Monday, June 15, 2009


Education session by Terri Millar, based on an article in "Toastmaster" magazine, Sept. 2006.

When you are asked to speak at a meeting it is a valuable opportunity to influence others. You are in a position to gain the respect of colleagues, and it is a chance to learn as well as teach. The following are five important points to consider.

1. Be Prepared
If you have advance notice of the presentation take time to plan out your comments. Do some research to gather statistics and other relevant information. Find out who the audience will be and the time allotted, so you can meet expectations. Review the notes from previous meetings on the subject, so you can build on past work.
If it is a spontaneous opportunity don't panic. Pause and gather your thoughts. Pick one big point that you want to make and make it clearly. Frame your comments logically. Speak with authority and you will appear confident and thus be more influential.

2. Listening Is Just As Important As Talking
Check the pulse of the group by listening to their comments. Assess whether they prefer interaction. Listen to the previous speakers and build on their comments to make your remarks more powerful. This linking of ideas also gives the meeting continuity. You may need to revise your planned input in light of prior comments.

3. Lead With Questions
This is a mens of checking the pulse of your audience. When you clarify their needs it connects you to your audience, and also ensures their focus.

4. Don't Marry Your Ideas
Finding solutions is a process and is usually the result of group input. It is important not to be emotionally attached to your ideas. Be prepared to adapt, don't get defensive, and don't worry if someone else gets the credit for an idea you initiated. On the other hand, don't brush off a compliment. Be humble, but accept credit when appropriately given. Share credit with others when they've contributed, acknowledge their input graciously.

5. Know When NOT To Talk
Watch for opportunities to hear feedback, it's a powerful learning experience. Know the power of group contributions and listen to questions. This is especially important if you're new to the group. Listening can help you understand the meeting culture and group dynamics.

Monday, June 1, 2009


At our June 1 meeting, Linda Neff reported on a two day training session she attended which was presented by International Toastmaster Champions Darren LaCroix and Craig Valentine. The program titled, "Get Coached to Speak! Champ Camp", offered four people the opportunity to be coached on a speech presentation, while the remainder of the participants were able to learn by observing the experience and participating in the feedback sessions.
On day one the four focus speakers each gave a 5 to 7 minute prepared speech. Linda indicated that the learning experience was to hear, and participate in the the one hour feedback session following each speech. LaCroix and Valentine gave specific guidance on how the speaker could improve both the writing and delivery of the speech. Then, on the second day, the speakers presented the revised version of their speech. Linda said it was impressive to see the amount of progress they had made in this short period of time. Following the revised presentation the group offered further feedback and small sections of the speech were tweaked again.
The participants included a wide range of experience. All four speakers focused on topics of great personal importance and by the end of the sessions had a highly polished product that could be developed into a keynote speech for any number of occasions
The inspirational report to the Stone Road Toastmasters ended with Linda offering a few quotes by LaCroix and Valentine, from the notes she had taken at the training session.
"Sometimes we want validation, instead of education."
"The audience does not want you to be perfect, they want you to be present."
"When yo are getting feedback, look for patterns, not isolated comments."
"Techniques need to become automatic, so they are invisible."
"No technique can beat heart."
"Great speeches are not written, they are rewritten."
"A message is a mess...with age."