Saturday, February 14, 2009

Youth Leadership Program Feedback

Joshua, a nine year old grade 4 student who attended a Youth Leadership Program sponsored by the Stoneroad Toastmasters, recently competed in his school's public speaking contest. He competed against 10 others in a category for grade 4 to 6 students. Although he didn't place against these older schoolmates, his speech earned him high praise. He incorporated many of the techniques he learned at YLP and was commended for  his confidence of delivery and ability to engage the audience.

Aaron, a 12 year old grade 7 student and YLP participant, has represented his class at the school public speaking contest for the past three years. This year he won first place in the Intermediate Division and went on the the District competition. Despite struggling with the flu, Aaron faced 14 students from schools across the city. Although, he did not place (he is at the bottom of the age category) all three judges complimented him on his speaking skills. It seems that he lost points for not officially addressing the judges ("Judges and fellow competitors"), but Aaron retorted that he was speaking in the persona of the Norse God Thor who would never begin his address with, "Dwarves, giants, humans and all creatures of Middle Earth."

This information was provided by a parent of one of the YLP participants as evidence of her appreciation for the program. There has been a request for the Stoneroad Toastmasters to offer a another session for elementary school students and the group is currently seeking volunteers to run the program.

How To Tell A Joke

Humour is an important tool in public speaking and we've had two Education Sessions on the theme of "How To Tell A Joke". The following is a summary of the information covered at those sessions.


1. Know Your Intent - Why are you speaking and why do you want to say something funny? Be sure the occasion is appropriate and your comments are relevant. Never tell a joke just for the sake of getting a laugh. Consider it from the audience's point of view; it must make sense.

2. Personal Stories Are The Funniest - Before you go to the internet to find a joke, think about your life and whether you've experienced a funny situation that is related to your topic. It will make a more sincere connection with the audience and you don't have to memorize something you've experienced. If you must resort to a canned story consider making it sound personal by presenting the characters as you and your pals.

3. Know The Joke - Stopping halfway through to correct details or forgetting the punch line will lead to disaster. 

4. Forget the Introduction, Just Tell the Joke - Never tell the audience, "This is the funniest story..." or "You're going to laugh at this one..."  You're just setting yourself up for trouble.  Also, don't distract them by starting with irrelevant comments like, "I found this on Google."

5. The Only Person You Can Make Fun Of Is...You - Not matter what you say, you have risk the potential for offending someone. No racial jokes, no sexist put downs, no religious humour.


6. Take Your Time - Sometimes the most important part of a funny story is the pauses. Give your audience time to digest each step of the story. Never interrupt yourself in the middle of a funny story with sidebar comments, as it ruins the flow.

7. Make Eye Contact, With Everyone - Eye contact suggests sincerity and engages your audience, but don't focus on ONE person as that will make them feel uncomfortable and the others will feel left out.

8. Choose Your Voice Wisely - Unless you can do an accent perfectly, don't try. If the joke requires an accent, check it for ethnic suitability. Funny voices need to be used with caution.

9. Don't Laugh At Your Own Joke - A deadpan presentation often adds to the humour, while laughing will detract.

10. Believe in Yourself - Once you have screened the joke for the criteria above, have confidence in the humour and your ability to communicate it. Tell it with confidence.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


On Monday, February 2, the Stoneroad Toastmasters gathered to celebrate their club members' abilities and select their representatives to move on the to Area Speech Contest.

In the "Evaluation Contest" Andrew Isaak was selected to represent the club. In this category the contestants heard a speech from a visitor to the organization. Each in turn then gave a detailed and supportive evaluation of the speech. Contestants were not allowed to hear their predecessor's comments, but were able to listen to the evaluations that came after them.

Marion Reidel was selected to represent the club in the International Speech contest. This involved giving a 5 to 7 minute speech on any topic, which could be humorous, but needed to have a purposeful message as well. Marion spoke on her experience as a member of the "Sandwich Generation" stuck between raising adult children and assisting aging parents.

Andrew and Marion will represent the Stoneroad Toastmasters on Friday, March 13th in the Guelph city wide competition. Watch for location and time details to be posted soon.