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Toastmasters

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If I give the universe a chance, it does its best to be absolutely
wonderful. =)

I had misgivings about the Toastmasters speech
contest held Thursday, but when I gave myself permission to just go
ahead and do it, I had tons of fun. I gave a speech entitled “I Will
Learn How To Cook… Or Die Trying”. Frequent readers of my blog (none
of which were among the audience) would recognize some of the
misadventures I’ve had. =) I’ll post the MP3 one of these days. (I
really should start an infrequent little podcast…)

My contest performance was only the second time I’d run through that
particular version of the speech. Still, I had no problems connecting
to the audience, treating them as friends, and making them laugh. I
missed a few jokes I had wanted to make, but it flowed together well.
I’m still having problems ending on the strong note everyone expects,
probably because I pour a lot of energy into the beginning and middle
as well.

Even though I threw the revised speech together as hastily as a
stir-fry on a starving Saturday night, I won second place. =) The man
who won first was a really cool Toastmaster, and his speaking skills
are far beyond mine. Lots of things to learn!

Mrs. Castillo would be thrilled to hear that people liked my use of
props. I can think of no other cause for this but the drama in
education program we had in grade school. =) My father and my sister
must share the credit for anything I might know about humor and
storytelling. My mom’s encouraging note earlier this morning was the
source of my energy during the speech. And oh, so many people who keep
me going and make me laugh… If I spread sunshine in people’s lives,
it is because I get so much from others!

I need to work on speech organization a bit more, and endings are
still one of my weak points. I have plenty of things to learn, and I
love that. I don’t want to be a good speaker. I want to become a
brilliant speaker so that I can inspire people not only to adopt the
ideas I want them to consider but also to improve their own
communication skills. =)

Very good day.

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Finished my tenth speech!

| toastmasters

I’m now eligible for the Competent Toastmaster (CTM) award! Hooray,
hooray! My tenth speech was named “Cook or Die”, and I talked about
how cooking means happiness, comfort and love. =) It was good practice
for the upcoming club competition.

The club gave me a CTM pin and a very interesting book entitled “48
Laws of Power”. They also signed a card… Awww! =)

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

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Toastmasters

| toastmasters

I gave speech #8 at our Toastmasters
meeting earlier. I talked about secret happiness: colored socks for
sunshine, dangling earrings for the laughter of seas, and a star for
love. =) Everyone loved the speech!

I’m doing “Evaluate to Motivate” next week. I have plenty of stories
to tell them about my family and my friends! =)

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Toastmasters

| geek, toastmasters

Good to be back in Toastmasters. For the table topics game, I asked
people to tell me what they liked the most about Toronto. Everyone had
fun talking about Toronto, and I added a few new items to my list of
things to do or see while I’m here. It turned out that one of the
guests was also new to the city. Great timing!

I’ve volunteered to do my eighth speech next week. I’ll be talking
about Secret Happiness. The eight speech project is about using visual
aids effectively, and I’m sure my wonderful socks will be an excellent
visual aid. ;) Secret Happiness!

We had an executive meeting, too. Must get the hang of organizing my
notes for the minutes. Will write up the minutes tomorrow and send it
to exec.

Oh! I did the secret geek handshake today. One of the guests mentioned
conferences – “cons”, in geek lingo. Gaming conferences, in
particular. First half of the geek handshake. I responded by telling
him that in terms of computer gaming, I’m weird – I’m into Nethack. If
you could’ve seen him just light up… Secret geek handshake indeed!

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Toastmasters and speaking at technical conferences

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Being a Toastmaster has disadvantages
after all. I now really, really hate it when I give a speech that’s
nowhere near good or even satisfactory. Although two people came up to
me afterwards and told me the workshop was great, I sooo want to make it even better!
Today’s speech had none of the ease or energy of my Toastmasters speeches.
And worse: I wasted the time of two people who squeezed a break into their very
busy schedules to be there.

Toastmasters has woken internal monsters. My inner “ah” counter who
would’ve just tsk-tsked at all of the filler words and repeated
phrases I used. My inner speech evaluator would’ve tried to find a
nice, supportive way to tell me to improve my eye contact and speech
organization. My inner audience would quietly pass along scribbled-on
evaluation sheets telling me I lacked my usual energy and enthusiasm,
and that I used too much jargon.

My friends from the Philippines would’ve dragged me off for some hot
chocolate to help me recover.

It was tough. I felt so drained on my way home. Hmm, that could also
have been due to lack of sleep. (Another thing I needed to fix!) I
can’t really blame the audience or on the topic. I just have to become
a better speaker.

And I _really_ wanted to get people hooked on social bookmarking! I
think it’s a mind-blowing thing for discovering, organizing, and
sharing new websites. THIS IS A COOL IDEA! I want to evangelize it!

Siiigh. So I’m still crappy as a technical speaker. The wearable
computing talks I did before were pretty okay—I was happy about
those—but then again, I did _those_ four or five times. This one was
a first run (second, if you count my tagging speech at Toastmasters),
and it was really, really rough.

It was so rough that I briefly considered hiding under a rock and not
speaking tomorrow. But then, how am I going to learn if I don’t get
out there and try it out?

I didn’t know what to do, so I called my mentor, Paul Wilson.
Toastmasters International is really big on mentoring.

Paul was _amazing._ He let me blubber about the speech for a minute or
two, a tangled mess of nerves and stress and self-doubt. He then
gently helped me sort out my main issues. Here’s what was bothering me:

Low energy. I was a little drained because I slept late and I

got up earlier than I really needed to. I started off with a bit of
energy and passion, but I couldn’t sustain it long enough to warm
the crowd up. I know how to deal with this one: sleep early!

Low audience attentiveness. Perhaps it was a matter of

drinking water out of a firehose: too many good ideas in too short a
time meant that people were still trying to absorb the idea of blogs
and wikis when I started talking about social computing. Perhaps it
was a matter of low energy. Three hours is a long time to sit still,
even if you’re doing demos…

Uncertain time. Being the last presenter meant that I had to

make up for any shortfall in the schedule. I dropped a lot from my
presentation, but I still went overtime. I also caught myself
getting slightly agitated while waiting, and then repeating some
points because of stress.

Long waits for website response. I depended too much on being

able to interact with del.icio.us. (After all, it’s a hands-on
workshop! People are supposed to be able to play with it!) I wasn’t
sure if people really played with it in the end, as they were
probably frustrated by the time it took for del.icio.us to respond.

Paul was totally awesome. He didn’t just pull up a few websites for me
to read. No, he shared stories from his personal experience. He’d been
there. He’d done that. _And_ he showed me how I could do it too. He
pointed out the good stuff in my previous speeches, the strengths I
could tap to address the challenges I face tomorrow. As I listened to
him share tips on how to get over those bumps, I realized that _this_
is what mentoring is.

It’s an awesome experience.

Here’s what I learned from him:

Variety. If I’m worried about people’s energy level, I can

open with a physical activity. If I think people’s minds are
drifting, I can change gears to help them pay attention. They _want_
to pay attention, so I need to make it easy for them. (He had a
light, endearing opener that I think I’ll steal…)

Story. Stories are good. Stories are a powerful technique. In

particular, stories might be better suited to my speaking style. I
learned that people like my stories more than straight
information-dense speeches by speech #2. I was worried that people
would expect and need straight technical speeches at CASCON, but
maybe I’ll actually be better off focusing on one clear, simple
message and telling a real story around it.

Humor. I had a lot of fun with wordplay and surprise during

my speech on procrastination. I learned how to ‘set up and punch’,
as Greg said. If I can find places to use surprise in my speech,
then it’ll be a lot more fun.

See, I _know_ these things on a surface level. I read books and blogs
about public speaking. But hearing them from a mentor who cares about
helping me succeed, who’s heard me speak before, who knows my
strengths and weaknesses and goals…

Wow.

I’m going to keep learning. I’m going to keep trying. And someday I’m
going to Figure This Thing Out.

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Toastmasters Humorous Speech contest tomorrow

| toastmasters

Searching the Net for tips on Toastmasters humorous speech competitions, I ran across
Steve Pavlina‘s blog entry about his division’s humorous speech contest last year.

So if you ever find yourself running up against your limits in some area of your life, see if you can find someone who's already pushed past that limitation in their own life.

I’m looking forward to the contest!

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Survived my first Toastmasters speech!

| speaking, toastmasters

I survived the ice breaker!

I had drafted talks for all sorts of things: lifehacking, the
Philippines, even the weather. None of them seemed to fit. Then Pierre
Duez of IBM CAS suggested that I talk about pets. Come to think of it,
he may have been joking. Anyway, I told myself, it’s the ice breaker.
They don’t mind non-serious topics. They want to get to know who I am.

Right. I could get away with a story about my cat. I threw together
the talk in the corridor. I knew I could tell plenty of stories about
Neko, who’s quite a character. I picked a couple, came up with a nice
beginning and a nice ending, and went for the thing.

I had so much fun bringing a few laughs from my seasoned audience.
They weren’t belly laughs or anything, probably just
I-know-what-you’re-talking-about laughs. But that was good. I wasn’t
sure how reactive people were because the past few talks were mostly
serious, but it was fun.

It was my first time with a U-shaped arrangement. I don’t like having
anything between me and my audience. I stepped in front of the
lectern, but I didn’t know what to do about the hulking large
projector in the middle of the room. I ended up going in front of it,
which cut off eye contact with the people on the ends of the U. Doug
Vowles suggested that I move all the stuff out of the way next time. I
still have to figure out how to properly do blocking for U-style
arrangements.

I remember how the all-around stage we performed Junto al Pasig was an
interesting blocking challenge in grade 4. I should read up on
theatrical blocking for plays in the round, and maybe ask Tita Naty
and Mrs. Castillo as well…

I also need more lead-up to the punchline. I told them about ensuring
my cat’s safety in the household by telling my parents I’ll petition
my cat and my cat can petition them. ;) That went by too quickly
because I was already overtime. Hmm, must work on my timing.

I say “like” way too much. Must work on my filler words next time.

I also need to work on my resonance. (Err, must find out what they
mean by that, too. Yes, voice. But how?)

Whee… =D

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