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Shortly after I joined Toastmasters I couldn’t imagine myself getting to a point in life where I wouldn’t be regularly attending meetings. There were so many things to do in Toastmasters such as go for my DTM, participate in speech contests and get roles at the district level. But life is funny and sure enough, I found myself quitting Toastmasters, not just once, but twice.
I know that there is this perception that Toastmasters is just for amateurs – I remember hearing one woman vocally express this during a National Speakers Association meeting I attended. I don’t believe that to be the case as I know several excellent speakers who still use Toastmasters to sharpen their skills.
My recent post on whether Toastmasters should dump the Ah counter role has sparked an interesting discussion. A few folks have posted comments to this site, sent me email and messaged me on some of the online social networking services both for and against the counting of (and caring about) filler words.
Where I stand on the issue is that unless the speaker repeatedly uses filler words over and over again, I don’t find them to be a big deal. So if someone says “ah” or “um” three times throughout a fifteen minute talk, I wouldn’t hold it against them. Now, if they started every sentence off with “ummmmmmmm…” then it would drive me crazy.
I’ll never forget my first Toastmasters meeting back in 2002. There were three fantastic speeches followed by my favorite part of the meeting – Table Topics. If you’re not familiar with Table Topics, it’s the part of the meeting where folks are welcomed to come up and speak “off the cuff” about the topic of the day. I participated and lasted 47 seconds. And, thanks to the person in the “Ah Counter” role, I found out that I had some filler words. At first, I found that role to be very cool and useful, but there’s two reasons why I question whether or not it’s needed – or even helpful.
As speakers we work hard researching how to better communicate and connect with our audiences. We spend hours tweaking a twenty minute talk, figuring out who might be in attendance and practicing our speeches so that we give the audience the best experience possible. Wouldn’t it be nice if our audiences took the time to make sure they get the most out of our talk?
You’ve probably heard the phrase “there’s more to life than money” hundreds of times, but that’s because there’s some truth to it. The same holds true with success – success isn’t all about money. Through the years I’ve had the pleasure of knowing several people who I considered to be successful on a professional basis. One of the things that many of them taught me was that success isn’t about money. But before I get to them, let me share a story that you may have already heard.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw the movie “Cannonball Run 2″ because it was the first time I fell in love. The movie opens with a white Lamborghini Countach having some fun with the police on a desert road. Yes, I fell in love with the car (especially after the car pulled a costume change and turned red) although the passenger in it – Catherine Bach, “Daisy Duke” from the Dukes of Hazzard – certainly caught my attention as well. From that day on, my goal in life was to own a red Lamborghini Countach.
Yesterday, we talked about how to get someone prepped for a conversation so today we’ll get to the meat of it – what to say. This is where many people find the most difficulty so let’s jump right into it.
5. Comment about the situation.
This is the essence of small talk. Mention the weather, make a comment about the place that you’re at, talk about the lengthy wait or whatever other reason you can think of that builds some commonality with the person you’re about to converse with. You’re both somewhere for a reason so if you’re waiting for a train, a doctor, service for your car or waiting in line, you both have that in common. If the weather is unusually nice or there’s something pleasant about the situation you’re in, mention that.
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Please take a look at my latest e-book, "The Ultimate Guide to Effective Theme Meetings." This 62 page e-book contains tips as well as 10 ready to use theme meeting kits. Each kit contains everything from the invitation to planning the food & decor to enough table topics for up to 30 participants. And if you act fast, you can get it while it's still on sale.
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