January 29, 2012

Prepare Your Speech With A Mind Map

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

You can draft a speech in many ways. Have you tried a mind map? This is a fancy version of bullet points or point form but enhanced to look like a diagram. You can also add visuals or use different colours for different branches.

Here is a primer.



You can mind map on paper but I much prefer using iThoughtsHD on my iPad (iTunes). Navigating with your fingers is much more convenient than using a mouse or stylus. Pinch/zoom is a very easy and powerful way to see what you want to see at the moment. You have unlimited space. You can rearrange points and branches. You can add images. Everything is legible since you're typing.


basic mind mapI start with a simple, universal structure that shows
  • beginning / introduction / hook
  • middle
  • end / action / takeaway
Every speech has those elements.

full mind map - too much content for 5-7 minutes (click to enlarge)I then add branches. When the ideas flow, the basic structure takes 15-30 minutes to create. The editing takes hours since there is usually too much content for a 5-7 minute speech. I also practice what I’ll say at the same time.


What's next? You can turn your speech into text. Sometimes, I speak directly from the mind map. Since the key points are there, you're unlikely to miss anything important. Since you're not reading from a script, you have flexibility. You'll also sound natural, as we do when speaking impromptu.

This week, I'm giving my ninth speech from the Competent Communicator manual. The goal is to persuade with power. I will follow-up on Speech 8: The Six Basic Fears According To Napoleon Hill. I got the idea of having a second part from fellow blogger Barbara Berezowski who most recently wrote control the fear of public speaking. This means a deviation from  preplanning all speeches, but that's fine.  Spontaneity spurs creativity.

Which Way?

I may speak directly from the mind map. I'll record myself since I'd like to create a transcript which can be turned into a blog post.

I’d prefer to use PowerPoint. The slides then become the script. Unfortunately, my main computer broke down and won't be repaired until Tuesday. That doesn't leave much time to prepare the visuals and practice for Thursday.

To be safe, I may create a one page handout with blanks that the audience can fill in during the presentation. Regardless of option, mind mapping guided the preparation. Maybe that technique can help you too.

Promod Sharma discovered mind mapping in early 2010. Now he's hooked. For more than you'd care to know about him, visit promodsharma.com.

January 27, 2012

How To Run A Webinar

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

Even if you're an experienced live speaker, be wary of webinars. There are major differences that make your presentation both tougher and simpler.

If you think body language is important, tough luck. You can't show any. Compensate by adding energy to your voice and zing to your visuals.

You don't know the varying environments from which your audience is watching. How fast are their Internet connections? How noisy is the background? What other distractions are taking place? Are you like the climax of an edge-of-your-seat movie or like a TV playing in the background while real work goes on?


Since no one can see you, add more energy and enthusiasm to your voice. Slow down. Depending on Internet connections, sound quality varies and your words might fade in and out. You needn't talk in sloooooow motion, since that's annoying too.


Use a high quality microphone that sounds natural. You could use a headset but a table microphone is more convenient, captures room ambience better and soon feels invisible.

Use a fast, reliable Internet connection. Have a backup plan. Some recent smartphones can become mobile hotspots. Be mindful of your data plan. Connect your smartphone to power to save your battery.
Turn off or silence gadgets. If you forget and they ring, beep or buzz, just turn them off. There's no need to apologize or draw further attention to this oversight.

If you're co-presenting, see if all presenters can be in the same location. This avoids delays and glitches when switching speakers. If you can't be together, have a way to communicate privately. Text messages or emails may be enough.


You'll be using PowerPoint or something similar. Learn the tool by watching others. Here's a sample presentation from 2008 (no need to watch the full thing).

Build your points one by one to help your audience focus. That's an excellent technique for in-person presentations too. In a webinar, you can't point to a spot on the screen or use a laser pointer. Instead, move the cursor smoothly and pause. There's a lag in what you're doing and what your audience sees.
Video probably won't play well and audio may not transmit. You can include a screenshot instead.


Make sure you know how to work the equipment in advance. There are probably video tutorials online.
Not only are you speaking, you have additional controls to monitor audience questions. Working with a partner helps, even if you're the only one speaking.

Get interactive. You may have tools to ask questions, run surveys or to raise hands.
"Are you with me?"


Do record your session. You'll get valuable feedback to improve and now have content you can post online. PowerPoint has a built-in recording


Allow time for attendees to type questions as you proceed and at the end. A helper or co-presenter can monitor them while you're speaking. As with a live presentation, you'll want to have typical questions prepared to get the discussions started.

You might find that you like webinars more than in-person presentations. Or not. Either way, you'll improve your webinars with these tips and practice. What do you think?

Promod Sharma has conducted webinars. He prefers creating YouTube studio recordings and speaking live. You’ll find more about him on LinkedIn.

January 22, 2012

Beyond Buzz Words

Jennifer Moonby Jennifer Moon, DTM

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a mental picture must be worth much more. Mental images can transport someone beyond the visual cues of a picture to feelings, smells, sounds and emotions. Mental imagery is a powerful tool for all communicators and can be achieved fairly easily through careful word selection.

Not sure if this actually works? What comes to mind when you read “ice cream cone”? Do you picture a simple image involving a scoop or two on a brown cone? What if I select different words to describe the same cone, words like “two velvet-smooth, luxurious scoops of chocolate ice cream piled into a crunchy waffle cone with a single drip running down the lip of the cone” – do you get a livelier image? If you’re like most people, not only can you picture the second ice cream cone in more detail, you can almost feel the warm sun on your shoulders, hear the birds singing in the park, smell the chocolate and experience childhood memories as you prepare to enjoy the treat.

Now consider the complete opposite of good, evocative word selection – buzz words. No matter how revolutionary these words or phrases are when they first enter into our vocabulary, they quickly become crutch words, filler words and run the risk of eroding careful word selection. To make matters worse, these expressions can also be frustrating and confusing. Consider one of my least favourite buzz expressions: Take it to the next level. Are you looking for an elevator or are you trying to elevate a team’s performance?

Buzz words also come in the form of expressions that we sometimes use out of habit. For example: at the end of the day. Why not use the word “tonight”? What about “at this point in time”? What’s wrong with “now”? Most buzz words are redundant and add to our word count without serving a specific purpose. Why not use the time or space when communicating to use descriptive, accurate words that better convey your message?

2011 Buzz Words
Buzz words are everywhere – in the media, at work, at home and, I hate to admit it, at Toastmasters. These words and expressions are like sirens, calling to us with their ease of use, reputation for being all-purpose answers and the illusion of sounding authoritative. The table shows a recently released list of some of the most dreaded buzz words and expressions from 2011. Do you recognize any of your favourites?

The Challenge
Banish buzz words from your vocabulary and choose to use vivid language instead. Enjoy the power of painting lively pictures, capturing your audiences with the uniqueness and subtlety of your skill with words. Think of buzz words as a still photograph. Sure you might have a great shot, but how much better would it be to see, smell, touch and feel the magic? Paint that kind of metal picture for your audience and you will leave them moved by your message and eager to hear more.

Jennifer Moon is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) and long time member of Goodyear Toastmasters. She recently joined the Board of Governors of the Ontario College of Trades. You’ll find more details on LinkedIn.

January 19, 2012

Speech 8: The Six Basic Fears According To Napoleon Hill

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

If you’re having trouble deciding what to write about, recycle. Take a look at what’s popular with your audience. If you blog, that’s easy because your analytics will tell you.

Here’s an example of recycling the six basic fears that Napoleon Hill identified in 1937. I wrote a blog post in 2008 that’s still read daily. That shows ongoing appeal. I decided create a new speech based on the content.

Too Much

The six basic fears identified by Napoleon Hill in 1937 (click for more)How do you squeeze six fears into a 5-7 minute speech? If you go into detail, you’ll run out of time. If you’re too high level, what will the audience benefit? You could spend more time on selected fears and skim the rest.

Since our fears vary, I didn’t want to bore the audience with my interpretations. I wanted them to think about their own fears and then take preventative steps. I also wanted to use very few words to allow them time to think.

Since Speech 8 requires the use of visual aids, I found a solution: photos. The right images speak for themselves and leave a lasting impact. I spent hours to find free stock photos that would not violate copyright or require credits. I replaced several that weren’t simple enough or powerful enough.

To engage the audience, I asked them to jot down the fears they thought would make the list. I showed the fears in reverse order from #6 to #1 and paused before #1 to give the audience a chance to revise their guesses. To make fear #1 stick, I added a story.

Studio Recording

Since preparing a speech takes time, why discard your work right when you’re most practiced? I made this studio recording.

There have been 74 views already. That’s larger than the live audience — another reason to record.

More Recycling

You can recycle your recycling. I inserted the video back into the original blog post. Visitors can now watch or read or both.

What do you think about the content, delivery or approach?


Promod Sharma is President 2011-2012 and — have no fear — an actuary. You’ll find more details on LinkedIn.

January 15, 2012

Control The Fear Of Public Speaking

by Barbara Berezowski

Did you know that even experienced public speakers feel their heart thumping at an accelerated rate of speed? Speaking in public is a fear that many individuals have. You’re not alone. It’s normal to feel those butterflies. It is a normal physical reaction as there is a release of adrenaline and cortisol into your system. It’s like drinking several cups of coffee.

Speaking in public is truly scary for most people, including the experts. They may give the impression that they are very composed, but believe me, even they experience the same feelings. You can learn to control and manage these feelings. The key is in the preparation.

terror fear scared 500x680Good presentations skills and public speaking skills are very useful in many aspects of work and life. These skills are important in business, sales and selling, training, teaching, lecturing and generally entertaining an audience.

Therefore, improving the confidence and capability to give good presentations, and to stand up in front of an audience and speak well, are valuable self-development tools. Like most things, it simply takes preparation and practice to improve your skills and abilities.

If you are frightened to speak in front of a large group, just remember that you can control your fears by being prepared. It is the fear of the unknown that holds us back. With knowledge and practice, you will find confidence in yourself.
“Understanding our fears is the first and most important step to conquering them. As the saying goes, don't try to get rid of the butterflies — just get them flying in formation.” — Unknown
The Toastmasters organization is a wonderful environment to develop your presentation skills. Locate a local club like Goodyear Toastmasters and attend a meeting as a guest. During your first few meetings, you can choose to participate as much or as little as you want. You may find it more comfortable to just sit back and watch until you are ready to jump in. That’s ok too. Whatever your comfort level, you will find a group of individuals who — just like you — are there for the same reasons.

With practice, you will learn how to deliver solid presentations and make a good impression on your audience. It is a very nurturing environment. Your fellow Toastmasters are there to help you succeed. You never have to fear that anyone would laugh at you. They will help you blossom into something very special. You will develop great communication skills and have fun during the process.

Change the nervous energy to enthusiasm.

Remember: the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed. They want to enjoy themselves and they want to see you enjoying yourself too. All you have to do is DO IT!


Barbara Berezowski is an Olympian, Hall of Fame Inductee and inspirational speaker. You’ll find more at www.bberezowski.com.

January 14, 2012

Turbocharge Your Club With Social Media

Toastmasters International District 60 holds two conferences each year. Getting selected to speak is an achievement. Promod Sharma and Jonathan Holowka collaborated on an interactive session on social media. You’ll find the live recording below along with a description of the session. The content is also well-suited to other nonprofit clubs.

A healthy club engages members, attracts guests and nurtures the community. Social media enables all that and more. What works? What’s right for your club? How do you decide what to do, get started and keep going? Find out from the real-life experiments at Goodyear Toastmasters.

Meetup, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and a blog help your club thrive in ways your website can never match. You’ll learn how to harness social media in this fully interactive session.

Why Bother?

The magic that happens in club meetings vanishes forever. Where is the record of past speeches, lessons and Table Topics? We deprive members and guests — past, present and future. Thanks to social media, we can easily share text, audio and video. For free.

When used well, social media:
  1. makes your club easier to find online
  2. strengthens the initial impression
  3. leaves a lasting impact
You can even help those unable to attend.

You have many options to explore and limited time. There’s Meetup, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and blogging. What about Facebook and Google+? Mistakes are easy to make and difficult to erase. Yet hiding from social media is even worse.

Goodyear Toastmasters, a community club, has been experimenting to see what works. Use their findings to get better results faster and with less effort.

As Toastmasters, we know that feedback helps us grow. Social media gives you analytics to show trends and what’s working now.

As a side benefit, you’ll create a living legacy for your club.
  • Engaged members are retained members
  • Attracted guests are attractive guests
  • A nurtured community is a stronger community


Here is a live recording of the session which took place on November 12, 2011. Jonathan wrote about a related blog post: How to get started with social media. It’s worth reading first.


Jonathan Holowka is VP Membership 2011-2012 and a social media specialist. You’ll find more details at byeka.com.

Promod Sharma is President 2011-2012 and an actuary. You’ll find more details at promodsharma.com.

January 8, 2012

The Painless Way To Blog

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012 [Blog Editor]

Blogging may seem intimidating at first but don't worry. As a member of Goodyear Toastmasters, the details get handled for you. All you do is draft content suitable for a general audience.


Write a post that's at least 300 words. That may seem like a lot but that's just a few minutes of talking. We talk effortlessly all day long (or know people who do). Writing takes more work but is within your grasp.

You can write using a free text editor like WordPad or a blogging app like Windows Live Writer (download page). You don’t need a heavy-duty tool like Microsoft Word but can use that if you’d like. If you have an iPad, iA Writer is excellent (see how to write better and faster).


Don't you want credit for your posts? Include your name and a sentence or two about yourself. You can include a link to your website or LinkedIn profile, if you like.

Send a photo too. Larger is better. The photo will be cropped and reduced to 100x100 pixels.
If you're reluctant to use your real name, you're free to use a pseudonym or maybe just your first name.


When you're satisfied, email your draft to the Blog Editor. You're done. If the changes are minor, you won't be notified.

If the changes are more extensive, you'll be contacted with suggestions. This can be a valuable learning process. Speaking has "crutchwords". Writing does too. You might be using passive verbs, complicated words or lengthy sentences. In the beginning, the editing will be minor and get more detailed as you get better. Isn't that exactly what happen when you progress through your speeches?


Your post will be scheduled for publication. For an instant notification when it goes live, Follow @gytm81 on Twitter. To get a copy of every post, subscribe. It’s all free.

As you get comfortable with the process, you’re welcome to become a regular contributor. You might even decide to start your own blog. That could change your life …


You can blog as frequently as you like. The risk is getting burned out. Start with one post for now. Maybe you can commit to one per month? That's just a word per day!


The goal is to publish every post but the Blog Editor decides. Some ideas may not suit the tone of our blog. In that case, you'll be notified. You may wish to make changes or publish elsewhere (e.g., another site or your own blog).

To participate, send your creation to something to the Blog Editor. How about today?


January 2, 2012

Preplan All Your Speeches

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

If you're in Toastmasters, you probably want to speak better. As a new member, it's easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on in the meetings. You can simplify your life with simple planning.

To become a Competent Communicator (CC), you'll give 10 speeches. Why not plan the topics now? Brainstorm. Jot down at least 10 things you'd like to talk about. If you’re stumped for ideas, consider topics you know well: hobbies, personal experiences or work-related items.
Click to read quotations related to The Seven Habits in quotes
Now, look at the focus of each speech and assign your speech ideas. For example, you may love taking photos of birds. Speech 8 focuses on using visual aids. Maybe that's a good fit for a speech about birds. Do you get the idea?

You'll need to decide on your topics some time. Why not at the outset? If you've read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, this is #2: Begin with the end in mind.

You needn't finish your list in one sitting and you can make changes later. You now have a workable path through your speech manual.


Here’s the plan I formulated before my first speech.(It's a simple table made with Microsoft Word.)

# Theme Length Title Date
1 The Ice Breaker  4-6 min Born At An Early Age (my life … so far) Dec 9, 2010
2 Organize Your Speech  5-7 min Your Everlasting Orchard (how to grow your network on LinkedIn) Jan 13, 2011
3 Get To The Point  5-7 min Saving The Government Way (going beyond three common ways to save) Jan 20, 2011
4 How To Say It  5-7 min How To Choose An Advisor You Trust (the three key elements) Feb 24, 2011
5 Your Body Speaks  5-7 min Body Movin’ (challenges with body language) Jul 7, 2011
6 Vocal Variety  5-7 min Drive Your Voice (tips to prepare your voice) Sep 15, 2011
7 Research Your Topic  5-7 min The High Cost Of Dementia Four Steps To Lasting Wealth Nov 24, 2011
8 Get Comfortable With Visual Aids  5-7 min Ideas (each using PowerPoint)
1. Do You Market Like It's 1999?
2. The Changing Face Of Trust
3. The Six Basic Fears From 1937
9 Persuade With Power  5-7 min Ideas
1. Get An Insurance Review
2. Live A Low Noise Life
10 Inspire Your Audience  8-10 min Start Leaving Your Legacy Now

This list is flexible. For Speech 7, I changed to a more uplifting topic. For #8 and #9, I’ve yet to decide. At least I have a shortlist. That alone saves time and gives peace of mind.

What do you think?

You’ll find more than you want to know about Promod with a Google search.