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






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!


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.

What Do You Do When You Blank?

What Do You Do When You Blank During SpeechesYou’ve practiced your speech in front of the mirror. In the car. In front of the dog. The dog has it memorized. You know it.

You’re sailing along smoothly. Then, all of a sudden, your mind goes blank. You look at the audience with the “deer-in-the-headlights” stare for what seems like an eternity as your mind frantically gropes for the next phrase.

Has that ever happened to you? What do you do when your blank? Morningstars Toastmasters weighs in:

No One Except You Knows What You Left Out
Over the years I’ve found that the more you attempt to memorize a speech word for word the greater the chances are you’ll forget something. Those instances tend to bring on acute panic. My suggestion is to learn your material well. If you’re doing a speech where every word is crucial use notes and stay behind the lectern. Otherwise if your mind goes blank take a deep breath and resume with what you remember. And always realize that no one except you will know exactly what you’ve left out. — Cathie R.

Use Lectern For a Sense of Grounding
If you are talking about speeches, I still use notes a lot.  They may consist of only a few words but they can re-establish my location of subject if I stumble.


I remember a surprise situation when I was introduced and invited to the stage for some kind of presentation.  After I had left the stage; the chair, in thanking me, compared his 10 pages of notes to the audience with my torn corner of the program on which I had made some hastily penned words but had left behind on the lectern.  That was ‘preparation’ and Table Topics at its best.  Also, it saved me by having some sense of quick organization and security.


I also come from what maybe an ‘old school’ use/reliance on a lectern for a sense of grounding; if and when those moments occur.  Also, I’ve used the simple pause, albeit ‘rather extended’ occasionally, to regain what has escaped my mind.  With or without apology, listeners will stay with you.


A blank mind can be a minor terror but practice and experience, especially in the safe Toastmaster environment, will prepare one for almost every memory falter.  I certainly have experienced it all. — Frank C.

Calmly Walk Back to the Lectern
I’ve seen pros just calmly walk back to the lectern where their script lies waiting for just such a glitch. I don’t think that having notes handy is such a bad thing. The key is “calmly,” I guess. — PJ R.

Use the Time to Pause
When I blank – I begin to desperately try to connect with what I am saying, eyes rolling up or closing to shut out the fact that there is a listener out there. My idea is to use that time to pause, smile warmly at my audience, hold my own hand metaphorically speaking, do-dropping surreptitiously to disconnect emotionally from all the other times it has happened and miraculously say something totally brilliant – much better than what I was trying to remember. — Sandy W.

Shift Topic, Keep Talking
Oh, I would love that kind of opportunity to talk about my philosophical thought on life and getting up(very big deal in my life so far).   So yeah I completely go into what I originally intended and talk as “emergency news!”   Or can talk about other things I like such as what I like to eat, and what combination of food I like to eat, or how much I like to eat.  I used to dream of swimming in a sweet whipcream and drink as much as I want.

In other words I would shift the topic of what I like and keep talking.  Then probably the original topic would come back then its a choice to continue talking about the new side topic or old original topic. — Ben R.

A Matter of Feeling Capable
I have no techniques. My mind goes blank the instant a Table Topics question is posed. It can be a simple question or a deep thinker. Doesn’t matter. I’m blank. Frozen. It’s not so much a matter of forgetting as it is a matter of feeling capable of remembering that I have a lot of knowledge, that I used to have stronger opinions, that my ideas are valid. And believing that I won’t be laughed at, ignored, invalidated, or interrupted. All things to work on. Looking forward to reading about the techniques of others–I could use a few!!! — Sheila C.

Wildrose Poetry Society: A Flower Bed of Inspiration

Wildrose Poetry Society

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. –Robert Frost

Contributed by Weegee S.

I thought the Wildrose Poetry Society was going to be a morning listening to poems, the musings of famous authors or fellow members of Morningstar Toastmasters.

I am happy to state that I was totally wrong.

Sure, we heard poems. We listened to Haikus, meandering prose on what is a rose, traditional Chinese five character poetry and even a way off-key rendition of a folk song. We heard poems about grief, a romantic spark that was almost missed, a man who has a talent for breaking valuables and the beauty of nature. We heard poems from famous Canadian authors, including those who call the Sunshine Coast home.  We heard poems that made us laugh, brought a tear to our eye, a tug at our heart and an acute awareness of the world around us.

But it was so much more than that.

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. —William Wordsworth

20150708_075558There were over twenty attendees that stood up before their peers to offer a glimpse into their heart, including a touching Icebreaker by Michael W.

Each poem read was a reflection of the person who made the choice to read it. Each poem recited bared a soul that some of us only get a glimmer of during our one hour and fifteen minutes together each week. Each poem listened to represented a time, a feeling or a situation in the presenters life that they wanted to share with the fellow toastmasters.

It is this vulnerability that connected everyone as they sat on Patricia’s waterfront yard drinking coffee out of the teapot Wednesday morning. We all could relate to a mother’s grief, even if our own was due to the passing of a friend, a parent or a pet. We understood the challenges of taking the “higher ground” and the call to “write about fate.”

For 75 minutes, toastmasters and guests sat in their outdoor chairs, leaning forward to listen to the next reader, much like flowers in a garden straining for the sun.

Thank you Patricia for hosting such a beautiful gathering . . . and thank you to every one who attended. You each gave us food for thought . . . and our hearts.


NEXT WEEK: Join us for “Sunshine Coast: Our Home”, hosted by Judy L., on July 15. Details in Turbobase or email us at