The Wall, the Wobble, and the Wilderness

a wall with a door in it. Toastmasters are always improving their craft. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes wonder ‘what was I thinking’ when we committed to giving a particular speech. Especially when it’s the night before and we’re panicking and hitting a wall.


Maybe it’s not coming together and we’re worried we’ll look like idiots.

Or maybe it’s the wrong topic that has us in a panic.

Maybe it’s just not quite the right fit. Recently, someone had one speech ready and then when the moment came, she felt inspired, and delivered a completely different speech that what she’d planned.


What if it’s about taking a bigger risk and stepping on to a new learning edge? What if feeling unprepared just means the process for creating speeches has changed from the first moment we stand behind the lectern and deliver (or read!) our Icebreaker speech?

This idea was brought home to me in my recent experience giving a speech about the Wall, the Wobble, and the Wilderness..

And one other W too. You can read more about it here.


Importance of the Icebreaker

Toastmasters Storytelling“I can talk for hours about my job or when conducting a presentation at work, but I can’t hold a personal one-on-one conversation for two minutes.”

Do you or have you felt that way? Many of us are great communicators when we are not part of the speech, presentation or story. However, your personal stories may be the best connection to your audience.

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.
– Dr. Howard Gardner, Harvard University

Talking about latest products, awards, achievements and advancements are impressive, but often they are cold hard facts. To connect with an audience, there needs to be a warm, soft story that talks to the heart of the audience.

According to an online article (, “When you tell a story during your presentation, you can potentially activate up to seven areas of your audience members’ brains, as compared to the two areas of the brain that you can awaken if you tell only facts and stats during your presentation.

The best stories to share are the personal ones. The ones based upon failures, fears, successes, learning lessons and struggles. Think makeover or transformation.

Icebreaker is a term which describes an activity that reduces tension and anxiety in a group while forging new bonds.

In Toastmasters, the Icebreaker is often seen as a way for new members to introduce themselves to the club. They are encouraged to talk about their life, job, hobbies, interests or how they found themselves at Toastmasters. It is presented to the new member as an “easy topic” for you are talking about something you know — yourself.

I, however, think the importance of the Icebreaker is more than an introduction to the club. It is an introduction on HOW to insert YOU into speeches. This is the most important baseline for all speeches, over hand gestures and vocal variety.

If you can get up there and speak from the heart, you win the hearts of your audience. Even if it is a business meeting on financial asset management.

What’s your thoughts on storytelling? How do you incorporate it into your speeches?

Additional Resources:




Are You Showing Deception In Your Speeches?

I am one of those writers that harbours a secret fear that someone, somehow will discover what has been recently entered into my search engine. Mostly because, well, it’s a little bit scary.

While researching 911 calls and transcripts for a murder mystery I am crafting, I stumbled upon a website dedicated to statement analysis. In short, statement analysis is determining if a person is lying or telling the truth by analyzing the subject’s use of language in 911 calls, police interrogations, news coverage interviews and courtroom testimony.

I know what you are thinking — pseudoscience. Okay. Okay. I’ll give you that. There’s a huge error of margin in this due to nerves, verbal ticks, shock, habits and cultural or interpersonal differences. You can take it or leave it.

Deception Red Flags in Toastmaster SpeechesAs a Toastmaster, I find it fascinating how our choice of words (including the number three) may have the opposite impact upon our audience as we intended.

As we learned in Project 4 “How to Say It” of our Competent Communication manual, “words are powerful. They convey your message and influence the audience and its perception of you. Word choice and arrangement need just as much attention as a speech organization and purpose.”

According to Mark McClish, a retired Deputy United States Marshal with 26 years of federal law enforcement experience, on his website ( “people’s words will betray them . . . The key is to listen to what people are telling you and to know what to look for in a statement.”

What are the deception red flags? Here are a few things McClish and statement analysts look for when seeking signs of untruthfulness:

The Number Three
According to McClish, “I have found that when deceptive people have to come up with a number they will often use the number three . . . (It) has become known as the “liar’s number.”

Story Breakdown

When a person is describing an incident his story will be comprised of three segments: What the person was doing BEFORE the incident; what they were doing DURING; and what they did AFTER.

Truthful stories will generally follow a pattern of 25/50/25 (before/during/after). However, deceptive stories, according to McClish, have a ratio of 35/50/15. They need to set the stage for their tale while trying to work out the details for the conclusion.

Question with a Question
When someone answers a question with a question (or even repeating the question), this is a stall tactic, as we know from Table Topics.

“Really”/ “Very”
The use of “really” as a descriptor can be deceptive for it is trying to add importance, stretch a particular area. “I hit him really, really hard.” Over emphasis without substance.

“You Know”
According to McClish, deceptive people use this phrase to tell you that “you know this.” They expect you take for granted what they are saying is the truth. However, if the phrase occurs a lot, it is a speech pattern.

Non-Committal Words
Words or phrases such as: “kind of,” “I think,” “I thought,” “I don’t know,” “about,” “like” and “sort of.” These distant the speaker from the event or his participation. Trying to recall but not really a part of. Not to blame.

In short, use clear, simple, vivid and forceful words that add excitement to your presentation while utilizing good grammar and pronunciation. Use concrete, specific words that communicate what you mean and simple statements that are easy to understand.  Avoid the red flags of deception.

Happy writing!




10 Speeches . . . And Then What?

Have you thought about what your Toastmaster goals may be? Where you want to take your “degree” in public speaking? Your major?

Me neither.

In fact, my goal was to make it through the 10 speeches outlined in the Competent Communications (CC) manual. That was it. Nothing further.

However, I now stand on the threshold of completing my CC manual, or Freshman Year at Toastmaster University as I like to call it and I can’t help but wonder, “And then what?”

I am not in Toastmasters to acquire skills to use in my career. I am not looking to gain public speaking experience so I can address town council or further charity organizations volunteer recruitment goals.

“And then what?” My mom, husband and fellow Toastmasters asked.

Good question. I will have to get back to you on that.

What is it I want to gain from Toastmasters? Where do I see this going after I finish my first two manuals? Do I want to work my way through the levels to Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM)? Attend meetings, fulfill roles but just be content with the social aspects?

Toastmasters Advanced Communications SeriesAnd then I found page 83 in my CC manual: The Complete Listing of the Advanced Communication Series. After completing 10 speeches, members apply for the CC award (Competent Communicator). With a “handsome” certificate, you will also receive TWO Advance Communication manuals of your choice.

Or, to bring back the university analogy, now I get to pick my major.

The Advanced Communication Series trains you for speaking situations you may encounter OUTSIDE of your Toastmasters Club, drawing on the fundamentals you learned in the CC. Each manual is a niche crash course (five speeches) to further personal life goals, such as:

Speeches by Management
Managers encounter a variety of speaking situations in the work environment. This manual offers instruction in giving briefings, providing feedback, persuading and inspiring an audience to accept change, and delivering bad news.

This one ups your career game, but it also shows you how to interact with people regarding sensitive issues. This can be used on the job, on softball teams or volunteer staff.

Communicating on Video
Video presentations require special preparation and attention to details. Learn how to present an editorial, appear as a guest on an interview program, host an interview program, conduct a press conference and use video to train.

I’m thinking anyone looking to start a YouTube channel or online webinar series would love this one. Also, many aspects of our day to day occurs on video, such as Skyping with the grandparents or vlogging (video blogging).

A good story enhances your speech and makes it memorable. This manual offers instruction in telling folk tales, personal stories, stories with morals, emotional stories and stories about historical events or people.

Stories are how we connect to those around us. This one is great for developing your own style for sharing at cocktail parties, family reunions or bowling night.

Specialty Speeches
Speakers are often called on to give different kinds of talks. This manual contains informaton about giving those considered most common: impromptu talks, preparing inspirational speeches, selling a product, reading aloud and introducing a speaker.

As a Toastmaster, you have a skill set many people don’t. Organizations, school and companies look for people who can get up, give a speech or host an event. Put your skills to use.

And many more . . .

As you work through your Competent Communications manual, think about the areas of your life, career or communication that could use a bit of strengthening. Look over the Complete Listing of The Advanced Communication Series to see what speaks to you. Find your major, minor or continuing education class at Toastmasters University.  Chart your own course.

After ten speeches . . . that’s where the real fun begins.

Oh, and for those inquiring minds, my “and then what” is Specialty Speeches and Storytelling.

What is a Distinguished Club?

2014 - 2015 Toastmasters Distinguished ClubIn a speech by our distinguished speaker PJ R., two questions were posed regarding Toastmaster’s Distinguished Club Program.

What is it?
Why does it matter?

While it sounds like prestige inside the organization, the award program is really about creating the best member experience for YOU!

What is the Distinguished Club Program:
The Distinguished Club Program is an annual program, running from July 1 through June 30. The program consists of 10 goals. The ten goals are broken into four areas:

Goals 1 through 6 focus on education awards. When members have the opportunity to reach their education goals, they are benefiting from the Toastmasters experience, becoming better speakers and leaders. These goals are:

1)Two Competent Communicator (CC) awards
2) Two additional CC awards
3) One Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB), Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) or Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG) award
4) One more ACB, ACS or ACG award
5) One Competent Leader (CL), Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB), Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) or Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award
6) One more CL, ALB, ALS or DTM award

When new members join, everyone’s experience is enhanced because our club has enough members to provide mentors to new members and fulfill meeting roles.These goals include:

7) Four new members
8) Four more new members

Trained club officers are better able to serve and support our club.Goal 9 is achieved when at least four of our officers (president, vice president education, vice president membership, vice president public relations, secretary, treasurer and sergeant at arms) are trained in their responsibilities.

9) A minimum of four club officers trained during each of the two training periods.

Fulfilling administrative duties, including submitting information on time, helps our club run more smoothly, which benefits members.

10) On-time payment of membership dues accompanied by the names of eight members (at least three of whom must be renewing members) for one period and on-time submission of one club officer list.

And the Award Goes To . . .
At the year-end, points for each of the 10 goals is added up. Based upon the total, the following awards (ribbons) are issued:
5 out of 10 goals: Distinguished Club
7 out of 10 goals: Select Distinguished Club
9 out of 10 goals: President’s Distinguished Club

Want to know how we are doing? CLICK HERE

Why Is It Important?
The Distinguished Club Program is a way to inject energy into our club. It encourages membership and personal development. As members set and meet educational goals, they develop confidence and critical communication and leadership skills, inspiring others to do the same. The club’s focus on individual and collective achievement also helps build team spirit and club pride that is infectious and self-sustaining.

Are you in?


Tall Tales & Table Topics Speech Contest (Oct. 10, 2015)

Sunshine Coast Tall Tales Table Topics Speech Conetst 2015Saturday!

This Saturday, Morningstar Toastmaters will be hosting a fun, high-energy afternoon of fascinating tall tales and impromptu speeches. Come watch and, naturally, cheer on fellow Toastmasters from the three clubs on the Sunshine Coast. Winning members will represent their clubs this fall at the division finals.

Guests are welcomed, encouraged. Here is a poster (.pdf) for printing so you can post it at work or forward to friends, family or interested peeps! There  also a jpg for posting it to your social media accounts (if you want)!

Date: October 10, 2015
Where: Harmony Hall (686 Harmony Lane, Gibsons)
Time: 1:30pm – 4pm
Suggested Donation: $3

For more info, contact Cathie Roy!

Thank you!

— Contributed by Weegee S.

Racing Time… or Not!

Written by Johanna R, VP of PR

Good Evening Fellow Toastmasters and new participants! ( A change from our usual Good Morning Greeting!)

It’s the evening as I sit down to write my thoughts about this morning’s meeting. My day went by quickly with a few unexpected incidents. Luckily, I wasn’t in a hurry, contrary to our theme for today’s meeting, Racing Time.

I learned that lesson first thing at the meeting. As Chair, Katherine shared the idea of grounding ourselves with a deep breath whenever we feel we’re racing time. Remembering to take that moment before our presentations is an effective habit to cultivate.

PJ gave a clear and thought-provoking presentation on Mentoring and what the mentorship/mentee relationship is all about. The relationship helps both parties learn and develop individually, together, and with the Club.

A case in point, my mentee gave me feedback on my Table Topics evaluations while we were driving back to her place on the way to my work in Sechelt today. Her comment? Not perfect…but good recovery. I get that!

Evaluation delivered the Toastmaster‘s way promotes constructive and kind evolution. I am grateful for learning how to give and receive feedback, and communicate ideas with freedom and ease.

Xinju’s second speech from the Competent Communicator was well structured and engaging this morning. The possibility of some of us teaching in China was alive and well, especially as we can just call her for more practical information.

Our Morningstars TM Club is a respectful and entertaining mix of established and new members. The various roles that we sign up for each week do indeed develop our communication and leadership skills. And it’s all done in an atmosphere of energy and laughter – laughter that was very evident this morning when Andrea as Jokemaster smoothly delivered the punchline of her joke.

Congratulations to Sheila who received her Competent Communicator and Competent Leader pins this morning, and to Cathie, who is our incoming Area Director.

Next week’s theme is Fear, the Real Monster.

Gestures Add Meaning

Written by Ben R.

Speech time at Toastmasters is usually 5-7 minutes so it can make the time more meaningful to use gestures to express some of the content or tone of the speech.

body language and gestures This can be done to deliver specific meaning without using words at all—a fist up in the air, or the praying position—or to enhance the meaning—wide open arms when speaking about a large fish.

In humorous situations, speakers can make discordant gestures against words—speaking of walking slowly while gesturing a running motion.

Most speakers tend to emphasize eye contact and facial expressions during speech delivery. Non-facial gestures or body gestures are a great communication tool and there are many types and ranges of them. Here are some of the techniques I prefer to use as well as some I am thinking of trying in the future.

  • Subtle head movements— moving left to right, tilting, or nodding.
  • Use of the arms for repetition of action such as rolling, waveing, or oscillating.
  • A hand shape—fist or separated fingers.

Unconventional movements can be effective in making some specific points. Consider an unusual motion such as turning your back to the audience, squatting, picking something up from the floor, or mimicking the specific motion of an animal or the state/orbit of an object.

Gestures can also vary in speed and degree.


  1. One way to try out gestures is in front of a mirror or window reflection to see how it looks and feels. It may trigger something new in your mind.
  2. I like taking a video of mine and enjoying the difference in my perception when I am speaking or gesturing vs. when I actually watch the video as an audience. You might enjoy that, too.

Follow your excitement for your next speech-making and I look forward to your next performance.

Spare Bits and Parts


“What do you mean spare bits and parts?” you ask.

Is it a car repair seminar? Is it a game show? Is it the use of those spare ‘killer filler’ words um and uh and so?

No. Believe it or not, it’s the Toastmasters meeting theme for Wed April 8th.

Here are some highlights:

  • Judy looked like a pro for her second time in the role of chair.
  • Sharon said YAY! when called upon for table topics. What??!! Not kidding.
  • Everyone groaned at the punchline of Larry’s joke. However, we never take Larry’s abilities as a joke teller for granite. Nope, not a spelling error. You had to be there.
  • Loretta did her Icebreaker speech and capped it off with a song she wrote. It was not rock and roll but it was about a different kind of rock. She’s made it her mission to preserve Gospel Rock. Always a pleasure to hear someone’s first speech and get to know something new about them.
  • Did Sandy’s feet leave the ground for a second or two during her speech Your Body Speaks? She looked like she was flying, the way she embodied what she was talking about.
  • We might want to keep our eyes on Sheila. She organized the Chamber workshop a couple of weeks ago. She organized and chaired the Area Speech Contest last Saturday. She did a superb job of General Evaluator today. Is there anything to the rumour floating around that she may be planning a coup?
  • Finally, is Morningstars soon to be SRO? With two more people joining, maybe we’ll need a mosh pit!

We’re back again next week for Rough Around the Edges. Can’t wait.

Piercing the Darkness

Written by Johanna R, VP of PR

beam of lightMorningstars Toastmaster’s Club ”elucidates” (word of the day) two ideals of Toastmasters – mentorship and learning together.

This week we heard speeches from our youngest member, and our oldest member, an illustration that learning never ends.

Liam, a recent new member, gave his Icebreaker speech with eloquence and engaged with his audience…us. He reminded us that activities are aplenty on the Coast, and that people’s participation gives us our sense of community.

Larry gave his advanced promotional speech to us informing us about the Gibson’s Legion and its outreach into the community. Larry’s speech called us to action so we’re going to meet up at the Gibsons Legion Friday Mar. 6th for a Club dinner. An evening meeting of minds for food and fun.

Well…hmmmm….so..uh..and so forth! We all still need to work on removing these filler words that we all use to fill the silence while we’re thinking. According to Frank, our Grammarian, it’s apparently better if all your sentences start with one of them rather than having them sneak up mid thought. Many thanks to Frank for pointing this out today. However, we all strive to remove them completely.

Evaluation is a form of mentorship, and is one of the backbones of Toastmasters. You will never find people who are kinder in their evaluations of each other; kind and constructive. What do we look for?

  • We look for speeches to have a point.
  • We look for supportive, descriptive, colourful language to make our point clear.
  • We look for a clear beginning and an effective ending.
  • We look for something memorable.

A tall order? Yes! Preparation becomes imperative as we craft and practise our ideas. We “pierce the darkness” and bring the light of insight, as our theme and Toastmaster Chair, Sandy, reinforced.

Even when telling a joke or responding to a table topic subject, the structure and word choices used are important to us. Greg delivered a fabulous joke playing with the word, “commontater” It was about a conversation among potatoes.

In Table Topics, Kay told a story about getting lost in Hawaii. Alicia about relating her experience to a historical event. Jolanda shed light (elucidated) on how what we focus on becomes what we perceive as important in the moment.


Morningstars Toastmasters has been asked to do a presentation skills workshop for the Gibsons Chamber of Commerce. Find out more here.

In addition, several members of Morningstars will be taking turns writing a monthly column on Communication for The Local Weekly. The first article appeared in the Feb 26th, 2015 issue. Watch for more articles in future issues.