November 14, 2012


 By Chris Carnduff

In my line of work people often assume that a Management Consultant has all the answers at the outset to the problems faced by a client. This is not necessarily true although having some subject matter expertise or industry experience is often useful. One of the real tools that a Consultant uses which I am going to share with you here in this article is the ability to ask quality questions from their clients which result in a meaningful dialogue and discovery process that in turn lead to the root cause or underlying issue being identified which then can be resolved by other means. The questions listed below I believe are helpful in discerning how to help a Mentee improve and by design are very general. If you find them useful, please feel free to adapt them to your purposes.

  1. How can I be of greatest help to you in our relationship?
  2. What was the best mentoring or coaching experience you have ever had? Why was it so effective for you?
  3. What are your most important goals right now?
  4. What questions can I help you answer?
  5. What is your time frame for achieving these goals?
  6. What are the most important obstacles you are facing?
  7. What have you tried so far? How has it worked?
  8. What are your greatest abilities or strengths?
  9. What has been most helpful for you in this conversation?
  10. What are your aspirations?

Posted on behalf of Chris Carnduff

November 9, 2012

Using the Website Meeting Agenda as Chair

This is a guide on how to use the meeting website agenda as the Chair of Goodyear Toastmasters.

Step #1: Select Meeting Agenda

The very first thing you want to do is log in as a member. After that, select "Meeting Agendas" from the side column on the left of the page.

Step #2: Edit Meeting Agenda

You will see a set of buttons on the Meeting Agenda page. As Chair, the two you want to pay attention to are "edit this meeting agenda" and "email this meeting agenda". I have circled them in red in the above screenshot.

Click on "Edit This Meeting Agenda".

A new screen will open up. You don't need to worry about any of the stuff under "Meeting Agenda Items" unless you need to manually change who is selected for a specific role or edit any of the text. Members can manually add and remove themselves from roles so this should be up to them. However it's good to know you can do this too. For now, click on "Meeting Agenda Setup" which I have circled in red.

Step 3: Enter your Theme

Scroll down on the next window until you see this box. Type the theme of the meeting in the area I have circled in red as well as any other details that you would like to be sent out in all of the following emails. Whatever you type in here will be sent out in every email for this specific meeting agenda. Click Save and Close.

The theme of the week and whatever else you typed in there will also be displayed in the area I have circled on the meeting agenda on the website for everyone to see.

Step #4: Email Meeting Agenda

Now that you are satisfied with the meeting agenda, click "Email this meeting agenda" to send it out to members. Clicking on this button will not automatically send it out. You still have one more step.

This is the final step. You can type in a custom message here that will only go out with this email if you so desire. For instance, this would be a good place to announce that you are still looking for people to fill in for missing roles. What you type here will not be displayed on the meeting agenda description.

It is also VERY important to make sure that the "Send to all club members" box is checked or else nobody will receive your email.

November 5, 2012

Social Media Explained or rather, Justified.

posted by Leila Bates, Area 63 Governor 2012-2013

Chunking information into bite sized pieces is more memorable. Phew!...there is a reason to our madness.

November 4, 2012

Communicating On Video: Two Toastmasters Chat

Jason Heath interviews Promod Sharmaby Promod Sharma, CC

Do you want to learn how to talk on camera? There is an advanced manual called Communicating On Video. Now that I’m a Competent Communicator, that’s one of the two manuals I’m completing to become an Advanced Communicator Bronze.

I haven’t started but have been on camera several times. This time, I was interviewed by  Toastmaster Jason Heath on the Objective Financial Hour. He’s one of the rare true fee-only financial planners. There’s more background in a “financial doctor” interviews an “insurance doctor”.

The Experience

The experience was quite pleasant. I met Jason once before and we had lunch just before the interview. That familiarity helped me feel comfortable.

Also, the studio was inviting and quiet (like a real room). The background was genuine. I’m not a fan of using a green screen to insert a fake background. How does fooling the audience build trust?

Because the program was almost an hour, we had plenty of time to talk. However, there was no editing. The recording was live.

I’m getting more comfortable with studios and interviews. As Toastmasters, we know that practice helps.

The Surprise

Jason didn't use any notes but was prepared. Perhaps his technique leads to a more conversational style than using pre-planned questions. He's very good at impromptu speaking.

I would not be comfortable without notes. I'd probably use a mind map on my iPad. Maybe that's a crutch. I see it as a form of preparation.


Overall, we both spoke clearly, with some crutch words (“ah”, “so”, “and so”). I didn’t make eye contact throughout. Sometimes my eyes darted to the left on occasion. There are a couple of times when I didn’t feel coherent. Unfortunately there was no editing. That’s a consequence of a life recording.

The Interview

Here is the full interview (no editing).

Here is the podcast. I edited with Audacity, primarily to remove some crutchwords. some duplicated words and the commercial breaks.

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

If you’d like to get better on camera. consider Communicating On Video.


Promod Sharma is committed to building trust in a transparent world. He blogs at Riscario Insider and works at Taxevity.

October 28, 2012

Three Lessons For Speakers From TEDxToronto

TEDxToronto 2012by Promod Sharma, CC

TEDx events are an opportunity to see great local speakers.

TEDxToronto took place this week. Over 1,000 attended. Imagine speaking to an audience that size. This polished event provided lessons for Toastmasters and other speakers. We’ll look at the importance of mentors, timing and delivery.

Get A Mentor

Speakers vary in skill. They have different issues in their heads. To help them and maintain the standards of TEDxToronto, each speaker got coaching.

The bigger issue may be honing the content. Speakers know much more than they have time to tell. If they’re used to presenting for an hour, trimming down to 18 minutes (or less) may be daunting. How can any of your golden words be omitted?

A mentor gives a valuable outside perspective and a reminder that the speaker is there for the audience. The problem is that a mentor is still one person and opinions vary.
“Only say what you think is funny. Only keep what they think is funny.”
— BJ Kovak,
Crafting a Joke: The Arc of an Act (Wired, May 2010)
Another approach is to field test content in front of live audiences to gauge reactions. You want to get feedback from the right group. A Toastmasters club is ideal since members know how to give useful feedback. I sometimes use a printed form (preserves anonymity) or have a group discussion (for interaction and elaboration).

Nail The Timing

In Toastmasters, we learn the importance of every second. We also learn that a second varies in length. A typical speech is 5-7 minutes. We may aim for six minutes during practice only to find that when we're live we speak faster, speak slower or add impromptu segments.

To keep on track, we use lights at Toastmasters
  • green at 5 minutes: you met the minimum requirements
  • amber at 6 minutes: start winding down, even if you're behind
  • red at 7 minutes: you've gone too long (you never want to see red)
TEDx might have a countdown timer or other system.

If you’re speaking somewhere on your own, looking at your watch isn’t a good idea. An organizer can signal you. There are also timing apps for smartphones and tablets. Some clickers have timers and buzzers.

Be Flexible During The Delivery

“There’s a point where we must just open our mouths and let our voice come out. We let it mix in the air and accept that we can’t put it back.”
— Steven Page

You can practice and practice but the live experience is unpredictable.

At TEDxToronto, the speeches were generally delivered well. A child spoke but was hard to hear (was her headset microphone too far away?). When the hosts (MCs) started speaking between talks, they were sometimes hard to hear (seemed that their handheld mics were off or not amplified enough). Luckily audiences are forgiving and compensate for us.

There are bound to be TEDx events near you. If not, you can watch the videos on or a TEDx site like TEDxToronto.


Promod Sharma was President of Goodyear Toastmasters during the 2011-2012 year. He speaks primarily about building trust today.

October 21, 2012

How To Prepare A Speech On Your iPad

iPadby Promod Sharma, CC

When you're creating a speech, there are three steps
  1. Outline
  2. Write
  3. Practice
Your iPad is an exceptionally convenient and powerful tool for each step. Android tablets probably work well too using different apps.


iThoughtsHDA speech consists of an introduction, several main points and a conclusion. There's plenty you could say and different ways to arrange your content. A mind map gives you an easy, visual way to make changes. You may want to add sub-points to your main points.

I use iThoughtsHD, which keeps improving. It’s easy to export content in various formats.

You can probably deliver your speech from the mind map. I sometimes do. If that's your plan, consider adding images to help you remember the points. You’ll get better results if you plan out each word you want to say.


iA WriterNext, export your mind map as text into a text editor and prepare your script. The quality comes from the revisions. You want to use words and phrases that are easy to say, easy to hear and easy to understand.

I use the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, which is much faster and nicer than using an onscreen keyboard.

Using the right app makes writing easier, even enjoyable. I use iA Writer, which I also used to draft this blog post. The font is large and inviting. There are no distractions to interfere with your writing.


Teleprompt+When you're satisfied with your content, you're ready  to practice. The timing of a speech is especially important. Recording yourself is too. That's where a teleprompter helps.
If you're prone to speeding up (or slowing down) when you speak, a teleprompter keeps you on track.

I use Teleprompt+ and make any further edits in this app.

A teleprompter is an essential app to improve your speaking even if you don’t use it when you deliver your actual speech.


Promod Sharma is an actuary who uses his iPad for every speech. You'll find more about him at

October 7, 2012

Exercise: Critique This Interview

Promod on Qb (Sep 2012) 5 - camera 500x625by Promod Sharma, CC

I was interviewed on camera for the second time. This was on Internet TV, which reduces the stress levels.

The interview was on the Qb money talk show. My previous experience was on Liquid Lunch, which uses the same studio.

The photo shows a green screen which allows a fake background to be inserted.

The Studio

The studio was surprisingly noisy. There was a constant hiss of static. Perhaps that dampens out other sounds? The filming area felt dead acoustically. Voices didn't carry far. While we were chatting at a table, it felt like we were talking from much further apart.

I couldn't tell what showed on camera, which meant I didn't know where to put my hands. I would have put them on the table but it was a little too high. I was also wired for sound. I didn't want to jar anything by moving around.

Your Review

For your critique, watch for several minutes (say in the middle). What did you like? What would you do differently? Next, leave your comments below. You can do the anonymously.

My Review

I thought the interview turned out better than it seemed at the time. Practicing impromptu speaking at Toastmasters (e.g., during Table Topics) is an effective way to practice.

I noticed that several sentences end with my pitch rising. That makes a statement sound like a question, which makes the speaker sound uncertain. That's not good if you're meant to be an expert.
I use "so" plus "and so" too often. This lead to run-on sentences. I also stretch out words like "aaannd" and "thennn". Pausing is better than filler. However, I found I had some ... unnecessary ... pauses which were not needed ... for effect. I also used duplicate words.

I rarely make these mistakes in my Toastmasters club, which is why I'm surprised that I do outside. This is another reason to always record yourself. Besides the official recording, I use an audio app on my Android phone. I had my video camera but didn't set it up. Because of the acoustics, the sound levels would probably have been low.

The overall experience is another reminder that practice is essential, especially in the real life environment which your club can't quite simulate.


I created a podcast from the video and made as many fixes as I could using Audacity. The background noise is nearly gone. The volume levels are levelized (sometimes the host was difficult to hear).

It was easy to delete "aaannd" because a gap usually followed. I could not easily remove "so" or "and so" because there was rarely a following pause.

I learned lots about my voice by editing the audio. The experience was worthwhile for learning.

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes


Promod Sharma ("pro-MODE") looks forward to more interviews and practicing at Goodyear Toastmasters.

September 30, 2012

Why A Master Of Ceremonies (MC) Matters

MCby Promod Sharma, CC

When you're speaking at an event, you feel important, and are. (You may also feel terrified, which is where Toastmasters helps if you join early enough.)

The Master of Ceremonies (or Moderator or Chair) is also very important. I didn't think this role mattered until I attended TEDxIBYork at the Ontario Science Centre. David Newland was exceptional. He made everything look smooth.

Since then, I've appreciated how an MC makes a difference. It's easy to find lousy ones. Maybe they aren't comfortable speaking or didn't care enough to prepare.

Best Practices

A great MC
  • takes responsibility: this includes preparing and compensating for any problems which may arise
  • improvises: reading entirely from a script drains energy
  • exudes a personality: this helps in getting the audience ready for the speakers


Last week, I gave a presentation on Building Trust With LinkedIn. The MC is Chris Paterson (LinkedIn profile), who I've known for several years. Watch what he does during the introduction and conclusion. You can skip the rest (for now!).

Chris deviated from the bio I provided in advance. Instead, he told a story and endorsed me. This is valuable for the audience and speaker.
After I finished, Chris gave a summary and expanded on what I said. That helps the audience and feels good for the speaker.


Chris gave introductions and summaries for all three speakers. He also moderated the panel discussion which followed. He unified the event and made it bigger than the individual presentations.

Next time, pay more attention to the MC. You'll learn from the good and not-so-good ones. For practice, volunteer to be Chair at your Toastmasters club.


You'll find Promod Sharma's presentations like Building Trust With LinkedIn on YouTube.

September 23, 2012

Squawkfox Talks: The Speaking Secret From Kerry K Taylor

Kerry K Taylor ("Squawkfox") on The Morning Showby Promod Sharma, CC

Squawkfox spoke at this weekend’s sold-out CPFC12, the Canadian Personal Finance Conference (agenda). She was excellent. Her simple and clear slides exuded quality. She used lots of original photos. Her delivery was polished. A real pro. Or so I thought.

Squawk who?

Squawkfox is really Kerry K Taylor, a now-famous blogger from British Columbia. She writes must-read posts like
The day before, Kerry shared money-saving tips on The Morning Show on Global TV. Take a peek. She’s got solid content and speaks well. A real pro, no?


At the conference, Kerry talked about how she got millions of readers (without SEO trickery). When she started speaking, she used the crutchword “um” several times. This was not distracting because her delivery was engaging.

Mid-way, she stopped using her clip-on microphone because she heard some feedback. That’s unfortunate because her volume dropped. This wasn’t a problem either because her voice carried well. The audience helped by listening attentively — a sign of keen interest.


Kerry spoke just after lunch. She later revealed a secret: she felt anxiety all morning and during her talk. This came as a surprise because she didn’t look or act nervous.

There’s more.

Kerry is a novice speaker. She’s only presented a couple of times. Here she was delivering an all-new presentation to her largest audience. Attendees included prominent bloggers and journalists. That’s gutsy.


How did Kerry give the best talk of the conference? She cared. She prepared. She practiced. She got videotaped. She made changes. That helped her be all she can be: herself.

Kerry is another example of how our overpowering worries go unnoticed by the audience. Her hidden fears made her presentation an even greater accomplishment than she may realize. And an inspiration. We can show grace under pressure.


Promod became more comfortable as a speaker at Goodyear Toastmasters. You’ll find his talks at

September 16, 2012

Revisit A Toastmasters Club Before Deciding On Joining

by Promod Sharma, CC

Each Toastmaster club varies. That's a reason to visit more than one before you decide which is right for you. A club will also vary from week to week. That's a reason to return before deciding.

The First Time Ever
When you visit your first-ever Toastmasters club, you probably don't know what to expect. Maybe you think members just do speeches or that there's a classroom structure with an instructor and assignments. You may see a segment that you like/dislike. For example, debates sometimes takes place. You might find them enjoyable or pointless. Ditto for Table Topics.

You may also be surprised at how structured the meetings are. You may think that members perform the same role each time.

The Next Time
The next time you visit, your experience will differ.

You'll now understand the basic sequence of the meeting: introductions, Table Topics, business session, debate/lesson/viewpoint, break, speeches with evaluations, evaluation of the overall meeting and wrap=up with visitor comments.

The meeting itself will differ because members have changing roles. The Chair selects the theme and sets the tone. If the theme is terrorism because the meeting is on 9/11, expect a different experience than with a lighter, nostalgic theme like Fall or Back To School.

Maybe Table Topics was easy last time and is tougher this time. Different members attend, depending on their schedules. That also affects the experience. You wouldn't know if you didn't return.

Same Or Different
Your time is limited. Do you get more benefit from visiting more clubs or getting more familiar with one? I planned to visit several clubs but really liked Goodyear Toastmasters and didn't try any other clubs.

Come On Back Y'all
Do come back to a club before you decide on joining. Since there's no charge, you can return as often as you like. That's fair.

Promod Sharma visited Goodyear Toastmasters several times but no other clubs. Since we're all in marketing, he publishes a free monthly newsletter called Marketing Reflections.

September 9, 2012

Getting Rejected As A Speaker By A Conference Like TEDxToronto

try againby Promod Sharma, CC

Toastmasters builds your skills, which in turn builds confidence. This year, I took a leap and applied to speak at TEDxToronto about trust.

I got (politely) rejected but don’t feel like a failure. I’ve applied to attend the live event (though I’ve been rejected every year except one).

Rejection isn’t ideal but is part of your journey as a speaker.


In Toastmasters, you learn humility if you have the courage to take risks. By going beyond your current skills, you will fail ... and grow.

If you find the right club, you're experimenting in a safe environment where members are trained to give feedback.

I'm amazed when speakers — beginners to experienced — refuse to get recorded. The equipment is cheap. At Goodyear Toastmasters, the process is free and no one else sees the footage. If you can't stand to watch yourself, you've got a problem. If you don't bother making changes, you're limiting your growth.

Greater humility comes from posting your I-could-do-better video online. Even if very few people watch, your courage grows. You have an even stronger incentive to improve when there's online proof of your past skills.

Good Enough?

How good a speaker are you? That's difficult to say but as you speak, you get better. Start by focusing on your club. Volunteer for different roles for extra practice.

As you improve, volunteer to talk to different groups. Your ideal audience depends on your topic and level of skill. In the beginning, you might need to change your topic to suit different organizers. Later, you’ll get known for your niche.

As you continue speaking, you establish yourself and start getting invited to speak. That's your goal. For faster results, reduce the risk to organizers by posting your past speeches (or at least excerpts).

Choose Yourself

Organizers will reject you but no one can stop you from speaking. You can record yourself and post video on YouTube. Maybe that will help you get selected next time.


Promod Sharma posts presentations with additional resources like slides and other links. His local audiences include the Association of Independent Consultants, the Canadian Association of Management Consultants, the Experion Group, Freelancecamp Toronto, GoodWorks, Podcamp Toronto, a Toastmasters International conference and the Word11 blogging festival. He’s open to opportunities to speak about trust and other topics.

August 31, 2012

I Love My Club - Contest Promo

Hey Goodyear Toastmasters!

This is a message from your 2012 club president, straight from me to you!

District 60 has announced a contest called I Love My Club calling all Toastmaster clubs to come up with a short 2 minute video on why they love their club. What will the winning club get?

  1. Video will be posted on the District 60 site (free marketing!)
  2. $100 Toastmaster Buck Certificates (improve club equipment!)
  3. Movie Speak
  4. Free Club Banner
  5. Bragging rights as the #1 Club!

This is a call to action for Goodyear Toastmasters to create a video on September 13th which shows why we truly love our club more than all the other clubs in District 60! And if there's one thing I know about Goodyear Toastmasters, is that our members truly do love our club. Even if you are uncomfortable being on camera, there will be other ways you can get involved and help out so there is truly is no reason to not be here!

So come one - come all! Take part in the creation of our I Love My Club contest video on September 13 at Goodyear Toastmasters in Etobicoke!

I'll be there, will you?

August 26, 2012

Speak Better By Looking At Your Voice With Audacity

by Promod Sharma, CC

To improve your speaking, record your voice and listen to the playback later. You probably know this.

Recording is easy and inexpensive. You can use your smartphone or a portable recorder. A video camera is even better because you see yourself too.

Audio Only

When you speak in person , your physical presence helps communicate your message. Foibles get overlooked.

On radio or in a podcast, your voice is much more important. Mistakes become more glaring. Listening to yourself helps but watching the waveforms in your voice is even more helpful.

Be Audacious

Record yourself with Audacity, a free application that works on Windows, Mac and Linux. The installation is easy. If your computer doesn’t have a built-in microphone, you’ll need to get one. A desktop mic feels more natural than using a headset.A USB mic is easier to setup and has higher quality.


You can monitor the audio while you speak but this can be distracting. Instead, record yourself for a few minutes. You could read one of your speeches or an article. If you’re good at speaking impromptu, simply talk.

In the beginning, the microphone may be intimidating. I'd forget to breathe. You'll get better with practice.


After you finish, watch the screen as you listen to the playback. You’ll be able to see when you take a breath. You’ll see if your volume decreases as your lungs run out of air. You’ll see if you speak louder at some points such as the start of a sentence.


As you master recording with Audacity, start editing. This is good practice if you want to learn video editing later. What do you do with the recordings? You could to create a podcast.


Promod Sharma records a weekly podcast, Riscario Radio. There are over 180 episodes. You’ll find them on the Internet Archive, iTunes or the Riscario Insider blog.

August 19, 2012

Do An “Opposite” Speech

Do you see in black and white?
by Promod Sharma, CC

Stephen Covey said that we see the world not as it is but as we are. You’ll reach more of your audience if you look at the world differently.

Have you done a speech making points contrary to your views?

Think back to your last vacation. Would you recommend that trip to others? If yes, highlight the negatives instead. If no, highlight the positives.

Discomfort Zone

Here’s another idea. Think of something you consider an extravagance and usually avoid. That could be to:
  • take a day off when work is piling up
  • go to dinner and a play
  • get valet parking
  • go to a less nice restaurant than you normally would
What’s extravagant for you will be normal for some other people. Tony Robbins said that people do things for reasons that make sense to them. That doesn't mean those reasons make — or need to make — sense to us. You enrich yourself when you try to see why others like or do what you don’t.


Debates are part of the Toastmasters experience. At Goodyear Toastmasters, the room gets arbitrarily divided into two groups. You may be forced to briefly adopt a view contrary to your own. The topic could be gun control, for instance. This experience can help you see the world differently but you’re only involved briefly. You’re also competing to win, which can affect your motivation.

Doing something with conviction is much more effective than merely talking.


We benefit from looking at things in different ways. An "opposite" exercise helps you see different perspectives. That's helpful during Table Topics and real life situations like negotiations at work or home.

You can create a speech from your experiences.


To learn more about Promod Sharma, visit

August 12, 2012

Tips on Getting Interviewed By A Journalist

reporter's notebookby Promod Sharma, CC

I used to dread getting interviewed because I like to think before speaking. Weird, huh? Thanks to Table Topics and giving interactive presentations, I’ve learned to think much faster in impromptu situations.

Here are tips for when a professional journalist wants to interview you.


Look up the writer online. Read recent articles. Follow on Twitter. If you're being interviewed for a specific column, get familiar with the format.

Last week, I was interviewed by Larry MacDonald for the Me and My Money column in a major paper, The Globe and Mail. I read previous articles to see what other interviewees said. Would I have something fresh to say or echo what others already said?


Your interviewer may send you the questions in advance. You can then prepare written answers or practice for a phone interview.


To ensure accuracy, your interviewer may send you a draft of the entire article or your portions. You are not the editor. You are not being asked to make changes even if you now have other things to say. 

The writer has deadlines and probably won't appreciate nontrivial revisions. Pay attention to what you're being asked to do. Do only that. Afterwards, you can share your new ideas, which might lead to another column.

The draft may not look exactly the way you want. You are not the target audience. You can say more elsewhere. I usually write a blog post.

An Example
When you prepare a speech, you’ve got time constraints. That limits what you can say. The Me and My Money column has a strict word count. During the interview and in email exchanges, I provided more information than appeared in the final article. This gave Larry more details, which (I think) helped to improve the column.

I would have written a different article but mine would not have been as good: I lack objectivity and experience in journalism.


Journalists have deadlines. I did everything according to (and slightly ahead of) the schedule. Cooperating helps increase the chances of getting interviewed again.

Say Thanks

Getting interviewed is not a right. Be thankful. The best way is to see what would help the writer. Attention can't hurt. I featured Larry in a blog post about the interview and included his contact info at the bottom. I was already following him on Twitter. We're now connected on LinkedIn too. I'll think of other possible interviewees for his column.


Promod Sharma has been interviewed in various publications such as The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Canadian Business Journal and specialty publications. You'll find details on his LinkedIn profile in the Publications section.

August 5, 2012

Introverts Can Speak: The Case Of Susan Cain

Susan Cain live at TEDby Promod Sharma, CC

Do you need some time ... on your own?
Do you need some time ... all alone?
- Guns N' Roses. November Rain

Are you an introvert? That need not handicap you in public speaking. You can overcome your fears. Susan Cain did for her TED Talk based on her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Amazon link).

The Power Of Introverts

Let’s watch and then discuss.

If you didn't know that Susan’s an introvert, could you tell? I couldn’t.

As a Toastmaster, what changes would you suggest Susan make? I didn’t see anything major. Susan smiles. Her audience laughs. She pauses. She speaks clearly. Her talk is well structured. She looks natural and at ease. She creates mystery with her prop, a bag. Susan engages the audience and makes them comfortable. She moves around smoothly.

A minor quibble: I found her hand movements a tad repetitive on video but that was probably fine for the large, live audience.

The Reality

Susan looks like she’s in control and never really had problems speaking in public. That’s not the case.
“I’m told my talk received a standing ovation. My husband keeps asking what it felt like, after all the Sturm und Drang. The truth is I don’t know. I have no memory of the moment — I was too numb. That was someone else up there: my metamorphosed incarnation, the Public Introvert.“
--- Susan Cain, An Introvert Steps Out (New York Times, April 2012)
Does that surprise you?

In a fascinating article, Susan candidly explains how she prepared for her TED Talk. Joining Toastmasters was part of her process.

The Book

If you like the TED Talk, get Quiet. Susan’s book goes into much more detail. You’ll benefit even if you're an extrovert because we all know introverts.

I'm currently listening to the audio version. The narrator (Kathe Mazur) reminds me of Carolyn McCormick, who read a very different and less satisfying book, The Hunger Games. Maybe that’s because many books are narrated by men — even The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGongial (Amazon link).

I’m surprised that Susan didn’t narrate her own book. She certainly can since she speaks so well on stage. Maybe next time she will.


Promod Sharma is an introvert. Aren't most actuaries? He enjoys speaking but prefers writing. That’s why you’ll find 500+ blog posts and 180+ podcasts but only 14 videos.

July 29, 2012

Why Go To Toastmasters In The Summer

at the beachby Promod Sharma, CC

In school, we got summer holidays. Some Toastmaster clubs shut down, which gives you a guilt-free break. However, your progress suffers. Didn’t you join to improve?

Here are three reasons to go to a year-round club even during the summer:
  1. Maintain momentum
  2. More practice
  3. More relaxing

Maintain Momentum

It’s easier to keep going than to stop/restart/repeat. As Newton said, objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Inertia erases progress. Improving speaking skills is an ongoing process.

We speak everyday. We might as well continue to improve every club meeting.

More Practice

The summer is when members are more likely to take holidays --- especially if they have children. Fewer attendees means more time for those who are present. The agenda can vary.

For instance, Table Topics could be longer. You can get on the agenda more easily. You can also volunteer for more roles, which the Chair will appreciate. You can request and get more feedback.

What harm can come from practice?

More Relaxing

The summer is a nice, relaxing time of year. That may be just what you need to make a leap in your speaking. Your words might flow more smoothly. You may get better ideas faster during Table Topics.

You may want to experiment more than you might otherwise. Maybe you avoid conducting lessons. Now’s a great time to try one. Maybe you don’t prepare as much as you like. You can now. Maybe you want to redo a speech. Go ahead.


If you're thinking of joining Toastmasters, the summer is an ideal time to visit and get started. Life gets busy in the fall …


Promod Sharma is most likely to miss club meetings in August. When he's not blogging or vacationing, he's conducting Actuarial Insurance Reviews for the healthy, wealthy and wise at Taxevity.

July 22, 2012

The How And Why Of Table Topics

guess what?by Promod Sharma, CC

As a guest, you can return to Goodyear Toastmasters or another club for free as long as you want. You’ll see what goes on but cannot give a speech or perform any of the roles.

There’s an exception: Table Topics. This is your opportunity to participate. You can opt out but are encouraged to try.

The Process

In Table Topics, you speak for 30 to 75 seconds about a topic drawn randomly drawn from an envelope. The topic often relates to the meeting theme chosen by the Chair. This week, Drinks were the theme and the focus of Table Topics.

How do you tell how long you’ve been speaking? We use “traffic lights”. The Green light comes on at 30 seconds, amber/yellow at 60 and red at 75. If you stop talking before green or after red, you’re disqualified.

If that’s not enough, you’re also to use the Word Of The Day (which was “nebulous” this week). If you don’t, you’re fined 50 cents, which goes towards the club. Guests are exempt from the fine but encouraged to use the Word Of The Day.

The Table Topics Master can change the rules. Last week, the timing was 48 to 72 seconds and each participant got their own Word Of The Day.

What’s The Point?

You can probably talk about your interests with ease when you’re with your family or friends. Standing in front of a room is different. Talking for a specified length of time is challenging. Using a specific Word Of The Day adds more complexity.

Isn’t that enough? What’s the point of speaking about a topic you know nothing about?

You get an opportunity to develop your skills. If you can talk about a random topic, you can certainly talk about a subject you know. You’ll probably find that you’re better at Table Topics than you expect. Your performance will vary each time. Sometimes the words will flow. Other times you may get stumped. Regardless, you’re getting better and more confident.

The Ribbon

Attendees vote for the person they thought was best at Table Topics. The winner gets a ribbon. The competition is jovial. There’s no way to predict who will win in advance. Some members have won more than once.

If you lose, you don’t lose much. If you win, you feel great. That’s a nice boost.


Promod Sharma won the ribbon the first time he tried Table Topics and again this week. His website is

July 15, 2012

Always Use A Wireless Clicker/Presenter For Presentations

Logitech Professional Presenter R800
by Promod Sharma, CC

When you're presenting with PowerPoint, you need a wireless clicker/presenter to advance the slides. The best choice is your own since you’ll know exactly how it works.


Audiences pay attention to motion. If you must return to your computer each time to move through the presentation, you distract your audience with unnecessary movement. You might even block their view temporarily.

If you use an assistant, you’re dependent and don’t look very competent.


If you must advance each slide manually, you're anchored to your computer. That's ineffective. When you use a wireless clicker, you can move around.


If you're planning to do more presentations, you'll benefit from buying your own wireless clicker. You can get one at places like Staples, Best Buy and Amazon.

Nice to haves include
  • a laser pointer (green is better than red)
  • a countdown timer to help you end on time without glancing at your watch
  • a button to blank the screen to focus attention on you when a visual isn't needed
  • a power switch to prevent battery drain when not in use
Some devices have a trackpad or arrows to allow mouse movements. You may find that feature helpful or a distraction.

A basic model will do when you're starting out. You can upgrade later and keep the simpler unit as a backup.


If you want  to bore and distract your audience, show them too much information on a slide. You'll get better results by using more slides or by building the slide to show one element at a time. Creating slides with builds takes longer, which gives you more time to learn the content.


Bring extra batteries. If your clicker has a laser pointer, try that. If the beam is strong, your batteries are probably fine. If there's no beam, you may have inserted the batteries incorrectly. Check that before you replace the batteries.

Unless your clicker has a reliable on/off switch, remove the batteries after use. That's also a good precaution if you don't make presentations regularly.


Promod Sharma has three wireless clickers and posts his presentations on the YouTube riscario channel and at

July 8, 2012

Ideas For 2012-2013 At Goodyear Toastmasters

bright ideasby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

Here are ideas for the 2012-2013 year at Goodyear Toastmasters. The thoughts may be useful for other clubs too.

Pre-Assigning Roles

The VP of Education prepares a monthly spreadsheet assigning members to roles. Each week, changes get made, which reduces the value of the advance preparation. Sometimes members are away and might not respond to emails.

Is there a more efficient way to fill roles? The new FreeToastHost 2.0 website may allow other options.

The Chair

The week's Chair selects the meeting's theme and sends out the roster with the roles pre-assigned by the VP of Education. The ideal time is just after the Thursday meetings (e.g., on Friday or Saturday). This isn't always done, which reduces the time available to fill vacant roles.

Can the Chair be encouraged to send out the roster earlier?


Guests join our Meetup group but might not visit the club. Guests who do visit may not return, though they remain our Meetup group.

Can more be done to follow-up with the guests who vanish. Maybe more activity can take place on Meetup?

Public Relations

Guests are often surprised at how enjoyable and educational our meetings are. Sessions are not like classes or presentations. How about recording a full meeting and putting a short summary on YouTube? This would show potential guests how a meeting runs and also exude the club's personality.

Perhaps more photos can be taken and posted online. Maybe there could be photos taken at each meeting. Perhaps the videographer does this or perhaps members take photos with their smartphones. There's a side benefit: when we look back years later, we'll have more memories to enjoy.

More Participation

Club members can participate more by
  • RSVPing on Meetup to help the meeting Chair see who's available for roles and to show guests how many attend a meeting
  • posting more videos on YouTube to archive personal development and show others what happens in the club
  • writing blog posts and comments here since public writing is an extension of public speaking
  • subscribing to our Twitter channel to learn more about speaking-related topics
  • adding Goodyear Toastmasters to their LinkedIn profiles to get credit for membership
How do you think our club could be made better?


Promod finished his term as President last week. He plans to write one post a week until June 30, 2013. His website is


Deciphering The Toastmasters Lingo: GYTM

Goodyear Toastmasters (GYTM) club member

A group of GYTM members
Club No. 4447
Several clubs within a geographical area
Area 63
Several areas within a geographical area
Made up of several divisions
District 60
Only applies within the USA

World Headquarters in Santa Ana, California

June 30, 2012

Highlights From Goodyear Toastmasters: 2011-2012

exitby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

Fellow members of Goodyear Toastmasters, your 2011-2012 executive team leaves office today. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve you. Since we inherited a well-running club just after the 30th anniversary, we started building a living legacy for 40th anniversary in 2021 and beyond.


Your 2011-2012 Team consisted of
  1. President: Promod Sharmaappreciative of having such a great team and club
  2. VP Education: Leila Bates [incoming Area 63 Governor 2012-2013]
    energetic in a demanding role
  3. VP Membership: Jonathan Holowka [incoming President 2012-2013]
    active and supportive; also the Webmaster
  4. VP Public Relations: Trevor Kelly
    as President 2010-2011, brought continuity to the executive
  5. Treasurer: Jada Nash
    efficient and pleasant ... all while studying for her CGA exams
  6. Co-Secretary: Balwinder Mangatgood-natured and conscientious despite a busy workload
  7. Co-Secretary: Kevin McGlashan
    lively despite juggling workload and family commitments
  8. Sergeant At Arms: Gulzar Kandola [incoming Co-Secretary 2012-2013]
    brought flair, especially when introducing the Chair
This post reviews our club’s accomplishments from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012.

President’s Distinguished Club

The year went smoothly and our club remains in excellent condition. We earned all 10 points in the Distinguished Club Program (DCP). That puts us at the highest possible level again: President’s Distinguished Club.


Club members spoke at various outside events, including:


We upgraded from our outdated website to the FreeToastHost 1.0 (FTH1) platform. With short notice, we upgraded to FTH2. Jonathan lead both initiatives and did most of the work.

Using FTH simplifies the way members get emails and eliminates earlier problems keeping email lists up-to-date.


Toastmaster Meetups around the worldWe started a Meetup group to help the public find us. This has worked well and has become the main source of our visitors.

We have had 59 meetups and have 90 members. I dreamed that we’d rank among the top 100 Toastmaster Meetups in the world. We’re #76.


We’re on Twitter (@gytm81) but not especially active. There are opportunities to do more.


blog traffic
The goals for this blog were 50 posts and 1,000 visits. This is the 66th post. We’ve had over 4,500 visits. This shows there are readers.

The challenge is finding more writers.

Blogging helps in creating and augmenting speeches. A blog post is an ideal place to embed a speech, add the text and link to related items (here’s an example). The club provides a painless way to blog to members with interest.


We have a new video camera. Members can now get video recordings instantly by bringing in their own memory cards for recording.


Toastmasters International introduced new branding in August 2011. Our club earned a new banner and is awaiting delivery.

Members voted for a new tagline: Speak. Lead. Inspire. 


Best wishes to the incoming executive. You're inheriting an excellent club.

If you'd like to share your thoughts for the past year, please leave your comments below.


You’ll find more about Promod Sharma at For tweets about trust, checkout @trustandyou.