The Tricks to Table Topics

Toastmasters Table Topics TricksTable Topics is a long-standing Toastmasters tradition intended to help members develop their ability to organize their thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic.

On Sept. 20, Morningstars Toastmasters Club will put the impromptu speaking skills of its members to the test with the Table Topics contest. To help you take your next Table Topics speech to the next level, contest or not, here are a couple of tips!

1) Own the Question
Whether it is in competition or during your regularly scheduled meeting, focus not on your thoughts but the question. Think, believe, that this question is YOUR QUESTION. The one specifically meant for you. This focuses your thoughts on what the speaker is saying . . . and not the panic-filled thoughts going through your head.

2) Breathe
Doing something that your body does naturally gives you time to calm your nerves and think about what it is you want to say. Also, taking a moment to ground yourself helps to ease the tension in your body and mind.

3) Go With First Instinct
Often times, our minds sift through a stack of ideas, vetoing this one or that as not being the ideal one. Go with the gut. Take the first thing that pops into your mind and run with it. There was a reason it jumped up and said, “Pick me.”

4) Pick Your Premise
This is when you seize your idea and make your statement. Form your opinion and share it with others. “My favourite holiday is . . . ” This gives your mini speech the beginning foundation and something to build upon.

5) Add Structure
Insert a structure into your speech that will help bridge the gaps between thoughts. Whether it is pros vs cons or three main points, this will help to elaborate your premise.

My favorite is the “Six Honest Serving Men” from Kipling’s poem:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

Answering the “What, Why, When, How, Where and Who” in my story help to trigger ideas of discussion that lead to a roughed out speech.

6) Share What You Know
Put a bit of you into each mini speech. Share your favourite quote, anecdote, view or experience. Pick something that helps to illustrate the topic and drive home your point.

7) Know When to Say When
Often times in Table Topics, we start off slow and then gather steam as our minds warm to the ideas running full speed through our heads. But knowing when to pull the brakes, summarize and take a seat helps to end your speech with punch.

Now is the time to put your Table Topics speaking to the test! Table Topics will beo ne of the fall contests held at Morningstars Toastmasters meeting on Wed., Sept.20 at 7am at Harmony Hall.

To sign-up to compete or to help with the contest, please contact our VP of Education, Neil Booth.


Grow Your Speaking Skills with Tall Tales Contest

Tall Tales Competition Morningstars September 20This Fall, Morningstars Toastmasters club will be holding a Tall Tall and Table Topics competition at Harmony Hall at 7 am on September 20, 2017, as part of the fall contests for Toastmasters.

Tall tales? What’s a tall tale contest? Why do we have them?

Glad you asked!

The Tall Tales contest was developed to help Toastmasters with one of the most important aspects of public speaking: storytelling.

Storytelling helps the speaker connect with the audience. By focusing on what makes a great story, how to enhance your story and ways to deliver a compelling story,  the contest helps competitors take their public speaking skills to a new level.

In short, the contest is a way for you to further presentation and speech development skills by creating a speech with exaggerated details.

While the story development is important, it is the delivery that makes up the majority of the judging points (55%). This includes vocal variety, body gestures, pausing and facial expressions.

A couple of rules and regulations you should know before entering the Tall Tales competition this fall:

  • 3 – 5 minutes in length (disqualification occurs at less than 2:30 or over 5:30)
  • Content is selected and written by the participant
  • Subject must contain exaggerated elements, hyperbole
  • Speech must have a theme or plot (no one liners or monologue)

For complete details on the contest, please consult the 2017 – 2018 Rulebook by clicking here. 

Interested in participating in the Tall Tale Contest on Sept. 20? Let our VP of Education (Neil B.) know. Want to chair the contest? Also, let Neil B. know about your interest!

Pump Up the Volume to Eliminate 'Ums & Ahs'

Speak Louder to Eliminate filler WordsAll public speakers struggle at one time or another with “fillers.” The “ums” and “ahs” pop up unexpectedly in our tales, stories, and demonstrations.

The most common advice speakers in training receive are to pause – let the words come to you mentally without reaching for fillers. But what if the cure was the opposite?

In “Do You Talk Funny?: 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker“, author David Nihill offers a suggestion for how to erase the “ah,” “eh,” and “buts” in your next speech. His suggestion: speak up.

“By speaking as little as 20 percent louder than normal, you will reduce the number of filler words you tend to use.” According to Nihill, it is harder to say the “ehs” and “ahs” at a pumped up volume.

While it may feel strange at first, but the higher-than-normal voice will seem normal to your audience. It may even enhance your audience’s ability to hear and understand you.

Next time you take center stage at work or in a Toastmaster’s meeting, pump up the volume and see how many filler words pop into your presentation.

Let us know if it works for you!

Happy speaking!


My Secret (Public) Speaking Sauce

Public Speaking Secret Sauce to Calming Nerves“What’s the best public speaking advice you have to offer?”

One of the District 96 Toastmasters I follow on Facebook posted the above question. I didn’t have to think long before the answer popped into my mind.

I’m going to share my secret public speaking sauce with you; the ritual that plays out in my mind before I take the stage to deliver a speech at our Toastmasters club. Ready for it?

I call my mother.

No, not really, but in my mind as part of a mental ritual to calm my nerves, focus my thoughts and connect with my awaiting audience.

Here’s the ritual in full:

1) When the chair calls upon the evaluator to share my speech objectives, I mentally envision myself dialing my mother’s cell phone digits.

2) The chair then reads my introduction, I imagine the phone ringing in my ear, waiting to connect me to my mother.

3) “Please welcome, Weegee Sachtjen.” As the chair calls my name and I walk on the stage, I can hear my mother’s voice, “Well, hello!” She has caller ID, and I can hear the surprise and excitement of the unexpected call from her eldest daughter in her voice.

4) During those few seconds that I take a deep breath and make my initial eye contact with the crowd, I can hear myself say, “Mom, so glad you answered, have I got a story for you!”

5) And I start my speech.

My husband inspired this simple ritual. He heard a practice version of a speech that I wasn’t “feeling.” The speech ticked off the “must haves,” such as gestures and vocal variety. However, it lacked my usual “rompish” touch.

“Tell it like you would tell your mom.”

The stories I tell my mom are nothing short of Tall Tales taken to the nth degree. My family has a flair for the dramatic and embellishments. However, it is also how I connect. It shows my vulnerable and authentic self.

In short, my mom hears all the tabloid stories of my life.

Why this is my best public speaking advice:

1) Speaking Rituals Help Calm Speaking Nerves
Creating a ritual can help ease you over the anxiety threshold that builds up as we prepare to take the stage. A ritual is the shortcut speakers use to fast track their ability to shift into speaker mode. It is a series of thoughts, motions and breathing techniques that help us transition into our speaker stance and confidence. Many speakers refer to “turning on” or “flipping a switch.”

2) A Room Full of Friends Beats A Room Full of Naked People
“Imagine the audience is naked.” Who wants to think of colleagues, coworkers, and clients naked? What if you felt like you were sharing a story, idea or thoughts with your mom, siblings, best friend or partner? It’s a bit more calming and a lot less awkward the next day.

3) We Are Most Vulnerable When We Feel Safe
We share our hearts, struggles, challenges, and triumphs with people who make us feel safe and connected. Imagining that you are talking to best friends or your mom allows your nerves to make the jump that the audience is safe and connected.

4) They Want to Hear Your Story and See You Succeed
Who are your cheerleaders? The ones who want to see you succeed? Who can you say anything too? Your audience. Your audience is on your side. Thinking of them as someone close to you reminds you of this important fact. Yes, it’s a fact.

Maybe calling your mom doesn’t work for you. Experiment with your speaking ritual. Find your own shortcut.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a phone call to finish.



Submitted by Weegee Sachtjen





Chair, Fellow Toastmasters and Welcome Guests

It’s the most popular opening for a speech, Table Topics response or the explanation of a role during a meeting.

Chair, Fellow Toastmasters & Most Welcomed Guests - Greeting

Why do we use this greeting? Glad you asked. Here are a few of the popular reasons Toastmasters use the greeting:

Attention Grabber
The greeting is to cut through the noise in the minds of the audience and bring attention to the speaker. Think of it as the dimming of the lights before the movie or play starts.

The greeting is a way for the speaker or role to acknowledge the audience. It’s a way to say, “Thank you for giving me the floor.”

Buys Time
It is often at the very beginning of a speech or role that nerves are at their strongest. As the speaker searches for the words or topic they wish to discuss for Table Topics, this brief introduction buys them time.

Establishing a habit, routine or structure often helps with nerves. Shaking hands and delivering the greeting helps a speaker to mental segway into their presentation or performance. It allows them to slip into their speaker groove.

At the Front? After an Intro?
When do we say the greeting? At the very beginning of the speech? After a brief intro?

Well, it depends on you and your speech.

The first words you speak to your audience lays the foundation for your speech. This is the point in which you will build and layer the various elements of your speech. It is your chance to grab the audience’s and pull them along on your wild ride.

For most of our speeches, it is recommended that you use one of the many speech opening techniques. This can be a compelling question, sound effect, vivid description or a shocking fact. Then pause, do the greeting, and ease into the remainder of your speech.

Note: Particularly for contest speeches, it is urged that the greeting is said within the first thirty seconds. The chair during contests remains standing until the greeting is uttered by the contestant. After thirty seconds, the chair will sit and some judges note the incident.

When the greeting is best at the beginning is when you are making a Table Topics impromptu speech, performing your meeting role or delivering one of the speeches designed to enhance the club experience (Successful Club, Better Speeches or Leadership Excellence).

Play with the greeting and see what works for you. It comes down to comfort level and the impact you are looking to make.

What are your thoughts on the greeting? Discuss in the comments below!

The Power in a Handshake

Toastmasters Handshake Meeting Protocols

If you have attended a Toastmasters meeting, you have witnessed what appears to be a “secret handshake.”  If not, it goes a bit like this:

  1. Toastmaster Chair announces a speaker.
  2. The speaker approaches the Chair, shakes hands and takes center stage.
  3. At the end, the speaker turns to the Chair.
  4. The chair approaches the speaker. The two of them shake hands and then the speaker takes their seat.

 That’s it. But the simple procedure carries more than just common courtesy. 

Why We Shake Hands
Shaking hands is how Toastmasters transfer control of the speaking space. The chair says, “The floor is yours” with the contact. At the end of the speech, the speaker transfers it back with an unspoken, “Thank you. Back to you!”  

But wait, there is more!

The handshake is a brief connection between two people that helps ground the speaker while demonstrating professionalism. 

A good handshake (hands are aligned, equal grip pressure and steady eye contact) can be empowering and reassuring to a new speaker. 

It’s a simple ritual that often gets overlooked, often at the end of the speech or role. Our thoughts are focused on the speech we just delivered, gathering our props, and enjoying our moment of “I’m done.”

Next time you step up to take center stage, take a moment to remember the power of the handshake for it is so much more than just a courtesy.

Morningstars Journey Through the Hourglass

Do I speak from the lectern or my chair?
What’s with all the clapping?
When do you do the secret handshake?

At my first Toastmasters meeting, I was a bit surprised at the amount of structure in a Toastmasters meeting.  There was an adherence to a set agenda, protocol, and etiquette.  The meeting flowed from one person to another almost seamlessly, like they were reading each other’s minds.

For someone like me who is preoccupied with a fear of doing something wrong, the silent order of business was a bit intimidating. As I found out, it is also a necessary element for the Morningstars journey. Or what I like to call . . .

Through the Hourglass - Morningstars Toastmasters JourneyThrough the Hourglass

The journey of Toastmasters through the program for personal growth resembles an hourglass.

When we start our Toastmasters journey, we are at the top wide part of the hourglass. At this point, the possibilities are endless. You are starting with eager abandonment, much like a child learning to finger paint. Anything goes. You are starting to explore, test your skill and boundaries.

After a few meetings and the Icebreaker speech, the Morningstar Toastmaster moves into the middle part of the hourglass. The journey narrows as members start learning new elements. Members incorporate advanced techniques into speeches and push their abilities with advanced manuals. The narrow focus (structure) creates a foundation to allow members to blossom.

Then, the member transitions into the bottom half. Creativity and innovation are unleashed as members tap into their beginner’s mind – but with and understanding of the structure, protocol and etiquette of Toastmasters. Members grow in new ways, new directions.

So, in short, the protocols, procedures and peculiarities help to create the solid foundation that enhances our growth.

Over the next few weeks, we will be highlighting peculiar customs of Morningstars to help you understand why our club does what it does on a weekly basis!

Deliberate Steps to Mastering Your Speaking Challenges

Practice to Help Your Speech - 13991275 - lady speaker in business suit with podium.

“Is there anything physically you do to ease the anxiety symptoms before a speech?” I was asked this by a fellow member of our club.

He then recommended I throw my arms wide, take up some space and that may help with my approach of the lectern.

It was kind advice from a different perspective. However, his suggestion got me thinking about how I practice my speeches — including taking control of the lectern.

How many minutes or hours do you spend practicing your speech? How many times do you recite your next five-to-seven minute presentation in the comfort of your living room?

Many of us aren’t born with the skills or confidence to take center stage. Public speaking is an art form and, like masters in any field, it takes a lot of practice.

A recent article in Success Magazine entitled “5 Deliberate Steps to Master a Skill”, suggests that “research on the science of peak performance has shown it’s not just talent and hours of practice that lead to expertise. Instead, it’s the type of practice one does.”

In order for to improve our speech delivery, we have to push ourselves outside the comfort zone. We do this by focusing on improving aspects we have found challenging. Meaning, instead of reciting the words of your speech, use those practice sessions to focus on improving an area you have experienced some challenges in such as hand gestures or vocal variety.

To incorporate deliberate practice into your next speech prep here are tips from Success Magazine:

1) Identify the goal
2) Identify the challenge.
3) Purposely work on improving this skill.
4) Seek feedback.
5) Do it again. Over and over.

Let’s take the example of how I approach the lectern. By approaching it with confidence and my shoulders back, it may help my initial confidence and fight off the slumpies (slumped shoulders). How I approached my new deliberate practice:

1) Identify the goal: My goal is to start a speech or any speech from the lectern with more confidence.

2) Identify the challenge: The anxiety that washes over me when my name is called and the applause starts.

3) Purposely work on this skill: Before each time I run through my speech, I take a deep breath. Throw my hands wide. Take up space. I practice walking to the center of the room and imagine shaking hands with the chairperson.

4) Seek feedback: This is a new practice for me. However, it is my intent to ask others for their perspective and suggestions.

5) Do it again: Sign up for another speech and practice it again.

You may not have been born with mad speaking skills, but deliberate practice can make it look like you were!


Elevate Your Evaluations

Elevate Your Toastmasters EvalutationsEvaluations. They are the strongest resource in the Toastmasters program . . . and the scariest.

Many people dread having to stand up and give an evaluation for one of their Toastmaster peers. Can you relate? They worry about “pointing out what is wrong” or being critical of a speaker in development.

Others feel like they lack the speaking experience to offer helpful, encouraging or supportive in evaluations.

I understand both the fear of being critical and second guessing your speaking experience — for I have been there. But I want to offer you a different perspective.  Let’s start with . . . .

Why We Evaluate
The purpose of evaluations is to help fellow members become better speakers and leaders. Everyone has different reasons for wanting to enhance their public speaking skills. Perhaps you are shy and want to connect one-on-one with members of the community. Perhaps you are looking to take your new product or idea to a wider audience. Whatever the reasons, member want two things:

1) To improve their speaking skills
2) To know how to improve

Cue evaluations.

Evaluations help to highlight the speaker’s strengths and areas where they could expand, grow or develop. Evaluations are a source of information that the speaker processes and uses to build their next speech. It is how we improve. It is not “being critical” but looking for the one tip, gem, that will help their next speech.

Evaluations are helpful, supportive and encouraging. They are the evaluators opinion — which means everyone can offer their perspective regarding of their Toastmasters experience.

With the club Evaluations Contest coming up on March 29, here are a few tips from the Successful Communication Series Workbook to elevate your next speech evaluation:

1) Show you care: let the speaker know your opinions are coming from a positive place meant to lift them up and encourage them.

2) Match your evaluation to the speaker: Where is the speaker in the Toastmasters program? How is their confidence? Insecurity? Offer up a suggestion that fits their level without being a jump out of their comfort zone.

3) Be specific and use examples: Praise and suggestions are more meaningful when given specific information and examples. This helps the speaker to connect your evaluation content to the content of their speech.

4) Be authentic in your comments and feedback. Honesty helps to promote self-esteem and help the speaker learn. Honesty is the most valuable element you can insert into your evaluation.

The best evaluations come from your unique perspective. They offer honest feedback (positive and suggestions).

Happy evaluating!

Naming Your Inner Critic

Naming the Inner Critic - Morningstars ToastmastersIn Toastmasters, we are trained to be great listeners. But there is one voice that could use a bit of the silent treatment.

The Inner Critic.

The Inner Critic is the little voice in your head that casts doubt on your speaking ability. It is the voice that second guesses your word choices or phrases in a conversation. It is the voice that rushes in with “Why didn’t you . . . ” or “You should have . . . ” before the applause even dies down.

It focuses on your weaknesses without offering any props for what you do right.

The Inner Critic robs you of your confidence and leaves self-doubt in its place.

The Inner Critic comes from comments from others or ones we have said to ourselves that have been internalized unchecked. By unchecked, I mean we believe the harsh comments without evaluating their validity or truthfulness. It is persistent negative self-talk that spirals in our heads, keeping us stuck in our Toastmasters journeys.

Last week, one of our newest members, Lowery O., mentioned his Inner Critic in an Icebreaker speech. In fact, his Inner Critic had a name — Harold.

Well, that’s interesting. Naming the Inner Critic.

Does your Inner Critic have a name? No? Perhaps it should.

The best way to break through the cycle of negative self-talk is to confront the statements. Is this the time for critical thinking? Is there truth to what the Inner Critic is saying? If the answer to these questions is no — it is up to us to tell the Inner Critic to pull up a seat and wait.

Or, what I like to do, is send her to the corner until she feels she can join the party with a better attitude.

But the Inner Critic is a part of you. You are addressing yourself.

Naming the Inner Critic helps to separate yourself from the negative thoughts and hear them in a different tone. You would not allow someone else to squash your dreams — hearing your thoughts as if they are coming from a friend helps hear it in a different voice. A voice you can confront.

Evaluate the thoughts for truthfulness and whether this is the appropriate time. Then, confront the Critic.

“Harold, you are not helping in this situation. I will be okay. I will be able to cope with whatever happens.”

The key is to know when to challenge your Inner Critic and know that thoughts aren’t’ always true.

I’ve chosen a name for mine — Ethel. I think this may be the start of a whole new relationship . . . with myself.