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.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Role play topic ideas

Several advanced assignments ask you to play a role. I have combined responses to several assignment requests, because there may be overlap.

There is also a great role playing activity on my web site at where participants negotiate to get a scarce resource - the last cab. It could be a parking spot or the last standby seat on a flight.

In November 2005, Ruth asked for ideas for the Role-playing project in the discussion leader.

JohnF role played a selling situation where one of my fellow club members was getting me involved with financial investments.

PC role played selling George Foreman's sandwich grill to my neighbor and in another project was hotel executive in Atlantic City selling conference accomodations to an H.R. executive.

Rod role-played evaluation techniques in the club. A speech was evaluated critically, whitewashed, and 'properly' evaluated. The differences were then discussed.

The second time I did this project was a training exercise that I ran for a local church. The church was having a fundraising mission and wanted volunteer visitors to call on members to encourage them to attend. I created scripts which covered introductions, invitations, handling likely objections, put-offs, etc. The volunteers role-played the scripts until they were both familiar and comfortable with the material and methodology.

Susan suggested inviting others to a Toastmasters meeting.

In May 2004 the thread was Role Play scenarios for negotiations and JohnF suggested
Buying or selling a car (used or new).
Booking an airline flight with your travel agent.
Arranging for lawn care services with a company that mows lawns
Arranging house painting services (Quite common around here during the summer when it is often done by student run companies.)

Rick suggested
You could be leading a project and you need to borrow someone from another project for a month to finish your project on time.
You could offer to give up a speaking spot so someone could finish their CTM by the end of the year if they would help you with a role play.

In July 2002, the thread was need suggestions for role play

For RP the obvious choice would be an employee or volunteer who reports to you. If you don't want to tie it to your work make yourself a member of the staff parish committee for example it's your job to coach the minister. Maybe his sermons aren't that hot; his visitation work could use some work or how he's motivating the volunteer group who helps with the maintenance or fund raising.

Your a parent and the head of the PTA and the PTA at your child's school has decided that the principal or some teacher needs coaching. That's a tough situation since most of the teachers are unionized and they don't report to you. This would be a very difficult coaching session.

If you want to use toastmasters as the vehicle then set up a mentoring session and show the other club members tips on ways they can work more effectively with new members. If your club doesn't have a mentoring program then you can use this as a vehicle to show the other members the value of starting a mentoring program.

In March 1997, the thread was Interpersonal Communications and JohnF had the pleasure the other day of seeing someone tackle this project (At least I think it was this project).
He used a scenario most people will likely tackle at some point in their career. He role played asking his boss for a raise! He started his negotiation by breaking the ice and then covering the ways his efforts were contributing to the company's bottom line. Then he asked for the increase and the fun began.

The thread was Role-playing in January 2007, and Betsy killed two birds with one stone by giving a speech encouraging people to become club officers, participate in a contest, or do some other club-related activity that needs some encouragement. Use the role playing to show how to handle situations or to show how much fun something can be.

Rich picked a famous person you admire and have them lead a discussion within their chosen realm.
Prosecute a famous case.
Find a fictional character you wish you could be and put them in a discussion situation.
Pretend you are someone else in Toastmasters easily recognizable - A DG, A TM vet, the typical 2 month TM dropout perhaps.
Be an alien on their first, or maybe 101st trip to earth.
Find a cause you believe in and take on the role of the leader of the movement.
Become an animal, fish or insect and lead an appropriate discussion: "How do we increase the success percentage of picnic infestation?"
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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Toastmaster Burn out

In November 1994 a 5 year member and current Area Governor was looking for suggestions on how to give me a new "Zing" about Toastmasters and help put the "Zing" back in the club. The thread was Toastmaster burnout.

David responded
Clubs have ups & downs as do members experiences. As the club goes up in the club life cycle, so will you. To get there focus on New members -- new blood always helps -- they are always full of enthusiasm!!! Build new clubs -- as an AG it is part of your role.

Also challenge yourself -- get that DTM or ATM bronze or silver -- Go for the gold or bronze!!! As Area Gov, you make visits -- make speeches for manual credit!!!!!

Also, for your own sanity, hang around an active healthy club -- be a dual member!!

It sounded to Alan like you've already done MORE than could be expected. Sure, you could continue beating on it, but a dead horse is not going to give you anything more than a twitch.

This may be heresy, but I think your time and effort are worth too much to waste it on people who don't care. I say, let the club die, and work with (or start) another one that includes people who actually WANT the club.

I've seen this work both ways (in clubs other than Toastmasters). In both cases, the leader of the club was doing all the work and everyone else just sat back and watched. In both cases, the leader said, "Look, I can't carry the club myself, and I'm tired. So I quit. If you want a club, you'll have to step up to the task." In one case, the club coughed, gagged, and died. In the other case, several folks said, "Yes, this is important to me -- I'll make it work!"

The point is, if you try to do everything yourself, you will indeed burn out, and others who might help will just sit back. If you get out of the way, you'll find out if there's any life there at all. And if there is, the new club will be stronger than anything you could have achieved on your own.

Carol said You need a club which will help boost your energy (we all do).

Step back before you truly burn out to assess what you want -- Figure out what it would take for you to be re-energized, then go out and get it, or do it.

And don't forget to ask for help if you need it. See what your Div. Gov says, and ask your LGM and LGE for ideas, too.

To Sylvie it sounded like what many go through after being SO INVOLVED - - - When you give give give, and somehow there seems to be brick walls everywhere, you need to turn and aim at something else, or somewhere else.

Have you sat down and thought about where YOU want to be? What YOU want to do? Have you taken your needs into consideration?

Can you sit down and list what keeps you in your club?
Can you list what brings you down and see if there is anything you can do about it, if not, then let it go - the responsibility of an entire club does not rest on one or two individuals, although it often seems that way.

Decide what YOUR goals are, and keep those in mind. Even on fringe of bankruptcy, they best planners will tell you to keep some for yourself, pay YOURSELF first... Well, pay yourself some Toastmaster pay - - - THEN you can spread the rest out to where it is needed.

I found myself in somewhat of a slump when a former club I was involved with kept throwing away most of my ideas. I realized that I was no longer lining myself up with their vision, so I left.

Had I stayed, I probably would have gotten fed up real fast. I started my own club - and its going well! As area Governor (which you are also) I visit the clubs that seems to WANT my support and help. I have one where I attend once or twice a month. THERE, my efforts to help seem to be welcomed, and I feel I am fulfilling my need to help out.

You say your club is in a slump, low attendance.

That cycle thing again..... ALL Clubs go through that... Sounds like the time for new membership drive, but first, the club HAS to WANT to do that otherwise, guests won't want to stay (You know all that already).

Have YOU considered dual membership in an advanced club (if you have that in your area?)

Talk about rekindling the commitment! That sure did it for me! (That and leaving the other club). I think you've been giving of yourself and not paying attention to YOUR needs. Concentrate on you for a while, perhaps find yourself a niche speech you can give outside your club and try to find back the excitement and the yearn you had when you first got into this! It can be done!

Let the other members of the club executive in on all this, let them know you are not happy, and take some time off for YOURSELF!

Rick asked: What do you want to get out of Toastmasters? Where do you want or need to grow? What still scares you about speaking before a group? Both goals and fear can push you out of the boredom. If taking on new manuals isn't what excites you, you could try putting together some programs based on the success/leadership modules with the goal of taking them to local service clubs in the area.

Michael said to get back to what makes Toastmasters fun. Give some interesting speeches maybe even at a new club. Do not take a role which requires work, or even work towards anything. Try some silly stuff. Join a club closer to you, and go on hiatus at the old one.
I think if you stop being "responsible" for a while, it will help.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rebuilding a club

In February 1997, Stephanie proudly reported adding 10 new members in four months as a result of this ad in the club meeting section of a local newspaper:

Do you speak on your job? in community affairs? on social occasions? with your family? Toastmasters offers low-cost, high-value help as you learn to speak and listen more effectively. Visit Coffeemuggers Toastmasters Club at 7-8 am every Wednesday at Doctor’s Hospital Staff Conference Room, Manteca. Call 555-3762 for more info.

That thread was Phoenix award.

In October 2002, the thread was Club Building & Speechcraft and Tom said:

Speechcraft is THE best way to build membership. One tactic that is becoming common is to sign the Speechcrafters up as members immediately and give them a C&L manual instead of a Speechcraft book. The course is run as per usual format but at the conclusion of the course they continue on as normal members. The benefits are that they already feel part of the Club and they receive their "Toastmaster" magazine a lot earlier. The membership applications are usually sent off in April or October so they get more than 6 months membership for the one fee (eg. if the course started in July, then they would be inducted in July and receive July, August and September free. Their fees would cover the 6 months from October so they wouldn't have to pay again until the following April). It seems to work well. Regular educationals would benefit any new members joining after the course had started.

Susan reported: The latest information I've heard from WHQ on this topic is that Speechcraft remains ranked at #2 re effective methods / strategies for recruiting new members.
The #1 method / strategy also remains the same: individual members inviting individual guests.

One of the wonderful ways that Area Governors can contribute directly to the success of their Clubs ... which are, of course, responsible for attracting their own guests, recruiting their own new members, and retaining their existing members ... is to do a Speechcraft course for a group of people, such as employees at a business, members of an association like Soroptomists or Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce (for example) ... and to provide all the Speechrafters with a listing of all the local Clubs, encouraging them to visit one or two and join one of them!

John F urged us to remember one important detail:
Every club started out with one or two people who wanted to start a Toastmasters club. Somehow, they figured out how to attract another 18 to 20 warm bodies.
Seems to me that what a weak club needs to do is rediscover the methods that were used to attract 20 members in the first place.

Rick recalled one club that built up from 9 to 25. They did it by attracting other people from the companies where their members worked.

In October 2001, the thread was Club Maintenance Tips, and Dennis said:

The biggest issue in club survival is a key member. At least one member has to be committed to the club, want it to prosper and will do the work to keep things going - mo matter the office.
Much better if group, but one person can/will actually pull a group together. Sadly, I have no idea how you train or recruit this "key" I just see it happen!

We have heard from guests that supportive, positive evaluations are an issue. Friendly people/members greeting is also mentioned. The evals need to include suggestions as well and bar has to go up as members improve - but nicely.

As new people join and existing members renew, you need to balance needs of all the members.

Solid meetings, and manual speeches are a must.

Most experienced members must model the best behavior.

I think as an organization, if we could figure out how to mentor and train those key guys, we could improve club survival dramatically.

I agree with others, moving location and night is bad but I see some lousy locations really do just fine and some equally good locations where one makes it and one does not.

Rick said:
The week clubs I've seen often suffer from one or more of the following problems:
1. A week program in their club
2. Problems with club climate
3. An ineffective membership program
4. Loosing their meeting place and spending several months in temporary locations.

The problem with the club in temporary locations, is they don't want to attempt a membership program because they almost have a permanent meeting place.
I've met a lot of people who assume if the club is weak that it must be from #1 or #2. I've visited several clubs that suffer from #3. (Clubs with a membership in the 20's but high turnover probably suffer from #1 or #2.) The "Moments of Truth" module is a good starting point. The presentation describes the things the club needs to do right. There is a discussion of what are the clubs strong and weak points. From there, the club can construct a plan.

In January 2004, the thread was Rebuilding a club and Bill reported on maintaining the momrntum after a number of new members had joined:
Because we had so many new members, and they were somewhat reluctant to start, we held an Ice Breaker seminar. This generated enough interest that we had two meetings just for Ice Breakers, with one of these meetings being a First Timers meeting - every role, except evaluators, was done by someone for the first time. Last year we had 14 Ice Breakers in total delivered.

Mark suggested a series of monthly Open Houses (held on the first meeting of each month from March through June). These meetings would be publicized through electronic means (our club website), through the club newsletter, and by printed flyers placed in strategic areas (nearby library, local bulletin boards, city Chamber of Commerce, etc.). These advertisements would encourage invitees to bring their checkbooks, as we would offer a small discount for first-time guests joining our club.
The Open Houses would be informal meetings, with the members bringing refreshments. The core of each Open House would be a 8-10 minute keynote speech about the benefits of Toastmasters membership. Then two or three club members would give 2-3 minute testimonials of the benefits they received from Toastmasters membership. We would give guests time at the end of each Open House to ask questions. In short, the entire Open House would be a club promotional meeting.
Each visitor would receive a handout package containing partially filled-out membership forms, including pro-rated dues (a visitor would only need to add personal information to complete the form). The meeting would end 15-20 minutes early to allow for guests to complete the paperwork and join the club.
Those visitors who wouldn't join at their first meeting would get a follow-up note by regular mail. In this note, our club President would thank them for their attendance and would personally invite them to attend the next Open House.

Rick suggested The Moments of Truth module as a good start. It talks about making a good impression on guests and keeping new members. One of the most useful parts is the exercise at the end. It's a chance for your club to talk about which areas can be improved.
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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Backwards meetings.

In December 1999, Ledeema suggested backwards meeting or start in the middle and work both ways in response to a request for ideas on creative approaches to meetings in the thread First time toastmaster.

Rick defined it as
Start with awarding best speaker, then evaluations, ... finish with an overview of the meeting, but warned this tends to be a love it or hate it type of meeting. We had a backwards meeting in my past club. The toastmaster for the day just did it unannounced. Our VP-Ed loved it and she scheduled a backwards meeting a couple months later. The toastmaster for that day hated that format, and he did something different.

Joy had participated in two or three backwards meetings. I noticed that they work particularly well if the speakers are fairly experienced speakers, and the evaluators have evaluated these speakers previously. It is amazing how accurate an evaluation can be in this sort of case.

Les went to one of these backward meetings a couple of years back and it seemed like a 'jolly jape' for the first 5 minutes after which the joke started wearing a bit thin.
My main concern, however, was for the guests who were not really a party to this 'in' joke which does rather depend on the audience knowing how a normal meeting operates.

Eric had heard about backwards meetings for years, but it's only in the past month that I actually participated in one. I was an evaluator, so I had to give a speaker her evaluation before she gave her speech. I cheated a bit, I gave her oral evaluation on how I hoped she'd fare, but didn't write anything in her manual until she was giving her speech.

It did seem rather odd and contrived in a way. Not only did the evaluators come before the speakers, but so did the timers report. As well, when introductions were made, they were done after the part being introduced e.g. here's Joe to give his speech, and Jill gets up to evaluate Bob who hasn't spoken yet. It was at times very funny; I remember one of the evaluators (who didn't know what the speaker was going to be talking about) saying how enjoyed her unusual use of a chair as a prop, then when the speaker was up we were all watching to see if and how she would incorporate this into her presentation.

There were no guests that day, but one new member who was very confused as she didn't know how we did things normally.

In August 2001, Gern responded to the thread Backwards Meeting with the feeling this type of meeting has the potential to be great in the right circumstances. For example, if someone was giving the advanced manual 'impromptu speech', a "pre-"evaluation could set the stage for the topic. For more regular manual projects or beginning speakers, I believe we owe the speakers proper evaluations.

1. We did most of the meeting backwards. OK in concept.

2. The evaluators went before the speakers. Of course there was no relation between the evaluation and speech. Big drawback.

3. We didn't vote for speaker, evaluator, or table topics.

4. Table topic speakers spoke on any topic and the topic master would then develop the topic introduction. Worked pretty well.

5. We started promoting this backwards meeting about 5 weeks before the actual date. Everyone knew what would take place, and one of our most experienced members was the toastmaster. Doing portions of the meeting backwards or out of order will work if the major role players know what's going on. Doing a whole meeting should be known by everyone. Guests should also be informed this is not a regular meeting.

David was against the idea. It's a poor substitute for a well planned/organized meeting and should be avoided. This is especially true for a club that is new, small, and trying to build its membership. Every meeting should be a demonstration of what the club can do for any guest who chooses to become a member. It's unlikely that this will happen in a backwards meeting with inexperienced Toastmasters.

Ken thought that manual speeches should have shadow evaluators to give post speech evaluations at end of meeting.

Since the chair's concluding remarks will be at the beginning of the meeting the chair can enlighten the guests before they are left completely in the dark.

We even had one speaker turn their back on the audience while delivering their speech!

For Joy it works best if the evaluators have heard the speakers several times. For instance, say you are evaluating Joe, who has a tendency to put his hands in his pockets when he speaks. In your evaluation you could remark on the fact that he managed to keep his hands out of his pockets for most of the speech. It might help him remember to do just that.

Some people also have favorite phrases that they use repeatedly. An evaluator could mention that. Naturally, the speakers would be given true written evaluations as well.

The Table Topics Master could start by doing a "wrap-up", indicating the theme of the meeting. In fact, at some clubs the TT Master does this, mentioning briefly what each speaker talked about. If he/she does this, that would give the speakers an indication of which way to go, and make it fairly simple for the TT Master to give the "question" after the person has spoken.

I agree that this shouldn't be done very often, but it can make a fun change.

In October 2000, Ian had heard about a Back-to-Front Meeting and was horrified when my club decided to have one, but it was a lot of fun! The GE remarked how unusual it was that the TTE had been lying on the floor for part of his he did! He was disappointed by how boring my Table Topic had I just droned on and on until I was heckled off.

The evaluations of the manual speeches were ingenious introductions; the introductions were ingenious evaluations!

At 8:15am our Chairman welcomed us to the meeting, and we all left.

Don't try it more than once a year.

Carmen had one, it was a hoot. Only caveat, we told the club members that this should not be a meeting to meet your speaking goals or anything. It was to be fun, plain and simple.

Sburgin had a GREAT meeting. To top it off, the Toastmaster of the Day had recorded several "golden oldies" backwards and there was a contest to see who identified the most correctly. The winner received a $20 gift certificate from a local music shop. BTW, we had one member who got 17 out of 20 (the next best was 9 out of 20).

Susan guesses they are OK once in a very long while, for the Clubs that want to do them. They are not my cup of tea. But that's my personal preference, and in my Club I get to voice it. In other peoples' Clubs, they get to voice theirs!

Moira personally loathes back-to-front meetings, but I don't think they negate visitors or prevent assignments from being done. The only clubs I have ever visited which have had them have been clubs with vibrant meeting programmes.

Ilena did a backwards meeting awhile ago at our club and had a wonderful time! While the individuals with assigned roles were left to their own as to just *how* backwards they wanted to get, the suggestions for possibilities put before our club ahead of time included:

  • As a GE you are to evaluate the meeting overall and the evaluators, so consider who the TM is and the evaluators and the speakers...and think of things that would be 'likely' to occur with those individuals. I would *also* recommend written comments that might be helpful for things that really did happen to share after the meeting really is over.
  • Evaluating the meeting/speech making particular points you thought might happen (or that *could* happen), after which the members doing the balance of the meeting might try to make those things happen. I.e., an evaluator evaluating a speech that hadn't happened might comment that the speaker had done a wonderful job using a particular gesture or phrase-the speaker could then try to include that in their speech. A lot of this was done with great success. If an evaluator commented that their target speaker had used three 'um's they would try to work them in.
  • Reversing the timing light sequence to go red first and then yellow and then green (I wanted to do this, and it would have involved just removing the cover of the electronic timer and turning it upside down, but it was deemed too confusing)
  • Speakers were allowed to present their conclusion first and then do the body and the intro last (but none actually did). They were also told they could do their entire speech backwards (by sentence) or even do the individual sentences backwards. No one did that either; personally I think that would have been too confusing to the audience and the point of the speech would have been lost.
  • People can wear clothing backwards (if they dare!) but facing with one's back to the audience is something to be discouraged IMO.
  • Speakers were 'called up' with 'please take a minute to write your comments for (speaker's name) and introduced after they were done speaking
  • The lexicographer noted who had used the word of the day at the beginning of the meeting (when normally they'd be introducing what the word *was*). I don't remember if they did anything odd with the word itself, but palindrome is a good word of the day for a backwards meeting. (Phrases like 'Madam I'm adam' are palindromes; they are the same backwards and forwards.)
  • People walked backwards to and from the front of the room.
  • The meeting was opened by 'closing' it; the normal 'closing remarks' about putting our chairs back were given at the beginning of the meeting; the president 'opened' the meeting with the business meeting at the end of the evening.

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When you are the Toastmaster of the day

In January 1998, Gloria was preparing an educational segment on the duties of The role of Toastmaster in the Meeting. Introducing speakers is not covered in this post, because it was dealt with in the previous one When you are the Toastmaster of the day.

The idea of a Backwards meeting came up, which is dealt with the the next post.

Her question: What is the MOST important duty of the Toastmaster during the meeting?

Joseph would have to vote for "starting and ending the meeting on time with a minimum of headache and heartache for the audience".

For Rick the goal of the toastmaster is to have a successful meeting. This means the speakers need to do well and the business meeting needs to go well. The business meeting is out of the toasmaster’s control, so that leaves the speakers. If the speakers are exciting, the members will forget other minor problems.

Does the speaker have everything the need set up? Make sure the room is setup and ready to go.

When they get to the front of the room, the audience wants them to start not fiddle with equipment or props. If they have problems, what can you do to solve them.

When I’ve been in the toastmaster position at conferences, I’ve had to have the conference center adjust the temperature below 83 F. I have also flipped overheads for a speaker who couldn’t wear a livelier mike. (She didn’t have a belt or pickets for the connector to clip to.)

For Owen, the most important role is to call the participants BEFORE the meeting and remind them to prepare! If everyone else is ready, anyone at a Toastmasters meeting can step in and wing it as emcee at the meeting, but if your speakers don't have speeches prepared, your TTM doesn't have any topics in mind, and your Wordmaster doesn't have a dictionary definition prepared to display at the front of the room, your meeting will fall into chaos even if the emcee shows up fully prepared for everything that SHOULD happen, but now won't.

Gretchen thinks of the word "TREAT".

The letters in the word treat stand for:

THEME Generally as Toastmaster, I select a theme for a meeting I'm chairing. I use a theme to provide a uniformed focus for the entire meeting.

ROLES AND AGENDA When I type agendas for meetings, I become aware of who has signed up for roles and what roles I will need to fill. Because one of the duties of the Toastmaster is to introduce the participants, I call each person on the program to verify their participation and to ask them to write out a short paragraph of introduction for me to use at the meeting.

EXPECTATIONS: Theings don't always work out as I plan. There often are last minute changes.

AUDIENCE KNOWLEGE If there are new members and/or guests, I will need to explain the what and whys of each part of the meeting.

TRANSITIONS Between different parts of the program, tranisitions are needed. I introduce my theme at the begainning of the meeting and then focus my transitional comments on the theme. I've found it is helpful to develop four or five. I use my tranisitions while members are filling out their ballots. They can also be used to refocus the group after break.

Being Toastmaster is no longer a chore for me. It is a TREAT and can be for you--JUST DO IT!"

In Bill's opinion, Creating and maintaining enthusiasm are very important.

I have attended some very poor meetings (form wise) that have been great because of the enthusiasm of the Toastmaster. On the other hand I have attended some very well run meetings (form wise) that have been a disaster because the Toastmaster had no enthusiasm for the job.

Of course if you can have a meeting with great form presented with enthusiasm that would be my choice :-)

For David, the role is to keep the program moving and upbeat.

Joy makes all participants feel welcome and appreciated. That includes good introductions for speakers.

It also includes leading the applause when appropriate - after introducing each speaker and after each speaker or other participant has concluded. In many clubs the applause is not uniform. Some people are applauded and some aren't. This doesn't help morale.

Also, it's very important that visitors and new members know what's going on. If participants don't fully explain their roles, expand on their explanations. Remember, visitors and new members probably don't understand the terms CTM, ATM, DTM, etc.. If you use them - or if someone else uses these terms, explain.

In December 1999, Steve was First Time Toastmaster and would like to do it a bit different that those who have before....variety, hopefully, is the spice of life. Is it OK to vary things like getting people , instead of clapping, after each speech to yell and cheer, or is that considering a bit out-of-line for a tm ask?

Unless you are following a theme where yelling and cheering would be appropriate (like a circus theme, etc), Ledeema wouldn't suggest that. There are a number of other things you might do though such as set a special theme as long as you do it enough ahead of time to let everyone know about it.

Dennis suggested thinking about the transitions and introductions and how they relate to your theme.
Talk to each person with a role and ask for a specific piece of information which relates to the theme and use it in the introduction. I like to use quotes as a device to introduce the different parts of the meeting, maybe that will lend focus.
I suggest that if you want cheering pick a sports theme and introduce the role-players as if they are members of the team:
An example from one of Gloria's agendas and football:
Timer = Running Back - "running the stopwatch"
Grammarian = Defensive Coordinator - watching our language
Toastmaster = Quarterback
Tipster = Color Commentator
Table topics = Safety - "safe from answering"
Speaker = center -"center stage"
General Evaluator = Offensive Coordinator
Evaluator = Coach

This list doesn't have to make overwhelming sense, it only has to provide a "jump-off" for you as Toastmaster! Be sure to warn people what's in store and ask them to design their TT questions or even speechs around your theme (if they can). Bring them to the lectern like introducing team at start of game and lead the cheer then!

Pull various parts together with sports quotes, and maybe have your members with roles wear the shirts and sweatshirts of their favorite teams. And your intros can involve the members involvement in a sport or their favorite fan moment.

Just remember as Toastmaster, if you are having fun and are showing lots of energy, your members will be having fun and showing lots of energy. And a sports theme can lend itself to a positive reinforcement and success message.

JohnF would feel uncomfortable speaking at a meeting where my speech were greeted with yells and cheers. That doesn't mean the idea might not work at an occasional meeting, but I'd check out the climate in your club and make sure the members are on side before proceeding with it.
That said, there are other ways to shift a bit out of the ordinary.

One I coordinated recently was a meeting with a panel discussion. I will admit, I was motivated less by a desire to be different and more by a desire for manual credit. Piloting a panel is a manual project in one of the advanced manuals. However, if there is a member in your club who is working on one of the more unusual projects in one of the advanced manuals, perhaps you could team up with this member to help him or her achieve the advanced manual credit while getting a meeting with a difference. For example, the advanced manual Communicating on Television has a couple of talk show projects that could create an interesting twist to a meeting.

In Terry's opinion, it is not out of line for the TM to request this. The TM establishes the ground rules for the meeting. Now, you may want to warm them up to the idea in some way, especially if the club is usually reserved. A warm up may be to have them cheer their favorite rugby team. As TM you can seek to get out of the box. The key will be to lead the others out of the box with you.

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Introducing the next speaker

In January 2007, Mary asked How do Toastmaster members write effective introductions. The thread was Effective Introductions.

It is boring to hear that they live in a certain city with their wife, 2 kids and pet canary. They do not have the background or qualifications to speak about the subject for the introducer to list. They probably do not even have a title such as head of some department at a hospital for example. All they did was research a topic and are preparing to present it.

For Betsy, There had to have been a reason why that person chose that topic--tell the audience that reason.

"Two years ago Joe Schmoe moved to our city. He realized that the drinking water tasted different and this sparked his interest in learning more about Water Pollution in the Potomac River..."

"Joe has always been interested in cars. Last year he went to the auto show, where he had the opportunity to test drive a Prius. Since the he has learned a great deal about hybrid cars, which he will share with us today..."

"Joe still remembers the first movie he ever saw, which was the Wizard of Oz. Ever since then Joe has been a fan of the silver screen, and tonight he will tell us about 3 of his favorite movies..."

To PC it depends on what you mean effective.
In the context of a regular Toastmasters meting,IMO an introduction is effective if it it includes the name of the speaker, the title of the speech, speech project # and manful, and project objectives. The extra fluff it's fine but irrelevant. Most members already know the speaker already.
In the context of an event (seminar, conference, etc.,), the effective introduction needs to include some brief info that points to the speaker's qualification or relevance to speak on the topic. However, it's not a recitation if his/her resume (CV).

John F's introductions for my speeches aren't a CV, but they do highlight something in my background appropriate to this particular speech. For example, when I do a talk on a technical topic, it doesn't hurt to remind the membership that I do have a background in engineering.

There is nothing wrong in Toastmaster in giving a talk where we don't have a lot of background and just did a bit of research on a topic that interests us.
Chances are, there is a reason why the topic interests us, and a reason why we want to share it with the rest of our audience. And that can help us build an appropriate introduction.

For Rick, people don't have to have a title to be an inexpert. The department head may know about a subject because s/he read the summary on the report prepared by a staff member.

Gene always writes his introduction.
The details that you call boring are irrelevant to most speeches. The details should be relevant.

The introduction sets the tone for the speech. It should be connected with it in some way. This might be why the speaker is qualified to speak on the subject or a statement of general philosophy that will be addressed.

For Rod, an effective introduction should build the speaker's credibility hand help him or him to get off to a good start. In particular, a good introduction should answer the questions:
Why this speaker?
Why this subject?
Why this audience?
Why this occasion or time?

It's all in the manual, but few bother to read it.

In May 1998, Podi asked As the Toastmaster of the Day I like to introduce the next speaker with a smooth transition , but more often than not, I scramble in my mind for words.
How do you folks handle this problem? The thread was How do you introduce speakers

For LG, each person that will be introduced supplies information to the person who will be introducing them. The information provided varies. It may include personal information (how long in TM, where they work and for how long) sometimes the information is a lead in for the speech they are about to give. This ensures that the introducer knows what they will be saying before beginning rather than scrambling in their mind for words.

Joy recalled an educational by heard a speech by Wendy Farrow (later an International Director, now deceased) in which she strongly recommended that speakers write their own introductions so they will be introduced the way they want. Ever since then I have tried to do that, and have encouraged others to do the same. I also encourage the Toastmaster to use the introduction provided by a speaker.

A few years ago after an 8-year-old girl was killed while trying to fly an airplane across the United States, I gave a speech on the subject. I prepared a carefully written introduction which included the facts that I have been a private pilot and that I have worked with gifted children. This was to establish my credibility to speak on the subject, without taking up my speech time.
The Toastmaster ignored the written introduction and gave a flowery paean saying how witty and humorous I am. Since this was one of the few speeches I have given which did not contain humor, and was about a very grave subject, his introduction was entirely inappropriate, and I had to begin my speech by saying, "Thank you for that flattering introduction. However, the introduction I provided said ..."

So, I encourage speakers to write their own intro, or at least provide the information they want included in it, and I urge the Toastmaster to use the introduction or information provided.

JohnF described a module from the Better Speaker Series "Creating an Introduction" (Cat. No. 277 which seems to be just what the Doctor ordered.
I was present when this module was presented as an educational to one of my clubs and the presenter gave some very good examples of what to do, and what not to do.
Her 'what not to do' example really sticks in my mind. "Ladies and gentlemen, John is an established trainer in both downhill skiing and water skiing. He holds a degree in Physical Education, and several years experience in the field of skiing. Ladies and Gentlemen, please help me welcome our speaker, John, with a speech entitled 'Proper Motorcycle Maintainance.'" She really drove home the need for a proper introduction.

When I write introductions, there are four questions I like to keep in the back of my mind-
Why this Speaker?
Why this Audience?
Why this Subject?
Why Now?

Carmen was amused by John's experience, but added it never happened to her because she writes her own introductions, although what it *did* do was remind me not to be too casual about the introduction I do write.

Joy added the introduction should include information that relates to the speech subject rather than something that does not. If the speech was to be about skiing, the information would be important for the audience to have. Since the speech was about motorcycle maintenance, it would have been logical to mention any training or experience the speaker had in this area. The purpose of an introduction is to prepare the audience to hear the speech. Giving them information not related to the speech can confuse them.

If our club speeches are preparing us to speak to outside groups the contest formula of Title, speaker, speaker, title, in an introduction would be inappropriate, and either frowned on or laughed at, in most situations outside the Toastmasters club.

I feel that the introduction should include any pertinent background to bolster the speaker's credibility about the subject, the objective of the speech in question, and any other information the speaker wants the group to know. At a club meeting, for instance, it is appropriate to mention how long the speaker has been a Toastmaster. In an outside group, this would not be of interest to the audience, unless the speaker is talking about Toastmasters or some aspect of public speaking. The speaker's name could be mentioned at the beginning of the introduction, and again at the end, along with the title.

Bill, a professional speaker, said at the top of my intro is a note to the Introducer that says in bold print.
To the Introducer:
The introduction of a speaker is vital to setting the stage and tone for the presentation. To maximize Bill's contribution to the program:
1. Please review this introduction before the program. 2. Please read it slowly and clearly. 3. Please read it as written.
I send two copies to the meeting planner, one to the introducer (if known) and I bring one with me to the event.
Please keep in mind that people are there to hear the speaker and not about him or her. Keep your intro down to about 30 seconds and certainly not more than one minute.

Review it for difficult words. I used to say in the intro,"Bill has spoken before personnel from some of the worlds most prestigious companies." It now says, "... for many of the Fortune 500's largest companies." Everyone stumbled over the word "Prestigious." Keep it simple.

Be sure that the info given is important to this audience. If you are speaking on achieving perfect attendance in Sunday school, the fact you have be able to do that counts. But if your topic is water polo the audience will not care about your Sunday school attendance.

Also keep in mind that something written to be read and not spoken is written differently from something to read aloud. Give your intro to several people to read aloud to test it for ease of speech.

Mike witnessed "An introduction from Hell" at a district convention. Our Communications and Leadership recipient was a close and personal friend of the introducer. The introduction droned on for 22 minutes (No Kidding, we timed it). The audience was bored, and the speaker visibly embarrassed and shaken. The C&L recipient only spoke 20 minutes. So.....I agree with Bill - write your own introduction, even if the introducer is your friend.

Podi emphasized the transition focus in his original question:
How about the lead-in itself? That is the bit that most people don't know how to handle in my opinion.
Let me be clear about what I'm saying here: the end of the previous speech doesn't and shouldn't take you directly to the introduction of the next speaker on the agenda now, right?
What do you do there?

Denis agreed: bridging and transition is not emphasized enough. The mood of two speeches can be very different and you should present each so that it gets proper focus without overlap.
I like short quotes which act to bridge and set the scene for the next speech. This requires at least some contact with speaker to scope out mood of speech and how it fits into theme or is opposite (both work)!

The intro can act as a bridge. Find out from speaker if there is a point or topic that needs emphasis before the speech, you or the evaluator should give notice before the speech i.e. is it a speech to be read or is it supposed to be extemporaneous or is it set in the Great Depresion, etc.

Lets face it, if my speech is a farce and yours is a eulogy, the bridge should be more than one minute to fill out eval card and a call to the lectern.

This is a skill which like speaking comes with practice, just try different stuff till you find your own NATURAL style.

In February 2000 the thread was Introduction of a speaker

Roy learned the following from a DTM friend in the area.


An Acronym; (To make the formula more memorable)

TOPIC What is it and Why this subject?

INTEREST Why this audience? And What is in it for them?

PERSPECTIVE Why this speaker?

What information about the speaker?

In May 2002, David started the thread How To Introduce Someone with:

What is a good way to get information about a speaker? Are there any good questions to ask? I want to be able to do more then email these speakers and ask--How do you want me to introduce you? It never seems to illicite answers that make for good introductions.

These steps worked for PC:

1. Call or email (you need to communicate)

2. Say: For introductions I need,
  • The title of your speech, speech project number and manual, and project objectives (if making speech) and
  • a couple of sentences about you the way you want me to introduce you. Whatever you want is fine. (If you are on the phone give them an example.)
  • If I don't hear from you I will make up something based on what I know about you.

Another way to make special introductions ask every person to give you his or her answer to the same question and inlude that informaion wih the introdction. For example, favorite past time.
One thing to remember: if you decide to give special introductions, do the same for everyone. If you want to use the minimalistic introduction, also do the same for everyone.

Dennis asks the speaker if the speech needs any explanation or set-up. This might trigger an answer if they need something "special" in the intro.

Does your club usually call on the evaluator to explain the speech objectived and speaker goals? Our club has the evaluator do that just before each speech, then TM introduces speaker.

Will you have a meeting theme? Ask each person you will be introducing a question based on your theme - this can form a nice thread carried through the meeting.

Unless you can ask a specific question, folks do not usually have a good answer about how they want to be introduced. I think it is a fear of seeming to brag.

JohnS (your editor) added:

I would draw their attention to the section in the manual - How to introduce a speaker, and explain that you would like to do it according to the book.

Mention that you will only have thirty seconds, so could they choose one aspect that you could highlight - perhaps something about their family, perhaps something about their work, perhaps about their hobby.

Suggest an example introduction, and ask them for assistance in filling in the blanks.

A couple of other points, avoid a repetitive formula of Manual number, speakers name, title, assignment objective, personal note, time etc.

With respect to time, make an announcement at the beginning of the session that all speeches will be from 5 to 7 minutes, with the exception of our third Speaker who is speaking from the Advanced manual - Speeches by management - Geoff's speech will be 10 to 12 minutes.

he other items in the list should all be mentioned, but vary your approach.

Integrate them something like this:
Our first speaker, Rod Taylor is well known for his varied diet. An African resident, John is familiar with the taste of Alpaca and Llama, although we are not sure if he has tasted Springbok. Tonight, however as he takes up the challenge of Working With Words, Rod will answer that time honoured question "Which came first the chicken or the egg?"

Afterwards - thank you Rod. I am sure that we all love to see the photos of your trip.
John Fleming is another world traveller. Tonight, as he applies his skills John will relate a thrilling experience in a Canadian winter. Under The Northern Lights, John has experienced the chill of below freezing weathers and days with barely two hours of sunshine. Join me in encouraging John to share his tale of Life Under the Northern Lights.

Thank you John. Perhaps next time you could tell us how you spent the twenty two hour days in sub arctic summer.

The sort of night life that Dale Hartle specialises in is best conducted in a city not far from home. We know that Dale is the life of the party at our festival meetings, but did you know that Dale is also the heart and soul of another party? As campaign manager for the recent city elections, Dale spent her days and most of her nights stuffing envelopes and making placards. Fresh from the successful campaign for city council, Dale will Show What She Means when she says "You can't Beat City Hall."
and so on.

You should mention the title last, shortly after the speaker's name.

It is important that the speaker know what you are going to say about them, so your idea of an email questionnaire is good. Perhaps you might want to cut and paste some of this to give them an idea.

One other point - Start the applause and wait at the lectern until the speaker arrives. Shake hands and return to a seat close to the front so that there is no time lost between speakers.
Apologies to Dale, John and Rod. The above intros are not based on any real people, living or dead.

Dennis does the manual and timing information slightly differently:

First - the timer is introduced and announces timing for the speeches and goes over the lights for the newer folks.

Second - just before the speaker is introduced, the evaluator will announce the manual and project with objectives and then personal goals for the speaker.

The Meeting Toastmaster will then introduce speaker with personal informsation and title.
Afterwards the Toastmaster asks for a minute for audience to complete short evaluations for the speaker.

I find it easier for the evaluator to explain this stuff and it makes a cleaner introduction.

Rae had noticed noticed a trend in our club that I don't think is particularly effective and that is that the speaker is handing a written introduction to the Toastmaster at the last moment.

I feel that this is ineffective on several fronts. Firstly, it deprives the Toastmaster of the opportunity to interview the speaker in advance and learn a little more about them.

Writing effective introductions of other people is a valuable skill to practice.

Secondly, the introduction that you may be handed may be very poorly written. If you read it verbatum it will effect your credibility as well as that of your speaker.

Thirdly, I believe in being prepared for every role that I perform. This last minute receiving of an introduction doesn't allow me the time to practice my intro and build the proper excitement for the upcoming speaker.

One factor of an effective introduction that I haven't seen mentioned in previous posts is that your introduction is to build excitement or interest in the speaker but that focus should not be placed on yourself.

Introducing the prepared speakers by the Toastmaster is only one example of opportunities to introduce someone. There are many other examples througout the meeting. "Fellow Toastmasters our Table Topics Master this evening just won the Division xxx Table Topics Contest in xxx. Please join me in welcoming xxxx for an exciting session of Table Topics!"

Joy felt that times should be given to the timer, and possibly the evaluators. Nobody else really needs to know that. It is okay to include it in an introduction, but I don't feel it's necessary.

Dan has experienced a mixed format for introductions. Most often it is a reflection of the attendance record of the Chair/Toastmaster; they are not always there to see the diversity of the agenda formats.

Often the Toastmaster will simply introduce the speaker with a narrative about the speaker's resume with the Club. The minimum is how long with, some of their roles and the Title. For the more creative and regular attenders you find they ask first for the evaluator to highlight the project goals.

This highlight can be a real attention focus for the evaluator and voting audience as they view the presentation. Follow this with the Toastmaster presenting the speakers credentials and/or background in the topic of choice, the audience gains respect and anticipation for the speaker's presentation. Further this with a track plan that the speaker has followed in the manual you can appreciate the building nature of the speaker.

The real credit for the introduction can sit with the speaker if they offer a script for introduction. They provide the background of interest and expertise for the speech/speaker. If left to the Toastmaster then they may expect a whitewash. It is an opportunity to communicate that requires preparation. It should be done prior to the meeting since at the meeting the greeting and preparation actions do not blend easily. Even a brief phone call is better than trying get attention as members and guests may arrive only minutes before the thump of the gavel.

It is part of preparation. Do not put it off as an adjustment; make it part of the speech preparation.

For Gene sometimes it's very important to my speech how I am introduced. In that case, I am very careful to tell the Toastmaster that it is important.

In the thread The role of Toastmaster in the Meeting in January 1998

Rick added physical set up to the introducer's duties:

Does the speaker have everything they need set up?

Make sure the room is setup and ready to go. When they get to the front of the room, the audience wants them to start not fiddle with equipment or props. If they have problems, what can you do to solve them. When I’ve been in the toastmaster position at conferences, I’ve had to have the conference center adjust the temperature below 83 F. I have also flipped overheads for a speaker who couldn’t wear a livelier mike. (She didn’t have a belt or pickets for the connector to clip to.)

There is more on this in the next post: When you are the Toastmaster of the day

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