Why do people join Toastmasters?

Cast your mind back to when you first came to a Toastmaster meeting or attended Speechcraft and remind yourself what it was like. For me, when I first attended Speechcraft, I recall saying to myself, “What am I doing here, I should have stayed at home”. And my thoughts when I first attended our Club were “These guys are just too good”. And I would say at a guess that my thoughts would not be dissimilar to other people.

When surveyed, the majority of people come to Toastmasters to improve their communication skills. A small number come to get leadership training, and an even smaller group (like me) come because they just enjoy the experience. To add to the mix, many who have English as a second language claim they want to improve their English. In actual fact, many of these can communicate quite well and suffer from nerves like the majority of visitors.

The ones who actually join have that added drive to do something about their nerves. The ones who don’t come back either feel Toastmasters is not for them or the nerves overtake them. Ideally, it would be great to have every visitor join a Toastmasters club.

I had no intention of joining. I completed Speechcraft in March, yet I only joined in August. It was only an invitation to join by John Taylor that did it for me.

So whenever you come across a visitor, remember your first Toastmasters experience, and do whatever you can to allay the nerves that may have been present on your first Toastmasters experience.

Michael Said

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Speaking with Clarity

One of the difficulties I experience at times is trying to be clear in my communication. I often find that, in my head, everything I want to communicate is easy to understand and organised, with a good logical flow from one point to another. However, as soon as I begin speaking, I realise this is not the case at all. Some may argue it is my nerves but unfortunately this argument just doesn’t stand because this “muddled” communication style also extends to other aspects of my life such as friends and family.

As I progress, through my education and into the workforce, this challenge is constantly there in my face. It has made me quite conscious of the way I speak, particularly in academic and professional settings. However, as I have always been a chatty gal with difficulty zipping up at times, it is clear that I am not fazed by this challenge. Before I started Toastmasters, my strategy dealing with this challenge was to push through, apologise, and check to ensure that the person I spoke with understood what I was trying to say. A tiring process for me at times.

Some of the great things that Toastmasters has given me are skill sets to help me clarify my thought processes and communication styles. Specifically, the structures I can use when communicating. For example, one of the structures I have learnt is the Point-Reason-Example-Point (PREP) method. That is, when delivering a short speech, first state a point of view. Then provide the audience with reason/s and give an example to elaborate the point. Finally, conclude with the point again. Having this structure has made me more confident when communicating. In other words, Toastmasters has given me skills sets I can use to overcome this challenge.

While I initially joined Toastmasters to work on improving my shortcomings, in the process I have come to meet many wonderful and exceptional individuals that inspire me one way or another. The friendships, genuine care in helping me develop as a person, laughter, social gatherings, as well as opportunities for me to contribute –  these are a few of many reasons that keep me going back time and again. Toastmasters is a part of me, and will continue to be for these reasons.

Pamela McDonald

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I’ve got another plan, this time it will work

Do you make plans and then change them? The meeting theme “I’ve got another plan, this time it will work” turned out to be particularly appropriate for our 16 July 2015 meeting. This was to be our Table Topics Contest. Instead, due to overwhelming interest, we split the contest over two meetings – heats on 16 July and finals on 23 July. It was a classic case of having a plan and needing another plan.

In fact, as Vice President for Education, I’ve created 3 programs so far. Each program on the night has looked vastly different from the original. Here are five things I’ve learnt as VPE so far.

1. Start planning early. Well before the Changeover meeting. Work out meeting dates and cancelled meeting dates (e.g. Thursday 24 December) for the whole year. Then dates for contests, theme meetings, the club’s birthday meeting, the club’s Changeover meeting, and any other special meetings. Note any three-Thursday months. Think up an appropriate theme for each meeting, one that gives scope for discussion. If you’ve done this, you’ve got a good overview of the year.

2. Get the right tools. The main ones are Microsoft Excel and Word. In Excel I have worksheets for yearly dates and themes, to record best speeches, to track DCP points, and to plan meetings – to name just a few. The planning worksheet allows me to plan programs for the whole year. I don’t use Word as much. Mainly to create a PDF of upcoming programs to put on the club’s website. Other useful software is, of course, PDF creation software.

3. Know what members want. And don’t want. This is where the fun really starts. As with all planning, we need to know a few things. First, where members are up to in their manuals. That helps to reach the club’s DCP goals. If you know what speech manuals members are doing, you can plan the speaking program fairly reliably up to six months in advance. Second, what members want and don’t want to do. For example, one or two people may like the Frivolous Motion but don’t want to do the Grammarian role or Blog Evaluator. It’s also useful to know which members are doing a CL or AL manual. Finally, know who likes to speak in contests or help run contest.

4. Create balanced programs. When creating the program for each meeting, getting apologies is vital, the earlier the better. Then you know who is likely to come. Work out who will speak. Fill the four key roles of Table Topics Master, Chairman 2, Toastmaster, and General Evaluator with a mix of experienced and less experienced members. Assign the Speech Evaluators, Table Topics Evaluators, Chairman 1, Frivolous Motion, and Parliamentarian. Assign other roles such as Toast and Timer, keeping in mind that members doing a CL manual need to complete certain roles, some more than once.

5. Be flexible. Once you have a wonderful program … be prepared to change it. More apologies are likely to come in so roles will need readjusting. You may be flooded by enthusiastic members wanting to participate in a contest. In our Table Topics Contest, we had 20 contestants – hence the reason for splitting the contest. Then, you may have the opportunity for a World Champion of Public Speaking to come to a meeting, as we did on 23 July 2015. You’ll want to adjust the program for that and allow plenty of time to hear what they have to say – such opportunities don’t come up very often.

The Toastmasters Club Leadership Manual says “as your club’s Vice President Education, your workload gets heavy at times”. I’m finding out this is true. However, it’s a very interesting role with scope to learn a lot. Another lesson I’ve learnt is: your fellow members are willing and able to help. With help and support, the job can be done.

John New

Vice President Education, 2015-16

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‘Have You Broken the Ice Yet’

After joining a Toastmasters Club, the first speech a member presents is called the ‘Ice Breaker’. But did you know that there is another Ice Breaker in Toastmasters?  It is the Speech Contest ‘Ice Breaker’ and many members have not yet ‘broken the ice’ when it comes to speech contests.

As we conclude the current round of Club, Area and Division contests and get ready for District 70 finals, it’s a good time to reflect on importance of speech contests in a Toastmaster’s journey.

Perhaps TMs feel that competitions are not for them or they’re not yet ready. However, if you’re like me, you most likely joined TM to improve your Communications (& Leadership) skills. Competing in a speech contest is not just about winning. Everyone who competes in a contest, walks off the stage a more confident and skilled speaker; standing tall, head held up high. Contests are fast track on the communication journey; and winning is just the icing on the cake.

We hold four speech contests each year; two of them, Table Topics & Evaluation, do not require any preparation. Anyone who has attended a club meeting regularly can have a go and do well. We see that at our club meetings all the time, where new SpeechCraft graduates regularly win the best TT and Evaluation awards. One of our senior members, Robyn Peck, encourages all club members to have a go at Table Topics contests, even if they don’t aspire to compete beyond club level.

At our recent Western Division International & Evaluation Speech Contest, we saw a wide spectrum of speakers from 8 areas. As well as our own champion speaker David Griffiths, there was also Cecile Sy. She was representing Parramatta ATO, a new corporate club, chartered just over a year ago. At her first international speech contest attempt, she won her club, area and reached Western Division. She did not win but delivered an excellent speech. You can imagine her delight on competing and reaching so far. After wards she told me that she learnt so much just by competing. As coach & mentor of her new club during the first year, it also gave me great pleasure to see her develop quickly into a good speaker.

At our club speech contests, few years ago we had so many contestants that it was quite a challenge for our VPE to fit them all into one contest meeting. But recently we’ve had only a handful ‘having a go’. That is a pity, considering club of our size, with over 30 active members. So with the next Humorous Speech and TT contests, let’s see more of our members stepping forward and ‘breaking the speech contest ice’.

Malkit Banwait ACG CL

Club Secretary & Area 37 Governor

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Blog Post by Joan Abela

Hi fellow Toastmasters and friends.

Our meeting this week was interesting to say the least, but nonetheless exciting and interesting

Because there were a number of apologies, we saw the members who attended, doubling up on roles.

We also had visitors from other clubs filling in as evaluators for table topics.

All a bit of a strain but interesting, exciting and keeping to time

Talking of visitors. The number of visitors we get at Parramatta club never ceases to amaze me. We had 18 guests at our last meeting. The feeling in the room was very positive.

Tommy Woods gave us a laugh with the frivolous motion

Double clapping is hurting the poor mans hands (this from a pro boxer) hmmm.

Although the motion was rightfully defeated it does raise the question

“Do we as Toastmasters clap too much”

Personally I clap as an encouragement to the speaker prior to the presentation, and as a general well done at the end. I would be interested to hear others opinions on the subject of overly clapping.

I also think that if we keep our acknowledgement brief and sincere, the speaker will better receive the applause.

It was a terrific meeting. The presenters were prepared and eager to fulfill their roles thus the program ran smoothly.

Our greatest learning will come from preparing and presenting with enthusiasm all the roles that are assigned to us.

Turning nervousness into positive energy will only come from building confidence.

We build confidence with experience; hiding away will not help we must continue to put ourselves forward to speak in public at every opportunity

More than four million people will confirm that the Toastmasters program works, but I believe that it only works when we prepare carefully, actively participate, and speak as often as possible.

Don’t be shy put your hand up and give it a go. Apply yourself, and you will experience the benefits you want in all aspects of your life.

By the time you read this the area 13 contests will have been completed. So I say congratulations to the winners and good luck in the Western Division contests coming up in the near future.

Two sayings I like. (Both by unknown authors) that you might like to think about

  1. Instead of giving reasons why I can’t , I give myself reasons why I can.
  2. In order to succeed we must first believe that we can.

Have fabulous days Joan Abela

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I Don’t Know What to Talk About!

Our last meeting was the Club International Speech contest, where we saw David Griffiths once again crowned the winner. Perhaps not surprising since David also won last year and reached the semi finals of 2014 World Championships of Public Speaking at Kuala Lumpur, where he came second. But perhaps what was surprising, was the runner up – Amutha Kanthasamy. An ex-speechcrafter, she has been a member of Parramatta TM Club for less than a year! Just like another rookie Tom Cummins, runner up at last year’s club contest, who eventually reached the District 70 finals.

During the speech contest season, I often hear TMs say ‘I don’t know what to talk about’ or ‘I’m not that good yet’.  Let’s take a look at these two ‘objections’.

I Don’t Know What to Talk About.
Everyday we see and experience interesting, even life changing events, worthy of sharing with others. Ed Tate, 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking, noticed an interesting exchange of words between an airline employee and a passenger while standing in the queue at the check-in desk. From that small observation he wrote a powerful motivational speech which won him the world title!

Similarly Amutha’s speech on the challenges facing overseas students, was based on a small remark made by the President of Dural TM Club, Linda Taylor-Burton, as she opened the meeting. Clearly you don’t have to be Shakespeare to find good speech material, its all around us – everyday.

I’m Not That Good Yet.
Both Tom and Amutha have proved that anyone can have a go and rise to the occasion. Of course they were both committed and invested time, effort & energy in crafting and rehearsing their speeches. Learning, watching and applying the skills of public speaking. In fact Amutha delivered her speech at another club, recorded it and went through it again and again fine tuning.

In the book ‘World Class Speaking in Action’ Craig Valentine says that at ten years old something disturbing happened to him. When his father’s friend asked him about his family, he says ‘I don’t remember what I said, but I never forgot his response. He fixed me in his gaze and said ‘Do you know you have a serious lisp? Craig, if I were you I wouldn’t talk anymore, because every time you open your mouth, you remind me of Daffy Duff!’

Who would have thought that 18 years later, on 21 Aug 1999, he stood on stage in Chicago being crowned TM International’s 1999 World Champion.

So the next time you feel you have nothing interesting to talk about, think about Ed Tat or . . . . . .our own Amutha.

And if you feel ‘I’m not that good yet’ think about Craig Valentine or . . . . . . . our own Tom & Amutha.

Malkit Banwait ACG CL
Club Secretary & Area 37 Governor

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Interview with Larissa Doyle

Interview with Larissa Doyle



Larissa Doyle is a young new member who is realising her potential through Toastmasters. Larissa is growing her confidence, leadership skills, and communication style.


VPPR Melanie Suzanne Wilson interviewed member Larissa Doyle for further insight into Larissa’s experience of Toastmasters.



What do you get out of Toastmasters?


I speak about Toastmaster with so much excitement that I become a wide eyed beast frothing at the mouth. People ask me what it is all the time and I’ll tell them all the wonderful things about it. Some people aren’t even slightly interested but that’s okay, it’s not for everyone. But anyone who’s willing to get up in front of a bunch of people and do a speech would probably thoroughly enjoy it.


Toastmasters was recommended to me by someone who thought I might benefit from it, and I really have. My confidence has sky rocketed and my everyday speech is more succinct. I’ve met so many wonderful inspiring people and learnt a ton along the way. That’s why I’d recommend it to anyone wishing to improve themselves and broaden their horizons.



Tell us a bit about yourself…



What is/are your favourite…



Purple. I also like the book, the color purple by Alice Walker.



I need you – m85, I first heard it when I was watching a movie called divergent and they play it while the main character is soaring high up through the city at night on a flying fox. Ever since then I’ve wanted to do that.



Battle Hymn of the tiger mother by Amy Chau. It’s a true story by a mother who was the stereotypical “Chinese” parent.



The wall. The movie with Pink Floyd songs and strange animation.



“It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of a wall or ashes of a fire, or clouds or mud or like places in which….. You may find really marvelous ideas”- Leonardo da Vinci


“life’s most persistent and urgent question is….. What are you doing for others?” – Martin Luther King Jr


“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking” – Haruki Murakami (from one of my favourite books of his called Norwegian Wood the character who says this is an egotistical but very respected and intelligent law student named Nagasawa)


…Ice cream flavor:

Rainbow Paddlepops



Things we don’t know about you…

I have memorized the whole periodic table of elements and I used to do a lot of Fine art – painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics and photography… Still try to make time for it every now and then if I need down time.



Who would you be if you could be a…



Some sort of science fiction character with a photographic memory and ability to control technology.


Non-fiction character:

I would have to be doctor House from the TV show, House.



A pelican, to glide over mountains and drop an unwanted present on the heads certain people. Or one of the queens corgis and get pampered all day.



I don’t know much about celebrities. There’s another quote I’ve found which I really like. “We should know more about basic geography than we do about the personal lives of actors.”



This interview with Larissa will also appear in the Parra Natta newsletter. Parramatta Toastmasters members and guests always get to know each other better during the journey of learning and leadership.

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