Have you ever wondered what Fellow District 28 Toastmasters think about being a great Toastmaster? Well, thanks to Sylvia Schultz and the First Timer Committee, Maureen Hurley, Christine McKenzie, Ron McKenzie as well as Fall Conference Chair, Nick Tsirlis, we have put up the 2012 District 28 Fall Conference First Timer’s Tips on Toastmaster best practices. Let us know what you think!
John Salalila, DTM, DG
Best Practice – Be Mindful of Our Core Values as Toastmasters
Toastmasters International’s core values are integrity, dedication to excellence, service to the member, and respect for the individual. These are values worthy of a great organization, and we believe we should incorporate them as anchor points in every decision we make. Our core values provide us with a means of not only guiding but also evaluating our operations, our planning, and our vision for the future.
Jason Schumacher, DTM, LGET
Speech Topics/Speech Tips
One of my favorite things about Toastmasters is hearing speeches on a wide
variety of topics. But regardless of the topic, adding some personal content
almost always makes a speech better. Sharing some of yourself with the
audience by telling a personal anecdote or self-deprecating joke will help to build
a connection with the audience and show them your human side. It can also
capture interest and provide a segue into a dry or technical content.
Leadership Tips –
It is difficult to lead or mentor people you do not know or understand. Taking
the time to get to know those that you work with, lead, or mentor is essential to
building strong relationships and being able to motivate them to achieve their
goals and the team’s goals. Ask questions to understand people below the
surface level. Find out how you can help them to achieve their goals (and do it).
Find ways for them to contribute to the club that capitalize on their strengths or
interests. Leadership is not generic.
Table Topics Tips –
The goal of Table Topics is to encourage somebody to think on their feet
and develop strategies to deal with the fear and the inevitable situation of
not knowing what to say – it is not to stump or terrify speakers. Ultimately,
the questions should be at the level so participants feel they can answer the
question and do not need to speak off topic; it might be appropriate to give easier
questions to members who have a difficult time with Table Topics. Remind
people that they can ‘sidestep’ the question, but the challenge, growth, and
fun comes from answering the question asked. Also, I discourage calling for
volunteers – those that volunteer are usually the people who need the least
Maureen Hurley, DTM
Most memorable speech: Think about who inspires you and why? Then decide if you want the audience to
know, think or feel about this subject. Tell the audience how you were inspire,
why you were inspired and what action you took because of it.
Speech Tip: As Daren LaCroix has said “Stage time, Stage time”, make sure that
if you are not doing a manual speech (and all speeches are manual speeches)
you do table topics or some other speaking role such as General Evaluator, or
evaluator at every meeting as much as possible.
Member recruitment: Recycle TM magazines by stapling a flyer to the inside of the magazine and drop it off at the doctor, dentist and beauty salon.
Best Practices Tips –
It is important to always sharpen the saw.
Once you have done the CC manual make sure that you have a second CC
manual always on the go. As you progress through the advanced manuals throw
in a CC speech every once in a while. The skills developed in the CC manual are
the basic skills you will always need.
Sheryl Kubiak, DTM, PDG
Speech Topics/Speech Tips –
1) I find the best speech topics are drawn from real life events. Sometimes, even
the smallest thing that has happened in your life can be made into a speech.
Don’t limit yourself! Keep a notebook handy at all times and write things down as
2) No one knows you’re nervous unless you tell them!
Sylvia Schultz, ACG, ALB
1. Speech Topics/Speech Tips –
The most memorable speech that I presented was Project #10, “Inspire
Your Audience” in the Competent Communication Manual.
This was a speech I will never forget. Why? It was very personal therefore,
very easy to remember. I spoke with passion because this speech was so
personal. I used music that moved me and displayed meaningful props.
If your speeches are based on your life’s experiences, good or bad, these
are the speeches that require very little or no memorization because you
will be speaking from your heart.
Leadership Tips –
In order to make our meetings fun, I have tried to make our meeting themes
positive. For example, if the theme appeals to our members personally,
i.e., “Books That Have Inspired You” or “The Funniest Movie You Have Ever
Seen”, these themes will dredge up fond memories for your members as well as
lots of laughs.
We also have a “Snack Master”. Someone assumes this role each week and
brings in something for us to snack on during our built in five – 10 minutes break
– “if you feed them they will come and keep coming”. The snack can be .also
based on the theme. For example, one night our theme was Fall Colours. The
Snack Master brought cupcakes with the most beautiful shades of orange, red
and yellow coloured icing I’ve ever seen.
Table Topics –
In Project 5, Your Body Speaks, I have run Table Topics “Charades”.
I went over the very simple rules of the game Charades which are available on
the internet. Just Google Charades rules.
The room was divided into two teams or more depending on the size of your
club. I created the titles to be acted out. The Table Topic participant is given a
title (could be a book title, a movie title, a famous quote, or anything you want). I
have kept our Charades very simple by using mostly one-word movie titles like
“Argo”, “Taken”, or “Marilyn”. If a participant is having difficulty, I’m there, as
Table Topics Master, to whisper ideas in their ear.
The object is for the Table Topic participant to “act out” or convey their message
by using gestures and facial expressions and, of course, the Table Topic
participant cannot speak.
The team that took the least amount of time to guess their titles was declared the
winner. It is a different way to do Table Topics and it is FUN!! This proved to be
so popular that it was done more than once.
This Table Topic works well with Project 5, “Your Body Speaks”. It reinforces
the importance of body movement, facial expressions and eye contact to
express the message.
Best Practices –
1. Always speak from your heart.
Passion and enthusiasm go hand in hand with heartfelt speeches.
2. I’m a visual learner and I always appreciate speeches that use appropriate
props. If you’re doing a speech on gardening, display garden tools, a potted
plant or gardening gloves. Paint a picture with your words and also show me
what you’re speaking about.
3. Use the One-hour Power method of preparing your speech found in the
Toastmaster Magazine about a year ago.
Time yourself for one hour and do the outline of your speech in point form –
hook your audience with your introduction, write down two to three points in
the body of your speech to illustrate your message and a strong conclusion
which has a takeaway message for your audience. Your speech outline
doesn’t have to be perfectly written. Consider it as your outline only. This
method has saved me so much time in my speech preparation.
4. One of the best Table Topics Tips I’ve ever heard is if during Table Topics,
you hear a fellow member draw a topic to speak on that you wished you
had drawn, then make that Table Topic your next speech. I have to credit
Maureen Hurley with this gem.
Nick Tsirlis, CC, CL
Most clubs perform a “push” strategy. They have a typical agenda and try
to fill in the blanks as a way to have a meeting that is the same as
previous meetings. Members then get bored because they know what to expect
at each meeting.
Rather than focusing on consistent homogeneous regular meetings, focus on meetings worth having. In other words, create an environment that is designed to “pull” people to the meeting rather than fill in the blanks.
At Speakers Club, we have invited top speakers come as a one-time event.
One example is inviting Gary Mull, a past Toastmasters International
Director, to speak. We also use a segment called Coaches Corner to help
current members with their next speech so that we continue to have speakers
at each club meeting.
Best Practice Tips
When you learn a speaking technique, whether from a mentor or another
speaker, immediately commit to implementing that technique in your next
speaking engagement. Speed of implementation is a best practice in growing
as a Toastmaster.
Marilyn Albee, DTM, PDG and Al Albee, DTM
Speech Topics –
1. What do women carry in their purses? Everything but the kitchen
Props for this speech included a purse, the contents AND, at the end a picture of the kitchen sink.
2. Driving habits. This speech was both humorous and serious
about what goes on around us while we are driving. Meant to
encourage good driving habits or at least avoid bad habits.
1. “Shhhhhhh!” Be careful what you say
2. “House Rules” Rules to live by and to raise your kids. Serious
with a humorous twist.
3. “Let’s get organized” Help to simplify your life.
- Do what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular
- Make sure everyone is greeted – members and guests
- Keep member’s needs in mind
- Food – the club that eats together, stays together
- Have fun, but always make sure everyone knows that you are serious about
- helping members improve.
- Keep in contact, especially with members who have not attended in a while.
- Make sure there is a social aspect to your club.
Make it your club culture to volunteer. On the rare occasion that members
are reluctant then call on attendees who have no other role or only small
Al – Attend meetings regularly, have fun, make it meaningful
Marilyn – Don’t try to do & control everything; however, always be ready to step
in when needed. Join more than one club, including at least one advanced or
Nancy Zychowicz, PDG, DTM
Speech Topics/Speech Tips – for example, what was the topic of the speech that you presented that you found most memorable? How do you decide on a topic for a speech? What prop or props did you find the most effective in a speech of your own or a speech you heard?
Speech topics are all around you—in your day-to-day life, your memories, the people you know, the stories you know, your innermost thoughts/ideas/goals—and a great deal of this information can be presented in a way that’s interesting and meaningful to your audience. That last part of being “interesting and meaningful to your audience” is of paramount importance, and must always be kept in mind when selecting your topic.
Most memorable speech: On the topic of organ donation, a speech titled “Emily’s Story.” I told a first person story from her point of view w/ a child’s voice, as she struggled with becoming ill, understanding she needed a new heart, how sad her parents were, and ultimately knowing she was going to heaven. Interspersed (I stepped to the side and changed to serious adult voice) in her story were comments, statistics, and add’l info on the lack of available organs, and the number of people who die each year while awaiting a transplant. It ended w/ a call to action to become an organ donor.
Props: Most important criteria: does the prop enhance the speech, make it more meaningful/memorable/engaging? I recently used two human props at the District Executive Council Meeting. One represented the V.P. of Education, the other person the V. P. of Membership. I had them link arms, and then presented “around” them as I pointed to important inter-relationship between the two in membership acquisition, member education goals, membership retention and member satisfaction.
Speech Tip: Purposeful movement. It’s easy to get caught up in the “I must use the entire speaking area” or “I need to move to keep their attention” or “Movement is a requirement of the speech.” Instead: Does it enhance the speech, make it more meaningful/memorable/engaging and/or serve a particular purpose or underscore/emphasize a specific point? Do not move for just the sake of moving, as it can be a major distraction and undermine the effectiveness of your presentation.
Leadership Tips – for example, how do you, as a leader, ensure you and your members will have fun at your meetings? What have you or your club done that has been successful in the recruitment or retention of members?
Fun: Don’t hesitate to “shake up the agenda.” Theme meetings; backwards meetings (they’re a hoot!!); grab-bag meetings (everyone comes prepared to do everything, and picks their assignment “out of the hat” at the start of the meeting); speech marathon meeting (eliminate many other aspects, possibly including TT, allowing for 3-4-5 speeches & evaluations). These are but a few of the many ways to spice up a meeting and enhance the fun for everyone.
Recruitment: If the guest did not join that night, consider one-on-one follow up via telephone—yes, telephone [you did secure telephone & e-mail contact info when they visited, right?] Depending on how the conversation goes, possibly offer to meet the guest for a coffee or tea @ their convenience [come prepared w/ the membership application]. Many times there are issues/concerns that are more easily shared during a phone or in-person conversation. These can be addressed, make the guest comfortable, and can result in a new member in the process!
A struggling club implemented this approach during the last two months of the Toastmasters year, and was successful in signing up 3 out of 3 new members—all with that individual follow-up approach!
Table Topics Tips –
How does your club get members to willingly volunteer to participate in Table Topics? What was the best Table Topic that resulted in thought-provoking responses or tons of laughs?
Participation: Many clubs use the “Army volunteer” method—simply calling a person’s name, asking them to come to the front of the room, and posing the question @ that time. Note: if this method is used, make it clear they have an opportunity pause & think before responding—they don’t have to start speaking immediately.
TT Laughter Exercise: Gather a group (3-5 people works) in the front of the room. Line them up side-to-side. The first person starts off with any kind of a sentence, e.g. “Once upon a time there was a princess.” The next person continues the story w/ a sentence: “She lived in a caste, deep in the woods.” The next person: “The castle was surrounded by a mote and guarded by dragons on all sides.” And so on, and so forth. The purpose is to advance the story, not knowing where the next person’s contribution will go. It’s fun, unexpected, creative, and yet taps into the very essence of what Table Topics is designed to do—think on our feet in response to information provided!
Best Practices Tips – If you could only share one of your Toastmaster Best Practices what would it be?
Use your experience here at the conference as an opportunity to: meet & greet new people + gather new ideas.
Meet & greet: Smile, extend your hand for a firm handshake, and introduce yourself.
Approach someone you don’t know and introduce yourself.
Sit next to a stranger in a workshop, introduce yourself.
During Friday Fun night, at the Opening Session, at the luncheon and at the banquet: sit with people you don’t know—and yes, introduce yourself!
Start conversations. “What do you do when you’re not doing Toastmasters?”; “Why did you join Toastmasters?”; “What’s your favorite part of being a Toastmaster?”; “What club do you belong to?” [who knows, you may want to visit!])
Gather new ideas:
Take lots & lots of notes: when listening to the keynote speaker; during all the workshops; when the C&L recipient speaks—at every opportunity!
When you return home, you’ll find nuggets and pearls of information. You’ll find them useful in your life. You’ll also find them useful for yourself as a Toastmaster, and in your club experience and for the benefit of your fellow Toastmasters as well.
Heather Lane, DTM
Speech Topics/Speech Tips –
How do you decide on a topic for a speech?
Speech topics are around you every day. They involve things you do, think, and
experience. It is always best to use your own experiences because you know
them well. If you use the experiences of others be careful not to use names or
embarrassing experiences that can be attributed to them.
What prop or props did you find the most effective in a speech of your own or a
speech you heard?
I don’t usually use props but on the rare occasion I did they were very simple props
like a blood pressure cuff, a clothes iron, etc. I believe that I can paint an effective
picture with words and gestures.
Leadership Tips –
In my opinion, the recipe for having fun at meetings is to have well attended,
well run meetings with exciting, energetic members, good speeches, and positive
What have you or your club done that has been successful in the recruitment or
retention of members?
To recruit new members we primarily use word of mouth, with some free local
To retain members, meetings must be vibrant. Use my recipe for having fun at
meetings. When you have an open house, invite members from other clubs to
assist. The unspoken code of ethics is for them not to recruit the guests attending
your open house.
Table Topics Tips –
First we focus on the leadership (CL) track so that new members are kept aware,
then we encourage them to aspire to be TT Champion speaker since we’ve had on
in our club before, and finally we ask for volunteers and tell them that we’ll take
the liberty to “volun-told” them.
When I was asked to be contest Toastmaster…. At first I kept saying … Wow, can I do this? I am not worthy….Then I realized I needed to change my message … I started saying …. I’m excited!!! I did it! And had fun….!
Instead of assigning a person or persons to greet guests at the door,
create a culture in which it is known that all members are responsible for
greeting guests informally, either before the meeting, during the break or
after the meeting. By virtue of being greeted by numerous folks, the guests
feel especially welcomed, get a better sense of who the club members
are, and almost always comment on “what a friendly club” meeting they
have attended. This is also a powerful tool in moving folks from guests to
My most memorable speech? Against a dramatic set-up I hid a lighted candle
on the table before me, only for it to start the box it was in on fire! Yet, since
it was Toastmasters, I received encouragement and learned a lot. The take
away: Toastmasters is the best place I know to take risks (though hopefully
not dangerous ones!) The safe environment created by support and applause
always makes it ok to try something new — and that is how we grow.
Table Topics is the part of the meeting where we can usually count on
laughter. While there can be serious topics, or serious responses to
seemingly humorous prompts, let it be known in your club that free ranging
thought and humor are acceptable, even encouraged, in Table Topics. Many
humorous ideas come via folks’ PowerPoint slides, everything from photos of
strange antiquities, or bizarre (to most of us!) art, to unusual juxtapositions
of objects, all of which generate free thinking responses that can go down
unusual paths that lead to crazy and fun responses.
Make Table Topics into a debate. Select debate topics of your own choosing
or look online for some ideas. These can be topics that are current or crazy
ideas from your imagination. Choose two folks to sit in chairs that have been
placed in the front of the room. Read the issue. Ask one person to stand
and speak on the “for” side of the given topic, after which the other stands
to present the “against” side. Choose two more people with a new issue and
the same process. Different, interesting and fun!
As Table Topics Leader, take note during introductions of those folks who are
present who do not have roles, writing down their names. Include the names
of guests. These are the folks you will call on during Table Topics to ensure
that as many folks as possible get a chance to speak during a meeting.
Consider having theme meetings: costumes for Halloween; Hat Day
where hats will figure into Table Topics; backwards meetings, starting with
adjournment and going backward from there (evaluations come before the
speeches); potlucks on club contest nights, as a few examples.
Harold Vroman, CC, ALB
Sue Schroeder – DTM
Speech Topics/Speech Tips –
Audience wants to hear a speech they can relate to or learn from, that has a
take away message, “WIFM.”
When choosing a topic: talk about what you know, what you are an expert in.
Who is your audience? Speak about a topic they will find interesting.
Use props that can add to the topic but not detract from it. They shouldn’t
take the attention away from you and your speech. Ensure they are set up
ahead of your speech, have a helper or have the SAA help you either before
you speak or, if needed, during (handouts, flip chart, etc.)
Leadership Tips –
Meetings should be educational but not too serious. Have fun, include
everyone. Be encouraging.
Member introductions at the beginning of the meeting allow everyone an
opportunity to speak and to learn a little about each other. President can
prepare a question and members and guests can answer the question during
Theme meetings are a way to have fun and may help members with speech
Having a time for networking before, during or after the meeting helps
members to get to know each other.
Food is always an ‘ice breaker’ Have a snack at the meeting or at special
“Friendly” competitions between members to complete speeches or projects
in the CL manual are good.
Try to have notices of meetings posted around town and published in the
weekly local newspaper.
Competitions between members to bring in guests
Recruitment and welcoming guests is everyone’s job, not just the V.P. of
Membership Contests in conjunction with Toastmasters three membership
drives each year where members are awarded points for inviting guests,
signing up guests, completing projects and having a nice prize at the end of the contest.
Table Topics Tips –
If Table Topic questions are not too difficult but have a dimension of fun, members
are eager to participate. Ensure that an explanation of Table Topics is given before
so guests know what to expect.
Best Practices Tips –
Welcoming Guests and members! Make them feel special/important,
Welcome them/comment on their attendance at the start of the meeting
and give them a ‘take-away” (candy with your club’s info) at the end of the
Giacomo Rovere ACS, ALS
One way to retain members would be to send out emails to
retain members who have missed more than two meetings is saying
how we missed them and hope all is well by an e-mail.
One way to have fun is to, attach little decorations to table topic slips,
e.g. plastic fall leaves for fall topics.
Attach little Christmas balls to ID cards with a table topic inside.
The speaker gets to keep the attachments.
Corey Wood, EIT, ACS, ALB
Division I Governor 2012-13, District 28 Toastmasters
Speech Topics/Speech Tips –
Topic Selection: What are your hobbies? What do you do for work? What do you
do for fun? Where have you been? Where are you going? Who do you look up to?
Ask you self simple questions like these and write down ALL answers that come
to mind. When you see a table topic and think “I have the perfect answer for that!”
or “I wish I got that topic!” write it down too. If you don’t write them down, you
are likely to forget. If you do write them down, you are unlikely to ever run out of
Write a Speech Outline:
- – Intro
- – Point form including key phrases (specifically something to grab the audience’s attention)
- – 2 – 4 Body points (depending on length: 3 max for a 5 – 7 minute speech)
- 2 – 5 sub points supporting each main point
- You may include a few key phrases, but writing word for word requires extensive rehearsal time to avoid forgetting the exact wording and often leads to more nervousness.
- Point form including key phrases
- Good idea to include a summary and/or tie-back to intro for most speeches
Leadership Tips –
Themed meetings can be a good change of pace for a club that rarely do them.
Those who eat together, stay together. Having gatherings before/after meetings
to socialize or eat can significantly increase the involvement of members. My
home club has members gather after almost all meetings to eat or have a couple
drinks. There are some members who go every week, and others that go when
they can, but those who take part in the social side of the club tend to also be
more involved in the club and progress faster.
Table Topics Tips –
Atypical table topics can be used both to challenge experienced Toastmasters,
and to help make newer (or more nervous) feel more comfortable. For example,
having multiple difficulty levels that the speaker can select, partnered topics
where a less experienced Toastmaster begins and the more experienced
Toastmaster must continue and conclude the topic, etc.
Table topics are just a short speech. The best responses have an intro, body, and
conclusion. Try to use your thinking time to decide on an intro, 1-2 body points,
and a conclusion.
Try asking members before the meeting to volunteer for Table topics. Ask
everyone and take note of who is willing. Read a topic then select someone from
your list of willing volunteers.
Best Practices Tips –
Always have a goal and make progress towards it. Set milestones, target dates,
and write it down. From my experience, a member attending one meeting
per week progresses best by doing one speech every 4-6 weeks. That’s
approximately one communication track award per year. This keeps them sharp
(they don’t take so long as to start forgetting what they’ve been learning or falling
out of practice), and allows them to take the time to learn by watching others and
listening to their evaluations.
Artisha Lawson, ALB, CL
Steve Miller –
Topics: Family stories: stories my Dad told me, stories my kids liked me to tell
them about when I was young
Tip: Prepare the Opening and Conclusion well.
Topics: from a table topics question
Attend every meeting. If you are going to miss a meeting let the other officers
VP Ed – enter all the contests to be an example to other members.
VP Ed – assign future speaking roles to all attendees: make sure everyone in
attendance is scheduled to be Toastmaster, Table Topics Master, Evaluator (if
given 3 speeches), Gen Evaluator, and Speaker
Support your club’s contestants at Contests by being there
Table Topics Tips
Pay attention in your daily life to subjects that people are talking about, and
prepare questions related to those
It’s easier to generate questions as permutations of questions related to
a theme. You start with a few questions, then alter those questions. Generate
questions like brainstorming. Throw away ones later that are not good.
The Table Topics I think most about are those in the contests. I think about
them for years. I still think about them.
Questions that you would like answered
Attend all the meetings. If you are going to miss, let the officers know.
Speech Topics / Speech Tips
1) Never give yourself any restrictions on speech topics – you are only limited by
your life’s experiences
2) Try building speeches from the end back and the middle out rather than always
from the start forwards – sometimes you have a message to give and need to
build the foundation to carry that message
3) Know your subject – if you forget the actual words, have a store of information
to use until you get back on track
4) Try to start with humor, questions or startling facts – get people interested
5) Try and make speech topics intriguing – don’t give the game away before you
6) Use other peoples’ speech subjects as a catalyst for your ideas – NEVER
1) Never forget that the TM leadership is a well worn path and you lead others
along it, not blaze new trails
2) Remember there are many people in front of you leading too – use them
3) Use humor – it is a great leveler
4) Never be afraid to ask – one person doesn’t have a the answers to every
5) Use coaches corner – sometimes that last little idea glues a whole speech
together – also gives members a chance to speak and start the leadership
Amy Jackson, DTM
Any speech involving children – what you have learned or would like to teach
them, is an audience favorite. Giving the speech a funny title, to build interest, is
a good jump-start.
Volunteering to be the Table Topics Master seemed to help me lose the fear of
being spontaneous. Remember the 4 W’s – What, When, Why and Where!
Attend meetings regularly, applaud vigorously and encourage others to do the
same. READ your Toastmaster Magazine. Take it with you on trips, work-breaks,
standing in line & during phone delays.