HubSpot Toastmasters Blog

   

A Journey From Toastmasters To Joining Hubspot

Posted by Vu Long Tran

Oct 13, 2015, 10:43 AM

Vu Long Tran Dear ToastSpotters, and fellow readers,Having been a member of various Toastmasters clubs, beginning in Melbourne, Australia back in 2007, I’ve had quite a few experiences that have helped shape me into the person I am today. But to truly understand present day me, it’s important to understand how I first became involved in an organization that has had such a profound impact on me.


How did I become a part of Toastmasters?

I joined Toastmasters based on the advice of one of my university mentors who suggested that it would be a great learning environment to be in. I didn't know what to expect or how it would be structured – I only knew that it would be great for improving my communication, teamwork and leadership skills. Equally as important – I knew it would be a great opportunity to meet some great new people. 

During my Toastmasters experience, I learnt a lot about myself, about how to analyse a speech, and how to break a speech into many pieces. I played the role of webmaster, VP of Education where I helped people with their personal growth, and I even played the role of a judge for speaking competitions. I didn’t know how much I would grow as a person, and was surprised at how much fun was having doing it. Toastmasters has been an amazing experience. 

One of the great things about the Toastmasters program is being able to participate and visit Toastmaster clubs all around the world. I have had visitors from Europe visit the club in Melbourne, Australia. As a member, you have the ability to do the same, visiting other clubs around the world as a guest. (You can even do a speech if you like - just let the club President know in advance).

Where I am now post-Toastmasters?

Truth be told, it's actually been a while since I have officially been part of Toastmasters. However, the lessons I learned from my club in 2009 are still proving valuable today. I’m still on a path of continuous improvement. The skills and insights learned through the program are applicable in my everyday life, not just professionally at work. I have done speeches for my community clubs, including presenting a Young Citizens of Hobsons Bay local council award. It's given me the confidence and the skills to do this. It’s no secret that practice makes perfect. So I have practiced a lot both during and after Toastmasters. 

When I heard that HubSpot has its very own Toastmasters club called, "ToastSpot," I was immediately keen to check it out. I now live in Singapore, and am an active blogger. I actually have two blogs - one specifically on Singapore and another is a How To and Lifestyle blog, www.dejavuguides.com and www.vulongtran.com, respectively.

It's sure been an amazing journey. I hope your time with Toastmasters will be as enjoyable as mine has been.

Thanks for reading about my story. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you would like to find out more details.

Thanks,

Vu

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How to Avoid Being Monotone - Even With a Deep Voice

Posted by Mike Griffin

Jul 21, 2014, 2:48 PM

How to avoid being monotone - Charlie Brown teacherAnyone born before 1994 will probably remember Charlie Brown's elementary school teacher. She would drone on and on for what seemed like hours at a time without the pitch, inflection or emotion of her voice ever changing. She was the ultimate monotone. Dictionary.com defines monotone as “a vocal utterance or series of speech sounds in one unvaried tone… a single tone without harmony or variation in pitch.” Even the definition is boring! That's why I wanted to spend some time discussing how to avoid being monotone.  

While obviously hyperbolized to convey Charlie Brown's boredom, his teacher's monotone speaking can teach us all a valuable lesson. Specifically, it underscores the importance of vocal variety and other nonverbal communication skills. After all, a public speaker's worst nightmare is a disengaged audience. But even those of us with fine-tuned oral presentation skills may be at a natural disadvantage and more apt to fall into a monotone delivery if they have a deeper voice. And that's exactly what I've been working with for the vast majority of my life.


The Dreaded Monotone
Speaking in a monotone is a sure way to get the audience to tune you out. And make no mistake, despite everyone in the crowd genuinely wanting you to succeed, they WILL stop paying attention if they don't perceive you as being enthusiastic about your topic (and how could they, with such a flat delivery?). While some people may slip into a monotone due to nerves, others such as myself with deeper voices can inadvertently do it because it's difficult for us to vary our inflection. Knowing this is half the battle.

For one reason or another, we as humans often need someone else to help us realize when we're doing something a certain way. That's the beauty of having evaluators at each ToastMasters meeting. There was a span of time when I thought my vocal delivery was just "soothing" (thanks, Mom) and therefore I wasn't really trying to improve it. It wasn't until I received my first dose of professional criticism that I realized there was a chance for me to become a much more engaging speaker. That was a big deal because being able to actively engage with an audience is paramount to a successful speech.

Avoiding the Monotone

There are several techniques I've found useful for helping me avoid speaking in monotone despite my deeper voice:

1.) Study great acting professionals

Talented acting professionals have the ability to change not only the character they're playing, but their voice as well. Studying what words they implement vocal variety on can help you pick and choose the moments you'd like to do the same in your presentations.


2.) Mark your outline/manuscript

While I'm a much stronger proponent of trigger words, I know a lot of people prefer to have parts (if not all) of their speech written down. So why not use the outline/manuscript as more than a safety net in case you forget what you were saying? Highlight words or phrases according to what you want to do. For example, yellow may mean raise your inflection and green may mean drop it.

3) Practice reading poems/plays aloud

This is something that I find extremely helpful whether I'm working on my inflection or my plosives. Poetry is inherently expressive, and I always found it easier to use some vocal variety when reading something written with emotion. I could never image Hamlet, for example, up in front of the stage reciting his lines in a monotone. A slight change of perspective such as this can be just the thing you need to help formulate the habit of implementing vocal variety and avoiding the dreaded monotone.

To my fellow deep voiced speakers- have you ever tried similar exercises? Or, to those who don't necessarily have a deep voice but still find themselves battling against being a monotone, why do you think that is? Leaving a comment here is great, but becoming a ToastMasters member is even better!  Get a fresh perspective from a new HubSpot employee at The Invigorator blog and learn more about the benefits of public speaking.

Sign up for the next meeting

 

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Announcing the New ToastSpot Officers for 2014-2015 Year!

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

Jun 27, 2014, 12:30 PM

 

The votes are in!  And congratulations are in order to the newly elected ToastSpot Officers of the 2014-2015 year!

Want to see who will be leading our group to continued success? Take a look at the new leaders below:

 

President: Tyler Richer

Connect on LinkedIn



VP of Education: Lindsay Thibeault

@LindsayRegina

VP of Membership: Jessica Webb
@jessicawebbica

 

VP of Marketing: Meghan Pelletier
Connect on LinkedIn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Secretary: Brad Mampe

@BradMampe

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Treasurer: Nurah Muhamad
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Sergeant at Arms: Isaac Moche
@IsaacMoche





Education Chair: Jillian Day
@JDAY4





Membership Chair: Angela Hicks
Connect on LinkedIn

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If you see them in the hall , you know what to do, give them a massive high-five and congratulate them on their new role.

Congrats again to the new officers!

 

Sarah Bedrick
Former ToastSpot President 2013 - 2014

 

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ToastSpot Elections Are Coming! Nominate Your Future Officers

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

May 22, 2014, 1:00 PM

The time has come....

Screen_Shot_2014-05-21_at_10.56.57_PM...to elect yourself (or another qualified individual) to take the reigns of the ToastSpot wheel! We have officially opened up nominations for our next ToastSpot year.

With more than 43 active ToastSpotters, we've all developed a lot of great momentum behind this program at HubSpot. And we'd love for you to step up to the plate as a leader in the coming year.

So if you are interested (or know someone who is) in leading our group to public speaking and leadership bliss, now is your chance. 

Nominate yourself or someone else anonymously here.

Not quite sure if you're interested or what role might be right for you? Email or HipChat one of the existing officers - we're all ears and would love to help you find the right role.

You can also learn more about the roles on this wiki page

Nominate yourself or another ToastSpotter by June 5. Nominees will be contacted and confirmed after this date, and official elections will be held on June 19.

Lastly, thank you to all of our existing members who are part of the amazing support group of ToastSpotters that make ToastSpot a safe place to fail and grow.

Note: officers must be ToastSpot members and full-time HubSpot employees.

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Jokes and Tips For the Toastmasters Humorist (steal this)

Posted by Steve Haase

Apr 23, 2014, 10:00 AM

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Need to find a good joke or funny story? If you're filling the humorist role at your next Toastmasters meeting, you might find yourself scrambling. To help you out, here are two of my favorite jokes I've heard (or told) at HubSpot's Toastmasters meetings, plus a tip for discovering your own humorous story.

My very first time presenting at Toastmasters was to deliver the following joke, which I first heard on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion, and it went over pretty darn well. It's also a good opportunity to use that Scottish accent I know you've been working on. :)

An American moves to a remote cabin on the Shetland Islands of Scotland. He hasn't seen anyone for three months until one day there's a knock at the door. He opens it to find a burly man with a scratchy sweater and a scratchier beard.

The visitors says, "I've come to invite you to a party."

Intrigued, the man replies, "A party sounds nice, what should I expect?"

"Well, there'll be drinkin'."

"Sounds good to me," replies the man, "I could use a drink."

"Then there'll be a fight. There's always a fight."

"Hmm, well, I boxed when I was in the army. I could hold my own in a fight."

"Then there'll be sex."

"Wow. Given that I haven't seen anyone in three months, sex certainly would be nice. I'm in! What should I wear?"

"Come as you are," says the burly visitor, "It's just going to be you and me."


Joke number two, ideal if you are as big a fan of puns as I am. I heard this from Thariq at our Toastmasters meeting last night.

A man walks into a nearly empty bar and orders a drink. After a few minutes he hears a voice say "Nice shirt." He looks around, sees no one near him, and goes back to his drink.

A short while later he hears the same voice saying, out of nowhere, "I like your hair."

Truly perplexed, he calls the bartender over and asks, "Where is that voice coming from?"

The bartender says, "It's the nuts."

"The nuts?" replies the man.

"Yes," says the bartender. "They're complimentary."


And now my tip for you, the humorist. A few weeks ago I was tasked with this role and decided that I would tell a funny story from my own life. After ruminating on it for a bit, I remembered the time when my family went to Las Vegas for a vacation. I know, it's funny already, but the actual story had even more comic potential than just that setup.

And so I told it, highlighting the points that truly were hilarious, speaking about the quirks, surprises, and lucky circumstances of my family on vacation in Vegas. It went over very well and also gave people an insight into my life and what has shaped me into the person I am today—a real win-win.

After telling my parents about their starring role in that evening's Toastmaster's meeting, they brought up other comical situations we've been in as a family over the years. Mind you, we're no comedians, and my life is not that different from many others. But when you've done things together, and you've suffered through less than ideal circumstances with people you love, you often find that, 5-10 years later, those stories are pretty much hilarious.

So take a quick inventory of your past. Any big mistakes or big adventures that would lend themselves to the soft humor of hindsight? Share those in your meeting for an even bigger, more satisfying laugh.

What are some of your favorite jokes or funny stories? Share them in the comments below!

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Image credit: Wikipedia

 

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Announcing the Winners of this Year's ToastPoint Competition

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

Apr 10, 2014, 3:12 PM

 

And the winners are...

Congratulations to the winners!

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With a red carpet rolled out, a fun "step and repeat" photo banner, camera roll cut-outs and an all-star cast line-up for the evening, the "surprise theme" was easy for any attendee to guess - the movies

Every detail of the meeting was intricately woven into the theme, - no loose ends left untied here. There was an intricately crafted agenda including popcorn and drinks that sent every attendee straight to the comfy chairs of a movie theater. 

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(Thanks Loree for creating a well thought-out agenda.)

Then as the festivities started, folks began to grab their seats as our Toastmaster Expert, Tyler Richer, took the stage to kick off the meeting with an appropriately-themed movie quote:

"There is only one rule of ToastSpot - don't talk about ToastSpot."

He set the stage nicely for what to expect for the evening and passed it over to Steve Haase to deliver not only the word of the day (Jovial) but also tell a wonderful joke about his family. 

 

The ToastPoint competition started.

 

There were 9 brave contestants in all. They were sent outside of the room with the order in which they would speak with no idea of what question they would have to answer.

And when called into the room, they'd have 1-2 minutes to answer the following question off the cuff:

"What movie character do you embody, and why?

What would your answer be?

As the competition began, the participants took the stage to provide their answers:

  1. Marc Amigone 
  2. Angela Hicks
  3. Brad Mampe 
  4. Jessica Webb
  5. Loree McDonald
  6. Meghan Pelletier
  7. Shawn Segundo
  8. Niti Shah
  9. Maggie Georgieva

The six judges ballots, including one for the tie-breaker were collected, and the ballot counters exited the room with the Chief Judge (me) to determine who was voted the winner. 

 

And the rest of the meeting continued. 

 

Guru and Nurah gave their second and sixth speech respectively. 

We had some of our top evaluator talent provide them with feedback - Anum Hussain and Nick Sal. 

Then we took to the specific feedback including our timing with Brian Weiss and crutch words with first time ToastSpotter Daniel Piet. 

 

Lastly, we reconvened to announce the winners.

 

Anybody who was there would be able to tell you how close of a competition it was - everybody brought their "a game." However there could only be one winner - and it came down to the tie-breaking judge's vote. As the 45 person audience provided a drum roll, Contest Chair, Emily Morgan, and I were able to congratulate the top three contestants of the evening: Marc, Meghan and Brad. 

Watch Marc's winning extemporaneous speaking ToastPoint speech here:

 

Watch Meghan's second place ToastPoint speech here:

 Watch Brad's ToastPoint speech:

 

The next level of competition will be April 15th from 6-9pm at the Verizon Center in Waltham. While Marc is unable to attend (he's speaking on behalf of HubSpot at a User Group), Meghan will be stepping into his place.

If you're interested in cheering on fellow HubSpotter/ToastSpotter, Meghan, let any one of the officers know and we'll find a car for you to carpool in. 

One last major shout out to all of the unofficial judges who joined and were able to provide the participants with unbiased advice on how they can improve their extemporaneous speaking skills. Thank you to Andrew Quinn, Michael Redbord, Cait Downey, Hannah Fleishman, Erik Devaney, Moe Connor, Angela DeFranco and Paula Turow. 

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A Pre-Table Topics Competition Warmup

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Apr 4, 2014, 4:20 PM

As our fierce competitors waited to go present their Table Topics speeches, I threw the following warmup question their way:

If you could be any window, what kind of window would you be?

Absurd to say the least, but along with some power poses and shake-outs, this was just the thing to get them prepared.

The responses certainly impressed me; I could tell this would be quite the close and entertaining competition.

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"I would be a french window. Because I'm classy."

- Niti Shah

 

Niti Shah

"I would be a tinted window, so I could see out but no one could see me."

- Jessica Webb

 

 Jessica Webb

"I would be a broken window, because when people get close to me, they get hurt."

- Shawn Segundo

 

Shawn Segundo 
 

"I would be a bay window, so that people could get a broad view and see many perspectives."

- Angela Hicks

 

 
 

"95. Because it's a classic."

- Brad "I'm a PC" Mampe

 

 brad mampe
 

"I would be a round window. Because I like circles."

- Maggie Georgieva

 Maggie Georgieva

 

Note: Not all contestants participated in this oh-so-fantastic warmup. They still all proved to be pretty fantastic in the actual competition. Stay tuned for a separate post on the results of the competition! Photo courtesy of club President Sarah Bedrick.

Now it's your turn - What kind of window would you be? Quick - you only have a moment to answer!

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10 Tips for the First-Time Toastmaster

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Apr 2, 2014, 8:45 AM

mike-presentingAbout to take the role of Toastmaster for the first time? Congratulations! The Toastmaster plays a big role in the success of a meeting. This role presents a great opportunity to practice both your prepared and impromptu speaking skills as well as, of course, your leadership skills.

The Toastmaster is the host and conductor of the whole meeting - setting up all of the speakers, evaluators, and attendees to participate successfully. Not sure where to start to be a successful Toastmaster? Here are a few tips.

Before the Meeting:

1. Review the Meeting Agenda

At ToastSpot, the officer sponsor finalizes the agenda, including gathering the prepared speakers' speech titles. As the Toastmaster, you should check in with the officer sponsor and review the meeting lineup, particularly the speakers.

2. Help the Officer Sponsor Fill Meeting Roles

If there are any roles open as the meeting time approaches, help find members to step up and take those roles.

3. Familiarize Yourself with the Meeting Structure

There are often a few new faces at a meeting. That is why you need to understand the meeting structure and and communicate it to all, so members know what to expect in the next hour. Here's an overview of the Toastmasters meeting.

4.  Prepare Your Opening and Closing

Think about how you want to welcome participants and attendees, and how you want to close out the meeting. Add your own flavor to the meeting, perhaps pick a theme for the meeting or share a story of your own.

5. Prepare Your Introductions and Transitions

Part of your role as a Toastmaster is to keep the meeting running smoothly. That means having solid introductions for the speakers and transitioning smoothly between sections and speeches. For introductions, you can ask the speakers how they would like to be introduced, or simply share something you know about them or your relationship with them.

At the Meeting:

6. Arrive Early to Prepare

Arrive a few minutes early to set up with the officer sponsor. Confirm that all of your meeting participants are present before the start.

7. Introduce the Meeting Structure and Each Speaker

After you welcome all of the attendees, introduce the meeting structure so everyone knows what to expect. From there, introduce each participant and speaker before inviting them up to speak.

8. Keep Up The Energy, Including Applause

It may seem silly, but applause adds to the energy of the meeting and keeps the meeting moving on time. Lead the applause before and after each speaker.

9. Don't Leave the Presentation Area Empty

There should always be someone at the front of the meeting room. When you introduce a speaker, wait until they arrive at the front, shake their hand, and then leave the presentation area to turn it over to them. That way you never leave the front of the room awkwardly empty.

10. Make It Your Own!

Add your own flavor and have fun with your new role as Toastmaster!

Hopefully you'll have such a wonderful experience that you'll encourage your fellow ToastSpotters to sign up for the role of Toastmaster, and you too will sign up again!

Sign up for a role in the next meeting

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Toastmasters Evaluation on TEDxSomerville Event

Posted by Magdalena Georgieva

Mar 31, 2014, 9:21 AM

I attended TEDxSomerville over the weekend and couldn’t help but look at how and whether the talks adopted the techniques we learn at Toastmasters. The efficacy of the ideas shared varied based on the speakers’ deliveries.

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I watched for the things that the more effective speakers did and compared them to the things less effective speakers were missing. Here are the top patterns I would have shared with all of them, if I could have played the role of the evaluator:

Body language

Effective speakers embraced body language on stage. Aaron Cantor, for example, gave a powerful talk on movement that you can read about here. During his speech, he did a few handstands on stage and asked the audience to join him in a simple physical exercise. He was confident to move around the stage and also do crazy things that emphasized the points he made in his talk. This definitely grabbed the attention of the audience.

The less effective speakers didn’t move around much. They looked like they were frozen, and such body language weakens their content and leaves the audience bored.

Personal story

The effective speakers usually used some sort of a personal story to introduce an idea. Such a story doesn't have to be about the speaker personally, but can be about a friend, someone they know, or even someone they made up! The point is that it will add a human touch.

Matthew Dicks, for example, walked us through the life choices that led him to a career in writing and creativity. The path that he revealed was deeply personal and enabled the audience to empathize with him. 

The weakest talks didn’t incorporate any human stories. Remember that the human element draws the audience like a magnet and keeps people engaged.

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Humour

Whenever you have a chance to break the ice and make people laugh, embrace that moment. The best speakers got closer to the audience by leveraging the power of humour. George Proakis, for exampe, found ways to inject humour into his speech, even though the talk was somewhat technical - about zoning by design. The audience responded with laughter and radiated warmth, whenever Proakis used witty metaphors or made clever statements like “putting people before parking.”

Vocal variety

This won't come as a surprise, but the most effective talks followed the shape of a rollercoaster when it came to their vocality. Helen Adeosun was great at using vocal variety to keep the audience engaged. During her talk about nannies and childcare, she asked rhetorical questions, projected well, and used facial expression to support her vocal journey.

The speeches that were less effective were monotonous, seemed like were just memorized, and felt rushed.

Call-to-action & Actionable Steps

The best talks included a call-to-action at the end (or even throughout).

Some speeches were even structured as a series of steps to achieve something. Cortney Rowan, for example, talked about healthy habits and outlined a few next steps for those interested in building healthy habits: make it personal, make it a collective effort, and make it surround sound.

The talks that were less effective felt like lectures of bored high-school teachers - they were theoretical, didn't include any next steps, and didn't present any actionable lessons.

Do you agree with these? What would you add or remove? Let us know in the comments!

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How to pick a memorable speech topic

Posted by Loree McDonald

Mar 17, 2014, 2:30 PM

So it's the week of your Toastmasters speech - and the only reason you remembered is because your mentor ping-ed you on HipChat and asked if you wanted to rehearse and get some feedback... Great! You're excited, you've been waiting, and now you have no idea how to pull it all together...

You begin frantically searching YouTube and Googling "Toastmasters Speech" and hoping someone has posted something revolutionary that will blow your audience away.

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But that's not you - yes the interpretation on how the world would be if the black plague hadn't hit Europe is interesting, and sure you believe confidence and body language is important - but you're going to have to do hours of research to put this all together... and then memorizing those facts? Ugh. Skip that please.

Meanwhile... you've come onto some article on BuzzFeed about how Jennifer Lawrence is the most graceful clumsy celebrity. Have they already forgotten miss Bridget Jones? Well I guess she was a character.

 ....Anyway... I wish I could just present about BuzzFeed....

Wait - YOU CAN!

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That's the beauty of the Toastmasters program - you can literally speak about anything (use good judgment) and use the manual as a structure for planning out your speech and the objectives you want to hit.

The idea within Toastmasters is to deliver speeches that are passionate and informative and compelling. If you're passionate about BuzzFeed, tell us! If you know a ton about bioluminescent creatures - share what you know! If you have a compelling story about your gluten-free adventure, bring it on.

 

Be yourself. Be confident.And take some risks!
Some of the most memorable speeches come from a little risk taking. Why not share? 

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Mark Kilens: a Toastspot Case Study

Posted by Marc Gabriel Amigone

Mar 13, 2014, 10:09 AM

Mark Kilens shares his experience with Toastspot and how it has helped him grow his team.

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5 Things All Great Speakers Know (and You Should Too)

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

Mar 4, 2014, 8:01 AM

Have you ever seen a speaker where everything seems to be going in their favor? The crowd is captivated and hanging on the speaker's every word. They bring you on a enjoyabale journey with their speech that is easy to digest. And afterward, you realize they've done one of the hardest feats of them all, moved you in some way. These are the end results of what makes great speakers so effective and powerful.

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During our last ToastSpot meeting I had an epiphany. The veteran speakers of the group spoke with such ease, confidence and poise. Their stories were interesting and impactful. And this made me think, "how do they do that?" And that's when the differences that separated the good speakers from the became clear.  Here, I'd like to share some of those traits that great speakers exhibit.

And remember, the speakers who look effortless on stage are usually the ones who have spent the most time crafting this talent.  It's usually not a question of "when will this stuff become natural" but rather "how will this stuff become natural." Developing the plan to success is the first step toward action.

With that being said, let's talk about some of the qualities that expert speakers exhibit:

 

They have found their voice.

 

Have you ever witnessed a person that has great content, but when watching them something just doesn't seem right? Most people have. And that can be indicative that the presenter is still working to find their own voice. 

It's not uncommon for a presenter who is just getting started to emulate the speakers they admire. They copy their language, movement or storytelling style - and this why some presenters just don't seem natural, because it's someone elses and not their own. 

I fell victim to this in the beginning. Every time i would stand-up in front of others, I was visibly nervous. So much so, that I'm sure I made those who were watching me nervous as well (oops). But, as soon as I got less nervous (not quite "comfortable" yet) , I began trying to find and develop my "voice" or style. I wondered what would I look, sound and move like - and how would I build my own stories. After watching some incredible speakers like Susan Cain (former Toastmaster), Zig Ziglar and many TED speakers, I admired them so much, I began to emulate them. While this may have seemed like a great idea at the time, it resulted in many speeches feeling like patchwork quilts of expression. And not to mention, they was something just not completely right about them. After realizing something about this wasn't quite right, I was able to embrace who I am and my style of presenting.

While I may not be the epitome of quiet strength with poise and femininity, like Susan Cain - I did learn how to be true to myself when presenting, and that to me is priceless. 

Want to learn how to develop your own style? Check out BigFish Presentations' blog for more tips developing charisma on stage

 

They're fantastic storytellers.

 

Dale Carnegie once said, "When we are dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity."

Seasoned speakers understand this and fill their presentation with passion, emotion and stories that are relatable and moving. 

Whether you follow the "why, how, what" framework from Simon Sinek or Nancy Duarte's "what it is now, and what it can be" - or maybe one you've developed yourself, you use words to paint a beautiful picture in HD that moves your audience.  

 

They have full control over their body, and use it as a tool to enhance the presentation.

 

We all know the basics of fantastic body language on stage. We should always make eye contact, stand tall, use the entire stage, project our voice, pause in the right spots and use our body to enhance our presentation.

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The truth is, no matter how much we hear these, they're still difficult to master. We won't get on stage one day with a new ability to be flawlessly natural while using our body as a tool. These come with practice. 

Most of the great speakers use their body so well that most people watching their delivery never even think about it. And truth be told, great speakers don't have to give too much thought to it like they once did in the beginning. When you learn to use your body as a tool - it becomes natural. The most advanced presenters work much more on the presentation story (slides, examples, quotes, statistics, story arc, etc.) than they focus on what to do with their hands or exactly how they'll make eye contact in the crowd. 

Protip: Your body language shapes who you are. Watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk on this topic to learn a great tip about power poses to help you prepare for your next speech. 

 

They're more comfortable and confident on stage. 

 

They've already found their voice and know how to use their body - two large elements that lead to being comfortable on stage. Beyond that, they're so comfortable and confident that they can roll with the punches. Things that would throw most beginners for a loop - they can easily manage. The microphone broke? No problem, they project their voice with poise until it's fixed. Now the slide presentation clicker breaks? No problem, they've memorized their presentation or have a quick anecdote to tell while it gets fixed. A member of the audience is distracting in some capacity - no problem, they can still maintain focus and command the stage. The point is - they're confident and comfortable to a point that they're cabable of overcoming any obstacle.

And to take this a step further, the best presenters are so comfortable and confident, that they don't mind getting a bit weird or doing something different. 

Ever heard of Marcus Sheridan? He is a business owner that regularly presents at tech conferences on the power of inbound marketing. While most presenters at conferences take the stage and may rock it - he gets off the stage and gets into the crowd. He even gets the crowd involved by asking them questions - this I have never seen done before. And Marcus - does it and does it well. 

 

They know when to stop.

 

A great speaker whether delivering  a prepared speech or an extemporaneous one will always leave on a high note.

In a prepared speech, it's all in the presentation's story arc. The speaker builds an easy-to-follow story and presents it in a delightful way. They build toward the climax, deliver it and then tie the nice bow on it and end.  For the off-the-cuff extemporaneous speeches, great speakers may take a minute to find the path they're about to lay out for their speech and some build it as they go, but once they deliver the highest note - where the crowd is laughing or thinking deeply - they'll tie the bow and end it there. 

Knowing when to end a presentation is a more advanced art.

Becoming an elite speaker takes hard work. And the elite speakers don't speak because they have to, they speak because they choose to. If you're looking to become a presentation master, join a local public speaking group to learn from others who are also practicing. Find a local Toastmaster club here

 

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Top 5 Tips to Become a Better Mentor

Posted by Magdalena Georgieva

Feb 25, 2014, 8:00 AM

When you meet a good mentor, you immediately know it. She is supportive - not to make you feel good - but to emphasize your strengths. She is demanding - not to make you work long hours - but to inspire you to be the best you can be. She is around - not because she is always available - but because she cares about your success and wants to give you the resources you need.

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In my role as the VP of Education at ToastSpot, I've had the fortune to work with some great mentors. So what better way to showcase some of the key characteristics a mentor should possess than to look at my fellow OfficersHere are the superpowers that make them so great at helping others:

1. Set Goals & Give Examples

In order to guide someone toward success, you need to define what success looks like. That is why setting a goal is such a fundamental part of making progress. Adam Gerard, our Member Education Chair, often structures his entire mentorship around a goal. Thus, he invites mentees to think about the number of speeches they want to complete or the type of speech they want to be working toward. This becomes an effective tool to measure performance and get fulfillment.

Setting a goal works really well with giving mentees specific examples of what that goal could be or how exactly it could be achieved. Ellie Mirman, our Treasurer, has been terrific at brainstorming with her mentees, asking questions to peel away at what they are actually trying to express. A mentor has to be patient, specific, and practical with the advice they give so that a newbie can clearly understand the path they are on.

2. Give Solid Feedback

Providing mentees as well as fellow speakers with feedback is one of the most helpful things you can do as a mentor. It shows that you care about someone - you listened carefully to them and were captivated by something in their speech so much that you couldn't help but share your thoughts.

Steve Haase, our Speaker Program Chair, and Nick Salvatoriello, former VP of Marketing, possess the superpower to give solid feedback. They are enthusiastic, meticulous, and considerate when sharing places for improvement. Whenever I need to give a speech, even beyond Toastmasters, I always seek out their feedback.

3. Ask Questions

A good mentor is one that eventually makes herself obsolete. Make a point to teach your mentees a process of thinking that they can leverage without you being around. In order words, help your advisees become more reliant on themselves and enable them to grow into the next generation of leaders.

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Asking questions is a really good way to expose the way someone thinks, focus on specific points, bring up arguments, and enable someone to arrive at a sound conclusion. Our President Sarah Bedrick and our Secretary Brad Mampe are both great at posing key questions, getting others to contribute thoughts, and share ideas.

4. Follow Through

Not all mentees are equally engaged - some are more interested than others; some show up, others don't. That is why it's incredibly important to be able to follow through with all. Remember to check on your mentees and ensure they are doing well. Find out what troubles them or what they have found difficult. Make sure they know they are missed if they haven't been showing up. Don't forget to congratulate them when they are doing a good job.

This seems to come naturally to our VP Membership Amy Ullman and New Member Chair Loree McDonald. They stay connected with their mentees as well as other members, always bring positive attitude, and are actively inviting speakers to attend, participate, challenge themselves in order to get better.

5.  Inspire & Encourage

In order to create something truly meaningful, you often need inspiration. That is why it's great when there is someone next to you to lead by example, share inspirational work, and motivate you to go further.

Our Sergeant of Arms Chris LoDolce and our VP Marketing Marc Amigone do an exceptional job with this. They are down-to-earth in their communication, yet remarkable in their work and leadership. This combination of skills encourages members to contribute newly gained knowledge by staying real and seeking to be exceptional.

What are the traits that you consider essential in a mentor? Share them in the comments below!

Attend the Next ToastSpot Meeting (check out the schedule here)

Photo credit:  Lynn Palazzo and Karen Eliot
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Blind-bloggingly maccurate

Posted by Brad Mampe

Feb 10, 2014, 5:16 PM

Sure, public speaking is difficult. But it's not the hardest thing in the world to do.And it has a lot less to do with the technical points of talking than you’d think. To prove it, I'm writing this entire blog post blindfolded.

Why? is the obvious, sane, rationsal question most of you with human blood coursing through your veins are liable to ask. Good question, really. Public speaking can be a daunting task, and alot of it feels ...unnerving. You feel alienated. You have to battle with whatever -

I just got distracted right now. That can happen, too , when you're in front of the greoup. I might've made some ...and it happened again. I've been interrupted several times by my co-workers. It's tough. There are a lot of distractions.

I forge ahead. You, too, should do the same when speaking in front of the group. Your mike may stop working. A raucous naysayer from the audience may choose to interrupt. No one can ever really be sure when the next round of ninja hiccups is set to strike. Do not let these things deter you.

It's difficult to do this. There are a lot - and I mean a lot - of things to onsider. Really, speeches can be boiled down to two components:

1) What is the objective of my speech? That is, what is the crux of the point I'm trying to make, and how will I relay that message? Is it something insprational? Informational? Persausive? Some combination of these?
2) What about the technical components? There's volume, enunciation, gramm(a|e)r, stutters, starts/stops, "cructch words", and the like.

Issue 1 isn't really an issue for a lot of people that need to speak publicly. You have something to say. How many times have you read an article, a blog,e tc., and thought, "This ]pejorative\] doesn't know what he's talking about. I could do way better than that," or some such. Hell, how many times have you done that today? (Not including this post.)

You have opinions. You feel comfortable communicating them to your colleagues as a singularity. So what's the problem communicating them to the world? That message is there. And you have the power to communicate it.

I sense the technical aspect hangs up a fair number of would-be public speakers. "Everyone who talks publicly,

Excuse me. Let me start again. I found myself interrupted once more, and I lost my train of thought. I think people fear they won't do well because it's so very easy to get intimidated by speech technics. (Interruptions count.) I don't think this is as big a deal as people make it out to be.

If you come to Toastmasters, your technical aspects to your sepeches will be better than this post. Guaranteed. Even if you have to start and stop midway throhugh. We've all been there before.

What matters isn't whether or not you've spoken in the Queen's English; not whether your diction was supreme; a fluidly-enunciated speech doth not a publoic speech make. At the end of the day, this is icing on top of the cake. What you should ask yourself is: Did I make my point, the way I wanted to? Satisfy that reequirement first, then worry about the finer points.

I'm not trying to say that technical aspects of speech-givingt aren't important. They are. But they don't need to be the crux of what you're speaking aboutA good message will always trump any temporary flubs , though, and that's the important part. Woudl you rather have a speech where the audience walked away saying, "What a great speech, even with the ninja hiccups," or "That was perfectly-enunciated drivel". One of those is feedback I can feel good about. The other one doesn't make me feel good about why I gave the speech in the first place.

WHen you come to a Toastmasters meeting, there will be peers who will be able to help you with both of these aspects - both staying on-message, and making sure the technical aspects of your speech work. As an added bonus, we're all keenly aware of making those same kinds of errors ourselves, so the feedback is a helpful process.

Don't get hung up on the hangups. A great speech does not lie in the fewest number of grammatical inconsistencies made. It hangs, first and foremost, on the quality of its content. Can you still get my point while I'm bolgging blindly? Then you are fully qualified to stand up and communicate a point to your peers.

So, stop by Toastmasters. Share your content with us. We'll help you tighten up the important points of your message.

And I can personally guarantee you it'll be less sloppy tha n this is.

blindbloggingtheblind

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How to Command a Room With Your Voice

Posted by Steve Haase

Feb 3, 2014, 10:30 AM

hi-res-2616450-soprano-renee-fleming-sings-the-national-anthem-prior-to_crop_exactWhat's the worst thing you could do when presenting to a group of people?

Lose their attention. 

Think about it, if you've lost people's attention, you've lost their interest. The purpose of public speaking is to move the conversation forward on a one-to-many basis. And without interest, the conversation cannot progress. Your presentation fails.

So how do you capture and retain your audience's interest? For starters, the 10 assignments in Toastmaster's "Competent Communicator" handbook will help you with many critical elements of this task. Techniques such as body language, vocal variety, research, and organization are powerful tools for engaging a group of people with your speech or presentation.

But because my formal background is in music, I would like to focus on the most auditory and musical aspect of these techniques: vocal variety. In music we would call this dynamics and/or expressiveness. I would also argue that it is one of the most effective speaking techniques for retaining an audience's attention.

Beginner: Avoid the Monotone

Think of a time when you've listened to someone drone on in a monotone; now think about what you remembered from them. Probably not much. This is because an unengaging or even off-putting vocal presentation creates a barrier between the audience and the speaker. It clouds the meaning of the speech. 

You may be thinking, "I don't have a monotone delivery," which may be true. But the fact is, most of us have our comfortable range of expressiveness and tone of voice which, honestly, can be pretty repetitve at times. To make absolutely sure your speeches break out of your vocal comfort zone, you need to put on your "stage makeup."

Remember that you are now the center of attention, perhaps even in a fairly large room. This means you need to project. Put forth more energy, more charm, and more expressiveness than you might think is necessary. Imagine that there is a person way in the back of a 1,000-person hall, and try to reach them and move them with your speech. If people can't hear you, or if they have to struggle to make out what you're saying, they will tune you out.

You might think that turning up the volume in this way feels forced or inauthentic; but we're often the least objective judges of how we come across. Plus you'll never know if you don't try. Your Toastmasters group should be a place to experiment with this and any other techniques, and your evaluator will provide feedback, so don't worry about any of that. Just give it a try!

Intermediate: Match Your Dynamics With the Mood

You speak to convey an idea. That idea has a mood, depending on your audience, yourself, and how everyone relates to the idea. A masterful performer, whether in speaking or music, will have a vast range of dynamics available to help him or her make a point. If what you're saying is best said with a forceful tone, maybe bordering on a yell, you'll be hampered if the best you can do is sort of speak up a bit.

Likewise, if you're trying to lighten the mood with a joke but your voice is always matter of fact, the joke will fail. And how effective will you be at bringing the audience in closer by telling a secret, if your only volume level is that of a casual conversation? Imagine you're speaking to a group of non-English speakers and your only method for making your point is your tone of voice. That alone will help you broaden your spectrum of expressiveness.

Advanced: What Is Your Point?

In a way, this is the most basic component of improving your dynamic range and holding people's attention; but as is the case so often with the basics, it is also the most challenging. If you forget everything else and only focus on the purpose of your talk—the idea you want to convey and the effect you want to have on your audience—your vocal variety will take care of itself. 

This is the essence of improvisation of all kinds: you follow the thread of your intention and the means of getting there surprise everyone, sometimes including yourself.

There are few things as satisfying as being so authentic to your purpose that the necessary vocal inflections, humor, and stories emerge almost of their own accord. You are the creator yet at the same time aren't self-conscious of creating anything—you just want your point to be heard. That's when the distinction between performer and audience, between speaker and the room, disappears. And there's nothing more attention-worthy than that. 

What are your experiences with commanding a room? Share them in the comments below.

Attend the Next ToastSpot Meeting (check out the schedule here)

 

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The Art of Persuasion

Posted by Marc Gabriel Amigone

Jan 27, 2014, 5:39 PM

Have you ever attempted to deliver a convincing argument? Were you passionate about the subject and 100% confident you knew you were absolutely right without a shadow of a doubt? If you have been down that road before, you might have discovered persuading someone else isn't the easiest thing to do

The art of persuasion is something that's been written about and philosophized around for centuries. People have analyzed and examined the ways in which people are compelled to act in numerous ways. The Greek philosopher Aristotle described three main forms of persuasive appeals: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos. Each are vital to persuading a skeptical party to come over to your side.  I'll describe each appeal in more detail.

Ethos

Ethos (Greek for character) or ethical appeal speaks to the character or credibility of the speaker. The first thought that generally goes through people's heads when being sold on a new idea is "Who the hell is this guy?" When speaking persuasively, it's critically important to make clear several things:

  1. Who are you? - What authority, background knowledge, and experience qualifies you to provide relevant information on a given subject? Sometimes you're in the fortunate position of having quite a bit of experience and credibility. Sometimes you're not so lucky. In either case, transparency is always your best bet.
  1. What's your motivation? - What do you stand to gain from winning this debate? If your audience gets the slightest feeling they're being scammed or improperly sold for your gain (financial or otherwise) they're going to be much more skeptical of anything you might have to offer.
  1. How badly do you want to be believed? - Selling an idea really adamantly, can have the effect of making the audience feel put-off. Take note of how badly you want to convince someone of something before you set out to do so. If you push too hard, you'll have the unintended consequence of making your audience feel wary of what you're trying to convince them to believe.

Perhaps the best case study for Ethos in persuasive speaking is Barack Obama. Agree or disagree with his politics, he convinced America he was the best candidate to be our president in 2008 largely based off his credibility and backstory. He sought to elevate the political debate as an outsider. He had a uniquely American upbringing and identity, and he maintained a cool, calm demeanor throughout his entire campaign that suggested all he wanted to do was help America be the country he believed it could.

Logos

Logos (Greek for word) refers to the logic of an argument. What are the facts, and realities that back up your claims? Are they logical? Do they hold up to scrutiny? There are generally two ways to form a logical argument: inductive and deductive reasoning.

  1. Inductive reasoning - To induce a conclusion one has to provide examples of similar situations that lead the audience to see the same pattern occurring forming a proven conclusion. The scientific method relies on inductive reasoning. One provides a hypothesis and supports their claim with proven facts. Cut and dry as long as your audience doesn't have reason to doubt the facts you're presenting as being true.
  1. Deductive reasoning - Deductive reasoning relies more on encouraging your audience to make a connection on their own. In providing several scenarios or widely held beliefs and then drawing out a truth or argument from them, you can help your audience come to a conclusion by following your logic. Depending on your credibility, deductive reasoning can be highly effective when dealing with audiences who don't want to simply be told what to think.

Bringing back up the example of political discourse, most politicians rely on deductive reasoning more than inductive reasoning to convey their point. Using belief statements and value propositions, they draw out a conclusion that we should support their candidacy and adopt their programs. When was the last time you heard a politician lay out the factual basis for their argument at length in great detail? I would guess it's pretty easy to conjure up a memory of the last time you heard a politician cite their beliefs and values as a means to persuade you.

Pathos

Pathos (Greek for suffering or experience) is often associated with an arguments' emotional appeal, but a more apt summation might be appealing to an audience's sympathies or imagination. Instead of appealing to the logic or factual basis of an argument, pathos is appealing to their sense of shared experience or emotional perspective. Often times this turns into a narrative or anecdote inviting your audience to relate to the plight of your message.

There are several ways to introduce pathos into your argument:

  1. Speak passionately - Humans have evolved to mirror the emotions with which we're presented. If you want your audience to get excited, you have to get excited. If you want them to get angry, get angry.  People are also adept at seeing through forgery, so your emotions have to be real if they're to have the desired effect.
  1. Make it personal - Make sure there's an entry point for your audience to relate. Whether you're speaking about your own experience or someone else's, give the audience someone with which to sympathize. If they're personally invested in the emotions of your story, they'll be an easier sell for the logic of what you're trying to say.
  1. Don't overdo it or rely on emotion exclusively - Emotional appeal is important, but it's only one piece of the equation. To truly make a convincing argument emotions need to be involved, but emotional appeal with no logical or ethical appeal will be just that, emotions. A strong sense of conviction will get you people's attention, but make sure you know how to put that attention to good use.

Pathos is often considered the strongest of the three appeals. One common analogy for this phenomenon is the elephant and the rider. If a person is on top of an elephant steering it in one direction or another, it can only do so much to maintain control. If the elephant is motivated to go in one direction or another, the rider is mostly along for the ride. 

All three rhetorical styles are critical to a convincing argument, but depending on your audience one may be more important than another.  Presenting a scientific paper to a room full of biologists will be different than pitching a business proposal to a potential investor. Presenting an appealing argument in all three areas is the best way to win them over, but don't hesitate to place more emphasis on one or another if necessary.

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22 Tips for Giving Effective Feedback

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Jan 20, 2014, 10:55 AM

roosterThe speech evaluator role at the Toastmasters meeting is one the most critical and underrated roles available. Not only is this role essential for helping the speaker improve, but this role also is a great opportunity for the evaluator to practice some semi-impromptu speaking, learn how to balance encouraging and constructive feedback, and be a leader among the group.

How can you make the most of your speech evaluation? Here are 22 tips for giving effective feedback.

Prepare

1. Read about the speech project - understand the objectives of the speech so you know what to watch out for

2. Read the evaluation guide for the speech project - each speech project has a related evaluation guide in the Competent Communicator book; review the evaluation criteria so you know the outline for your written evaluation and guideline for your verbal evaluation

3. Ask the speaker what they're working on - aside from the objectives of the specific speech project, the speaker may be trying to work on something else (body language, use of notes, etc.) - check with the speaker ahead of the meeting to see if there's anything specific they'd like you to touch on in your evaluation

4. Collect the speaker's Competent Communicator book - before the meeting, make sure you have the speaker's book so you can provide their written evaluation

5. Be aware of past evaluations - remember back to the speaker's previous speeches and evaluations so as to touch on their overall progress and to not duplicate past feedback

Listen

6. Focus - while the speaker is presenting, don't let your mind wander and don't get too wrapped up in writing your notes so that you can take in as much of the speech as possible

7. Take notes - take a few notes so you can remember points you want to touch on and flush out once the speech is complete

8. Note the details - it's great to reference some of the details - for example, if there were some fantastic phrases, write those down, if there was a repetitive movement, note that as well - it helps to share specifics with the speaker so they know exactly what worked and what didn't

PRO TIP: As you take notes, start to organize them. For example, write the things-the-speaker-does-well on the left side of the paper and the things-the-speaker-should-work-on on the right side. This makes it easier to organize your evaluation once the speaker has finished.

Evaluate

9. Complete the written evaluation - using the guide, note how the speaker did on each evaluation criteria (though no need to comment on each point)

10. Choose what to cover in your verbal evaluation - you will not have a chance to cover everything, so pick the most important elements to discuss

11. Start with something encouraging - open your evaluation with something encouraging to set a positive, constructive tone

12. Evaluate those elements within the control of the speaker - everything you suggest for improvement should be within the control of the speaker

13. Be honest - about those elements that you enjoyed and those that you did not

14. Make it personal - share how the speech affected you, what you appreciated most from the speech

15. Be specific - for example, instead of saying "the organization of the speech was great," say, "the way you outlined the three sections in your introduction helped me understand and follow the organization of the speech"

16. Offer specific suggestions for improvement - for example, instead of saying "your arm waving was distracting, you should watch out for that," say, "your arm waving was distracting, try putting your hands by your side and using your body movement intentionally during parts of your speech where you want extra emphasis"

17. Use "and" rather than "but" - anytime you use "but" in a sentence, it negates what you just said; for example, "the organization of your speech was great, but you lost me at the end" makes me forget that you had something positive to say and makes me focus on the negative portion at the end; instead try something like, "the organization of your speech was great in your introduction, and I would have loved to see more of that throughout your speech"

18. Speak on behalf of yourself - your evaluation is your opinion, so limit your feedback to "I" rather than "we" or "the audience"

19. Act like a friend - use a friendly, non-threatening, non-judgmental tone; look at the speaker; smile -- the speaker will be that much more receptive to your feedback

20. End on a encouraging note - your goal is to have the speaker motivated to do their next speech, leveraging your feedback - you can re-emphasize the part of the speech you enjoyed the most or simply congratulate them on completing their speech

21. Follow up with the speaker - speak with them face-to-face after the meeting to congratulate them again, make sure they did not misinterpret any part of your evaluation, and return their Competent Communicator book

22. Don't wait to be the evaluator to give feedback - the more feedback a speaker gets, the better, so feel free to follow up with speakers after a meeting to share your thoughts on their speech

Want to read more? Check out Effective Evaluation, a guide from Toastmasters.org

Sign up for a role in the next meeting

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Learn how to speak well in 5 easy steps

Posted by Loree McDonald

Jan 6, 2014, 1:30 PM

speaker_imagesource

1) Just do it

You will never improve unless you get out there and practice! Speaking in team meetings, during events, and with your peers are great ways to gain some confidence. The opportunity to speak in front of a large group doesn't always present itself, but this is why we have Toastmasters meetings with several varieties of speaking roles (planned, improvised, instructional, anecdotal) - so that you can practice in a secure but realistic environment. 

2) Speak about something you know about 

The best speeches are about topics the speaker knows about - topics that they are passionate about sharing with others on topics in which they want to express their opinion. It can be a process you perfected, something job-related you have spent some time doing, or something you really think is important for others to take note of in their perspective. 

3) Don't fill the silence with sound

A speaker's biggest weakness is filling the silence between points with unnecessary transitional words like "ah," "um," "so," "and then," "like," etc. The use of these words will weaken your presence in front of others and will distract from your real take-away. If you made a strong argument, let that moment sit in the air before diving into your next talking point. This is a good practice exercise in normal conversation with peers or clients.

4) Ask for feedback from a peer or leader

Once you have given a speech or spoken in front of a group, going to a peer or leader and asking for feedback is a great way to hone in on your potential weaknesses. For example, I would suggest saying: "Hey I am working on speaking in front of others, but I'd love to hear how I came across to the group when I just spoke. Was there anything in there you thought was something I could improve on?" Toastmasters is a great way to do this because the actual structure of the meeting allows your peers to provide timely and constructive feedback in a safe setting.

5) Practice what you feedback you received 

Once you've spoken and received any feedback (including feedback you give yourself), pay attention to when you repeat these mistakes. If you're a transition-word enthusiast (like myself) pay attention to how often you use these words when talking to customers or peers. If you wander around when speaking, try finding a power-stance that really works with any future speeches you might give. If you tend to not make eye-contact enough, work on this when in normal conversation with peers. 

 

There are so many great ways to improve during our meetings as well as in normal day-to-day situations, you just have to realize that "the world is a stage" and anytime you're speaking - it should be speaking to be heard. Feel free to contact any of the ToastSpot officers for more information on getting a mentor to help you in your journey! 

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Niti Shah: a Toastspot Case Study

Posted by Marc Gabriel Amigone

Dec 3, 2013, 8:30 PM

Niti Shah shares her experience at Toastspot and how it has helped her career.

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How Scott Berkun Spent a Year Working Without Pants

Posted by Marc Gabriel Amigone

Oct 25, 2013, 10:51 AM

Scott Berkun, author of The Year Without Pants: Wordpress.com and The Future of Work, came to HubSpot's Cambridge office Wednesday afternoon to share his experience spending a year working for Wordpress.com, mostly without wearing pants. While he was wearing pants today, he gave an inspiring talk about workplace dynamics and challenged long-held conventions in the workplace as being outdated and ineffective. Based off his experience working for one of the most influential companies in the world, he made some pretty compelling arguments.

Scott Berkun Started his Career Fully-Clothed

Scott Berkun began his career at Microsoft in the 1990's. He left Microsoft in 2003 to pursue his career as an author and has enjoyed some success in that arena publishing six books and several articles in publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. His work mostly revolves around business and innovation. He told the group of HubSpot employees today that if he was going to write and speak about business all over the world, he wanted to go back to work to test his ideas to close any credibility gap that might have been starting to grow.

That's when Matt Wullenweg, the founder of Wordpress, approached Berkun about coming to work for him. Wordpress was on the verge of dramatically changing their internal corporate structure, introducting teams and managers to a pre-existing completely flat organization, and he wanted Berkun to lead one of those teams. Berkun accepted the offer with one condition: Mullenweg had to let Berkun write a book about his experience. That's how The Year Without Pants came to be.

Wordpress Powers 20% of the Internet

Wordpress has a massive market share of websites and blogs currently on the internet to the tune of 70 million sites. That's 20% of the internet or 1 in 5 sites. Wordpress is also a completely open source project. There's a clear distinction between Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org: one is a corporate entity founded by Mullenweg and Automatic Corp. in 2005, while the other is a free open source site started also by Mullenweg in 2003. That hybrid of corporate interest and open-source technology provides an interesting cultural makeup to the Wordpress work culture.

Berkun listed several unique things about the Wordpress working environment:

  • No one uses email
  • Employees work remotely - literally anywhere in the world as long as they can get work done
  • There are few rules
  • You are treated like an adult
  • No "managers"
  • New work releases daily
  • Open vacation policy

Stop for a second and think about which of these characteristics are consistent with the work environment at your company. Even at a progressive company culture like HubSpot, we can't claim all of them.

Most Americans Hate Their Job

Berkun cited two thought-provoking stats:

70% of American workers are not engaged about their job (according to a 2013 Gallup Poll)

20% of all professionals work remotely at least part-time (according to a 2012 ISPOS Reuters Poll)

If 70% of the workforce seems like a staggering amount of people to you who are mailing it in every day at the office, that's because it is. Berkun used examples like doctors, pilots, or air traffic controllers who could be "playing angry birds" on their phone while at work. What's even more interesting is Berkun thinks both numbers will increase as time goes on.

Berkun asked three compelling questions that he believes will solve our disengaged workforce issue:

  1. What work conventions serve no purpose? (9-5 work hours, dress code, hierarchy, meetings)
  2. Do we really need to use email? (Are their more effective ways to communicate?)
  3. Does remote/location really matter? (Does working from a centralized location make us less productive?)

Berkun holds up Wordpress as an example of a company that effectively answers all of those questions coming down on the unconvential side every time. He shared stories of coordinating team meetings with his co-workers in Australia, California and Ireland utilizing different means of communication technology such as Skype, blogs and IRC (a chat program with group chat functionalities).  

Clarity and Trust

At the end of the day, no matter what means of convention or tradition by which your organization operates, Berkun boils down the critical elements of any company's corporate makeup into two must-haves: Clarity and Trust. Without those two things, regardless of how much money they have at their disposal or how smart their employees are, if there is no unified vision behind which everyone can coalesce built on mutual respect and trust, no company can grow.

It's easy to see why Scott Berkun is a world-renouned speaker and writer. His ideas are compelling, and he delivers them very effectively and engagingly. His message was very well-timed at HubSpot, and I can only imagine how many other companies could stand to learn something from A Year Without Pants.  

If you'd like to hear more about Scott Berkun's experience at Wordpress or any of his other revolutionary ideas and perspectives on business, check out one of his books.

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What is the Toastmasters Leadership Program - Plus Tips On Getting Certified Fast

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Oct 17, 2013, 9:38 AM

CL-pinWhen we think of Toastmasters, we think of public speaking. After all, this is a group where we can practice and improve our speaking skills, right? (Well, to employ the classic improv technique,) Yes, and this is a group where we can also practice and improve our leadership skills. Whether you do this while also working towards your Competent Communicator certification or you've chosen this as your main focus for your participation in the group, this is a valuable effort for your long term career as well as your immediate day job.

Great Leaders Are Great Speakers

It turns out that most great leaders are also great speakers. After all, there's so much speaking when it comes to leading - organizing and delegating, motivating people, mentoring and building teams. And there are quite a few leaders in history that were Toastmasters! Such as:

  • Nancy Brinker, Founder of Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Former US Ambassador to Hungary
  • Peter Coors, Chairman of Coors Brewing Company
  • KC Jones, Former Coach of the Boston Celtics
  • James Lovell, US Astronaut on missions including Apollo 13
  • Linda Lingle, Former Governor of Hawaii

At this point, Toastmasters is grooming hundreds of thousands of speakers and leaders across the world - there are more than 14,000 Toastmasters clubs in more than 120 countries, totalling close to 300,000 members.

What is the Toastmasters Leadership Program?

The Competent Leader Certification is the first in the leadership track of Toastmasters and it includes 10 projects focused on different skills necessary for being a successful leader. Skills include listening, critical thinking, giving feedback, delegating, motivating, and mentoring. For each skill, there are a number of roles or projects you can take on to practice that skill. For example, to practice your listening skills, you can take any 3 of 4 roles during a typical meeting: Ah/Um Counter, Speech Evaluator, Grammarian, or Table Topics Speaker.

How to Get Your Competent Leader Certification in Record Time

I ended up getting my CL in no time, almost by accident, becoming the first in our club to do so. Here are two tips for all those future CLs who would like to get this certification under their belt.

Tip #1: Take every opportunity to participate.

Participate in every meeting you attend. Without even realizing it, this is how I got my CL so quickly - I participated in almost every meeting. Taking on roles every chance you get helps you finish your CL projects as fast as possible. (Plus, in doing so, you lead the rest of the group in participating more in meetings.)

Tip #2: Pick the roles most frequently tied to CL projects.

If you want to be strategic, check the roles you need to fill to complete your next project in the CL manual.  If you want to be sneaky or lazy (like me) and don't want to sift through what you should do next, here's my cheat sheet. Below are the number of mentions of each role or project in the CL manual.

  • General Evaluator - 5
  • Speech Evaluator - 4
  • Toastmaster - 4
  • Grammarian - 4
  • Organize a speech contest, club event, membership campaign, marketing campaign, or manage the website - 3
  • Speaker - 2
  • Table Topics Master - 2
  • Ah/Um Counter - 1
  • Table Topics Speaker - 1
  • Timer - 1
  • Mentor another member - 1

With these tips, I expect we'll be seeing new certified CLs popping up left and right. To get started, don't forget to sign up for a role in an upcoming meeting! And hey, if you get your CL in record time, there's an Advanced Leader Program waiting for you afterward. After all, the learning never stops!

Sign up for a role in the next meeting

Photo credit: Toastmasters.org

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5 Talks Every Toastmasters Member Should See

Posted by Magdalena Georgieva

Oct 7, 2013, 11:46 AM

So you are new to Toastmasters or have been doing public speaking for a bit. What are some speeches that can get you to the next level?

Start by watching a few presentations that do a great job of highlighting the techniques you are about to master as a member of your club. We have collected a list of some fantastic talks below that will undoubtedly inspire you. Enjoy!

1. Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter

This is one of the most enjoyable talks I have seen lately for a couple of reasons. First, it's told by the young and charismatic Sarah Kay, a performing poet and poetry teacher. Second, the talk has such rhythm and passion that I can only admire Kay's deep self-expression techniques. I would recommend seeing this video as you prepare for Toastmasters Speech 10: Inspire Your Audience.

2. Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

This is probably the most practical talk from a Toastmasters perspective. Cuddy shares some tips on body language and how that impacts one's performance in stressful situations like public speaking. She encourages viewers to expand their posture and smile, thus radiating confidence and victory for a few minutes. Such daily preparation, Cuddy scientifically proved, should help keep the stress away and inspire confidence.

3. Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Sinek defines the Golden Circle - What, How and Why - and explains the way such structure makes a great leader. Impactful brands like Apple, Sinek argues, come from inside of the circle - from the Why. The Why offers a great technique for persuasive speech that you might do in the future. Watch this talk as you prepare for Toastmasters Speech 9: Persuade With Power.

4. Conan O'Brien: 2011 Dartmouth College Commencement Address

Conan O'Brien's commencement speech is a great example of how to instill humor in your speech and use pauses for greater effect. Utilize techniques from this video for your Toastmasters Speech 6: Vocal Variety.

5. Andrew Dlugan - Face the Wind

This is a Toastmasters speech delivered by Andrew Dlugan. It shows a great usage of humor and the speaker also inspires with vocal variety and gestures, which makes this video a fantastic lesson for Toastmasters Speech 5: Your Body Speaks.

Are there any other speeches you would like to add here? Share your comments below!

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4 Public Speaking Tips I Learned from Music

Posted by Steve Haase

Sep 24, 2013, 10:00 AM

Steve Haase Trumpet

Photo by Tara Jones Photography

I started playing piano at age 5 and first picked up the trumpet at age 10. I fell in love with the instrument, pursued it, and eventually played professionally for about a decade

Being a musician has informed my public speaking in many ways. The four most powerful public speaking lessons I learned from making music are:

  • Have something to say
  • Use space to your advantage
  • Develop and leverage your technique
  • Practice. Practice. Practice.

Let's unpack them:

1. Have something to say

Public speaking and music both happen in the moment, live, between you and audience. Even when it's recorded, a performance or a speech is being experienced by the listener in real time.

Therefore, your job as a speaker, just like being a musician, is to move the audience. Make them laugh, make them think, get them riled up! Whatever you're doing, you must connect with your listener and have an impact. 

Think of your favorite performer and how they own the stage. Whether it's an outrageous rock and roller or a poised classical musician, a great performer exudes confidence and charisma. And guess what, that might not be how they feel inside! Stage fright and nerves happen to everyone. However, if you have something to say that you are passionate about, that will carry you through any patches of dread you may experience.

And there's nothing more compelling and attractive than seeing someone put their whole selves into what they're doing. You will take the audience on a journey if you're simply speaking about what you care about.

2. Use space to your advantage

One of my favorite musicians is Miles Davis, who was a master of space—listening to one of his solos is a study in exactly why "less is more." Music happens between the notes, and speaking happens between the words. If you don't pause to breathe, you will overwhelm your audience and eventually lose them. 

You will also miss out on one of your most powerful tools for making a point go deeper: the pause.

Try it sometime and you'll see, pausing at the right moment transmits confidence and presence. Besides, the stage is yours while you are on it, so you might as well experiment with strategic silence. 

3. Develop and leverage your technique

The more technical prowess you possess, the more impact your message will have (provided you follow steps 1 and 2 above). The three techniques that apply equally to speaking and music are repetition, dynamics, and metaphor. 

Repetition – Repeating something makes it stand out in your listener's mind. Repeating something lets people know that what you just said is important. Repeating something also gives you a place to start if you're not totally sure what to say next, and often results in a brilliant and possibly unexpected flourish. 

Dynamics – Just like speaking without pausing is hard on the ears, speaking or playing at only one volume makes for a dull listening experience. Let your intended emotional impact lead your choice of dynamics. If you want to convey anger or surprise, raise your voice. When letting people in on a secret, make them lean in for it and listen closely. 

Metaphor – When it comes to effective speaking tools and techniques, metaphor is your 800-pound gorilla. Analyzing the greatest speeches in history you will find metaphor used throughout. In music, an equivalent to metaphor is the quote, when you use something your audience already knows (a familiar melody, beat pattern, harmonic progression, etc) to connect what you're saying to the pre-existing meaning from the quote. The effect of this kind of cross-polination is similar in music and speaking: you bypass people's defenses by appealing to something they already know, making it more likely that you will move them.

4. Practice. Practice. Practice. 

One of my musical heroes was Adolph "Bud" Herseth, principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony for over 50 years. I was fortunate enough to have had several lessons with him when I was in high school, and after the first one I asked him to autograph my part to Mahler's 5th symphony (it has a very prominent role for the trumpet, and his recordings of this piece were the gold standard). He graciously obliged and added the advice I offer you here, "Practice practice practice." If you want to be great, you must try, and fail, and learn, and refine, and grow, and do it some more. Being a great musician or a great public speaker both require time, dedication, imagination, and creativity. And the results are worth every bit of effort you put in.

Sign up for the next meeting 

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4 Core Areas to focus when preparing for your speech

Posted by Anand Rajaram

Sep 16, 2013, 4:00 PM

As you progress on your 10-speech journey towards becoming a Competent Communicator, Each speech focuses on a key concept. However, there are certain elements applicable to all speeches. None of these are surprising. In fact they are pretty obvious and kind of boring, Yet, not always followed (sort of like eating your veggies and exercising every day). They tend to make the difference between an average speech and an exceptional.

1. Know thy audience

As illustrated in Six Minutes blog, the best speeches are at the intersection of what you know, what you love and what your audience cares about. This is the most important takeaway (very obvious, yet most commonly ignored). If your audience cannot relate to the topic or doesnt care for it, nothing else matters.

2. Start with an outline

What really helps me is to have a clearly defined outline. Structuring the speech in three key parts (the opening, middle and the end) is a proven approach that gives a clear structure to your speech. I also like to memorize the opening, the end and the key transition phrases between the three parts. I typically spend 40 - 50% of my total preparation time on the outline. A strong outline is key to an engaging speech. Another practical tip, especially if you are a bit nerdy like me: When preparing your outline, opt for a whiteboard or paper. That way you can focus on it (no distracting emails) and you can easily try different approaches without feeling too committed to a single approach early on. 

3. Practice, Practice, Practice

The difference between a good speech and a great speech is practice. Yeah, this is even more obvious than "Know thy Audience" and even less followed. I'd practice in front of a mirror (or a camera) a couple of times before I practice with my mentor (If you havent already signed up for a ToastSpot mentor, you should). I have got great actionable feedback before every one of my speeches and presentations. (Special thanks to Maggie and Sarah who have helped me out on this). Practicing is the best way to weed out crutch words in your speech. If there are specific areas that you are working on, be sure to let your mentor know during the practice. For example, I always feel I dont pause enough, and ask my mentors to specifically look for that in my practice speeches. 

4. Right before the speech

Body language expert Amy says that practicing power poses before your speech could give you a sense of confidence and a "go get 'em" attitude. If you have any pre-speech rituals, go right ahead and follow them. (I tend to take a long walk to the kitchen, fill up some water and take three deliberate sips. No judging!) Make a mental note of how / where you can use the Word of the day in your speech. Look around in the audience and make a mental note of where the familiar faces are sitting. Familiar faces are a great starting point to make eye contact during your speech. 

And here is a bonus point: 

5. After the speech

Congratulations. You just took another strong step towards becoming a great public speaker. Hopefully your speech was very well received by the audience. Be easy on yourself. I often find myself in a position where I focus only on all the things that I forgot to mention or a specific transition that did not come out as I had intended. It is all right. Enjoy the rest of the evening. Be sure to take note of specific areas to work on for the next speech and make the most of the evaluators' feedback. Afterall, Toastmasters is supposed to be (and is) fun. 

What has helped you when preparing for your speech? Practice any rituals? Know any secrets ? Did I miss anything obvious? Let me know in these comments.

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How to Get Started With HubSpot’s Toastmasters in 4 Easy Steps

Posted by Adam Gerard

Sep 9, 2013, 11:49 AM

Adam Gerard discussing scrapple at Toastspot during his 4th speech.We’ve all been there: You want to improve your speaking skills, whether it’s public speaking or just sounding better on the phone. You know HubSpot has a Toasmasters group (named “Toastspot,” naturally) and it sounds like a great idea, but everything after that is a little hazy.

Let’s clear up some of that haze. Here’s how to get started with Toastspot in 4 easy steps.

1) Fill Out a Landing Page
This is HubSpot afterall so why shouldn’t step 1 involve a Landing Page:

Yes I'm Interested in Becoming a Toastspot Member!

What does filling out this Landing Page mean? Well, it tells us you’re interested in learning more about Toastspot, and thinking about attending your first meeting. The Toastspot officers will get an email that you’ve signed up and that day you’ll get a message from one of them (email, HipChat, or someone might even walk over to your desk and shake your hand to welcome you to Toastmasters).

We will also put you into a friendly nurturing campaign giving you some additional information about how Toastspot works.

2) Come to a Meeting!
Seriously, just come to a meeting. Toastmasters meets every other Thursday downstairs in Benioff (with a Speech Marathon one Friday every month during lunch). Check out the Toastspot signup sheet to see which next Thursday evening is right for you.

If you’re nervous, don’t worry about speaking at all. When you’re ready, there will be plenty of opportunities, but when you actually step up in front of the group is all up to you. In fact, if the mood strikes you while at your first meeting, raise your hand during the Table Topics section and you can volunteer to speak impromptu for 1-2 minutes.

3) Sign Up for a Role (when you’re ready)
The main focus of Toastmasters is having the opportunity to get up in front of a group of people to speak, but that speaking opportunity doesn’t have to be a prepared speech. Sure, you can sign up for one and begin your path to becoming a Competent Communicator. Though maybe you’re not quite ready for that. It’s OK.

Every Toastspot meeting involves lots of smaller but vital speaking roles. This is not a complete list, but just a taste to help you get an understanding of how meetings work (and maybe give you inspiration to sign up for one):

  • Humorist/Thought of the Day: This speaking role gets the meeting started with an inspirational thought or a funny joke or story. This is a quick speaking opportunity; 1-3 minutes. A very low pressure opportunity to step up in front of the group for the first time, perhaps?

  • Word of the Day: Before our speeches start, this person stands up and chooses a word for speakers to attempt to use. As part of this role, you pick the word, provide a definition and use it in an example sentence. All-in-all, this should take 1-2 minutes. Another quick, low pressure role. It is fun when speakers find a way to fit the Word of the Day into their talks; always get a cheer from the audience.

  • Speeches: Every Toastspot meeting involves the main speeches portion. Usually there will be 3 members ready to give one of ten speeches on the track to becoming a “Competent Communicator.” Each speaker is assigned an evaluator to provide friendly feedback. Once you’re an official member, we will get you a Toastmasters booklet so you can learn more about the goals for each speech and get started with your first.

  • Table Topics: Table Topics is about developing your ability to organize your thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic. The Topicmaster will get up and give a theme for this meeting’s Table Topics and explain the instructions. Maybe speakers will pull a piece of paper from a hat, or pull a random object from a bag, or some other creative device. Then we take volunteers to get up and speak for 1-2 minutes on whatever topic you’re randomly assigned. There’s no pressure here; no evaluations. Just a great opportunity to overcome your nerves and speak off the cuff briefly.

  • Timer: Part of public speaking is staying within your allotted time. The timer will keep track of everyone’s speaking length and provide color warnings to the speaker as time approaches. You will also have an opportunity to stand up and let each speaker know how on time they were.

  • Ah/Uh Counter: Crutch words -- everyone has them. Ah, uh, like, so, ya know. This person is responsible for counting each speaker’s various crutch words and letting the speaker know the count during the evaluation section.

4) Keep coming to meetings!
Once you’ve come to your first meeting, don’t stop. Toastmasters is like going to the gym...wait, you’ve heard that one before? But it’s true! The more meetings you attend, the more opportunities you can take to stand up in front of people to practice your speaking, the better you will become.

We look forward to seeing you at our next Toastspot meeting!

Sign up for the next meeting

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A Response to a Well Thought-Out Excuse

Posted by Loree McDonald

Sep 3, 2013, 9:00 AM

Here's the thing - I know you're busy.

I know that dedicating just one more hour a week to something sounds like it's one more hour a week of time you'd rather be sitting at home eating dinner. One more hour a week of time you could be talking to your best friend. One more hour a week at the gym.

I know - trust me.

However let's look at the facts here:

  • You're smart - wicked smaht in fact
  • You're already quite successful 
  • You know how to speak in front of people
  • You are always on point and never have a bad interaction

Wait - no that last one isn't quite right... I mean, sometimes you do have a bad interaction.
Or they just really seem to not be engaged when you're talking to them.
Or you will stutter over a fact and the person will totally call you on it.
Or when you make a point and everyone just looks at you and there's that super awkward pause.
Ugh don't you hate that? 

Yes. I do hate that. 

You know what helps? Being terrified.

Okay well maybe not terrified.

But when you put yourself out there to speak in front of a group of people, and sometimes have to come up with something in-the-moment, you get much better at talking to just one person... especially when you have to come up with something in-the-moment.

Public Speaking is a skill that you can take to a place like Inbound where you're talking in front of hundreds (if not thousands) of people. It's also a skill you can take to your team meetings - when you have an idea on how to fix the problem at hand and you really need to create buy-in. It's even a skill you take when speaking to just one person and you want to appear calm and confident.

Being a strong speaker makes you look smart, confident, and will grant you access into really awesome opportunities. You could be sent to speak at a HubSpot event in another city, you could be asked to speak at one of our conferences, you could be given extra leadership responsibilities within your team.

Alright, alright. So you're on board.

Great.

...

Now what?

Well this whole Toastmasters thing - that's actually the whole idea. This organization was created to help you get better at public speaking and become a better leader.

So quit making excuses, grab a beer, and meet with us this Thursday at 6:00pm in Benioff. It's an hour of time where you get to hear people speak, you get to laugh at Improv exercises, and you will even get to meet some new HubSpotters from all different departments (last one is optional - feel free to sit there awkwardly by yourself). 

 

We meet every other week - so check out the calendar here: Meeting Calendar  

 

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Why has the "I Have a Dream" speech been so successful?

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

Aug 28, 2013, 12:53 PM


Today marks the date of an important anniversary in the history of our nation - it's the 50th anniversary of when Dr. 220px-Martin_Luther_King_-_March_on_WashingtonMartin Luther King Jr. delivered his influential "I have a dream" speech during the March on Washington

Even 50 years later, many will agree that when they hear this famous speech - it evokes emotion or maybe gives them chills. But why is that? Why does this speech - a half century later - still have such a profound impact when heard? 

Of course there is the obvious - and that is the transformative message of the speech.

However, King was a leader of civil rights and it was known that his oratories focused on freedom and rights for black people in America. 

So why does this speech stand out among the rest. What about this speech has left such a commanding imprint in history. 

This speech had such power and finesse that many storytelling experts have analyzed it in depth to determine why it may have been such a success.

What many people don't realize is that the most-famous "I have a dream" passage - MLK had in fact deviated from the previously prepared speech - and was completely extemporaneous.  Many speculate the digression may have been caused by a listener, Mahalia Jackson, who shouted behind him, "Tell them about the dream!" And while he had previously talked about his dream in a similar fashion earlier that year on June 23rd at Cobo Hall during the Great March on Detroit, this was completely unscripted and improvised. Maybe it was this departure from script allowed his true emotions and uncensored passion to shine through - making it a succes.

Side note: Now there is a reason to participate in Toastmasters Tabletopics if I've ever seen one.

Storytelling expert Nancy Duarte states that a major factor of it's success is King's balance between stating "what is" and "what could be" which is said to be a great way to build an inspiring story.  See Nancy Duarte's full analysis of Dr. King's speech here

Another public speaking expert at Ginger Public Speaking cites the success of the speech was due to his confidence, cadence, the rhythm and repetition. Check out their analysis of the speech here

And maybe Malcolm Gladwell would propose that it was the perfect tipping point for his previous efforts finally coming to fruition - along with repetition.  Simon Sinek may possibly believe that MLK was able to identify the partners in the crowd that fed his energy allowing him to take his speech to the next level.

Or was it the symbolism of him speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

What do you think led to this transformative speech? Was it King's cadence, vocal intonations, the content, the juxtaposition of "what is" and "what could be," all of them - or something completely different? Please feel free to share your own thoughts below.

Oh and if you haven't seen the famous "I Have a Dream" Speech? Watch the YouTube video below:

 

 

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Innovation and The Art of Laughter

Posted by Marc Gabriel Amigone

Aug 14, 2013, 8:30 AM

Sushil Bhatia with Marc Amigone and Steve Haase at Hubspot

Everyone loves to laugh.  There's nothing like it.  The sense of happiness, inspiration, light-heartedness, that feeling of nothing in the world getting you down.  It has a transformational effect on our outlook emotionally, mentally, physically, and spirtually.  Increasing the amount of laughter in our lives can have a major effect on our health.

Laughing is a serious matter.  That was the message Sushil Bhatia delivered to a group of Hubspot employees today as part of his Hubtalk (a series of talks given by industry thought leaders).  Sushil Bhatia is an Executive in Residence at Suffolk University's Sawyer Business School.  He has led corporate workshops at several companies like American Express, John Hancock centered around laughter, meditation and breathing.  

Bhatia led his audience at Hubspot through a series of exercises to demonstrate the effect of breathing, meditation and ultimately laughter on our bodies and minds.  "Everything we do is an example of innovation" according to Bhatia.  "One of the best ways to bring new value to a relationship is laughter."  If you want to convince someone in your life to come to your side of an argument, make them laugh.

Benefits of laughter include: 

  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Stress Reduction
  • Immune System Enhancement
  • Pain Reduction
  • Cardiac Exercise
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Improves Respiration
  • Best of all: it's free and there are NO side-effects

While Bhatia made a very convincing argument that laughter is most certainly beneficial, he didn't stop there.  He made an equally compelling argument about the benefits of meditation.  "20 minutes of meditation is equally beneficial to 4 hours of sleep.  That doesn't mean you can meditate to go without sleep, but you will feel restored and rested like you got 4 hours of sound sleep from 20 minutes of meditation."

Oftentimes corporate executives who are tasked with innovation will tell Bhatia they don't have a spare 20 minutes in the course of a day.  That's a short-sighted way of thinking though.  If taking 20 minutes out of your 10-hour work day will allow you to be more creative, more productive, more present and capable during those 10 hours you're working, then you can't afford NOT to spend 20 minutes in meditation each day.  

Bhatia's talk was truly inspirational.  He left us with several action items:

  • Do Nothing - spend 5 minutes sitting in quiet reflection each day
  • Fitness - spirtual, physical, emotional
  • Meditate - 20 minutes each day
  • Laugh as much as possible
  • Collaborate and innovate - detach from results
  • Think Neutral - aim to balance yourself even instead of pushing yourself to be positive

Bhatia gave a version of the same talk at TEDX Amherst earlier this year:

 
How do you feel after you meditate and/or laugh?  Use the comments form below to let us know!
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Your 2013 ToastSpot Officer Candidates & Winners!

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Jun 20, 2013, 8:13 PM

Update: The votes are in! Winners have been noted below.

Happy election day! At tonight's meeting (6pm in the Training Room), we'll vote on your new leaders of HubSpot Toastmasters. Join us for this special meeting and have your voice heard!

Let's meet the candidates!

Without further ado, I present to you the candidates running for leadership positions for the Toastmasters 2013-2014 year: (Congratulations to the winners, who have been highlighted in orange.)

  • President: Sarah Bedrick
  • VP Education: Marc Amigone, Maggie Georgieva, Nick Salvatoriello
  • VP Membership: Amy Ullman
  • VP Marketing*: Marc Amigone
  • Treasurer: Ellie Mirman
  • Secretary: Adam Gerard, Anand Rajaram
  • Sergeant of Arms: Chris LoDolce, Loree McDonald
  • New Member Chair: Loree McDonald, Anand Rajaram, Anna Siradze, Lindsay Thibeault
  • Member Education Chair: Adam Gerard, Nick Salvatoriello, Anna Siradze
  • Speaker Program Chair: Steve Haase

2013_Officers

Hey... there are some people running for more than one position!

Yes, candidates were allowed to run for up to two positions. In the event that they receive the most votes for both positions, they've selected their first choice and the other role will go to the next runner up.

And there are some positions with only one candidate...

Yes, you may be tempted to congratulate them already, but let's hold our applause till the end :)

There actually is one potential wildcard role (*) because that candidate is also running for another role. In the event that he wins for the other position, this one will be vacant and we'll run a very special wildcard election on the spot! Any available candidates will be allowed to throw their hat in the ring for this role for this last minute election.

Can't make it to the meeting but want your voice heard?

You can request an absentee ballot from Ellie Mirman today (email me or stop by my desk in the big Marketer room far corner nook). The only requirement is that you return your completed ballot by 5pm in order for us to count it with the in-meeting ballots.

On top of elections, we'll also have:

  • A special Electoral Edition of ToastPoints:  Mike Lemire will be emceeing, giving nominees the opportunity to strut their stuff and demonstrate exactly why they are best Toastmaster for the job.
  • Three awesome speeches:
    • Brand new Inbound Marketing Professor Lindsay Thibeault came to HubSpot less than two months ago, and wasted no time joining Toastmasters. She will be delivering her Ice Breaker Speech on her life changing experiences studying abroad. 
    • VAR Huntress extraordinaire, Anna Siradze wowed us with her first speech a few weeks ago, and we cannot wait to see what she brings for her sophomore effort.
    • Inbound Marketing Professor Sarah Bedrick will give her 10th speech, making her ToastSpot's second Competent Communicator. Come cheer her on and prepare to be inspired!
  • Beer and snacks (ok, the usual stuff from the kitchen) galore!

 

See you tonight!

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It's Election Season! Announcing ToastSpot Elections 2013

Posted by Ellie Mirman

May 16, 2013, 9:30 AM

vote-vaguelyartisticIt's hard to believe that another year has passed for HubSpot Toastmasters. It's election season again, which means we're looking for our next crop of officers to lead our growing group.

Whether you're considering taking on an officer role or you simply want to be an informed voter, here's all the info you need.

Election Season Timeline

  • Thursday, May 16: Nominations Open - Nominate yourself or another ToastSpotter to be an officer here.
  • Thursday, June 6: Open House - All HubSpotters are welcome to come see what ToastSpot is all about. We'll also have all of our officers in attendance so anyone interested in taking a role can ask questions about any of the roles.
  • Friday, June 14: Nominations Due
  • Thursday, June 20: Elections - Cast your vote and join the live meeting to be first to hear the results of the elections! (Note: there will be a remote voting option for official members.)

Why be an officer?

There are three levels of participation in Toastmasters: (1) attend meetings and participate as you like, (2) become an official member (HubSpot is sponsoring the memberships!) to do prepared speeches and earn certification, (3) be an officer and help make the group awesome.

Benefits to being an officer:

  1. Take a leadership role at HubSpot - Get recognized as a leader at HubSpot and prepare yourself for other leadership roles that become available.
  2. Get experience running a program - Toastmasters is a self-supported group of HubSpotters, and the leaders of the group make it happen. You have the opportunity to make it into something awesome and get the experience of building something.
  3. Boost your resume - In addition to the resume-building benefits of participating and getting certified at Toastmasters, being an officer (and showing what you've accomplished in that role) can pump up your resume.

What are the positions?

All positions are open for elections!

  1. President:
    • Serves as the club's CEO, responsible for general operation of the club. Directs the club in a way that meets the educational growth and leadership needs of members.
    • Questions about this role? Ask the current President: Ellie Mirman
  2. VP Education:
    • Promotes the educational benefits of Toastmasters participation and orients new members to the club. Each member gets a mentor (another member) that works with them and pushes them in their leadership and communication goals. Supports the evaluators to make sure they know how to provide great evaluations to speakers. Administers speech contests and other activities to promote the growth and participation of members.
    • Questions about this role? Ask the current VP Education: Maggie Georgieva
  3. VP Membership:
    • Plans, organizes, and implements a continuous marketing efforts, ensuring the club maintains or exceeds 20 members. Works with groups inside and outside Toastmasters to promote club membership and membership retention. Prepares and maintains membership lists, dues payments, and attendance reports for Toastmasters International.
    • Questions about this role? Ask the current VP Membership: Sarah Bedrick
  4. VP Marketing:
    • Develops, implements, and executes on marketing activities for the club (both inside and outside HubSpot). Responsible for any marketing of the club and representing the club in any media.
    • Quesitons about this role? Ask the current co-VPs Marketing: Nick Salvatoriello and Steve Haase
  5. Treasurer:
    • Manage all the finances of the group, including managing the dues payments (sponsored by HubSpot) and any other expenses and budget the group may have.
    • Questions about this role? Ask the current Treasurer: Amy Ullman
  6. Secretary:
    • Responsible for all club records and correspondence. Keeps all official club documents and submits updated membership and officer records to Toastmasters International. Records minutes at officer meetings and orders any Toastmasters supplies.
    • Questions about this role? Ask the current Secretary: Anand Rajaram
  7. Sergeant of Arms:
    • Serves as the master host, preparing any physical space requirements (booking rooms, having chairs, etc.) for club meetings and supports any social events planned by the club.
    • Questions about this role? Ask the current Sergeant of Arms: Brittany Leaning
  8. New Member Chair:
    • Works with the VP Membership to bring on new members - welcoming guests to meetings and encouraging interested prospects to become new members, set their goals, and get connected with a mentor.
    • This is a new role! Since this person will work with the VP Membership, direct your questions to our current officer: Sarah Bedrick
  9. Member Education Chair:
    • Works with the VP Education to ensure that members are reaching their personal and professional goals. Supports the mentorship program, club meeting attendance, and overall health of the member base.
    • This is a new role! Since this person will work the VP Education, direct your questions to our current officer: Maggie Georgieva
  10. Speaker Program Chair:
    • Acts as the liaison with the Speaker Program Manager on the marketing team and helps interested ToastSpotters qualify for external speaking opportunities and get those opportunities.
    • This is a new role! Direct your questions to our interim speaker program manager: Ellie Mirman

All officers meet periodically to plan and execute on club operations and growth.

Submit Your Nomination!

Photo by Vaguely Artistic

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19 Rhetorical Devices that Will Make Your Next Speech Rock

Posted by Amy Ullman

May 14, 2013, 10:00 AM

We HubSpotters certainly have a way with words. One look at our blog, or our offers or our emails, and you can see that we are highly into hyperbole (world transformation, anyone?), mostly mad about metaphors, and super silly about similes. Oh, and alliteration? Yeah, we like alliteration, too, but I promise not to use any it in this post (yep, that was irony for those of you paying attention).

Yet oftentimes, this eloquence with writing does not factor into our process when we prepare to speak in front of a crowd. Who has time to remember all of those pesky personifications and annoying antitheses? Why should we bother to employ these rhetorical devices at all?

Not only can they make your speech more memorable but easier to remember as well. How so? The Mixed_Metaphor-1ancient Greek poet Homer never penned the Iliad and the Odyssey: these epics were not committed to paper until almost 200 years after their original creation. How? What made these 10,000 plus line behemoths so memorable and sticky to natives of this oral culture? A clever, concatenation of well-placed, rhetorical and mnemonic devices. This is a technique that possesses applications even in the digital age. Steve Jobs himself used 16 in his 2007 announcement of the iPhone launch, With that said here are some concepts to keep in mind the next time you have to take that written wit from the page to the podium.

Scholars categorize these devices in a multitude of ways, but for our purposes it might be simpler to divide them into two camps: rhetorical devices that play on the significance of a word or words (also known as tropes), and those that play on the arrangement of a word (AKA schemes). 

The simplest of tropes are all the basic analogies you learned in high school English class. You probably have similes (comparisons using like or as) and metaphors (direct comparisons) down. Heck, these rhetorical devices are so pedestrian you might not even realize when you are using them in your speech. For those of you looking for something more advanced say hello to the bad boys below:

  • Anthimeria: Hard to say, but fun to use, this device is when one part of speech is substituted for another, such as noun for a verb. "Dude, I can't believe I got Rubined again. I could quit, but I would probably just Vigah."
  • Irony You probably already know this one, but it is worth covering as it fascinating when executed well (hello Seinfeld), but can be tough to identify (hello Alanis Morisette). It is defined according to Merriam Webster as "The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect." Such as when Kurt Vonnegut describes one of his characters "as pleasant and relaxed as a coiled rattlesnake" in his novel Breakfast of Champions
  • Litotes: This is hyperbole's sweet subtle cousin, where speakers deliberately understate their points in order to add emphasis. Think of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, describing his sudden amputation as "just a flesh wound."
  • Metonymy: A reference to a person, place or thing based on something associated with it, as in  the saying "the pen is mightier than the sword." where the pen stands for the writing it produces and the sword for violence. 
  • Oxymoron: Placing two opposing terms adjacent to one another. Can be used dramatically (Simon & Garfunekel's The Sound of Silence," or Milton's description of Hell's "darkness visible" in Paradise Lost) or humorously as in George Carlin's examples of military intelligence and freedom fighters.
  • Syllepsis: You could hate me for this one, but at least I did not mention the related Zeugma. Syllepsis is when a word or phrase is used in its literal and figurative sense at the same time. What makes it cool (and effing effective) is that it can often appear grammatically incorrect and forces your audience to really think about what you have said. "You can leave in a taxi. If you can't get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, you can leave in a minute and a huff." - Groucho Marx, Duck Soup
  • Synecdoche: Nope, not a city in upstate New York, but rather a part that represents the whole, as in using the word "wheels" to substitute for either a bike or car, or most famously, in Julius Caesar when Antony says "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears." 

So enough of these trashy tropes, let's move on to some scathing schemes, those rhetorical devices that positively dance on the tongue: 

  • Alliteration: Probably the most basic of schemes - a repetition of initial sound or sounds in a series of words. Think of any tongue twister you tried your hand at as a kid....or an adult. It can add emphasis to whatever phrase, concept or story you are trying to illustrate, and honestly is just fun to say. For examples see the introductory sentence to this section or note that my favorite tropes are alliteration, anaphora, anastrophe, antithesis, and assonance, 
  • Anaphora: Repetition of the same word at the beginning of a series of sentences or phrases. We
    The_Dude_Abidescan go high brow, as in Shakespeare's Richard II "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England," or low brow in Big Lebwoski, when the policeman tells the eponymous hero : "I don't like you sucking around, bothering our citizens, Lebowski. I don't like your jerk-off name. I don't like your jerk-off face. I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off." 
  • Anastrophe: Departure from normal word order for the sake of emphasis, For truly great examples, look to everything uttered by the infinitely quotable Yoda in Star Wars. Is this something that we are going for in a speech? Probably not. But if it worked for Longfellow and his forest primeval; it can work for you too! 
  • Antithesis: A juxtaposition of opposing or contrary ideas. Think Neil Armstrong's "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," or Pope's "to err is human, to forgive divine." 
  • Assonance: (Insert cheeky comment here), Assonance is the repetition of similar vowel sounds in successive words. It's part of what makes a song stuck in your head. For all the Biggie fans out there: "Birthdays was the worst days, now we drink Champagne, cause we're Thirsty!
  • Asyndeton: While most of these schemes operate on the premise of addition, asyndeton is based on the intentional omission of conjunctions such as "and," "or," "but" etc. This gem is a surefire way to punch up the passion for those whose speech is in need of some pep. It adds speed and rhythm, telling listeners "I'm so damn excited, hurried, worked up I don't have time to use and." Plus according to Aristotle it is that rare rhetorical device which is more effective when used in oratory than in writing. 

So the next time you find yourself struggling for modes of memorization, an inkling of inspiration, a dash of drama, think of this handy dandy reference guide, you spunky speaker you.

Want to see some oratory in action?

Sign Up for the Next Meeting

 

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My First Taste of ToastSpot

Posted by Steve Haase

May 7, 2013, 10:01 AM

Loree_McDonaldThanks to Loree McDonald for the following guest post.

As with any new job, there are always challenges—what to wear, how to meet people, where’s the bathroom, etc. I’ve been working at HubSpot for about a month, and thankfully, as far as meeting people goes, the transition into HubSpot is made simpler by the sheer volume of things to do and ways to be involved. For me, one of the ways I sought to connect with others was by pursuing an interest in ToastSpot.


I attended my first meeting in mid-April, just two weeks into my time at HubSpot. I had heard Nick Salvatoriello speak about ToastSpot during one of our training presentations and was immediately intrigued by the organization. I’ve always valued public speaking as an asset and have been inspired by leaders and the way they're able to motivate teams with their delivery of a message. Although I consider public speaking a strength of mine, this was the perfect opportunity to sharpen my skills.

I sat in the back during the meeting (a fly-on-the-wall approach) and watched as the evening’s Toastmaster, Sarah Bedrick, led the group through the planned speeches, improv-Table Topics, feedback evaluations, and other meeting segments. Topics and experience varied between all participants, but every speech I heard was insightful and well-crafted.

It was very well organized, and I was impressed by the genuine interest and engagement each member showed for one another. Speakers valued the feedback given and encouraged those with less tenure to continue and improve—I wanted to step up, and I felt empowered to participate in the next meeting.

I look forward to coming to ToastSpot meetings throughout my time at HubSpot. I would love to learn how to motivate others through speech and how to respond eloquently when in a debate (one of my greatest struggles is conveying points during an energetic exchange).

A Request

To those members already #Toastspotting, I’d love to hear about your experience to help influence my Toastmasters journey. I’d love to know things like:

  • How has being part of Toastmasters contributed to success in your professional life?
  • What has been your most memorable speech or toast points moment?
  • What doors have been opened by your participation in ToastSpot?

Looking forward to the next meeting and to getting to know the organization!

Sprockets,
Loree McDonald
www.loreemcdonald.com

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David Meerman Scott on Getting Started with Speaking & Making a Good Speech Great

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Apr 14, 2013, 9:00 AM

DMSA couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and professional speaker, at our Toastmasters club. He was practicing a super-secret new presentation he's doing, which will hopefully be on video soon so we can share - and also see how the presentation turned out. (Update: David presented his talk on "The Need to Explore" at TEDx Amherst - check out the video at the bottom of this post.)

Not only is David an amazing speaker (and long-time HubSpot friend and advisor), he's also a Toastmaster! David co-founded a Toastmasters club in Tokyo 20+ years ago, did it for 6 years, and even served as President for part of that time. David shares - among other great tips - that Toastmasters was one of the best things he did to build the basic speaking skills that led to where he is today.

 

Watch the video to hear David's tips for Toastmasters:

 

David shared his thoughts on two points:

Terrified of public speaking?

Practice among friends! That's why David recommends Toastmasters - it's a great way to get experience so that you improve your skills and get more comfortable.

Looking to make a good speech great?

Great speeches have a lot of elements that need to come together - from body language to content to so much more. David works with a speaker coach to focus on a particular aspect of his speech for each presentation. For one presentation it might be eliminating distracting movement, in another, it might be adding more dramatic pauses. Pick one element you want to work on in each speech you deliver (hey, that sounds like the Toastmasters program!).

David is a big proponent of Toastmasters and shared, "Toastmasters is so great because it gives you a chance to speak in front of a welcoming and encouraging audience that can help you get better."

Thanks to David for making it out to our club - can't wait for you to attend an upcoming meeting!

And now, David Meerman Scott's TEDx talk on "The Need to Explore" - congrats, David, this turned out fantastic!

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Recap and Lessons Learned from my 1st HubSpot External Speaking Experience

Posted by Nick Salvatoriello

Apr 12, 2013, 9:11 AM

 

I wanted to write and let our subscribers know that my 1st speaking opportunity outside of HubSpot was... a success!

How did I qualify for such an opportunity to speak on HubSpot's behalf, outside the company?  

I qualified for HubSpot's external speaking program, which is sponsored by HubSpot Toastmasters!

Nick_Sal_Wedding_DJ_and_Marketing_Professional_Panelist_at_HEB-15-March_2013

What was the audience and the topic I spoke on?

“How To Pitch Business”
That’s the topic for Marketing to the High End Bride XV, which took place Thursday, March 21st at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Boston.

Here is an overview of the event/topic that was posted on the event organizer's website: http://www.weddingprof.com/

View a screen-recording recapping my experience, some of the content I presented, and my lessons learned from the event:

 

Click here to view my recap presentation


So, how did I do on the video? How many crutch words? ;)  Feel free to give me my uh/um count in the comments below!

HEB-15-122

Key Take-Aways and Resources:

The most gratifying part of the whole experience?  The thank you messages from the event organizers....sent directly to Mike Volpe!  See the thoughtful note sent by Randy Cronk, who helped organize the event to our VP of Marketing, Mike Volpe:

"
Hi Mike --

I just wanted to say a big THANK YOU to two of your stars, Nick and Judy, for all the great content they provided at a panel yesterday hosted by my wife, Arlene, that took place in the main ballroom of the Mandarin Oriental, Boston.

Arlene produces and hosts a twice-yearly event called "Marketing to the High-End Bride," the largest gathering of wedding industry professionals in New England. Yesterday's panel topic was "How to Pitch Business" and Judy and Nick brought the inbound marketing perspective.

The audience really seemed excited and a lot of business cards were exchanged -- so thanks also to HubSpot for making these great people available.

Regards,
Randy"

Isn't that nice that the organizers of the event followed up like that?  And also, Mike Volpe saw the email responded with a thank you that very same day!  This put me on the map, baby!  ;)

Speaker_Panel_at_How_to_Pitch_New_Business_HEB-15-March_2013

Pro Tip for External Speaking Opportunities: Always send a thank you note and include your fellow panelists!

This is definitely a tip worth remembering - if you're invited to speak, especially on a panel, the pro's will follow up THAT DAY with a thank you note to the organizers and the panelists who helped them shine.  Follow up is so important.  If you'd like to see an example from one of our panelists, Bonita, check out what she shares in her thank you note here:

Bonita wrote:
"Thank you for including me as a panelist for the incredible HEB XV event this morning!! It was a true honor. Everyone did a wonderful, and the venue just looked stunning (not that I expected anything less).

Hope you received some great feedback, and can't wait to hear what people conveyed on the comment cards.

Talk soon,
Binita"

In Conclusion:

It was an honor to be a part of the panel, to represent our company and to serve my fellow colleagues in the wedding industry.  I got a huge boost from knowning I could use my speaking talents and skills developed in HubSpot Toastmasters to help others outside our company to succeed and grow their businesses and themselves professionally. There's so much potential for all of us, if we can find more ways to speak outside the company, like I did last through month's panel discussion.

 

Resources:

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2nd Annual ToastSpot Speech Contest Results Are In!

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Mar 24, 2013, 8:00 AM

This year's ToastSpot speech competition was even bigger than last year's. We had not one, but TWO competitions and about 30 HubSpotters attended, including special executive guests Brian Halligan, Jim O'Neil, Arjun Moorthy, and Andrew Quinn.

A big thanks to Rachael Plummer for organizing the event and everyone who participated in a role or cheered on the contestants. Now let's get to the good stuff - the contestants' speeches.

International Speech Contest

This contest challenged our speakers to present a remarkable speech. Not necessarily tied to a particular speech project in the Toastmasters CC manual, these speeches are 5-7 minutes (well, 4.5-7.5 minutes) and tend to be inspiring topics that engage the audience.

Contestant #1: Steve Haase - How to Make Boston Awesome: What's in the Way, and What You Can Do

Steve's speech centered on a very relevant topic for HubSpotters: how Boston actually suppresses innovation. He shared stories such as that of a clothing truck innovator who was shut down, and stats such as the percentage of Boston-area college students who leave after graduation (it's 50% - the highest in the country).  Steve complemented his speech with great visuals (not bullet points!) and was incredibly eloquent and natural, as always. Check out the video of Steve's speech below.

 

Contestant #2: Sarah Bedrick - Lessons Learned from My 11-Year-Old Self

Sarah shared a personal story for her speech, detailing the first time she went waterskiing - and the first time she felt the fear of failure. It was a powerful story with a lot of great movement (like showing how to sit back when you're in water skis) and imagery (getting pulled by fish with their mouths wide open) and humor (afraid of the cookie monster? really?). This speech had a little of everything - watch the video to see what I mean.

 

Contestant #3: Matthew Stein - How Not to Eat Fast Food

In this speech, Matthew not only brought back his expertise (food!) but also his powers of persuasion to get us to say "no" to fast food once and for all. Matthew had a great moment of telling us he wasn't going to preach to us - proclaiming this to us and banging on our swanky new podium - but Maggie, the Evaluator, caught on to Matthew's tricks and commended him on a sneaky way to persuade without seeming like he's persuading us. Beyond that, I'll give Matthew props for taking this speech not just to convince us not to eat fast food, but to give us practical tips to make it a reality. Watch the video and see.

And the winner is....

Sarah Bedrick! Congratulations, Sarah. Sarah will go on to do her speech at the Area-level competition soon and ToastSpotters will be invited to go and cheer her on.

Table Topics Contest

Table Topics, or Toast Points as they're lovingly called at HubSpot, are short (1-2 minute) extemporaneous (that means unprepared!) speeches on a topic given at the moment of the speech. We had 4 contestants who came and delivered some killer speeches on the topics below. Perhaps you'll notice the theme!

Drew Wallace - #Winning

Anum Hussain - #ThingsIDoWhenImHomeAlone

Marc Amigone - #PostGradProblems

Nick Salvatoriello - #IceCreamCone (well, sort of...)

And the winner is...

Anum Hussain! Congrats, Anum. Can't wait to see you kill it again in the Area-level competition.

Thanks again to everyone who attended, participated, or judged. Make sure you're on our email list to hear when we'll go to the Area-level competition to cheer on Sarah and Anum.

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Five Favorite Cures for Public Speaking Anxiety

Posted by Amy Ullman

Mar 22, 2013, 8:30 AM

I was inspired by this awesome article from the Harvard Extension School on conquering your fear of Fear-Of-Public-Speakingpublic speaking. One of the biggest reservations that prospective speakers voice is the fear of so-called failure. They see more seasoned speakers, and immediately think "I could never do that!" On the contrary, my friends! You most certainly can! You are a bright, creative snowflake with a unique point of view worth sharing! So don't be selfish: read on for 5 quick tips on how you can slay the savage beast that is speaking anxiety.

1. Always have a supportive face in the crowd.

Be they friend, colleague, or family member just knowing that there is someone in the audience that is rooting for you and wants you to succeed can offer a tremendous boost of confidence. So do what you can to make sure that happens:

  • Send out an invite well in advance to notify friends about your prospective speech.
  • Scan the roster of attendees in advance to see if you can find a familiar face.
  • If you are lucky enough to find someone, try to coordinate with them to make sure that they are front and center come game time!

2. Prepare in advance....

One of the most effective cures for speaking anxiety is to be prepared. Rehearsing a few times in advance, either with a mentor, friend, or family can go a long way in order to make you feel confident in regards to the subject matter. Don't have anyone handy the night before? Practice in front of a mirror (no, I am not kidding). Even if you know it in your head, actually forcing yourself to get up and practice in advance will go a long way to cure your jitters. No matter how sloppy, any advance prep work will be an asset come game time.

3. But not too much!

In the words of Voltaire, "Perfect is the enemy of good."  Writing out a very detailed speech and then attempting to memorize it verbatim, can often backfire. Putting additional pressure on yourself to not only get up in front of an audience and speak, but also memorize a script is often a recipe for disaster. Or at the very least result in you being a slave to your notes.

4. Deep breathing

Yes, I'm serious! This tried and true advice exists for a reason - it really works. I'm not suggesting that you should start rocking the Ujjayi breath mid-speech (although I could recommend some awesome HubSpot yogis and yoginis who would be happy to help with that), but employing this technique prior to go time can definitely make a difference. Additionally, if you find yourself struggling for words, use that opportunity to pause, breathe and regroup. It might feel like an eternity, but remember that silence is golden and can add power to your words.

5. What's the worst that can happen?

They're all going to laugh at you? You humiliate yourself in front of your peers? Not a chance! No speech is perfect. No matter how gifted the delivery there is always room for improvement. So sit back and relax and get excited about the chance to express yourself.

Not only is a little anxiety normal, it is healthy (and Forbes agrees with us!). In the words of Mark Twain, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” Even the most poised speakers still get nervous from time to time, especially when they embarked on the first few speeches. Oftentimes a little bit of anxiety can work to your advantage, providing an edgy snap, crackle, and pop of energy to your presentation. So use it to your advantage!

Want a chance to conquer your public speaking anxiety once and for all? Join us the 1st and 3rd Thursday of every month in Benioff for a HubSpot Toastmasters meeting. Want a little more information before you attend? Feel free to reach out to a mentor.

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What should my speech be about?

Posted by Matthew Stein

Mar 19, 2013, 11:55 AM

Your competent communicator book gives you a clear goal for each speech.  Only the first speech, the Ice Breaker, also suggests a subject. Yourself. For the rest of your speeches, you're on your own. Narrowing your topic choice can be hard, so here are the questions I ask my mentees to help them decide.

What are you passionate about?

Bring that emotional focus to your writing. Your own interest in the subject comes through in your presentation. Some people may feel caught in a trap of always talking about the same thing.  Others may want to keep that focus. There is room to explore topics both broadly and deeply. Pick one, and you can keep coming back to this well. 

Are you making a point with this speech?

The third speech is all about getting to the point. You should be able to sum up what you're talking about in one sentence. Not all speeches necessarily need a thesis statement, but without a summary you may not know where to start the direction yet. You could be telling a story where the point is to relay what happend in an amusing way. One of the things I like most about Toastmasters is learning from my fellow speakers. If you've decided what you're talking about, it could be a broad topic. Narrow that down, decide on what the point is, and then you can start building an outline for the speech. 

Do you have a personal goal for this speech?

If you're working the CC (Competent Communicator) series, they each have a goal to work on.  Figure out how your content will support this goal. Thinking about body language, you can craft something with two points, and plan on playing both sides out physically.  Working on vocal variety? Write in some exclamations, and where you will speak quietly or take a pause for emphasis. Planning these out with your content help you incorporate them into your speech more effectively.

Do you already know enough about the topic to talk about it?

Some people speak very easily off the cuff, where as other people need time to research to feel comfortable. Just keep in mind, don't get caught in the trap of putting off a speech because there's more to learn about your topic. There's always more to learn!

What do you want your audience to take away from the speech?

Not every speech needs to be poignant and end with a maxim, but that's one option.  Maybe you just want people to laugh, that's a valid take away too. Decideing this helps you craft the conclusion.  

What questions do you ask yourself when you're writing a speech? 

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What to Expect from a HubSpot Toastmasters Meeting

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

Mar 18, 2013, 9:00 AM

 

Toastmasters is an International speaking group with over 4 million members globally. 

And while most of the reasons people join Toastmsaters is the same - to improve public speaking skills, improve leadership, or meet new people - there are no two chapters that are alike, especially when you throw HubSpot into the mix.

Here is a great video of what to expect when attending a HubSpot Toastmasters meeting:

A little logistics about the HubSpot Meeting:

  • They're 1 hour long
  • They're the first and third Thursday of every month
  • And all are welcome to join and just listen in - or participate

Before the meeting, club members sign up for a varying degree of roles (on our HubSpot Google Doc) - so that when the meeting commences, everybody is aware of the role they're contributing to make for an incredible meeting.

The roles that people can sign up for are below - and are in the order in which they appear in the meeting, as well:

  • Toastmaster: 
    The Toastmaster of the meeting is essentially the night's MC. They open up the evening by welcoming the attendees, announcing a meeting theme (if they so choose to have one) and are in charge of making sure the night runs smoothly. Once they've opened up the meeting, they begin working through the evenings agenda with the different roles. 
     
  • Thought of the Day/Humorist (2-3 minutes): 
    The first speaker of the evening, the purpose of this role is to start off the meeting with a profound thought, or a light-hearted joke whether it's a personal experience or something they've recently
    heard. 
     
  • Word of the Day (1-2 Minutes):
    One of the less dynamic roles, this person is in charge of bringing a word that can help encourage the members of the group to expand their vocabulary. Words that usually work well are verbs or adjectives as they're easier to work into a conversation.
     
  • Speeches (5- Minutes per piece, 3 total):
    The Toastmaster will then proceed into the speech section. The speeches usually come from the Competent Communicator handbook - and are introduced based on the introduction in which the
    speech giver has written.
     
  • Toast Points (1-2 Minutes):
    At HubSpot, we refer to this section as Toast Points. However, throughout the Toastmaster's organization, they're called Table Topics. This section is where members can focus on their extemporaneous speaking abilities, meaning, speaking off the cuff. We've done improv, asked questions, debates and even pretended to host our own episode of HubSpot TV before to help expand our impromptu speaking abilities.
     
  • General Evaluator:
    The General Evaluator is the MC for the evaluation portion. Part of Toastmasters is not just speaking, but learning form it and becoming a better presenter - and evaluator.

    This role also evaluates the meeting as a whole and how it has progressed thus far.
     
  • Evaluators (2-3 Minutes):
    The evaluators evaluate the main speakers, based on the Toastmaster's Member Guide.
     
  • Timer (1-3 Minutes):
    The job of the timer is to monitor the time for each speech and signal to the presenter how much time they have left. This role is a large part of each meeting - to keep us HubSpotters on track, but also to make sure people do not go over their allotted time - which can result in a disqualification in the case of a speech competition.
     
  • Ah/Um Counter (2-3 Minutes):
    Counts the number of times speakers use filler or crutch words.  
     
  • Grammarian (2-3 Minutes):
    The role of the Grammarian is to evaluate the word choice and use of improper grammar from the night's speakers.  

 

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5 Public Speaking Lessons from Improv

Posted by Magdalena Georgieva

Mar 17, 2013, 12:27 PM

Toastmasters and improv have a lot in common: thinking fast on your feet, staying engaging to the audience and telling a meaningful story. That is one of the reason why I, along with a few other ToastSpot members, decided to take an improv course offered by Boston's Improv Asylum.

Screen_Shot_2013-03-03_at_11.15.22_PM

Here are the top five lessons I learned from my very first classes:

1. Listen, listen, listen

A common activity for learning to improvise is this associations game, in which one person says a word and points at someone else, thus inviting them to respond with the first thing that comes to mind. In improv, it seems like performers can do this in a funny and witty way. Yet, what actually makes a situation truly remarkable isn't the intended humor. It's the authentic reaction to something real.

Simply listen and respond. Llistening is the foundation of effective communication, whether in a group setting or in a one-on-one meeting.

2. Don't let words trip you

If you are having trouble with listening, try something funky. Play the same associations game mentioned above, but with sounds instead of words. This will make you a lot quicker, more sponteneous and unafraid to be real. If you can react instinctively to an inarticulate sound, you should be able to do the same with words. Don't let words trip you.

3. Tell a story

Another valuable exercise in improv teaches you to focus on the actual story. Do you remember this game: one person says a word that starts a sentence, and every following player adds a new word that completes the sentence? This is a great game to focus you on telling a simple story with a beginning, middle and an end. Try playing it with a few friends and remember to create something meaningful.

4. Evolve the story through agreement

When collaborating, in order to let the story evolve, you shouldn't negate what someone else says. That will most likely put an end to the story or at least get you in a corner that you can't get out off easily.

Instead, build on the story with agreement. Wondering how to do that? Try a "Yes, and" exercise that forces you to agree with someone and see what happens. The conversation will move forward in unexpected and authentic ways.

5. Build a world using objects

We rely on shared human culture in everyday interactions and it's amazing how well we communicate with each other when we make the right references. They help us paint a picture using everyday life objects.

In improv, one can create a scene by pretending to be in a specific enviroment, like a kitchen. Opening the fridge, washing the dishes, throwing the trash, mopping the floor--these are all distinct activities one can recognize just by watching someone pretend doing them.

Using the objects around us in this way has the power to make everyone watching part of the same world. Pretty cool, eh? Try using objects in your speeches and see how the audience reacts to that!

Have you tried improv? What lessons do you have to share?

Image credit: slimmer_jimmer

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Meeting Notes for Mar 7, 2013

Posted by Anand Rajaram

Mar 8, 2013, 10:19 AM

We had an amazing meeting yesterday. After Steve Haase welcomed the 17 attendees and kicked things off as Toastmaster, we had a great Thought for the day by Maggie quoting Voltaire : "Perfect is the enemy of good" . Excellent thought, and sage advice especially for Product Managers like me.

This was followed by the word of the day, by, Peter Scher. Exude : to display abundantly or conspicuously. (which was very well used by the Toastmaster and in the speeches).

We had three great Speeches for the night.

  • Anum Hussain's Icebreaker speech was about How the passions you have as a child translate to the man or woman you end up being. Excellent Icebreaker speech that gave us a peek into Anum's childhood adventures.
  • Lindsay Kirchoff's Second speech about "Awkwardness" had great references to current pop culture and painted contrasting pictures of individuals from the present generation who embraced their awkwardness and those that didn't. And for the record, no, there were no awkward pauses during the speech.
  • Amy Ullman's Fourth speech on "My first wine tasting", transported us to Colorado, where she was rubbing shoulders with the Who's Who of the restaurant industry and experienced her moment of truth about having an intuitive sense for wine and how it tasted. An excellent assortment of words used to describe all the different aspects of the wine (taste, smell, color, body) and it sure piqued my interest in wines.
The Toastpoints were the highlight for me, because it was something truly different. Maggie came up with a creative idea of an Improv inspired toastpoints. 8 of us stood in pairs, and each pair facing each other would have a conversation that follows the "YesAnd" style used in Improvs. Here’s how it works:

At the beginning of the scene, Character #1 will begin by establishing setting and plot.

  • Character #1: Today has been a great day.

Following the “Yes And” method, Character #2 will accept the premise and add onto the situation.

  • Character #2: Yes, and I especially enjoyed Science Fair.
  • Character #1: Yes, And I am proud to be part of the team that built those awesome products..

and so on. the Rule of Agreement reminds you to “respect what your partner has created” and start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and couldn't help tweeting it right after. 

Sarah Bedrick gave excellent takeaways for each of the speakers and interestingly, the length of her evaluation correlated with the length of the speeches themselves (thanks to Chris LoDolce, the timer, for that insight). Rouding out the evaluation part (MC-ed by Marc Amigone) were the Ah-um counter (Anna Siradze) and Grammarian (Nick Sal). 

Announcements:

  • We will always have a spot reserved for Speech 1, so if you are starting out, take advantage of the opportunity.
  • Please sign up for only one speech at a time. If you have signed up for multiple, please release some of the slots. Thanks!

I can't wait for the next meeting. What was your favorite part of the meeting?

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Top 5 Reasons to Join HubSpot Toastmasters

Posted by Ellie Mirman

Mar 7, 2013, 8:30 AM

awesome-street-moonlightbulbToastSpot, the HubSpot chapter of Toastmasters International, started in October 2011 as what was probably the first professional development opportunitiy for HubSpotters. Since then it's grown to be so much more and we have dozens of HubSpotters showing up to each meeting and special events like contests and field trips.

Why should you join ToastSpot? How about these 5 awesome reasons:

1. Improve your speaking skills.

Whether you're in marketing, sales, services, development, or any other department, Toastmasters is *the* way to improve your speaking skills. If nothing else, this is a great outlet to come practice speaking, work on specific skills from organizing your speech to leveraging vocal variety and visuals to delivering a persuasive, inspiring speech.

A number of HubSpotters are practicing to prepare for speaking engagements outside of HubSpot, but aside from that, each and every one of us has speaking opportunities in our day to day jobs - from weekly team meetings to monthly Smervices to sales and services calls with prospects and customers.

2. Develop your leadership skills.

In addition to the communication track of Toastmasters, which aims to develop your speaking skills over time, there are a lot of leadership opportunities - from being an officer (elected annually) who makes this club a reality to taking a role like the Evaluator or Table Topics Master at any meeting. 

Taking a leadership role at ToastSpot improves your leadership skills (such as leading a meeting or organizing an event or building a club) that you can use in your day-to-day job, while also getting you noticed by HubSpotters across the company. Building connections and getting noticed by HubSpotters across the company is a great way to pave the way for future career opportunities at HubSpot.

3. Get internationally recognized certifications.

Once you become an official member, you receive a book of speaking projects (speeches centered on developing specific speaking skills) and once you complete them, you receive an internationally recognized Competent Communicator certification. Similar to the Competent Communicator certification, as an official member you can complete leadership projects and receive the internationally recognized Competent Leadership certification. These two certifications are great to put on your resume and take with you beyond HubSpot.

4. Meet fellow HubSpotters.

While all of these other benefits are great, probably the #1 reason I love Toastmasters is for the opportunity to meet fellow HubSpotters. At the current size and pace of growth of the company, it can be hard to meet coworkers outside of your specific team. Toastmasters brings together HubSpotters from almost every department - sales, services, marketing, and product.

5. Participate in the External Speaking Program.

On top of building your speaking skills for all of the times you speak in front of a group already, you can volunteer to participate in the external speaking program. We've partnered with the PR team (that places HubSpotters for speaking engagements) to train and nominate new potential speakers for external speaking opportunities. HubSpot gets a lot of requests for speakers, and we can't supply our executives for smaller audiences, and at the same time, we've heard many HubSpotters express interest in taking such speaking engagements. By becoming a ToasSpot member, doing a number of speeches to demonstrate your ability, you can get placed in the rotation for future speaking opportunities of varying size and audience. Learn more about the external speaking program here.

Have other reasons that got you to join ToastSpot? Share them in the comments!

Photo credit: moonlightbulb

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About the ToastSpot Blog

Welcome to the ToastSpot blog!

Here you can find articles on:

  • How to get the most out of Toastmasters
  • Examples of awesome speeches
  • Announcements about upcoming events
  • How to come up with ideas for your next speech
  • Highlights from recent meetings, including some of the entertaining and inspiring speeches from our members

Have requests? Reach out to us - we'd love to know what YOU want to read about. We also welcome guest bloggers - feel free to come to us with suggestions for your next article.

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