All posts by Ioana Pop, VP PR

Meeting 178 – Unforgettable moments

Coincidence? Faith? I still cannot figure out but the meeting theme ‘Unforgettable moments’ was tailor-made especially for our Immediate Past President Jerome. We have to mention that we had the pleasure to see him as Toastmaster for the very last day of being president, on the very last day of the Toastmasters year 2014-2015.

Allow me to be subjective and say that the meeting was emotional and filled with a positive, ready-for-summer flavor. With Mary being Chairperson, asking us what’s one of the unforgettable moments of our lives and  continuing with Jerome and his calm and pleasant meeting facilitation, it was absolutely a blast!

Word of the day presented by Tomas was in fact an expression: ‘on the roll’. You cannot imagine how inspired Tomas is unless I tell you that to make us remember the expression, he brought a ‘toilet paper roll’. He made it memorable!

Just like the Timekeeper Libor who always surprises us! This time in his 4 minutes speeches he told us 3 jokes, he explained clearly the rules, he gave specific suggestions to speakers and… wait for it… He told us also a short story! That’s what I call great communication skills!

We had two speakers: Stan with Project 5 – Your body speaks and Josef with Project 9 – Persuade with power. Stan found his speech last meeting during the table topics when he picked 2 words: alone and penguins. He decided to have a real speech called ‘Alone with penguins‘ to present us interesting facts about penguins: how they walk (with examples), how dedicated parents they are and that their team work is beyond limits. Josef told us a story from Czech history with the title ‘Brave and still defending‘. He was so convincing in proving that Czech people are brave and they did supreme sacrifices such as giving up their lives to protect their friends and furthermore to protect the nation.

What do you think it happened for table topics? As Zuzana wanted to challenge Jerome,  he was also Table Topics Master! We definitely need to put on the list with ‘Great ideas for table topics’ his challenge: he gave us a book title and asked each speaker to tell how that booked inspired him/her and why. Surprise or not, we had a guest who won the Table Topics competition so be sure the topics were fun and exciting!

Wondering who were all the winners? Best Speaker – Stan, Best Evaluator – Bogdan and Best Table Topics Speaker – Constantine.

The meeting ended with another emotional moment where our Immediate-Past to be Club President handed over the new presidency symbol called ‘Brno Business Toastmasters on a roll‘ to the new president. I have to admit that I still feel the emotions of that!

The new Club handover symbol

Although it’s holidays time, remember: Brno Business Toastmasters will be on the roll for the entire summer to make your Tuesdays more exciting and fun!

See you next meeting,

Ioana Pop, last time as VP PR

 

Advanced Manual: Speaking to Inform

‘Knowledge is power!’  – We hear this quote really often and we are all well aware of the fact that the entire life we seek to find more, to learn new things or to be well informed on the topics we are interested in.

We seek knowledge for three reasons:

  • To know
  • To understand
  • To use the information

We all seek knowledge for personal and professional purposes and we often find ourselves criticising a training, a presentation or a meeting that was meant to inform us about something that it didn’t meet its purpose.

How easy it is to inform? What do we need to do to have a successful presentation to inform or a demonstration?

Toastmaster Advanced Manual Speaking to Inform (#226B) gives us a very good overview on what we need to do to achieve that. Made of 5 projects focusing on information sharing, the manual presents us the types of speeches to inform from sharing new useful information to demonstrations, presenting a report or an abstract concept.

The actual projects and their objectives are: 

Project 1: The Speech to Inform

  • Select new and useful information for presentation to the audience.
  • Organise the information for easy understandability and retention.
  • Present the information in a way that will help motivate the audience to learn.

Project 2: Resources for Informing

  • Analyse the knowledge level of your audience regarding your chosen subject.
  • Focus your presentation at the audience’s level of knowledge.
  • Build a supporting case for each major point through use of explanation, examples, and information gathered research.
  • Effectively use at least one visual aid to enhance the audience’s understanding.

Project 3: The Demonstration Talk

  •  Prepare a demonstration speech to clearly explain a process, product, or activity.
  • Conduct the demonstration as part of a speech delivered without notes.

 

Project 4: A Fact-Finding Report

  •  Prepare a report on a situation, event, or problem of interest to the audience.
  • Deliver sufficient factual information in your report so the audience can base valid conclusions or a sound decision on it.
  • Answer questions from the audience.

Project 5: The Abstract Concept

  •  Research and organise the thought of experts on an abstract concept, theory, historical force, or social/political issue.
  • Present the ideas in a clear and interesting manner.

It is definitely one of the best manuals to choose if your profession involves presentations of any kind as it teaches you all you need to know to make them successful!

Ioana Florentina Pop, VP PR

Meeting 175 – Know when to say NO

Another great meeting, this time with the theme ‘Know when to say No’. From the very beginning we found out that especially ladies have difficulties to say ‘no’ even when they would like to say it but in the end it’s our own decision on how we respond to a challenge.

With a lower attendance we learned from Mary that we need to ‘Keep calm and be polyglot!’. Her project was to convince us about the benefits of knowing multiple languages and the fact that to learn a new one can be done in less than 6 months given you have the motivation and a good technique.

Tomas presented us the Advanced Communication Manuals and the 210 combitations of these manuals. It was a very useful session with details on each and every manual with a categorization and tips on why/how they are useful.

For table topics Hristo surprised us with a different approach than the one we are used to. He explained that there are powerful words that help us convey a message and using a top of the most used words combination he asked us to do impromptu speeches!

As a bonus for those who are still wondering why saying no gets you ahead here is a great article from Fortune magazine:http://fortune.com/2014/08/19/why-saying-no-gets-you-ahead/

See you for the next meeting!

Ioana Pop, VP PR

Project 7 Research Your Topic – The magic solution to lose weight

This was my project number 7 where I had to research my topic. As I am quite concerned about my health and especially losing weight and diets, here is the result:

In the European Union member states, somewhere around 60% of grownups and more than 20% of school-age children are overweight or obese. This equals close to 260 million adults and more than 12 million kids.

On average, one in five Europeans tries to lose weight by following a diet at least once in every two years, according to “Diet, Cuisine and Cooking” a GfK study conducted for the Wall Street Journal Europe.

Has anyone here ever had weight problems, or do you have someone in your family or among your friends who is overweight? How do you think it feels?

Being overweight or obese it is an issue and I am not talking now from the ‘being popular’ or ‘fitting in a certain standard’, I am talking about health. We all know that obesity generates serious health problems: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, some cancers and I am sure that most of us try to fight against it by searching for the best solution.

Today, I will share with you a secret from my personal experience: the magic solution that helps you lose weight FAST, Easy and with no risks and efforts.

I was never preoccupied about weight and I felt good with myself. Up to the point when I visited my neighbour, an old lady who used to take care of me and my brother when we were kinds and who, when she saw me just said “Oh Ioana, you must have a very good life abroad as I can see, you are so fat and beautiful!”

FAT and BEAUTIFUL?!?! Ok, it might have been out of love and care but this sentence stroke me!

My first action was to quickly go home, weight myself and google what my weight means. I was surprised: My Body Mass Index was saying that I am overweight. My next steps were obvious: I needed to lose weight so this is what I did:

  • First and quickest option: Slim Body tea, the awful taste tea that completely dehydrates. Obviously I stopped using it quickly because it made me weak, feeling sick and I knew it might not be the best option.
  • I went for a healthier solution. These natural products made pills, made to fill your stomach and give you the impression you are not hungry. Decreasing appetite indeed but after few weeks of swelling these bad smelling pills 3 times per day, I was fed up.
  • A drastic measure was needed! So I bought a box of Magic Pills that I saw in a magazine that guarantees that you lose 10 kilograms in 10 days. I was impressed and obviously I bought them although they were expensive. 10 days later, I was astonished!!! Guess how much I lost thanks to them? You can guess: I was still fat and beautiful!
  • After couple of weeks I met one of my aunts who told me about a great product: milk shakes, healthy, that were meant to replace two of the meals per day. There was no secret that the shakes had to be combined with healthy food (one meal per day only), physical activity and learning how to live a healthier life.

I have to admit that this was a good solution for me. I started doing more sport, paying attention to what I eat, eating healthier and lighter and replacing breakfast and dinner with them. I am not sure if in the end was the healthier food, the sport I did or the shakes themselves but in less than 2 months I lost 5,5 kilos.

Indeed after 6 weeks of Milky Ways (I drank every day 1 liter of milk) I was really sick of it. Even the idea of white, or seeing the bottle of milk was making me sick. Yes, for short term these might be good solutions: they help you get started, you lose few kilos in short time but if we go back to exact same lifestyle we will not keep this weight long.

I realized there is no magic pill, there is no wonder shake that you can combine with fries from McDonalds, ice-cream at 10 PM, super tasty Czech food and lose weight easy, fast, with no efforts and no risks.

We need to mind what we do, how we live and try to have a healthy lifestyle: do sport, have a balanced life, manage stress and especially not trust any magic solution that would melt your kilograms overnight.

 

5 Reasons why you should not join Toastmasters

During a Toastmaster year we have an average of 80 new guests visiting our club meetings and we end up by having around 8 new members out of them.

This is quite surprising isn’t it? We, the Toastmasters members have so many reasons why we are here however when it comes to attracting new people it seems it is a real challenge!

Let’s try to understand which are the most common reasons why our visitors don’t become regular members and how we can look at these reasons from different perspective:

1. Public speaking like acting on the stage without any specific reason? This is not for me!

We perfectly understand that majority of us don’t have as a goal becoming a public speaker such as a TV shows presenter, a politician or a spokesperson for an organization. In Toastmasters however we have the flexibility to adapt the speech topic and content to the professional or personal need of a speaker. We can have technical presentations to practice for an actual presentation that will then be delivered in real-life at work, a sales-speech to test its efficiency or even a self-presentation in preparation for an important interview.

2. In my job communication skills are not that important

Unless you are working as a guardian in a museum that is never visited by anyone and you have no contact with any human being your job does require communication skills! You interact with people at any time, you need to be able to sell yourself during an interview process, then you need to know how to present your achievements to your manager and you might even interact with clients that lost their patience, are angry or frustrated and you need to be capable of handling situations by speaking. Especially in customer-centric jobs communication is everything!

3. The meeting is too long

Indeed two hours and half are long but the meeting is interactive, with variety of roles and activities and once you get involved in the meeting itself by taking a role, the time simply flies. These two hours are nourishing your skills, increasing your knowledge and it’s the right way towards progress in your better communication competency.

4. It takes too much of my free time to prepare

If you didn’t find out by now, nothing is for free in this life. Greatest achievements require hard work, commitment and motivation so if you are looking for only enjoying the life by doing nothing it might be that Toastmasters is indeed not the right place for you. For all the rest who know how to prioritize the important things in life, Toastmasters helps not only improve communication skills but also leadership, time management and organizational skills. You can become an expert in managing stressful situations by keeping yourself busy, engaged and learning by doing!

5. The roles and meeting itself is unreal – this is not how it happens in real life

In life we don’t have this chance indeed of ‘testing’ the audience, of giving a presentation where people will then provide constructive feedback and you can redo the project with the suggestions incorporated. Toastmasters offers a safe environment where even the most introvert person can feel comfortable. We  believe in providing support and feedback to build a person’s already existing skills. We are a group of friends rather than competitors and we all have a common goal: to grow! Then we apply all the lessons we learn in real life such as not using fillers when giving a presentation, have a short concise and precise message, have a good structure.

There are many other reasons someone can call out on why not to join Toastmasters however it’s worth thinking: are these reasons or rather excuses?

Ioana Florentina Pop, VP PR

Advanced Manual: The entertaining speaker

The first Advanced Communication Manuals we will be looking at in more detail is called ‘The entertaining speaker’. At first touch, Toastmasters seems to be the place where you learn how to do public speeches for thousands of people! You obviously tell yourself: ‘this is not a need-to-know for me because in the company I work I never have to give presentations nor attend any meetings open to the public’. Then there is this energetic Toastmaster that will tell you:

‘Have you ever been to a wedding? Have you ever had to do thank you speech for something? Have you ever had to say a joke to save a very difficult situation when dealing with a client?’

At this moment everyone should realize that life is a long journey of public speeches. It can start with saying few words in front of your colleagues and teachers when graduating university, saying few words at the wedding of your best friend that will make everyone cry, thanking your grandmother for her long-life care for the entire family during a family reunion or simply being the one that knows how to entertain a group of friends with the right stories at the right moment. And the list is never-ending for your whole life!

This is what The Entertaining Speaker manual is about: an entertaining speech where you tell a story, a story to make the audience laugh, a dramatic talk that would keep everyone engaged or an after-dinner talk on a specific theme.

Let’s have a look at the actual projects of this manual and their objectives:

Project 1: The Entertaining Speech 

  • Entertain the audience by relating a personal experience
  • Organize an entertaining speech for maximum impact

Project 2: Resources for Entertainment  

  • Draw entertaining material from sources other than your own personal experience
  • Adapt your material to suit your topic, your own personality and the audience

Project 3: Make Them Laugh  

  • Prepare a humorous speech drawn from your own experience
  • Strengthen the speech by adopting and personalizing humorous material from outside sources
  • Deliver the speech in a way that makes the humor effective

Project 4: A Dramatic Talk  

  • Develop an entertaining dramatic talk about an experience or incident
  • Include vivid imagery, characters, and dialog
  • Deliver the talk in an entertaining manner

Project 5: Speaking After Dinner  

  • Prepare an entertaining after-dinner talk on a specific theme
  • Deliver the talk using the skills developed in the preceding projects

A very interesting manual isn’t it? Definitely worth considering it for your Advanced Communicator challenge!

Ioana Florentina Pop, VP PR

An invitation that I had to finally accept

25th of June 2013… A sunny and hot summer day just perfect to leave your work and go for an ice-cream or enjoy a long walk in the park as the second day of the week just finished.

Unless,  you have an invitation that you cannot refuse again!

You cannot refuse it because you were invited over and over week after week to join something called ‘Toastmasters meeting’ and for few months you managed to find reasons why not to go such as:

    – I will change job, I’m quite stressed with the handover
    – I gave my resignation, I have no time
    – I have a new job, I’m under pressure
    – I’m still in probation period
    – The location is quite far, I cannot make it…

 

Until that day of 25th of June when ashamed of how many reasons I could give to my very dedicated French teacher that helped me polish my language skills for so long, and not being able to say it’s far away as the meeting was going to be in the very same building I was working in, I accepted to go for it!

Obviously even before attending I had my mind set:

I am totally not the kind that likes public gatherings, totally not the type that likes to play some role in front of people and I’m quite a busy person, I have no time to do something else.

Carefully I also estimated that I will be leaving early pretending that I have some other important meeting to attend having a déjà-vu of how the meeting will be, full of those soft-skills training exercises where you pretend to be the president that just won the elections and has to thank the audience or convince them to vote for you again next time. You know what? I’ve been there few times (mandatory company training!) and it was boring and useless.

I can remember just like it was yesterday how from the very first minute I arrived there the idea of Toastmasters that I had set in my mind was ruined.

I knew one single person in that room however in few minutes each of the participants came to introduce themselves in such a friendly manner that I couldn’t believe how a room of strangers can become a room of acquaintances! The meeting started easy, entertaining I would say and apart from the awkward clapping before and after each role and hand-shaking on arrival and departures on and from the stage the content of the meeting was a blast.

It’s interesting how first meeting with a speech in Toastmasters can have such an impact! I can remember Anna having her speech about blood donation and my auto-pilot conclusion that ‘she must be a very experienced and great speaker‘! Then my determination level boosting when I heard Florentin with his strange Romanian accent (like mine!!!) giving an amazing presentation!

I  was amazed, I was impressed and hours after the meeting I was still trying to absorb what happened in the two and half hours.  It took me less than a day to say ‘Yes, I can and Yes, I want!’ and two weeks after I was already a member of the club.

Looking back at the entire journey, I can only say how childish I was refusing over and over my teacher’s invitation to join a meeting and how right he was saying that he sees me good for it! Now I know to leave my opinions out when I don’t have sufficient information and yet I perfectly understand all my friends that give me reasons after reasons why they cannot join. I’ve been there, I’ve done that!

As I like to believe things happen when they need to happen and soon, I’ll be celebrating 100 meetings since I’ve joined the Club and hopefully other hundreds in the future!

What about your first meeting with Brno Business Toastmasters club? Are you ready to share it with us?

Ioana Pop

Is there life after the Competent Communication manual?

Any new member finds out quickly that in Toastmasters we use the Competent Communication manual to learn how to prepare for the 10 speeches we need to have to achieve our very first goal. It seems to be not such a long way there so once you’ve earned your Competent Communication designation, you’ll likely find that you want to continue developing your public speaking skills. One way to do this is to immediately begin working on advanced communication designations, such as Advanced Communicator Bronze, Advanced Communicator Silver and Advanced Communicator Gold.

For each of these advanced communication designations, you must complete the five projects in each of two advanced communication manuals (there are additional criteria for the Advanced Communicator Silver and Advanced Communicator Gold designations).

The complete list of Advanced Manuals is:

226-A The Entertaining Speaker

226-B Speaking to Inform

226-C Public Relations

226-D Facilitating Discussion (formerly The Discussion Leader)

226-E Specialty Speeches

226-F Speeches by Management

226-G The Professional Speaker

226-H Technical Presentations

226-I Persuasive Speaking

226-J Communicating on Television

226-K Storytelling

226-L Interpretive Reading

226-M Interpersonal Communication

226-N Special Occasion Speeches

226-O Humorously Speaking

The challenge is that it is very difficult to decide which advanced manuals you may want to choose, when all you have to go by is a picture of the cover of the manual and the very brief description offered on the Toastmasters International website. When you see the 15 titles you cannot actually figure out what are the requirements of each project in it and decide which manuals best suit you.

As ‘Yes, there is life after the Competent Communication manual’ and quite an exciting one, we will briefly take you through each of the manuals every week to help you decide  which will be the next to choose on your Advanced Communicator track.

More details on the first manual, next week.

Ioana Florentina Pop, VP PR

Meeting 173 – Club Officers Elections

Yesterday we had our Club Officer Elections and we must say that our president managed to make us nostalgic about the Toastmaster year 2014/2015 which went surprisingly fast!

It was the meeting of retrospections with emphasis on the activities done by Club Officers however we didn’t give up on our core meeting roles: speakers and evaluators. For the curious ones, here is what actually happened during the meeting:

We had two prepared speeches: Simeon with Project 2 from Competent Communication manual talking about his current passion – teaching to share the knowledge accumulated as professional. A subject close to his heart he said as he is providing courses to his IBM colleagues regularly (up to 25% of his time!). Then we had Anna with Advanced Manual – Speaking to inform project and she told us the secrets of what to do and how to do when your luggage gets lost while travelling by plane. Things to keep in mind: don’t panic, don’t leave the airport without a reference number once you reported the luggage loss, get a phone number where to ask for information about its status and ask about the compensation package!

The prepared speeches were evaluated by Josef and Martin and they both gave pertinent suggestions and praised the good preparation of the speakers!

The second part of the meeting was dedicated to Elections: Mary, the Toastmaster of the meeting had a presentation about each and every officer role for everyone to know what these roles imply and require. Then Simeon held an absolutely amazing press conference with our current president Jerome. There were so many questions asked and we found important information about the club activity during this year! The officers team was successful as we had monthly meetings without exception, everyone was involved in raising the meetings content quality and we supported each other as friends and colleagues!

Obviously the last part was the highest-pressure one. For each officer role the candidates had to come on stage and tell in 1-2 sentences why they want to become club officers, what is their motivation for it. We are pleased to announce that all the officers have been elected by 100% votes ‘FOR’ from the present active members.

Here are our new officers:

President:  Ioana Florentina Pop

Vice President Education: Pavlina Marsalova & Simeon Iskidzhiski

Vice President Membership: Jana Weinlichova & Jan Grund

Vice President Public Relations: Josef Hertl

Treasurer and Secretary: Martin Plsek

Sergeant at Arms: Eva Vodickova

Big congratulations to our new crew that will start its activity on 1st of July and good luck in the new roles!

Ioana Pop, VP PR

 

Meeting 170 – Rituals

Do you wonder how the last meeting was? If you missed it here is a short overview:

Meeting theme was Rituals and we found out that everyone has rituals from ‘a very good cup of coffee every morning’ to starting their daily work in a specific manner. Toastmasters too have rituals and if we think about it the entire meeting is a list of rituals very well linked together.

We had one prepared speech presented by Jan RejchrtProject 3 from Competent Communication Manual called Beekeeping and money. Jan proved that he knows a lot about apiculture: his father is a beekeeper and his university degree was about beekeeping and the benefits it brings. According to his research the benefit that the beekeeper obtains is only a small part of the huge impact that bees have on the agriculture. The bees are the only ones that pollinate flowers, vegetables and trees so we should be really mindful and use more honey to support the natural process and the earth.

And as Jan says ’Many people like honey but everyone likes … money! ‘ so we might consider beekeeping as a really profitable business!

Those who missed the District Conference in Bratislava last month had the chance to see a great workshop held by Michal Holub on Toastmasters lessons from real life. His life completely changed after joining Toastmasters and started to apply the lessons learned in the real life such as leadership skills, presentation skills, and the idea of having a manual to follow for sales, prepared and impromptu speeches. He moved from a developer up to International Sales Director and he strongly believes that there are many similarities between the real life situations and the toastmasters meetings whereas you need leaders in both; you need to be a very good communicator. The difference is clearly a skill builder: if in real life everything is serious and your job might depend on it, in Toastmasters you have the freedom to play, to forget about limits and not be afraid of others opinion or the feedback you might receive. A very inspiring workshop!

Elections are coming (in 3 weeks) and to make sure that everyone knows well what are the roles and responsibilities of Club Officers we had a presentation about them instead of the Table Topics Session. To sum up each role, the current officers told us the following:

President – Jerome: The President is the one who directs the club in meeting the members’ needs for educational growth and leadership, establishes long-term and short-term goals for the club and he is Club’s representative on Area and District Councils.

Vice President Education – Marie: plans, organizes, and implements the meetings to fit the chosen speeches, educational modules, and related events to the members’ needs. When members complete a speech or a major achievement, it is the VPE who initials the manuals or contacts Toastmasters to ensure proper recognition.

Vice President Membership – Zuzana and Tomas: plans, organizes, and implements a continuous marketing effort to ensure that club membership remains above charter strength (20 members). This is done both by retaining current member, with the VPE, and by gathering new members, with the VPPR.

Vice President Public Relations – Ioana: plans, organizes, and implements programs to maintain the positive image of the club and Toastmasters for all guests, members, and the general public. Main activities include publicity campaigns, website maintenance, social media representation (Twiter, Linkedin, Facebook) and club newsletters.

Treasurer and Secretary – Martin: cares for the club’s records, including by-laws and constitution, new member applications, supply orders, officers’ lists, and past club records fall to the Secretary for execution. The Secretary also records and reads the meeting minutes, for meetings of the club and of the Executive team. As treasurer he is responsible for Club financial policies, procedures and controls. The role involves the club’s finances, including dues collection and materials purchasing.

Sergeant at Arms – Eva: arranges setup for all meetings, sets out and cares for the club’s materials and supplies, Club property, including banner, nametags, and supplies, and greets members and especially guests

Next meeting we will be talking about Gadgets, don’t miss meeting 171!

Ioana Pop, VP PR