several times until they get comfortable with the word choices. Even the champions of humor does that.

5. Don't get carried away by the laughs - Stay focused on the script

There are times when contestants get carried away by the audience's laughter. All of a sudden, they go out of the script and start doing a free flow speech. For example, I've seen one of the speakers doing this - the moment audience laugheed, he said "From your giggles I can make out what you understood" and he started to talk about things that were not planned in the script. Since he went out of the script, it became very difficult for him to come back to the mainstream flow. So, always stay within the script - especially if you are just beginning your humorously speaking career.

6. Don't pick Internet jokes

Facebooks and Googles have made jokes very accessible to users now. In addition, people get a zillion forwarded emails every day.

Today, most jokes are morphed, modified and massaged into several forms and it reduces the laughter quotient. There are multiple reasons why you shouldn't use Internet jokes - first of all, it is not your original content; second of all, the audience would've already heard/read the joke and hence, they wouldn't be surprised when you deliver the punch line.

7. Don't ask a question and lose control

One speaker started the speech with the question, "Do you hate cockroaches, lizards and rats". The immediate response from the audience was "No". However, the speaker expected a "Yes" response to follow-on with the speech and deliver a punch line. He wasn't prepared for a "No" response and he wasn't able to make audience laugh with the punch line.

(Also read: Beyond the Speech Contest Rule Book)

8. Don't miss to exaggerate real life incidents

Many speeches fail to bring in the humor, because situations aren't exaggerated. Speakers narrate incidents from their life as it happened. However, if you have to learn from the movie directors, they create incidents that are not "real" to increase the entertainment value.

Recently I delivered a speech about "Why you shouldn't be a Toastmaster". I exaggerated an incident to convey the point that "Toastmasters don't get to the point". Read the paragraph below:

A Club officer would go to the stage and make an announcement… “Imagine it is 24th Aug 2013… a bright sunny day… you are attending the Toastmasters International convention at Cincinnati, USA…. the finals of the World Champion of Public Speaking Contest… the hall is filled with people… people are busy talking to each other … you can smell the coffee brewing … your name gets called on the stage… Contestant #1, Rajeev  Nambiar… Rajeev Nambiar, Contestant #1… the crowd starts to cheer… Rajeev… Rajeev. All of a sudden, the Chief Judge walks to the stage and stops you from talking “Rajeev… You are not eligible to contest. You haven’t paid your membership dues for this term”. Fellow members, if you don’t want to lose an amazing opportunity to participate in WCPS contest, pay your membership dues now”. All that the club officer wanted to say was “Dear Members… the last date for membership renewal is Mar 2013. Please pay your dues before that to be eligible to participate in the contests”

If I had just said "The club officer always goes to the stage and threatens us to do our renewals for us to participate in the contest", instead of the above paragraph it wouldn't have been humorous enough.

Sharing real world incidents as they unfolded in your life may bring-in some laughter at the club level because the club members know you very well and they can visualize the sequence better by putting you in that incident. When you move to the area/division/district level, your audience may not know you much and hence your simplistic narration may not bring much laughter.

9. Don't narrate incidents where you give feedback using "Toastmasters Evaluations" technique 

This is a beaten to death technique in Toastmasters circle to bring humor - narrating incidents where you give feedback to people using Toastmasters Evaluation style. For ex., Husband giving feedback to wife, Boss giving feedback to team member, Boy friend giving feedback to girlfriend etc., To the extent possible, avoid such narrations. It may help you at the club level contests because you have extraordinary connection with your audience. However, it will fail to work at the area or division / district level contests where audience would've already heard 100s of such speeches.

10. Avoid too much drama

Again I would like to refer to stand-up comedians. They don't even move a single bit to make audience laugh. So, don't try to include artificial gestures or stage movements in your speech. One of the toastmasters drove a scooter "drrrr...." and he moved around the stage like a kid driving the scooter. It looked too dramatic at Area contests. I'm not saying that you should deliver the speech by standing in one location. However, use the stage when it is needed, use gestures when they are appropriate.

11. Get permission from people before you use their name

There are some characters (sorry people!) in Toastmasters community - where just mentioning their name would bring-in laughter. However, before using their name in your speech please do get their concurrence/permission. Even toastmasters who look jovial during the club meetings, do not take things lightly when you make fun of them on the stage. I've unknowingly offended people by referring them in my impromptu speeches, to bring-in humor. I had to face the heat, later-on :) You can use self-deprecating humor as much as possible. However, try not to make fun of others. Even if you are going to refer to someone, get their permission first.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CC Manual - Tips for coming up with Ice Breaker Speech Content

Recently, we conducted a Youth Leadership Program. Many of the participants called me up to find out how they should craft the script for their Ice Breaker speech. I jotted down a few items which can be part of an Ice Breaker speech. I thought I would share it in my blog - so that, it can benefit the new members who join Toastmasters. The objective of the Ice Breaker speech (i.e., Competent Communicator Project #1) is to get to know the speaker better. The duration of the speech is about 4 - 6 minutes. You can choose to include one or more of the items given below in your speech:
  1. Where were you born?
  2. What is so special about the city in which you are born? 
  3. What is your name? What is the significance of your name?
  4. Who are in your family?
  5. What are some memorable incidents from your childhood days? Why? 
  6. Which school did you go to?
  7. What is the most memorable incident from your school days? Why?
  8. Who is your favorite teacher? Why?
  9. Which college did you go to?
  10. Who is your favorite professor or lecturer? Why?
  11. What is the most memorable incident from your college days? Why?
  12. Who are your friends? What do you and your friends enjoy doing?
  13. Are there any events (sports, competitions or exams) in which you participated?
  14. Are you employed? If so, how did you find your first job?
  15. What is the company where you are currently working?
  16. What is that you like about your current company & current job?
  17. Are you married? How did you meet your spouse? Has married life changed you in any way?
  18. Do you have kids? What do they do? 
  19. How do you spend time with your family? 
  20. What is your hobby? How do you spend your spare time?
  21. What is your future goal / dream?
The questions given above can help you in crafting your first speech in Toastmasters. When you finish crafting your speech, you can send it to your mentor for a quick review. You can look at my sample Ice Breaker speeches in the following location:

Wishing you all the best with your Competent Communicator journey.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Wanted to improve your public speaking skills?! Toastmasters is the way to go.

This is an article that I wrote for publishing in MMA (Madras Management Association) newsletter during April 2012.

Would you like to be a leader in your community? Perhaps, your ambition is to be promoted in your work, to feel comfortable while speaking at social gatherings or to improve your interpersonal communication skills. Have you thought about how you can reach these goals? 

Like most young people, I was not sure how I was going to reach my goals. Despite having completed several courses on communication and public speaking, including a Masters Degree in Management, I was aware that I did not have the communication and leadership skills needed to lead my team effectively, and I wanted to learn these skills.

One day a friend told me about the Toastmasters Program. He enthusiastically explained and emphasized the communication and leadership aspects of the program. He spoke of the “learn by doing” workshop approach and how he had the opportunity to practice leadership skills by taking leadership roles in his club. This was exactly what I had been looking for.

My friend’s advice, and his enthusiasm for the communication and leadership aspects of the program, appealed to me. Within two years of joining Toastmasters, my previous dread of speaking at the roll-out of new programs and at training sessions had vanished and such occasions became enjoyable and enriching experiences. I saw the change in my private life too: I was now willing to lead discussions in my office and do presentations in front of my customer, without being nervous. My dream to break free from my terror of speaking in public had come true.

Like me, your dream of being a leader in your community, feeling comfortable before an audience, taking a leadership role with confidence or improving your communication and leadership skills can be realized. As a first step towards achieving your goals and realizing your dreams, I urge you to consider visiting and hopefully joining your local Toastmasters Club.

Is there any evidence that the Toastmasters Program really works? If proof were needed, let me advise you that many of the top companies in the world, as well as leading professional bodies, have in-house Toastmasters Clubs to support the personal and professional development of their employees or members. For most of us, however, it is the Community Toastmasters Club that helps us to develop those skills and competencies that we so greatly admire in other people. We have 32 different toastmasters clubs all over Tamilnadu. To find a club near you, you should go to We would love to have you join us.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches communication and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. The organization currently has more than 260,000 members in approximately 12,500 clubs in 113 countries. Since its founding in October 1924, by Ralph C. Smedley, the organization has helped more than 4 million men and women lead and communicate with poise and confidence. Today, organizations around the world recognize the value of incorporating Toastmasters training to help employees improve their communication and leadership skills.

For more information, and to find a club near your place go to

Monday, September 9, 2013

10 ways of promoting Toastmasters outside your club

"If you build it, they'll come" a famous quote that highlights what Steve Jobs have done by creating a demand for smartphones and tablets in this world. However, can the "If you build it, they'll come" principle be applied when growing your Toastmasters club?  How do you promote your community toastmasters club to the public? Our VP Public Relations (PRs) will say "If you promote it, they'll come". Here are some ideas: (Also read: 10 ways of finding role players for your club)

Also read: How do you find guests for your meetings, online?
  1. Conduct special meetings regularly and invite Toastmasters families & friends. This will provide an opportunity to promote toastmasters to fellow toastmasters' family & friends.
  2. Get permission & stick a A3 or A4 sized poster in the local gift shops or book shops.
  3. Send flyers or posters to nearby Colleges. College can display that in their notice boards. This will help you to attract the local students community. Colleges prefer hard copy to display on the notice boards.
  4. Local media are always friendly to clubs and local social initiatives (for ex., In Chennai, you can approach T.Nagar Times, Nanganallur Talk etc.,). You can get a free coverage there. 
  5. Members of a club can contribute articles to newspapers (such as Hindu, Indian Express etc.,) on the subject of communication & leadership. Newspapers crave for content. They are more willing to publish such stuff on the supplementary... such as Education Plus, Metro Plus etc.,
  6. Conduct free workshops or contests for the community... for ex., Speech Craft program is a brand promotion initiative. Clubs can organize their own Youth Leadership or Speech Craft programs. Clubs can also raise sponsorship and conduct contests for college students. This can get free media coverage too. 
  7. Drop in to the local Rotary or Lions club and promote toastmasters. You can sign-up to do free keynote speeches or educational sessions for them and promote toastmasters along with that. 
  8. Join Facebook groups in your locality and promote toastmasters. However, you've to keep the noise level low. May be one flyer a month - otherwise, you'll be considered as a spammer and removed from the group. 
  9. Encourage members to display Toastmasters mementos / trophies / certificates / best speaker ribbons at work place. When colleagues ask them about the trophy, they can give their colleagues a mini pitch about Toastmasters and invite their colleagues to the next club meeting.
  10. Members can include a line about Toastmasters in their personal email signatures. At least, the club officers can do this. This will help them to promote toastmasters to their friends/contacts. Members/Officers can also leverage online mediums to attract guests to their club meetings. update their LinkedIn profile / Facebook profile to include toastmasters. Anyone who sees their profile would know that there is something called Toastmasters.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Story of Chennai Speakers Forum

This is the story of Chennai Speakers Forum... a community club that was born from the light house club of Chennai - the Chennai Toastmasters Club. I wrote this article for a newsletter in the year 2012 - however, the newsletter was never published :)


Breaking a log of wood makes it lose its strength ...
Breaking a glass makes it unusable ...
But.. splitting an atom produces enormous power !

... and, thats what happened when Chennai Toastmasters Club was split into 2 - Chennai Toastmasters (CTM) Club & Chennai Speakers Forum (CSF). The need for splitting CTM into two clubs, was realized approximately 2 years ago. However, there was no time, energy or drive to get the job done. Because of this, CTM started seeing a sinusoidal membership pattern ... the membership goes up in summer and comes down during fall. A number of new members join during July to December time frame. The membership reaches 70+ during July to December time frame and will come down to 45+ during January to June time frame. One simple reason was, not every member got an opportunity to play a role during the club meeting. There were a few other reasons that forced us to seriously consider splitting the club :

- members wouldn't get speaking slots
- club officers wouldn't be able to spend quality time with members
- mentoring new members was a challenge
- leadership opportunities were limited (only 7 get to play the role of club officers in a group of 70)
- only 12 speakers could be accommodated during speech contests (due to the lack of time)
- we had several great speakers in the club, however only 2 could represent the club in the speech contests at area level

Also read: Steps involved in chartering a new club

DTM Kartik Srinivasan, who was the Area Governor then, spearheaded the initiative of splitting CTM and creating a new club. We received enormous support from the leadership team of CTM - TM Rajesh Natarajan (IPP), TM Prabakaran (President), TM Sadayappan (VP Education) and their team. Kartik Srinivasan and I were able to inspire the leadership team to initiate the split. However, the challenge was "Who can inspire the 70 odd members of the club - which includes founding members, veterans and a number of other passionate toastmasters". We got a helping hand from our most popular DTM Aditya Maheswaran. DTM Aditya Maheswaran became the chairman of the 'cloning committee'. Once you give a job to DTM Aditya, you don't have to worry about the results.

A task of this magnitude is expected to have some resistance and it did have some resistance. Toastmasters who were really passionate about the success and growth of CTM, raised their genuine concerns. I won't claim that we addressed all of the concerns - but, we shared our honest views / thoughts with them. In principle, everybody agreed on the decision to split - however, there were 100 different views on 'how the split should be done'. For a major activity like this, if we wait for consensus from all the people, the job would never get done. We did what is right for both CTM & CSF, following Toastmasters International guidelines. The club cloning committee created a membership roster for both the clubs based on seniority of the members in toastmasters, age group, sex, educational accomplishments, contest worthiness etc., Members were then given an option to decide which club they really want to be part of. Some members decided to change their club. Some members decided to maintain dual membership. A final roster was arrived in a weeks time.

Also read: How to conduct a demo meeting?

On 4th Sep 2011, right after CTM meeting, we completed all the paper work. The new incoming officers of CSF, helped in completing the paper work. We sent it to Toastmasters International on 5th Sep 2011 and the club got chartered. The first meeting of the club was conducted on 11th Sep 2011 - a new community club was born ! TM Arna Chugani, TM Pravin Mani, TM Mohammed Mustafa, TM Jananee Ramakrishnan, TM Gurumurugan, TM Vivekanandan, and TM Nijil Chandran became its incoming officers. If I had one concern about Chennai Speakers Forum, it was "Will the new leadership team rise up to the challenge and help the club succeed?! Can these youngsters pull it off?".

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world.  In fact, it is the only way it ever has.", is a famous quote from Margaret Mead. Today, I can proudly say that the leadership team took the club to great heights - beyond what anyone can imagine. With their hard work, dedication, team work and creativity the leadership team scaled the club to unimaginable heights. In TM Alex's words, they've raised the bar high.

Chennai is now gifted with two community clubs operating in the same place, at different times ... providing opportunity to more members in the community to get benefited by toastmasters. The journey continues ... :)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

6 ways of starting your speech evaluation

“What a wonderful speech it was?” If this is how you start your speech evaluations always, it is time for you to learn some new techniques. In this article, I’ll share with you some techniques that you can use to make
the introduction of your speech evaluation, memorable and attention grabbing. 

1.      Quote – Quotes are an interesting way to open your evaluation speech. It helps you to position yourself as someone who is knowledgeable on the subject. Moreover, quotes are attention grabbing too. For example, you can start your evaluation with the following introductory lines:

It's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years” said Abraham Lincoln. Fellow Toastmasters and guests, after listening to John’s speech about his social service activities, I truly felt that he has lead a purposeful life and added “life to the years”… instead of just adding “years to the life”.

2.      Acronym – Starting your evaluation speeches with an acronym increases the curiosity in audience’s mind and will help them to get glued to your speech. For example, a fellow toastmaster once gave a speech about “diet” and organized my evaluation speech using the acronym “DIET”.

“John… You sold the idea of DIET to all of us … with your speech about DIET”
Then, I went ahead and structured my evaluation speech using D – Delivery, I – Information, E – Entertainment, T – Transitions. Do not use this technique for evaluating somebody whose speech is about “Flaucinaucinihilipilification”).

3.      Theme / Analogy – You can make your evaluation speech memorable, if you use a theme to structure the evaluation. For example, you can compare the speech against something or someone and try to highlight the similarities during your evaluation. For example, a toastmaster once did a speech about the tour that he did in Australia. I started my evaluation with the following introductory line

Dear Jack… Your speech was like watching a Maniratnam Movie”… then I went ahead and said “You were able to vividly describe the places that you visited in Australia. Normally director Maniratnam takes us to scenic locations like that in his movies. You were able to create a similar effect in front of our eyes with your outstanding narration. For example, when you were describing your visit to the waterfalls… I was able to visualize water pouring in front of my eyes… I was able to hear the birds chirping, I was able to see those colorful butterflies flying all over …

4.      Humor – Using Humor is a powerful technique to start any speech – not just the evaluations speech. For example, if a toastmaster delivers a speech about his wife’s spending habits, you can start your evaluation with the following introductory line

I’ve read somewhere… If you want to be a millionaire… start with a billion, and take your wife out for shopping. Toastmaster Jack… this statement is very apt for you

5.      Reference to the speech – Creating the introductory lines of an evaluation by referring back to the speech is an art. It helps you to position yourself as an expert and an out of the box thinker. For example, if a toastmaster delivers a speech about “Going Green”, you can start your evaluation with the following lines:

Toastmaster Jim… Your speech not only taught us how to Reduce … Reuse… & Recycle… to go green… but also to Reduce … Reuse… & Recycle… in delivering effective speeches.” and then you can go ahead and say “Jim… You have reduced unwanted stage movement… which helped you in having an effective eye contact with the audience. You had reused vocal variety several times in the speech to deliver your statements with an impact… you have recycled our enthusiasm, by sprinkling humor throughout the speech

6.      Asking Questions – Starting your evaluation speech with a question is an easy way of connecting with your audience. For example, if a toastmaster delivers an inspiring speech about “Chasing your dream”, you can start your evaluation with the following lines:

Fellow Toastmasters & Guests… Raise your hand if you felt that TM Jerry’s speech inspired you to chase your dreams. I don’t know about you, but I was completely inspired by his speech”.

In speech contests, I have seen contestants coming up with innovative methods to stand out in the crowd when delivering speech evaluations. Some of the techniques that I've seen people using for their introductory lines are:

a.       “Let us all give a standing ovation to TM Jacob for his inspiring speech”
b.      “TM Jacob … I used a speech judging ballot to score your speech. You know what … you got 90/100 on my score card. I see a World Champion of Public Speaking in you”
c.       “I fell flat like this… , when I listened to TM Jacob’s speech about bouncing ball”
d.      … “I don’t think I would need any notes to evaluate TM Jacob’s speech… because, every word of his speech is memorable to me. That was the power of Jacob’s speech.”

If you master the above techniques, you don’t have to start your evaluation with “It was a pleasure listening to your speech today” or "What a wonderful speech it was". Like a soup that tastes better with salt and spice, add some spice to your speech evaluation introductions.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

5 Steps to Deliver Effective Speech Evaluations

Delivering an effective speech evaluation is an art. With the contest season coming around, I thought it would
be a worthwhile exercise to convert the art into science by sharing techniques on how to do effective speech
evaluations in Toastmasters. This article describes the 5 steps involved in delivering an effective speech evaluation.

1. Observe – This is the first step. When you play the role of an evaluator, carefully observe and listen to the speaker and note down his/her strengths and areas for improvements. Observe not only the performance of the speaker on the stage, but also things like “how the audience is receiving it”, “what are the feelings and expressions that the speech is creating in you” etc.,

2. Record – It is very hard for us to keep everything that we observe in our memory. So, writing our observations in a small sheet of paper or a notebook would definitely help in the retention and recollection. There are different ways of taking notes. Actually, you don’t have to write each and every word that the speaker utters. You can note down only the important phrases or gestures from the speakers speech – which you think you may refer to/use during the evaluation. You can even organize your observations at the time of writing the notes. I’ve seen people using some of their time tested templates to capture their notes. Some people fold a sheet of paper into two halves to note down the strengths on one side and areas of improvement on the other side. I’ve seen some people organizing the notes in the form of a mind map. The goal is to make your notes easy to lookup.

3. Analyze – After the speaker is done with his/her speech, analyze carefully and identify the items that you would like to highlight during your evaluation. There is a famous quote “Learn as if you are going to live forever, live as if you are going to die tomorrow”. Similarly, take notes as if you are going to deliver a 1 hour speech evaluation. However, when it comes to selecting the observations that you would like to highlight during the evaluation, select them as if you have just 1 minute to deliver. You can just circle those items in your sheet which you would like to comment during your evaluation. I use the rule of 3:1. For every 3 nice things or strengths that I point out, I include 1 area of improvement for the speaker. It will help you in keeping the evaluations CRISP and will also help you in finishing your evaluation within the allotted 3 minutes.

4. Arrange –Do you want to minimize the time that you spend in referring to your notes? Do you want to avoid unwanted pauses during your evaluation? Then, arrange your notes before you go on to the stage. What do I mean by arranging your notes? I normally have the practice of creating a fresh set of notes based on my scribbled notes. I’ll use this information to deliver my speech evaluation. Arranging your contents is very important – because it will help you to quickly refer to the notes. When you don’t arrange the content properly, you’ll have to unnecessarily glance at your notes for a longer time … when you are on the stage. It increases your pauses and also, disconnects you from audience for a longer time.

5. Deliver – This is the last step and the most exciting part of your evaluation. When you go to the stage to deliver the evaluation, always maintain a positive posture and use positive words. You should look positive by having a smile on your face and using friendly gestures and sound positive by using constructive words.

You can download some templates for speech evaluations at the following location:

CRISP Evaluation Handout
Table Topics Evaluation Handout

If you haven’t read my article about CRISP evaluations, you can find it here.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

CC Speech #2: Organize your Speech - Uncle with the Black Cap

S P L A S H… there was water all over my face… I couldn’t believe what I saw …

I was at the Swimming Pool in Brown Stone Apartments, near Loyola College. I saw my daughter Mitra jumping into the pool and swimming like a champion. The entire crowd in the swimming pool started to cheer her “Mitra… Mitra… Mitra…” That was her first day to the swimming class and Mitra was swimming without any tube… without any support… and without any fear.

I really couldn’t believe what I saw …

Again…. there was a S P L A S H … water all over my face… this time, it wasn’t from the pool… but from a glass which was emptied on my face by my wife.

“Saro… get up from the bed. It is time to take Mitra to the swimming class…” My wife woke me up at 5.30 am in the morning, forcing me to get ready for the class at 6 am.

Also read: CC2 - Go Veg (Organize your Speech)

Fellow toastmasters, and guests…

That was Mitra’s first day of the swimming class. With lots of dreams and hopes, I took my daughter to the swimming pool.  Since it was summer, there were a number of kids at the pool to learn swimming. All the kids were having fun at the pool. However, little Mitra was afraid of even getting into the water with a rubber tube. She cried … She protested and she made a big fuzz. Finally she agreed to get into the water... with a promise “Dad!  You should sit near the pool and keep an eye on me … all the time”.  I pulled a chair and sat near the pool, keeping my eyes glued to Mitra.

The swimming coach uncle … that’s how my daughter calls him… a man in his mid 20s wearing a black swimming cap, dragged her into the pool. A very energetic and aggressive guy! The reason why I’m calling him as aggressive is - Whatever I was dreaming, he was expecting, or rather forcing kids to do on the first day.

My daughter’s coach – the uncle with the black cap is special. He coined a nick name for every kid. There was a fat kid and his name was “Urundai”. There was a lean kid and her name was “Oama Kuchi”. My daughter’s nick name was “Bayandangolli”. He was constantly scolding kids for not performing; he splashes water on their face when they were struggling for breath; he throws kids into the water when they are afraid to even get into the water. When days went on, my daughter even got terrified on seeing the Uncle with the Black Cap.

From great expectations of swimming like a champion I wanted my daughter to at least float in the water without a tube. Days went on… but her confidence level was very low. 2nd day…she didn’t take off the tube… 3rd day… she didn’t take of the tube… 4th day… she didn’t take off the tube… it went on for 10 consecutive days. On the 11th day, there was a change… my daughter got a new rubber tube.

Not just that, she also was assigned to a new swimming coach. A man in his early 30s, wearing a white swimming cap. He was very friendly with the kids… he was cheering them even for a small accomplishment of theirs. He cheered when a kid got into the water for the first time, he cheered when a kid swam without a tube for the first time… he cheered when a kid swims from one end to the other and reaches the finish line. What he did was similar to what we do in a Toastmasters Club – provided a very supportive, friendly and encouraging platform for members to fail safely and learn. In just 2 days of getting coached by Uncle with the white cap, my daughter learned to swim without the tube. Tears were on my eyes when I saw her going from one end of the pool to the other without any support. I stood from my chair and gave a thunderous applause to her when she reached her finishing line for the first time.

Fellow Toastmasters, all of us play Mr. Uncle with the White Cap when we are in Ruby Hall. But, what cap do we wear in the real world. What cap do we wear when we deal with our friends or class mates? What cap do we wear when there is a non-performing member in our team, at work? What cap do we wear when our spouse makes a mistake? When you want to get the best performance from someone, don’t slap… but clap… like the uncle with the white cap.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Chennai Speakers Forum - Time Management Interview

1. How do you get people to fall for you at your very first interaction?

I treat people, as if I’m meeting a good old friend after a long gap. I genuinely listen to them and try to help them in whatever little way possible. I make them feel special by appreciating their achievements. For example, if someone says “My wife doesn’t allow me to go out on Sundays. However, I managed to come out to attend this meeting today”… I’ll say “Wow! I’m completely impressed by your passion towards improving your speaking skills”.

Even if I see a district governor or a division governor standing near to me when I’m talking to a new person, I don’t divert my attention towards the “biggie”. I continue to talk to the new person or will introduce the new person to the “biggie”. I’ll make sure that the new person gets my fullest attention and service, when I’m talking to them.

I have served as SAA two times in my club. One of the roles of a SAA is to meet & greet members and guests. I think I had picked up this skill by playing the role of the SAA religiously J

2. What according to you is time management?? What is your secret?           

 “Time management” is not just about using your available time effectively. It is also about learning to say NO to certain things, prioritizing the critical vs. not so critical tasks, spending time on tasks that are inline with your long term goals/aspirations, setting right expectations, keeping others informed when you anticipate slippages etc.,.

I read the book “7 habits of highly effective people” early on in my life. There are few books that are life-changing and “7 habits of highly effective people” is one such book. It taught me how to manage time effectively.

3. You are known for your mentoring skills, tell us how you manage to find time for your mentees in your packed schedule?

I allocate at least 2 hours for toastmasters everyday and most of my time is spent in mentoring members and clubs. Mentoring includes helping mentees to come up with speech topics, speech script reviews, in-person rehearsals, helping mentees to understand “how to handle certain situations in their club or office” etc., I have nearly 60+ mentees and I review approximately 2 speech scripts a day.

Consciously, I’ve stayed away from district leadership roles because it would prevent me from spending quality time with my mentees. I also don’t waste my time in “non-core toastmasters activities”. For ex., if toastmasters plan for a weekend picnic or go out for a movie outing, I don’t join them there J

Looking back, toastmasters has become more of a habit to me like walking, bathing, and eating J

4. What made you a time lover? What inspired you? What is your routine for the day? Is there a day that you did so much work because of time management that you felt like superhuman?

10 years ago, I read this quote somewhere "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'WOW What a Ride!'". Earlier, I used to party, chit-chat and unnecessarily waste time. This quote made me to realize that I should effectively use time to achieve my dreams. I’m a strong believer of “Small, but continuous improvements done over a long period of time will produce HUGE results”.

I get up at 5.30 am and go to bed at 9.30 pm or so. Before going to work in the morning, I do some exercising, check my personal emails, read news papers, FB comments and review speech scripts. I leave home by 8 am sharp. I leave from office in the evening by 4.45 pm. I try not to get distracted by Toastmasters activities during my work time – I just respond back to short emails or quick phone calls. If I know that a particular call is going to take 30 mins or so, either I don’t pick that call or I tell them that I’ll call them in the evening J

I spend 1 + 1 hour on my commute everyday and I use my commute time for Toastmasters calls. I reach home by 5.45 pm or so. I spend some quick time with family (hardly 30 mins!) and start taking care of office emails & personal/toastmasters emails. When I find time in the evening, I write blogs ( or read books.

I’m yet to become a super human J May be, I was pretty close during the days that lead to our district conference - Ovation 2013.

5. If someone wants to manage time in the best possible way, but is not sure how to do it. What advice would you give that person with dreams to manage time?          

Read “7 habits of highly effective people” – Steven Covey. He does a brilliant job of explaining how effectively you can manage time and prioritize your tasks. Steven Covey also tells you ways of achieving your dreams/goals in a systematic way.

6. Time and tide wait for no man; have u ever missed a tide???

So far, NO! But, I have a big dream to achieve in my life. You should ask me this question 10 years from now J

7. What is the reason behind you to continue being a Toastmaster?  

Before I joined toastmasters, I used to think in Tamil, translate that into English and express my thoughts. Even, if I have to order something in English in a restaurant… I used to rehearse it once in my mind before asking the bearer. Today, I’m able to think in English right at the first time. The credit goes to Toastmasters. People who watch me speaking today, wouldn’t believe that I had the problem of speaking in English once upon a time.

Toastmasters has given me so much in the last 7 years. I feel that being part of Toastmasters and helping youngsters learn communication/leadership skills is a way of serving the community. Even today, I continue to learn new things, by serving our members and clubs. These are the things that keep me active in Toastmasters.

Toastmaster of the Day Script - Chennai Toastmasters Club - 28th July 2013

Toastmaster of the Day Worksheet

DATE: 28th July 2013                   Word of the Day: gregarious
Theme: Discover the leader in you
1.      Introduce theme of the day and word of the day. Encourage the speakers to use them during the meeting. Ask the audience to applaud when the Theme of the day and word of the day is used by the speakers.

An Egg is a symbol of transformation

A hen lays several eggs. But only a few hatch and transform into chicken. Similarly, a number of members join toastmasters. However, only a few are determined and passionate to get transformed into great leaders and communicators. Our mentors help mentees to discover the real leader in them. Discover the leader in you, is the Theme of the Day.
If you carefully observe the newly born chicks, they go around in groups. They love to be with other chicken. That is because, they are all GREGARIOUS – that is the word of the day.
2.      Explain the flow of meeting and the 3 segments (Prepared speeches, Table Topics and Evaluation) for guests.

Every toastmasters meeting has 3 segments.

The first segment is called prepared speeches segment. In Toastmasters, speakers are given time to come prepared with a speech and deliver it in the club as part of the Prepared Speeches segment. The prepared speeches section in Toastmasters meetings is the incubation house for members to practice their presentation skills.

The second segment is called Table Topics segment. In this segment, we help fellow toastmasters to handle impromptu speaking situations .. which normally comes with extreme Temperature & Tension. Like an egg that becomes stronger when put in a boiling water, our fellow TMs become stronger by participating in Table Topics Session.

When an egg is broken from outside force life ends, when an egg is broken from force inside life begins. Evaluation is that segment in Toastmasters that helps members to break that shell from within, to bring a new life into this world.
In order to walk us through the evaluations segment, we have a team headed by our General Egg Braker... I mean General Evaluator..
3.      Introduce the General Evaluator (based on the meeting theme) and ask the General Evaluator to introduce his/her team:

1) Works as Software Development Engineer at Amazon Inc.
2) His hobbies include Toastmasters, Table Tennis, and Office Work
3) The leader that he admires is Jeff Pesos, the CEO of Amazon for his leadership

Please join me in welcoming the General Evaluator for today Prasanna Venkat

4.      Regain control from General Evaluator. 
5.      Inform the audience that you are starting the prepared speeches segment.
6.      Prepared Speeches
Speaker #1
Suresh Natarajan
Project Details
Manual:  Competent Communicator
Project #: 1
Project Title: Ice Breaker
Speech Title: Yes, “I can Do”
Introduction of the speaker (based on the meeting theme)
1)      Works as Program Manager at Coromandel Infotech

2)      Reading books - Product management, Playing Cricket & Tennis

3)      He admires Mahatma Gandhi for his Simplicity and Determination

Before I call Suresh Natarajan to the stage, may I request the evaluator of the speech TM Bharath Raja to read the project objectives?
Speaker #2
Sabareeswar Balakrishnan
Project Details
Manual: Competent Communicator
Project #: 3
Project Title: Get to the Point
Speech Title: Euphemisms
Introduction of the speaker (based on the meeting theme)
1)      Calls himself a NERD … Works as Tech Lead at HCL Technologies

2)      Listening to music, when tired of browsing Internet

3)      Greg Ferro (co-host of demonstrating his leadership by giving a new dimension to technical podcasting.

Before I call Sabareeswar Balakrishnan to the stage, may I request the evaluator of the speech TM Harish Kataria to read the project objectives?
Speaker #3
Project Details
Manual: Competent Communicator
Project #: 9
Project Title: Persuade with Power
Speech Title: Dil Jumping Japang Jampak Jampak
Introduction of the speaker (based on the meeting theme)
1)      Works as Sales Manager? at e-Con Systems Pvt Ltd

2)      Hobbies include Drawing, Painting and making creative home decors

3)      Leader that she admires is Abdul Kalam for his Simplicity, Sincerity, and Dedication

Before I call Yamini to the stage, may I request the evaluator of the speech TM Ramesh Daswani to read the project objectives?

Speaker #4
Harini Srinivasan
Project Details
Manual: High Performance Leadership
Project #:
Project Title:
Speech Title:
Introduction of the speaker (based on the meeting theme)
1)  Take a Wild Guess

2) Making earrings, reading books and falling down

3) Every single person who has concern for a fellow living being. The one who respects queues, the one who stops the car for a tiny puppy to cross the road or the one who rushes to help someone in an accident or adversity

Before I call Harini Srinivasan to the stage, may I request the evaluator of the speech TM Deepa Bharatkumar to read the project objectives?
7.      Ask the timer if any of the speakers are disqualified due to time. Ask the audience to vote for the Best Prepared Speaker.

8.      Introduce the Table Topics Master (based on the theme of the meeting):

1) Works as a Manager at HSBC
2) Hobbies include Reading, Watching movies Favorite movie – Mask (Jim Cary)
3) Leader that he admires is Mahatma Gandhi – for non-violence and the way in which he was able to motivate the whole world for a common cause

Please join me in welcoming the Table Topics Master for today Rajesh Upadhay

9.      Signal the Table Topics Master to end the session when the time limit is reached / exceeded.
10.  Regain control from Table Topics Master.
11.  Ask the timer if any of the speakers are disqualified due to time.  Announce eligibility. Ask the audience to vote for the Best Table Topics Speaker
12.  Invite the General Evaluator to conduct the evaluations segment
13.  Regain control from General Evaluator.
14.  Final remarks (try to end with a BANG). Not exceeding 1 minute.
We joined Toastmasters to transform
By taking a variety of roles and perform.
Though heavy lunch acts like chloroform
We fight it hard like men in uniform
With every performance we reform,
Because we always go above the norm !

15.  Return control to President ___________________________