Archive for toastmasters

Planning a Division TLI / Officer Training

Posted in leadership, toastmasters with tags , , , , , on May 10, 2016 by pastajon

Overview: this timeline reflects a non-Division Director’s approach to putting on an officer training that included breakfast, one keynote, and two workshop sessions that had Toastmasters and non-Toastmaster related topics. This approach was meant to also include the general public, promote Toastmasters, and raise the bar regarding officer training.

Date Task
7 months out Meet with those interested team members (doers, not committee people)
6 months out Secured a venue
  First team meeting to discuss name, audience, sponsorship, keynote, program, registration, call for presenters, etc.
  Email a “call for presenters” out to division clubs, area director, and division director
  Email hosting club members interested in volunteering to mark their calendars
  Email hosting club officers a request to facilitate an officer training workshop
5 months out Ask planning team to bring five title and tag line ideas to planning meeting along with sponsor ideas
  Decide on event title and tag line (e.g. Big Bad Ballyhoo, elevate your speaking and leadership skills)
  Brainstorm sponsorship ideas and levels of participation. E.g. $50 or less: mentioned in emails and program, $50-99: poster, program, email, social media; $100-499: poster, email, program, email, social media, recognized at event.
  Begin social media campaign: personal tweets, club and district tweets, club and district FB, personal LinkedIn and TM group LinkIn posts, hosting club / event website post
  Ask Division Director to invite other divisions to attend
  Follow up with keynote leads / ideas. Attempt to nail down a keynote speaker.
  Ask Division Director to email another request for workshop proposals
4 months out Deadline for workshop applications and descriptions
  Create and send out first round of division emails with attached flyer promotion via Division Director
  Extend workshop and keynote commitment finalization to three months out (if struggling to obtain commitments). Begin thinking about 3rd keynote alternate if first two have not committed.
  Post promotion graphic on District Facebook page
  Meet with team to decide on keynote
  Send out sponsoring invite to hosting club members
3 months out Meet with team to discuss catering, advertising, program, etc.
  Contact caterers for prices and menu ideas for 50-75 people
  Set facilitator training dates
  Contact alternate workshop facilitators if necessary.
  Contact local radio station about set up a radio interview
  Recruit someone to be the MC
  Create draft online registration
  Resend sponsorship invitation to hosting club members
  Follow up with hosting club officers about leading workshops and being trained
  Ask someone to put together a logo slideshow and setting up projectors for the event
2 months out Submit announcement to local publications (to invite public)
  Send another promotional email out through the Division Director
  Create poster and email to division club presidents
  Get prices on poster printing
  Ask hosting club members to sponsor (reminder email) and send money to finalize budget
  Submit event to local online event calendars
  Email presidents and area directors about some of the workshops being offered to generate interest
  Update event /club website post with more details regarding keynote and workshops
  Follow up with hosting club officers about facilitating workshops
  Create draft program
1 month out Contact alternate facilitator to secure commitment if necessary
  Secure local radio interviews to promote the event and write an article for the local paper
  Create a volunteer sign up form
  Go live with online preregistration form
  Ask local coffee shop to sponsor and get a commitment
  Create draft poster with sponsor logos and send out to sponsors for review
3 weeks out Meet with team to firm up details regarding program, posters, catering, budget, etc.
  Contacted caterer options
  Update poster and program with any changes
  Receive any last minute sponsor money
  Send pre-registration link to Division Director and District Director
  Recruit any replacement facilitators to lead an officer training
  Send final for 25 posters to be printed with
  Finalize programs and send to printer
  Email pre-registration link to Division Club Presidents and Area Directors
2 weeks out Assign volunteers to be greeters and set up / tear down
  Remind and invite workshop facilitators to training a training the week before
  Email to Division Director to forward to division (and send it to club presidents and area directors too) regarding the workshop line up, free breakfast, and link to pre-register
2 weeks out Hang posters around town
  Email .pdf of event poster to local hosting club members to invite people
  Remind event team, volunteers, and facilitators to be at event at 8:00am for a pre-event briefing
  Meet with team to firm up catering and send check.
  Contact local coffee shop to remind them of their beverage sponorship
  Create facilitator template / training and email out and go over at training to insure every workshop has the same interactive experience
1 week out Facilitator training, walk through venue with team and venue contact, and talk through final details
  Purchase card and gift card for keynote, hang more posters
  Send another email to District Director, Area Directors, and Club Presidents
Day before Email team reminder and tally of pre-registration
  Email Area Directors and Club Presidents to invite membership
  Post event invitation on LinkedIn one last time (for public invitation)
Day of event Arrive early and brief team on what needs to be done to set up (signage, sound, food tables, breakout locations and set up of rooms, etc.).
After event Meet with team to debrief, go over event comment sheets,



The Mad Mega Mentoring Machine

Posted in leadership, toastmasters with tags , on November 14, 2013 by pastajon

For several years now I’ve been helping my Toastmaster’s club to implement, organize, and build a mentoring program. For several years now I’ve been frustrated with the results. For several years now I’ve tried numerous different strategies to obtain different results. But alas, all my efforts have disappointed.

My Failed Strategies

  1. Recruiting seasoned members to mentor new members.
  2. Assigning new members to a mentor with in the first week they join.
  3. Meeting with interested mentors to share the vision of mentoring and expectations.
  4. Giving education speeches about the value of mentoring and explaining a clear initiative for our club.
  5. Seeking out people with strong follow through to be mentors.
  6. Encouraging every member to have a mentor as someone to give them encouragement and push them forward on their Toastmaster journey.
  7. Encouraging new members to seek out an un-assigned mentor who they might connect with more and desire specific input from.
  8. Simplifying the mentoring process to a once-a-month, five minute phone call or face to face conversation initiated by the mentors.

The Irony of Initiative

What strikes me as odd is that we, who show initiative to join Toastmasters, give speeches, show up week to week, pay dues, attend parties, stay after for coffee, take on meeting roles, sign up for roles months in advance, and choose to serve in club leadership, will often not take the initiative to make a phone call. Maybe I’m wanting it to be too formal. You know, a conversation that can be checked off on a to do list. When what more likely happens is members having conversations outside the ‘mentoring’ program, asking for help, bouncing a speech idea off others over coffee after a meeting.

We are overwhelmed.

And we are distracted.

Work demands, family activities, and household chores are enough to sap us. Add on top of that the ever pesky handheld computing device that receives phone calls, text messages, emails, tweets, facebook updates, calendar alarms, etc. Then there is the laptop or desktop computer, television with either the latest movie from Netflix or hundreds of tantalizing cable or satellite channels to watch. Recreation. Exercise. Reading. Ad nauseam.

What I’ve Decided to do about it – The Mad Mega Mentoring Machine

  1. Encourage each new member to strike up conversations with anyone that want to get input from. Call it micro-mentoring.
  2. Add each new member that joins this year to my mentoring memo email list.
  3. Send a mentoring memo once-a-month and cover the basics – explanation of the minor roles, how to be the table topic master or respond to table topics, how our online and paper scheduling works, etc. I will keep these saved in my gmail ‘canned responses’ to either keep using in years to come or to pass on.
  4. Hold once-a-month new member orientation, as needed, to give a quick 20mn overview of Toastmasters and our club to new members.
  5. Offer to be a sounding board for ideas to any new member. And, no, I haven’t been overrun despite our club’s healthy rate of attaining new members. It’s a form a approachability.
  6. Look for those opportunities to have a conversation with a new member after a meeting to encourage them.

I know, it’s not what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to assign mentors. And we are all supposed to be super-human too. Well, instead of waiting for the planets to align, I’m taking the bull by the horns and incorporating a strategy that works and that can be passed on the next guy or gal willing to oversee mentoring.

Jon Henry
VP of Membership
Club Co-Founder

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.

Anyone can be a good grammarian

Posted in toastmasters with tags , , , , , , on March 16, 2011 by pastajon

I’m not good with grammar.  When I tell my family that I was complimented for being a good grammarian at my Toastmaster club they howl with laughter.

Most people who fill the Grammarian role in my club make too few observations.  I believe anyone can be a good grammarian with a little bit of guidance.  The biggest suggestion people can benefit from is to learn to look for what people are doing right with grammar.  Below is my collaboration of grammatical guidelines that I am sharing with my club:


1.    Choose a word to match the meeting’s theme before the meeting.  Choose a word that will most likely be used in everyday speech and not simply be an obscure challenge for the day.  Attempt to pick words that are truly rich in meaning and in which members will gladly use in their vocabulary.

2.    Print several copied of the word with at least a 60 point font so it is legible through out the room.  Include a definition that can also be read from a distance.  Letting members know the word before the meeting gives them the chance to work it into their speeches.

3.    Place the word around the room using scotch tape before the meeting starts and be prepared to explain the word, definition, and an example of its use to the club at the beginning of the meeting.

4.    It is your responsibility to keep track of who uses the word throughout the meeting and report on this at the end of the meeting.  Table topics participants must use the word of the day to qualify for being voted on for best table topics.


1.    Find the Good

  • Vocabulary – interesting, enriching words like cathartic.
  • Alliterations – he ate a lot of fatty, feel-good food.
  • Emotion, emphasis
  • Good adjectives (deep, beautiful, puffy, humid, warm, foreboding, blustery, etc.)
  • Word pictures, transitions, puns, word play, metaphors, similes, etc.
  • Use of good words and using words correctly.

2.    Pointing out where to improve

  • Refer to a dictionary for exact pronunciation.
  • Colloquialisms – ya’ll, gonna, wanna, ‘old as the hills’, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’, etc.
  • Jargon – words hard to understand by those outside the profession or group.
  • Dialect – e.g. New Yorker yelling, “wassa madda wichoo?”
  • Buzzwords and overused words.
  • Disconnected ideas
  • Ineffective wording, misused and misunderstood words and phrases.
  • Tense consistency, active -vs- passive voice, incomplete or run on sentences, etc..
  • Off color or offensive words.

3.    Things to avoid

  • Making someone look bad.
  • Pointing out too many things about one person.
  • “Should” and “shouldn’t” statements.
  • If you can’t explain why something is wrong or give the proper alternative than don’t mention it.
  • “So”, if over used, can be a filler word, but don’t mistake its use as bad grammar.

4.    Tricks of the trade

  • Make general observations and avoid knit picking an individual.
  • Point out the positives over the negatives.
  • Make simple diction suggestions to ESL members instead of attacking their many mistakes.  Consider talking to them in person or writing them a note instead of singling them out before the group.  Compliment their success in English!

Too often people talk too much

Posted in contests, evaluations, public speaking, toastmasters with tags , , , , on February 23, 2011 by pastajon

It is possible to say too little, though a rarity.
It is possible to say too much, which is more likely.

I was disqualified from the recent Evaluation Contest because I went over my time limit of 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Shoot! and I watched the timing light turn red too!

My attempt to fit in my ‘summary’ into my evaluation cost me the chance to be considered to win and, had I won, to go on to the Area contest.
Details. Timing.

It matters in contests.
It matters in speeches.
It matters when we are giving reports at work.
It certainly matters if the preachers long winded and the roast is in the oven.

Rehearse your speeches and time them.
Eliminate the unnecessary, give yourself some cushion to finish in plenty of time, and don’t give in to the temptation to be spontaneous and add material on the fly and lengthen your speech unless you can do it with extreme moderation.

At the club International Speech Competition this February, I WILL be within the time limits! (And was.)

10 Reasons to Get Excited About Contests

Posted in contests, public speaking, toastmasters with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2011 by pastajon

I had to make a decision. I could work and make money or attend my daughter’s volleyball tournament. That should be a no brainer, but I was unemployed and needed the money. We make time for what is important to us.

If you are in Toastmasters and are not excited about speech contests, reconsider.

Why did we join Toastmasters? To become better public speakers. Here are 10 reasons to get involved with speech contests:

  1. Contests force us to the next level. It is easy to get comfortable speaking in our clubs. We get to know people and feel accepted and soon thereafter we stop trying so hard to make our speeches great. We know we can give a lousy speech and people will still applaud our poor effort. We will never win a speech contest and remain comfortable; improvement and winning will cost us.
  2. We learn by competing. Sometimes we think, ‘I could never win so why even compete’. How will we ever win if we don’t try? A few of us may win our first competition, like my friend Andy Cier won the District Humorous Speech Contest his first contest. Hey! That ain’t right! It took me several tries before I even won at a club level. But that is the beauty of contests – they make us work harder and IMPROVE!
  3. We learn by judging. Judging a contest is hard! If judge well you have to pay very close attention and guard yourself from getting caught up in the content alone. The judging ballets have this great list of the nuts and bolts of what makes a great presentation. Judging forces us to pay attention to these great details and we become more aware of them. Next time you evaluate a speech in your club you will be better at it, pay more attention, and know what to look for.
  4. We learn by observing. You have different strengths than me. You have a different style of speaking than me. And I can learn from you. We can learn from observing each other.
  5. We learn by losing. My first speech contest was ten years ago. I’ve entered several speech contests since then and have lost at the club level and area level before ever winning at the District level. Losing heightens our awareness of what we did wrong, what we forgot to do, and what we can do better.
  6. We made a commitment. Becoming a Toastmaster is a commitment we often take too lightly. Being a Toastmaster is a mutually beneficial experience – we get help and we help others. We can help others by getting involved with contests.
  7. We can support our friends. It meant a lot to me when my friends from my club showed up at the Area, Division, and District level to cheer me on. Life is about relationships – as is communication and leadership. Showing up to encourage your friends shows them that you really care for them, win or lose.
  8. We make contests more exciting. Would we rather speak to five people or fifty? Some of us might prefer five, but fifty people creates a whole new atmosphere and speakers feed off of a crowd’s energy. Make the next contest more exciting for your friends by contributing to the crowd.
  9. We can enjoy some great speeches. Yes, some of the speakers will not be so good. But let’s cheer them on for trying. And yes, some speeches will be terrific, inspiring, and terribly funny.
  10. Contests will ‘raise the bar’ in your club. Once my club starting taking contests more seriously it changed the level of expectations at our meetings. Now we have two District Humorous Contest winners, a Division Humorous Contest winner, an Area International Contest winner, a Division Tall Tales winner, and a District Evaluation Contest winner in our club. People expect more at our club now. Our membership is between 40 and 60 people.

Contests are INVIGORATING!

We make time for what is important to us – like improving our public speaking skills and attending our daughter’s volleyball tournament!


Posted in leadership, public speaking, toastmasters with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2010 by pastajon

George Barna a researcher suggests that one million people a year are leaving traditional churches.  They are looking for more interaction.  They are tired of doing all the listening and being given no opportunity for input.

Public speakers (and especially preachers) pay attention.

Are we allowing for some input from our audiences?  It is interesting what a little feedback from the audience can do.  I recently returned to church work and preaching.  In my sermons I have intentionally asked questions to the audience to get some feedback, to include them in the subject and the people love it.  They are moving from spectators to participants and as a result they engage the subject far more.

David Brooks, 1990 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking, says, “Great speakers go from concern about themselves to concern about the message to concern about the audience”.  Getting input from your listeners is a vital way to show them concern.

Are you about to give a presentation?  Make sure you include the audience with some interaction.