Feedback & The Rule of Threes

No one individual is Superman

bodybuilder-weight-training-stress-38630.jpegOne of the most difficult questions most speakers may have to answer at some point in their speaking career is – “Are you coachable?” – As they try to find common ground between the edits of their coach, and their burning desire to be the speaker they are aspiring to be.

Good coaches give their protégé as much information as possible to improve the skills and style they already possess, however, as the protégé it is your responsibility to develop your learning strategy.  It is your responsibility to ask yourself – how I can apply this information, style or, try to discover where this will or will not work and why.  Finding the right answers to those questions can be challenging to both coach and protégé and may sometimes lead to the question – Are you coachable?

It is only natural to feel compelled to respond to comments or justify what someone said you did or should have done. It is in those times, I have found value in the rule of threes. Take note of the comment. If it is repeated – three different times, by three different people, in three different settings, there is a problem. Consult with your coach. Listen and take action on the feedback you receive. It is then your responsibility to go out again and test that feedback. In the speaking business, no one individual is Superman. Good coaches will suggest and urge you to test.

Make the rule of three an important part of your learning strategy. Be a sponge when you receive feedback from your coach. Seek to know more about how others respond to you as a speaker. Seek to know what you may be missing as a speaker. Don’t take feedback personally. If you can take feedback as being useful information for you and it is not about you, soon you will discover the true value of being a good protégé and the joy of being coachable.

The Value Of Quotes

Goals in Writing are Dreams with Deadlines – Brian Tracy

pexels-photo-290150.jpegQuotes strategically placed in stories can brighten speeches.  Over the years, I have amassed a collection of small books with quotes which add value to the point of my stories.  One of those books which I treasure is a thirty-two pager written by Brian Tracy entitled “Excerpts from The Treasury of Quotes”.

This book was given to me many years ago by a fellow Toastmaster. It contains one hundred and fifty quotes taken fresh from Brian Tracy’s journals, lectures, and audio recordings.  Each quote relates to some aspect of everyday life. Some of the topics addressed are attitude, possibility thinking, belief, desire, decision, character, integrity, honesty, and goals to name just a few.

Quotes I often use in my everyday speaking which sometimes ends up in my speeches are – “Your attitude is an expression of your values beliefs and expectations” – “Optimism is the one quality more associated with success and happiness than any other” – “Integrity is the foundation upon which all other values are built” and –  “Think before you act and then act decisively – Fortune favours the brave”.  All valuable quotes that can brighten your stories

One word of caution, make sure to always give credit to the author of your quotes. To quote Brian Tracey – “Truthfulness is the foundation upon which all other values are built” – And finally one of my favorites Tracy quotes? “Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines”.

Start building your own library of little books with quotes that will not only brighten your everyday communication but will also be the brighteners in your speeches as you discover, the value of quotes.

 

 

Gestures-Your Body Speaks

Use Posture, Gestures, Movements, Facial Expressions Eye Contact

In 1997 when I joined Toastmasters, one of the manuals I received along with my Communication and Leadership Handbook was one on “Gestures: Your Body Speaks”.  The focus of that manual was on how to use your body effectively to enhance your message. It is a book I still use, to remind me of the importance of gestures as we speak.

hand-the-hand-gesture-stick-39393.png
Let Your Body Mirror Your Feelings

As we speak, our bodies are constantly sending nonverbal messages which listeners judge. They judge both you and your message based on what they see as well as what they hear. If you want to become an effective speaker, you must understand how your body speaks.  While you can’t stop sending your audiences nonverbal messages, you can learn to manage, control and improve the messages we are sending to your audiences.

Action Speak Louder Than Words. Our goal in public speaking is to communicate. To be an effective speaker you must communicate earnestness, enthusiasm, and sincerity by making your manner and actions affirm what you say.  When you speak, people not only judge your speech, they also judge you. If they are not convinced of your earnestness and sincerity, they are unlikely to accept your message.

We remember more of what we see than what we hear.  It is difficult not to look at a moving object. People also remember messages that reach multiple scenes, however, we remember best when both our visual and auditory senses are involved.  As a speaker, you can capitalize on these tendencies by providing visual stimuli that capture your audience’s attention and enhance retention of your verbal message. Gestures, body movements, facial expressions – are all valuable tools to keep your audience engaged when skillfully employed.

To make your body speak eloquently, marshal your nonverbal tools. Use posture, gestures, body movements, facial expressions and eye contact effectively as you speak.  When your actions are wedded to you, your words will strengthen the impact of your speech.  Be yourself. The emphasis should be on communication and the sharing of your message or ideas. Strive to be as genuine and natural as when you are talking with friends and family members.

Believe in what you are saying. Let your body mirror your feelings as you share your message with others.  Let your physical movements come from within and make sure they are appropriate for what you are saying. If you involve yourself in your message, you will be natural and spontaneous.  Self-confidence through preparation is also vital. When you are well prepared, it is easier to focus on your message and your audience.  Practice and rehearse your material until it becomes a part of you but do not try to memorize your speech verbatim.

Whatever your vocal strengths and speaking skills are, your ability to visually communicate your ideas through gestures and other forms of body expression will enhance not just your presentations, but your overall effectiveness as a speaker. Practice your nonverbal communication. Make it an important part of your preparation. A videotape of your speech will often remind us of those unconscious mannerisms you may want to avoid and the ones that are an accurate perception of your body’s spoken image.

Excellence

To excel is to do Better Today than you did Yesterday

cropped-hmlogo.jpg
Together We All Can Achieve

Not long ago, I listened to a presentation by one of my fellow Toastmasters who reminded me why I joined Toastmasters and why so many of us who have remained faithful to this wonderful organization keep coming back.  And as I drove home from that meeting, I was reminded of a little book that was given to me years ago, by a Toastmaster I admire; Dana La Mon.  In his little black book entitled, “The Excellence Book” Dana writes that he was stuck as he contemplated his job and his career. As he considered what his focus should be in life, repeatedly, the word excellence flashed in his head.

 

In Dana’s little black book, he explains that to excel is to do better today than you did yesterday.  Compare your performance today with yesterday’s results and if you improved or advanced you excelled. If you see room for more improvement, you should be looking at tomorrow’s opportunities to excel. I have noticed over the years that those who keep coming back seeking excellence have found it. They find it by simply following the program and the promise they took when they first joined Toastmasters.

We all joined Toastmasters and attend meetings for different reasons, but there comes a time when we all will ask ourselves that question – “why do we keep coming back.” I do believe if you answer is in search of excellence, you are coming back for the right reasons. And that excellence extends beyond your personal goals. That excellence should be for your fellow members and your club as well to excel.

Doing your best should be your focus. Even if or when your decisions make you unpopular, always remember excellence demands that you do your best and not be the best. Keep excelling day by day and Together Excellence will be Achieved.

 

 

Impromptu Speaking & Table Topics

Table Topics are Powerful Tools for Growth as a Speaker.

IMG_4521 (1)Every day, we engage in impromptu speaking. In daily conversations, we speak off-the-cuff. At Toastmasters meetings, almost every club includes a Table Topics segment. Some clubs also include improv exercises to help speakers hone their spontaneous speaking skills.  Impromptu Speaking and Table Topics are powerful tools for your growth as a speaker.

  • When asked for your opinion, or a summary of a task at work, we are sometimes required to speak extemporaneously. Table Topics hones your skills at creating an impromptu response that is laser-focused, compelling and engaging. It is a skill that requires practice. With practice, you can become a natural, as you make it part of your everyday communication.  With practice, you will become adept at speaking on your feet without excessive umm’s, ah’s and you-knows.
  • Your primary goal when speaking extemporaneously should be to communicate effectively. Good communication begins with good listening.  In Table Topics, you are asked a question or,  you are required to comment on a statement.  As you listen silently to the topic, you should do a quick analysis. You should be able to quickly answer in your head if you are faced with a question or statement, for which you must share your opinion.
  • Next, a good strategy is to repeat or paraphrase the question out loud to your audience.  This will buy you some time to gather your thoughts.  Get your body language involved. Face your audience with confidence. Beginning your response,  a  smile is always a good start.  Focus on your audience and your audience’s attention will be focused on you as you prepare to make what will be the most important statement you will make to that audience.
  • You must answer the question or state your opinion with confidence.  You must also follow up your statement with an example, tell a story to make your point. Try to be unique. Add a twist to the subject.  Turn it upside down. Take the road less traveled. If your topic requires you to state the pros vs cons, find a balance and try to read your audience’s reactions as you state your position.
  • Finally, you should summarize your main points or position to remind your audience of your answer to the topic. Remember communication is not what you said, it is what your audience think you said.  Don’t leave your audience with any unanswered questions in your response. Be clear, be direct be engaging and remember your last words will remain with your audience even after you have left the platform. Choose your last words wisely.

Evaluate to Motivate

What you Saw – Heard – Felt

 

IMG_3179Public Speaking is a skill. Like any other skill, it can be improved and developed. One of the best ways of improving as a speaker is by studying the evaluations you receive from your fellow Toastmasters.  Evaluations are the heart of the Toastmasters educational program. We observe the speeches of our fellow Club members. We offer evaluations of their efforts. They, in turn, do the same for us. If you truly want to improve as a speaker, you must learn how to give and receive helpful evaluations. In Toastmasters, we evaluate to motivate.

Every speech in Toastmasters is a project with a different purpose and objectives.  As an evaluator, you will have difficulty evaluating a speech if you are not familiar with the project’s objectives. Before the Club meeting, you should obtain the manual from which the speaker is speaking and carefully read the project description and objectives. If it is a Pathways project, it is a good idea to get a copy of the project worksheet or checklist in addition to the Evaluation form.

Most evaluations can be broken down to simply what you saw, what you heard and what you felt. It is quite easy to spot a well-prepared speaker. In the words of Dr. Ralph Smedley, a prepared speaker should never be nervous. Recognize their poise, confidence and the speaker’s ability to connect with the audience. Nervous energy often produces negative results. In your room for improvement, a reference to what could be improved should be cited with specific reference to what the speaker did while at the lectern is or podium as well as what can be done for improvement in the future.

What you heard should be your opinion on if the speaker was able to achieve the goals and objectives of the project. Address the speaker directly, as you go “from one – the speaker- too many, the audience” Your evaluation is not a speech, it should do nothing that calls more attention to yourself than to your efforts to help the speaker improve.  Recognize the speaker’s vocal variety and his use of language.  Recognize the use of proper diction, contrast, rhyme, echo, and metaphors where possible as well as foundational statements.  Remind the audience of what you heard or did not hear.

Most evaluators tend to shy away from what they felt when the speaker made a reference that resonated them. Here, the evaluator can focus on the six emotions to which all humans relate.  The evaluator can recall with statements like -When you recalled the experiences, you shared about your parents, I felt happy, I felt your fear, I was sad or surprised, angry or even disgusted. Use the emotions you felt to draw your audience back in time and into the picture or scene the speaker created.

Make every effort to develop your evaluation skills. As you develop your evaluation skills, you will also become a better speaker.  Observe other evaluators. Ask questions about your evaluations. Pathways have a module, which gives us the opportunity practice evaluations online.  With more exposure to a variety of evaluations, you will be able to improve. You will also be able to use your evaluation skills outside of Toastmasters to become more confident in your interactions at work, at home and even at play. Whenever you evaluate, remember we evaluate to motivate.

Your Communication Style

Communication Styles are Often Situational.

IMG_2915Communication is a two-way process for reaching mutual understanding through verbal, non-verbal, and written messages.   Determining your own communication style can help you improve how you share information with others.  Learning how to communicate effectively with styles that are different from your own, will enable you to establish effective relationships and create better understanding. 

Some communications styles are Sociable – Decisive – Cautious – Patient. When Collaborating with other we may be Cooperative, Spontaneous, Competitive or Precise. When sharing feelings with others we are sometimes Reserved, Private, Sympathetic, or Self-assured.  How others perceive us is also important.  Some may perceive you to be Gentle – Result-oriented – Fun-Loving or Disciplined.  The goal of understanding your communication style preferences is to communicate with others in a way that is comfortable and effective when we find ourselves in different settings.

It is important to recognize how effective communication can affect your interactions with others. It can lead to higher efficiency and good moral in the workplace, increased innovation and creative potential in groups, and satisfactory personal and familial relationships. Communication styles are often situational. Be sure to monitor your application of communication styles.

Decide if your current style is effective based on feedback and outcomes. If necessary, adjust your behavior and adopt new styles to fit a situation, team, or person. Recognize and adjust your style of communication to reach a mutual understanding.

Direct: This style is decisive, competitive, independent, and confident.  Direct communicators prefer you to get to the point quickly and in a succinct manner.

Initiating: This style is sociable, enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, and fun-loving. Initiating communicators value interacting with others and sharing stories.

Supportive: This style is calm, steady, approachable, sincere, and gentle. Supportive communicators appreciate a calm, steady approach.

Analytical: This style is precise, exact, analytical, and logical. Analytical communicators like facts, data, and figures.

It is my hope that you can now better understand your communication style.

Speechwriting Secrets

Borrow From the Pros

IMG_3137 (1)To quote Dr.  Ralph C Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, “Speech is much more than merely standing before an audience and saying something”, however, when you get an opportunity to say something to an audience, you want to make sure that opportunity is not wasted.  So what do you do when you don’t have an army of speechwriters like presidents, politicians, and CEOs – You borrow from the pros.

There are many examples of great speeches written and delivered by professionals that can be used as excellent examples of good speechwriting. What is most important to look for in those examples is their structure. In order to better understand what structure is all about, you have to write out your speech.  Many good coaches can look at your structure to conclude if your speech is good or bad.

David Brooks, a speechwriter, and coach I admire often says in his coaching sessions, “great speeches are not written they are rewritten”. After getting down the basics; a strong beginning, an informative middle, and a memorable ending, that is when the rewriting begins. Have a well-defined structure that both you and your audience can follow.  Don’t wait until you face your audience to start your rewriting on stage,  don’t try to wing it, that’s when most speakers get into trouble.

While it is great to have a well-rehearsed strong opening, being in the moment also makes for a good opening. Tagging a line from the previous speaker to maintain the power already created in the room works well for most audiences, however, you should choose that tagline carefully. From there go back to your script. If you can deliver eighty percent of what you have written, you should be in good shape. The other twenty percent should be those spontaneous opportunities you observe to connect with your audience.

The personal stories you tell can leave a lasting impression on your audience, therefore they should be delivered from the heart and not read.  All of my mentors strongly emphasizes that “good speeches are delivered not read”. Even if the personal stories included in your speech are written in some format, switch the eighty-twenty rule for that part of your speech. Eight percent Off-Script and if you must, twenty percent scripted. Your stories will be much more believable and better received.

Create your own power or catchphrases to make your message resonate with your audience. Those phrases will resonate with both you and your audiences even long have you have given that speech. As you continue the process of rewriting, you will begin to see more and more opportunities to add humor and phrases that will personalize your speeches. Power statements and catchphrases add life to your speeches. They should roll off your tongue as if you are releasing a small part of you.

I always recommend that you “Open to Close”.  Go back to the opening to recall the statements that laid the foundation for your speech. The statements you stated as the reason for you facing that particular audience. Your closing is your opportunity to drive home your message. It is your opportunity to close the deal. And if after all is said and done, your audience is just all revved up and ready to take some actions all because of your message, you would have done much more than merely stand before an audience to say something. You are now well on the road to presenting as a pro.

 

 

 

International Speech Contest Tips

What Will Be Your Magic Moment

TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL SPEECH CONTEST PREPARATION & DELIVERY

Topic Selection – Questions Before Beginning The Process

  • Are you passionate about the subject?
  • Is this an appropriate subject for this particular audience?
  • What will be your  Magic Moment?
  • Who is the HERO of my story?
  • What is the Purpose/Point of the speech?

Types of Speeches:

  • Informative: A clear and concise delivery of information of facts.
  • Entertaining: Focusing on keeping your audience happy and entertained.
  • Persuasive or Motivational: To encourage your audience to take action.

 The Two Stages – The Four P’s 

  1. Preparation: The process of documenting and researching your topic.
  2. Presentation: Practicing and delivering your speech.

 The Parts of Your Speech

  • Speech Title: Short – Don’t let your title  give away the speech
  • First Expressions: Effective Openings. (Humor –Thought Provoking)
  • Salutations – Place Your Salutations in the first minute (Mr. TM etc – Optional).
  • Your check-In Establish a connection with your audience.
  • Your High Five – Five lines which tell where your story is heading.
  • Conclusion Indication that you are about to close. ( My Fellow Toastmasters)
  • Your Take Away – Your Call to Action.

Decide what you want listeners to Think – Feel or Do.

  • Your attention getter * Your first sentence* Be provocative*
  • Identify with your topic early. Let your audience know where you are heading.
  • Get your audience to agree with your point of view. (Read your audience)
  • Structure your main points so that your audience can recall them.

The four points of attack: Your 4 H factors:

Head > Heart > Humor > Heavy Lifting – Heavy Lifting – Taking your audience on the journey after you have engaged them with head, heart, and humor.

How to time your speech:

Calculate your rate of speaking. Men average 125 wpm while women average 150 wpm.  Some speeches may have averaged 600 -750 while other averaged 800 – 1100

  • Five to seven-minute speeches should average 750 to 800 words – for comfort.
  • Use single syllable words
  • A picture is worth ……..
  • With pictures or a prop, you could increase that number significantly.
  • Place important words at the beginning or the end of your sentences.

    Delivery

  • Use familiar words: Use everyday speaking language.
  • Use short sentences: They can be very effective after a long sentence.
  • Personalize stories: Speak from the heart.
  • Turn the ordinary to extraordinary: Remove unnecessary words.
  • Use vivid Language: Use descriptive words. Paint word pictures.

Silence is just as important as the spoken word. 

  • Pause before and after important ideas.
  • If you speak continuously you will lose your audience.
  • Strategically placed pauses can say more than words.
  • The silence after the pause sends the message.

 Make a point – Tell a Story – Make a Point  –  The Six words that can change the way you speak and deliver your message. The six emotions we all respond to – Happiness, Sadness, Surprise, Anger, Fear, Disgust

Don’t give your speech— Deliver it – Use Martin Joo’s Speech Registers

  • Frozen Formal Consultative Casual Intimate – Registers to deliver your message
  • Use the platform carefully to lay out your speech.  Watch Your Placements.
  • Develop a speech storyboard.
  • Watch your Vocal Variety and Body language – Your Body Speaks.
  • Video Tape and self-evaluate your speech. (Sound on /Sound off)

Don’t Memorize – Internalize Your Speech:

  • Practice but don’t memorize the speech. Live it on stage -Be in the moment
  • Improve your physical fitness…Your breathing is very important to your delivery
  • Speak frequently at other clubs. Stage time… Stage time
  • Become familiar with the venue: The lights the sound the stage. Try to get a view of the audience from the speaking area before you are introduced to speak.
  • Expect the unexpected. Take advantage of it where possible.

 

What Is A Tall Tale

A short story, true or fictitious!

Blue hills

WHAT IS A TOASTMASTERS TALL TALE

A contest in which contestants present a three to five-minute speech on a topic that is highly-exaggerated and improbable in theme or plot. Once you are a member in good standing, you can compete. There are no other pre-requirements. however, contestants who speak for less than two minutes 30 seconds or more than five minutes 30 seconds will be disqualified

Webster describes a tall tale as a “Narrative of events that have happened or are imagined to have happened.” It is usually a short story, true or fictitious. It could be a piece of information, gossip, rumor, falsehood or a lie. Today we call that “fake news”.

My first competitive tall tale speech contest was in 1999. I entered my first contest after completing four CTM – Competent Toastmaster Manual Speeches – with my speech entitle Hell’s Paradise. That speech took me all the way to District. One of the lessons I learned very early was since your speech must impress your audience as well as the judges, a good place to start is the judging criteria. I also studied the score sheets as I prepared my speech.  I would highly recommend that you pay close attention to the following:

SPEECH DEVELOPMENT: The way the speaker puts ideas together so the audience can understand them. A good Tall Tale speech immediately engages the audience’s attention and builds to a conclusion. 30 Points

SPEECH TECHNIQUES:  Refers to the use of various tall tales skills, such as exaggeration, irony, pun, humor and surprise twists.  These techniques are the essence of making a tall tale successful. If you skillfully incorporate those techniques into your tall tale, you will be successful.   25 Points

APPROPRIATENESS OF LANGUAGE:  Refers to the choice of words that relate to the speech purpose and to the particular audience hearing the speech. Language should promote a clear understanding of thoughts.  Language should fit the occasion and be in good taste. 10 points

PHYSICAL:   Presentation of a speech carries part of the responsibility for effective communication. Body language should support points through gestures, expressions and body positions. 15 points

VOICE:  The sound that carries the message – Your voice should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another for emphasis, and should have a variety of rate and volume. A good speaking voice can be heard and the words easily understood. 15 Points

LANGUAGE: Refers to the choice of words that relate to the story. Language should promote a clear understanding of thoughts and should fit the occasion precisely. Proper use of grammar and correct pronunciation will show that the speaker is the master of the words used. 5 points

IN DAYS OF OLD WHEN MEN WERE BOLD:  Tall tale narratives depicted the wild adventures of extravagantly exaggerated folk heroes. Those tall tales were essentially an oral form of entertainment that took audiences on an imaginative invention rather than the literal meaning of the tales.  Associated with the lore of the American frontier, tall tales often explain the origins of lakes, mountains, and canyons. They were spun around such legendary heroes as Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack of the Pacific Northwest; Mike Fink, the rowdy Mississippi River keel boatman; and Davy Crockett, the backwoods Tennessee sharpshooter. Other tall tales recount the superhuman exploits of western cowboy heroes such as William F. Cody and Annie Oakley.

MODERN DAY TALL TALES: Even if you never went fishing, we all have a fish story to tell. The one that got away or even the minion swimming in kid’s aquarium that was HUGE! Tall tales can be an event that took place on any given day in your life.  One of mine entitled “No U-Turn” tells the story of making an illegal U-turn one day on my way to work.   A cop stopped me and asked! I replied-BECAUSE THE SIGN SAID SO – officer  — (cop) Oh – Really – (me) Yes – I wanted to go straight and the sign said “ No .. U … Turn”.  When the cop decided to call for backup with a straight jacket, I had to confess that I was just a Toastmaster practicing my pauses and got a bit carried away – – which she was getting ready to do to me literally. Would you believe, she did not give me a ticket?  What a nice cop.  (Exaggerate!  Exaggerate!  Exaggerate! …That is the key)

Hell’s Paradise was another about companies that were dominating the software market in the eighties and nineties.  Now I do not want to name names but I am sure you too will get my drift even if you were not around back then. One of those companies was rotten to the core,  while the other’s view of the world was, in my opinion, a bit micro and soft.  On that premise, I built “Hells Paradise”.  Was I ever so wrong?  We all got googled by a company of ten, raised to the one-hundredth power. Go figure…  A play on words is also a good tall tale technique.

Look at your life and I am sure you will find many stories you can spin into a tall tale.  If you can get your audience to express that look that says – REALLY, NO. PERHAPS THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE; you are hitting your mark. Take your audience to the edge of the precipices and dare them to believe we are both going to jump but you must go first.  That is when you must give the moral of your story or leave them to figure out the “rest of the story” which is the life lesson we should take away from every Tall Tale.

%d bloggers like this: