Category: toastmasters

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.

Apr 09 2010

Coeliac disease and the life-long gluten-free diet

One of the manuals that I’m doing for my Advanced Communicator Bronze Toastmasters International award is on Technical Presentations.

Project 3 requires the speaker to present technical information to a non-technical audience using a PowerPoint Presentation and to accept questions during the presentation.

This seemed a marvellous opportunity to talk about a subject very dear to my heart – Coeliac Disease. When I was diagnosed in 1987, weighing just 47kgs, I was gravely ill. My GP hadn’t recognised what was wrong with me but did get me rushed to hospital when he realised just how anaemic I was. Even after diagnosis, he found it difficult to comprehend that an alimentary disorder could be due to an autoimmune response and not be an allergic reaction.

There’s only one treatment for coeliac disease, a life-long gluten-free diet, which requires considerable self-discipline and understanding of food composition. It hasn’t been so very hard for me, because I was so very ill when diagnosed and I don’t want to go back there again. Other people may feel subliminally ill with the condition and then resent the treatment that is prescribed. Yet others see danger in all foods because they don’t have the necessary understanding of what is, or is not, gluten-free. This isn’t helped by manufacturers changing at intervals the constituents of the food that they process and manufacture. A gluten-free food one year is not necessarily gluten-free the next.

I realised that I had made a big impression with my presentation, so I thought I would try to extend it to a wider audience online. I transferred the file to Slideshare and recorded an accompanying dialogue which I had hoped to attach to the online presentation. It didn’t work, possibly because the sound file was just too large.

Undeterred, I am reproducing both the slideshare presentation and the podcast below. Start the podcast recording which will tell you when to click through the slides. You’re already on slide 1.

The aim is to show why coeliacs must avoid gluten found in wheat, rye and barley and what foods are gluten-free.

Click the arrow on the display below to start the podcast (audio track).

The slideshow below displays Slide 1. Click the arrow to move to Slide 2. The podcast will tell you when to move on to the next slide.
Apr 09 2010

Panto time at Toastmasters

Toastmasters has been keeping me busy. I am now Vice-President of Public Relations for East Midlands Speakers Club as well as putting in the last effort to complete my Advanced Communicators Bronze award by the end of June.

East Midlands Speakers met Spa Speakers in Wellesbourne, Warwickshire, on 23rd January, yes, that long ago, for our second panto party.

Freed from the restraints of imposing a Toastmasters’ moral on the story, I let my imagination rove from the idea I had had back in 2008 after Ollie performed the stooge in his wet suit. I was struck by the image of Ursula Andress emerging from the tropical waters of the Caribbean. Thus Ollie became a focal point in my script as James Bond, though this time wearing his dinner suit.

I spent several evenings watching early James Bond films plus the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy for further inspiration. I mean, most everybody likes to dress up as a pirate.

This is how Treasure Island, but not as you know it, came to be written. I had a willing cast of ten, but not so willing that they were prepared to learn all their lines in time for performance. The Dame (John) wore an outrageous costume, and Pussy Galore (Roma) appeared with legs.

We even opened with a dance to Thriller, thanks to choreography from Jeannette and Judy.

Rather than my attempting to describe any more, watch the videos. The performance is in two parts to comply with YouTube’s limit of 10 minutes per video. Watch for Yvonne’s cameo performance as Calypso and the group song at the end.

Enjoy! We laughed our socks off.

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.

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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