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.