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We upgraded from our outdated website to the FreeToastHost 1.0 (FTH1) platform.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 promodsharma.com. For tweets about trust, checkout @trustandyou.

June 24, 2012

Snakes and Ladders: Redoing All Your Speeches

snakes and ladders 500x390 488017797_3b5f531c83_oby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

When you finish the 10 speeches in your Competent Communicator manual, you qualify to proceed with the advanced manuals. That’s my strategy but you may have different goals.

Do you remember playing Snakes And Ladders? You’re nearly done when you slide down a snake to the bottom. Or Monopoly where you go directly to jail without passing Go and collecting your $200.

Toastmasters has a similar option but it’s not punishment. You can redo your Competent Communicator manual.

One Speech

If you want to redo a particular speech, you can without redoing all of them. You won’t get additional points but you will get more practice. This time, you might want to get feedback from all the attendees instead of a specific evaluator.

You could also redo your speech on video at home if you don’t need a live audience.

Why Repeat?

Why would anyone want to start over? Here are several reasons.
  1. You might want a refresher on the basics. You’d probably develop new speeches based on your additional skills.
  2. You may not be interested in the 15 advanced manuals.
  3. You may fear failure and prefer to repeat the path you know instead of exploring further. [This isn’t a good reason]

How To Decide

Do you redo or try something new? Here’s an easy way to decide: pick the choice the scares you. You’re then venturing out of your comfort zone. That’s where the real growth takes place.  Toastmasters provides a nurturing environment for you.

Picasso said, “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

Lincoln said, “I am not bound to succeed but I am bound to live up to the light I have.”

What do you say?


Promod Sharma prefers doing over redoing. He is proceeding with his advanced manuals. You’ll find his website at promodsharma.com.

Sheltering Your Potluck Picnic From A Storm

picnic in the rain by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

Last year, we looked at how to organize a potluck picnic. We used the same process this year. There was one big difference: the weather.


The picnic announcement said we'd proceed rain or shine. We could because our party took place under a large tent at a yacht club.

The night before, the Picnic Organizer expressed concern about the weather. A thunderstorm was predicted. That creates safety issues. Should we postpone?

Picnics require advance preparation. Members would likely have bought or made what they were planning to bring. The items might not keep for another week. There was no guarantee that we could get the facility again. We certainly couldn't guarantee good weather.

We decided to proceed. After all, forecasts can be wrong. We counted on attendees to rely on their own judgment.


The weather was excellent … until an hour before our picnic. That's when the heavy rain started. There was some thunder too. Since the storm was heavy, it didn't last. The rain stopped about an hour after the picnic started. The barbecuing proceeded without much interruption.

The lesson: pick a spot that's well protected from the weather (and close to parking).


A Toastmasters event would be incomplete without speeches. We had three after dinner.
1. Picnic Organizer
The Picnic Organizer (Lyle) welcomed everyone, thanked Dave for getting us access to the members-only yacht club and thanked Rick for manning the barbecue.
2. Outgoing President
The outgoing President (me) thanked
  • the Picnic Organizer
  • the outgoing executive as a group
  • the club members for attending and electing them
Why wasn't each outgoing executive thanked individually? This was already done at election time and the Executive Transition Meeting. There wasn't much more to say. Formal thanks will be given in a blog post next week.
3. Incoming President
The incoming VP of Education (Andrew) spoke on behalf of the incoming President. He gave a gracious speech using notes. He thanked the outgoing executive,  introduced the incoming team and said other nice things.


The picnic ended with a mild drizzle, smiles and full bellies.


Promod Sharma tweets about trust (@trustandyou) and blogs about risk (Riscario Insider).

June 17, 2012

Toastmaster Roles: General Evaluator

If you've never been to Toastmasters, you'll be surprised at how much evaluation takes place. Yes, the speakers get evaluated. There's also a General Evaluator who comments on the overall meeting and the key roles.


Members have different roles each time. There are detailed instructions for every role (including General Evaluator). Follow them and you'll do well. The key roles are
  • Chair
  • Table Topics Master
  • Viewpoint/Debate/Lesson Master
  • Toastmaster
When you first get a key role, you may feel unprepared but you're probably ready. In Goodyear Toastmasters, the VP of Education assigns the roles a month in advance. That allows time to get ready. If you still don't feel ready, you can decline.


When you attend a club meeting, you know how it went. Still, it's fascinating to see the General Evaluator give the “official” review. All attendees benefit, especially guests. As Yogi Berra said, we can observe a lot just by watching. As our awareness grows, we get better just by watching. We learn without having to make the same mistakes.

First Time

I was in my club for over six months before I became General Evaluator the first time. This week, I had the role again. My suggestions included the following:
  • put down your pen: one person held a pen and transferred it from hand to hand while speaking. This was unintentional but distracting.
  • the order of speakers: we heard speech 6 then 10 then 3 from the Competent Communicator manual. The normal order would be 3, 6, 10 since the most junior speaker starts first. There was a reason for the switch but this didn't seem fair to the speakers or audience.
  • the effect of room size: we were in huge council chambers on raised seats arranged in a semi-circle. A larger room requires more energy and volume. The podium and each seat had a microphone but members were not using them. They lost an opportunity to get familiar with the equipment. When I explained this, I used the microphone.
A different General Evaluator would may have made different points.

In case you’re wondering, the General Evaluator also gets evaluated several times as part of the Competent Leadership manual.

Promod Sharma was General Evaluator this week. He blogs at Riscario Insider.

Learn To Memorize With Storytelling

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

I have trouble memorizing speeches. I checked online and the best advice is to practice and practice. There are no shortcuts. That's democratic but not enjoyable. 

Since your audience doesn't know exactly what you want to say, you can (and will) improvise when speaking. Words matter. You'll then have difficulty delivering the same speech consistently but will get through the speech.

Since speeches are short (often 5-7 minutes), I want to express myself just so. As a writer, I keep tweaking the content. How can you memorize text that keeps changing? 

There's an easy way to memorize: by telling stories. Stories are easy to remember and enjoyable to practice. They're also interesting for audiences. I know this because when I give presentations with PowerPoint, some segments are stories I've learned over time and re-use. The visuals are mental guides that keep me on track.

Formal Help
Once you're a Competent Communicator, you can work on the advanced manuals. Each has five projects. I selected Storytelling as one (and Communicating on Video as the other). After read them, I see that Storytelling gives a good foundation. I'm tackling that one first. 

The Surprise
For Storytelling, the instructions say "you should tell the story without a script or notes". 

Gulp! I always use notes or mind maps when speaking. For Storytelling, that would be "cheating". Memorizing is already a challenge but working without aids removes he safety net.

You're also told: "Ask your listeners to sit in a semicircle facing you. Don't stand behind a lectern or other obstacle". 

I normally have a barrier but will follow the guidelines.

The Pledge
To stick to the spirit of Storytelling, here's the pledge
- do all five projects in Storytelling without notes. This will take more preparation.
- make each story original or a modified interpretation. This is more challenging than re-telling someone else's story or one that you've heard a professional tell.
- record and post each story on YouTube. This takes courage.

You may want to make a similar pledge. As a bonus, I'm not planning to use PowerPoint. I might use physical props. 

Promod Sharma publishes a free monthly newsletter called Marketing Reflections. We're all in marketing.

June 10, 2012

Why Lessons Are Better Than Speeches

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

Confession time. I don't like giving speeches. There's too much preparation and practicing. The timing needs to be right.

In Toastmasters, each speech has specific criteria which get progressively tougher. That's why I haven't done in a speech since becoming a Competent Communicator three months ago.

Real Life

In real life, do you deliver speeches? I give presentations. The length is generally 45-60 minutes, including questions. A speech isn't the right form of practice but a lesson is.

At Goodyear Toastmasters, a lesson is typically 15-20 minutes long. You can practice a full presentation in three or four sessions over a period of months. Or you can practice the core elements in one lesson.

At first, giving a lesson may look like difficult because you have more time to fill. The opposite is true.


A lesson is much easier than a speech. You're not expected to memorize. You're more likely to use visual aids like PowerPoint. There's time for audience participation, which develops your impromptu skills. You're not rushed.

If you feel nervous in the beginning, you'll have more time to recover. You'll have more time to try different things. When you watch the video playback, you may spot unintended behaviour more easily. Perhaps your body language changes when each time you get a question.

If you're using PowerPoint, you can use Presenter View to help you remember your content. When you're live, you don't want to look like you're simply reading. When you're practicing, Presenter View is very helpful.

The Topic

If you already know your topic and don't need visuals, you can prepare a lesson in minutes.

If you're doing an important presentation (for work, say), you won't want to rush the preparation. As you do more lessons, you may be able to reuse elements such as slides. 


If you normally use visuals for lessons, try one without. I've done that several times recently
You're then better prepared should equipment malfunction.

That’s the lesson for today, Class dismissed.


Promod Sharma blogs about marketing at marketingactuary.com and tweets about trust @trustandyou.

June 7, 2012

Create A Lesson In Minutes

by Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

A speech takes hours to prepare and practice. A 15-20 minute lesson takes minutes to prepare. Here’s how:
  1. Pick a topic you know well
  2. Create a mind map
  3. Include audience interaction
There’s no need to practice, but practice helps.

The Right Topic

Preparation takes time unless you pick a topic you already know well. Choose a hobby for instance. You'll cut your stress level and exude passion.

At our core, we're much alike. Pick a topic of interest and value to a general audience (even if you're talking to a specialized group).

Today, I'm giving a lesson on Mastering Time via three proven, simple techniques. It's based on a blog post I wrote a few months ago,

Mind Map

A mind map is a simple, visual way to organize, re-arrange and deliver your lesson (for a primer, read preplan your speech with a mind map). For a lesson, I use three branches
  1. hook: draw the audience in quickly the way an action movie does
  2. content: give the substance with the boring bits removed
  3. action: leave the audience with a simple next step
Mastering Time mind mapHere's a screen shot (click to enlarge). This mind map took 21 minutes to develop. I might make minor refinements.

You can use a printed mind map for your delivery  but you’ll get more flexibility on a tablet.


If you're just going to talk, spare your audience by putting a recording on YouTube. You'll be more polished and able to reach a larger audience.

If you're going to consume an audience's irreplaceable time and attention, invite them to participate. What do they think? What are their experiences? Do they have better ideas?

Interaction helps your audience build their skills too. That's an important part of Toastmasters.

Time Crunch

What happens if you have less time to give your lesson than expected? You can be irate and demand your full allotment. Or you can hone your skills by adjusting. 

Last week I had a lesson on Mastering The Mastermind (based on this post). I thought I'd have 20 minutes but only 10 minutes were scheduled. Other segments took longer than planned. To help the meeting end on time, I was asked to finish in eight minutes. I agreed to the challenge.

Here's how: I left the hook and action intact (and had them reasonably memorized). In the middle segment, I cut out portions and removed the audience participation. The result was essentially a speech. I finished in six minutes and 55 seconds. I don't think the audience noticed or suffered.

Without a mind map, I would have scrambled to prune. With the mind map, I made adjustments as I spoke.

Your Lesson

My lesson for tonight has taken 21 minutes to prepare (though I've been thinking about it for two days). I'll refine and practice a bit. The total time will be less than an hour.

If you're new to giving lessons, you needn't race the clock. You needn't fear that a lesson is tough to create either.


Promod Sharma conducts independent Actuarial Insurance Reviews in the Greater Toronto Area.

June 3, 2012

Annoying Toastmaster Guests With Attention

Shyby Promod Sharma, President 2011-2012, CC

In a friendly club, members may refer to guests by name. This is easy to do when guests receive tent cards on which they write their names.

Guests may not appreciate the extra attention. You don’t know the struggle they overcame just to attend. Culture and gender may be factors too.

You may be adding more pressure by removing their anonymity. Saying a name is like pointing a finger or shining a spotlight.

Also, some names get mispronounced, which can be worse than silence.

My Tale

I don't like getting singled out in a new group. I can handle the attention but I’d rather  disappear into the background and observe. Afterwards, I might ask questions.

As President, I've been singled out on numerous occasions. Sometimes, I'm selected to start introductions or Table Topics. I don't mind but would prefer different criteria than a title.

Where The Trouble Starts

The club meeting starts with introductions. Each member stands up, gives their name and says when they joined. The greeting may start with
  • "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests: that's safe
  • "Good evening everyone": short and safe (what I use)
  • "Good evening, fellow Toastmasters and welcome to our guests [followed by their first names]": may feel invasive, especially if several members name the guests


There's no perfect way to tell how much attention a guest wants. Asking would be awkward: “Would you like us to be friendly or pretend that you don’t exist?”

You can get clues by
  • watching how comfortable guests are during introductions
  • whether they participate during Table Topics and other interactive segments like the Debate or Viewpoint


You can't really tell how a guest wants to be treated. The safest solution is to use generic, all-inclusive terms like "Hello everyone".

If you want to be more personal, chat with the guest before the meeting, during breaks or afterwards. That's when using a name is much more appropriate.

Your thoughts?


Promod ("pro-MODE") of Taxevity doesn't like having his name used by new groups. In part, that's because of mispronunciations, misspellings or both. You’ll find him on LinkedIn.