Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Celebrating Diversity in a Winnipeg Toastmasters Club

What an exciting meeting we had today in our Winnipeg Toastmasters Club. Cathy was our Toastmaster and she chose an awesome theme – Celebrate Diversity. 

Cathy drew our attention to the quote on the bottom of our agenda

“What we have to do is to find a way to celebrate our diversity and debate our differences without fracturing our communities. - Hillary Clinton.

We were all encouraged in our introductions to choose a country and share something about its culture; without being garrulous (overly talkative), which was the word of the day.

We were entertained by two speakers today.  Jessica was working on her second speech “More Than a Piece of String”.  Wow, it was so interesting to hear her weave her story about all the different colours of string she had woven into a special blanket.  More important though was how each colour represented a different memory in her life. 

Dianne was our second speaker and entertained us with “The Gift of Speech”.  She had us all worried at the beginning when she stood there for what seemed like a very long time before speaking, but we soon realized she had done that on purpose to illustrate how her father had a problem speaking.  She referred to the Kings Speech and went on sharing how her father had had a stroke and lost his ability to speak but on his death bed was able to whisper “I Love You” to his daughter.  A very emotional ending to the speech.

Our evaluators Emma and Andrea shared their feelings on the positives and the growth points of our speakers which was a great learning experience for all of us.

Emma Frost was a guest at our meeting and she gave a brief campaign speech in her bid to win the election for Lieutenant Governor of Marketing for 2011-2012.  This led to a brief discussion of when and how to vote as well as who else was running.  It was a teachable moment.A

The end to another great meeting at UM Masters and out into the beautiful Winnipeg sunshine we went!

If you would like to take part in a UM Masters meeting, we’re located in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba. Our meetings are held every Wednesday from 12:05 –12:50 PM in Room 111 at St. John’s College (which is part of the University of Manitoba).

If you're in Winnipeg and interested in sitting in on a club meeting to see if Toastmasters is right for you, please feel free to contact Beverley Doern at

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright

At our Winnipeg Toastmasters club, we work endlessly on our ability to manage our stage fright. No matter how many years you have been a Toastmaster, you still have butterflies before a speech.
In our Winnipeg Toastmasters club we just show you how to organize those butterflies!
Answer this question.  Are you more afraid to die, or speak in front of an audience?  If you answered, "speak in front of an audience," you're not alone.  In a survey done by Dr. Laurie Rozakis, author of "Idiots Guide to Public Speaking," it was found that speaking before a group is the number 1 fear among Americans.  And the fear of dying?  Number 6. 
That's right.  More people are afraid of giving a speech than they are of dying.  That makes overcoming stage fright a number one priority with many people.
But, does this fear have to keep you from getting in front of an audience?  It might be helpful to first gauge your level of stage fright.  Many people think they have a phobia of public speaking, when in fact they have minor stage fright. Unfortunately, they then talk themselves into having a bigger fear than they already have, and don't give themselves a chance to overcome that fear.
As with all types of fears, you can learn to cope with your public speaking anxiety by first recognizing the symptoms, which include:  
  Butterflies in your stomach.
  Your palms are sweating.
  Your hands are shaking.
  Your knees are also shaking and you feel as if your legs are about to collapse.
  Your heart beats much faster than normal.
  You experience a slight dizziness or you have a "fainting" feeling.
  You have a stomach disorder.
  Your face is flushed and your mouth is dry.
  You have "cold sweat" all over.
  You have panicky thoughts.

Any of the above symptoms are quite normal in certain situations. Remember, even the most experienced speaker gets anxious when speaking in public.  It's when these symptoms occur in excess (such as fainting onstage, or being unable to utter a word in front of the audience) that it may be best to seek professional help.  
Tips for Overcoming Minor to Medium Stage Fright 
There are numerous things you can do to overcome your stage fright, including:
Consider hypnosis.  Again, hypnosis can help you deal with a fear whether it's debilitating or not.  Hypnosis can also help you visualize yourself giving a great speech, thus giving you greater confidence.
Be prepared.  Being prepared to give your speech can also give you greater confidence.
Take a deep breath.  Before giving your speech, relax and focus on your breathing. This will ease up your stressed muscles and will help you concentrate on your speech. It's a good idea to learn some relaxation techniques, such as meditation.  
Eat at least 3 hours before your actual speech. Food taken long enough before you do your talk perks your body up and provides you with the necessary energy to carry on the task of speaking.
Establish eye contact. This may sound scary, but making eye to eye contact with your audience is the best way to deliver a sincere and convincing speech. It allows your audience to keep their attention on you and concentrate on what you have to say.  
Watch what you wear.  Eliminate from your wardrobe anything that would cause you discomfort and distraction. 
Stop saying you have a fear of public speaking.  If you continue to tell yourself you have a fear of public speaking you only reinforce the fear inside you. Instead, say to yourself that you are comfortable with public speaking, even if you aren't at first. It's called "acting as if."  
Practice giving speeches.  This may seem difficult for someone with a fear of public speaking, but practicing giving speeches is really one of the best ways to conquer your fear of giving speeches.  Practicing giving speeches helps you see that you actually can get up in front of an audience.  Each successful speech just keeps building your confidence.  That's why clubs like Toastmasters International is so successful.  Speaking in front of others is why you and everyone else in the group is there. 


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Plant the seeds and you will grow!

What an amazing Toastmasters meeting we had this week at UM Masters Toastmasters, our club in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Creativity was abundant!  Dianne M. was our Toastmaster, and chose the thought-provoking theme of seedlings. It relates to both the transition in to the spring season as well as to growing our voices in becoming better speakers.  
One excellent way to grow our speaking skills is to learn new words.  
This is where Deb’s creativity flourished.  In a typical Winnipeg Toastmasters meeting we are given a Word of the Day at the start of the meeting to try to use any chance we get to speak, but this week Deb changed things up.  She brought in a deck of cards. Each member chose a card, refrained from looking at the word until it was their turn to introduce themselves, and then told us how that word described them.  Words ranged from fearless to fabulous and juicy! As you can imagine, it got quite interesting!
Not only was our meeting full of creativity, but it was also full of first-times!  Colleen took on her very first role being the Ah Counter for the meeting. She gave great feedback informing us that there were very few instances where members stumbled and resorted to saying ah or um.  Clearly the Toastmasters program is helping us speak more effectively.  Also, Anna took on the role of Speech Evaluator for the first time and did she ever rise to the challenge!  
Anna evaluated Bev’s speech and gave a spectacular evaluation.  She made excellent points, giving all of us a chance to learn how to improve our public speaking.
If you would like to have a first-time Toastmasters experience of your own, improve your public speaking, and have fun while doing it, come as a guest to one of our meetings held every week at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.