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.


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

Thinking of Bold New Goals

Today, I’m attending the Toastmasters District 13 Fall Conference because I’ll be presenting in afternoon workshops on productive meetings.  I’ll be completing the Toastmasters seminar, How to Conduct Productive Meetings which is a 60 presentation that I had to cut 20 minutes to fit into my 45 minute time slot.

This has been a big goal for me for the last few weeks.  Four weeks ago, I started my speech every week goal and now I’m one speech ahead.  Now I’m thinking about my next speech for Friday’s Toastmasters PREP Speaks.  I’m not sure if I’m going to complete the fourth speech in the Humorously Speaking manual or the first speech in the Professional Speaker manual.

Completing a major speech towards my end of the year goal has me thinking about what other big goals.

Weekly Review: Seminar Week

Review of the Past Week

I did not start a side hustle last week but I did write a blog post everyday, presented a my longest speech ever, and had the best Halloween of my life.

Blog Posts Published

Mon: Must Love Data & Code: Read-Search-Ask

Tue: Build a Trail: Standing in Front of NO

Wed: Market Musings: Remembering the Financial Crisis in Tweet Form

Thu: Speech of the Week: Evaluate to Motivate

Fri: Finding Your Dream

Sat: Consumage: The Most Unrealistic Part of the Movie Zookeeper

Speech of the Week

Presented my fourth speech in three weeks during my Friday Prep Speaks Toastmasters Club where I presented, Evaluate to Motivate.  I wrote about this speech in my Thursday Speech of the Week blog post but I’ll give a brief summary here.  This is a prepared speech from the Toastmasters Club Success program, and it included Powerpoint slides and an outline.  The time allotment for the speech was 10 – 15 minutes.  I completed it in 12:37 seconds making it my longest speech to date.

Going Forward…

Blog Schedule

Mon: Coding Everyday

Tue: Build a Trail – Everyday I’m Side-Hustling

Extra Post: Election Day

Wed: Market Musings – Pop Goes the Market

Thu: Speech of the Week – How to Conduct Productive Meetings

Fri: Freestyle – Toastmaster for Toastmasters’ portion of the PNC Prep NOW Conference

Sat: Consumage – Repent

Sun: Review –  Where’s my Side-Hustle?

Speech of the Week

This week I’ll be completing speech 4 of the Toastmasters’ The Professional Speaker manual titled, “The Professional Seminar.”  At the Toastmasters’ District 13 Fall Conference, I’ll be conducting the Toastmasters’ prepared seminar, How to Conduct a Productive Meeting.  This project needs to be 20 – 40 minutes long.  The seminar I’m conducting is listed at an hour but I need to shave off twenty minutes to complete it in my allotted time frame of forty-five minutes. This will be the longest presentation I’ve given and I’m excited about completing this challenging goal. This is my main goal of the week and most of my energy will go towards preparing for Saturday.

Code Everyday

My goal is complete the Codecademy Python tutorial by the end of the week.  I’ve went back and forth on whether I should stick with this goal.  I’ve tried other ways of learning Python and I enjoy the language but I’ve decided to focus on Free Code Camp to really learn how to develop apps on the Full Stack.

Before I do that I want to complete this Python tutorial because I hate not completing something I’ve said I wanted to accomplish.  I want to cross this off my list.  It’s getting done this week.


Last week, I really wanted to focus on this but I got distracted with blog and speeches.  This week most of my time will be put towards preparing for Saturday’s seminar but this is my next highest priority.  My goal is to start diversifying my income now.

It’s time to put my head down and get some work done tonight.

Weekly Review: Side Hustle

This week I published the following posts:

  • Daniel Tiger and the Pope
  • Five New Words a Day
  • Must Love Data: Intro to Data Science Week 2 – Relational Databases, Relational Algebra
  • Speech of the Week: Excellent Communication Skills
  • Consumage: A New Cult on The Leftovers & Finding Your Dream

Completed my third speech in two weeks at Friday’s Prep Speaks Toastmasters Club. I presented, Excellent Communication Skills.

My plans for this week.

Create a side hustle this week. It doesn’t have to be a business but find some freelance work I can complete in my spare time. I want it to relate to my main concentrations of data science, programming, and technology. My goal for this week is to land my first paying gig.

Write a speech everyday.

Mon: Must Love Data: Write about week three and Free Code Camp
Tue: Build a Trail: Side Hustles
Wed: Market Musings
Thu: Speech of the Week: Keep Them Laughing
Fri: FreeStyle
Sat: Consumage: It’s Happening Again.
Sun: Weekly Review

On Friday, complete my fourth speech of my speech every week challenge. This week I’m going to write project 4 from the Humorously Speaking manual but I think I might try to present Evaluate to Motivate to complete one of the successful club speeches for Advanced Leadership Bronze.  The point of this week’s speech is to prepare a speech that opens with a self-deprecating joke, strings together two or three related jokes in the speech body, and closes the speech with a humorous story.  The speech should be 5-7 minutes.  Whether I present the Evaluate to Motivate or project 4, I want to have project 4 completely done by friday so it’s ready to go for the following week.

Code everyday on FreeCodeCamp.

Finish my current book, Pitch Anything.

Keep learning five new words a day.

Practice my Italian on Duolingo everyday.

Theme for the end of the year:  Write everyday, code everyday, and speak every week.

Thinking About the Power of Words

wordsToday, I’m thinking about the power of words. Two days ago, I was having one of those days at work. It’s month-end in a Finance group so we’re working on the monthly close schedule. Towards the end of the day an issue was discovered the needed to be fixed. This combined with our system running a little slow caused me to stay about two hours later than I originally thought.

After leaving work, I headed to the T stop to go home only to find out the T was broken down. Another train didn’t arrive for almost an hour which increased my almost hour-long commute by more than thirty minutes. I didn’t arrive home until 8:30pm.

I opened the door to my house to find my son, post bath with still slightly damp hair, sitting on the couch with his milk and a piece of bread waiting patiently to read a story before bed while my wife was changing our daughter in the next room.

Then I heard it, “da,” which wasn’t coming from my usually talkative son. “Da,” I heard again. Then, “da-da-da-da-da,” in succession. I walk over to my wife and little girl, who until today had not said a single word. My wife later told me that she had been saying it all day. I picked up my little girl and gave her a big hug and a kiss like I usually due after I get home from work.

It got me thinking about the power of words. On that day, I wasn’t having the best day. I got stuck at work. The T broke down on me. I got home really late. Then I heard one word from my little girl and it turned that day into one of the best days of my life. That’s why I’ve been dedicating so much time on improving my writing and public speaking. These are the two things that determine the amount of success you’ll have in life.

You can be successful by being a great engineer, accountant, or programmer but if you can’t articulate what you’re working on, creating, proposing, or trying to sell then you’ll never get anyone to buy your product or follow you.

Words have the power to change your life, company, or society. It only depends on how you’re willing to use them.

I’m thinking about a lot of different ways this article can go. The good and bad ways that written and spoken words have impacted our society. The importance of creative people in our society to create works of art that move us. It could also be about why I think a liberal arts education is still important, and why removing and discouraging it is a detriment to our society. I’ve written about the importance of liberal arts education in the past even though I don’t have one.

One of the biggest issues I’ve seen in my work experience is how other employees and myself have struggled to articulate ideas. It’s why I’ve worked hard to improve my writing and speaking.

It’s really the main purpose of this blog.

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.