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, and, 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.




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. 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.

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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.

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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! 


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!


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.

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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.



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  



About the ToastSpot Blog

Welcome to the ToastSpot blog!

Here you can find articles on:

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