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I finished my Toastmasters Competent Communicator (CC) manual!

It's this book you get when you join Toastmasters, it has ten speech projects, a zillion people have done this and start it up every year, so I figured to be helpful I'd put down the topics I chose in case anyone is at a loss for topics.

Toastmasters has been a blast, by the way, something I'd recommend to anyone. Where else in the world can you pay $6 a month (yes) for workbooks, mentors, advice, an AUDIENCE of at least a dozen or so people for you to practice speaking, and get to hear all these other presentations and practice helping others?

How much is the TED conference, like a million dollars now? Why do we think that positive learning has to be this privileged, super expensive thing? Give me a toastmasters club meeting any day of the week now, I'm in.

Oh and if that's not enough gushing... just let me mention how nice it is to go to toastmasters after a stressful day and get a room full of people clapping for me even after a little 1 minute impromptu speech. They clap for everything in there. It's therapy.

So back to my CC manual. It took me about a year and half to get through this thing. It's this book of speeches with a different goal, but you get to pick the topics. They're pretty flexible. In fact I think half the point is to just do ten speeches, physically get through them, with the idea that practice makes you better. Confidence is definitely a key ingredient in being a halfway decent speaker, and you don't get confidence unless you've done something before.

It can be a little intimidating to flip to a CC speech and have to think up a topic. So I reversed the process.. brainstormed things to talk about constantly, and then opened my CC manual to see what "goal" the topic would fit into. I've still got topics in my head, extra bonus ones, so I hope the advance manuals are that open to interpretation.

On to my topics:

The Ice Breaker - For the first speech, you're just supposed to talk about yourself. I talked about how I became an engineer, how I wanted to work in a field where everything was logical and ideas were judged solely on merit, but as I got older I realized that people skills and how well you can promote your ideas is a huge factor in how far they go.

Organize Your Speech - I had just read a great book, Elizabeth Warren's "Your Whole Worth", that suggested a simple budgeting scheme: dedicate 50% of your income for needs, 30% for wants, 20% for savings and debt reduction. I decided to speak about it because the three categories (needs, wants, savings) fit so nicely into that classic format: introduction, three body paragraphs, conclusion. I was also giving this speech right after New Years when people are making resolutions to spend money wisely.

Get to the Point - I heard a cool guest on the Diane Rehm show talking about workspaces, so my speech topic for this one was "you and your cubicle". I read some more articles about workspace design, the history of cubicles vs. open offices, and how to make your workspace a productive and healthy places instead of just sitting down with whatever you're given and never thinking about it.

How To Say It - Objective is to use clear concise sentences, avoid jargon and cliches, which is pretty vague so you can really make anything work for it. I had been invited to represent my company at a conference and speak about us at breakfast for five minutes, so I killed two birds with one stone and used Toastmasters to practice my conference speech.

Your Body Speaks - One unique experience I had in life was living in downtown Wichita, in a big refurbished warehouse loft in our bar district. I love sharing Wichita gems so I knew I wanted this to be a speech topic, and I also knew that when I talked about the locations of buildings or layout of my loft I needed to gesture wildly.

Vocal Variety - When I was 18 I worked in a shoestore. In sharing my life lessons from that experience, I tend to channel favorite customers and demonstrate the confident tone you need to give people who want to feel good about the decisions they're making in that business, so I put that topic down for this project that emphasized vocal inflection.

Research Your Topic - Book again. I had just finished "Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Fight For the Soul of American Business" and thought it had some great lessons that my fellow aircraft workers needed to hear. This project recommends consulting a few sources of information, so I added some "since the book was published" statistics to back up Bob Lutz's predictions.

Get Comfortable with Visual Aids - I talked about my pet guinea pigs: how to get them, where they should live, care and feeding. But like any little personal topic I tried to make it bigger and emphasized that before you get any pet you should consider adoption, do your research, and make sure you're giving you consider your pet part of the family who's with you for life.

Persuade with Power - Taking the opportunity to pick a truly weird personal topic, I harped on why we should stop making pennies. They're a huge waste of time and money, and the main reason that the zinc lobby cites for keeping them is that people just "like them". So my call to action for the audience was to stop liking them. Be logical, not emotional, if penny retirement ever comes onto the table for the US.

Inspire Your Audience - I told the story of the weirdest, yet most notable, thing that's ever happened to me: Kelloggs calling me up to fly to New York City and bring back Hydrox Cookies. The point of the speech at the end was that if you get your voice out there and communicate an idea, you never know what great things can happen. I actually took this one to our area speech contest and got third place, out of four, which is amazing considering that everyone else's inspirational speeches were about BIG life things - very tragic loss, addiction recovery, etc. And my big topic was cookies. I call it a win.

And that's my cc manual. I got a shiny certificate in the mail, and two free Advanced Manuals. I picked "speaking to inform" and "technical presentations", so I can keep this party going.

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 27th, 2015 07:15 pm (UTC)
So how do you make your workspace better, other than the obvious ergonomic things, given the low level of control you usually have over cubicle seating?

(I've been using a Swiss ball as a chair for years. Only downside is the stupid jokes you sometimes get when people first see it.)
Apr. 27th, 2015 09:02 pm (UTC)
I use a ball for a chair in my sewing room, it's awesome! mostly because I have to move around a lot in there and it's really easy to move it. I heard that you're not supposed to use them for a full time job though, something about spinal compression?

Anyway, my whole entry about the workspaces is here but I will say my favorite tip was to implement "planned inconveniences" to keep yourself from sitting, since continuous sitting is so bad for you. I got rid of my trash can, so every time I have to throw something away I have to walk to the break room. basically if you set up your workspace so that everything you need in life is an arm's reach away - stapler, coffee maker, recycle bin, etc - you have no reason to get up and can sit for hours, and that's the worst.
Apr. 27th, 2015 09:15 pm (UTC)
Apr. 28th, 2015 12:53 am (UTC)
Planned inconveniences are how I ensure I get a lot of biking and walking, but I hadn't thought of dispensing with the trash can to force myself to walk more at work…

Also, congratulations on finishing the CC book — yay, follow-through!
Apr. 28th, 2015 03:41 am (UTC)
This sounds a lot like the speech class I took last semester. It's amazing how much confidence you get with each speech!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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