Saturday, June 30, 2018

Speechcraft - Don'ts (and some "Dos")

Speechcraft is a program designed to teach public speaking skills to members and non-members of Toastmasters. It is a 6 - 8 sessions program, conducted over multiple weeks. Speechcraft program also provides a platform for experienced Toastmasters to practice their speaking skills in front of a new audience. 

The members who organize and facilitate Speechcraft program have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. They are the brand ambassadors of Toastmasters International. Whatever they do as part of the Speechcraft program can positively or negatively influence the Toastmasters International brand. 

The following are some suggestions (based on my experience!), to improve the effectiveness of the Speechcraft program:
  1. Do not conduct the Speechcraft program without the original manuals or with photocopied manuals. 
  2. Do not conduct Speechcraft programs with inexperienced / untrained Toastmasters. 
    • Ideally, the trainers should've completed at least Advance Communicator - Silver (as the manual expects you to conduct two presentations from The Better Speaker Series and/or The Successful Club Series for getting the credit)
    • The trainers should've experience conducting workshops - for ex., they should've conducted some trainings in Officers Training Program or Area/Division events. 
    • The trainers should strictly adhere to the format / contents specified in the Speechcraft coordinator's guide. I recommend the Speechcraft organisers to be trained by experienced Toastmasters from the Division or the District. 
  3. Never go late to a Speechcraft meeting, be there in the training hall at least 15 - 30 minutes in advance. Speechcraft program that happens in a corporate venue may have additional security restrictions. Be there in advance, to park your vehicle, clear through the security procedure to be at the training venue, 15 - 30 minutes in advance. 
  4. Always be dressed up in a formal wear 
  5. Do not change the program contents / scope, drastically 
    • You can change the order in which the different topics are covered, to suit the audience's needs. However, you cannot introduce topics beyond the scope of the Speechcraft program (for ex., topics like "Interviewing skills" or "Time Management", even if the participants request for it)
    • Speechcraft coordinators guide clearly explains what should be the structure for each and every meeting. Adhere to the structure / format recommended in the Speechcraft manual. 
    • There is a lot of differences between a regular Toastmasters meeting and a Speechcraft meeting. For ex., roles like Grammarian, Ah Counter, Sergeant at Arms, Presiding Officer etc., are not relevant for a Speech Craft program. 
  6. Do not give away Speechcraft completion certifications for participants who haven't completed the minimum requirement of 3 out of the 6 projects. Ice Breaker, Organize your Speech and Get to the Point are mandatory speeches that the participant has to complete to be eligible for the Speechcraft completion award.
  7. Non-Toastmasters participating in a Speechcraft program may be least interested in "Toastmasters" and most interested in "Public Speaking skills development". While you can talk about "Toastmasters" and encourage them to join a club, that should not be our prime objective. For ex., avoid boasting about Toastmasters history, why it was started, who started it, how is Toastmasters International structured etc., during the first few meetings. You can talk about it offline during the networking time or during Session 8 (last session). A salesman normally asks the prospect to buy a product after the prospect has understood clearly the benefits of the purchase. That is one of the reasons to keep the marketing part for Session 8. 
  8. When you assign coaches / mentors for the Speechcraft participants, ensure that the participants get a high-quality support from their coaches / mentors. 
  9. Ensure that you pick the "right" Speechcraft coordinators or trainers based on factors such as age/experience of the participants and expectations from the participants. For ex., in multiple occasions, we've noticed that the Speechcraft organizers pick some junior (age/experience) Toastmasters to conduct the session and the Speechcraft participants weren't very comfortable with them. 
  10. Do not finish the entire Speechcraft program in 1 week over 8 meetings. The effectiveness of the learning is directly proportional to the amount of home work done by the participants. It is recommended to give sufficient time between each meeting, so that, the participants have time to prepare for their speeches. 
  11. Send out agenda for every meeting in advance, so that the participants can come prepared. 

There is a famous quote that goes like this “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read". Speechcraft program provides a great opportunity for Toastmasters and non-Toastmasters to connect with new people and learn from each other. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Pathways Ice Breaker - Who am I?

Who am I?

[Play the audio clipping of “Sollunga…Sollunga…” dialogue from Baasha, while walking to the stage]

Wait … Wait… Wait… I am not a underworld Don, like Rajini in the movie Baasha

Life has given me several identities over a period of time and today, I’m going to share a few of them with you.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Also read:

Early Life

I got my identity as a son, 40 years ago. Thanks to my dad and mom. During those days, my dad was working in a grocery store and my mom was a home maker. We were living in a tiled house almost half the size of this room. The house had just 2 small rooms - 1 room served as the living room, study room, dining room and bed room and the other room served as kitchen and bathroom. 


I got my identity as a student very early, when I was just 2.5 years old - because of being too mischievous at home. I finished my schooling in Chennai and went to Coimbatore to do my Bachelors in Engineering at Government College of Technology. 

Life, away from home, in College was great fun. I had a dual identity in College, like the contrasting Indran and Chandran in the movie Thillu Mullu. On one side, I used to spend a lot of time in the computer lab … and that helped me to stay in the good books of faculties. On the other side, I bunked classes, jumped off the hostel wall to go to late night movies and studied just before the exams. 

Corporate Life

Right after the college in 1998, HCL Technologies gave me a new identity as corporate professional. I worked in HCL for 4 years and moved to US in the year 2002. When many Indians in US were returning back to India after the dot com burst, I was walking into US with a lot of dreams.  It was like the firefighter who walks into a burning house, when everyone in the house are running out.


My English proficiency during those days was very poor. If someone asks me “How good is your English”… I’ll say “I talk English, I walk English I speak English” like Rajini in Velaikkaran movie. That’s when a friend of mine referred me to Toastmasters.  I’ve been a Toastmaster since 2006. Thanks to Toastmasters, I can express myself effectively in English today, like Rajini in Mannan movie.

Family Life

I got married in the year 2005, and received a new identity called husband. My wife is very understanding, supportive and caring. I owe half of my successes to her. The wheel of life started spinning fast. Soon, my daughter gave me the identity of a father.

In the movie Annamalai, Rajini accumulates a lot of wealth through hard work, in a very short time. Similarly, thanks to the IT industry and the US life - I achieved my financial goals very fast. I returned back to India, in 2009.


Like the US return Rajini in Sivaji movie… I feel bad that India hasn’t improved much even after so many years. We still see garbage on the roads… We still see a lot of poverty around… we still see a lot of corruption in the system. The urge to do something good to the society continues to haunt me, every single day. 

On one side, my corporate career is at an all time high and the momentum continues to accelerate. On the other side, my passion towards serving people is pulling me hard. But, today, I hardly have any time to think beyond work, family and Toastmasters. 

I don’t know what is in store for me in the future… So, who am I going to be … What is going to be my new identity? I’m puzzled like the Rajini in the climax scene of the movie Baba.