Pathways to Your Communication Leadership Success

The Pathways Program is an evolution in our Toastmasters experience. You now get to customize your learning to fit your goals and needs. It provides the flexibility to choose what you want to learn. You can also select the skills you wish to improve as you continue to manage your Toastmasters education. Pathways sets you on a personal and professional journey of development that reflects the Toastmasters mission. It is a Pathway to your Communication and Leadership success.  

With Pathways, you broaden your abilities to meet the goals you have set for yourself. You start by choosing from 11 learning paths: Dynamic Leadership, Effective Coaching, Leadership Development, Motivational Strategies, Persuasive Influence, Presentation Mastery, Strategic Relationships, Team Collaboration, Visionary Communication, and Engaging Humor.

All paths are based on five core competencies:

      1. Public Speaking
      2. Interpersonal Communication
      3. Strategic Leadership
      4. Management
      5. Building Confidence

Each path is designed to help you achieve the last competency, confidence. The Presentation Mastery path focuses solely on public speaking skills and building confidence in your abilities. Public speaking is a crucial component of the other ten paths. Each path requires you to give a minimum of 15 prepared speeches. Each of the ten paths is divided into five levels. The levels are:

      1. Level 1: Mastering Fundamentals
      2. Level 2: Learning Your Style
      3. Level 3: Increasing Knowledge
      4. Level 4: Building Skills
      5. Level 5: Demonstrating Expertise

The goal throughout Pathways is to apply what you learn as you move from earlier to later levels.   

The evaluation process is standardized in Pathways. It encourages everyone to give evaluations that are objective and constructive. The first page provides an overview of the assignment to help the evaluator understand what you are trying to accomplish. There is also space for general comments about your speech. Speakers should submit the completed form to the Toastmaster and Evaluator for every speech before each meeting.

Your evaluator will use the second page to score the skills you demonstrated during your presentation. Evaluations are scored on a scale of 5 to 1, with five being the highest and one being the lowest. Summarize your evaluations. It is a good idea to monitor your three strengths and weaknesses of each assessment to help you focus on areas of improvement.   

Mentorship is an essential part of the Toastmasters experience. The Pathway Mentor Program is a structured program that will help you identify when you are ready to be a mentor. You will be able to enroll in this Program, once you complete Level 2 of your path. There is no extra charge for pursuing the Pathways Mentor Program. There are four projects in the Program, including “Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring” at Level 2, which everyone will complete. 

The Pathways Program is your journey to achieving your communication and leadership goals. When you pursue and achieve your goals, they benefit you, your club, Area, Division, and your District. The Pathways Program is the path to your Communication and Leadership success.

Communicating with Empathy

When both are listening, both are connecting.

Communicating with empathy is a skill all speakers must develop to connect with their audiences. Some may ask how you do that when you are on the platform. You observe your audiences’ body language. We all have heard these words of wisdom by Ralph Waldo Emmerson repeatedly: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.” That statement goes both ways. Studies show that your words account for only 7% of the message we convey. The remaining 93% is non-verbal. What about the non-verbal responses you are receiving from your audience. Should you ignore them? No! Communicating with empathy is crucial; whether you are the speaker or listener, when both are listening, both are connecting.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feeling of others. Reading your listener’s reactions does not mean your audience will agree with everything you are communicating. Your presentation is your point of view. You can show empathy by showing that you care, and you are willing to understand why your audience may feel a particular way when you sense agreement or disagreement. Granted, you are not going to make significant changes to your speech when you are on the platform; however, if you take a moment to acknowledge your audience’s reaction, they are more inclined to connect with you. When you sense disagreement, you can show compassion or use eye contact to maintain your connection.

Your audience responses are usually nonverbal; however, a smile or a questioning look will often alert you to the fact that you may have made a connection or have raised a question in the minds of your audience. All unanswered questions are distractions. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes for just a moment. Listeners want to understand what the speaker is communicating. They may have silently verbalized what they have just heard. It is only natural for listeners to respond in a manner that shows agreement or disagreement with the speaker. The speakers who tune into their audience reactions and responses will usually make a connection. Those speakers also practice their formula for maintaining that connection with their audience.

Regardless of how strange your audience responses may appear, it is wise to believe that they will always have a rational explanation for their reaction. Go with the flow as you try to understand their frame of reference. Understanding is an essential first step, especially when dealing with difficult topics. By letting the listener express their deepest emotions, you will most likely understand their frame of reference. As is often said, seek to understand, if you wish to be understood. How you choose to frame your reaction can also make all the difference in defusing disagreements when you are on the platform.

Some speakers handle strong emotions with success by deflecting their feelings. The practice being counter-intuitive. They turn right when you are expecting them to go left. That move can even generate a bit of humor at times. Observe and acknowledge the body language you are receiving as you speak. Make small adjustments as you deliver your presentation. Be in the moment. Maintaining a connection with your audience will determine your success or failure on the platform. When you can make everyone feel special – when you can make people listen and know that you care – when you are present, you are communicating with empathy.

Communicating Effectively

Silence sends the message.

20190423_144540Effective communication depends on the development of your speaking and listening skills. We speak to be heard, understood, and to be repeated when communicating. However, when the message sent is not the message received, we seldom focus on if the listener was listening effectively. Effective communication is sharing information in a manner that the listener understands what the speaker is saying. It also depends not only on what is said but also on what’s heard. What is heard may not be the result of how what was said but more about well we listen. We can significantly improve our communication skills when we are conscious of how we communicate as the speaker as well as the listener.

The first question we should ask ourselves is how present we are – when we are the listener. As the listener, do we impress upon the speaker we are ready to tune in to their message? Do we assure the speaker that they have our undivided attention? When speakers are on the platform, they can emphasize the importance of receiving the audience’s attention by patiently waiting in silence before delivering their first words. Body language will tell you when your audience is ready with high expectations and are prepared to listen. And when you begin speaking, the onus is on you to fulfill their expectations by continuously reading their active or silent responses to let you know how what you are communicating is being heard and received.

How you convey your message will determine your success or failure on or off the platform. It is not what you say; it is also how it is said. The body language of the listener will tell if they understand what they are hearing. Their smiles or icey steers will make you realize if your listeners are uncomfortable with what you are delivering. As you speak, you must read your audience’s emotional responses. Their agreement sometimes takes place silently. When communication is being conducted face to face silence, should not be regarded as an opportunity to butt in quickly. Active listening requires that you wait your turn to make an appropriate response at the right time. When you are the listener, whether the speaker is on or off the platform, let your speaker pause. Silence sends the message.

Speakers and listeners can significantly improve their communication by developing good habits and correcting bad practices. The best place to start is by observing how you communicate at home. Focus on reading the body language you are receiving as you speak. Resist trying to begin speaking before you have your audience’s undivided attention. Be clear about what you heard before attempting to respond and to be understood. Use that moment of silence to ask your audience before you begin speaking, are prepared to start listening? And once you are sure that you, the speaker and listener, have established a connection. The messages you send will be messages received, and both speaker and listener are now well on a path to communicating effectively.

What is Your Purpose

The Four Basic Classifications of Purpose


fb_img_1573652958802Often, it is said when you speak from your heart, the world will listen. However, whether you are on or off the platform, you must have a purpose before you begin speaking. If you don’t have a purpose, you don’t have a speech. You may have received that bit of wisdom many moons ago from your parents when you were taught; it is best to say nothing if you have nothing to say. Speaking; public or private, all boils down to this simple question, what is your purpose – Is your intention to Inform, Inspire, Persuade, or Entertain? While you can achieve all four of those goals in a single presentation, one of those four basic classifications of purpose should be your primary focus. 

The Four Basic Classifications of Purpose are To:

1. Inform or Instruct – This is a skill mastered by many teachers seeking to unveil the mysteries of life. Legislators, politicians, and advocates also inform when lobbying to win the votes of candidates. They all speak to inform or instruct when presenting facts, figures, and data. When presenting data, facts, and figures, if your focus is on “speaking to inform,” you will achieve your objectives.  

2. Stimulate or Inspire. Preachers are experts at being inspirational. When your purpose is to stimulate or inspire others to come with you to the promised land, that’s quite a tall order. Exciting and inspiring your audience may also take some teaching and quite a lot of preaching. But finding that right balance is most important. Remember, you are speaking more to the heart than the head. First, speak to the heart, and the head will follow.   

3. Persuade or Convince. All speaking is selling. You may be selling a product, idea, or speech. Selling requires the skills of a salesperson. Many use the AIDA formula. A-attention – I-interest D-desire and A-action. Salespersons don’t just try to sell you their product. They sell you how that item will make you feel or how it will improve your lifestyle. They sell the new car smell, that modern look or a bigger house, although their primary focus is your pocketbook and closing the sale. 

4. Entertain or AmuseThe most difficult of the four. Humor is a double-edged sword. Humor can damage your purpose if your primary focus is to Instruct, Inspire, or Convince. When your sole purpose for being on the platform is to amuse or entertain, you can add some teaching, preaching, or persuading. However, if your primary focus is on amusing and entertaining your audience, you would achieve your purpose when you focus on humor. You don’t have to be a comedian. Writing to amuse or entertain is a skill mastered by few, but admired by many. 

As you can see, all four of the classifications are interrelated, but your primary purpose must be obvious to your audience. The trick is to find that perfect balance when using all four in a presentation. No one wants to be schooled, persuaded, or even entertained for the entire duration of a speech. Audiences enjoy being treated to your use of language as you deliver your message – When your reason for being on the platform is evident. When you are sure you will convince your audience to take some action or make changes to their life or the lives of others after hearing you speak, your talk or speech will achieve the first requirement of speaking in public – your purpose. And whether you are on off the platform, if you speak from your heart, the world will listen.

  

Concluding Like The Masters

Churchill, King, Regan Kennedy, and their famous speechwriters.

20180621_214212The great orators and their speechwriters all used words of wisdom and quotes to highlight their POV – Point of View and to complement their speeches. They all quote the good book, for it is written. Churchill, King, Regan, Kennedy, all referenced the Psalms, Proverbs, and their personal stories that became statements or phrases wordy of being repeated. Great speakers speak to be heard, to be remembered, and to be repeated. Their opening remarks are direct and bold. However, it is in their closings; they appealed to the emotions of everyone, rallying their troops and delivering words of wisdom that continue to linger in the hearts and minds of audiences long after their applause.

Endings are your final opportunity to leave your audience with a lasting impression of your presentation and you, the speaker. Last words linger. It is for that reason, I strongly recommend you develop your powerful endings just as the great ones did. When you use a quote or your words of wisdom associated with the great orators, you sometimes shift the power and focus away from you, the speaker, tothe masters. It is wise to quickly refocus your audience with a power statement of your own. Many of your best endings will often come to you from your personal stories. No one can relate your stories better than you, even when you struggle emotionally to find the right words. In your words and wisdom, someone will always find the power in your truth.

The process of closing requires as much attention and planning as your opening. Why try to be Columbus. Learn from the great ones, but retain the power of the moment. The moment is yours. The passion and relationships you built with that audience are in your hands. If you choose to use the words of wisdom of one the masters, add your personal touch. Always remember, it is much more profound to close with one of your anecdotes or power statements than theirs. Give your closing the attention it deserves. Avoid ending similar to, in conclusion – Finally, That’s all I have or, the dreaded – Oops! I have just run out of time. Closings work best when you telegraph to the audience a sense of closure, and you are wrapping things up. You are now adding the bow to your gift – the speech – to the audience.

Signal to your audience, you are in wrapup mode by summarizing your main points. Make a call to action – ask a rhetorical question or a series of questions – build the energy and tension in the room – add drama to your closing remarks. Refer to a power statement you made in your opening if you had one. You are at that point of your talk where you must speak to the hearts and minds of your audience. When your closing inspires your audience to repeat your words, repeat your anecdotes, and repeat your unique sayings, your closing will linger to leave a lasting impression on the lives of your audience. Develop and use your words of wisdom and quotes with pride, hope, and love. And who knows; someday you will be quoted for your own memorable words of wisdom like the great orators of all times – Churchill, King, Regan Kennedy, and their famous speechwriters.

Beginning Your Speech – Tell Me More

Pleasantries and excuses for any reason are nonstarters.

fb_img_1573652958802The first moments of your speech are often the most critical. In those opening moments, you have the full attention of your audience. They are sizing you up. If that audience have never seen or heard you speak before, expectations are heightened. Your opening will often determines if you will hold that attention to take your audience to another level or fall flat, leaving everyone uninspired and disappointed. In those opening moments, you want to grab the attention of your audience. You want to introduce your topic. You need to establish rapport, or check in with your audience before transitioning smoothly into the body of your presentation. You want them to think quuietly -tel me more.

Your introduction and speech title should create anticipation, add drama and suspense to your opening. In the interest of time and to avoid boredom, what was said in your introduction should not be repeated. Your speech title will still be in the minds of your audience. I often try to have my title function like a light switch. Ask yourself the question, would this title switch my audience on – off – or perhaps do both. I have found that both works best when it makes your audience think – “tell me more.” Take time to decide on a title that does not give away your presentation but offers a hint of what’s to follow, whets their appetite, and inspires your audience to think as they increase their attention, to you and your presentation, “tell me more.”

Pleasantries and excuses for any reason are nonstarters. With that type of opening, you will surely lose your audience most likely, for the rest of your speech. Your introduction must hold on to the gift, the initial attention and spotlight drawn to you and your presentation by your presenter. A smile, good eye contact, enthusiasm, or a follow up comment about your introduction, if appropriate, are good audience ice-breakers. However, remember to stay focused on your purpose and topic. Begin your presentation. When your listeners understand your topic and why they should listen to your speech, they will always pay closer attention. One technique I sometimes use to hold on to my audience is to make a promise early. Remind them of that promise a few times during the presentation and fulfill the promise before closing.

In your opening, take a moment to establish rapport with your audience. If you appear to be angry or frustrated, your demeanor will negatively resonate with your audience. If you appear to be all positive or all negative, that too can be a turnoff. Strike a balance with what you are presenting. You can begin by stating a vital statistic, shock your audience with an outrageous comment, arouse suspense or curiosity or, tell a moving story. Balance works best. If you built tension, resolve it. Contrast is also an excellent technique to pique your listener’s interest. Whatever you do, your gold should be to draw your audience to you and the value of your presentation. First impressions are lasting. Often, you will only have one chance to create that first impression. That one chance is the first moment of your speech may very well be when your audience is thinking quietly – Tell Me More.

Your Feedback Partner

Training your feedback partner to evaluate you is a good idea.

20191212_131721Do you have a feedback partner? We hear it repeatedly; we learn through feedback. Still, it is one of the most problematic aspects of bringing a speech to the platform. What do you do with all that feedback you receive? How do you separate feedback from opinions. We all know, not all feedback is useful; however, all comments are worth careful examination.  Constructive criticism is helpful; they make you take a more in-depth look into what your audience may be hearing, thinking, and feeling. To help you develop those analytics, a feedback partner can be a tremendous asset to your development as a speaker.

Training your feedback partner to evaluate you is a good idea. You know what you are trying to achieve as a speaker. Find someone with whom you share similar goals and would tell you precisely what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. Sure, it can be disheartening to hear the speech you worked on for months or years still requires a tremendous amount of work. I know the feeling very well. However, my feedback partner has always been the one I would turn to before being judgmental about any feedback I receive.

Take turns giving and receiving feedback from your partner. Become familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Discuss all weaknesses and be specific about what each other is trying to achieve. A well-prepared speech is just the beginning of the delivery process. Discuss the many aspects of your delivery to determine where you need the most help. Address one of your concerns in each evaluation. One evaluation can be about your breathing, transitions, or vocal variety. Be clear about what you want your partner to focus on. A feedback partner, who is familiar with your speaking style, is the best person to provide you with their observations.

It is also essential to look for repeated comments in your evaluations. Discuss those comments with your partner. When you are receiving the same observation from different evaluators, at different times, that is most likely an alert to a habit worth avoiding. It is common to resort to what comes naturally when we are under pressure. Even when we know that habit is substandard, but feels good, we will more often than not, resort to it when it is in our comfort zone. Breaking those bad habits do not come easy. Find that special someone with whom you are comfortable, and over time, you will achieve the success you are seeking to become someone’s, super feedback partner.

Your three Ps of Public Speaking

Your purpose and point should go hand in hand

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The Bernal Hill

What are your three Ps of Public Speaking?  For some of us, it is Preparation, Practice & Presentation for others – Pitch, Pace & Pauses. Then there it is Practice. Practice. Practice. While all your Ps are import parts of the process of bringing a speech to the platform, when you focus on your Preparation, all your other P’s fall into place.

A question we all should ask ourselves as we begin our preparation is what my purpose for speaking is – Is it to inform, persuade, inspire, or entertain? If you do not have a purpose, then what is the point of speaking?  Once you are clear about your purpose, the points will often follow. Your audience will be more inclined to accept you and the points you make when they are interested in your purpose.  Your purpose and point should go hand in hand. Next, you should decide on the strategies you would use to make your purpose resonate with that audience. You can use humor, statistics, or an opening that is thought-provoking to arouse curiosity about what will follow.

Presenters should make sure they are appropriately dressed for the type of information they plan to present. First impressions count. When you step unto the platform, before you utter your first words, your attire will determine the chatter in the minds of your audience. Your credibility is on the line when it comes to how you look. Your clothes speak as loudly as what you do or say when you are on the platform. If your audience respects you, they are more likely to consider your ideas and suggestions. How you present yourself will significantly influence the results when your objective is to inform, persuade, inspire, or just attempting to be funny.

How you practice can make all the difference. Formal or casual Practice can take place anytime, anywhere. There are times you will need an audience and times when you will not. You can practice the flow of your speech, rhythm, or timing, even when you are driving. Today, we have the option also to practice online. That gives us the added dimension of seeing ourselves as we practice, which can help us correct the bad habits we develop. We should always remember what your Practice becomes permanent. Review your presentation as if you are a member of your audience. Evaluate what you saw heard and felt based on the purpose of your presentation. If you get your point, you have found your three Ps of public speaking

The Preacher and the Farmer

Our bounty is the spoken word

20200326_105949There is an old story often told about a Farmer and a Preacher both standing side by side, admiring the bounty the Farmer’s farm had produced. The preacher said to the Farmer, “Wow – what a beautiful farm you and the Lord have here.” The Farmer smiled and replied – “yes, for sure, my skills helped, but you should have seen it when the Lord had it all to himself.”

There are many lessons one can glean from that story. However, my take was the Farmer, in his wisdom, was referring to the preachers who often comment on the results. Many have no idea of the humble beginning, which leads to that end. I do believe the Farmer was also making the point that the skills you develop are your blessings, but its hard work that produces your bounty.

Many years ago, I was asked by my first coach, if you had the choice to be mentored by an MBA or a Farmer, who would you choose. Completely forgetting that old story, I selected the MBA. My coach favored the Farmer. But over the years, my coach made me realize how much Farmers and Public Speakers have in common. Time made me realize why my coach chose the Farmer and not the MBA. He also felt that some of the latter are fake and full of it, fertilizer if you wish to be kind.

If you were to take some time to examine the work ethic Public Speakers and Farmers must possess, you too will recognize the similarities and their differences. Both the Farmer and Public Speaker are well aware of the importance of being prepared. They both are mindful of how critical it is to practice best practices. Also, they both are aware that the bounty they produce is not for themselves, but their audiences and customers.

Farmers and speakers know, to succeed, you must supply the market with what it needs. They both know you must bring your best products to the market. They know the importance of rotation. Long before they plant that first seed, they know their soil has to be well prepared. They also know better than anyone; that it is not if, but when things go wrong, you must have a solid backup plan in place. Public speakers require a different set of skills; however, their objectives are all the same – Excellence! Excellence that demands that you always do your best and not that you always be the best.

A common mistake some speakers make is, believing they must always give a new speech each time they face an audience. That is like asking the Farmer to bring a new product each time they go to market.  Time has shown me that the repeated performances of a task will more often than not result in improvement over past efforts. I highly recommend the good, better, best approach, which I regularly use. Good better best, never let your good speeches rest, until they become your better, and your better speeches your best.

The gift of speech is one of the remarkable skills we possess. It is a gift we must not take for granted. Our bounty is the spoken word. Language in all its beauty is our gift to all humankind. As a Public Speakers, I believe when you dedicate your life to be of service to others, just as the Farmer does daily, you too will one day be able to say to the preachers admiring your bounty, yes it took some skills – but you should have heard me when I did my very first icebreaker.

Speaking From Squares

Great speeches are not read; they are delivered.

 

IMG_6299Speaking from Squares can be fun. I often use squares to turn topics into speeches using squares. I begin with a blank sheet of paper. Fold it lengthways first, then once over to end up with four squares. If the plan is to deliver a longer speech, fold the square sheet one more time to end up with eight rectangles; however, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s call them square.

Now, unfold the entire sheet of paper. For a short address, you now have four squares. For longer speeches, you have eight squares to work with. You also have a crease like a spine running down the center of the page. On that crease, write your foundational statement to keep you grounded. At the top of each of the squares, add the speech title. Later you will add a subtitle to each title of the speech in each square. You are now ready to begin filling in your squares.

Add the subtitle, “introduction,” to square one. For your introduction, you may choose to include a salutation to recognize your presenter and audience or, you may prefer to go straight into the presentation. I like adding a greeting. It adds a professional touch to your opening. Always remember you are at that lectern or podium because of the audience. Without an audience, you might as well deliver your speech to the trees in the forest. Set the stage for your presentation in that first square. Make your initial contact with your audience count. State your message clearly. Your message should also resonate with your foundational statement, speech title, and subtitle. Your purpose for facing that audience should be clear visually and verbally.

Next, go to square four. Add a label to that square with the subtitle, “summary.” Recall two or three of the talking points you made in square one. Later you will also add any power statements you delivered from your stories in squares two and three. Always remember, your message is the purpose of you giving that speech. Every talking point you include in your squares should point back to your foundational statement, title, and subtitle. Your labeling will pay huge dividends when you are ready to deliver your presentation. You will find it is much easier to focus on the title, subtitle, and foundational statement as they relate to the square you are delivering, before moving on to the next and the next.

In squares two and three, add your subtitles just as you did for squares one and four. Again, your talking points should relate to your title, subtitle, and foundational statement. Try keeping your subtitles to one word wherever possible. In squares two and three, you will make a point to tell a story or tell a story to make your point. When you are presenting a speech that is under ten minutes, four squares work well. Once you have mastered the four squares model, it is quite easy to move on to eight squares and above for longer presentations or even a TED talk.

When you are using an eight square model, you can use one or even two squares for introduction, two for the summary, and four or six subtitle squares for the body of your presentation.  You can make your model however you like. Once you have finalized your model, you are now ready to have fun connecting your talking points to your title, subtitles, and foundational statement. Draw lines to connect the subtitles to the foundational statement. I call it connecting the dots. Soon you will notice you have a storyboard, mindmap, or worksheet for your speech.  You are now ready to write.

The sole purpose of this exercise is to prepare your speech for delivery. I am often reminded of these words from one of my mentors,” great speeches are not read; they are delivered.” Write for the ear and not for the eyes. The writing and editing of your speech using your storyboard, mindmap, or worksheet should keep you focused on your message. With your first draft, you can now begin practicing, editing, and re-editing as you continue testing. Soon you too will be having fun delivering that topic, that speech and many of your speeches in the future, speaking from squares.