Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pathways - Understanding your Communication Style - It's renewal time

Pathways - Understanding your Communication Style - It's renewal time (Dynamic Leadership Path / Level 2 / Project 2)

March 31st is the last date for renewing your Membership dues in Toastmasters. I know our VP Membership Annamalai is trying very hard to get the dues from us.  I’ve been a VP Membership multiple times in the past. Friends… trust me… it is easy to propose to a girl and make her your lover. But, it is very hard to persuade members to renew their membership. 

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and Guests, 

In my speech today, I am going to talk about my experiments with the different communication styles during my VP Membership roles.

When I was a novice VP Membership, I tried the 3Bs… 

Begging: Sir… pls renew Sir… Mme… pls renew Mme” 
Bullying: Nikhil… How many times should I tell you that you’ve to renew in time. If you don’t renew now, I’ll not allow you to enter this club again. 
Borrowing: Rahul… if you don’t have money now… no problem… you can borrow it from me… and pay me back later

But, none of the 3Bs helped me to move the needle.  Then, I started experimenting with the different styles of communication.

At first, I tried the Initiating Communication style

Initiating communication style values interacting with others and sharing stories. For example, I would go to the stage and say, 

Imagine it is 24th Aug 2019… a bright sunny day… you are attending the Toastmasters International convention at Denver, Colorado…. 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, Farhan Ahmed… Farhan Ahmed, Contestant #1… the crowd starts to cheer… Farhan… Farhan. All of a sudden, the Chief Judge walks to the stage and stops you from talking “Farhan… 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

After listening to my pitch, members told me “Saro! What a nice tale!”. But, the tale didn’t make any sale.

Then, I tried the Supportive Communication style 

Using, supportive communication style, you can earn the audience’ trust by providing them with plenty of reassurance. For example, I tried this.. 

Hello team… I know you have been working hard to develop your communication and leadership skills. We, the club officers are here to serve you and support you. We’ll assure you that you get the value of the $45 that you are spending for Toastmasters.  I know some of you didn’t like the hot tea served after the meeting… and that too, during hot summer. After this renewal season, we promise to change the hot tea to butter milk or fresh juice. I trust that all of you will pay the renewal fees by this week

Members appreciated the trust, but, my dream of getting renewals on time, went bust. 

Later-on, I experimented with the Analytical Communication style

Analytical communication style uses facts and figures. So I made my sales pitch with statistics. 

Dear folks… only one in every 200 members who join Toastmasters achieve their Distinguished Toastmasters award. If you want to be such a rarest of the rare Toastmaster… pay your club membership fees now. Toastmasters’ average retention rate is just 55%. Who knows … the person sitting near to you, may not see you, after the renewal season. So, better renew your membership now, to replenish your commitment towards becoming a DTM

I was expecting some pats for the stats, but all that I got were brickbats. 

Finally, I decided to experiment with the Direct Communication style

Direct communication style helps you to get to the point very quickly. You don’t have to beat around the bush and you can be very specific. 

Folks… It’s renewal time again. There are 3 reasons why you should renew now:
You can continue to make uninterrupted progress in your communication and leadership journey
You would continue to get the unmatchable support from your mentors and club officers 
Most importantly, you’ll be able to represent our club in the World Champion of Public Speaking contests 

The renewal fees is $45 for 6 months. Will you pay the dues on time? Please help me to help you

To my surprise, dollars kept ringing and that made me singing. I managed to complete more than 80% of the renewals, in time. I discovered that “direct communication” is my real and authentic style. 

Dear Toastmasters, communication style is like the vehicle on the road, that takes you to your destination. You’ll have to pick the right vehicle for the right destination. You don’t need a sophisticated aircraft, if the place that you’ve reach, is the shop at the corner of your street. A bicycle would do. Similarly, use the right communication style with the right people, at the right time, to get the right results. I have discovered my communication style … have you? Mr. TMOD.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Speech Crafting Checklist for International Speech Contests

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

International Speech Contests - What's your message?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

World Championship Winning Speeches - Speech Title, Videos and Message

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

(Also read: Tips for Contestants)

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

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

Jim Key
It is never too late to pursue your dreams

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

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

Presiyan Vasilev
Reach out to others when you need help – don’t pretend that you can solve it yourself
Dananjaya Hettiarachchi
There is something special in each one of us and great mentors help in finding that “special in you”
Mohammed Qahtani
How you can use words to make people believe, feel and to impact
Darren Tey
Handle inner bullies by acknowledging, standing up and  fighting against it. 
Manoj Vasudevan
Give more and take less in relationships for it to last longer
Ramona J Smith
When life knocks you down, stay in the ring, look for the lifeline and stand back up. 
Aaron Beverly
Acceptance of people, despite differences is not an unbelievable story 
Mike Carr
The victory is not in the results, victory is in the TRY (allow people to experiment and fail)