Insights on the journey . . . .

Seven Secrets of Successful Segues

Serving as an event facilitator, coordinator or master of ceremonies is an honour, and doing it well is an art. The role requires an element of spontaneity, a measure of flexibility, a sense of flow and a bit of grace. But most importantly, it requires an understanding of what the role entails – and what it does not.

There is a distinct difference between facilitation and presentation. A masterful facilitator shines the spotlight on the presenters, drawing the audience’s attention to the details that make each speaker noteworthy, then shifting the attention, or seguing, to the next speaker.

Segues serve to “bookend” each presentation with a brief introduction and a concluding comment that flows easily into the next introduction. These links between speakers create cohesion and a sense of momentum for the entire event.


The Alchemy of a Great Leader

What makes a great leader? The answer is as varied as leaders themselves: A quick Google search of the term “leadership” turns up more than two billion articles. Amazon alone lists more than 60,000 tomes on the subject.

Great leaders have been classified as stern, empowering, intimidating, pioneering — in other words, all over the map. Is leadership a case of knowing it when you see it?


What is Your Club’s Wow Factor?

Is your Toastmasters Club a model for success around the world?

It’s a question worth pondering. Over the past few years, I’ve had the chance to interact with hundreds of Toastmasters Clubs. I’m always astounded by the innovation and effort of our members, but some clubs set themselves apart in truly unique ways.

How do they do it? They treat Toastmasters as more than a path to personal development — they treat it as a community. Members are valued and honored. Growth isn’t just encouraged, it’s viewed as essential to the club’s stability and longevity. Every single person realizes that they have something to contribute to the Club and to the world at large.

Here are some of the ideas that have propelled average clubs into trailblazing clubs. (more…)

What’s Your Superhero Word?

One day, I watched bemusedly as my 5-year-old grandson, Maxim, saved the world from an imaginary villain. He was busy rescuing humanity when I asked him, “Maxim, do you want to be a hero when you grow up

“No, Grandma,” he said. There was a pause. (Five-year-olds have such a wonderful sense of timing.) “I want to be a SUPERHERO.”

You can learn a lot from the children in your life. At that moment, Maxim revealed something important to me: Our culture has shifted. Today, it’s not enough to be a hero. Superhero is our new standard.


8 Helpful Resources to Spark Your Creativity

In public speaking or business presentations, passive is passé — but it can be tough to break out of a creative rut and find just the right phrase or hook to keep your audience engaged. Fresh ideas can be a challenge!

That’s why I’m always looking for new resources that will help get the creative juices flowing. Recently, these eight websites have been my go-to sites for extra inspiration and fun.

One Look: This is a one-stop shop for just about any word you can think of. Type in “bluebird,” for example, and you’ll get a list of definitions from 29 sources, plus a list of what the word means in various industries, professions, and casual situations (tech, medicine — even slang). You’ll also get synonyms, rhyming words, usage examples, and more.


Specificity Can Transform Words Into Actions. Here’s How.

Patricia Fripp, past president of the National Speakers Association — and a person who knows about clear communication — has a rule. If you attend one of her training sessions and use the words “thing” or “stuff,” you must put $1 into a charity pot.

Why? Because Fripp believes that unspecific language can ruin your message. She’s right. But I’d take it a step further: Unspecific language can leave you — and your team — in the land of undone.

Toastmasters are word aficionados, so you would think that specificity and carefully chosen language would come naturally to us! But it takes awareness and practice to break the generalization habit.

Here is a failsafe way to incorporate specificity into your everyday life and leapfrog common obstacles. Let’s start with a couple of common club scenarios.


What It Takes To Be A Champion

When I was a child and someone mentioned the word “champion,” I had visions of standing on the winner’s podium, wearing a medal and glowing with pride as the crowd erupted with applause. Now that I’m an adult, and more importantly, a Toastmaster,I know the word “champion” means so much more.

Championis a rich and complex word. As a noun, it highlights the leader, the most skilled or adept person in a competition. And, as a verb, to champion means to get behind someone or something, to lift up and empower.

The truest champions embody this word in both ways. Not only do they prove themselves to be exceptionally skilled, they also prove themselves to be deeply humble as they celebrate and empower others.


Mentors: Guides on the Side

Most Toastmasters have discovered that having a mentor is the fastest way to get to their desired targets and goals. Our organization isn’t alone in this, of course — corporations, for example, invest thousands into their own mentoring programs. What’s different about Toastmasters is that mentorship has been part of the formula for success since the beginning.

“We realize that the two most important factors in Toastmasters are Mentoring and Evaluations,” said our founder, Dr. Ralph Smedley. “There is no doubt that if these two are done well and there is a good mentoring program, your club will be filled with spark plugs ready to fire upon request. Mentoring and evaluations create enthusiasm and once you light that fire the only thing it needs is some kindling.”


4 Pillars for a Successful Conference

Planning a Toastmasters Conference is no small commitment — and it’s no small opportunity, either! A conference is a chance to highlight our efforts as an organization and to showcase our individual growth, as well. It pushes everyone involved to discover new ways of collaborating, new ways of communicating, and new ways of presenting information and insights.

Of course, great conferences don’t happen in a vacuum. They begin with great leadership. A strong Program Quality Director sets the tone for the event long before the conference is announced — and when the tone is right, it’s something everyone can feel in the air. It’s electric. It’s exciting! It’s an energy that is worth the hard work and long hours.


New Year’s Pledge

I’ve always been a planner. I’m a true believer in the importance of goals and constantly striving for new levels of success and understanding, but until recently I went about trying to achieve those goals the old-fashioned way: I set them, I created a plan with milestones, and I worked hard until I was satisfied.

A few months ago I read an article that upended my perspective (isn’t it a gift when that happens?). It was a story about Doug Conant, who took over the venerable Campbell Soup Company in the early 2000s. At the time, the business wasn’t doing well at all, and Conant had a huge task in front of him:


Four Key Questions to Develop a Character-Driven Life

We’ve come a long way this year, and it’s time to look back and see how we’ve grown. Maybe you’ve become an even better communicator. Maybe you’ve learned valuable leadership lessons, or taken on roles that you didn’t realize you could handle.

We can think back and measure our tangible successes. But what about our character? Character is one of the greatest gifts we get from the Toastmasters program, and yet it’s also one of the most difficult to define. It’s something that comes with time and patience for ourselves and for others.

I’ve learned that the most respected and admired members in our organization are guided by their own sense of integrity. It shapes everything they do. How many of us can say the same?

These people continually put themselves through a core values test before taking action. Their values are distilled into four key questions.


Appreciating Our Founder

I have an immense appreciation for the founder of Toastmasters International –  Dr. Ralph Smedley.  He was a fascinating man! Here are a few aspects of his journey and character that resonate deeply with me.

He was a pioneer in adult education.

Ralph Smedley was only 27 when he recognized the need for a public program to train people in effective communication. At the time, learning communication skills was only available through high schools and universities, so Ralph formed a club at the YMCA where he worked.

The academics of the time were dismissive, convinced that his club would prove ineffective. “That’s not the way people learn. They learn in (more…)

A Dignified Approach to a Dignitary

Between the leadership training I’ve received through Toastmasters and the training I received as a professional etiquette consultant, I’ve accrued a wealth of knowledge about hosting dignitaries.

During my tenure as a District Governor (2012 – 2013), or as an International Director I visited many clubs and districts. Time and time again, I kept having a similar experience: club and district leaders felt somewhat uncomfortable by the presence of an official and they struggled when it came time to present me to the members.

I can also remember how awkward I felt the first time (more…)