Improve your English: discourse markers and linking words (Soňa, Tutor company)

Giving a talk in another language has a lot of challenges. Not only do you have to generate ideas which you want to share, but it is also necessary to arrange them in a way they are comprehensible to the audience. A useful tool to make you sound clearer are discourse marker and linking words. These expressions show relationships between your ideas and your attitude to them.

Screenshot from 2017-04-28 12-51-37
Soňa from Tutor Language School always provides in-depth and professional tips for improvement of our language skills

One of the many categories are discourse markers which indicate the beginning of the talk, such as well, so, right, now, anyway or to begin with. They are typical in less formal situations and everyday conversation.

Another group shows the order of your ideas. Starting with first, for a start, to begin with, you may list additional points introducing them with phrases such as next, in addition, what´s more, further or on top of that. For your final point and the conclusion you may use finally, last of all, all in all and to sum up.

Further, speakers often need to show the cause and effect in their arguments and descriptions to provide justifications and explanations. This can be achieved with linking expressions, e.g. so, (in order) to, therefore, since and because, suitable phrases, e.g. as a result or the reason is, and verbs, e.g. lead to, cause or result in.

The last category I would like to mention are commenting adverbs which express the speakers´ attitude to what they say. These range from evaluating the content (basically, naturally, obviously, surprisingly), to describing probability (certainly, hopefully, no doubt) and a personal involvement (personally, if you ask me). Nevertheless, as commenting adverbs contain a subjective view, it is better to avoid them when an impersonal or factual style is required.

On the whole, discourse markers and linking words contribute to the clarity of your speech and they can also improve your style. They may help you avoid complicated constructions on the one hand and repetitive statements containing numerous instances of “and” and “so” on the other.

Proud partner of Brno Business Toastmasters - Tutor language school
Proud partner of Brno Business Toastmasters – Tutor language school

This article was created thanks to the cooperation with Tutor Language school – Branch Brno.

 

Pepe: How Toastmasters have changed my life

“Toastmasters have changed my life!”, could definitely be the slogan of Josef, a devoted member of Brno Business Toastmasters (BBTM).

Nowadays Josef is an experienced public speaker: not only can he deliver speeches fluently and persuasively, but he has been also pursuing his leadership career as PR manager, organizer of meeting and evaluator.

We asked Josef (AKA Pepe) to answer a few questions about his beginnings, fears at the beginning and experience he has gained along the way. Feel free to share this article in your social circle!

Can you please present yourself in a few sentences?

Currently, I’m a programmer, but I have studied both IT and law. I love to learn new things even out of school. Currently, I’m focusing on studying new languages, in particular Spanish.

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Josef Hertl, Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB)

How did you learn about Toastmasters? Why did you decide to join particularly Brno Business Toastmasters?

I encountered some courses on the topic of public speaking at the university and wanted to follow up on that. Then, at my first job, I encountered a colleague who invited me to visit a Toastmasters club. This brought me to a BBTM meeting.

How would you present Toastmasters to someone who has never heard of it?

I do that quite often. Usually it goes like: “It is a place where you can speak or present in front of an audience and get evaluations. It is quite professional and organized. Also, we’re totally not a cult.”

Do you remember your first speech, evaluation and table topics?

I do quite distinctly remember all three of them. My first speech was called “Cards of my life” and revolved around using few cards (ISIC, playing cards for marias, credit card) to introduce myself to the audience. First evaluation was for Simeon’s icebreaker, where he spoke about his personal growth. My first table topics speech was in an amazing session where we didn’t draw separate topics, but instead the speakers were telling a story that evolved on the go. It was the first time I got to use a prop that has become my trademark – a screwdriver. Also, it was absolutely horrible performance. I feel I’ve learned a lot since then.

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Pepe even developed a special application for Table Topics 🙂

What are your strategies to cope with stress and nervousness before or during a speech?

Find a way to look forward to the speech. Prepare a small joke somewhere during the speech, a hidden remark, a funny gesture.. anything that works for you. Perhaps more important factor is preparation. I can’t stress this enough – if you want to have a great speech, it won’t go without a great amount of preparation, training and drilling. I have rather perfected the art of preparing a speech in a minimized amount of time, but sometimes this minimalistic preparation leads to feeling uneasy and unsure of myself.

What are 3 crucial factors for continuous progress of public speaker?

Determination, friendly environment and time.

You have been a member of BBTM for more than 2 years. What experience you have gained along the way?

I’ve clearly learned a lot about public speaking. However, I believe that far more important is the leadership part. Every role has taught me something, but each role is nothing when compared to Toastmaster. When I took upon that role for the first time, I discovered how tough it is to set up a meeting. On Saturday all roles were filled, including the minor ones. Then, on Sunday, people started rejecting the roles with various apologies. Until Tuesday morning I kept calling the member and I pretty much begged them to take the roles. In the end it worked out and the experience brought me a lot.

Yes, this was also Pepe
Pepe in one of his famous costumes

Members of Toastmasters clubs can also take officers roles e. g. as PR managers, education managers or membership managers. Which roles have you already had and what did you learn through this experience?

VPPR (managing club PR), where I realized it taught me a lot, but that the role was also highly time demanding.

Sergeant at Arms, which I’m currently doing, is better suited for me, as the time requirements outside of the meeting are minimal. Honestly, this isn’t a role where I could learn much, as it is more about the stuff that is repetitive and just needs to be done. It isn’t without its advantages, however, as it lets you carry around the banner, which looks incredibly cool.

Can you name some unique events or stories you have experienced thanks to being part of Toastmasters family?

Since I’m a rare breed of programmer, as I like speaking in public. That means I’ve represented our company on few prestigious events – Backendisti (a developer meetup) and Webexpo (a large developer and designed conference). There were a few conferences I’ve attended or helped organize. As for the stories it is largely related to people rather than to the Toastmasters family itself, but there were few parties or other events for sure.

Some people are scared of coming to meetings because they are not sure about language skills or are afraid of public speaking in general. What would you recommend to do in order to overcome the fear?

This is a tough one. I’ve spent my last two years trying to find the answer for this question, but it keeps eluding me. When I find it, I will let you know.

Club Tip: How to provide valuable feedback

Providing feedback is not an easy job: there are many pieces of advice on that so how can be distinguish the good feedback from valuable one?

The most important is to remember that feedback is a tool; a tool that indicates when things are going in the right direction or when a change of approach is needed to get you towards the right one! This tool can praise, can motivate, can make people proud and happy but can also tear them down and make them never ever wanting to have a speech again or do the same activity for which the feedback has been given.

With valuable feedback we want to provide a honest reaction in a constructive manner to the speaker’s efforts so that he feels empowered and motivated to grow.

Let’s review 6 tips I consider the most important to make our feedback valuable:

  1. Know what you will evaluate in advance. If it is going to be a manual speech make sure you read the assignment, focus on the objectives and also ask the speaker prior to the meeting if he wants you to focus on something in particular. If it is any other role think about what are the important aspects of that role. As in any speech you can apply the general good speech practice: clear message, structure, body language, vocal variety, eye contact.
  2. Be positive – inject as much as possible positivity without overreacting with it. A well known strategy is the criticism sandwich (popularised by the quote from cosmetics maven Mary Kay Ash):

    Sandwich every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise!

  3. Be honest – if you didn’t like something in speaker’s performance do not say you did. Provide an honest opinion without making it negative as it must be considered a point that can be improved rather than a weakness.
  4. Be specific! If the speech organisation was confusing at one point, say it but clearly address what confused you and offer a specific suggestion for improvement. Ideally pick the particular confusing part and rephrase to what you would consider clearer.
  5. Avoid judgement words and phrases such as “good speaker’s don’t…”, “that was a wrong thing to say…”, “if you want to do it right you should”, etc.
  6. Be mindful about your delivery. You are giving your opinion, friendly, direct in a non-threatening manner. When you conclude make the speaker walk away from the meeting motivated, eager to begin working on his new project. End on a positive note that helps build self-esteem and self-confidence by mentioning something you really liked or had an impact on you.

You can definitely find a lot of information online on Toastmasters.org and remember every time you deliver an evaluation what is important: to know what you are evaluating in advance, to be positive, honest, specific without judging and to be mindful about your delivery.

Practice makes perfect!

Ioana Augello

Advanced Communicator manual: Speciality speeches

It happens very often to talk to newcomers and try to inspire and motivate them to join Toastmasters. My first reason why they should join (and why I am still here) is always about the safe environment where you can practice and deliver whatever type of speech or presentation that you need for your job, career development, school project or even job interview.

The job interview sells well given our guests are people looking for opportunities and most of them are interested in find something better/something new in their professional career.

So how true is it? Do we really have the freedom to speak about whatever we want or whatever we need? 

Definitely YES! The Speciality Speeches Advanced manual is the proof that Toastmasters thought about everything! Let’s see what this manual covers in the 5 projects it has in more detail:

Project 1: Speak Off the Cuff

The interesting aspect of it is that the speaker needs to prepare in advance 5 general topics areas with which he/she is familiar and give them to the speech evaluator before the meeting. He or she will randomly select one of them and the speaker will have to deliver a five- to seven-minute impromptu speech on that subject.

It is a great combination of impromptu-and-prepared speech as you can prepare in advance what the 5 topics will cover but it can always become impromptu at the moment when the evaluator picks the topic and you maybe suddenly think about it differently than before.

The objectives of this speech are to:

  • Develop an awareness of situations in which you might be called upon to deliver an impromptu speech.
  •  Understand how to prepare for impromptu speaking.
  • Develop skill as a speaker in the impromptu situation by using one or more patterns to approach a topic under discussion; for example, comparing a past, present, future situation or before and after.

Project 2: Uplift the Spirit

The purpose of this project is for the speaker to present an eight to ten minutes speech designed to rephrase the emotional consensus of the audience in terms of their beliefs, values and sentiments and in a language and style appropriate to the occasion.  The topic can be selected from the following categories: keynote address, political presentation, stockholders meeting, trade association or union meeting, sales convention rally, testimonial dinner or  organization banquet, sports rally, sales rally, religious service hence offers quite few options!

The objectives of this speech are to:

  •  Identify and understand the basic differences and similarities between inspirational speeches and other kinds of speeches.
  • Learn how to evaluate audience feeling and establish emotional rapport.
  • Develop a speech style and delivery that effectively expresses inspirational content by moving the aud

Project 3: Sell a Product

Sooner or later we all sell something! This project of 10 to 12 minutes requires the speaker to present a sales speech. The talk should be convincing on logical, informational and emotional levels and should be delivered in an extemporaneous manner. The focus of the talk should be the selling of a product or of a service. You may want to review the text of this project to be familiar with its objectives.

The objectives of this speech are to:

  • Understand the relationship of sales technique to persuasion.
  • Skillfully use the four steps in a sales presentation: attention, interest, desire, action.
  • Identify and promote a unique selling proposition in a sales presentation.
  • Be able to handle objections and close a prospective buyer.

Project 4: Read out Loud

The purpose of this project is for the speaker to present an interpretive reading from a literary work. Using rules of interpretative reading such as making effective use of voice, rhythm and body movement, the speaker should create an auditory and visual experience for the audience.

To make sure it is clearly understandable for oral presentation it is strongly advised to record and hear your voice or practice the reading to several different audicences before giving the presentation at the club meeting.

The objectives of this speech are to:

  • Arrive at an understanding of the elements that comprise oral interpretation and how it differs from preparing and giving a speech.
  • Learn the preparation or planning techniques of effective interpretation.
  • Learn the principles of presentation and develop skill in interpretive reading with regard to voice and body as instruments of communication.

Project 5: Introduce the Speaker

Probably the easiest of all for any advanced communicator as it requires to be the Toastmaster of the meeting, fulfilling the function of that position for the club meeting!

Apart from the objectives it is good to remember to keep the introductions brief, within one to three minutes, and to adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. The Opening: Capture the audience’s attention and emphasize the importance of the speaker.
  2. The Body: Why this speaker? Why this subject? Why this audience? Why this time?
  3. The Conclusion: It should lead to your actual presentation of the speaker.

At the end of the meeting, briefly thank all the speakers, and then introduce the Chairperson, who will conclude the meeting. Remember that you are the intermediary between the speaker and the audience. When you have completed your introduction, welcome the speaker with applause. Wait until the speaker arrives on stage and greet him or her before returning to your seat.

The objectives of this speech are to:

  • Focus on the special occasion talk from the standpoint of the introducer (function chairman, toastmaster, master of ceremonies).
  • Become knowledgeable and skilled in the functions associated with the master of ceremonies
  •  Handle the introduction of other speakers at a club meeting

Definitely one of the very exciting manuals to use for your speeches!

Ioana Augello

 

Humorous speech contest!

Brno Business Toastmasters organizes Humorous speech contest on 20th of September 2016. Have you never heard about it, but wish to compete? Here are some basic rules.

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Your first question might be: How long should I speak on the stage? Humorous speeches, similarly to other projects from Competent Communicator, last for five to seven minutes. A contestant will be disqualified if the speech is less than four minutes 30 seconds or more than seven minutes 30 seconds.

Are you wondering, if there are some rules or restrictions when choosing the theme? Here are some tips!

The subject for the Humorous speech shall be selected by the contestant. The speaker shall avoid potentially objectionable language, anecdotes, and material. The speech must be thematic in nature (opening, body, and close), not a monologue (series of one-liners). In other words, try to avoid just telling jokes you heard somewhere.

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Jaro Kováč, 2nd place in Humorous Speech Contest of District  D95

Use of props is more than recommended! 

Contestant who win at BBTM Club Contest Competition proceed to next rounds. At the end, they might compete even at competition organised globally! Do you think its impossible? Our member, Jaro Kováč, successfully represented our club at international level. He finished as second in the world (and it was really close!). Nothing is impossible.

 

 

 

 

Please take a look on Judges Guide and ballot to see, which criterias are the most crucial:

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Good luck and see you on 20th of September!

 

 

CC Speech #7 – Two Village’s Leadership

Welcome to recap of business speech given by our member Alex for his project #7. The project is about researching a topic and introducing the results of the research to the audience. Alex has kindly agreed to post his speech on the blog. Enjoy.

Two Village’s Leadership

In his speech Alex used flipchart to show us graphs in order to support the speech. The photos of the flipcharts are added to the speech.

One day a tired traveler came to one country. There were 2 villages. They made their living by breading the sheep and selling wool and milk. He observed life in the country and noticed a very interesting thing. He noticed how people in the villages bred sheep and recognized some differences. In one village shepherd went in front of the flock (group of sheep), in the second village shepherd followed the sheep. The traveler was interested whether there are different results in both cases. He found out that one village collected in average 20% more wool than the nother. In fact all the rest was the same: same sun, same grass, same water, the difference was only in the approach. What do you think – which village had better outcome?

Chart1_Two village leadership

Let’s have a look on both cases in details. In fact we are talking not about sheep but about different approaches in leadership.

Model 1. Leader goes in the head of the sheep. Commonly used approach.

Benefits:

  • Shepherd goes first and all know who the leader is.
  • He knows the road and the goal. He sees threats and decide how to overcome it.
  • He manages time, defines pace, decides halts, ect.
  • Flock recognizes him as a leader, and does nothing without his order.

Drawbacks

  • Shepherd doesn’t know where the best grass is, the sheep feel it by some unknown way… but they can’t go there because they are led straight. So sheep loose energy instead.
  • Shepherd looks forward to check the road but has to look back very often to have feedback and understand what is happening with the sheep (control). For example wolves or some sheep get tired and fall down. It is not comfortable.
  • Pace. If leader goes faster, older animals get tired and have to run instead of feeding.

All above factors impact (adversely) quality of the wool and milk.

Model 2. Leader follows the sheep.

Benefits:

  • He sees and can control everything: the sheep, road ahead, potential threats.
  • No need to turn back as in the case when shepherd leads the group (useless exercise).
  • Flock goes through the best landscape, selects best food and keeps right pace for the older and younger animals.
  • Even more importantly, the leader delegates.

We all know: if you want something to be done, do it by yourself, because no one can do it better (wrong perception). In this case we have a manager that can’t go on vacation, sits at the office looong hours and sacrifices own life balances (family)… and even if he goes to vacation… he is always on the phone – solving some routine… because people stop working.. no one can take responsibility, can’t work without his request, recommendations..

Chart2_Two village leadership

Chart 2: 4 quadrants
1. Shepherd goes first (weak control – weak delegation)
2. Shepherd goes last (strong control – strong delegation)
3. Anarchy – no control – people delegate only responsibility 🙂
4. Despotism – full control – no delegation

Chart3_Tro village leadership

Chart3: summary
Based on proposed two scenarios, the best place for the leader is to follow the group.

Benefits:

  • Delegation and control
  • Leader has time to think (about new areas, developments of business and people)
  • Leader’s main actions are: supervise, motivate team, teach people… encourage.

The upcoming Humorous speech contest

The humorous speech contest is approaching fast! It will be held by Brno Business Toastmasters on 15th September (Tuesday, as usually). Let us start with a short teaster from the last year’s contest:

Contest

Some of us perhaps still remember the winning humorous speech of the last year given by Tomas. It was indeed very funny and also had shining success on higher competition levels.

The speech was about how he traveled to England for the first time. It focused on his preparation for before the flight and his troubles with suitcase weight. In a funny way he told us which issues he faced and how he managed to deal with them.

“My suitcase was 5 kilograms over the weight limit. For every kilo over the limit, they wanted me to pay extra 10 Euro. Imagine what I thought. My father’s wallet will cry!”

tourist-clipart-travel_046

Do you have your ideas about how a humorous speech should look like? Do you have a great funny topic in mind? Would you like to participate in the contest? Go ahead and contact us on Facebook! (Please consider that only TM members can participate)

Table topics – Buzzwords

The table topics last meeting were very original and yet business related. Our Table topic master, Simeon, prepared a list of 39 buzzwords. That is the words that are particularly suitable for business speech. He explained them all and gave us the task: compose a short story where we sue as many of these buzzwords as possible. Moreover, we were also supposed to rhyme them. Challenging, right?

The list of buzzwords:

Accountable
Agile
Alignment
Analytics
Benchmarking
Bleeding-edge
Cloud-computing
Collaboration
Creative
Cross-platform
Customer-centric
Datafication
Diversity
Enterprise
Framework
Globalization
Holistic
Immersion
Innovation
Invested
Leverage
Mobile
Passionate
Proactive
Quick-win
Real-time
Responsive
Scalability
Seamless
Solution
Startup
Strategy
Streamline
Sustainability
Synergy
Viral
Virtualization
Visibility
Win-win

And an example story by Simeon:

Invested in my post-vacation email clean-up, 
an hour later I had barely progressed a iota, 
I guess it's time to build my very own start-up, 
where you have a daily email quota.

Table topics – Sell the impossible

Last meeting, we had the theme “Anything is possible”. The table topics revolved around that, too. The speakers got a product that was, according to today’s technology and science, impossible. They were tasked with convincing us that the product was indeed real and they had to sell it to us. Take a look at the product below:

These table topics had a little twist in that instead of picking papers, there was a software application that randomly generated the topics. An advantage of this approach was possibility to include pictures to every topic.

A time travel device.

A car that can fly.
flyCar

A USB drive with unlimited capacity.

A device that can provide unlimited energy supply.
perpetuum

A robot that will, in a few years, destroy humanity and rule earth.
terminator

A computer that can sing.

Glasses that let you see through walls.
xRayGlasses

CC Speech #1 – the Icebreaker

In an effort to provide both our new and current members with more resources for preparing speeches, there is an initiative to post speeches from the club members. To kick-start this, I have decided to post some of my old speeches. Today I am starting with the icebreaker I had almost a year ago. For those who would like to read more on what the icebreaker is about, the CC manual entry is publicly available on Toastmasters.org webpage.

Throughout the speech there are comments, which are highlighted in special boxes.
The prepared speech

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.

Voltaire

I really love this quote, because it says so much about us. We can understand it in many ways. In this speech I am supposed to briefly introduce myself. I would like to bring up few of my favorite cards, so to say. I will speak about three occasions where some cards played or still play a rather important role in my life. And don´t worry, it won´t really be that serious.

I had decided to open up with a quote. That in itself was a good idea, but I read the quote instead of remembering it. If you want to open or close the speech with a quote, learn it by heart.

Everyone among us here holds some cards in his or her hand. Everyone has few cards he or she really likes and loves to play, so to speak. For example here, among us, Bogdan likes to play musical instruments and make friends that way. Tereza ……… Tomas ………. I would like to tell you about few of my cards.

Here I prepared references to other speakers from either the same meeting or the last one. The dots were meant to differ based on the speakers before me. It worked great and gave me a chance to throw in few quite nice jokes.

One of my most favorite cards is, well, playing cards. I just love playing card games. There are many I sometimes play, such as the well-known poker, but the one I really love is called “mariáš”. It is a specific czech game, one could even say it is national czech card game. If someone here feels like playing, just ask. I am always ready of a game.

cards

Then I have this particular card. [Take out ISIC] It used to be one of my favorite cards until recently. It is a symbol for my studies, an important part of my life that is mostly behind me now. Evenings spent by legal discussions and legal drinking with students from Faculty of Law, evenings spent by playing cards with people from Faculty of Informatics, actually also going to the school from time to time. Well, I liked that.

For the last part I had few props prepared. First were simple playing cards, second was ISIC (student's card) and last was the credit card.

Quite recently I swapped this card for this card. Simply put, I started working full-time. Thing is, I really enjoy it so far, but, well, I still realize the point of the job is so that this card [take out credit card] keeps working.

To sum it up, the one thing I would love to tell you is that wherever you are – at work, at school or playing cards at a card table, remember, it is not about the cards you were dealt, it is about how you play them. And most importantly, enjoy the cards and have fun. Thank you.

The speech ended here. Back then we didn't have the QA, so I just left the stage and eagerly awaited my evaluation.
How I felt about the speech

Altogether, I was pretty happy about the speech and the audience seemed to enjoy it, too. However, today I see so much I could have improved. Most of it, however, was related to delivery. Body language, eye contact, vocal variety, speed.

What would I recommend to the other brave people preparing for their icebreaker?

  • Do not make it complicated – it is supposed to be a short speech about yourself.
  • Read the manual before. It has many useful tips and gives you nice idea what to focus on.
  • Find a topic that suits you and is close to you. It helps you ennjoy the speech.
  • Prepare and rehearse a lot. More the preparation, better the speech!

Enjoy your icebreaker & have fun!

Josef Hertl, VP PR