October 28, 2012

Three Lessons For Speakers From TEDxToronto

TEDxToronto 2012by Promod Sharma, CC

TEDx events are an opportunity to see great local speakers.

TEDxToronto took place this week. Over 1,000 attended. Imagine speaking to an audience that size. This polished event provided lessons for Toastmasters and other speakers. We’ll look at the importance of mentors, timing and delivery.

Get A Mentor

Speakers vary in skill. They have different issues in their heads. To help them and maintain the standards of TEDxToronto, each speaker got coaching.

The bigger issue may be honing the content. Speakers know much more than they have time to tell. If they’re used to presenting for an hour, trimming down to 18 minutes (or less) may be daunting. How can any of your golden words be omitted?

A mentor gives a valuable outside perspective and a reminder that the speaker is there for the audience. The problem is that a mentor is still one person and opinions vary.
“Only say what you think is funny. Only keep what they think is funny.”
— BJ Kovak,
Crafting a Joke: The Arc of an Act (Wired, May 2010)
Another approach is to field test content in front of live audiences to gauge reactions. You want to get feedback from the right group. A Toastmasters club is ideal since members know how to give useful feedback. I sometimes use a printed form (preserves anonymity) or have a group discussion (for interaction and elaboration).

Nail The Timing

In Toastmasters, we learn the importance of every second. We also learn that a second varies in length. A typical speech is 5-7 minutes. We may aim for six minutes during practice only to find that when we're live we speak faster, speak slower or add impromptu segments.

To keep on track, we use lights at Toastmasters
  • green at 5 minutes: you met the minimum requirements
  • amber at 6 minutes: start winding down, even if you're behind
  • red at 7 minutes: you've gone too long (you never want to see red)
TEDx might have a countdown timer or other system.

If you’re speaking somewhere on your own, looking at your watch isn’t a good idea. An organizer can signal you. There are also timing apps for smartphones and tablets. Some clickers have timers and buzzers.

Be Flexible During The Delivery

“There’s a point where we must just open our mouths and let our voice come out. We let it mix in the air and accept that we can’t put it back.”
— Steven Page

You can practice and practice but the live experience is unpredictable.

At TEDxToronto, the speeches were generally delivered well. A child spoke but was hard to hear (was her headset microphone too far away?). When the hosts (MCs) started speaking between talks, they were sometimes hard to hear (seemed that their handheld mics were off or not amplified enough). Luckily audiences are forgiving and compensate for us.

There are bound to be TEDx events near you. If not, you can watch the videos on TED.com or a TEDx site like TEDxToronto.


Promod Sharma was President of Goodyear Toastmasters during the 2011-2012 year. He speaks primarily about building trust today.

October 21, 2012

How To Prepare A Speech On Your iPad

iPadby Promod Sharma, CC

When you're creating a speech, there are three steps
  1. Outline
  2. Write
  3. Practice
Your iPad is an exceptionally convenient and powerful tool for each step. Android tablets probably work well too using different apps.


iThoughtsHDA speech consists of an introduction, several main points and a conclusion. There's plenty you could say and different ways to arrange your content. A mind map gives you an easy, visual way to make changes. You may want to add sub-points to your main points.

I use iThoughtsHD, which keeps improving. It’s easy to export content in various formats.

You can probably deliver your speech from the mind map. I sometimes do. If that's your plan, consider adding images to help you remember the points. You’ll get better results if you plan out each word you want to say.


iA WriterNext, export your mind map as text into a text editor and prepare your script. The quality comes from the revisions. You want to use words and phrases that are easy to say, easy to hear and easy to understand.

I use the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard, which is much faster and nicer than using an onscreen keyboard.

Using the right app makes writing easier, even enjoyable. I use iA Writer, which I also used to draft this blog post. The font is large and inviting. There are no distractions to interfere with your writing.


Teleprompt+When you're satisfied with your content, you're ready  to practice. The timing of a speech is especially important. Recording yourself is too. That's where a teleprompter helps.
If you're prone to speeding up (or slowing down) when you speak, a teleprompter keeps you on track.

I use Teleprompt+ and make any further edits in this app.

A teleprompter is an essential app to improve your speaking even if you don’t use it when you deliver your actual speech.


Promod Sharma is an actuary who uses his iPad for every speech. You'll find more about him at promodsharma.com.

October 7, 2012

Exercise: Critique This Interview

Promod on Qb (Sep 2012) 5 - camera 500x625by Promod Sharma, CC

I was interviewed on camera for the second time. This was on Internet TV, which reduces the stress levels.

The interview was on the Qb money talk show. My previous experience was on Liquid Lunch, which uses the same studio.

The photo shows a green screen which allows a fake background to be inserted.

The Studio

The studio was surprisingly noisy. There was a constant hiss of static. Perhaps that dampens out other sounds? The filming area felt dead acoustically. Voices didn't carry far. While we were chatting at a table, it felt like we were talking from much further apart.

I couldn't tell what showed on camera, which meant I didn't know where to put my hands. I would have put them on the table but it was a little too high. I was also wired for sound. I didn't want to jar anything by moving around.

Your Review

For your critique, watch for several minutes (say in the middle). What did you like? What would you do differently? Next, leave your comments below. You can do the anonymously.

My Review

I thought the interview turned out better than it seemed at the time. Practicing impromptu speaking at Toastmasters (e.g., during Table Topics) is an effective way to practice.

I noticed that several sentences end with my pitch rising. That makes a statement sound like a question, which makes the speaker sound uncertain. That's not good if you're meant to be an expert.
I use "so" plus "and so" too often. This lead to run-on sentences. I also stretch out words like "aaannd" and "thennn". Pausing is better than filler. However, I found I had some ... unnecessary ... pauses which were not needed ... for effect. I also used duplicate words.

I rarely make these mistakes in my Toastmasters club, which is why I'm surprised that I do outside. This is another reason to always record yourself. Besides the official recording, I use an audio app on my Android phone. I had my video camera but didn't set it up. Because of the acoustics, the sound levels would probably have been low.

The overall experience is another reminder that practice is essential, especially in the real life environment which your club can't quite simulate.


I created a podcast from the video and made as many fixes as I could using Audacity. The background noise is nearly gone. The volume levels are levelized (sometimes the host was difficult to hear).

It was easy to delete "aaannd" because a gap usually followed. I could not easily remove "so" or "and so" because there was rarely a following pause.

I learned lots about my voice by editing the audio. The experience was worthwhile for learning.

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes


Promod Sharma ("pro-MODE") looks forward to more interviews and practicing at Goodyear Toastmasters.