Mentor Moments

Connect with Story

Contributed by Tom Ware DTM, Sydney Australia

Apart from saying something like, “Get out quick! quickly! The building’s on fire!” the only way you can connect emotionally with an audience is to tell a story. Statistics won’t do it. Pie charts and graphs won’t do it. Pictures on a screen won’t do it, but tell a story and everything shifts. People cannot resist. They will be drawn by any words that indicate a story is about to be told. So, no matter what type of speaker you wish to be, informative, humorous, motivational; learn to use story. Practice and practice. No notes, no props, just come from inside yourself. And bring that audience into your sphere of influence.

Write and Speak

Contributed by Tom Ware DTM, Sydney Australia

Keynote Speaker, Conor Neil, says, “Write down your life.” Have you done it? Do you do it? I’m not saying you have to write your autobiography, though I did. What I’m saying is get into the habit of writing about things you’re interested in, things that motivate you. If you do, you will gain much. For speaking and writing complement one another. Both deal with words. Both deal with thoughts. Both deal with feelings.

We generally use a broader vocabulary when we write than when we speak, therefore we’re apt to subconsciously add more words to our spoken vocabulary by writing. We tend to visualize what we are writing about, so we develop the habit of visualizing what we are talking about. We create records and these, in turn, enhance both memory and add to our repertoire of stories and subjects to talk about when we speak. We can extend tentative insights and ideas in the safety of our home when we write and, when the idea has been expressed in writing, it is ours to express in speaking. Writing and speaking – take Conor Neil’s advise. “Write down your life.” You’ll become a better speaker for it.

Your 30-Second Spotlight Is On the Way – Are You Ready?

Contributed by Trish Blackwelder, DTM, PDG

Opportunities today move at the speed of light, or perhaps, a 30-second elevator ride. If you aren’t ready, you could miss valuable opportunities to promote your ideas, advance your career, or land that big deal you’ve dreamed about.

So I ask you again — Are you ready?

Table Topics can prepare you for those 30-second opportunities. Rather than avoiding this impromptu speaking practicum, welcome it as your opportunity to practice the skills you’ll need for that 30-sec elevator moment when opportunity presents itself.

Practice outside of your Toastmasters meeting as well, by preparing a few 30-second informational responses to questions people may ask you about Toastmasters, such as:

  • What is Toastmasters?
  • When are meetings held?
  • What happens at a meeting?
  • Why are you a member?
  • How can I benefit as a member?
  • What’s expected of me as a member?

Ah Counter

Contributed by Nancy Starr-Cassidy, DTM, PID

When you are assigned to serve as the Ah Counter, your job includes counting ahs, ums, and ers. The goal is to make each of us aware that we use these distracting words.

However, just knowing about it after the fact is not very helpful. It’s more effective if you provide a signal the moment a person says “ah” or “um.”

Whether it’s a bell, a clicker or some other noise-making device, the instant feedback trains us to avoid the practice.

Except for prepared speeches, be bold and ding the speaker (including your Mentor) every time you hear the dreaded “ah” words.

You aren’t being rude; it’s your job!

Benefits of Toastmasters

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

Company Benefits

  • Better presentations
  • Management skills
  • Team work
  • Develop and present ideas
  • Give and receive constructive comments

Community Benefits

  • Active in community, church, charity
  • Organize activities
  • Conduct meetings
  • Public speaking for organizations
  • Networking

As you can see, there are many benefits achieved in education and leadership by involvement in Toastmasters.

Do You Suffer From Comfort-i-tis?

Contributed by Trish Blackwelder, DTM, PDG

Do You Suffer From Comfort-i-tis? You’re not alone. Hundreds of Toastmasters each year suffer from a growth debilitating disease known as comfortitis. Its cause: a belief that everything a members ever need to know about improving their communication and leadership skills can be learned from their home club. Some members never recover, but others get regular inoculations and overcome comfortitis. Inoculations are available from a variety of locations:

1. Contact another club near your home or workplace. Ask to visit, or if they have openings for speakers. At the meeting, observe what they do the same as your home club and what they do differently. If you are invited to be a speaker, welcome the fresh opinions of an evaluator who has never seen your speaking style.

2. Attend a District-sponsored training event. Listen to the ideas being presented. They will either affirm your self-confidence as a communicator and leader, or you may hear some new ideas you can incorporate into your personal development plan.

3. Attend an Area or District Council meeting. Listen as your District leaders discuss their plans and programs for supporting your club and its members.

Don’t delay!
Seek treatment right away!

Don’t Read It

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

Reading a speech is perfectly fine for new speakers. However, if you want to really make an impact, learn to speak without reading.

  • Have a clear speech outline and message
    • A well-structured speech will be easier to remember and present.
  • Memorize the opening and conclusion
    • If you have these memorized, you can focus on eye contact, gestures, props, etc.
  • Don’t actually write out the speech
    • If it’s not written down, you can’t read it!
    • Oral Editing – Use the outline and practice what you want to say, out loud.
    • Notes – If you need to wean yourself, start with detailed notes, and then work your way to 3×5 note cards and finally a single note card.
  • Practice – Practice – Practice


Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters


Pronunciation: kə-‘mit-mənt
Date: 1621

1 a : an act of committing to a charge or trust: as (1) : a consignment to a penal or mental institution 2 a : an agreement or pledge to do something in the future; especially : an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date b : something pledged c : the state or an instance of being obligated

When you fail to attend a meeting at which you have an assigned function or fail to fulfill your obligations as that functionary, you let the group down and also deny others the opportunity to reach their goals.

Elements of Evaluation

Contributed by Trish Blackwelder, DTM, PDG

Include these three elements in your next speech evaluation to add an extra boost of motivation:

  1. Educational Goals
    Always take a moment to confirm what educational goal(s) the manual speech is contributing to and why this particular speech is important to the educational track. Be sure to recognize this achievement in your evaluation and restate why the goal is important to this member’s development.
  2. Effort
    Acknowledge the preparation (or lack thereof) in the speaker’s speech. Empathize with an “I understand” element, indicating how or where you recognized a particularly challenging area of the speech. If there was a specific complex element to the speech, recognize how the speaker handled it.
  3. Emotion
    Encouragement must be sincere to be truly effective. Indicate how the speaker moved you emotionally or motivated you to take action.

Evaluate to Motivate

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

The Speech Evaluator’s role is not only the most difficult, it is also the most important. The following are ten principles and techniques that are helpful:

  • Keep the goal in mind. The purpose of an evaluation is to teach, encourage and support the speaker.
  • Use the sandwich technique. Mention what you liked best is the first layer, the middle layer is an aspect that can be improved, the final layer is a positive statement of encouragement.
  • Look for something to respect and acknowledge.
  • Evaluate the speech, not the speaker; the delivery, not the content of the speech.
  • Give an honest personal reaction.
  • Mention qualities that can be changed. Give specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Analyze the speech objective. CC speeches focus on individual areas of improvement.
  • Applaud improvement. Compare earlier speeches and comment on any progress.
  • Be well-prepared. Quality is compromised and speakers suffer when evaluations are not given importance in the club.
  • Be flexible. People require different approaches to learning new skills. Detailed criticism may discourage some speakers. Be adaptable. That’s the essence of knowing how to give a good evaluation.


Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

A gesture is a specific body movement that reinforces a verbal message or conveys a particular thought or emotion. Hands can be a marvelous tool of communication when you speak. Use purposeful gestures to:

  • Clarify and support your words
  • Dramatize your ideas
  • Lend emphasis and vitality to the spoken word
  • Dissipate nervous tension
  • Function as visual aids
  • Stimulate audience participation

The Order of Speeches

Contributed by Trish Blackwelder, DTM, PDG

When children first learn to ride bikes, there’s logic to following a particular sequence of events:

  1. Big Wheel or Tricycle
  2. Two-wheeler with training wheels
  3. Remove the training wheels
  4. Increase the size, speed and features of the bike in proportion to the ability of the child

In the same way, Toastmasters International designed the Basic Communication & Leadership Manual to graduate new members through the steps of becoming a Competent Toastmaster.

Speeches 1-4 step new members through getting up in front of an audience and improving the mechanics of developing their presentations.

Speeches 5-8 enhance the mechanics by adding visual and auditory impacts to increase effectiveness.

Speech 9 is the first measurement focused more on the audience than the speaker by addressing persuasiveness.

Finally, Speech 10 measures all the skills of the previous projects with two objectives:

  1. measuring the speaker’s ability to inspire the audience, and
  2. recognizing the speaker’s ability to incorporate all nine elements of effective speech development.

“GOAL” Method

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

When developing and presenting your speech, use the “GOAL” approach:

G – Get to the point
O – Outline the ideas that support your point (3 main ideas)
A – Address each idea
L – Leave them with a message


Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

Complete your CC or AC program using your manuals. This not only helps you with your communication skills but also assists your club in the Distinguished Club Program.

Manuals also provide additional information to assist you on your leadership track. The Communication & Leadership manual provides details on club offices and functionaries. Each advanced manual offers additional bits of wisdom on the delivery of speeches.


Table Topics Master

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

The ability to think and speak on your feet is an important skill. As the Table Topics Master, you are providing members with the opportunity to practice impromptu thinking and speaking.

Suggestions for the Topic Master:

  1. Be creative with your topic props. Make it fun.
  2. Limit time constraints depending on the number of prepared speeches.
  3. Introduction of the session should be less than one minute.
  4. Avoid lengthy introduction of speakers.
  5. Avoid calling on people who are already on the program.
  6. Fit the questions to the person if possible.
  7. Ask guests if they want to participate.
  8. Remind the speakers to use the word of the day.
  9. Enforce the time limits.

Possible topics: Holidays, Daily Events, Debate a Current Issue, Movies, Fortune Cookies

Remember to have fun!

Spin a Yarn

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

Before humans had a codified language, they told stories. They recreated events of daily life in cave paintings, dances, and in rituals. Now we have and use the gift of language, but we have forgetten how to use the story as a method of true communication.

Techniques for good storytelling:

Animation: Storytelling is not just words, but gestures and body movements.

Make use of common experiences: Any good story draws on the sights, sounds, feelings and experiences that are common to almost everyone. The more empathetic the story and its teller, the more vivid the audience’s personal images will be.

Adjust to your audience: Stories should not be told with unwavering precision, but require a subtle kind of give and take.

Know the story: Know the story thoroughly, but don’t constrain yourself to a prescribed script.

Strive for uniqueness: Nobody can tell a story exactly the way you can tell it.

Unwritten Rules

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

For Speakers:

  • Don’t say, “Thank you,” at the end of your speech.
  • Shake hands with the Toastmaster before and after your speech.
  • Never apologize for making a mistake.
  • Hands should be at your sides when not gesturing.
  • Try to hold eye contact for 3 seconds with audience members.
  • Take off your badge/name tag during your speech.
  • When giving a written speech, slide pages to the side. Don’t flip them over.
  • It’s important to follow the times suggested in manuals.
  • Confirm your assignment with the meeting Toastmaster prior to the meeting.
  • Provide an introduction for the Toastmaster to read. If your club culture does not have your evaluator read your project’s objectives (found on the blue box on the first page of each project in every manual) your introduction should include them. It should always include the title of your speech, and the last two words of it should be your name.

For Toastmasters and Topics Masters:

  • Take a seat during formal speeches.
  • Try to avoid the three Bs in jokes and speeches: bedroom, bathroom, barroom.
  • For Table Topics, avoid calling on members who are on the agenda for other functions.
  • After a couple members answer table topics, give a guest or two a chance. They will find out it’s fun!

What to Wear

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

Dressing properly can enhance your personal development, help project a professional image and boost your self-confidence in public speaking. Here are ten reasons to feel more comfortable in your best clothes:

  1. Authority
  2. Credibility: Uniforms can convey credibility.
  3. Discipline
  4. Self-Respect
  5. Identity
  6. Individuality
  7. Power
  8. Creativity
  9. Comfort
  10. Visibility

Clothing can be a critical tool in gaining something more than attention. Your clothes speak long before you do.

Your Parents Never Taught This

Contributed by Town Lake Toastmasters

1. Don’t Apologize

If you mention your nervousness or apologize for a problem you think you had with your speech, you may be calling the audience’s attention to something they hadn’t noticed. The audience wants you to succeed. Why let them down when you don’t have to?

2. Don’t say Thank You

When you are finished with your speech, it isn’t necessary to say thank you. It is the audience who thanks you with applause for delivering the speech. Here are some ideas for concluding your speech.

  • Simply say, Madam (or Mister) Toastmaster and shake the Toastmaster’s hand.
  • I leave you with this thought: After the final point or quote, turn toward the Toastmaster and shake hands.