HubSpot Toastmasters Blog


ToastSpot Elections Are Coming! Nominate Your Future Officers

Posted by Sarah Bedrick

May 22, 2014, 1:00 PM

The time has come.... 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.

Join ToastSpot Today!


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


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.


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

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


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:


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:




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? 


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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