Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Things to avoid

In May 2000, Rogermac advised Ktar to NEVER tell the audience you didn't have time to prepare. It reduces their expectations and a few of them will stop listening. Also, when you're an experienced TM, it implies to new members that it's OK to "wing it".
Even when you don't have as much time as you'd like, just go ahead and give the speech anyway. Most times no-one will know you didn't have time to prepare.

This led to a thread Turning off the audience which I started with:

One of the promises that Toastmasters makes is Better Listening, but obviously there are some things that cause us to turn off - for Roger, and I guess for many others is being told that the speaker is unprepared.
Are there other turn offs for you?
Perhaps we could generate a list of the top ten (or one hundred or seven thousand) things to NEVER do if you want to keep the audience on side.
Any thoughts?
Perhaps as a starting point, how do your turn offs rate against:

  • Over dressed
  • Under dressed
  • Holding notes
  • Hiding behind the lectern
  • Using false accents
  • Laughing at your own jokes
Anthony added:
  • Knowing this speaker is _going_ to go 8 minutes overtime.
  • Knowing I am going overtime :-)
For Joy it was
  • Saying, "I'm going to tell you a joke."
  • Taking the "Tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them" rule too literally. When someone says, "I'm going to tell you ..." I feel they're saying I'm to stupid to figure it out, and that definitely turns me off.
  • Too many visual aids, or visual aids that are too small or too poorly placed for everyone to be able to see them.
  • Turning one's back on the audience to read an overhead.

Janis added:

  • Saying "Here's a good joke" or "Let me tell you a joke that shows what I mean"
  • Obviously "winging it" on a topic or speech that should have had preparation
  • Exceeding the time limit extensively
  • Commenting about another speech when it doesn't have anything to do with their own presentation "I'd just like to take a second and say something about Billy-Bob's speech..."
  • Apologizing for every "Um" or other audible pause: "Um -- oh, I"m sorry! Um -- sorry! Well -- oh, that's another one."
  • Rhythmic movement; swaying/rocking; hair twirling: understandable and fixable for new speakers but excruciating to watch for experienced (but unthinking) speakers
  • False enthusium in a presentation;
  • Inappropriate self-deprecating remarks: "I'm not an expert...", "I didn't think of this myself...", "I don't really understand, but...".
  • Nervous laughter at odd moments

JohnF evaluated a speaker once who was constantly tapping one foot beneath the table while he did his speech.

Denis tries to be a low maintenane audience, but does draw the line at

  • Jokes that are not at all related to the content don't do a thing for me.
  • But my big turn-off is any speaker apoligizing or "explaining".
  • Well, "mean" humor is not my favorite either.
  • Any speaker that has a power-point, overhead or other such presentation better be ready to rock and roll right off the bat or I am likely to be very impatient. No delays or glitches! I would rather the speech was without anything then to have an explanation of why "it's out of focus, etc"
  • All the awful things which accompany a microphone in the hands of the unprepared. "Is this on", feedback, juggling acts, "tapping" etc, etc.
    One of the best conference sessions I have ever attended was one where there were several microphones set-up, and we all got to try-out the different styles. This was/is useful skill!

SciFiTwin added

  • "Reading an overhead" period. The purpose of an overhead or other textual visual aid is for the audience to "read" it themselves. The presenter should expand on what's written on the overhead or give examples, but not merely read it to us. I hated that tactic in 5th grade and I still hate it.
  • Failure to make or maintain some sort of eye contact with the group.
  • An evaluator who spends even one precious second of the evaluation telling the speaker about how something from the speech reminded him or her of something from the evaluator's life. ("I liked your choice of topic, Bill. I think we can all relate to a dog getting loose. When I was eight, our dog, Grover, ran away and ...")
  • People who believe that ALL forms of speaking must be done away from the lectern. I can't stand watching people move around aimlessly. There are valid and correct times when one should deliver a message from behind the lectern and it wouldn't be considered "hiding." (I personally think the lectern has ironically become an anathema of Toastmasters rather than the proper tool it is--the most closely guarded, though).
  • People who speak with a sort of waxy transparent sincerity that comes off as hucksterism. Eeew.
  • S--L--O--W, .... D--r--o--n--i--n--g, ... m--o--n--o--t--o--n--e voices.
  • Speeches on topics that are so obscure that no one except the speaker is interested in it, AND he or she fails to hook us into the topic sufficiently to arouse our interest.
  • "Recycled speeches" without some sort of additional value above what was given before.
  • Emcees who make jokes at the expense of others (outside of a roast situation).
  • General Evaluators who feel the need to re-evaluate individual speeches.
  • Table topics respondents who don't answer a question directly, but decide to go off on their own tangent that has nothing to do with the topic.

Carmen is annoyed by anyone who quotes anything, either when writing or orally, that is in another language, *and does not translate it*!!!!! This drives me nuts! I'm flattered that people would think I speak every language and dialect that exists, but I have some bad news for them: I don't.

I used to notice this is University research papers, where I could almost accept it from those cerebral types, but then someone actually gave a speech and did the same thing...

She told us she is bilingual and for her realizing that the so-called "bilingual presentation" is giving different content in both languages (ie. the speaker is assuming that the *entire* audience is bilingual).

JohnF expanded in Canada, the practice is fairly common in federal political circles, where the audience will often have people who speak on of our official languages--but not the other--and vice versa. In fact, it is quite common for the Prime Minister to deliver a speech, doing a paragraph in English, switching to French (presumable to repeat what he just said in English), then back to English for the next paragraph. Any politician addressing a national audience has to assume that not everyone speaks English and not everyone speaks French. In fact, it seems one of the unwritten qualifications for the position of Prime Minister is to be bilingual in both official languages.

That said, I can see where Carmen is coming from with her beef. By covering different material in the two languages, the speaker is leaving out a part of the audience, and possible for a significant portion of the speech.

For Regina, most of the so-called "turn-offs" have come from other distractions in the room. I won't go into them now, just let me say that they may be unique to certain clubs (food service, late arriving members [as Treasurer, I need to take their money], etc.)
As far as speech (or Table Topics) turn-offs go, I could only think of two things that tend to turn me off:
1. Financial services presentations, even when (maybe especially when) it's a member employed in that field who is giving a manual speech.
2. Religious testimonials, or speeches on the topic of religion, new age ideas, or philosophy.

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  • At 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My husband, a college president, has made several major speeches since assuming his role. He NEVER recognizes that I am even in the audience. I always hear others speak and at least acknowlege a wife who is present.


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