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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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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!

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Photo credit:  Lynn Palazzo and Karen Eliot
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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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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.

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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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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
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