Category Archives: Toastmasters

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As I rebuild this blog, I become excited whenever I encounter a “new” pursuit. I am now in the middle of the Toastmasters posts. That has me looking at Toastmasters stuff. As I am wont to do, I began researching this organization again. What I found is a general dissatisfaction with Pathways and the approach of TI in general. That is exactly what I experienced before I left in 2018 . . . Dead & Company opened their summer tour on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. The field was full and most of the first level. Second and third levels were very empty . . . Picked up tickets for two Hot Tuna shows in December . . . Was reminded of something from my childhood that I haven’t thought of in years: black licorice gum . . . Dead & Company (Bob Weir, in particular) got me to turn off the livestream this evening. “God damn Supreme Court today!” line had me turn off the television immediately. I listen to chill, not hear politics that I do not agree with . . . I own four different bottles of gin. Who would have thunk that? . . .

Why I Left Toastmasters . . . Again

I sent the following e-mail this afternoon to the six (semi) active members of Speak E-Z Toastmasters:

Dear Fellow Speak E-Z Toastmasters,

After much thoughtful introspection, I have decided to leave
Toastmasters. A combination of familial and personal reasons are at the heart of my decision. While I feel regret in letting the club
down, for me it is necessary to do so at this time.

I wish you the best in your speaking and leadership pursuits.

All the best,
Robert Owens

I had drafted a different e-mail that detailed the changes in Toastmasters. Those changes deem me an unwanted customer. One must pursue leadership within the organization to continue. Bah! That’s not what I want.

And I am burdened with being the club president. It is a burden. I have no desire to speak, as I have decided to call it quits (admittedly later this year than now). But we have but seven members of which four show up regularly. I suck as the leader. And it is stressing me.

But even if it weren’t, I have no direction in this organization. There is nothing I want to pursue.

The last several days I have been listening to The Minimalists. They speak a lot about the things in our lives should provide value. Time after time, they answer questions that revolve around this issue. If we are burdened with things or tasks, rid them from your lives. This frees one.

For me, I am riddled with guilt about the responsibility issue. Bailing. Letting others down. Quitting. Not committing. Not living up to my word. All this has been weighing upon me.

Nevertheless, I decided to let go. To free myself from the burden, which was not providing value to me.

I am 52 years old. While I have plenty of room to continue to grow/improve myself, I can let go of this organization. It doesn’t want me as evidenced by its changes. I have no future. Why continue for six more unsatisfactory months and another $50? I can get over the shot to my credibility.

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It’s Opening Day; I hardly care. We don’t subscribe to the stations that broadcast baseball games. I will get MLB.TV for free beginning Tuesday, so I will get to see some games, but the Phillies will be blacked out. That’s MLB’s way of getting more money from me. My response is to root for another team this year . . . Bored with politics, politicians, and news. Each is complicit in distortion. I am so tired of it, I have moved on . . . Here’s an example: Why should Republicans be in favor of ISPs selling my Internet browsing history? That is ludicrous . . . FWIW, bi-polar children test one’s limits as a human being. So sick of her being sick . . . Already know I won’t continue with Online Presenters. We meet at 7:00 on Mondays. Next year Fritz will have Boy Scouts at 7:00. 🙂 G’bye Toastmasters . . . Thinking of getting back to chess . . .

A Good Evaluation

Tonight I evaluated Anthony Simeone’s speech The Medium Screen at CCT. Despite my post from Saturday, I awoke Sunday clear that this was the end of my Toastmasters career. But Bernard had e-mailed me regarding the form I filled out that I would be willing to mentor someone. All I had to do was head off Bernard before he assigned someone to me. Then he stood up at the end of the meeting and made a public announcement. Oh, my!

Another sign. Just accept that I am meant to be in Toastmasters. Fine.

Anthony spoke from the Humorously Speaking manual. It’s a tougher manual than it appears. Anthony needed to begin and end with a humorous story that relates to the serious message inbetween. Overall, Anthony did well. I felt good.

I won Best Evaluator of the evening. Nice.

It Takes Practice to Maintain Your Skills

This presidential message from Toastmasters International President Jim Kokocki saved my Toastmasters career.

I was dropping out. I had decided not to renew come 1 April. I left Thursday’s Speak E-Z meeting thinking “That’s the last time I will attend.” I was debating whether to attend anymore CCT meetings.

I opened the magazine and started. I knew from the headline this was going to be something targeted for me.

Recently I was reading through my copy of The Story of Toastmasters, Volume 1. Some years ago I had highlighted a passage in which our founder, Ralph C. Smedley, wrote about introducing the Basic Training for Toastmasters manual in 1942. The organization was founded in 1924, and the Manual of Instructions for clubs came out in 1928—but there was no in-depth instruction about public speaking until the Basic Training manual came out 14 years later.

Smedley was a brilliant man, and he was not in favor of creating a formal “course” or even providing recognition for completing the 12 projects in Basic Training. Such recognition, he wrote, could be viewed by some members as a “graduation diploma,” and he considered that a mistake, since he was in favor of lifelong learning. Despite Smedley’s concerns, Toastmasters awarded the first Certificate of Merit in June 1946.

Smedley was leery of the graduation concept because he recognized that speaking and leadership are skills, and skills require regular practice. In my conversations with people about Toastmasters, I say that to be an effective leader or speaker you need three elements: a base of knowledge, regular practice and feedback on performance. All of these elements are available in our worldwide network of clubs.

To be good at anything requires not only regular practice—but practicing the right things. Athletes regularly practice basic skills to keep sharp. Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan once said, “You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”

This past October, I received another Competent Communicator award. I posted a picture of the certificate on Facebook because the award was presented to member James B. Kokocki and awarded by International President Jim Kokocki. Isn’t that cool? I was surprised by some of the posted comments: Many of you were surprised to learn that I continue to deliver speeches from the manuals.

I do continue to work through the projects and practice the basic skills. And I still find opportunity for improvement. For example, I now prefer to speak without a lectern, but I learned, from a recent presentation where I had a significant number of items to cover, that sometimes it is better to be near, or behind, the lectern.

Ralph Smedley was a brilliant man. He recognized that maintaining skills requires regular practice. I sincerely hope that you continue to enjoy your membership and the opportunities to practice your speaking and leadership skills in your supportive club.

I wrote the following to Toastmaster magazine.

Thinking I needed a break from Toastmasters, I was prepared not to renew my dues this April. I had attended my last meeting yesterday and was preparing to write my resignation letter when I read President Kokocki’s Viewpoint “It Takes Practice to Maintain Your Skills”. He addressed my concern; namely, what’s another award at this point?

Practicing the right things is important. Each Toastmasters meeting is a testament to that.

Thank you for the reminder. I just sent in my dues for the next six months.

All the best,
Robert Owens, DTM
Speak E-Z Toastmasters

Sometimes you need a sign. As if the above wasn’t enough, I received an e-mail later in the day from a fellow Toastmaster. I had “persuaded” her eight or more months ago to write something for our club’s web site. One of the internal punches I threw at myself leading up to my decision to leave Toastmasters was that I couldn’t even motivate a club member to actually do anything. And when I was on the precipice of leaving, she came through.

There’s your sign . . .

Squashing Your Audience

On the last day of 2014 I reviewed Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy. While the book was okay, I took Vaynerchuk to task because he did not practice what he preached. Because of that, I dropped following him on all social media and will not purchase from his wine store again. He made this customer feel as though I wasn’t valued (and I wasn’t).

Today I am feeling the same from 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking, Ryan Avery. Avery wrote a blog post two days ago and sought input into his thoughts. I responded. That post has not been posted by the world champion now in two days. In the interim, Avery has another blog post, six tweets, and four Facebook posts.

It seems like Avery is all push and no engagement. That is unfortunate. I am certain this is just an oversight (an oversight that always happens to me, it seems). But what does it say when one asks for his audience to participate but the VIP doesn’t respond/engage?

Here’s a better question, how does it make the audience member feel? Is it uplifting? Does it show value in that member? Does it leave a good impression? Does it make it so that audience member would want to spend money on the VIP’s goods?

Just questions that folks should keep in mind as they build their careers . . .

Here we are four days later . . . still not approved. Oh, it’s easy to say that it just slipped through the cracks. Avery moved onto other posts. Yet, when someone submitted a comment today, it was approved. To approve it, Avery would have seen my comment sitting there just like I do . . . awaiting his imprimatur. But alas . . . another unfollow forthcoming. If you are going to make an audience member feel like he doesn’t rate, don’t expect that audience member to consume your content.

Why I Am Not Completing the Competent Leader Manual

When I was VPE of my Toastmasters club, I stated at every meeting and in every online communication that members were to bring their CL manuals to the meetings. I tried to teach the importance of this action. After all, I had been trained well at Camden County Toastmasters in this regard.

Leadership is critical for organizations. At Toastmasters, leadership is documented in the CL manual. Too few, imo, participate in the ledership track. In a well-honed club, a member should be able to complete a CL manual annually . . . or at least nearly so.

I have completed two CL manuals. I have four others in the works. Two of them are done save the mentoring requirement. A third is essentially done save the same requirement. I think I stopped before I documented a GE and TM requirement. The last manual has some of the work done, but I bailed on bringing it to meetings the last several months.

Here is why.

I am in two clubs. One club essentially does not “do” the leadership track. Historically, their DCP is missing these goals. My other club isn’t much better, although we talk a better game.

While I have been insistent in getting my manual signed, there are few (if any) mentoring opportunities for me to complete these manuals. So, I have given up.

While my home club rarely has new members, there should be mentoring opportunities. One doesn’t have to mentor a new member, just someone through the next three speeches. But that doesn’t seem to be what we do at our club. There has been talk of an elaborate mentoring program, but it never goes anywhere. With that, I am shut out completing these manuals.

To further add to my reluctance, the educational program is changing this year. I may as well get on board with the new program when it’s unrolled thus leading the club on the “new” program.

With an ALB still to be had, how long do I want to carry these projects out? Most likely they’ll be good for two years. An ALB will take care of one of those years. At best then, I could complete one more leadership award before time runs out. My enthusiasm to plod along with the current situation is nil.

An Evening at Speak E-Z

I was asked to speak about the role of the Grammarian for the educational thought of the day. I hadn’t rehearsed anything.

I was surprised to be called for Table Topics this evening. I often do not get called upon as I usually have other roles during the meeting. Tonight I had several roles. It was nice . . . so nice I barely got the video going and did not have my mic on.

I like my answer but was not as demonstrative as I should have been.

This is my evaluation of Matt’s speech, the fifth in the Competent Communicator manual. I used a slightly different approach to my evaluation this evening. I felt comfortable. I think I shall continue with less prep and know my points better. I was able to speak enough about the speech, I left off one thread I had to discuss and left it for the written evaluation.

Overall, not bad. I won the best Table Topics of the evening and received positive feedback about the evaluation.

Best Table Topics