Archive for the ‘Essence of Speaking’ Category

Fear Factor

In Essence of Speaking, Resources on December 21, 2010 at 10:52 am

Believe it or not, your chances of dying of stage fright are extremely slim. You might feel as if you are dying on the stage, but chances are good your audience won’t even notice your wobbly knees and sweating armpits. Even the best speakers were once terrified novices, feeling the same symptoms as you when facing an audience. Fear no more! Toastmasters is the best place to learn, to build your confidence, and to push yourself outside your comfort zone. It’s a safe place where there is no penalty for failure!  (Thanks to Toastmaster.org for this ditty!)

When you are ready, visit us at Chamber Chatters for an amazing  Toastmasters experience!


“Honey, I Love You, BUT…”

In Essence of Speaking on August 11, 2009 at 12:03 am

The word “but” is one of the most misused words in the English language… not from a grammatical standpoint, but with regards to the intended meaning of the speaker. This abuse happens mostly while handling objections, giving feedback, presenting an opinion and during the course of a normal conversation. Here’s how NOT to use the word, “but”:

  • “Honey, I love you, BUT you drive me crazy when you interrupt every time that I’m talking.”
  • “Mr. Customer, I know that you think this is expensive, BUT it really isn’t.”
  • “That was a very interesting point, BUT I have to disagree with you.”

Here is a way to make the above messages more powerful (starting by removing the word “but”):

  • “Honey, I love you! I would love you even more if you give me a chance to finish my thoughts before giving me your answer.”
  • “Mr. Customer, I understand that your initial reaction to the price is that it’s expensive. Some of my most loyal customers initially felt the exact same way. Here’s what they discovered when they realized what this solution could do for them…”
  • “That was a very interesting point. Here is a different perspective that I submit for your consideration…”

Sales professionals, politicians, news people, leaders, parents, etc. stick “but” right in the middle of most statements because they think they think that ‘filler-word’ is necessary. All that does is damage the impact of their real message. The next time that you feel the desire to say “but”, consider leaving it out and see if your message is stronger and more positive.

(Note to you fellow college graduates: “however”… “although”… “nevertheless”… “on the other hand”… “still”… “though”… and“yet” are just as bad!)


Stephen V. Richardson

How NOT to Ask Questions

In Essence of Speaking on August 2, 2009 at 9:47 pm


We see examples of how NOT to ask questions every single day. Tragically, most of those bad examples come from individuals who should know better… people whose jobs rely on their ability to effectively uncover the truth (news reporters / sales people / senate committee members, etc.). Here is a brief list of what NOT to do when asking questions:

  • Ask leading questions (that have the expected answer in the question itself)
  • Ask multiple questions without taking a breath (diluting the importance of each question and making it feel like the Spanish Inquisition)
  • Ask questions, and then ignore the answers (by not asking follow-up questions or clarifying what was heard)
  • Ask questions that are not questions (They’re actually nothing more than statements)
  • Ask questions, then (rudely) interrupt in the middle of the answer.
  • Ask mean-spirited questions (to embarrass, inflame or anger)

When done properly, questioning is one of the most powerful forms of communication. Never abuse that power!


Stephen V. Richardson

Facilitating a Discussion

In Essence of Speaking, Panel Discussions, Resources on June 1, 2009 at 11:10 am


The Moderator musn’t let ONE panelist

hog other panelists’ allotted time!

I have been a participant in many panel discussions, but it is quite different to be the facilitator. Here are a couple of accounts of facilitating when you are not involved in planning – just asked to facilitate.

I was asked to help out on two different panel discussions. The first one was at the last minute. The facilitator canceled. The format and the questions were already established for this hour-long panel and no time to prep. Here are some do’s and don’ts I learned from my experience:

  • Do watch the time for each panelist
  • Do have strategies ready to go to encourage panelist to wrap up
  • Do consider what would be interesting for the audience to learn
  • Do check in with the panelist – make sure they know how much time they have and the format
  • Do make the best of the situation
  • Don’t have the questions at the end for all panelist – too boring
  • Don’t let all the panelist have the same questions – tailor the questions to each panelist’s  area of expertise

One of the panelists was very charismatic and chatty and was talking much too much – I could not get in to interject. I finally had to walk up close to the table and look him straight in the eye. He got the point and made a joke and wrapped up.

The second panel I facilitated,  I  had a bit of time to plan other than the group of panelist was already established. I had no knowledge ahead of time what was each of their presentations. All I knew was that it was a Sex Tech Conference. The 3 panelists were all from different organizations discussing their method of sex education for 90 minutes total.

Originally, they were told to speak for 25 minutes each with questions at the end. I felt it would be more interesting to have the questions after each panelist – people are more compelled to ask questions right away rather than having to wait.  The panelists were flexible and open to my suggestions and said they could keep to the suggested time and format.

But things always happen……the elevator was backed up and people could not get to the 5th floor…..people were trailing in for the first 20 minutes. I started 10 minutes late to accommodate the elevator back up.  The first group had planned an overview of their program and a relay race for the audience. They had seven wooden models (woodys) and folks had to race to un-package, put on and lube seven condoms!  I was worried about the time.

With starting late and the first panelist’s relay race the panel discussion went really well and finished on time. The questions after each panelist was the way to go. I got some great feedback.

I consulted with one of my fellow Toasties ahead of time and reviewed a TM “Facilitating Discussion” manual – a little prep and planning was a big help for a successful discussion.


Why I Love Toastmasters

In Essence of Speaking, Personal Growth on June 1, 2009 at 12:52 am

I have never been the type of person that shied away from speaking in front of people, but for whatever reason my nerves always got the best of me. I had a hard time thinking on my feet and often had a loss of words when speaking in front of a group of people. I knew that joining Toastmasters would help me overcome these barriers to being an effective public speaker.

What I found with Chamber Chatters is an environment where it is safe to get outside my comfort zone and practice my public speaking skills. I have given 5 speeches so far and with each speech I learn something new, gain new confidence and am more comfortable with speaking in front of a group.

Everyone in the group is supportive, encouraging and friendly…and we have a lot of fun!  We learn from each other not only about becoming better speakers but we also learn from the speeches that are given.

Toastmasters has given me a forum to stretch my comfort zone which has given me a new sense of confidence that goes beyond just public speaking. It is said that people who are confident do better in all areas of their lives and I couldn’t agree more!

Being a member of Toastmasters and in particular Chamber Chatters has been a very positive and beneficial experience that is helping me move to that next level of personal growth and accomplishment. I look forward to many more years of friendship, fun and laughter with my fellow Chamber Chatters as well as receiving all of the benefits I gain from being a member of such an awesome club!


Connect with the Audience

In Essence of Speaking on May 31, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I listened to two speakers this evening. One was dull; not only was he uninteresting to me, he seemed uninterested in his own material.


The second speaker was completely engaging. Wow, what a difference. I was captivated by the second speaker and it wasn’t just me, he connected with the audience, you could tell by their response. That connection was powerful; it was magical.


The ability to connect with an audience is a quality possessed by of the best of the best speakers. I think it’s worth some study; what does it take to connect with an audience?

Here’s what I think. To connect with an audience the speaker must:

  • be comfortable in front of the audience
  • believe in the message he or she has to share
  • trust the audience
  • speak from an inner place truth
  • speak with passion
  • be willing to share a level of intimacy with the audience

To connect with an audience a speaker must speak from a place of authenticity. The speaker needs to connect to the real person inside. The speaker then needs to reveal that real person along with his or her “truth” to the audience.

As I read my description, it seems a bit vague. But I think I’m on to the “essence” of connection and authenticity. I’m hoping you will tell us what you think. What does it take to connect with an audience?

Amy Sluss, author, health educator