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 promodsharma.com.

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 www.promodsharma.com/presentations.

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 promodsharma.com.


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