Don’t Wait

Written by PJ, Morningstars Past President

From where I stood at the lectern, Wednesday’s gathering of Morningstars looked like another megawatt meeting.

Standing room only, it’s the new normal at Harmony Hall with so many energetic new members changing the face of Club 1248.

And five more guests!

And a guest speaker.

Reg Boaler from Richmond dropped in on his way to Las Vegas where he’ll represent District 96 in the International Speech Championships. He needs the practice, he says, although you could have fooled me. He blew us away with a speech titled, “Don’t Wait.”

As in, don’t wait to tell the people you love that you love them.

When Reg handed the lectern back to me (as Chairperson) I was so choked up I couldn’t thank him properly.

It’s a gift to be exposed to this calibre of speech craft, and I was especially glad to see so many new members experience first-hand how it’s done.

There’s a critical time in the orientation of a new member when they’ll either be positively infected with the club culture, or they will decide Toastmasters is not for them. I wish I knew why we fail some members. I’m going to address this mystery in a couple of weeks with an educational presentation about the dynamics of a member’s first few meetings.

Our newest Morningstars, like Shannon and Sarah and Margot and Mike and Sharon and Andrea and Weegee got to experience the changing of guard on Wednesday morning—a new executive elected for the term starting July 1.

Here’s the committee, starting with our brand new President:

  • President — Sharon L
  • VP-Education — Katherine S
  • VP-Public Relations — Johanna R
  • Secretary — Ben R
  • Treasurer — Larry B
  • Sergeant at Arms — Liam B

We’re still looking for a VP-Membership. If you see her, tell her she can run but she can’t hide. And why would you? In the words of Reg Boaler: “Don’t wait.”

While Toastmasters has always presented speaking opportunities, our new mission is to help members apply their communication skills to becoming leaders. The executive committee, which meets roughly once every two months, is a no-stress opportunity to practice leadership.

I mean, how hard can it be to run a megawatt club with standing room only?

And finally, “Don’t Wait” to log on to TurboBase and sign up for a role in next week’s meeting.

See you there.

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Don't Wait

Written by PJ, Morningstars Past President

From where I stood at the lectern, Wednesday’s gathering of Morningstars looked like another megawatt meeting.

Standing room only, it’s the new normal at Harmony Hall with so many energetic new members changing the face of Club 1248.

And five more guests!

And a guest speaker.

Reg Boaler from Richmond dropped in on his way to Las Vegas where he’ll represent District 96 in the International Speech Championships. He needs the practice, he says, although you could have fooled me. He blew us away with a speech titled, “Don’t Wait.”

As in, don’t wait to tell the people you love that you love them.

When Reg handed the lectern back to me (as Chairperson) I was so choked up I couldn’t thank him properly.

It’s a gift to be exposed to this calibre of speech craft, and I was especially glad to see so many new members experience first-hand how it’s done.

There’s a critical time in the orientation of a new member when they’ll either be positively infected with the club culture, or they will decide Toastmasters is not for them. I wish I knew why we fail some members. I’m going to address this mystery in a couple of weeks with an educational presentation about the dynamics of a member’s first few meetings.

Our newest Morningstars, like Shannon and Sarah and Margot and Mike and Sharon and Andrea and Weegee got to experience the changing of guard on Wednesday morning—a new executive elected for the term starting July 1.

Here’s the committee, starting with our brand new President:

  • President — Sharon L
  • VP-Education — Katherine S
  • VP-Public Relations — Johanna R
  • Secretary — Ben R
  • Treasurer — Larry B
  • Sergeant at Arms — Liam B

We’re still looking for a VP-Membership. If you see her, tell her she can run but she can’t hide. And why would you? In the words of Reg Boaler: “Don’t wait.”

While Toastmasters has always presented speaking opportunities, our new mission is to help members apply their communication skills to becoming leaders. The executive committee, which meets roughly once every two months, is a no-stress opportunity to practice leadership.

I mean, how hard can it be to run a megawatt club with standing room only?

And finally, “Don’t Wait” to log on to TurboBase and sign up for a role in next week’s meeting.

See you there.

Rough Around the Edges

Written by PJ, Morningstar’s Past President

The Toastmaster role is so challenging that it’s rare to see someone take it to a new level, as Sheila did this morning. Sheila decided to reinvent the Chair’s opening gambit.

Walking to the lectern, she launched into a story without so much as a Hello, without a single word of fanfare. The story was so witty and sexy and honest that I momentarily forgot where I was and what we were supposed to be doing there at Harmony Hall.

Turns out the story was an excerpt from Sheila’s personal memoir. (I’ll buy a dozen!) She depicted a younger version of herself, a person with a self-image that was “rough around the edges.” Which—Ta-da!—was the meeting’s theme.

If Sheila’s smooth experiment was an antidote to the “rough” theme, she succeeded tremendously. And what better place to deploy Speechcraft expertise than at the start? Beginnings are potent. We remember them. They set the pace.

I should know a bit about beginnings, since my most recent speech concerns “getting to the point.” Having rewritten the talk for four different occasions, I’ve discovered that getting to the point is a many-faceted thing.

“The point” is not only the core message of a presentation, but it should give the audience a damn good reason to invest valuable time in listening further. A classy start such as Sheila’s was this morning gave us the feeling that we were in the hands of a pro. Which encourages us all to relax. Which helps us all perform our own roles at our smoothest best. (Grammar police!)

And talk about smooth!

William ever so smoothly interpreted another author’s formula for success in life.

Katherine’s smooth report of her High Performance Leadership project (an executive manual) belied a lot of rough, tough work over the past nine months. Thanks, Kat!

And I give Kay special recognition for saying in her “Inspiration” that the iceberg that sunk the Titanic was obviously “rough around the edges.”

Okay, I need one more bit of clever word-play to close this piece—here goes:

Reflecting on Sheila as Chair this morning, I see a relatively new Morningstar who has come a long way in a short time. A little rough around the edges only a few months ago, Sheila has polished her skills to a degree that astonishes all of us. Of Sheila we can say without a doubt that here is one Toastmaster who is no longer a diamond in the rough.

Phew!

See you next week.

 

A Dangerous Silence

Written by PJ Reece

Who makes up these weekly themes?

And what was she smoking?

The VP of Education dreams up these themes at the beginning of the year. You can imagine what a tough job it must be—I gotta come up with 52 themes by supper time. Yikes!

It’s obviously a mind-bending exercise.

The Toastmaster is the first to get his mind bent out of shape. I say “he” because that was me last night preparing my opening remarks in which I introduce the theme. “A Dangerous Silence”? How did our VP of Ed come up with that one? She must have placed a handful of adjectives in one hat and a bunch of nouns in another hat and picked a pair at random:

Dangerous — Silence.

What seemed at first incongruous quickly took on meaning for me. As in “the calm before the storm.” As in “the eye of the hurricane.” Dangerous silence, indeed.

I recalled advice from the Toastmasters Magazine in which speakers are encouraged to pause before starting to speak. The term is “nesting.” You create a strategic silence. The audience shuts up, they bend an ear toward you. The moment becomes pregnant with possibility.

I recalled a quote by an early African explorer who said: “Nature, only loud when she destroys, is silent when she fashions.”

That’s it, you see—silence qualifies the moment of creation. Anything can happen. There are no guarantees. Dangerous? Absolutely!

I’ve heard of a deadly silence that precedes an earthquake. Birds quit buzzing, crows clam up. It’s not unlike the silence that befalls the meeting room upon hearing the footfall of the Table Topics Master as he or she makes their way to the lectern to inflict their ten minutes of torture.

Okay, so, yes, good—this is material I can deploy during the meeting, I thought. Dangerous Silence is a theme I can run with. In fact, it turned out to be a very successful theme, lending the meeting a unique tone and colour.

And isn’t that the purpose of our weekly theme? If I’m wrong, someone please tell me.

I wonder what next week’s theme is. Let’s see… where’s that hat?

Pick an adjective—explosive. Now pick a noun—molehill.

What fun is that!

You too can be VP of Education and bend people’s minds.

Dogs With Jobs — Whatever Next?

Today’s post written by PJ Reece

Congratulations to Sheila Cameron and Sandy Wrightman for winning this morning’s contests—Tall Tales and Table Topics respectively.

Here are two Morningstars members at vastly different stages in their development as speakers — Sandy an accomplished DTM and Sheila with just three CC speeches to her credit. From where I sat—first row—both of them took giant steps forward this morning.

Sandy Wrightman owned the stage with her response to the Table Topic question: “How has living on the Sunshine Coast influenced your sense of identity?” Sandy proved just how important a role is played by enthusiasm, presence, and crisp declarative sentences.

dogSheila crafted (for my money) the perfect Tall Tale about her husband’s dog. It started off mundane (what’s more mundane than a dog?), then established that the dog was bright, and before we knew it the dog was earning a living behind the wheel to pay off its debts.

I’m proud of Sheila! Not least because I’m her mentor. Unfortunately I couldn’t assist her with this competition because I, too, competed. Next time, I’m seeking her help. Seriously, her Tall Tale was a model performance. (We would be wise to film it for future reference…Club Secretary, please make note of that.)

Thanks to everyone who showed up. And thanks to those who got involved as judges, timers, and counters, and especially our Contest Chair, Johanna Rzepa.

Sometimes, at the club level, all the contest paperwork and process seems like overkill. But I keep reminding myself that at Toastmasters we’re always training for leadership roles in the wider community. And what a great environment is Morningstars in which to practice, practice, practice.

Speaking of which, next week it’s back to our regular meeting. The theme is “The Root of the Problem.”

Hmm… seems no one has yet signed on as Toastmaster. Trust me, chairing a meeting is easier than coming up with a winning Tall Tale!

Maybe Sheila’s dog would like to step up and give it a try.

 

Noteworthy:

The Area Contest on the 4th has been cancelled.

Open House Breakfast Meeting Oct 8, 7 am.
Guests are most welcome and bring a friend.
The Table Topics Contest will also be held at this meeting.

It's a Funny Thing

Written by PJ Reece

It’s a funny thing—how at every Morningstars meeting I learn something new. Which makes me realize how little I knew in the first place.

There’s so much to learn if I intend to master the art of public speaking, which I do. I want to perfect my delivery, however long it takes.

On the other hand, I’ve heard it said that Toastmasters consider no speech “perfect.” Always room for improvement. Well, I feel better already, because after fumbling my lines (yet again!) during my talk about “The Perfect Mother” on Wednesday morning, I’ve been feeling discouraged.

The good news is that my speech was a rehearsal for the real thing next week. Thank you, Morningstars, all of you, for your evaluation slips. You appreciated the humour, which is a good thing, since my mother asked me specifically to be funny. PJsmomYou can see in the photograph taken at her 99th that she thinks birthdays are a riot.

On the other hand, I should be careful she doesn’t laugh herself to death. That wouldn’t be funny at all.

In any event, I’ll be deploying a revised version of my talk in advance of toasting my mother on her 100th birthday. Think about it— one hundred years! With the longevity gene coursing through my veins, I have decades left to hone my talents.

The problem is, I’m impatient. I want to get it right—NOW! I have dreams of making a living as a public speaker, taking my show on the road. I see myself as a TED talker—don’t you? My theories of “how fiction really works” inform the mystery of the meaning of life. TED would eat it up, don’t you think? I see book tours, radio interviews, David Letterman, Jon Stewart…

On the other hand, who needs the pressure? How easily I forget that I’m an introvert at heart.

Having said that, I realize I should develop the extrovert within me, because, you know, balance in all things, yin-yang, yada, yada, yada.

Having just said that, it occurs to me that once I’ve become a paragon of equanimity, I won’t care if I master public speaking or not. On the other hand (all these many hands are making me dizzy) once I’m speaking from my “centre,” anything I say will be meaningful. You know how some people can read the telephone book with such meaning and passion it makes you want to cry.

I’m trying too hard, that’s my problem—trying too hard to get it right instead of being vulnerable and real and in the moment. In fact, that’s the “something new” I keep relearning at Morningstars week after week. You’d think I’d learn.

Now I feel terrible for boring you with this neurotic confession. You must be wondering how I manage my debilitating indecision. As we wound our way home after last Wednesday’s meeting, Greg Lewis was wondering the same thing.

“PJ, why are you wearing just one glove?” Greg asked.

“Well, Greg,” I replied, “the weatherman said the clouds were going to clear… and on the other hand, it might rain.”

It’s a Funny Thing

Written by PJ Reece

It’s a funny thing—how at every Morningstars meeting I learn something new. Which makes me realize how little I knew in the first place.

There’s so much to learn if I intend to master the art of public speaking, which I do. I want to perfect my delivery, however long it takes.

On the other hand, I’ve heard it said that Toastmasters consider no speech “perfect.” Always room for improvement. Well, I feel better already, because after fumbling my lines (yet again!) during my talk about “The Perfect Mother” on Wednesday morning, I’ve been feeling discouraged.

The good news is that my speech was a rehearsal for the real thing next week. Thank you, Morningstars, all of you, for your evaluation slips. You appreciated the humour, which is a good thing, since my mother asked me specifically to be funny. PJsmomYou can see in the photograph taken at her 99th that she thinks birthdays are a riot.

On the other hand, I should be careful she doesn’t laugh herself to death. That wouldn’t be funny at all.

In any event, I’ll be deploying a revised version of my talk in advance of toasting my mother on her 100th birthday. Think about it— one hundred years! With the longevity gene coursing through my veins, I have decades left to hone my talents.

The problem is, I’m impatient. I want to get it right—NOW! I have dreams of making a living as a public speaker, taking my show on the road. I see myself as a TED talker—don’t you? My theories of “how fiction really works” inform the mystery of the meaning of life. TED would eat it up, don’t you think? I see book tours, radio interviews, David Letterman, Jon Stewart…

On the other hand, who needs the pressure? How easily I forget that I’m an introvert at heart.

Having said that, I realize I should develop the extrovert within me, because, you know, balance in all things, yin-yang, yada, yada, yada.

Having just said that, it occurs to me that once I’ve become a paragon of equanimity, I won’t care if I master public speaking or not. On the other hand (all these many hands are making me dizzy) once I’m speaking from my “centre,” anything I say will be meaningful. You know how some people can read the telephone book with such meaning and passion it makes you want to cry.

I’m trying too hard, that’s my problem—trying too hard to get it right instead of being vulnerable and real and in the moment. In fact, that’s the “something new” I keep relearning at Morningstars week after week. You’d think I’d learn.

Now I feel terrible for boring you with this neurotic confession. You must be wondering how I manage my debilitating indecision. As we wound our way home after last Wednesday’s meeting, Greg Lewis was wondering the same thing.

“PJ, why are you wearing just one glove?” Greg asked.

“Well, Greg,” I replied, “the weatherman said the clouds were going to clear… and on the other hand, it might rain.”

Icebreaker Speeches and Other Acts of Courage

A Journey to the Centre of Elvis Pacheco
By PJ Reece

icebergElvis Pacheco delivered his Ice-Breaker this morning.

He told the story of a trip to London Drugs to buy flash cards for his speech.  Sounds humdrum, even boring, but wait…

London Drugs was just a ploy, a ruse, a strategy to reveal himself through three encounters en route.  Conversations with three people would tell us much about who Elvis Pacheco is.  This is storytelling genius.

Dramatists might call the excursion to the mall a “misdirection.”  We are led to believe that flash cards are the goal of the shopping trip, but it’s just a set up.  As listeners, we eagerly climb aboard a story that involves a journey to anywhere, be it London Drugs, the Kon-Tiki Expedition, or the Journey to the Centre of the Earth.  Elvis got us on board and then introduced us to his special world of prayer.

Flash cards?  What flash cards?  Who cares about flash cards when we’re discovering what makes Elvis tick—what gets him out of bed in the morning, and what inspires his daily plunge in the sea.

Through three encounters with people whose lives Elvis has touched, we discovered the philosophy that guides his life:  Let yourself go, lead a simple life, pray.

By the time we arrived at London Drugs, we didn’t care what he came shopping for.  What can a “drug” store offer a man who has “prayer” coursing through his veins?

The kicker to Pacheco’s speech—if you were there to witness it—was that he didn’t even use those damn flash cards.

They were the perfect “misdirection,” a subterfuge, a deception, a gambit to get us going in the direction he really wanted to take us—toward knowing the real Elvis Pacheco.

Well done, sir.

 

 

 

Custom Ceremony and Celebration

Merry Christmas & Happy Blandishmentarianism
Written by PJ Reece

Christmas 2013
Kay, Santa (Doug) and Sandy

Not only do I learn something new each Wednesday morning, but week after week I keep re-learning the best teachings that Toastmastering has to offer.

This morning, for instance, I was honoured to evaluate Christopher Kelly’s speech on “Decluttering,” during which I learned (perhaps for the first time!) how important it is to fake your way through a brain fart.

Only his second speech and Christopher shows a real talent for recovering from the mind going blank.  In the first instance, he reorganized himself by saying, “Let me tell you a story…”  When it happened again, he defused the tension by making us laugh about it.

Trust me, I know all about blanking out.  More than most!  And in the three years I’ve been a Morningstar, I haven’t managed my discombobulation with as much style as Christopher displayed.

What I learned was this:

The audience isn’t anticipating the speaker’s next thought.  No, we follow along.  We add up what’s being said.  If content is omitted, who’s to know?  Each of us in the audience, we’re empty vessels eager to admit whatever content is delivered to us.

Christopher kept on delivering and in the end his message was clear: “Clutter can prevent us from being our truest self.”

I spoke with Christopher after the meeting, and he expressed relief that I hadn’t trashed his speech.  On the contrary, I assured him, I was mightily impressed.  In any event, I explained that at Toastmasters we “evaluate to motivate.”

EVALUATE TO MOTIVATE.

Above all we want to encourage each other to speak again, and soon.  And it’s not question of blowing smoke up each other’s you-know-what.  Mastering the art of public speaking is, above all, a matter of experience.  In my experience, something magical happens over time:

We begin to feel comfortable while speaking.

We begin to own the space, and then…

We start to have more fun than we ever imagined we could while standing naked in front of others.

Post Script:

Arriving home after this morning’s meeting, I logged on to my computer to discover my “Word of the Day”— Blandish—verb, to coax with flattery.

Well, as Mae West said: “Flattery will get you everywhere.”

Flattery isn’t quite the right word to describe a good evaluation, but it’s close.  Furthermore, that’s not going to stop me from using blandishment (n.), especially when I can make an even longer word out of it: blandishmentarianism.

And better yet—use it in this blog post’s title.

Season’s Greetings to all.  See you January 8th, 2014.

 

 

xxx

Miracle in Mexico

Written by PJ Reece from Mexico

speaking in Mexico
PJ is second from the right.

There was a time when I might have begun this blog-post-in-absentia by apologizing for not being with you for the next four meetings.  But Toastmasters has taught me that saying “sorry” doesn’t serve the presentation.  Much better to push on with confidence.

To stand up with confidence—that just may be the most important skill I’ve learned at Toastmasters over the past three years.  Is the audience not nourished by a confident speaker?

Let me tell you a story.  It happened yesterday.

I was meeting with two other writers here in Mazatlan.  We were sipping our espresso cortados at a beachside café (sorry!) and discussing the annual Library Benefit event for which, this year, our writing group is responsible.  We are obliged to create some kind of literary discussion in which the audience can participate.  Since our critique group has no “leader” as such, who was going to moderate this tricky business?

After much humming and hawing and prevaricating from my two amigos, I replied:

“Listen, I’m not saying that I think I’d do the best job, but I will say that I know I can stand up with confidence.”

It’s true.  And yet, three years ago the very idea would have been anathema to me.  In fact, I couldn’t quite believe what I’d said.  I’d never said such a thing in my life.

But back to the meeting… Mike sat back in his chair and said, “Look, the palms of my hands have stopped sweating.  Thank you, PJ.”

Sue said something to the effect of, “Oh, God, what a relief.”

And there I am thinking, “Thank you, Morningstars, for this personal milagro, this miracle.”

We are indeed “EVOLVING TOGETHER—SHAPING OUR WORLD.”

Saludos!