February 26, 2012

Three Mistakes Seminar Speakers Make

Promod Sharmaby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

You've prepared a presentation. You've been given 60 minutes. You've got valuable content and winning anecdotes. You don't want to leave anything out.

You practice and manage to squeeze in everything ... if you talk a little faster.

This doesn't make sense
  • you probably won't get your full allotted time
  • the more content, the less preparation
  • the audience becomes passive

The Allotted Time

Schedules are unpredictable. Your starting time may be delayed. You may still be expected to finish at the originally-planned time. Unfair? If there are other speakers, the whole schedule may be messed up because an earlier speaker get gabbing.

You can help the organizers by shortening your portion. If you're prepared, you'll know what you can take out. The result may even improve. You'll be a hero to the organizers. That can't hurt you. You'll also be a hero to the audience since they fear that you'll add to the delays.

Even if you get your full allotment of time, you can easily still run out. You might talk more slowly than you planned or take detours.

Prepare by reducing your content in advance.

More Content, Less Preparation

A longer presentation is easy to prepare. Just keep piling in content. The skill is in the pruning.

As you add more, you dilute your impact. You're placing a burden on the audience to absorb more material. You're making your key points more difficult to remember --- and maybe tough to identify.

Think about yourself. You're making your delivery more difficult since there's more to deliver. You won't be able to practice as much.

Prepare by reducing your content in advance.

Audience Burnout

An audience that's exhausted, becomes more passive. You might not notice the lifeless eyes or their yawns. You may think they're attentive when they're mentally exhausted.

Engage them. Get them to participate. Invite questions. All that takes time away from your speaking.

Prepare by reducing your content in advance.


Audiences forget most of what you tell them, no matter how brilliant. If you're not convinced, think back to the second last speech or presentation you attended. How much can you remember?


Promod Sharma spoke at Podcamp Toronto earlier today about Building Trust With Podcasting. Any connection between this post and that event may be coincidental. You’ll a copy of the presentation and other resources here.

February 24, 2012

Toastmasters, Podcasting And Podcamp Toronto 2012 (#pcto2012)

 by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

As a speaker, you know that your voice is important. This is especially true when you're unseen. On the phone, you've got two way interaction, which gives feedback. In a webinar, you can get some live input too.

What about podcasting?

Here you're often recording your voice in private. There's no opportunity for live feedback. Writing is the same way. Maybe you like the isolation because you can practice and perfect in private.

Your Medium?

Podcasting may be the ideal medium for you. You might feel more comfortable when you're unseen and have complete control. Podcasting is easy and inexpensive.

Visit Podcamp Toronto 2012 on February 25-26 at Ryerson University. Admission is free. You'll be able to attend many different sessions. If you don't like one, you're free to leave ("the law of two feet").

podcampTO 300x250Participate

PodcampTO is a true unconference (thoughts from Mitch Joel). You're expected to participate. That's an opportunity to practice the impromptu skills you learned with Table Topics. If you don't like something, you're empowered to make changes. There's a feeling of controlled anarchy.


You'll have the opportunity to see many speakers. Their skills vary. Yet they all have the courage to address an audience. As a Toastmaster, you do too. You have the added advantage of spotting ways to improve.

While You're There

I have an interactive session on Building Trust With Podcasting. The views are bound to be unconventional because I don't listen to any podcasts but have recorded 155+.

Trust matters for our personal and business success. The rules have changed and so have our tools. Podcasting can be an effective component of your strategy. Even if your audience is small, you've got opportunities for big, indirect rewards.

You don't need any experience. Explore the WHY building trust with podcasting with questions like these
  1. How to build trust in today's won't-get-fooled-again world
  2. Why blogging vs builds trust better than podcasting
  3. How to get comfortable with the sound of your voice
  4. How to think when your brain freezes
  5. When video matters
  6. Where you get ideas
  7. What equipment you need
  8. How do you measure success
 This session is related to Turbocharge Your Club With Social Media (co-presented with Jonathan Holowka at the last District 60 conference), Building Trust With Social Media (CALU 20) and Building Trust With Blogging (from Word11).


Promod Sharma has been podcasting since 2009. You'll find Riscario Insider on iTunes and the Internet Archive.

February 19, 2012

Table Topics: Inventions

Victor Blandonby Victor Blandon, Advanced Communicator Bronze

Word of The Day

The word of the day is COIN (verb) - To make; invent; fabricate: to coin an expression. You may not use COIN to mean a piece of money

Members who don’t use the word pay a $0.50 fine. There’s no penalty for guests.


Each attendee will randomly select a slip of paper from an envelope. The slip will show an invention. You will tell the story of how you made this invention for 30 to 75 seconds. Guests are invited — but not required — to participate.

  1. Cheese
  2. Aspirin
  3. Popsicles
  4. Frisbee disc
  5. Sandwiches
  6. Glass
  7. Post-it note
  8. Maple Syrup
  9. Miniskirt
  10. Leaning tower of Pisa
  11. Ice Cream Cone
  12. Microprocessor
  13. Velcro
  14. Chocolate Chip Cookies
  15. Electricity
  16. Jeans
  17. Coca-Cola
  18. Tea Bags
  19. Paper towels
  20. Potato Chips
  21. Bricks


Victor Blandon is an experienced Toastmaster who has achieved his Advanced Communicator Bronze designation. You’ll learn more about Victor on LinkedIn.

Speaking As A Panelist

(Congratulations to club members Anita Nickerson, Jonathan Holowka and Promod Sharma. This week, they used their Toastmaster skills as the panelists for a session on Modern Marketing Methods for the Canadian Association of Management Consultants in downtown Toronto — Editor)
  Promod Sharma
by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

If you're uncomfortable speaking to strangers on your own, consider participating on panels. There are several advantages:
  1. shared load
  2. speech elements
  3. audience questions
We’ll explore each.

panelShared Load

As a panelist, you don't need to do as much. The moderator has the tougher role. You'll have a general idea of the questions. You may even get the moderator’s list in advance. Feel free to practice answering but don't read from notes. You're on the panel because you're an expert. That means speaking primarily from memory.

Speech Elements

As a panelist, you'll likely get some time to speak. Perhaps 5-15 minutes. Prepare as you would for a speech.  Since other panelists are likely sitting in a row beside you, you aren’t alone. Stand, if possible.

If you're planning to use slides, let the moderator and organizer know in advance.  You may be asked to provide a copy of your presentation on a memory stick so that all speakers use one computer. Emailing a copy in advance is good insurance.

Audience Questions

You won't have time to prepare for questions from the audience. This is your opportunity to practice the impromptu speaking skills you develop with Table Topics. You have an extra advantage. Your audience will ask questions related to the topic.

If a question is beyond the scope of the panel, the moderator will likely intervene. A more experienced panelist might too. If the question still gets to you, you don't need to give an answer.

If you're unsure of the answer, another panelist might answer first. That gives you more time to prepare.


As you become an experienced panelist, you're feel more comfortable. You'll be able to listen to the whole question before formulating your response. You'll be able to build on answers given by other panelists and work together as a team.

Recording the session let's you re-experience the session and improve for next time


Promod Sharma has been blogging about risk and marketing for 5 years — 500 posts and 250,000 words. For more details, visit promodsharma.com.

February 12, 2012

Table Topics: Red

by Anita Nickerson
Anita Nickerson

Word of The Day

The word of the day is AMOROUS, keeping with RED, the theme of the week. This adjective means “strongly attracted or disposed to love”. In a sentence, “My partner shot amorous glances at me.”

Members who don’t use the word pay a $0.50 fine. There’s no penalty for guests.

Talking Points

Each attendee spoke for 25 to 55 seconds about a randomly selected topic from a red envelope. Guests were invited — but not required — to participate. Given the large attendance, the slightly shortened speaking times helped the meeting finish on time.
  1. My Bloody Valentine (movie)
  2. Red Roses
  3. Red Wine
  4. Chocolates
  5. Hugs
  6. Kisses (Hershey Kiss)
  7. Kiss (Rock Band)
  8. Casablanca (movie)
  9. Art Deco (Chrysler Building)
  10. Vacations
  11. Travel
  12. Fine Dining
  13. Red Tomatoes
  14. Red Lipstick
  15. Red Nail Polish
  16. Vodka Martinis
  17. Red Button
  18. Red Painting
  19. Champagne
  20. Cognac
  21. Croissants
  22. Cappuccino
  23. Handwritten Note
  24. Bubble Bath
  25. Surprise
  26. Kiss
  27. Gifts
  28. Big Heart
  29. Zombie Movies
  30. Comedies
  31. Swiss Watches
  32. Diamonds
  33. Jewelry
  34. Red Purse
  35. Playing Cards
  36. Folk Art
  37. Strawberries
  38. Cherries
  39. Raspberries
  40. Salsa


By popular vote, Gulzar won the coveted ribbon for Best Table Topics.


Anita Nickerson joined Goodyear Toastmasters in August 2011. You’ll find more about her on LinkedIn and her blog, Anita On The Job.

February 11, 2012

Theme of the Week: RED

(Each club meeting has a theme selected the Chair. Here is what Leila selected and sent to club members to get them in the spirit. Members with key roles provide their thoughts on the theme, which get read during the meeting by the Chair or Toastmaster. — Editor)
Leila Batesby Leila Bates, VP Education 2011-2012
THEME | RED. It is the longest wavelength of light.

I ask myself......how can a three letter word evoke such a kaleidoscopic spectrum of emotions from nature, culture, tradition, beliefs, technology and politics.

It  has more personal associations than any other colour.


There is no question that it sends a clear message to the rest of the world!
The word red comes from the Old English rēad.[4] Further back, the word can be traced to the Proto-Germanic rauthaz and the Proto-Indo European root reudh-. In Sanskrit, the word rudhira means red or blood.

  • Red carpet treatment: giving privileged treatment to an important person
  • Caught red-handed: clearly guilty
  • Red in the face: to become embarrassed
  • Seeing red: to be angered
  • Red flag: a warning of danger
  • Not worth a red cent: having no value
  • Red letter day: a memorable, joyful day
  • Red tape: excessive formalities in governmental process
  • In the red: a term to describe an economic loss
  • Paint the town red.


Leila Bates is VP Education for Goodyear Toastmasters. For more about her, visit www.nuvediq.com.

February 5, 2012

Learn To Pause By Echoing

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

Applause starts with a pause. As we prepare a speech, we learn our content well. As we practice, we may speak faster and faster. That allows us to cram in more content. Perhaps we had too much at the outset and have to speak faster to squeeze it in.

Less is more.

Our audience is experiencing our speech for the first time. They need pauses to understand the ideas. They need pauses to feel the impact. Those who are unfamiliar with your topic need even longer.

Pause buttonObserve

Have you noticed how comedians pause after the punch line? Professional trainers pause too. The silence can last for seconds. The breaks show mastery. The willingness to stop shows control. We benefit as an audience.


How can you learn to pause? There's an easy way: listen to live recordings and pretend you're an echo. Repeat what the speaker says instantly and in the same way. You'll quickly match their pace, which may seem sooo slooooow.

Recordings of someone you already know work well. Bill Cosby is excellent. So is Jim Rohn.
Here's a short example from John F Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Did you realize how much JFK paused? There are limits. Please don’t pause as much as Bob and Ray in “Slow Talkers”.

At First

Pausing may be uncomfortable at first. You might feel you're wasting the audience's time with planned silence. You're not. You're adding impact.

Rapid repetition has another advantage. You remember better too. When you are the echo, you needn't say anything out loud. Silent repetition works well too.

But Wait ...

Pausing reduces the time you have for your words. If you're trying to cram in as mug as you can, this is a problem ... for your audience. You're depriving them of pauses. That means you're overloading them. They'll still clap but you're reducing your impact.

As you edit, you distill and your content becomes more potent. The process takes you longer but the results are better. What you prune and shorten creates time for the pause, impact and applause.


Promod Sharma had problems pausing before joining Toastmasters. You’ll find more about him at promodsharma.com.

How To Keep Toastmaster Meetings On Time

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012

Every minute counts. Every second counts.

The Chair has the overall responsibility to keep the club meeting on schedule. This can be the most difficult part of the role. In a vibrant club, there's more to do than time allows. It's easy for a meeting to go off track. Here are the three biggest places
  1. Introductions
  2. Table Topics
  3. The Business Session
Meetings are meant to start on time and end on time. That's tough when some sections are unpredictable in length. Some meetings have extra guests. We can all help the Chair by being quick. 


Introductions by members are often boring and routine.
"Hello fellow members and honoured guests. I'm (insert name here) and I've been a member of this club for (insert length here). Tonight I'm your (insert role here)."
This a good time to be creative. For example, you can inject a short snippet of good news that you’re bubbling to tell other members. For example,
"Good evening. I’m (insert name here) and today is my one year anniversary at this club."
That’s short and more memorable. Since you know you’ll introduce yourself, be ready. Push your chair back so you can stand up gracefully and without delay. Your introduction time is your own. You needn’t rush. Don’t start your introduction until you’ve finished standing up and paused.

After the introductions, the Chair may repeat the roles (which may also be on a handout, screen or whiteboard). Who’s paying attention. In the beginning, being redundant may help boost your confidence and reduce your nervousness. As you gain experience, you can streamline.

Table Topics

Speaking without preparation builds our skills. The Table Topics Master helps by keeping the preamble short and the instructions simple. Attendees help by avoiding filler phrases like "Hello fellow Toastmasters and honoured guests". Interjecting irrelevant stories before starting wastes time too. Even worse, you're robbing yourself of the opportunity to speak impromptu.

We aren’t robots but can be efficient. Once again, push your chair back before it's your turn. 

If there are more attendees than usual, the Table Topics Master can compensate by reducing the speaking time slightly (say from 60 seconds to 50 seconds). With 25 attendees, that’s a saving of about four minutes.

Business Session

If there is a motion, the schedule can get disrupted — especially when there's a motion. The goal isn't to rush or muzzle the discussions but to maintain momentum by paying attention to the clock. If Table Topics went unusually long, the business session can be shortened to compensate.

Major Roles

If you have one of the major roles such as Table Topics Master or Debate Master or Lesson Master or Viewpoint Master, you've got an obligation to help the meeting flow smoothly. You'll appreciate this when you're Chair. It's best to deal with delays in a way that the group doesn't notice. Sometimes nothing can be done (e.g., a computer needs to be rebooted). That’s the time to “go with the flow" rather than getting tense and making others tense.

What if we're too good? Our “penalty” is a longer break or an earlier exit.
Do you have other suggestions?


Promod Sharma is currently in a 12 week Pick Four goals program (blog post). You’ll find him on LinkedIn.