Category: Speeches

Jun 24 2010

Clubs Must Use Social Media

Professionally, I am very interested in how people and groups communicate. I’m mystified that there is so much sensible advice in the public arena about how to communicate information, that gets ignored.

As VPPR of my Toastmasters’ group, East Midlands Speakers Club, I need to know whether members think that they are getting too much or too little information and how they prefer to receive it.

I used the final project in my Advanced Manual on Technical Presentations, Enhancing a Technical Talk with the Internet, to carry out a small survey with the help of club members, of what are their communications’ preferences.

Since I am aware of the phenomenal increase in use of social networking, I also wanted to convey to my audience the urgency of the need to embrace social media. Many other toastmasters’ clubs use a variety of methods on the web to self-publicise and to promote toastmasters, blogs, twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, and so on. Ours does not, yet. Although we do have a Facebook group.

It isn’t enough now, just to have a website. Have you noticed the Facebook Like buttons and the Tweetmeme on these pages?

I had a high response rate from my colleagues, for which I am extremely grateful. Thank you, all of you.

I’m also grateful for the free use of Surveymonkey to organise my survey, Slideshare for hosting the slideshow presentation, and 4shared.com for hosting the soundtrack.

The objectives of the project required that I email a link to the internet for club members to follow, make a presentation using PowerPoint or Keynote, backed up by a flipchart if necessary, and to follow up the presentation with a summary.

Here is that follow-up summary, conveyed in a slide presentation and accompanying, separate soundtrack. The first slides show the results of the survey. Successive slides present data showing the incredible rise in use of social media. Finally, the presentation includes links which readers can follow to toastmasters’ groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I thoroughly recommend watching the YouTube video linked at the end of the presentation. Four minutes long, it shows eye-widening statistics on the shift in communications preferences. The video is based on Erik Qualman’s book, Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business. Did you know that some universities have stopped issuing email addresses to students because these young people just won’t use email? Instead, they’re using ereaders, iPads and tablet computers. How many people are using their mobile phones to surf the net to stay in touch with friends?

Unless we stay abreast of this revolution, we may find that it will prove difficult, if not impossible, in the future to recruit new members.

You will need to click on both the slideshow and the soundtrack to start them off, and manually forward to the next slide. The soundtrack will prompt you to move on. You can pause the slideshow if you need to.

The links on the slides will take you to toastmasters’ groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. The link to YouTube will open Social Media Revolution 2.

This presentation concluded my bid for the Toastmasters’ Advanced Communicator Bronze award, which has contributed to East Midlands Speakers President’s Distinguished Club Award this year.

Nov 03 2009

Humour and audiences: learning from the Glasgow contest

Beginning of my winning humorous speech at Area 39 contest, Solihull, 20th September 2009, entitled Supporting the Masses

I didn’t win the Toastmasters’ Division E Humorous Speech contest in Glasgow. I wasn’t even placed. But I had a great time.

Several members of the audience approached me after my speech to tell me specifically how much they had enjoyed it.

I learnt that you have to be aware of the tastes and outlook of your audience. What’s funny in front of one group of people, doesn’t go down so well in front of another. Although my audience laughed at the jokes, they didn’t laugh very much at the linking story.

And the three ‘placed’ speakers all used movement across the speaking area, albeit not as frenetically as Michael McIntyre in his stand-up routines! Since I’m still in rehabilitation mode, I found it difficult to move freely.

I have to admit that I didn’t feel the connection with the audience that I’ve been used to. Perhaps I’d overdone the rehearsal, so that what came out seemed too well planned.

I think there is a difficulty with the concept of the contest. Toastmaster speeches are normally evaluated. In contests, they are merely judged. The speaker has no way of knowing exactly how the presentation could be improved.

Some Toastmaster clubs emphasize competition over evaluation, as I discovered on my visit to Toastmasters of Paris in June.

Success in competitions certainly raises the profile of the club, let alone the individual winning speaker. However, the chances are that the same speaker is always going to win every contest. I gather that anyone who wins the annual TI International Contest may not enter Toastmaster contests any more. He (it is usually a he) will not normally mind that when he finds himself in demand on the international speaking circuit.

Still, there has been no time to brood. I’ve spent the weekend singing the Mozart Requiem with Leicester’s Tudor Choir. The loveliest concert was in St Andrew’s Church, Whissendine, Rutland. A most atmospheric stone church with a long history. The concerts raised over £1,000 for HOPE, Leicester’s local cancer charity.

Oh,and I’ve now got my Competent Leader (CL) award from Toastmasters too.

Oct 14 2009

Competing in Toastmasters UK Division E contest

Since I last wrote, I ‘ve had another hip replacement.  It came out of the blue with the hospital ringing up to ask if I would be willing to go in the next day; there had been a cancellation.  The next day was actually my birthday. I had a spinal block rather than general anaesthetic so was able to hear the operating staff sing Happy Birthday to me.  Bless the NHS!

Thus there’s been a bit of a hiatus while I have been convalescing.

It didn’t stop me singing the soprano solo in Mozart’s K108 Regina Coeli in Leicester in September, nor from competing in my Toastmaster Club’s Humorous Speech Contest. I won. AND I won the Area Contest too. I’m already booked to travel to Glasgow for the Divisional Contest on October 25th. I hope to have good news to relay after then.

I was also thrilled to be asked to address the Shepshed Rotary Club at the end of September on my experience living and working in Oman.

“Every one was delighted with your talk. Timing was perfect, clearly audible. There was genuine interest displayed afterwards in the presentation and the content.”

John Fox-Russell, president Shepshed Rotary Club

Anxious to get as much feedback on my speaking style and technique as I could, I attended one of Priscilla MorrisDynamic Speaking workshops in Leicester last week. Priscilla is an experienced voice coach. All attendees were told to prepare a 5-7 minute presentation about their work. PowerPoint was optional, although this was a good opportunity to practice techniques for showing visuals. At the start of the session, we all got up in turn to make our filmed presentations, which will be returned to us as a complimentary DVD.

Here is Priscilla’s verdict on me:

“A really bright opening. You caught your audience’s attention. You had interesting content and you delivered with energy and purpose. You SOLD yourself very well. The face is expressive, enhanced by gesture. Contact is made with everyone. Visuals held interest.”

Priscilla Morris

Would you like me to come and speak to your group? I’m offering a list of speech topics to start off ideas, although I’m prepared to offer briefings on many subjects up to half an hour long.  Working experience as an information researcher comes in very useful for drawing together material!

Follow me on Twitter

And finally, it’s only fair to tell you that I keep people up to date with my goings on via twitter. That’s where you’ll find me.

Jun 22 2009

Sue Hutton – Competent Communicator!

Sue Hutton receives her Competent Communicator award certificate from President John Cox

Sue Hutton receives her Competent Communicator award certificate from President John Cox

Less than two years after becoming a founder member of East Midlands Speakers, a local club affiliated to Toastmasters International, I have become a Competent Communicator.

This means that I have made ten speeches in front of my peers following a programme set out by Toastmasters. Each speech had a particular theme, such as Get to the Point, Vocal Variety or Persuade with Power. As I progressed through the programme, each speech became progressively more demanding.

I spoke on topics as diverse as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dancing on the Dark Side (gothic bellydancing), Information Access and Water Usage in the UK. Although the schedule was interrupted for major hip surgery in February 2009, I managed to finish the programme in good time to contribute to the club’s bid to become a President’s Distinguished Toastmaster Club.

One of my favourite speeches was Number 6, He Who Must Be Obeyed! a humorous take on what it’s like to be a member of a choir.

By the time I reached the tenth speech, which required the speaker to Inspire Your Audience, I had very clear ideas of what was needed to make a meaningful presentation.

  • Passion
  • Enthusiasm
  • Interaction with the audience
  • Knowledgeability
  • Rehearsal
  • Presence

I am more than ever convinced that people wanting to make effective speeches and presentations could learn a very great deal from the skills of acting and performance.

You need to be able both to connect with and care for your audience to get your message across.

What do I mean by caring for your audience? Speak to their needs. Know your subject. Look them in the eye. Make your voice interesting. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

If you would like to know more, please contact me. I aim to write in more detail at a later date about using performance skills in speaking.

Dec 30 2008

He Who Must Be Obeyed

East Midlands Speakers Club held its final meeting of the year over Christmas dinner on 15th December.

I was lucky enough to get a speaking slot and presented my Level 6 speech from the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual.

Since the theme was Christmas, and I was in the process of an intensive round of singing with the Leicester Bach Choir, I hit on the idea of singing snatches from Handel’s Messiah. Why? To illustrate how a choir is an example of achieving a goal under the direction of its Music Director – He Who Must Be Obeyed! Watch the video to see how.

I also delivered this speech at the choir’s Christmas lunch on the previous day. Since they were ‘more in the know,’ they fell about laughing!

If you live in Nottingham, Derby or Leicester, or other parts of the East Midlands, and would like to use the Toastmasters International programme to develop your speaking skills and confidence, come and visit us at East Midlands Speakers Club. We meet every first and third Monday of the month at The Clockhouse, London Road, Shardlow, Derbyshire. Visit the website for more details and directions.

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