Speak up

Speak up

Everyone has something to say but so many people are afraid to say anything at all when it counts.

Get someone among friends or one on one, and most likely you’ll have a hard time shutting them up. Give them a piece of paper and tell them to write whatever they want and most people will stare at that blank page until you take it away. You could also bring them into a meeting and ask them to share what’s on their mind but all you’ll probably get is silence.

Why do we love to talk in certain situations but go quite when it’s our turn to write or speak?

Most people are uncomfortable speaking or writing in public. I know I used to feel this way. How did I solve that problem?

I started writing and speaking in public. I practiced by writing a post every day and giving a speech once a week. 

Today, I took part in a leadership training course at my company. The instructor kept asking for feedback or explanations from the group and I kept being the person answering the questions to the point where it became somewhat comical. Though it shouldn’t be surprising to me. My weekly speeches have removed my fear of standing up in front of an audience and giving them my opinion.

The truly successful people in this world are speaking up. 

What will you choose to do?

Stay quite or speak up.

Dropping my G’s

During my past few speeches, I’ve been made aware that I’ve been dropping the g’s off some of the words in my speech, like walkin’, talkin, and speakin’.  I never realized I had this issue but it’s another reason why I go to Toastmasters. Without a place like Toastmasters, I would have never found out about this poor habit.

Now I’m thinking about how to correct the issue.  First, I had to put a name to the issue.  Was is pronunciation? Was it enunciation?

Pronounciation is the way a word is pronounced.  While I’m sure I mispronounce a word sometimes, dropping my g’s was not the same thing.

Enounciation is the act of speaking. Poor enounciation could include mumbling or slurring.

Diction was the term I was trying to find.  Technically, Diction is a broader term than enounciation that includes enounciation and word choice.  In a more practical sense, diction is about speaking clearly.

I found a good article about Diction from Lisa Marshall, The Public Speaker on Quick and Dirty Tips. That offers some ways to practice good diction.  The advice boils down to practicing your plosives, reading tongue twisters, and repeat the speech of someone who has good enunciation.  She recommends repeating a quality podcast like some of the shows produced by NPR.

I’m going to start working on some of these tips today because I want to rid my self of this bad habit.


How to tell a good story

This week I’m working on my fourth project in the Toastmasters Humorously Speaking manual.  I’ve been stuck on the fourth project because it requires you to write at least two joke set consisting of two or three jokes.  Today, I went through the entire manual during my 750 words and took notes from each of the lessons.  There is some good advice that I’m going to write posts about in the coming weeks.

One of the pieces of advice was the five parts to every humorous story. Below I’ve listed the five parts of a story from the Toastmasters manual. Here is the example story from the Toastmasters manual:

A young illiterate man applied for a job as a janitor.  When the personnel manager discovered the young man couldn’t read or write, he didn’t hire him. Desperate for work, the young man borrowed some money from his uncle and started selling fruit on a busy street corner.  His business grew, and he soon owned a chain of markets and became very rich.  One day he went to the bank to deposit some money.  As he signed an “x” on the deposit slip, the bank manager said, “You have done so well with no education.  Just think what you could have done if you had gone to school!” “Oh,” replied the man, “I’d be a janitor.”

Most stories consist of these five parts:

1. Set-up

The information the listener needs to find the joke funny.  It leads the listeners down a path to an unexpected destination. The information about the young man’s job search is the set up.

2. Pause

Occurs just before you deliver the punch line to the joke.  By pausing, you create tension in the audience.  The pause also signals your audience that you are about to say something important.

3. Punch line

The phrase or sentence that creates the humor.  It’s unexpected destination at the end of the path.  The punch line is a surprise twist and the payoff to the entire story.  It’s what makes people laugh.  In the janitor story, the punch line is “Oh, ” replied the young man, “I’d be a janitor.”

4. Punch word

The one word in the punch line which creates the humor. “Janitor” is the punch word in the above story.

5. Pause

The end of the story gives the audience an opportunity to absorb the punch line, see the humor, and respond.

Nothing is worse than when the storyteller forgets the punch line.

I know a person who tells long stories but they never have a punch line.  They usually just end.  It drives us all crazy because everyone is waiting for the punch line.  When it doesn’t come, we all groan. This happens so often we’ve started referring to these types of stories that don’t have a punch line as a [insert person’s name] story.

Whenever your crafting a story for your speeches or when you’re telling one in any social setting, make sure the story has all five parts. You don’t want to be the person telling stories without a punch line.

Speech of the Week: Let’s Talk About How I Got Here

Speech of the Week: Let’s Talk About How I Got Here

This speech was given at the Dawn Patrol Toastmasters club.


Thank you, Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, and guests.

Can I see a show of hands of everyone who showed up today?

Thank you for showing up but that’s not the only reason come to this Toastmasters club. We come to grow. We come to improve our public speaking and leadership skills. That’s the main reason I started coming to Toastmasters meetings about three years ago. During today’s speech, I want to talk about why I needed to come to Toastmasters, how I struggled to get involved, and how it’s changed my life.

Once I started my career, I wasn’t giving many prepared speeches but I was doing a lot of impromptu talks. When I did have opportunities to speak, I’d have a lot of symptoms common to an inexperienced speaker: I’d be nervous, my palms would sweat, my heart would race, and my coworkers pointed out another issue, which was that my voice would change whenever I spoke at meetings. I’d develop this Sylvester StalloneRambo-type voice. I have a hard time trying to replicate it because I never realized I did it.

After receiving this feedback, I started reading books on Communication. One of those books was Jeffrey Gitomer’s, Little Green Book of Getting Your Way. In the book one of the things he recommended to help improve your communication skills was joining a local Toastmasters club.

Now I knew what I had to do, I had to join a Toastmasters club, but where was a going to attend. It took me about a year to build up the courage and attend my first meeting.

Why did it take me so long?

There is always an excuse. I always had something better to do: go to lunch with coworkers, go to the gym, read, or write. It’s similar to the idea that everyone knows they should eat healthier but how many actually do? Not many.

I finally built up the courage to attend my first meeting, which was at the Mellon Toastmasters club. Everyone was friendly, I was given an information packet, and there was a lot of clapping. I mean a lot of clapping. The kind of clapping that’s kind of awkward. It kind of creeped me out. I didn’t end up going back for another six months.

I knew I still needed to work on my communication skills so I decided to try it again. This time I attended the Toastmasters in the Tower club because it was slightly closer to my office. I signed up right away and did my first speech within the first month. I was really nervous for my Ice Breaker speech. I wrote a speech about the reasons I was joining Toastmasters and what I wanted to get out of it. In the middle of the speech I forgot one of my points. Inside my head I was freaking out, I had a million things racing through my head, but I kept my composure and remembered the point I wanted to make. The best part was nobody noticed I had lost my place. I thought I blew the speech but many people didn’t even realize my mistake. Most thought I was doing a dramatic pause. It was a great experience so I kept coming back. I got better each speech. I got a little less nervous. I worked on a new skill in each project: my eye contact, speech structure, body movement, and vocal variety. I completed eight speeches in my first year.

The next year, I changed jobs. I was out of Toastmasters for almost a year while I searched for a new club, which proved difficult because there were no lunch time options around my new job location. Then I found the crack of Dawn Patrol club on Friday mornings. It wasn’t easy adjusting my schedule but I worked on it. I attended one meeting, and slowly I started being able to get up and out the door early enough to attend the 7:15am meeting. I joined the club around December 2014, but I didn’t give my ninth speech until May 2015, and then I completed my 10th speech and the Competent Communication manual in June. That’s about the same time I also joined the newly formed PREP Speaks Toastmasters club through my company.

I was now a member of two clubs but I wasn’t giving many prepared speeches.

By the end of October I realized I needed to change my strategy. My passive, try to give a speech every month, mentality wasn’t working for me. I needed a more aggressive approach. That’s when I decided to start giving a speech every week. I announced this strategy during a speech titled, A Speech Every Week, that I delivered at this club. My goal was to give a speech every week until the end of the year. I ended up completing my goal by giving eight speeches which included speaking at the Distict 13 Fall Conference and a company conference.

Last year my big goal was to write a blog post every single day. This year, it’s to give a speech every week. I think this will help change my life and improve my speaking like nothing else I could do. I would like to give these speeches at a club each week but I don’t want to take up all of my club’s speaking slots because that’s unfair to the rest of the members. This delemma made me wonder where I could give all these speeches. I could find local organizations. That’s a part of this goal. I’d prefer to give these speeches in front of a crowd.

What if no crowd is available?

I don’t want my lack of a venue to turn into an excuse to not complete a speech. If I can’t give them at a club or an organization, why can’t I post them online to either my blog or YouTube? That way there is no excuse. It’s a simple solution and allows me to start doing something I’ve wanted to do anyway, which is create video content on YouTube.

The great thing about this story, my story. Is that I started from scratch? All of the experienced Toastmasters began with an Ice Breaker. Every emotion or feeling you’ve felt when you decided to come to your first meeting and give your first speech. We’ve all felt. The point of Toastmasters is about coming back every week or two and signing up for speeches and roles that help you grow.

Can I see another show of hands of the people who not only showed up today, but showed up to grow?

Mr. Toastmaster

Talking as much as I can

Last week was my busiest week of speaking. I was Toastmaster at my Friday morning club, Toastmaster at the PREP Speaks presentation during the PNC PREP NOW Conference, and presented my longest talk, almost 50 minutes, at the Toastmasters District 13 Fall Conference. This week I only have plans to speak once on Friday at my noon PNC PREP Speaks Toastmasters club.

I need to see how many speeches are on the schedule for Friday because I was thinking about completing the first project in the Professional Speaker manual, the Keynote Speech. The time alottment is 15 to 20 minutes with the goal to inspire and motivate. 

If there are two other speeches than I won’t have enough time to complete that speech. Then I’ll try to complete the fourth speech from the Humously Speaking manual, Keep Them Laughing, which only needs to be 6 to 8 minutes. This speeches goal is to tell a speech but tell jokes throughout the speech.

Starting with a Story

 Yesterday, I went to church with my family and the priest began to give his sermon. I love a sermon. Actually, I like watching a good sermon to see how a presenter in this case the priest tries to capture an audiences’ attention. In most cases it almost always starts with a quote, question, or a story.

Yesterday’s sermon began with a story related to the bible. It started off their introduction and lead into telling us about the theme of his sermon.

Why should you start with a story?

In Toastmasters, starting with a quote, story, or question is the preferred way to start a speech. I’m working on my first advanced manual speech to earn my Advanced Communicator Bronze award. The speech is titled, Warm up Your Audience, and the purpose is to start off your speech with a story to capture the audiences attention.

This week, I’ll be writing this speech and I will to present it in September.

Why I Want To Teach


When I finished from my graduate program I was interested in teaching as an adjunct professor at my local community college. I had a romantic vision of going back to the place where I started my education to help the students who are in a similar position and help inspire them to earn their bachelors degree like a community college professor did for me.

Teaching a course at community college is not about making a lot of money or prestige. I doubt I gain either of those.  It’s not the best use of my time if I’m interested in maximizing my hourly earnings. Teaching would provide a small stipend but it’s probably not nearly enough to justify the necessary time commitment.  Are the benefits to teaching enough to justify the sacrifice of my time?

What are the benefits?

There are a number of other valuable traits gained from teaching. The main value would be the opportunity to improve my public speaking and composure in front of a crowd. I’m sure teaching a weekly three-hour long night courses would be excellent practice. Plus, It would be a good item to put on my resume and it will allow me to improve my skills by teaching others what I know.

I think I’m going to apply and check out if there is an opportunity for someone with my skillset and what kind of commitment (courses a semester) I would need to give to the school.  Time will be the deciding factor on whether or not I try to go down this path.