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Know your Audience

There will always be diversity among a group of individuals but a typical audience has several characteristics that distinguish it from other audiences. Consider Know Audiencethe following variables when tailoring a speech to the interests of an audience:

Age Range
When a speaker knows what kinds of events the audience has experienced, he or she is able to use statements that are meaningful to the audience. These statements help the speaker to establish why his or her ideas are relevant and of interest to the audience.

Male/female ratio
Depending on the organization or situation, an audience may be primarily or exclusively composed of one sex. If this is the case, select the language, examples, and line of reasoning accordingly. Effectively delivering a message means gearing the speech to the specific needs and interests of an audience.

Occupational and economic status
A speaker can assume that an audience comprised of persons sharing a specific occupation has a certain level of specialized knowledge. Using professional jargon with such an audience would be appropriate. Using jargon or referring to specialized knowledge that is unfamiliar to the audience can be confusing and could be perceived as arrogant.
Economic levels also help to define an audience. A speech topic that appeals to an affluent audience would be less likely to appeal to an audience of middle-class manual laborers.
Whatever the occupation or economic status of the audience, the speaker’s goal is to ensure his or her message is perceived as significant to the audience’s lives and experience.

Educational Background
The educational status of an audience can make a significant difference in a speaker’s approach, wording, and focus. Avoid being perceived as patronizing by keeping the speech level just a bit higher than that of listeners but be cautious of using language that exceeds that audience’s understanding.

Political orientation
Some groups pride themselves on being open-minded, but others take firm positions. Be aware of an audience’s general attitude when deciding whether the speech focuses on a topic or merely refers to it briefly.

Leisure activities
Awareness of an audience’s extracurricular hobbies and activities helps speakers further understand the audience’s interests and needs.

Keep the Audience’s Attention
Visit the venue in advance or talk to the event host to gather information about:

  • Room acoustics
  • Seating
  • Lighting
  • Temperature Control
  • Outside noise
  • Other possible distractions

When selecting the best way to hold your audience’s attention, also consider:

    • Time of day
    • Concurrent events/activities
    • Practicality of breaks for lengthy presentations

What does the audience want to know?
Discover what it is that the audience wants to know. Figure out which approaches have worked before and which have not by:

      • Asking the event host what the audience already knows
      • Scanning any publications specific to the audience
      • Contacting local officers
      • Consulting references on the Internet and in periodicals
      • Talking with someone who has either spoken to the group or is an actual member

Speech Objectives
A speaker must recognize what the audience’s goals are and fashion a presentation that meets those objectives. The most common speech objectives are to:

      • Inform
      • Inspire
      • Persuade
      • Entertain

A speaker does not need to adjust their own opinions or talk only about what the audience already agrees with in order to effectively send a message. But the more a speaker knows about the people in the audience – backgrounds, interests, preferences – the easier it will be to establish the best way to deliver a specific message to a particular group.

Evaluating Others

The more effective we are in evaluating each other, the more each one of us will profit from the experience, whether we are delivering a speech, evaluating, or Evaluating Otherssitting in the audience. For as audience members, we learn from the good example an effective evaluation presents. As evaluators, we learn to sharpen our listening and impromptu speaking skills. And as speakers, effective evaluations benefit us by:

    • Providing immediate feedback. Supportive commentary and helpful suggestions reinforce positive speaking behaviors as well as assist in focusing on areas that need work
    • Offering methods for improvement. An evaluator can offer a new perspective. This perspective will allow the presenter to recognize and then solve any difficulties within the presentation.
    • Building and maintaining self-esteem. As the presenter’s speaking improves from speech to speech, more self-esteem will be gained.

How to Evaluate Effectively
Giving an evaluation is an excellent way to demonstrate the skills you are learning as a Toastmaster. The following are five basic points to remember when offering an evaluation:

1. Before the speech.

      • Review and discuss the speech objectives
      • Ask about any concerns regarding the speech or the speaker’s speaking ability.

2. Show that you are interested.

      • Demonstrate that you are truly interested in the speech.
      • Exhibit your interest in the speaker’s ability to grow and improve.

3. Personalize your language.

        Put yourself in the position of the speaker before giving your evaluation.

      • Stay away from words like:
      • “You didn’t….”
      • “You should have…”
      • “You failed to…”

To stimulate improvement, use words like:

      • “I believe…”
      • “My reaction was…”
      • “I suggest that…”

Keep the evaluator’s mantra in mind to maximize your skills:

      • What I saw
      • What I heard
      • What I felt

4. Evaluate the speech – not the person!

      • Always keep your main purpose in mind: To support, help and encourage the speaker.
      • Pay attention to the speaker’s goals for self-improvement.
      • Watch for symptoms of fear or insecurity.
      • Evaluate what the speaker does – not what the speaker is!

5. Promote self-esteem

      • Encourage and inspire the speaker to participate again by giving:
      • Honest and sincere praise.
      • Positive reinforcement when improvements occur.
      • Helpful direction when necessary.
      • Always end your evaluation positively.

Avoid being Disingenuous
An evaluator can give evaluations that only praise the speaker. This may be flattering at first, but over time will demoralize the atmosphere of a club. Honest evaluators can and should be upbeat and encouraging, while still pointing out areas for improvement. Avoid covering up flaws for adulation.
Here are some guidelines:

    • Connect to your opening statement.
    • Summarize your key points.
    • If possible, give a personal story or example.
    • Encourage your listeners to apply what they heard and learned.

Concluding your Speech Properly

A conclusion is important to any speech. An excellent speech can lose its effectiveness because of a poor closing. If you want people to remember and be favorablyConcluding your Speech Properly impressed with your closing, you must strive to conclude your speech positively and forcefully. Many speakers end with “In conclusion”, “Let me end by saying” , or “In Summary”. Great endings make lasting impressions on your audience and will help them clue in when your speech is ending and don’t require such phrases. Make sure that you only allocate about five to ten percent of your entire speech time dedicated to your conclusion.
Closing Techniques
There are certain techniques, if applied with the criteria that will create a lasting impression with your audience. The following six techniques will help you create strong speech endings:

  1. Use a quotation: Used properly, a quotation can add authority to your closing, amuse your listeners, or dramatize your speech points. Whatever quote you choose, keep it short and related directly to your speech topic.Example: A presentation encouraging people to become concerned about the future environment could close with George Bernard Shaw’s words, “Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’ I dare to dream of things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’
  2. Tell a short story or anecdote: A powerful story or anecdote can make a memorable close. It can be inspirational or funny, but it could be short, develop quickly, and be related to or reinforce your message. Personalize it if possible, too.
  3. Call for action: If your speech was intended to persuade or urge your listeners to take some kind of action, your closing statement should clearly explain what action they should take.
  4. Example: You could conclude a speech about drug abuse prevention by saying, “Educating our young people about drugs begins with you. After you leave here tonight, I urge you to go home and talk about your children. Tell them you love them and are concerned for them. Talk to them about drugs.”

  5. Ask a rhetorical question: End a speech by asking one question or series of questions that relate to your topic. The audience will think about an answer and thus your speech.
  6. Example: “You may ask, ‘Can we afford to do this?’ I ask, ‘Can we afford not to?'”

  7. Refer to the beginning of your speech: Tie your closing words to the beginning of your speech to reinforce your message.
  8. Example: “I began my remarks by reviewing the challenges our company must comfort if we are to continue to be successful. I believe these challenges provide opportunities for each of us to learn and grow as individuals. Let’s not be afraid of these challenges; let’s welcome them as opportunities and move forward.”

  9. Summarize your main points: Repeat the points presented in the body of the speech. Repetition reinforces your message and enhances your audience’s learning.
    Example: “Remember, please, the three keys to making this new program work: understanding, commitment, and teamwork. Only when we all know the program, commit to it, and work together will we achieve our goal.”

An excellent speech can lose its effectiveness because of a poor closing. Do not risk leaving your audience with a less-than-favorable impression. Make a lasting impact. Use some of the methods above to conclude your speech positively and forcefully.

Controlling your Fear of Public Speaking

It is common for speakers at all skill levels to be nervous about giving a speech. The difference between an experienced and inexperienced speaker is that the experienced speaker knows how to Nervous Speaker-Blog Postcontrol their nervousness and use it to enhance their speech. By understanding the causes and symptoms of the fear, a speaker can take that nervous energy and channel it towards a positive outcome. To obtain a confident appearance, a seasoned orator applies the proper methods and techniques for relaxation.

Anixety Triggers

  • New and unknown situations – New experiences are stressful. The inability to anticipate the unforeseen causes high level of anxiety.
  • Risk of failure – From childhood to adulthood, we dream of success, victory, and achievement. To not finish first or be the best often increases nervousness and anxiety.
  • Potential for appearing foolish – Beyond achieving goals, we all want to appear circumspect in the way we accomplish our goals. No one wants to suffer disgrace. The possibility of embarrassment causes great fear and panic.
  • Possibility of boring the audience – A speaker’s hope is to engage and enamor the audience. The fear of not connecting with the audience, of being considered boring, brings about insecurity, apprehension, and worry.

How to Manage your Anxiety
Studies have shown one of the best methods for reducing anxiety is practice. After speaking a few times, you can put your anxiety into perspective. Try these techniques to gain some experience:

    • Practice in front of a mirror.
    • Rehearse in front of family and friends.
    • Give presentations before other groups, anywhere you can.

Mentally rehearsing employs thought processes to achieve positive results. The brain can not tell the difference between memories and actual experiences. You can mentally walk yourself through the following scenario, vividly imagining each action:

      1. You are introduced to an audience.
      2. You walk up to the lectern confidently
      3. You take several deep breaths before you begin to speak
      4. You speak clearly and forcefully
      5. You captivate the audience with your words, gestures, and vocal variety.
      6. When you finish, the audience applauds in appreciation.

Repeat this visualization until your confidence has increased and your anxiety has decreased.

Relaxation and breathing techniques alleviate physical tensions and calm the mind. Practise these techniques to reduce tension:

      • Tighten your muscles, such as your shoulders, for a few seconds and then release
      • Stand, inhale and stretch your arms towards the ceiling. Then exhale as you bend to touch your toes, keeping your knees straight. Repeat this several times.
      • Hold your arms out to the sides, parallel to the floor and rotate them in small circles, first forward 10 times, then backward 10 times.

The next time you are about to give a speech, as your heart pounds, you have butterflies in your stomach and your knees quiver, turn your anxiety into positive energy using the methods discussed. Your audience will be impressed with your confidence and listen to every word you say.

How do you choose a speech topic?

Whenever we are called upon to give a speech a daunting task most speakers face is: What do I talk about? Toastmasters face the same challenges when trying to decide upon what to write a speech about. There are often two places where you can get ideas for your next speech topic: speaker-podiumPersonal Experience and Reference Material.

Personal Experience
The more personally you are involved with your speech, the more likely you will be connected to your audience. There is lots of subject matter that can be related to your personal experience. Here are a few examples of personal topics that can generate ideas:

  • Interests: Sports, hobbies, travel, entertainment, values, and or goals.
  • Career: Business processes, ethics, investments, or retirement.
  • Family: Ancestors, marriage, or traditions
  • Education: Study habits, achievements, memorable mentors/teachers, and subjects you enjoyed in school.

Reference Material
An unlimited amount of ideas is available all over the internet. You can also visit your local public library and get a great deal of inspiration. Here are just a few places from reference material where you can get your ideas:

  • Websites: Wikipedia, university research studies, medical sites, etc.
  • Books: Self-help, Science, Children, Mystery, Horror and all sorts of other fictional and non-fictional genres.
  • Magazines: Current trends, editorials, entertainment, fashion, lifestyle.
  • Newspapers: Advertisements, current events, travel, technology, editorials.

Get Inspired Everywhere
Inspiration can come at any moment whether you’re watching a television program, having a conversation with a friend, or exercising at the gym. An idea can come into your mind and you should remember to write it down on paper. Attending speech contests are another place for inspiration so keep your smartphone or notepad and pen close by. Even if you do not end up using a particular idea, keep your notes in a file to be referenced for future speeches.

What does it take to deliver a winning Toastmaster speech?

Many people who strive to be great speakers think it takes years of experience, some magical talent or perhaps even a lot of luck. Over the past years that I’ve been in Toastmasters, I’ve seen that some or all of these reasons aren’t even true. Whenever I see a Toastmaster enter a speech competition for the first time, in a lot of cases I see doubt but also the following phrases come out from them:
“I’m not good enough.”
“I don’t do this for a living.”
“I haven’t been in Toastmasters long enough.”
“I’m not a professional speaker.”
“There are other speakers better than me.”
“I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a great speaker.”
Those that overcome these doubts by partnering with a great mentor within their club or the organization, dedicating themselves to some hard work and having a positive mindset usually succeed. Here are two stories I’d thought I’d share with you of Toastmasters that did exactly this. Hopefully they’ll inspire you to realize what’s possible within Toastmasters.

Ande Clumpus
Ande is a 26 year old financial analyst who joined Toastmasters just over a year ago when he decided to enter into the International Speech Contest. He not only beat out several speakers that had years of more speaking experience within Toastmasters but went all the way to the semi-finals competing against some of the best in the world.
You can read more about his story here.

Yan Li
Yan was a 2 year member of Podium Toastmasters when she entered the International Speech Competition. She was encouraged by a member of her club to enter the competition. She had many doubts when she competed such as English not being her first language and she had no idea if she could even write a good enough speech. She also made it to the semi-finals of Toastmasters and beat out 1,000 other Toastmasters in the GTA to get there. I had the chance to interview Yan a few years back. You can read that interview here.

How to lead a Successful Workshop

Thirty people attended this highly interactive workshop to learn how to lead a successful workshop on any topic. Working with real-life June 14-Workshop-Derekexamples in a team-based format, participants walked away with:

• An awareness of the principal components of preparing and holding a workshop
• Knowledge of the key elements necessary for your desired outcome
• Tips and techniques to enhance your presentation style

Participants were broken up into groups where they were given a limited amount of time on a particular situation. The topics included:

  • Being a job counselor and helping students find a job during a recession
  • Being a real estate agent and helping people sell their house

All participants were given different sections of the presentation to present to the group. Not only did it teach the team members to be organized but as well it taught them how to use the time effectively to make sure each section of their presentation was covered thoroughly. Every single team had to then present their presentation in front of all the participants and then field questions and have Gilles Robert critique. Everyone in the group found it beneficial and some participants have already mentioned that what they learned they had already applied to training they provided. As once participant mentioned, “The workshop on “How to Lead a Successful Workshop”, presented by Gilles Robert, was a fast paced, high energy, hands on experience. I took away some valuable tips that I can easily apply to my next workshop presentation.”

About Gilles Robert, Workshop Facilitator

Gilles Robert, ACG, CL, is a trainer, author and speaker. As a professional trainer, Gilles has more than eight years’ experience helping clients in Canada and the United States develop their communication and leadership skills. Gilles was invited to speak on leadership at the Toastmasters International 2006 Convention in Washington, D.C., in addition to leading conference workshops and executive officer training within District 60 Toastmasters.

Gilles currently holds the position of Finance Manager for District 60 Toastmasters and also served as the District’s Secretary and Conference Chair.

Time, Treasures and Talent Table Topics

Blossoming Voices Toastmasters hosted Table Topics with a twist. Table Topics is the fun, impromptu speaking portion of our meeting Eryn Photowhen members are invited to deliver a two-minute speech without any preparation. It develops our skill at speaking on our feet and off the cuff. The results are often outrageously funny.

At the meeting, we hosted a spoken auction, as opposed to silent auction, to raise money for the club. Members packaged their time, a treasure or a talent for auction.

Our experienced Toastmaster, Andrew Mertens, served as the auctioneer and invited the participants to deliver a two-minute sales pitch that enticed us to bid on the auction item. The more persuasive the pitch, the more competitive the bids.

We had members bring all sorts of goodies and talents such as movie passes, yoga lessons, a Shabbat dinner for several people, home made cupcakes and even some great books. Our members got into serious bidding action when certain items went above their value as our members wanted to try and experience some unique items that were being offered. In total, the club raised for $890 at the end of the night which will be used for various expenses that the club incurs.

A week later members came with great feedback as to the item’s they purchased. Some had savored the delicious treats they had bid on and others can’t wait to experience the various lessons they bid on. Take a visit to Blossoming Voices and see how a Table Topics sessions is run in person. Click here to find out how you can join.

Here are some other items that went up for auction:

  • A picnic basket with various treats to enjoy outdoors
  • Makeup lessons
  • Running clinic lessons
  • Home made Pesto Sauce
  • Designer sunglasses
  • A portable encyclopedia of wine and food

What Top Leaders can Learn from Toastmasters

It amazes me how often I see a CEO or any other C-level executive that runs a company that manages dozens or even hundreds of employees do a poor job of public speaking. In no particular order, here are my top 5 of the biggest mistakes these leaders make and how Toastmasters can help them out.

#1. Relying too much on a teleprompter
In Toastmasters, we’re taught to ad-lib our speech so we can connect with the audience more. No one likes to see a presenter nodding their head down and reading off a teleprompter. But this was exactly what I saw when I was watching a presentation of a speaker at a conference. The speaker had to pause so they could see the next screen of what they were trying to say. Not only did the audience lose interest but some of them turned to their phones and laptops as they felt the speaker wasn’t connecting with the audience.

#2. Using filler words such as ‘umm’s’, ‘like’s’ and ‘so’s’ etc.
Most of us are guilty of using filler words. In Toastmasters, we’re reminded of them and how can improve. By speaking in front of an audience and pacing ourselves appropriately we can reduce the amount of filler words. I learned a while back that there’s nothing wrong with taking a brief pause to collect your thoughts for the next sentence you want to speak rather than trying to fill that silence with a filler word.

#3. Hardly engaging the audience
Sure you might have enthusiasm and excitement about your product/service while up on stage. But if the audience feels they’re in ‘listen only’ mode all the time they might tune out. When you’re a Toastmaster, you learn all sorts of various techniques to draw your audience in such as: asking a question and getting the response of the audience, getting the audience to do something such a quick exercise that let’s them experience what you want to teach, stirring up emotion through your words etc. When you engage your audience, they’ll be more moved by your words and remember what you had to say.

#4. Looking at their Powerpoint/slideshow screen while presenting
I’ve seen this numerous times where the speaker won’t know where they are discussing their slide. They’ll turn towards the screen and try to figure if they should continue on the same slide or move to the next one. Great speakers always know where they are in their presentation and even have mental cues for themselves. Too many C-level executive rely on their presentation to get them through. There’s no better way to disengage an audience then turning your back towards them and speaking to the screen.

#5. Not using vocal variety effectively.
I’ve seen some CEO’s possess an incredible amount of knowledge because they know their company very well but they sound robotic, monotone and show no inflection in their voice. Vocal variety is a skill that takes practice. But when mastered in Toastmaster it can help your audience understand which points are important. It can move your audience and most importantly not put them to sleep.

If you’d like to learn more how Toastmasters can help you out, visit us at Blossoming Voices Toastmasters.

Frequently asked questions about Toastmasters

Before guests attend meetings at our club, we often get several questions asked. Here are the most common ones we get from guests. If you have any other questions aside from the ones below, feel free to go to the ‘How to Join’ page to contact us directly.

How does Toastmasters work?
Toastmasters uses an experiential hands-on workshop model, along with a proven communication and leadership training program to help club members grow as public speakers, communicators and leaders.

What kind of skills do you learn when being part of Toastmasters?
Over 75 years, Toastmaster members have learned hundreds of skills. Here are some of the top ones that we hear from most members:

  • Negotiation skills
  • Leading a team of people
  • Motivating and Inspiring others to see your point of view
  • Getting a career they enjoy
  • Learning how to negotiate
  • Being able to think on your feet quickly
  • Getting your point across to other people effectively
  • Developing great listening skills
  • Providing constructive feedback to others

Is there a fee to attend a club meeting?
There are no fees to attend a meeting as a guest.

Do I need to bring anything to a club meeting?
No, you are not required to bring anything to a meeting.

Can I Bring a friend or co-worker to the meeting with me?
Absolutely. Guests are always welcome.

Why do people join Toastmasters?
Everyone at some level is afraid of speaking in public. You are no different. Remember that every member is there because he or she realized that they needed help in speaking in front of an audience. You will be surprised how supportive a Toastmasters club really is. You already know that communication and leadership skills are essential in both business and home life environments.

What is it like to attend a typical Toastmasters meeting?
Watch this video to help you understand what happens during a meeting.