HubSpot Toastmasters Blog


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.


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.


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.

body language in presentations

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



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.


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.


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

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.



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)



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 (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 (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 (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.


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.


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


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.


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

Sign up for a role in the next meeting


Learn how to speak well in 5 easy steps

Posted by Loree McDonald

Jan 6, 2014, 1:30 PM


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! 


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.


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: and The Future of Work, came to HubSpot's Cambridge office Wednesday afternoon to share his experience spending a year working for, 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 and 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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