getting it

I subscribed to a web site for a number of months that offered training and support for writers trying to make a living writing. It had some valuable information, but many of the most essential webinars were out of date in this rapidly changing online world. One of the services they offered was an evaluation of your web site. I submitted mine and while I got some useful feedback much of it was phrased in a way that was downright rude. I cancelled my membership, but not before describing how we learn to present evaluations at Toastmasters: that is, in a positive, constructive manner.

My role last week was to evaluate the speech of a newer member who is really coming along nicely. There were some areas where she could improve and I presented those in a positive manner. I also focused on what the purpose of that particular project was and pointed out how she could have paid more attention to that focus. The general evaluator, our immediate past president, and a highly experienced Toastmaster who has earned the Distinguished Toastmaster designation, went off script, if you will, to say what an asset to the club he thought I was and how “Mike gets it.”

I really appreciated that. Another member handed me the note that you see here.

your eval is as terrific because you picked up on the flaws & presented them kindly but effectively

There are a certain set of values that accompany Toastmasters which I have been working to adopt and internalize. I’m delighted that other members seem to think that I am doing so.

a different sort of speech

I gave a rather different speech at Toastmasters last week.

ToastmastersWhen you complete the ten speeches in the Competent Communication Toastmasters manual and get your Competent Communicator (CC) award, a whole new world opens up. There are fifteen advanced manuals from which you can choose. You get two free with your CC award. I chose The Entertaining Speaker and Speaking to Inform. The first project in The Entertaining Speaker is at the end of the Competent Communication manual so I gave that speech. I was ready to continue down that path, but my manuals didn’t arrive. To fill in I ordered three more manuals, Storytelling, Technical Presentations, and Humorously Speaking.

I started on the first project in Storytelling. My entertain and inform manuals finally showed up, but I was far enough along with the storytelling project that I kept going. That first project involves telling a folk tale. There was a time when this would involve a trip to the library if you did not have a volume of folk tales on your shelf at home. But thanks to the Internet and Google I could do all the necessary research sitting at my computer in my study at home.

The first folk tale I selected was simply too long and complicated. My time frame was seven to nine minutes, and to fit into that I realized I would have to do great violence to the plot. So I dropped my first attempt and selected a Russian folk tale entitled The Sea King’s Daughter. I had to do a lot of cutting there as well, but I was able to maintain the primary thread of the story.

It was fun working on the project, and I got to immerse myself in that world for a while. I was, however, a bit tired of it by the day of the speech. Still, I enjoyed telling the tale, and the members were impressed, I believe. At least they recognized it as something different.

The next speech involves telling a personal story. Much more conventional by Toastmaster standards. The folk tale was, though, a very enjoyable diversion.

table topics

One component of each Toastmasters meeting is something called Table Topics. The Table Topics Master comes up with topics for three to four people to talk about in an impromptu manner for one to two minutes.

very. very good topic!!Last week was my first time as Table Topics Master. My subject was based on the Doonesbury cartoons below. They are from 1986 when Mike Doonesbury left his wife J.J and had a soundtrack playing in his head. We actually did five, rather than the normal three to four, as we were short a speaker that day.

What was your soundtrack…

  • when you were a senior in college about to graduate?
  • when you started your first career path job?
  • when you had your first romantic breakup as an adult?
  • when your first child was born?
  • on your first date in high school?

The General Evaluator said that was the most thoughtful Table Topics he had ever seen, and he was going to steal it for the other chapter that he is involved with. I got several compliments from members, including the written one you see here.

I like the fact that I’ve kicked my participation up a notch.

Doonesbury cartoon #1 Doonesbury cartoon #2

the Toastmaster

As I reported yesterday, our outgoing Toastmasters VP of education and incoming president suggested that I kick up my participation a notch. And as I reported yesterday, I did.

My first time as Toastmaster last Thursday met with a surprise or two. Rather than meeting in the church’s library where we always did, we were moved to the auditorium. Seems there was some work going on in the library. We moved from a small, intimate space to a large open space. And while I was busy getting folks to fill in on roles to replace those who had not shown up, others were moving the podium from one end of the room to the other to accommodate a speaker who had a PowerPoint presentation and needed the screen at that end of the room.

And here I am, my first time as Toastmaster, trying to make it all work.

"You did a superb job 1st time out of the gate!!"Work it did. The meeting went smoothly. Each person filled their role with competence. At the end of the meeting the president complimented me on doing such a good job my first time in the role and there was applause. Wow!

When I got home I found the anonymous note you see here in amongst my paperwork.

I was pleased.

kicking it up a notch

After I received my Competent Communicator designation at Toastmasters the then vice president of education and now president told me that I should kick up my participation a notch, and take on some roles that I hadn’t before. So I signed up for new roles for July.

Two weeks ago I was General Evaluator, which means I introduced the three evaluators who evaluated the three speakers. I also offered a brief evaluation of the meeting as a whole.

ToastmastersLast week I was Toastmaster: the person that runs the meeting. More on that tomorrow.

This week I am scheduled to be Table Topics Master. That’s where members present one-to-two minute talks on topics of my choice.

In addition I am now an officer. Seems officers were selected on the one Sunday in June when I was absent, and legitimately so due to my nasty cold. I was selected Vice President of Publicity. That was a problem for me, as I attend Toastmasters in Menifee up the road, and I’m here in Hemet. I don’t know Menifee well enough to do the job well. So I negotiated a swap, and became VP of Education. That entails ensuring that people get their proper awards as they move through the program.

That I can do.

differing priorities

From the day I got my Competent Communicator Toastmasters manual, I began to work on making my way through the book, making speeches one through ten in order. I was delighted to have completed that process a couple of weeks ago.

ToastmastersWhat surprises me is the lackadaisical attitude of a few members. Our own Sargent-at-Arms has not completed his ten speeches, though he continues to give speeches on random topics entirely divorced from the manual. One woman has hopped around the book, doing speeches in no particular order.

Really, I don’t know what is going on in these people lives. I am in no position to judge. And besides, there is another level to Toastmasters. That is getting involved at the district level or higher. Or becoming an officer. Or both. So I certainly am in no position to judge.

Still, I feel good about my accomplishment and look forward to moving forward in the process.

Toastmasters Milestone

I achieved an important milestone in my Toastmasters experience last Thursday. I completed my speech #10, which means our Vice President for Education has submitted the paperwork for my Competent Communicator designation. Once confirmed I will be able to refer to myself as Michael Christie, CC — at least in the Toastmaster world.

CompetentCommunicatorThe way it works is this. When you join Toastmasters you get two manuals, Competent Communication and Competent Leadership. The Competent Communication manual contains ten speaking projects. Each one builds on the previous. Once you’ve completed the tenth speech you qualify as a Competent Communicator.

I gave my first speech on 29 October, so the entire process took just under seven months. Not too bad in my estimation.

I was especially pleased that my speech # 10 won me the Best Speaker award for the day, as it was one I felt especially good about. It was about people helping other people. Such people represent, to quote the phrase George H.W. Bush once used, “a thousand points of light.”

Now onward to my Advanced Communicator Bronze designation.

it’s all table topics

One of our senior members at Toastmasters gave a talk on table topics recently. The table topics part of the meeting is where members are given a topic and need to speak off the top Toastmastersof their heads for a minute to two minutes on that topic. He spoke about strategies for running a table topics session as well as being called on to speak at table topics. All very informative.

He also pointed out that all life is table topics. Whether answering a question from a coworker or boss or engaging in conversation at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, it’s all table topics. And Toastmasters is great preparation.

There’s a lot to be gotten out of Toastmasters.


life is fragile

I am doing something different today. I am sharing with you a recreation of the speech I gave at Toastmasters last Thursday. Once I decided what I wanted to talk about, I realized what an emotional impact the subject had on me. I gave the speech everything I had, and was delighted to have won the best speaker award for it. It was my first.


I was not able to get the video cameras on my desktop or laptop computer to capture me standing up in any kind of way that worked. So remember that when I actually gave the speech I was standing up in front of a group, moving about the floor, and using more gestures than I use here.

Still, I was pleased with how well the speech went over and I thought it was worth recreating on video. I hope you enjoy it.

listening to people’s stories

When I joined Toastmasters I expected to do some networking. I also expected that I would have the opportunity to develop my speaking and personal presentation skills. The first has turned out to be somewhat the case, the second has been very much the case.

ToastmastersWhat I did not expect was that I would learn some surprisingly personal details about the lives of my fellow members. I have been impressed at how candid my colleagues have been willing to be.

One long-time member spoke about how she was in the rock music scene and worked at radio stations before going into social services. In a later speech she went into detail about her drug addiction before turning her life around and getting her B.A. and Masters degrees so she could go into social services and help people suffering from similar problems.

Another member gave a heart-rending speech about her mother’s dementia. Our president gave a speech about healthy eating in which he revealed that he had lost a toe to diabetes. A new member talked about his own serious addiction problems before joining the Marines and then going into pastoral care work in the area of addiction while also attending seminary.

Members are also candid during the impromptu table topics portion of the meeting. The member who spoke about her mother discussed how her husband’s moods had changed recently and that his demands were becoming annoying.

It’s a great group and the experience is enhanced by our members revealing their deeper selves.