About Toastmasters for newcomers

Recently I have heard quite a lot of questions on what a new guest to our meeting should expect. Since the questions very often repeat, we decided to set up a short QA for guests:

Do I have to prepare something if I want to visit a Toastmasters meeting?
Definitely not! The meeting has many prepared roles, but they are all taken by our members. As a guest your role is to observer and enjoy the meeting 🙂

Will you want me to speak in front of an audience?
Just a little bit. There are two moments in the course of the meeting when we encourage the guests to speak. The first is the introduction, when both members and guests introduce themselves. All you are supposed to do is stand up and tell us your name and occupation. No need to go to the stage! The second time is at the end of the meeting, when we ask the guess for short feedback. You can tell us what you liked and especially what you would improve.
Moreover, almost every meeting has a part called Table topics. Those are short unprepared speeches, where you can participate even as a first time guest, if you want. Take a look at some of the topics here.

Is there something else I should do there?
No, just observe and enjoy.

What about the English? How good should my English be?
As we often say, Toastmasters are all about learning, and that includes improving English. We have few to none native speakers, so nobody of us speaks perfectly and the overall level of English varies rather widely. We even have a role called Grammarian that is dedicated to improving our English, as we often struggle with grammar. That said, in order to enjoy the meeting, you must be able to understand the language and to speak at least a little bit.
I very often encounter people, particularly from IT world, who have very good English, but are too shy to actually speak. If that is your case, believe that we have quite a few IT experts at the meetings and many of us had the same “shyness” issue. Many of us came to the Toastmasters with exactly to shake away that fear of speaking. Guess what – it worked 🙂

Do I have to pay to attend the meeting?
No. Attending the meeting is without any charge.

Should I wear formal clothes?
No. Even though we are Brno Business Toastmasters, we have no special dress-code for the meetings. It is most important that you feel comfortable and can enjoy the meeting.

Is every meeting the same? Does it matter to which meeting I come?
The meetings follow similar structure. For every meeting we have a detailed agenda with description of the roles and time constraints. You can take a look at such an agenda.

Table topics – Change history

Last Tuesday, the theme of the meeting was Time. Our Table topic master, Pavlina, prepared a set of amazing topics that reflected this theme.

There were moments in time that had massive impact on the world today. However, what if they had played out differently? The roles for table topic speakers are described with each of the topics. Enjoy and tell us what you think!

October 28, 2003: Harward student Mark Zuckerberg invented and opened Facematch, the Facebook’s predecessor. Many students complained that their photos were being used without permission. Zuckerberg apologized publicly, and the student paper ran articles stating that his site was “completely improper.” Mark is disapointed and thinking about career of gardener.
Convince him to not give up social networks!

20th July 1903: The Ford Motor Company shipped its first car. You are car salesman. Sell this red Ford to a lady in red.

First Red Ford
First Red Ford

1st July 1979, Sony Corp. introduced the Sony Walkman. The prototype was built by audiodivision engineer Nobutoshi Kihara. His grandmother doesn’t consider it as success because she wanted him to be teacher.
Explain to grandmother importance of his invention and career choice.

2nd December 2001: Energy-trading company Enron filled for bankrupcy, one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history. Over the next several years, the name “Enron” became synonymous with large-scale corporate corruption and accounting fraud.
The company employed 21,000 people and you need to say them that are laid off.

30th January 1986, Steve Jobs bought The Graphics Group (later renamed Pixar) from Lucasfilm’s computer graphics division. Over the next 15 years the company produced box-office hits (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Toy Story…) In early 2004, Jobs announced that Pixar would seek a new partner to distribute its films after its contract with Disney expired.
You have your own small studio – become their new partner.

4th April 1973: Martin Cooper (Motorola) invented first pubcicized Handheld Mobile Phone.
Make the first call.

CC Speech #10 – The labyrinth of learning

Welcome to recap of my speech #10. The following text comes from the document I used as a preparation for the speech and thus it is more-or-less exact transcript of the speech itself. The transcription is written in normal text, while my comments are in italic. As I used slides to support my speech, you can see the slides at the places where I showed them to the audience over the course of the speech. This shows the actual content of the speech, but as time permits, I intend to also post how the speech worked, my own impressions and the feedback from the evaluator, so that the reader can see a more complex picture. Enjoy!

To improve public speaking. To be a competent communicator, or, in other words, to be gregarious. To obtain leadership skills. And also very importantly, to learn.

1_intro

As a programmer I have to learn new stuff every day. Every minute, every day I seek ways to solve the programming problems I face. I believe that the same applies to every one of us here. I admit I enjoy that.

However, through the years of my studies at both grammar school and university I discovered an interesting paradox. The more we learn new things, the more we enjoy learning. Therefore, in order to stay on a roll, we should keep actively seeking out more knowledge even if that is not strictly necessary.

If we study more, we will enjoy our jobs more and will be happier overall. Question is what to learn? Is there any particular area of knowledge that is really suitable for our needs?

The answer to this is a resounding “YES, THERE IS”. For me, in particular, it is learning new languages.

  • Studying another language can be done at your own tempo. You may devote few minutes a day to it or few hours or no time at all. It can be entirely up to you.
  • There are readily available resources with very high quality. That means it is quite possible to learn a new language completely for free.
  • Last but not least, learning a new language is respectable. In my experience, your friends and family have far more understanding for learning language than for some other hobbies.
  • 2_which_language

    We are decided then. We are going to learn a new language. The crucial choice is: which one? Imagine me, two years ago, making the exactly same decision. I was thinking: allright, I have basic knowledge of German and a bit less knowledge of Spanish from my grammar school. I should pick one these two languages. However, my IT specialization is computer security. Under that you can imagine encryption and hacking. Should start learning Russian? As intriguing as the idea was, I dropped it in the favor of better options.

    In the end my choice was a practical one. I have a German name. Hertl. In German that means strong, brave, tough. Moreover, when you attend an international conference you usually wear name badges. Since my name is obviously German, people tend to talk to me in German when they meet me. Imagine my embarrassment when my only reply was: “sorry, I don’t speak german”.

    More seriously, I believe German is the language Czech people encounter most often and, therefore it is the economically most sensible one.

    3_old_textbook

    The choice is made. The dice is cast. Let us learn the new language. But how do we do it? Tonight’s meeting is themed around mistakes. Rest assured that in the last two years, in the course of my German studies, I made many of them. When I began, I took an old textbook called “Nemecky s usmevem”. Point is, this textbook was a good source of learning German about two decades ago.

    Yet I spent vast amount of time with that book. I even took the book’s vocabulary and decided to learn it by heart. I even wrote my own application to help me with that. Do you remember recent speech by Martin Plsek on the topic of flashcards? I do now. If I had used such a software then, it would have saved me quite a few hours of my life. Altogether, the time spent with this book was pretty much wasted. Mistake? In a way, yes, but it still pushed me in the right direction.

    memrise

    Another resource I discovered is the webpage Memrise. Essentially, Memrise is composed of flashcards made for you by other users. It is community-driven website, which doesn’t sound like much, but believe me, it is amazingly powerful. It provides you with hundreds of free courses for almost any language of your choice.

    For about half I year I kept doing memory lessons there. Soon I started to feel the progress. Imagine my joy. Now I was moving somewhere.

    Continue reading CC Speech #10 – The labyrinth of learning

    Advanced Manual: Facilitating Discussions

    Knowing how to lead a discussion when multiple opinions are expressed and making sure that the speakers are indeed addressing the problem raised or the topic opened is not an easy job. There are people that tend to make it a monologue rather than leave others to speak too or  simply be outside of the topic just because they want to talk about different things.

    This manual will help you improve exactly these skills of being a good leader in group discussions and making sure that your goal (finding a solution to a problem, debating a public interest subject) is reached. It is designed for practicing your moderator skills with different level of challenges: projects are long from 26 to 40 minutes and involve participants testing you by interruptions, taking over, refusing to participate in.

    1. The panel moderator – 28-30 minutes – This requires getting three other club members to be panelists. Each speaker will be giving short answers to questions in a four-minute speech followed by a short Q&A.  Actual objectives are:
    • Select a topic for a panel discussion
    • Identify differing viewpoints to be addressed by panelists
    • Organize and moderate a panel discussion
    1. The brainstorming session – 31-33 minutes – The whole club brainstorms a list of ideas and then chooses the three best ones. The objectives as per the manual are:
    • Select a problem for a brainstorming session for which you serve as facilitator
    • Conduct a brainstorming session
    •  Have participants reduce the list of ideas to the three best
    1. The problem-solving discussion – 26-31 minutes – Lead the group to discuss the three ideas from the previous project and vote on the best one.
    • Discuss the three ideas generated in Project 2
    • Determine which one best resolves the problem
    1. Handling challenging situations – 22-32 minutes – This one is fun. Like the previous projects, you’re leading the club members to make a decision. But four club members (chosen by someone else, so the speaker doesn’t know who they are), are assigned to be troublemakers: interrupting, taking over, or refusing to participate. The success of this project depends on how well these members play their roles and how well you can moderate a discussion.
    • Select a problem and ask club members to discuss and resolve it by either a majority vote or by compromise
    • Serve as facilitator for the discussion
    • Effectively handle any member’s behavioural problems that may interfere with the discussion
    1. Reaching a consensus – 31-37 minutes – Lead the group to discuss a problem and solutions and reach a consensus on what to do.
    • To select a problem for the group to discuss and resolve
    • As facilitator, help the group reach a consensus

    We already have members that challenged themselves with this manual and we need to admit that the actual delivery of the projects was interesting and out of the ordinary! Hope to see more and more members taking this challenge!

    Ioana Pop, President of BBTM

    Meeting 179 – Business Meeting, Grammarian Edition

    Grammarian edition? Don’t be afraid, this meeting report will not be all about grammar. However, as I was the grammarian there, I would like you to have a taste of the interesting job the grammarian does throughout the evening.

    First and foremost, the meeting was business-themed. That was reflected in the very beginning, when our new president, Ioana, opened the meeting with a rather unusual question:

    “Would you like to have a Toastmasters meeting in a park?”

    This was both refreshingly different from the usual questions and directly related to the club business. More importantly, it actually gave us a lot of important ideas for the outside meeting. Some people said they absolutely loved the idea of meeting in a park and wanted to go for it. However, few of us suggested caution, mostly because of we are Brno Business Toastmasters and meeting outside does not feel strictly professional, but agreed to try to meet in a park at least once. While we haven’t made any final decision yet, the debate certainly gave us a big incentive to go ahead and plan such a meeting.

    Then Alexy took over and led the meeting. Personally, I must say the meeting was incredible even from the grammar point of view, which is what I am going to focus on. The following lines will be written from the perspective of a grammarian.

    What are the duties of the grammarian role? First, you should listen carefully, notice all grammar mistakes and make a report before the end of the meeting. In Brno Business Toastmasters we have merged grammarian with another role – the ah counter, meaning the grammarian also takes note of the fillers we keep using during the course of the meeting. Last but not least the grammarian counts how many times various people use the word of the day.

    This meeting I decided to try a different approach, as our past VPE Mary suggested. Instead of just correcting the mistakes, I would try to make the role funny and try to take the meeting atmosphere up instead of down. For most roles this comes naturally, but for the grammarian… not so much. The role is, by definition, negative. Also, similar to the quizmaster, you can’t just make things up, you have to work with the resources the other members give you (in this case mistakes).

    I needed special mistakes that would be both clear and fun to correct. So I listened.

    Throughout the meeting it was rather hard to focus on the mistakes, because the speeches were very nice to listen to. The icebreaker, obviously well prepared, caught my attention and I caught no mistakes. But then, at the QA, there came a question from the audience: “How did you feel?” Martha replied: “When I came here, my heart was …” and she searched for the correct word and somebody suggested: “beating”. When I heard this, I almost jumped with joy.

    When I came here, my heart was beating.” This I could work with. Basically, when you are nervous, your heart is pounding or racing. If your heart stops pounding, it is still beating (pounding just means it is beating more quickly and thus more loudly). If it ever stops beating, though, grammar usually is the least of your concerns.

    The second speech was also amazing to listen to and I was totally convinced that there is no need for a TV at anybody’s home. Also we heard that “A dog got missed in a forest”, which would actually mean somebody took a shoot at a dog and missed. While that may definitely be true, the speaker probably wanted to say “a dog got lost in a forest”.

    While we are talking about shooting, I must highlight the expression mentioned by our toastmaster of the evening, Alexy: “A ballot is stronger than a bullet”.

    Table topics, while highly business-themed, were fun, too. Bogdan prepared two groups of papers – one listed company (TM International) departments and the other the speaker is applying for. The speaker’s goal was to persuade the audience (= TM board of directors) that he or she is the right candidate for the job. It was so much fun that I forgot to listen for mistakes.

    Later, when I gave the grammar report, I limited the negative part and tried to focus primarily on the funny mistakes. I started with praising the good phrases, such as “You have the power”, “you can observe that “ and many more. Then I went into the negative – one particular mistake repeated multiple times – wrong usage of much and many and confusing the two. In retrospective, I should have ditched the negative part completely. It is obvious that the audience isn’t very interested in that. The funny mistakes, on the other hand, had much more success. Also I failed to meet the time regulations, but that only shows how much I was enjoying the role 🙂

    Therefore, I believe that the best way to make the grammarian role more interesting while keeping it meaningful is to go with the funny mistakes. It is not easy, it is not simple, but at least in my opinion it does boost the meeting. Let us try that!

    See you next meeting,

    Josef Hertl, VP PR.

    Advanced Manual: Public Relations

    Every organisation, no matter how large or small, ultimately depends on its reputation for survival and success.

    Customers, suppliers, employees, investors, journalists and regulators can have a powerful impact. They all have an opinion about the organisations they come into contact with – whether good or bad, right or wrong. These perceptions will drive their decisions about whether they want to work with, shop with and support these organisations.

    In today’s competitive market, reputation can be a company’s biggest asset – the thing that makes you stand out from the crowd and gives you a competitive edge. Effective PR can help manage reputation by communicating and building good relationships with all organisation stakeholders. So if you have anything to do with PR in your professional life, the advanced manual ‘Public Relations’ can be a great practice for the upcoming challenges.

    Let’s have a look at the 5 projects of this manual and their objectives!

    Project 1: The Goodwill Speech

    • Prepare a talk that will build goodwill for your organization by supplying useful information of interest to the audience
    • Favorably influence the audience by skillful and friendly delivery of your talk

     Project 2: The Radio Talk Show  

    • Present a positive image of you and your company or organization on a simulated radio talk show
    • Prepare a talk designed to build goodwill toward an organization by presenting factual information
    • Understand the dynamics of a successful radio talk show
    • Prepare for the questions that may be asked of you during the radio interview

    (Time: Three to five minutes for the presentation, plus two to three minutes for questions and answers )

    Project 3: The Persuasive Approach  

    • Direct a persuasive appeal to the audience’s self-interests using a combination of fact and  emotion in a speech delivered in such a manner that it appears extemporaneous
    • Persuade the audience to adopt your viewpoint by the use of standard persuasive techniques
    • Use at least one visual aid to enhance the audience’s understanding

    Project 4: Speaking Under Fire  

    • Prepare a talk to persuade a hostile audience to at least consider your position on a controversial issue
    • Demonstrate sincerity when presenting your viewpoint

    (Time: Three to five minutes for the presentation, plus two to three minutes for questions and answers )

    Project 5: The Crisis Management Speech  

    • Learn strategies for communicating to the media about a company crisis
    • Prepare a speech for the media about a company crisis that builds and maintains a positive image for the company
    • Answer questions from the media in a manner that reflects positively on the company

               (Time: Four to six minutes for the presentation, and three to five minutes for questions  and answers) 

    Good luck with these great projects if you feel this is the manual you should chose!

    Ioana Pop, President

    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.