The Art of Speaking  

Talk away your fear


Reasons to Join Toastmasters

By Wade Paterson

Have you been thinking about joining a Toastmasters Club, but you’re not sure if it’s the right thing for you?

Below are five reasons why I think you should consider joining Toastmasters.

Reduce Stress Associated with Public Speaking

I joined RE/MAX of Western Canada as a social media/communications coordinator in 2014. A few months later, I learned I had to speak to a group of 60 new RE/MAX agents for 30 minutes at our monthly sales associate orientation events.

Although I had been told I was a good public speaker, the idea of speaking in front of this group every single month gave me anxiety.

I joined the Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club (we meet at The Royal Anne Hotel in downtown Kelowna every Thursday morning at 6:45 a.m.) with the simple goal of reducing that stress.

Within three months, I noticed a significant reduction in my own anxiety. The bonus was that I was sharpening my public speaking skills at the same time.

Ditch the Umms and Ahhs

One of the most common weaknesses of an inexperienced public speaker is the addition of “umms” and “ahhs” to their speeches.

Why do we use these words between sentences? Because it feels uncomfortable to allow silence to fill the gaps. Although it may feel awkward for the speaker, it doesn’t feel that way for the audience. In fact, silence between sentences is easy to listen to; crutch words such as “umm” and “ahh” are distracting.

Each Toastmasters meeting has an Ahh Counter, who makes note of each speaker’s crutch or filler words, then delivers a report at the end of the meeting. Before Toastmasters, I didn’t realize how often I would say “umm,” but attending these meetings has helped me almost completely eliminate that crutch word from my speech.

Body Language and Vocal Variety

The way a message is communicated can be broken down into three percentages:

  • 55%
  • 38%
  • 7%.

The 55% represents body language; the 38% represents vocal tone; the 7% represents the actual words we say. That means 93% of a message is communicated non-verbally.

At Toastmasters, there is a heavy focus on purposeful body language and incorporating vocal variety to keep the audience engaged. Each speaking role has an evaluator who points out what the speaker did well, and what the speaker can improve upon.

Become a Better Listener

One of the most surprising things I discovered about Toastmasters is beyond becoming a better speaker, I became a better listener.

As I mentioned in the previous point, every speaking role is evaluated; therefore, when you sign up to be an evaluator at Toastmasters, you are forced to listen intently in order to give constructive feedback to the speaker.

Throughout my five years as a Toastmaster, my listening skills have strengthened. I am more focused in one-on-one conversations, and I get more value out of listening to other speakers.

It’s Like Going to the Gym

This last point is perhaps better categorized as a reason you should continue going to Toastmasters, even if you’ve been going for several years.

Pretend that you had a gym membership for six months in 2015, then you stopped going altogether for the next five years. The result would likely be that you got into decent shape in 2015, and have since regressed from not working out since then.

Public speaking is similar. Time and time again, I have seen new Toastmasters join our club with little confidence, then, after six months of consistently attending meetings, they evolve into polished speakers.

I have also witnessed people leave the club after reaching a certain proficiency, then come back as a guest a year or two later. While they are still a stronger speaker than they were before attending any Toastmasters meetings, they are far weaker than the level they were at when they were attending regular meetings.

Although my attendance record is far from perfect, I fully intend to be a Toastmaster for years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about being an impactful communicator, head over to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTEVBsx27Ub6vv0gu6ARsAg?view_as=subscriber

Wade Paterson is a champion public speaker with Kelowna AM Toastmasters.


Paint verbal pictures

Painting the verbal picture creates descriptive images by drawing on common experience

By Bill Brown
Toastmaster Magazine

The goal of speaking and speech writing is communication.

That’s not exactly a news flash, I know. But how can we choose the best words to communicate what we want to say?

Speakers are typically trying to persuade audience members to change how they think or feel about something. To that end, creating mental pictures to reinforce your points is particularly valuable.

The old cliche says a picture is worth a thousand words, but when all you have are words, how do you create that picture in the listener’s mind? Should you use long, fancy words?

In speeches and most written communication, that would probably seem out of place. Simple language is usually the best. Normally, when you think “description,” you think of adjectives.

After all, their job is to describe. But you can also use nouns, verbs, and adverbs. The key is word selection and specificity.

If you look in a thesaurus for any particular word, you will probably find many synonyms. But not all synonyms convey the same meaning. Each word group has a circle of meanings, with each word claiming its own unique place in that circle.

Let’s take a simple example — the colour green. You have your basic green, dark green, hunter green, lime green, and chartreuse, just to name a few. No one would confuse dark green and lime green. Yet, they are both green.

When you try to describe something, choose the particular word that fits best.

A thesaurus may be helpful for that. The more specific you are, the more effective together that are not normally associated with one another.

I have a training segment in my coaching videos where I talk about speech organization, and I mention speeches that seem disjointed. I say, “You have probably heard speeches that seem to jump around like a kangaroo on caffeine.”

This accentuates the picture of disjointedness — and makes my point stronger and more memorable. Sometimes you can borrow a word from an entirely different arena.

As I write this, I am in the midst of a COVID-19 shutdown. I am in the “at risk” age group. My wife is interested in health and nutrition and has me using a number of products that boost the immune system. Some of them are topical and each has its own unique smell.

Unfortunately, those smells don’t complement one another.

One morning it struck me that they produce an aromatic cacophony. Cacophony refers to sound, but the image it creates describes the competition of smells better than any aromatic term that I know.

We have all heard dissonant sounds and know how they make us feel. That word captured what I wanted to convey.

The key to description is to tap into our common experience. Don’t describe it from your personal perspective. Find something that your listeners or readers have experienced.

That is when the description becomes vivid, real, and effective.

Bill Brown is a speech delivery coach from Las Vegas and a Distinguished Toastmaster at Ahead of the Curve Toastmasters. Learn more at www.billbrownspeechcoach.com.

Leave better voice mails

8 ways to make your voicemail matter

By Joel Schwartzberg 
Toastmaster Magazine

Even with so many ways to communicate in the business world, phone calls have not gone away.

The persistent advantage of leaving a voicemail — versus a text or email — lies in the resonance of the human voice, with its unique power to emphasize, intone, and attract.

As a result, voicemails come across as more authentic, personal, and direct.

An effective voicemail can be the difference between an opportunity gained or lost. Think of that list of prospective member phone numbers you solicited at your last Toastmasters club meeting — online or in person.

You know a phone call will be more effective than an email in converting those members, but you’re going to be leaving a lot of voicemails as you make your way down the list.

Success starts with knowing that a voicemail is a proposal, not a conversation. The person on the other end doesn’t need to know all about you or your organization; they just need a good reason to return your call.

These eight suggestions will give your voicemail the highest likelihood of generating that hoped-for response.

Know your goal.

Identify the goal you’re trying to achieve. Are you hoping to acquire an email address or invite the person to another Toastmasters meeting? Know precisely what you want to happen so you know what to suggest after you’ve made your proposal.

Think in points, not paragraphs.

Your recipient will probably make a decision within seconds, so your proposal needs to be made quickly and concisely. To cut unnecessary information, think of your message in terms of points, not paragraphs.

  • Point 1: What are you proposing?
  • Point 2: How would the proposal benefit the recipient?
  • Point 3: Suggested next step.

Practise out loud, not in your head.

Practise your voicemail message a few times out loud. Rehearsing aloud conditions your mind and your mouth to work together, which is essential because leaving a voicemail requires both thinking and speaking.

Start slowly and articulate clearly.

When you hear the beep, start with a short salutation (“Hi, Sarah.”) and immediately identify yourself and your affiliation. (“I’m Bill from Toastmasters.”) Do this slowly with emphasis on articulation. If you rush, the listener may spend the rest of your voicemail thinking, “Who is this?” instead of paying attention. If relevant, briefly note your connection to the recipient. (“We met at Big Voice Toastmasters last week.”)

Avoid prefaces.

It’s vital to get to your point quickly, so avoid all stories, coincidences, and even praise as you start. Remember: Your goal is not to entertain or endear yourself to the recipient. Your goal is simply to advance to the next step.

Stick to one proposal.

Keep your proposal simple and make only one. Multiple requests only complicate the message, putting an extra burden on a listener. If you have several proposals to make, pick the most intriguing one.

Make your contact information clear.

Remember that information familiar to you is brand-new to the recipient, so give only one form of contact information slowly and with extra articulation. Then repeat it. If you’re giving a phone number, insert a tiny pause between each number. Your objective is to be so clear that the recipient will not have to replay the voicemail.

Close with confidence.

Many people start their voicemails well, but end with a meandering mess. (“OK, so, I guess, alright, so ...”) To avoid this calamity, plan your ending in advance. Confident conclusions contain both appreciation and a next step. (“Thanks so much for your time, Sarah. I look forward to working with you.”) Ending on an action step elevates the probability of the recipient acting on it.

By the way, people occasionally still answer their phones, so don’t be thrown off if you get a live voice, not a
pre-recorded one. Continue to lead with the most important and relevant information.

If they have questions, answer them. Don’t steamroll over their responses, but make your point before the end of the call. Phone calls may not be the dominant form of communication they once were, but people still make them, which means there’s opportunity for success and potential for self-sabotage. So don’t just “phone it in.”

If you prepare well, stick to your points, and articulate clearly, you’ll give your voicemail the best chance of breaking through.

Joel Schwartzberg is the senior director of strategic and executive communications for a major national nonprofit, a presentations coach, and author of Get to the Point! Sharpen Your Message and Make Your Words Matter. Follow him on Twitter @TheJoelTruth. This article appeared in Toastmaster Magazine.

Mom had a way with words

By John Cadley
Toastmaster Magazine

My mother loved to read, and she remembered what she’d read.

Whatever situation I found myself in as a child, she would respond with a quotation from some poem, novel, or play that was tailor-made for the occasion.

As I got older, I realized I had been raised not so much by Olivia Cadley as by Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.

To wit: One evening when I was around seven years old, I wandered into the kitchen to ask when dinner would be ready. My mother looked up from the pot roast she was preparing and said, “Ah, yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.”

I turned around to see who she was talking to, but it was just me and the dog, whose name was Sparky. I asked what she meant and, while chopping an onion, she replied: “Shakespeare, sweetie — Julius Caesar” — two more weird names I’d never heard of.

I took it in stride because I knew it was just mom being mom, although I did peek in the mirror to see if I looked lean. I thought I was just hungry.

Olivia was particularly fond of the Bard. She said if you only read William Shakespeare and the Bible, you would know everything worth knowing.

Thus, it was that one summer evening I went out to play kickball with the neighbourhood children. The game called for two captains who would select their teams from those gathered. Several children were always last to be picked, and I felt sorry for them.

One night I was captain and I found myself in a bind: I wanted to pick the good players so we would win … and I wanted to pick the bad players so they wouldn’t feel like outcasts from a leper colony.

Racked by indecision, I went in the house and told my mother the responsibility was killing me. She got that look like she was about to roll out the heavy artillery, and she did — from old Willy’s Henry IV, Part 2: “John,” she said solemnly, “uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

I told her there were no crowns in kickball. I just wanted a solution.

Her answer? “You’ll figure it out. Necessity is the mother of invention.”

So what did I do? I picked the good players, we won, and I have been tortured by guilt for 57 years.

There so many more. Around age 5, I was walking down the street with Olivia when we ran into a friend of hers. The lady looked at me and said, “You have such a handsome boy!”

To which my mother coolly replied, “Handsome is as handsome does.”

Very confusing: First I get a compliment, then I get a warning.

In the second grade when I had my first crush, I pointed out the object of my affection to my mother, who remarked, “Well … beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” I thought she was agreeing that my beloved was beautiful. Little did I know.

A few others: Every time she saw me sitting around doing nothing, she warned that “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” I thought I was possessed.

If I was upset about something trivial, it was “a tempest in a teapot.” Impatience would bring on the bromide “A watched pot never boils,” which mystified me because I wasn’t watching a pot.

When I was late I was reminded that “time and tide wait for no man.” The one that really got me was the time I had an essay due the next day that I hadn’t started because I couldn’t think of a topic.

My mother assured me that I would. When I asked how, she calmly invoked the observation of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the distinguished 18th century writer, that “nothing so concentrates the mind as the sight of the gallows.”

I mean, I knew not doing the assignment would get me in trouble … but not that much trouble. I can’t help but wonder what literary gem Olivia would have pulled out for the COVID-19 pandemic.

She avoided bad news like the, uh, plague, citing the dictum that “what you don’t know won’t hurt you” for justification.

I can imagine trying to tell her that in this case what she didn’t know could hurt her, only to have her hold up her hand, smile serenely, and hit me with her favourite line from the English poet Thomas Gray: “When ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”

Love you, Mom.

John Cadley is a former advertising copywriter, freelance writer, and musician living in Fayetteville, New York. Learn more at www.cadleys.com. This article appeared in Toastmaster magazine.

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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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