Speaking Spontaneously

Posted in public speaking, toastmasters with tags , , on March 7, 2013 by pastajon

Two kinds of people: PUSHERS and PULLERS.  Pushers always have words inside them, like bottomless Pez dispenser.  Pullers have to pull the words out of themselves, much like an undesirable object in a puppy’s mouth.  Whether it is after being called on for Table Topics at a Toastmasters meeting or after you’ve responded to a question in a business meeting, pushers and pullers alike are critical of their responses.  A puller will inevitably THINK, “I wish I would have said THIS instead!”.  Since a pusher says what they are thinking, they might think, “I wish I had thought of something else to say”.  What does a pusher say (since I am not a pusher)?  We are on a growth journey and none of us arrives instantaneously.  So don’t be too hard on yourself – expect failure along the way.  In either case, both categories can benefit from the following strategy for speaking spontaneously:


  1. PRE-LOAD : Fill your tank ahead of time and tie the question to what is on your mind (reading, experience, thoughts and ideas, etc.); what we value and are familiar with affects what we believe about life (positive spin). demonstrate


  1. PLUNGE : Pause and start slow and turn the question over in your mind and talk about the question as you develop the body of your question.  Ask good rhetorical questions about the question; analyze it.   demonstrate


  1. POINTS : there are several things I’d like to say about that…; 1,2,3 points; contrast: this –vs- that; plus/minus; tie into what is on your mind; tell a story; positive spin – how does the question relate to your values/experience? demonstrate


  1. PUNCH : summarize; when inspired, end with a wow! (quote, wit, declaration, let some dynamics fly!, etc.) demonstrate



The Toastmaster of the Day Wears Two Hats

Posted in leadership, toastmasters on September 25, 2012 by pastajon

VP of PR Workshop

Posted in leadership, toastmasters on April 13, 2012 by pastajon

There is one essential element for promoting any Toastmaster club – well planned, exciting, and meaningful meetings. Everything rests on excellent meetings. If our meetings are enjoyable, word will spread.

If our meetings are fantabulous and we can get a SALESMAN to join our club – membership will explode. This happened serendipitously for my club. Scott, who enjoyed horses, invited Mark, who also enjoyed horses to speak at our club. Mark is a former NBA All-star basketball player. Mark has an executive coach at the time named Julio. Mark invited Julio to come along to the club when he spoke. Because our club was conducting meaningful and exciting and well planned meetings both Mark and Julio joined immediately. Mark is a professional speaker. Julio is a SALESMAN.

According to Malcom Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, a SALESMAN is someone whose unusual charisma allows them to be extremely persuasive in inducing others’ buying decisions and behaviors.

After two years of over 40 members we had to approach Julio to stop persuading others to join our club.

Meaningful, exciting, well-planned meetings are so important that everything else related to Public Relations pales. If we don’t have great meetings we will only be turning people off to Toastmasters by inviting them to bore themselves.

In addition to word-of-mouth sales, we can help people discover what Toastmasters is about and where and when we meet by:

  • submitting meeting information to be printed weekly in the local paper for free under the community meetings section,
  • submitting news and pictures to the local newspaper to be printed and bring attention to what the club is doing,
  • submitting PSAs (public service announcements) to the local radio station that tells people when and where you meet,
  • asking to be interviewed by the local radio station regarding recent breaking news related to your club or to inform the community about what Toastmasters is, and
  • creating a blog/website that provides information that is easily found by visitors looking for meeting times and locations and explanations about Toastmasters. By posting current news and information onto our blog we can drive traffic to our sites and increase awareness in the community.

Four Reasons to Use Props

Posted in public speaking on April 11, 2012 by pastajon

As a former preacher and current public speaker, I place high value on using props to get my message across. I’m using the acronym CAVE to spell out four critical reasons why we should use objects in our public speaking:

Connect your audience with your story or idea. Preaching for Palm Sunday service years ago I asked the congregation to throw their coats into the aisle. It was a simple but bold request to do something similar to what the crowd did for Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on a colt many  years ago. They were throwing their tunics down which was probably their only outer wrap that they owned and it was likely to get dirty, maybe torn, and unfortunately for some, have a some horse manure land on it. It was a way to honor their new king. Asking the congregation to throw their coats in the aisle connecting them with the story and made it personal.

Anchor your message in the minds of your audience. How many times do we forget rather quickly a sermon or speech soon after we heard it? We can often remember ideas when they are associated with something we see. When talking about the two holes in our hearts I created a large 3 foot wide brightly painted heart to put on the platform. I asked for some volunteers to place common household objects into each of the two holes that I had cut into the heart. It created a mental picture that would not soon fade.

Visualize your ideas. When performing weddings I love to make the sermon very personal to the couple and highlight their wonderful traits and uniqueness. For Eric and Kara I used a skill saw and a violin. Eric was a carpenter and Kara was a musician. They didn’t know I was going to pull these objects out and talk about how these represent them in multiple ways. I tied them together by pointing out how they both work with wood to make something beautiful and how Eric and Kara will be working together to make a beautiful life together. Not only did they really enjoy it when I fired up the skill saw and ran the bow across the strings of the violin, but I created an anchor of a delightful day in their lives.

Engage your audience’s imagination. An object can jump start your presentation even before you start speaking. For example, having an elegante table set for dinner on the platform before you start speaking got my congregation wondering what I was going to be talking about that day. Curiosity keeps our attention.

Use a prop the next time you speak and watch your audience CAVE into your ideas.

Ever been dissapointed with the outcome of a contest?

Posted in contests, evaluations on November 20, 2011 by pastajon

I had a friend not place at a Toastmasters District humorous contest. Although she produced more laughs than any other contestant, she didn’t make the top three. Hmmmm. Suspicious. Don’t we like to jump to conclusions when we find ourselves in locations like this? How come the top two contestants happened to be from the same state as several of the speech judges? How come so many people thought she ‘hit the ball out of the park’ and yet the judges didn’t see that? And, the real kicker question, how come we are not allowed to see the judges ballots?

This is a mystery to me. At every Toastmasters meeting around the world, every week, for every speech, we give an oral and written evaluation for a speech. We want to hear and see the observations you as an evaluator have made. Is not a judge an evaluator? How valuable would it be for a contestant to be able to see what areas they need to work on to be as good or better than the other contestants? But, no, we want to protect the judges. But doesn’t the power of evaluation (judging) apply to our contests as well?

I’d also love to see a test speaker at every contest. We do this at my club level to warm up the judges so that have someone to compare to that isn’t even in the contest.  And we will compare…

Putting the Pitch into Your Pitch

Posted in exercises, public speaking, toastmasters with tags , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by pastajon

Have you ever sat through a boring presentation?

Of course we have.

A boring presentation, specifically one that uses a monotone voice tells us two terrible things: the speaker isn’t excited about their message and the speaker doesn’t care about his audience. Ouch!

But before we a too quick to cast judgement on others, have we ever been guilty of a boring presentation?

I know I have been.

As public speakers we must utilize inflection. Inflection utilizes several components: volume, rate, pause, pitch, and timbre (tone variation – think Bob Dylan -vs- Johnny Cash).  The hardest of these elements to utilize is pitch. There are three reasons why pitch is so hard to use: 1. fear often constricts our throats and makes it really hard to change the frequency of our voice, 2. we often mistake and substitute volume for pitch, and 3. we are often ignorant of our voice quality and pay it little mind.

Three ways to add pitch to our presentations:

1. Loosen up our throats.  A big ol’ yawn before going on stage is an easy way to open up our throats. It doesn’t hurt to loosen up like we would before an athletic event – roll our shoulders, roll our heads, jump up and down, etc.  Anything to stay loose can serve our throats.

2. Intentionality. We are unlikely to use pitch if we don’t plan to use it.

BIG SECRET HERE: find an interval in pitch (like twinkle, twinkle little star – do to sol in the eight note major scale) and start speaking on that higher note.  We will be surprised at how starting on a higher note will raise our awareness and use of pitch immediately!

3. Accept your voice and use inflection to make it sound even better. If we don’t like our voice we are more likely to ignore what we can do to make improvements. I used to cringe at listening to my voice on a recording, but every time I use inflection and start speaking at a higher pitch I am happy with the improvements I am making to my voice quality.

To Power Point or Not to Power Point

Posted in public speaking with tags , , , , on September 16, 2011 by pastajon

When I give a presentation using Power Point I either feel great about it or feel terrible. The times when I feel great about it all can be traced to a minimal use of PP as an aid. The times when I feel terrible about it can be traced to relying too much on PP as an aid.

My best presentations have a spontaneous feel to it. Though I’ve prepared and done my homework, I dive into sharing my ideas with enthusiasm. Power Point takes the wind out of my sails when I rely on it too much.

An image, a video, a quote, main ideas. Keep it simple.