Submit your Tip of the Week to Janice Howard.
10 Tips for Successful Online Meetings
Members of Toastmasters International have been meeting face-to-face for more than 95 years, but due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), most meetings have been temporarily moved online. Many members have found online meetings to be a great way to stay connected, keep momentum going, and provide a much-needed sense of routine in a time when many people’s lives are altered, and social distancing is widespread.
To help ensure your meeting is a success, Toastmasters International offers these 10 tips for an efficient and productive online meeting:
- Select a video-conferencing platform, and do a test run prior to the meeting
- Meeting organizers should send attendees a copy of the agenda in advance
- Choose a quiet location before joining the meeting to reduce potential distractions for both yourself and other attendees
- Arrive on time or let the organizer know ahead of time if you will be late or unable to attend
- Mute your microphone when not speaking
- Adjust your camera so you can be seen, and look into the camera—not the monitor—when speaking
- Dress as you would for an in-person meeting
- Be aware of your background and make sure it’s appropriate
- Stay focused and avoid checking email or perusing other materials unrelated to the meeting
- Respect fellow attendees by refraining from distracting behaviour like eating or chewing gum
September 27, 2020
Connect With Your Audience
Do you realize that every time you speak you are selling something? It could be a service, a product, an idea, even yourself! If you are in speaking… you are in sales! A competent, confident communicator does not simply give out information but gets through with a clear, concise message, and connects!
Tip 1: Opening: You have 7 seconds for an audience to like you and 35 seconds for them to want to listen to you. Open strong by getting right into the content with maybe a quotation, a question, a profound statement … something relevant to your content that grabs their immediate attention. Follow with a promise of benefits they will receive from listening to you and adhering to your message. Then give a roadmap of where you are taking them ( i.e. 3 Secrets to Success, or The ABC Guide to Greatness or Winning Ways to..) This is especially important for business presenters and trainers.
Tip 2: Ending: Never ever close with Q&A – it’s a recipe for disaster! (someone’s question may take them on a different tangent, away from your message) Set some time for Q&A, if you wish, and tell them: “Then I’ll close.” Always close on YOUR optimistic, hopeful, powerful note with a call to action.
Tip 3: Organization: Your content needs to be tight; avoid squeezing too much information in, rambling on and confusing them. Know exactly what you wish your audience to think, feel, say or do differently after you finish speaking. A confused mind says “no” to any suggestion made. Make your points clear, and the take-away message doable.
Tip 4: Try to use humour. When people laugh, they relax, when they relax, they learn, when they learn, they remember. Share your flaws, fears, failures, frustrations and firsts. People don’t like perfect people, they like personable ones, who can laugh at themselves.
Tip 5: Tell stores: Use simple, everyday stories from which you have learned a lesson that may also benefit them. Note: “Facts only tell, but stories Sell!” People are moved to action, not only intellectually but emotionally. Stories that transform fact and figures into flesh and blood stories are the heart of a presentation and make it memorable. Stories are also a great natural way of uncovering ( not adding) humour through your use of relatable characters and their actual dialogue!
Tip 6: Deliver with enthusiasm: Your delivery is your opportunity to make your content come alive, by transforming a one dimensional text into a 3D experience. Please note that sameness is the enemy of the speaker. Vary your voice in pace, projection, pitch, and pause at times so they can reflect on a question, problem or issue. Vary your emotions, movement on the platform, and methodology of delivery. Don’t talk AT them but WITH them in a natural, sincere, conversational manner. Touch base with them at times, with possibly a question just like when you’re having a conversation with a friend. ie “Does that make sense to you ?” or “How would you have felt in that situation?”
Audiences love speakers who are clear, conversational and personable. They can resonate with those traits which will endear them to you and therefore, connect with you. As a result, an effective communicator is both remembered and repeated.
Kathryn MacKenzie, DTM
September 20, 2020
Speaking to Diverse Audiences
Giving a speech or presentation to an audience of people who speak various languages or have differing cultural backgrounds requires special tact on the part of the speaker. Here are some tips and techniques on how to effectively engage a diverse audience:
- Enunciate clearly. If possible, try to speak with a neutral accent to better include all audience members.
- Don’t speak too fast. Remember that the normal pace of speech in one language might become incomprehensible for people relatively new to that language.
- Be careful with metaphors. Some metaphors that are appropriate in one culture can be offensive to another. A good example is references to sports not popular or practiced in a certain country, or phrases that are comical in one culture yet offensive in another.
- Know the meanings of words outside your native language. Unless you are absolutely sure of the meaning and pronunciation of a word you are using in a given language, do not use it. In some languages, slight variations of a vowel will completely alter the meaning of a word.
- Avoid slang, jargon and idiomatic expressions. Diverse audiences may not understand slang from a given country. English phrases such as “that dog don’t hunt” or “cool as a cucumber” might be colourful, but the meaning could be lost on a large part of the audience.
- Be mindful of body language, eye contact and personal space. Posture, mannerisms and eye contact speak volumes and what is taken for granted in one culture might be considered offensive in another.
September 13, 2020
Reimagining Table Topics
Table Topics is the fun and impromptu segment of each Toastmaster meeting, ubiquitous in its nature the world over. Pandemic times and the virtual world have provided us with a unique opportunity to reimagine and provide new twists on the way we present. ART Toastmasters invites Table Topics speakers to deliver short impromptu speeches, after which other members provide immediate evaluations of the impromptu speeches. The Table Topic evaluators only have the length of time that the impromptu speech takes to formulate their evaluation. The added value for the evaluators is that they get practice to think on their feet while providing feedback. If you would like to witness this in action contact ART VP PR Dave Bachan, firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Dave Bachan, DTM
September 7, 2020
Preparing for an Online Speech Contest
Who would have thought back in January that the Toastmasters International Speech Contest would be held online in 2020? As a competitor at the District level, I had to find ways to overcome obstacles associated with presenting online. No audience in front of me, to look into their eyes and connect. No laughter when I added humour to my speech. The stage transformed from a sprawling platform to a 4′ X 4′ square to capture my gestures and movements. As Toastmasters, we rise to the challenge, and I want to share with you some strategies that I implemented to give me the best advantage under the circumstances.
- Find an audience to practice for your virtual presentation. Engage family members or friends to be your visual audience looking at you and reacting to your speech.
- Choose an appropriate location with adequate lighting. Keep pets and small children out of the room. Ideally choose a blank wall as your background. Virtual backgrounds are not permitted for the contest. Avoid clutter, windows, mirrors, etc., as you are the focus of the attention ~ not the items in the background. Make sure your face can be seen clearly, without shadows.
- Place the camera at eye level. Look directly into the camera at all times. This takes practice. By doing so you are doing your best to duplicate the experience of being in front of an audience, looking into their eyes.
- Know your equipment. It should be high quality. Make sure your audio comes through clearly. Buy an external microphone, placed in the best location to pick up your voice. Most important: make sure you have a strong internet connection. This is THE contest ~ avoid a pixelated presentation.
- Stand, don’t sit! The rules for the contest stipulate that you must stand to present, but I believe you should stand for any speech online. Always try to present a “real” speaking experience.
- Dress appropriately. This is a professionally organized contest. Dress the part. I believe that men should wear a suit and tie; ladies wear a solid colour pant suit or jacket with plain pants. Avoid prints and loud colours. Remember we are looking at you ~ not your outfit.
- Practice, Practice, Practice! I used to do this on Zoom to see my body language and gestures; I marked the floor with tape for my 4′ X 4′ virtual stage.
As we move forward with Toastmasters online, these tips can assist with any virtual presentation – keynote speech, regular Toastmasters meetings or the International Speech Contest.
Janet Heidker, DTM
August 31, 2020
If you host a special event, you may be required to introduce speakers. Try these quick tips for delivering thoughtful speaker introductions:
- Don’t steal the show by making the introduction too long (60 seconds or less is sufficient), or by speaking on a topic that is in no way related to the speaker.
- Grab the audience’s attention with a great opening. This can be an inspiring quote, a humorous anecdote, or an impressive milestone the speaker has achieved.
- Briefly mention the topic the speaker is addressing, but don’t reveal too much about his or her speech.
- Establish the speaker’s authority and expertise. This information will help solidify with the audience the speaker’s credibility as a subject matter expert.
August 25, 2020
Accepting feedback on our speeches is commonplace in Toastmasters. Or rather, hearing feedback is commonplace. Accepting is a skill we develop, but it can be difficult.
For many reasons, but one I have often heard is that our emotions sometimes cause an inner dialogue that makes it difficult to hear and accept the tidbits that will help us improve – regardless of our skill level.
At some Advanced clubs, Speaking from Experience is one to which I belong, all attendees provide feedback to all speakers and evaluators. That makes for a lot of feedback.
I delayed my first speech and my first evaluation for a long time because I was hesitant to hear that I wasn’t as good as I hoped I was.
Then I jumped in and I’m grateful for the tremendous feedback. Each comment comes from a different perspective, giving me a “big picture” view of how each presentation is received by different audience members.
To prepare myself to hear the feedback, however, I must manage my emotions.
Below are five suggestions, based upon my personal experience, to hopefully help you accept feedback:
- Accept your feedback with gratitude. Without the feedback, you won’t know what to improve or consider changing.
- Each person has a valid opinion. Period.
- Your presentation was a moment (or perhaps 5-7 minutes) in time. It does not represent your entire speaking career.
- Each person hears your presentation through their own lens. Through that lens, they notice your body language, facial gestures, word selection, stagecraft, pronunciation, etc.
- Remember that providing feedback is a challenging skill to develop, one that is extremely valuable in other aspects of our lives.
Remember that one of the most valuable components of Toastmasters is that we are all learning, improving, and supporting each other. We offer feedback to help others, and ourselves, communicate effectively. We are lucky to belong to such an organization.
With that in mind, I strongly urge you to take a deep breath, deliver your speech, and embrace your feedback.
Michelle Warren, DTM
August 17, 2020
Practice Makes Permanent
You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Practice Makes Perfect.” Members of Podium Toastmasters Club say “Practice Makes Permanent.” Every word is not expected to flow in precisely the way intended, but persistent practice promotes a deep understanding of your topic and speech.
Toastmasters recommends you “Practice, practice, practice.”
- Practice using the equipment required. Rehearse your speech using any equipment and/or visual aids you’ll use during your presentation.
- Practice your speech aloud. Rehearse your speech aloud so you can work on your vocal variety and tone.
- Practice often. Rehearse your speech as often as possible to help the material set in.
Persistent practice will help you feel more calm and confident, and allow you to focus on your audience (instead of your notes!) during your presentation.
August 10, 2020
Giving Sales Pitches
A sales pitch or proposal seeks to persuade. The objective of the presentation is to sell a product, concept or idea. The ability to present sales pitches and proposals effectively can open the door to professional opportunities.
To organize ideas into an effective sales pitch or proposal, use the “inverted pyramid” approach, which gives an audience the most important information in the first few sentences (how much money might be saved, how lives might be improved, etc.). Support claims with logic and evidence, and end every sales pitch or proposal with a call to action. If an audience agrees with the initial message or point, the supporting material that follows will reinforce that agreement. If an audience disagrees, logic and evidence may win them over.
Use high-quality yet simple visual aids, such as charts or slides, to help clarify any sales pitch or proposal. Make sure the visual aids can be seen by every person in the audience, and limit each chart or slide to a single main point.
Offer a question-and-answer period following a sales pitch or proposal, which can supply you with valuable feedback about the effectiveness of the pitch. It also gives an audience the opportunity to further clarify specific points or data that was presented. Below are a few ways to effectively answer questions from an audience:
- Anticipate possible questionsby rehearsing with colleagues or friends.
- Provide answersthat support the sales pitch or proposal.
- Disarm loaded questions(those based on false premises or irrelevant assumptions) by being polite and asking the questioner to further explain his or her question.
- Divide complicated questionsinto several parts before answering them.
August 1, 2020
Whether you’re accepting an Oscar or community recognition, Toastmasters International offers these proven tips for delivering a powerful acceptance speech for any type of award:
- Show your personality. Your acceptance speech should come from the heart.
- Be gracious. Acknowledge the good work done by your competitors and thank the organization that selected you for the award.
- Show excitement. You don’t have to climb over chairs or even cry, but the audience should recognize that you’re happy to have won the award.
- Be modest. Your acceptance speech should be heartfelt but not self-congratulatory.
- Practice, practice, practice. Rehearse with a timer, memorize key people to thank and allow time for the unexpected.
July 24, 2020
Submit your Tip of the Week to Janice Howard.