speaking

An Offer for My Friends in Toastmasters

With the Toastmasters year coming to a close, many clubs are racing to get those final goals completed and choose their officers for the coming year. It’s an exciting time but it’s also a time where people are looking into their own futures as speakers. So it got me thinking about my involvement with Toastmasters over the last couple years and how much fun it’s been to work with so many people from this great organization.

I’ve had a number of Toastmasters clubs contact me through the years for everything from permission to link to an article on this blog to inviting me to speak at their club if I’m ever in their area. The two topics that seem of most interest to them are how make their clubs successful and how to speak outside of Toastmasters.

Three Ways to Amp Up Your Presentations

Let’s face it, speeches are a lot more fun to watch when the speaker is energized and engaging. Plus you also pay closer attention and learn more too. Chances are that if you’ve ever fallen asleep during a presentation, the presenter’s style had more to do with it than the content of the presentation. I’ve seen presenters take a dry topic such as software testing and make it entertaining. I’ve also seen presenters take an exciting topic like getting rich and bore the audience to sleep. And yes, I’ve been guilty of giving a less than enthusiastic talk and could feel the drain of energy in the room.

So how can you take your speech and make it more fun and interesting for the audience? Well, first you don’t want to overdo it. A lot of speakers, especially those whose speaking experience is primarily at Toastmasters clubs, tend to overdo it. They overuse gestures and body language, do goofy things to get the audience’s attention like shout or make them do silly exercises or they throw excess humor into their talks. The good news is that you don’t have to go through all that bother. Simply be excited about your talk and do what comes natural. Here are the three areas to focus on.

There Are Such Things as Dumb Questions and People Ask Them All the Time

When I was an instructor in graduate school, the syllabus I handed out to my students had a part that said “there’s no such thing as a dumb question. The only dumb question is the one you didn’t ask.” Having just finished my undergraduate studies, I knew this statement was garbage. I explained my thoughts to the person who insisted we put it in the syllabus, but she insisted that I was wrong. It wasn’t long before my point was proven.

In one of my classes, I was explaining how we’d be learning to use the internet – a relatively new concept back in 1996. One student raised his hand and asked “are we going to look at porn?” I replied by pointing out the dumb question quote in the syllabus and thanked him for helping me prove my point.

A Primer for Attending Your First Toastmasters Meeting as a Guest

Whether it’s a goal, resolution or something in your life has made it you no longer able to procrastinate it away, you’ve decided to finally attend a Toastmasters meeting. If you keep in mind that the two biggest social fears are public speaking and meeting new people, you can probably see that going to a Toastmasters meeting for the first time is a double challenge. So here’s some of the advice that I give to those who attend my public speaking classes that are interested in Toastmasters. Much of this advice is applicable to attending any club meeting for the first time – I share most of this with those who attend my Networking classes.

Can Printed PowerPoint Slides Kill Your Presentation?

So you’re doing some training or a workshop and you’ve got your PowerPoint presentation perfected. Now the big question: do you print out the slides and give them to your audience? I’m often asked this in my speaking classes and by clients and my answer is typical: it depends. Sometimes it makes sense to provide them to the audience prior to the presentation while other times it’s better to not. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pros:

Public Speaking and The Matrix

Much of today’s self-help and personal development programs and materials are geared towards the ‘quick fix’ crowd. People want results fast and the want them with minimal effort. It’s like the film The Matrix where whenever a character within the supercomputer needs to learn a skill, the needed knowledge is downloaded in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many tools only feed this frenzy, life simply does not work like that.

When Words Take on a Life of Their Own

Growing up, I had a bad habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sometimes it was because I lacked tact and good judgment. Other times, I just used words that could be taken a multitude of ways depending on the listener’s perspective. While most of us outgrow the first scenario, the second one is little more difficult to avoid. In fact, I have a humorous story to share about me making this very mistake just a few years ago.