Self-driving cars

Now that my fellow Eastern Penn Advanced Toastmasters Club members have read the pre-speech articles and heard the presentation, it is time to solicit your input.

I would like to know if you embrace or are skeptical about this new technology.  Would you prefer a car that prioritizes your protection or that of pedestrians in the even that the protection of one or the other must be chosen by the car?  Is government regulatory involvement in this welcomed by you or would you prefer some alternate means of assuring safety?  Chime in!

 

Recording at Contests

Contest Organizer,

Have you heard one or more of the following announcements at the start of a Toastmasters speech contest?

  1. No photographs to be taken during speeches.
  2. No filming or recording allowed.
  3. If you wish to record a speech contest, all speakers or presenters must beforehand give their written permission to be recorded.
  4. If a recording is made, the person making the recording must provide a copy at no cost to all contestants who request one.

I certainly have, predominantly at district-level contests, and since they all seem “official” and are reasonable, I added these announcements to those made by the sergeant-at-arms as he started the contest at the area and division levels when I was the area director and division director (and also contest chair). I assumed that they should be incorporated into the contests at the club, area, and division levels.

I assumed incorrectly.

Like any Toastmaster seeking the “final answer” for a contest question, I turned to the Toastmasters International Speech Contest Rulebook. Guess what? Those announcements are not in there. Not one of them. In fact, the Rulebook is entirely silent on this matter.

Like any Toastmaster seeking the “final answer” for a contest question but not finding it in the Rulebook, I phoned Toastmasters International (admittedly #2 on my speed dial list!) I shared my dilemma and asked for the official position. The answer was not what I expected, but it was short and simple:

  1. Districts set the guidelines at their contests.
  2. At the lower (club, area and division) contests, the contest organizer decides whether or not a video recording may be made.

It’s entirely up to you, the contest organizer, to determine the rules at your contest governing the making of recordings.

Lest I end this article with a length of merely three hundred or so words–which is definitely not my style!–I shall share a few suggestions as you decide what you are going to do about recording at your next contest. Let us review the four announcements shared above.

First, can we agree that whether the photographer is stationary (either standing or seated) or moving about, it is distracting to a speaker to have someone taking photographs during his speech? Even if there is no shutter sound or flash bulb involved, the potential for distraction is present.

Second, should filming or (audio) recording be allowed? At a recent district conference, there was a fellow off to the side with a video camera on a tripod. As I recall, he moved little, simply keeping the camera focused on the stage to record the speeches. While I as a contestant might be a little unnerved by looking out and seeing a camera pointing at me, is that any more unnerving that looking out at a room full of people? What about members of the audience holding up cameras and (nowadays) phones?

Third, what about seeking permission, written or oral, from all contestants prior to the contest? In the age of Big Brother, with its myriad of cameras and spy satellites, one finds it hard to avoid being filmed in the normal course of life. Businesses, banks, and (certainly) government offices all have many cameras present, and they don’t ask for our permission with regard to recording, but we are talking here about our controlled environment, a Toastmasters contest, so we need not be as crass as those institutions. If I, as a contestant, don’t want to be filmed, is it not proper that my request be heeded? Conversely, maybe I do want to be recorded, so that I can take the recording and analyze my performance, so that I can post it to my YouTube channel or club’s Web site. Can’t I have someone at least record my performance in the contest?

Fourth, should a copy of a recorded contest be made available at no cost to all contestants? As a contestant, I could see myself wishing to have a recording of the whole contest, to see how I did compared to the others, but is the person approved to make a recording going to be compelled to provide, at his cost, copies to any contestant who asks for one?

As contest organizer, you need to consider these things, and well in advance of the contest. Why? If you are going to allow someone to record the entire contest, you’ll have to make arrangements with him to have his equipment set up in advance, advise him that he should not be a distraction, let him know of your decision regarding provision of copies to contestants, etc. If you are going to require that all contestants agree to be filmed, you will also need to communicate with them, and before–not the day of!–the contest.

Again, it’s entirely up to you, the contest organizer, to determine the rules at your contest governing the making of recordings. Here’s how I believe I’m going to try it next time I’m a contest chair. Using again the numbering of the announcements above:

  1. Prohibit photographs during speeches, as photo opportunities exist at the end of the event.
  2. Allow one person to make a video recording of the event, provided this is all set up in advance.
  3. Seek in advance the consent of all contestants to be recorded. If any say “no,” I will decide if that means that none shall be recorded (thus eliminating entirely the need for the photographer), or if only those giving their consent will be recorded.
  4. Since we’re no longer in the VHS days and DVDs and digital copies are inexpensive or no-cost, require that the photographer provide a no-cost copy of the recording to all interested contestants.

I hope this has been of help to you. Organizing and conducting a well-run contest can be difficult, harrying, frustrating, maddening, or a combination thereof. Proper and organized actions prior to the contest can reduce your stress, so I encourage you to incorporate the above into your pre-contest planning to ensure that when it comes to the photographic recording aspects of the event, there’s no additional hassle to deal with. After all, we want our contests to above all be fun, right?

Common Timing Misunderstanding: The Other CTM

Mister or Madame Timer,

Has the general evaluator asked you, near the meeting’s start, to briefly explain your role to attendees, and have you mentioned in that description a “30 second buffer” at either end of the prescribed time period allowed?  Using Table Topics as an example, did you explain to attendees, “For Table Topics, you should try to speak from one to two minutes, but it’s okay if you at least make it to 30 seconds and don’t speak for more than 2 minutes, 30 seconds, because there’s a 30-second grace period”?  If so, pause here and ask yourself, “From where did I get that explanation?” “Who taught me that?”

Let’s examine a few sources of information about the role of Timer to see if they allow for a grace period.

1) First, the Timer role description on the Toastmasters International Web site (http://www.toastmasters.org/Membership/Club-Meeting-Roles/Timer). The closest thing here is “Throughout the meeting, listen carefully to each participant and signal them (sic) accordingly.”

2) Second, the Toastmasters International Speech Contest Rulebook. If you turn to Section 6, Timing of the Speeches, and look in subsection E, you will find the following:

1. International and Humorous speeches shall be from five to seven minutes. A contestant will be disqualified if the speech is less than four minutes 30 seconds or more than seven minutes 30 seconds.

2. Table Topics contest speeches shall be from one minute to two minutes. A contestant will be disqualified if the speech is less than one minute or more than two minutes 30 seconds.

3. Evaluation contest speeches shall be from two to three minutes. A contestant will be disqualified if the speech is less than one minute 30 seconds or more than three minutes 30 seconds.

It sure looks like a 30-second before and after grace period applies to International, Humorous, and Evaluation contest speeches, and for Table Topics, there’s a 30-second grace period on the “after” side. I believe we have found the source of the Common Timer Misunderstanding, but the grace periods described here are only for contest speeches. Since the Rulebook does not address non-contest speeches in one’s club, these allowance provisions do not apply to them.

3) I like to refer Toastmasters I am training or mentoring to the back of the book, “the book” being one’s Competent Communication manual.  While I shan’t share with you all of the description of the role of Timer, which is on pages 69-70 in the 6/2014 revision, here is some relevant content that concisely explains the primary reason we time our speeches:

“One of the lessons to be practiced in speech training is that of expressing a thought within a specific time.”

Flip to page 70 and look under the heading “During the meeting.” The third bulleted paragraph says, in the last two sentences,

“Generally topic speakers should be more or less 15 seconds of allowed time; prepared speakers must be more or less 30 seconds. However, these times may vary from club to club.”

Putting aside the somewhat poor and confusing grammar, I get the impression that perhaps (“generally”) there’s a 15-second before and after period allowed for Table Topics speakers and a 30-second before and after period allowed for prepared speakers. Regardless, the last sentence is important, when it says the times may vary from club to club.

What can we take away from this? Should we announce and allow grace periods for prepared speakers and Table Topics speakers? What about prepared speech evaluators? What about the other functionaries at a meeting? If we grant everyone extra time, the effectiveness of the timing discipline is diminished and the times on our agendas become suggestions, not guidelines. Very important to a Toastmasters meeting is starting on time, ending on time, and keeping the meeting segments in accordance with the agenda. But what about those grace periods, then? We’ve discounted those in the Contest Rulebook, but what about those in the back of the CC manual?

Some clubs have their members vote for best prepared speaker, best Table Topics speaker and/or best evaluator. A part of that, at least at the clubs I have been to which vote for these awards, is having the timer announce if any of the members vying for a ribbon were disqualified. That is where (and when), I suggest, we apply the grace periods: 15 seconds before and after a Table Topics speech and 30 seconds before and after a prepared speech if your club issues awards and thus timing disqualification is relevant. Even if your club issues awards, it can choose, based on that “times may vary from club to club” provision, to not have any grace periods. To avoid ambiguity, I suggest your club establish and record the grace period values to be used, if any, and absent any giving of awards, make it clear that there are no grace periods, explaining the purpose of timing as I shared in section 3 above. The Education Awards Team at Toastmasters International suggested, in that regard, sharing with you the following:

Clubs should keep in mind that member skills and abilities vary. Of course, following the guidelines of Toastmasters branded manuals with the provided times and objectives will render the most benefit. Should your club adopt methods specific to its culture that the club members feel would provide more beneficial results, they are welcome to create a motion, vote it into action and place that information in their Addendum of Standard Club Options. Many clubs do this with the Speech Contest Rulebook guidelines to provide their members with practice for contest season.

Those of us who have been in Toastmasters for quite a while likely received the Competent Toastmaster (CTM) award. We should be pleased with the receipt of that CTM, but let’s avoid the other CTM.

Take your Competent Communication Projects to the Max!

Introduction

Recent post-speech discussion with a club member who had at that evening’s meeting shared his Vocal Variety (project 6) speech from the Competent Communication (CC) manual got me thinking about how we should perhaps look at this and the other projects in that manual which develop certain aspects of speech delivery. This tip is primarily related to projects 4 through 6, and to a lesser degree, to projects 2 and 3, and provides what I believe is helpful information not just to the person crafting and delivering a speech, but to his prepared speech evaluator as well.

What do I mean by the title of this tip? Let’s start with the aforementioned project 6 speech as an example. The speech objectives in the manual (Competent Communication, Item 225, Rev. 6/2014) are as follows:

  • Use voice volume, pitch, rate, and quality to reflect and add meaning and interest to your message.
  • Use pauses to enhance your message.
  • Use vocal variety smoothly and naturally.

To “take this project to the max” means not just achieving those objectives, but over-achieving — exaggerating — them. I gave the club member verbal examples of what these objectives would be like if “taken to the max.” “Don’t just vary your volume a little bit,” I told him, “but discover what your volume range is by pushing for the limits.” When it comes to pitch, I suggested the implementation of different voices, perhaps male and female, into his presentation. Find a way in the speech to vary your rate from very slow to very fast. Test the “pause waters” by crafting your speech with a huge pause which seems terrifying to you. A pause can be a huge speechcraft asset and this is the project which asks you to explore that area. Take every objective here to the max to learn what you can handle and are comfortable with, and to stretch and grow yourself. “Max it out” in these CC projects!

Some ideas for the CC projects identified above

Project 2 (Organize Your Speech): Include the not-so-subtle phrases “I’d like to introduce you to…” and “and in conclusion” to clearly segment the organization of your speech and fulfill the last objective to “Create a strong opening and conclusion.” Make it super obvious that you’re moving from one speech part to the next to test how well and how you can best do so.

Project 3 (Get to the Point): Why not use phrases such as “In general, I want to share with you…” and, perhaps as part of your conclusion, “We looked at a few specific things this evening…” to make it abundantly clear what the general and specific purposes of the speech are? See project 2 notes about fulfilling the structural elements evaluation point (#5, page 20).

Project 4 (How To Say It): When writing your speech, work in a way to have one word sentences, perhaps by sharing with the audience a list of adjectives which describe something you’re talking about. Example: “How can I describe the view from the top of the mountain we had just climbed? Breathtaking. Inspiring. Majestic. Scary!” Take this project to the max and “over satisfy” the third evaluation aspect on page 25 to “use vivid, descriptive words that created mental images” by increasing your vocabulary and finding new adjectives to describe your mountain top view or express another point.

Project 5 (Your Body Speaks): We old-timers know this as the “gestures” project. Find a way when developing your speech to use every part of your body “to the max.” Counting off points on your fingers and other hand gestures are fine, but push the envelope and include material that necessitates, for example, stomping a foot, moving from one part of the stage to another, bending, lifting, twisting…whatever! You don’t need to write a speech about aerobic exercise to accomplish this, but come up with something that gets you learning just how great a tool your body language can be. And don’t forget that the “parking position” for your hands, when not deliberately in use, is at your sides.

Project 6 (Vocal Variety): Go constructively crazy with your vocal variety as described in paragraph two above.

And now, something for our prepared speech evaluators. First, know in advance the objectives of the speech project (you share these with the audience before the speech, right?) and be familiar with the evaluation points. Ideally, you have read the entire project. Second, please do not overreach in your prepared speech evaluation. I have seen this and I find it unfair to the speaker. Illustration: Bob just gave his CC #5 and you have spent 2 of your 3 minutes describing his use of body language, pointing out good and not-so-good aspects thereof in his speech presentation, but now you have decided to include in your evaluation some comments about how next time Bob can do a better job with his vocal variety. Huh? Why? That’s project 6, and he’s on project 5. The principle of not evaluating on points either not included in the project’s objectives or list of evaluation points is, obviously, applicable to all speech projects, but especially to those in the CC manual. Bob’s speech was to show off his hopeful mastery of body language and you’re pinging him on something that was not one of his objectives! DON’T DO IT! Broader evaluations covering multiple presentation aspects are appropriate to later speeches in this manual and to the advanced manuals, but not these developmental projects. Stick to what you should stick to.

Conclusion

When you get to the last four projects in the manual, you are going to be using the speech delivery aspects you exercised to the max in the preceding ones. Here, you’re going to be less obvious, but still implement them. If you maxed yourself out as suggested, you know now what you are good at and comfortable with. When you “persuade with power” in project 9 and “inspire your audience” in project 10, vocal variety and the proper body language are going to be key speech components in satisfying the objectives. Toastmasters manuals are designed such that when projects are taken in numerical order, the skills learned in earlier ones are implemented in later ones. The CC manual is a great example of this sequential process. Toss aside your inhibitions during your first ten speeches, max out each project’s objectives, and you will emerge with not only your first Toastmasters award, but also as a competent communicator ready to take on the advanced manuals. Go for it (to the max)!

Toastmaster Art (Arthur L. Farnsworth), CTM

15 January 2016 (rev. 17 January 2016)

 

Hello fellow Toastmasters!

Welcome to the Toastmaster Art Web log.  I hope that this can be, in conjunction with the Division G site and Division H site, a useful resource for we Toastmasters in District 38, Divisions G and H, though the postings here will not necessarily be limited in audience to just those people.  I encourage you to take part!  Meeting together and discussing items of mutual import and exchanging ideas and experiences just got a little bit easier.

Toastmaster Art (Arthur L. Farnsworth)