Cheer On Your Members at the Area Contest on October 27 at 1:30 PM

Speech Contest

Congratulations to Jesse Stein and Wanda Bee who won the Club’s recent Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contests, respectively. They will now move on to represent Miracle Mile Toastmasters at the Area level.

If you’ve never attended a contest outside of the club, I encourage you to come out and enjoy this experience while cheering on your fellow members.

WHERE:   Carnival Cruise Line
3655 NW 87th Avenue
Miami, FL 33178
WHEN:     Saturday, October 27, 2018
TIME:        1:15 pm – 5:00 pm for Contest Personnel
1:30 pm – 5:00 pm for Audience Members

Area 52 and 53 Contest flyer – Humorous and Evaluation Speech Contests


Cue in to the Value of Originality

Light Bulbs

How creative content and delivery help you stand out.

By Stuart Pink, CC, CL

One of the joys of being a Toastmaster is listening to fellow members’ personal stories in club meetings. Each new Toastmaster giving an Ice Breaker speech has an instinct to be interesting and original. At the other end of the spectrum, Toastmasters attending the International Convention can hear up to 32 Semifinal speeches in one day! Those speakers have a big challenge: How to stand out?

Creativity can be defined as an original idea that has value. As speakers, we want our speeches to be of value to our audiences. If you are an expert or a thought leader in your field, that value could be in conveying an original message for the purpose of informing, persuading or entertaining. Even if your point is not completely original, you can add value by surrounding it with creative content and delivery.
Creative Speech Content

The topic you choose to address is undoubtedly a major opportunity to distinguish yourself from other speakers, whether at a contest, conference or meeting. Even if you cannot control the underlying material you are speaking about, take advantage of techniques to liven it up.

First, you need your message to be clear. If your presentation includes complicated ideas or jargon, try to simplify it. If an audience cannot follow you, they will lose interest. Don’t include too many facts or statistics. Can you present a fact in a novel way that the audience can understand or relate to? For example, instead of saying that the world’s population increases by 83 million people every year, you could say it is like adding the population of ­Germany annually or of New York City about every five weeks!

If you are free to choose your own speech topic, then a good starting place for original content is your unique experiences or stories.

“Originality has no magic formula,” says Olivia Schofield, a 2011 World Championship of Public Speaking finalist, who is from England but now lives in Berlin. “It’s in your personal story. We’ve all had similar things happen to us, but originality is found in what exactly happened to you and how it affected you.” She used her finalist speech to tell her tale of overcoming a speech impediment with the help of a teddy bear named Wodwik (i.e., Roderick).

“If you do something ­dramatic in your speech that has nothing (or little) to do with the speech, then it is just a gimmick.”

International speech contestants sometimes worry that others have already said everything that can be said. But by reflecting in-depth on both your passions and the specific details of your experiences, you can create something unique. As Schofield notes, “Originality is about looking at something from a different angle and seeing the value in it that other people may not see.” This helped Mohammed Qahtani from Saudi Arabia earn the title of 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking. His highly original opening dialogue about smoking and made-up diabetes facts came from an actual conversation with friends.

At a recent Toastmasters meeting, I witnessed a guest introduce herself by telling a short story about her hobby of mushroom picking in the summer. She created a vivid picture that fascinated and entertained her audience as well as made us want to learn more about mushrooms. You never know what might make good speech content!
Creative Speech Delivery

After speech content, your next task is to decide how to deliver what you’ve written. One decision is whether to use a slideshow or props. Although they may be the norm in business environments, PowerPoint presentations can distract audiences from the speaker. Slideshows and props should be used only if they help speakers get their messages across. A recent example I saw of an excellent slideshow presentation was about the different personalities of greyhound dogs. The speaker used slides to show different expressions on the dogs’ faces that could not have been conveyed through words alone.

A member in my club recently spoke about making the perfect chocolate chip cookie. A golden rule in speaking is to leave the audience with no questions unanswered. In anticipation of this, the speaker brought the actual cookies to taste and the recipe for anyone who wanted to make them!

Another important way to be creative is to interact with your audience. You could ask them questions or use humor, which is appropriate in just about any speech. The secret to humor is not to tell jokes but to uncover wit in the stories you tell by seeing the funny side of things. As a rule, if you can make your friends or family laugh with a story, then you can make an audience laugh. Sometimes situations become funny when retold. Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, the 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking from Sri Lanka, turned the line “I see something in you … but I don’t know what it is” into an increasingly hilarious piece of advice as he interacted with the audience during his winning speech.

Creativity in Speech Contests

The Toastmasters International Speech Contest offers an opportunity to watch speakers take creativity to the extreme. Competitive speeches are designed to showcase a speaker’s range of talents in a short time, and are quite different from a speech you’d give in a club or a boardroom. Nevertheless, they are worth studying to see what is original and engaging.

One famous moment in Toastmasters’ World Championship of Public Speaking history was when Darren ­LaCroix in the 2001 finals “fell” on the stage seconds into his speech and proceeded to address the contest chair and audience from there.

“Competitive speeches are designed to showcase a speaker’s range of ­talents in a short time, and are quite different from a speech you’d give in a club or a boardroom.”

A common misconception about creativity and originality is that all ideas must be totally new. In fact, most ideas and ­inventions build upon those that have come before. This is the case in music, art, science—you name it. For example, Thomas Edison was not the first to invent the light bulb. He improved on previous designs for the glass bulb and the glowing filament inside until he had an invention that was commercially viable. When speaking, the important point is that any creative device you use in your speech delivery must be adapted to the message of your speech. If you do something dramatic in your speech that has nothing (or little) to do with the speech, then it is just a gimmick. LaCroix’s falling down was central to his theme because he noted that when you get up, you’ve made progress.

Another example is Aaron Beverly’s 57-word title for the speech that earned him second place at the 2016 World Championship. It wasn’t the first time a speaker had written an extremely long title, but Beverly’s worked because it illustrated the importance of brevity. While you don’t want to copy someone else’s idea, you can creatively adapt it to help convey your message. In the business world, it is worth studying the presentations of Steve Jobs of Apple to see how to deliver creative presentations. When he introduced the new iPhone, he built excitement and suspense, teasing his audience with humor and making them wait before he finally revealed the product.

Whether you are speaking at work, in a club meeting or in a contest, think about how you would react to your speech if you heard it. Would you be excited? If not, think about ways to make the content, delivery or both more creative. A speech that is creative will be memorable and interesting to the audience, as well as enjoyable for the speaker to deliver.

Want Success? Try Happiness

Success & Happiness

By Lauren Parsons, CC, CL


Scientific research suggests that success does not lead to happiness but that the opposite is true. Happiness has a profound effect on brain function and significantly increases individual performance, leading to greater success. If you focus on boosting your personal well-being, you will be a better leader and communicator to the benefit of your company, your Toastmasters club, and your family and friends.

Martin Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, was the first to promote positive psychology as a field of scientific study while serving as president of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1998.

This approach to psychology challenged what Seligman refers to as “the disease model” and focuses not on what’s wrong with people but instead on what’s right with them.

“Ninety percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way your brain processes the world.”

—Shawn Achor

“Psychology should be just as concerned with human strength as it is with weakness,” Seligman says in a 2004 TED Talk, adding that researchers are developing measures of “what makes life worth living” and “different forms of happiness.”

Shawn Achor, a leader in the field of positive psychology and founder of GoodThink Inc. and the Institute for Applied Positive Research, has found that increased happiness leads to “a 23 percent reduction in stress, 39 percent improvement in health and 31 percent improvement in productivity.”

Achor writes in a 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review that “because success is a moving target—as soon as you hit your target, you raise it again—the happiness that results from success is fleeting.” He argues that people who already have a positive mindset perform better due to a “happiness advantage” where “every business outcome shows improvement when the brain is positive.”

Specifically, Achor found that happiness leads to increased cognitive function, improved problem-solving ability, increased memory and retention, higher accuracy and greater creativity. All of these things give happy people a significant advantage, allowing them to perform at their peak. Imagine how keeping your brain in positive mode could affect your next speech or conversation with your friend, boss or spouse.
Organizational Harmony

Because individuals ultimately determine the success of an organization, a positive mindset is important in the workplace and in Toastmasters. A holistic approach is key to experiencing sustained success. Through his work in 50 countries, including with Fortune 100 companies, Achor discovered that happy people work smarter and produce significantly better results. They stay in an organization longer and are more engaged in achieving its vision. A great way for companies to foster a positive work environment is by sponsoring a corporate club.

Jessica Ferriter, CC, ALB, is an active member of the corporate club All American Toastmasters in Columbus, Georgia, which she describes as supportive and positive. The club consistently maintains 20 members and earns President’s Distinguished Club status year after year. “It’s almost impossible to leave one of our meetings without a smile on your face,” she says.

When employees are happy, they often are more productive. Achor found that three things predicted 70 percent of job successes among his research subjects: their optimism levels, social support and “ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”
How to Be Happy

Below are four practical strategies to use in and out of Toastmasters to keep your brain in “positive mode” and create the “happiness advantage.”
1 Practice gratitude.

Gratitude and thankfulness are cornerstones of every Toastmasters meeting. Skilled evaluators congratulate and encourage speakers, offering practical suggestions and support by highlighting speakers’ strengths, just as positive psychology focuses on strengths versus weaknesses.

The human brain is designed to scan the world for danger, which often means focusing first on the negatives. People are inclined to notice when things go wrong more often than when they go right. A disgruntled customer or broken equipment tends to get the attention, whereas people doing daily tasks well are often overlooked.

Leaders can shift this paradigm by “catching” people doing things right and thanking them on the spot. Immediate and specific feedback creates a nurturing environment in which people thrive, because prompt, affirmative reinforcement increases positive behavior and motivation—people do more of what they are thanked for. This is why genuine praise is one of the best parenting, relationship and management techniques available. Just think how you could use it to build trust and appreciation: “I like seeing the way you packed all your toys away so neatly today, Sam …” “Thanks so much for sorting out that recycling, honey …” “I really appreciate the effort you put into that report, Sarla …”

You can practice thankfulness at any moment by focusing on the things you’re grateful for. The more you do so, the more you train your brain to scan the world for positives. In a TEDx speech in 2011, the year he released his book The Happiness Advantage, Achor reported that “90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world but by the way your brain processes the world.”

2 Actively encourage kindness.

You can rarely give a gift without getting something back yourself. As we give out “random acts of kindness,” we feel a deep level of contentment that keeps our brains in positive mode. Kind acts also deepen social connection, a key indicator of happiness.

The New Zealand College of Fitness fosters kindness by ending team meetings with each staff member awarding a gold star to a colleague, publicly explaining why that person was chosen. The gold stars go up on a large wall chart to track progress toward rewards. This one small practice creates immense positivity; staff members are more inclined to help one another and feel valued hearing direct compliments from co-workers.

The magic of Toastmasters is how clubs draw people together in a kind, supportive environment where members are appreciated and applauded for their every effort. Jim Carty, DTM, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, serves as District 61 club growth director and values the way Toastmasters “lifts people up.” Like positivity, kindness is contagious; it breeds more of the same, creating an environment people want to be part of. Carty describes the ­kindness others showed him from the moment he joined the organization: “Toastmasters made me better than I was … for that I owe a lot of people.”

“Psychology should be just as concerned with human strength as it is with weakness.”

—Martin Seligman

Be intentional and set yourself a goal. See how many acts of kindness you can do each week and share your stories with others. It will encourage a culture where people continue to “pay it forward,” not only making someone else’s day brighter but also boosting their own happiness.
3 Don’t forget to move.

Our physiology directly affects our psychology. Frequent movement is beneficial for both bodies and brains, improving creativity, focus and efficiency. Exercise augments neurotransmitters in the brain, increasing both short- and long-term happiness.

The good news for busy people is that studies show that even short intervals of exercise can be more effective than longer periods at a lower output. Try to integrate movement throughout your day by taking regular “deskercise” breaks, even for just 60 seconds. This will not only put your brain in positive mode and leave you feeling more alert, it will also increase your productivity. Consider having standing or walking meetings, using voice recording technology to take notes. For any meeting that lasts more than 30 minutes, designate an “active advocate” to lead a 30-second movement break at various intervals.
Recharge in rhythm.

Learn how to tune in to internal body-clock rhythms and pay attention when it’s time to take a break—when you become distracted, tired, thirsty, hungry, fidgety or frustrated. It is possible to ignore these signals, say if you have a report deadline looming and just don’t want to stop; your body will go into fight or flight mode, pushing through with a burst of adrenaline. This is acceptable from time to time, but if you continue this practice day in and day out, you will reach a chronic state of stress, which has serious health consequences.

To refocus, create a change of state by spending a few minutes outside, standing, walking around or stretching. Your brain will be sharper, allowing you to complete your work faster and with greater accuracy, all saving time and making you happier and more productive than when you simply “push on through.”

Carty emphasizes how lunchtime Toastmasters meetings can energize participants and provide a much-needed break. “Most people recognize how invigorated they feel at the conclusion of a meeting,” he says. “These meetings launched me into an afternoon of meetings with new energy and made for a productive day.”

By fostering a thankful attitude, intentionally spreading kindness, integrating uplifting movement into your day and taking time out in rhythm with your body, you will not only increase your personal, physical and emotional well-being but also fundamentally improve your performance and experience greater success in all areas of life.

The Science of Being Memorable

A memory expert’s advice for making your message ‘impossible to ignore.’

By Dave Zielinski


Common wisdom tells us that storytelling is the most effective way to get audiences to remember our messages—that telling tales is a surefire way to make an indelible mark on listeners’ minds and get them to respond to our calls to action. But a cognitive neuroscientist who has made a career of studying what people remember from speeches says memory is far more complex. Influencing audience recall requires a deeper understanding of how memories are formed and how they influence decisions.

Being memorable, it turns out, is about more than just having a good story.

Carmen Simon, Ph.D., is the founder of Memzy, a company based in San Francisco, California, that uses neuroscience and cognitive psychology to help organizations create memorable messages. She holds doctorates in cognitive psychology and instructional technology and authored the book Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions.

Simon’s science-based approach to improving what audiences remember from presentations has been applied by the likes of Scott Adams, creator of the popular American cartoon Dilbert, who used the techniques in developing an online presentation to help promote his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. Adams’ presentation was honored by the online site SlideShare as one of the best of 2014, topping a multitude of contenders for the honor.

Simon’s research into presentations began as she studied scores of speeches and found much of the content to be forgettable, even when accompanied by well-designed slides. In one of her most well-known studies Simon asked 1,500 research participants to view a 20-slide presentation with one core message and then followed up two days later to ask what they recalled from the presentation. People remembered only four of the slides on average, a confirmation that presenters need to approach content design and message delivery in innovative ways to make them more memorable.

What Makes a Presentation Memorable?

Simon says speakers can use techniques to improve the odds of audiences remembering—and more importantly, later acting on—their key messages. Here are a few of those tactics.

Making Your Presentation Memorable

The end game for any speech is moving audiences to action, and that’s only possible if your take-away messages linger in audiences’ memories. Yet memory is more complex than we think it is. For example, if you were asked whether red or green was at the top of the traffic light, could you answer with certainty? Could you recall the design on the back of a penny?

Carmen Simon, co-founder of Rexi Media, a San Francisco-based presentation skills consulting firm, conducted a study on how many slides people actually remember from a typical PowerPoint presentation. About 1,500 participants were invited to view a short, online PowerPoint presentation of 20 slides, each containing only one core message.

After 48 hours, people were asked to recall anything they could remember about the presentation. The results were sobering, Simon says. Participants remembered on average only four slides out of 20. But on the flip side, significant changes to every fifth slide aided recall, she says.

What lessons can be drawn from the study? Simon says a number of techniques can help boost audience recall of your messages.

People remember the unusual. “For the brain to remember, presenters must deviate from a pattern in some significant way,” Simon says. If everything in your slides is equally intense (graphics, color, large font size) or equally neutral or bland, that sameness acts as an audience sedative, she says. But when a slide’s look or content varies from what an audience expects, focus and recall increases—as evidenced by the improvement in memory shown in the study by significantly altering every fifth slide.

Self-generated content improves memory. Audiences remember messages longer when asked to participate in or “co-create” your speech in some way. That could be as simple as leaving word blanks on your slides for audiences to verbally fill in, Simon says, or other participatory techniques. “Because most of us do so much research for our presentations, we think we have to pack every last thing we’ve discovered into an hour-long presentation, versus leaving some space for audiences to participate,” says Simon. “Participating gives people a stronger sense of ownership in the process, which creates a stronger hook in their memories.”

Go beyond aesthetics to meaning. While good PowerPoint slide design is important, speakers get into trouble when they worry too much about the aesthetics of their slides rather than the meaning they impart. When you invite audiences to process information deeply by invoking senses and provoking thought, they recall more. “You could contact audience members two or three days after your presentation, and they might not remember much of your slide content,” Simon says. “But they’re very likely to remember how you made them feel during the presentation.”

— Dave Zielinski (from the July 2014 article “Add Story to Your Slides”)


Give them something they anticipate … and then surprise them.

Simon’s research shows speakers should use a combination of recognition and surprise to embed themselves in audience memory. One of the best ways to capture attention is to break a pattern after audiences’ brains become “habituated.” People begin to disengage from presentations when messages or slides become too predictable.

Instead, the neuroscientist suggests breaking patterns by alternating between slides that are visually intense and slides that are visually simple, for example, or moving from a routine of seriousness to something funny.

Create the right blend of the ‘Big 3’ elements.

When Simon studied what made some stories more memorable than others, she found the best had the proper mix of three components: perceptive, cognitive and affective. Perceptive includes sensory impressions made in context and actions described over a timeline. Cognitive refers to facts, meaning or abstract concepts. Affective includes the elements of emotion.

A combination of the three components proves memorable because it activates more parts of the brain as opposed to a message filled primarily with facts and abstract concepts, which activates only language processing and comprehension areas.

Simon points out that many speakers struggle in the affective area because they think their content is too dry or technical to engage audiences on an emotional level. “But emotion doesn’t just come from the nature of your content,” she explains. “If you think your content is not intrinsically compelling, you as the speaker have to become the source of emotion.”

Simon offers the example of two engineers she watched present on the benefits of predictive analytics software. “They were so excited and passionate about the topic that I built lasting memory traces just from their emotion, even though I had no natural interest in the topic,” she says.

“If you think your content is not intrinsically compelling, you as the speaker have to become the source of emotion.”

—Carmen Simon

Don’t shy away from repetition.

One of the most overlooked tactics for boosting audience memory is simple repetition. Simon views many presentations each month and is usually surprised at how infrequently content is repeated. This is because speakers fear appearing too premeditated in their approach or feel they need new information for the novelty of it, Simon observes.

On the other hand, songs that top the pop charts constantly revisit the same phrase. For example, one study by Joseph Nunes of the University of Southern California found that hit songs repeat lyrics up to 20 percent more than songs ranking lower on the charts. While you don’t want to go overboard with repetition, you also don’t want to avoid it.

Be ‘future focused’ with memory techniques.

Many problems connected to audience recall are “not about forgetting the past but rather forgetting the future,” Simon explains. While speakers may have what they consider a strong message at Point A (during the speech), if the audience doesn’t remember or act on it later at Point B (when they’re facing a buying decision or other important choice), the speaker’s mission has failed.

While retrospective memory, or remembering the past, is useful, Simon says it is prospective memory—remembering to act on a future intention—that “keeps people in business” and makes speakers’ messages more influential in audiences’ future decisions.

Speakers need to build in audiences’ minds stronger associations or “cues” between the content shared at Point A and actions they later take at Point B. For example, before making a sales presentation on analytics software, a presenter could think about something potential clients might use daily. It could be a tool like Salesforce, for example. Then the presenter might ask, “How can I associate concepts I want prospects to remember about my product with Salesforce?” One solution would be to associate features of the analytics software with functions of Salesforce that the prospect uses on a regular basis.

The presenter would then repeat the association throughout the sales pitch. As Simon advises on her blog, “You prime your prospect’s brain to remember what is important and, with enough repetition and the promise of a strong reward (e.g., ‘sell more when you use this’), they will think of you each time they visit that particular functionality in Salesforce.”

Understanding how and why our brains retain content is key to making our own speeches stand out from the crowd. By creating stronger associations between our presentation content and subsequent triggers, we make our message more memorable and actionable.

For more ideas and techniques, you can view other top SlideShare presentations or key digital trends in presentations for 2018.

%d bloggers like this: