Virtual Speakers (Espoo-Hyvinkää, Finland)

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A club near you

Virtual Speakers (Espoo, Hyvinkää in Finland) is unique in Europe – and we believe in the rest of the world: it communicates by means of video conferencing between two KONE* sites creating a virtual interaction space for speakers and evaluators. It thus offers the ideal environment to experience and train with video presentations, an important aspect of today’s professional communications.

Virtual Speakers welcome you! Virtual Speakers welcome you on Kone’s sites in Espoo and Hyvinkää

I asked Luis Garcia, one of the founders of the club and current president, what were the main differences between his club and any other Toastmasters club:

Communicating with the support of video technology is generally new to our members and guests: they have to tame the camera first. This requires to have one’s gestures and voice steered to it and keep the eye contact with the beam.  Beginners always feel a little bit nervous about the presence of this tool. Speaking to the camera also implies a clear enunciation and pronunciation and, being direct, especially when…

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Generations of Toastmasters: oldies rock!

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Three weeks ago, I was attending Division C conference in Dresden on behalf of our district (D59). At the end of my bilingual speech in German and English, the chief judge, a distinguished 60 yr old lady, came to me:
– “You know, you were fantastic!” (author’s note: for a change)
– “Thank you!”
– “When did you join Toastmasters?”
– “Six years ago”
– “And you are already in a district position! They pick you up young nowadays! I joined many, many years ago… it’s my mother who introduced me to Toastmasters!”
– “Really?” And I have to admit that I expected this conversation to turn very “Toastmasters” but then:
– “She is 92 yr old and competes for the Eurovision song contest selection in Switzerland! It would be so nice if Toastmasters could support her by voting for her!” I was looking in Marion’s eyes full of sparkles when evoking her mother who I later discovered (see link below) was a Hollywood star song writer among others for the crooner Dean Martin and Doris Day. I could share her emotion for Inge’s song, Inge whose appetite for competing showed an uncommon determination and inner force! I would like to keep my promise to this Toastmasters member and tell you about her fantastic mother and if you feel like voting for her song, here is the link http://www.eurovisionplattform.sf.tv/videos/inge_ginsberg_s_song 
Few days ago, I came across another “force de la nature” as we say in French (a person of incredible moral strength). As I could not attend our district autumn conference for professional reasons, I received lots of messages and pictures to compensate for my non-attendance – and some technical problems that prevented our OC and attendants to properly connect to the internet. Among them, a 79 yr old lady sent me a quite mysterious introduction:
“Hello! I have pictures of the Budapest conference. How would you like to get them by e-mail or do you prefer I upload them to flickr?” which sounded very much like a TM wikileaks attempt to my ears. It was signed Julie Kertesz, PhD, DTM – as if these two titles were equivalent – with numerous links under her name.  I thought Flickr would make the whole process easier to manage, I replied “Please send them by linking to Flickr” (logical to remain in the world of the essential)!
When I got her pictures, I went through them. They were very poetical, some of them poignant such as this installation by the Danube river: dozens of meters of old shoes aligned by the shore, symbolizing people who were forced into its cold winter waters in 1944. I could sense she was an artist of some kind, and I came across her image on our district’s FB group, but I did not know anything about her life. And then in the middle of this wealth of pictures (she has posted more than 50 000 for the last 9 yrs when she started to photograph),  there was a picture of herself on the plain page of a local newspaper http://www.flickr.com/photos/joyoflife/10901615273/ with a big 77. I thought maybe she is 77 yr old – but what journalist would stripe a plain page with the age of a woman over 40 even opening her arms widely with such vitality and appetite for life???
I e-mailed her back “What is this article about you – I do not read Hungarian?” One day later, I got the full text in Hungarian with a note “Do you prefer this text translated into French or English?” (always this brevity!). Although my mother tongue is French, for obvious reasons I said “English please, much easier to share with the others”… and there I got my portrait of an old lady as an artist: Julie, now 80, became a comedian at age 77 and in 2012 she won the silver newcomer comedy title in the UK. Equally successful is her story with photography: at times, several thousands of people visit her pages daily! Tell me who else gets similar results?
Julie’s message about Toastmasters is very clear: “As to what Toastmasters, gave me, ‘most important’ the interviewer asked, I did answer: the most important was giving me confidence. (And a tribe everywhere I go.)”
I know that in every corner of Toastmasters, there are such gems, people with purpose, positive, daring… they might be of another generation but both Inge and Julie are amazing women communicating the joy of life and the unbeatable spirit of challenge! Thank you ladies, you rock!
Author: Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti Reviewer: Cindy Piccolo

A woman’s new year’s resolution: be a well-spoken woman

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Dear readers,

Happy New Year! May 2012 bring you joy and happiness from communicating and leading with heart, insight and accuracy!

The well spoken woman cover

The well spoken woman cover

Some of you might feel I am starting this year with a rather discriminatory post as Christine K.Jahnke’s book, “The well-spoken woman. Your guide to looking and sounding your best” is prima facie intended for women only. Let me reassure you: as this book is helpful to empower your fellow female co-workers, whether you are a man or a woman makes no difference… you can help!

Before ordering this book, I had great expectations as I do believe that we, women, need a kick in the ass from time to time to propel our careers and it seemed it had this constructive aspect embedded. I have not been disappointed: it is very comprehensive and gives guidelines for all types of addresses – including very interesting tips on how to speak on TV, it enables you to assess your level of “well-spoken-ness”, and the WOMEN (not men) serving as examples to illustrate the guidelines are no other than Michelle Obama, Madeleine Albright, Melinda Gates, etc. truly appealing and successful FEMALE models.

The book is strongly built and its dynamics pushes the reader always further (chap.1 “Ann Richards – Your Best Self”, chap.2 “Indra Nooyi – Take Charge Confidence”, chap.3 “Barbara Jordan – Voice of Authority”, etc.). I dive into chapter 6 about “pre-planned spontaneity” – that very much resembles what we call “prepared speeches” – to support the reply to this burning question in your minds: is Christine H.Jahnke’s advice of a much different nature than what we find in Toastmasters manuals? I will give you some elements to form your opinion. According to this chapter, to prepare for giving your speech and fully enjoy the benefits of “pre-planned spontaneity”, you should:

1) “maximize the situation” and get to know as much as needed about the audience you will address, the type of event and even the setting (seems familiar?)

2) “break Murphy’s law” and anticipate on possible malfunctioning (mike, hardware, seating, noise, etc.). Anticipation makes the difference between an amateurish and a professional presentation, even if unforeseen events always might indeed their way in the most prepared speeches. What do you do then? At times, you have to be ready for impromptu, ready to seize the moment to increment the value of what you had prepared (seems familiar too? no kidding!)

3) have the type of notes and visual support that work for you (full-text speech, note cards, teleprompter… make your choice)… that means the type of support that reassures you and that makes you look and sound NATURAL – in my language!

The great plus of this book is that it is really meant to practicallysupport the planning of your speeches and therefore provides a

Toastmaster in action

Toastmaster in action

series of checklists for each set of advice, all very wise and articulate. One of its flaws is that it is a little bit old-fashioned to my taste (no woman of my generation seems to be an example of success…) and it does not take into account the wealth of communication means generated by social media – and its potentially “new”requirements. “The well-spoken woman” is however a great attempt to provide inspiring women models and women-to-women advice in an era usually populated by all mighty male gods (and some are near to irreplaceable, thinking of Steve Jobs and his unique way to captivate an audience attention… http://youtu.be/UF8uR6Z6KLc).

Elina Aho "Embodied gesture"

Elina Aho "Embodied gesture"

Finally, training in public speaking is not a theoretical issue: you need to practice and even more than practice, you need to find a dedicated audience (or coach, or mentor) that gives you feedback and helps you further assess if your motivation and efforts are paying off… If Christine K.Jahnke is a competent coach that will devotedly help you, there are also Toastmasters clubs all over  the world to welcome you and your pressing search for improvement in the field of communication and leadership. Why not pay a visit to one of our clubs in January and assess if Toastmasters could help you be that man or woman that stands up in the crowd?

Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti – upcoming Toastmasters meetings in Finland http://www.toastmasters.fi

CRISTINA ANDERSSON: LEARNING HOW TO SUCCEED

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Cristina Andersson

Cristina Andersson

 

Next Saturday 19th March at 10:30, Toastmasters and guests from all over Finland shall meet at the University of Helsinki for the association’s annual speech contest[i]. This is a marvellous opportunity to get acquainted with Toastmasters and the possibilities it opens for you. It is also the occasion to listen to an enlighting speech by our keynote speaker. This year, we are privileged to have Cristina Andersson, a Finnish educationalist, coach and singer who will take the stand to tell us about ” How to perform a winning speech”. It couldn’t be more appropriate under such circumstances, isn’t it?

I met with Cristina Andersson at Café Aalto in Helsinki to discuss about her self-improvement and learning organizations management book called ”The Winning Helix  – the art of learning and manifesting your true potential” (in Finnish ”Voittava kierre”, WSOY) . “The Winning Helix” is not a pure theory book about action-learning but is built upon Cristina’s experience of learning how to sing opera and her dialogue with her teacher and coach. It is besides full of beautiful quotes.

–       What does winning mean and is winning important?

–       My definition of winning is “unique personal achievement and experience”  rather than the more aggressive connotation of it. We have to learn to trust our cognitive system so as to prepare ourselves to the best of our ability, then, when the moment has come to give a speech or a concert for example, you have to let it happen, you have to let it flow. Your focus will be only on what is happening not on learning anymore. There is a form of concentration when we perform which I call alertness. It is twofold: alertness turned outwards (towards your audience for example) and concentration: inwards (inner knowing and total control). Winning, is important because it gives upheaval to your learning process and offers you unique moments of personal achievement. Vincit qui se vincit!

–       You describe this ”flow” or alertness process quite beautifully in your book by referring to Merleau-Ponty’s

The Winning Helix

 

concept of “optimal grip”: ”When the learner obtains an optimal grip on his learning process, he is totally involved in it and he is able to learn and act without representing a goal; that is – the process has become part of the learner and outer motivation is no more needed – the learner has optimized his grip on the process” (p.57). Learning however seems to always start with a challenge, as the book demonstrates”.

–       Learning is challenging ourselves. In my case, for example, I started to sing in 1991. I had never sung before, now I am preparing for an audition in Bayreuth and have launched a learning ecosystem dedicated to singing. In learning terms, I went from my initial volition to sing (I want to sing) to materializing it by intention (I will sing) as it is described in “the Winning helix” my book. In practical terms, it all comes down to putting your dreams into motion and develop ”success routines”, to creating your own personal learning system and environment.

–       As the former editor of the Jokerit newsletter, you had the opportunity to approach and interview many hockey professionals and your book is full of examples from sports life. When is an athlete a winner?

– My interviews of several dozens of hockey and other sports professionals led me to conclude that what they enjoy most in this sport is the feeling of speed and the physical contact resulting from their fight for the puck. Barry Smith, coach assistant for Detroit Red Wings, said there is a mental price to pay to be a winning athlete however: you have to accept to regularly push your limits to the extremes, during training time and during the matches.

A young hockey player

A young hockey player

 

– An athlete is a winner not only because he properly prepared technically and tactically but also because he has developed the ability to perform under specific stress circumstances. Is dealing with such specific stress part of the learning process?

– Learning is an action-oriented process.  The title of my book is coming from the detailed observation of the DNA structure, where learning and action constitute the double helix of the learning-action process. When we are performing, be it a match, a speech or in a concert, we have to mobilize the energy circulating beyond this double helix. The main issue however, as I earlier said, is to prepare with both teachers – they teach you a skill – and coaches – they teach you how to use your skill. When you are well prepared, there is no such thing as stage fear and after sharing something with an audience it has become a friend anyways.

– Cristina you are also one of the directors of the poetry marathon in Lahti. Could you tell us few words about this event?

– There is a poetry week (runoviikko) and a poetry festival taking place in Lahti every two years. It is dedicated to Finnish and international poetry, over its 28 years of existence the marathon has contributed to the collection of about 55 000 Finnish poems – which is only 5000 poems less than those collected by Elias Lönnrot for the Kalevala. The marathon is open to professionals as well as to non professionals.


[i] Toastmasters Annual speech contest, 19th March 10:30 Helsinki University, Auditorium 8, 3rd floor


TO KNOW MORE ABOUT CRISTINA ANDERSSON

Her blog in Finnish http://cristinaandersson.wordpress.com

Website: www.develor.fi

Her twitter account @winninghelix (http://www.twitter.com/winninghelix)

  • About the Cristina’s singing learning ecosystem “Swing to win”:

FB page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Swing-To-Win/102617376483869

Twitter account @swingtowin

  • About the Lahti poetry marathon

http://www.runomaraton.com/

 

Be our guest this Saturday and give yourself the possibility of improving your communication and leadership skills a try.

Poetry rhymes with vitality

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Runeberg cakes

Runeberg cakes

Have you felt the presence of poetry in your lives lately? I am asking you this question because three weeks ago, we celebrated Runeberg, the Finnish poet, and I was wondering, surrounded as I was by Runeberg cakes wherever I went, how many Finns still knew some of his poems by heart?

What about Valentine’s day, then? Isn’t it THE poetry day, THE day when your husband, partner, friend, whoever, is reciting a love/friendship poem to you – looking deeply into your eyes, hand on his/her chest, saying these words from the bottom of his/her heart? No?? Instead you got some modern poetry on your mobile in the style of: “L◯√∑ Today and Everyday! ˚*•.¸❤¸.•*”இ≻–‵♥இ≻–‵ ♥இ≻–‵♥இ≻–‵ ♥இ≻–…”. Isn’t it… a good start?

1) “poetry” rhymes with “inutility”

All these questions erupted into my life because I picked up the Toastmasters advanced “Interpretive reading” manual as my

upcoming Toastmasters assignment. It consists of the successive reading aloud of a short novel, a poem, a drama, a play and an oration from authors you like. This manual is often neglected because we all prefer giving persuasive PR speeches (advanced “PR” manual), inspiring technical presentations (advanced “technical presentations” manual), etc. that are besides much more valued professionally. If you read a poem for six to eight minutes, in whatever context, would anyone listen to you anyway? Would anyone even understand what you are talking about?

2) “poetry speaks” rhymes with “personal peaks”

Memories from our childhood often comprise an impressive set of rhymes usually revived at the birth of our children but what happens after this blessed period of our lives?

Virgil's Aeneid

Virgil's Aeneid

The first time poetry spoke to me was during my Latin classes (no, I am not 100 years old!!!!). We started the reading of Virgil’s “Aeneid”: it was so lucid and intense to my ears, flowing like spring water, that I could memorize the Latin text as we were reading. Image, sound, history and story, rhythm, meter, cadence, rhymes and even Virgil’s overabundance of metaphors or distorted sentences with subject, verb and object separated by a full paragraph at times, all participated in building an emotional trap in which I was meant to fall. Relentlessly working on the translation of the “Aeneid” verses into French captured my imagination then and left an imprint in my life that a gradual oblivion of the original text has not taken away.

3) “poetry is loud” rhymes with “read poetry aloud”!

You have to deeply understand a poem before performing it in front of an audience: analysis, reading aloud,

presentation work are the basis of your preparation. As a non native English-speaker though, I personally also turn to audio and video resources, especially those where the authors read their works themselves.  Most of the time, authors are not professional interpreters but they manage to convey a very specific emotion, one close to the creative source, which is electrifying.

In the absence of any interpretation of the Aeneid by Virgil himself, let’s take Margaret Atwood’s poem “This is a photograph of me” and try a small exercise. First read the text from within, letting it resonate with your emotions.

“This is a photograph of me”

“It was taken some time ago At first it seems to be a smeared print: blurred lines and grey flecks blended with the paper;

then, as you scan it, you can see something in the left-hand corner a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree (balsam or spruce) emerging and, to the right, halfway up what ought to be a gentle slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake, and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where precisely, or to say how large or how small I am: the effect of water on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough eventually you will see me.)”

Now let’s listen to the reading of “a photograph of me” by Margaret Atwood herself.

And let’s now turn to another interpretation by one of her fans.

How would you read the original text now? You have tro try numerous times before finding the most suitable way for YOU to say the text.

4) poetry spice: slam it, damn’it!

In the Toastmasters manual, there is a piece of advice which in my opinion is not in harmony with today’s trends – but it does not mean that the manual is wrong in general: avoid a “sing-song” interpretation. For training purposes, I would suggest a totally opposite direction: slam your text! I would go even further: slam everything you need to read aloud because the extremes it forces you to, will help you find your natural rhythm of enunciation, the moments when to pause, the moments when to suspend your audience’s breath to your words, etc. in one word, it will help you improve your communication skills tremendously and that’s why you joined or plan to join Toastmasters.

Katie Makkai is a famous slammer. Let’s listen to her interpretation of “pretty” that generated over 500 000 hits on youtube and lots enthusiastic comments and laughter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6wJl37N9C0

That is probably more than “sing-song” but if you manage training and reading your next business report on the pattern of Katie’s “Pretty”, you will do wonders in the board room.

It is well possible that you don’t have enough time to allow poetry into your lives anymore but you could still download some poems randomly and schedule their podcast as a mental break in your busy day… I would advise you to establish this routine, because poetry could help you to approach the world from a different angle, deploying its creative wings on your daily joys and worries, and not only at a personal level.

Besides, it’s nearly springtime: why not try something fresh and new, why not to give poetry a try?

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Some contemporary poetry resources:

www.poetryspeaks.com

http://hkipoetryconnection.blogspot.com/

@MargaretAtwood you can follow this famous Canadian poet on Twitter (she has over 135 000 followers)

Text by Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti @ruxandrabp

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LANGUAGE COMMENTARY PROVIDED BY RICHARD LEWIS COMMUNICATIONS  www.crossculture.com

Based on the following initial text, Richard Lewis Communications suggested the following improvements (parts to be corrected highlighted in yellow).  http://www.slideshare.net/Toastmastersfinland/poetry-rhymes-with-integrated-corrections

1) Intially, I wrote:  ‘watching deeply into your eyes’. RLC comment: the verb should be ‘looking’ – “looking deeply into your eyes”. The verbs ‘see’, ‘look’ and ‘watch’ are subtly different. If we ‘see’ something, we cannot avoid it. Simply having our eyes open there are various things in front of us which we see. If we ‘look’ at something, we are deliberately focusing our attention on it. ‘Watch’ is used for things which are moving, where activity is going on. For example, we could go into a room and see a television. If we look at the television, we are looking at the physical object. But if we watch television we are following the programme. In the context of your sentence, ‘look’ is the correct verb as there is intense concentration. Watching someone’s eyes would be focusing on following the movements as they observed different things and moved around.

2)Initially, I wrote “it consists in”. RLC comment: the verb ‘consists’ is followed by the preposition ‘of’. Prepositions are not easy or entirely consistent in English. You just have to learn them!

3) ‘If you read a poem during six to eight minutes’ . RLC comment: it should be ‘for’ six to eight minutes. ‘During’ implies that something else is happening too. E.g. ‘During the reading of the poem, the poet knocked a glass of water off the table.’

4) ‘were all participating’ RLC comment: it should be ‘all participated’ , i.e. simple past instead of past continuous. The past continuous implies that something else interrupted ( a little like my explanation for ‘during’). ‘As I was walking up the stairs, the doorbell rang’

5) ‘In the front of an audience’: RLC comment: it should be ‘in front of an audience’. No definite article needed.

6) ‘Laughters’: RLC comment: ‘laughter’ doesn’t have a plural. Even if different people are laughing it is just ‘laughter’. A common mistake in this area is the word ‘furniture’, or ‘equipment’ – they are always in the singular even if there are many pieces of the items.

8) ‘could help you in approaching’ –  RLC comment: it should just be ‘to approach’

9) ‘why not to try’RLC comment: you don’t need a preposition after ‘why not’. It is just ‘why not try’


Simon Dannapfel, 7th speech: “Food Matters”

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I have often been amazed by the quality of some of the speeches delivered during Toastmasters meetings and equally often sad that the most inspiring ones were not finding their way out of the meeting room. Simon’s “Food Matters” was one of these talks that reversed the traditional perspective we have on choosing our foods and it raised many questions we asked Simon after our meeting was over.

Here is a link to his speech on slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/Toastmastersfinland/simon-dannapfel-speech-7-food-matters?from=share_email Read his text or listen to it (podcast link here shortly) as if you were attending our meeting but above all, share your comments with him through this blog or slideshare: he is certainly the person to debate with when you want to make sense of health, food, exercise and ethics issues!

Simon Dannapfel

Simon Dannapfel

I am speaking about Simon and his speech for some time but I haven’t yet introduced him! Simon Dannapfel is a trained exercise physiologist, personal trainer and sport coach who, having completed his post-graduate education in New Zealand, moved to Finland to live and work. Simon is also a Toastmasters member and with this blog post, I would also like to showcase what Toastmasters is about to those who have not yet entered the exciting path of becoming a “competent communicator”: what we do and how we prepare for our “public speeches” at Toastmasters?

Here is his interview on how he prepared his 7thToastmasters’ speech – it could be you…

– Your 7th assignment on the path of becoming a competent communicator consisted in researching your topic. How and why did you pick up how to choose our foods as a topic?

Research your topic

Research your topic

I chose the topic of the importance of foods because it merges two broader topics that are of great interest to me: health and understanding the broader consequences of the choices I make. My professional background is in sport, exercise and nutritional science so from a research point of view I was already comfortable with the topic. There were also parts of the speech that required new information so the background work was a well-balanced effort.

– How much time did you spend researching your topic? Was the manual a good support in performing this task?

I didn´t keep track of the time I took to research my topic, however I did spend

Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times"

Charlie Chaplin in "Modern Times"

several hours attempting to track down information more relevant to Finland. Unfortunately it led to a dead-end so I decided to simplify my efforts and get broader scope information.

The manual is always useful to focus my objectives with each speech…it is very easy to go off on tangents that are not important or best left for other speeches so I have found the manual very useful for avoiding this tendency and for providing tips to achieve objectives.

– Have you improved your ability to research a topic with this assignment?

Norwegian makrill with beetroot, should be OK...

Are steamed Norwegian mackerel and beetroot healthy?

I was already quite comfortable with researching based on my academic experience with my honours and masters theses, however it was a good exercise in distilling information for a concise speech as was required for this speech. I continue to learn with each speech how to focus on the essence of a topic rather than attempt to shower an audience with a lot of information. In researching and presenting an information-heavy topic it is easy to lose an audience by forgetting that they are not as familiar with the topic as the presenter…so I found that in the process of preparing for this speech I improved how I presented the information I had and indeed what I looked for to include.

– What have you gained with the presentation of your text to the TM audience last Monday?

With each speech I gain the invaluable practise of speaking in front of an

Addressing an audience at TM

Addressing an audience at TM

audience…the great thing is that you only know how you have improved when you go up for more speeches. With each speech comes more and more speaking confidence; I have really been enjoying my speeches as I have been applying the techniques taught in the manual. With this particular speech it as great to know that the message of my speech seemed to come across to the audience more clearly than in speeches I have made prior to being a toastmasters member. One of the main reasons I joined in the first place was to improve my ability to communicate ideas that I found were important… I am sure I am not the only one who has found misunderstanding or lack of clarity in speeches frustrating.

– What is your next assignment? How are you proceeding?

using a projector phone

using a projector phone

The goal of my next speech is to make use of visual aids…I am looking forward to this as I plan to make use of a presentation  visual aid tool that I have wanted experiment with for awhile as a variation to the standard powerpoint. I also want to talk about something entirely different from my previous topics in order to continue to improve my speaking variety. I have some background information gathered and will continue to prepare once I have a target date.

Now dear readers, I have a question to you: do you know why Simon joined Toastmasters in Finland? Surely speaking and good communication is a critical part of his work and guess what? “Toastmasters has been very useful in this regard” as well as for his personal projects says Simon.  What else could I say? If you want to improve your communication skills and have not yet attended a Toastmasters session, do it! We have plenty of meetings going around close to you! And you can make the difference by participating – as usual! http://www.toastmasters.fi to find about our next meetings.

Which brings one more detail about Simon to mind: he was one of the chartering members of Stadi Talkers and has been with the club since it was founded. Isn’t he… active!!!

Say it to me, as a friend

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Few days ago, I saw Tom Hooper’s much acclaimed “The Kings’ speech”, the astonishing true story of King George VI who once feared being called George the Stammer wouldn’t he have found his “voice” thanks to the unconventional methods of an Australian “speech therapist” who gradually turned into a friend, Lionel Hogue.  This movie is a must-see not only because of Colin Firth’s (George VI) and Geoffrey Rush’s (Lionel Logue) outstanding interpretations and the uniqueness of their characters’ relationship, but also because it can only touch us in the heart of our communication and leadership aspirations. King George VI’s handicap was of such nature that it indeed required an adapted therapy for curing, but many scenes reminded me of the regular training provided by Toastmasters and the efforts we produce in order to ameliorate the quality of our lives as communication beings.

1) to improve your public speaking skills, listen to yourself

For improving our ability to speak, we have to listen first and listen to the only voice we would generally prefer not to listen to: our own. At times, it is a cruel exercise as it might reveal a person in which we do not recognize ourselves. Acknowledging own strengths and weaknesses is however a first and indispensable step in bettering our way of delivering speeches. “The King’s speech” shows it in the most dramatic way when Lionel Logue suggests the at the time Duke of York to tape his voice and listen to it.

I don’t want to reveal more about the result and subsequent challenges inherent to this exercise because the story is so appealing that you really should see the movie to discover what happened, but it stroke me that taping own voice was an incredibly innovative technology at the time, and that the wide availability and variety of affordable technologies for taping and videotaping  at our disposal nowadays have not equally prompted their use for the purpose of perfecting our persuasiveness and expressiveness (such technologies are supported by e.g. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ or http://www.youtube.com)… Wouldn’t it be wiser to give it a try at least – and I address here to my fellow Toastmasters particularly?

2) to improve your public speaking skills, get feedback from your audiences

Listening is also the main task of any audience. George VI’s attempts to tame his tottering in such unusual situations as addressing a full Wembley Stadium during his first oration – broadcasted by radio to the entire British Empire involving thus an audience of several millions auditors – can only fill us with a sense of relief when it comes to our Toastmasters first public speech called the “icebreaker”… Unlike George VI, we are fortunate to have an emphatic and interactive audience at Toastmasters: people who share the same objectives (improving their communication and leadership skills) and who will give us feedback on every aspect of our performance in a structured and easy way (body language, eye contact, voice, tone, rhythm, grammar, structure, etc…).

Geoffrey Rush’s line as Lionel Logue “Say it to me, as friend” encompasses everything about the unique environment Toastmasters creates for us to meliorate this fantastic ability to tell things and have people listen to us!

3) to improve your public speaking skills, relentlessly train

There is no secret: to become a great public speaker, we have to train, and train again because by training we gain confidence from practicing rather than from absorbing all possible self help books on the topic. The result of such training is often perceivable in our renewed ability to catch an audience’s attention with the real us – rather than with a book formatted us. The movie “The King’s Speech” shows it beautifully as the King rehearses his speeches with the support of those who believe in him and he gradually grows into the person he was meant to be: serving his nation as a hero king, being an entertaining father and husband, forcing the admiration of all.

To conclude, I would say this:

1) GO and see the movie “The King’s speech” and if you recognize some areas in your public speaking you would like to improve, then…

2) JOIN a Toastmasters meeting to find a Toastmasters group in your town, use the locator function on www.toastmasters.org (Meetings in Finland are also taken on this blog and on www.toastmasters.fi) . Attending as a guest is free of charge and you will then be in a position to decide if Toastmasters can help you improving in the areas you are planning to improve and especially gain in terms of eloquence.

3) TAPE your training and post it on this blog for feedback: if you are preparing for a speech, tape yourself in the format you feel most comfortable with and ask for feedback on this blog. We will make sure some experienced Toastmasters will give you feedback on how to improve it… how does that sound?

4) Be the first to fully review this text and win a Finnkino movie ticket (valid for one person, one session, in Finnkino cinema’s in Finland until May 2011): as my text proves, I am not a native English speaker but I am always very pleased to receive suggestions for correction. If you are the first to suggest a full set of corrections to the above text (vocabulary,  grammar) in a comment to this post, you will get a ticket to go to the movies (and who knows maybe see “the King’s speech”?)…

Article by Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti