Monday, March 31, 2014

The 2014 F3/F4 Spring Contest Was Amazing


The Toastmasters 2014 Spring Contest Season is open now and running nearly at full speed.  Most clubs have had the contests and the area contests are under way. March 29th we had the District 59 Area F3/F4 Contest and what a day it was.

If you’re a Toastmaster and haven’t been to any of the contests outside of your club, well you’re really missing out.  If you haven’t been to one in a while, it is time to check them out again.  Areas F3 and F4 decided to run joint contest so that less people are needed to run the contests and this has been a wonderful idea, one that I would recommend to other areas that might be struggling to get the enough support staff on boar. It has also meant that people can see more great speeches and evaluations, than if the contests were limited to just one area. The impact is just that much more impressive.

One of the reasons that I love living in Europe is the cultural diversity.  On Saturday there were contests held in French and German, in addition to English.  One of the contestants participated in 6 different contests (English, French, and German), for those of us with command of one language this is quite a feat!  There was another contestant that did all of the English and French contests, and a few contestants did English and German contests.  At the area contest level, the quality of speeches is a notch above what you’d expect from the club contests, but there really wasn’t a bad speech in the bunch.

I like the Evaluation Contests because you get to hear a great target speech and then see what advice the contestants have for the target speaker that would make their speech that much better. The English target speech was called “Why Men Don’t Listen And Women Can’t Read Maps”, so as you might expect it was about relationships, a topic that most of us can relate to. The German Target Speaker was not a Toastmaster, so while his speech might not have conformed to the expectations of the audience, the speech was about something that everyone could relate to and that was trying make sense of the things that we have to do in our lives today and applying the idea of doing one third less things to be one third better. For most of us our “To Do” list is getting too big and complicated, it would make sense for us to have a “To Not Do” list. Even with the speaker not being a Toastmaster, the contestants were still able to apply Toastmaster style evaluations, showing where the speech was strong, where the speech could be improved, and summarizing their recommendations.

It was nearly impossible to have attended the contest on Saturday and not be awed, inspired, and changed for the better.  There were so many great themes and messages and I thought that I’d share a few of them.

  • Trust is at an all time low in our society- and why should people trust us
  • There are a lot of ordinary people doing wonderful things, being modern day heroes- don’t we all want be heroes like this and doesn’t the world need more people being modern heroes 
  • Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden would rather have outstanding teams than teams with outstanding players that don’t perform well as a team 
  • Do we deal inspiration or are we users of inspiration 
  • What do we want to accomplish in our lives (especially for those of us that are already parents)
  • We are enough- we need to transport this message to our kids so they live it
  • We’re too quick to judge ourselves and declare ourselves failures, in the long run many of these failures really aren’t failures but a way of changing our direction
  • We shouldn’t play with our smart phones when we should be present. Pay attention to the people you’re with, when you’re with them
  • Music is a mood changer and can really inspire you
  • Communication makes the world go round, we need to speak the same language to each other and make sure we have the same understanding of the words used (don’t assume)

On a personal note, at my club contest I was talked into competing in the English Evaluation Contest for the first time, so I’m honored that I placed 3rd in the F3 competition.  I’ve entered various speech competitions in the past, but this was the first time that I tried the speech evaluation contest, so now I’ll be watching the evaluation contests with a different perspective.

On April 5th, the Division F Contest is being held in Mannheim, Germany. Not only the winners from F3 and F4 will be there, but areas F1, F2, and F5 will be competing there as well. Contestants will be competing in French, German, and English contests. Given the level of competition at the F3/F4, I’m excited to think about the quality of the speeches and evaluations that I’ll see in Mannheim. Considering all the great messages I picked up on March 29th, I can’t even imagine what messages I’ll take away.  This is a rare opportunity to see some of the best speakers in Southeast Germany. I challenge you to attend and not leave a changed person. If at all possible, the division contests are worth checking out and I hope to see you in Mannheim.

Note:  The picture above is of some of my fellow club members and me taken at the F3/F4 Area Contest.  I've posted several pictures from the contest at our club's Flickr group.

Friday, March 28, 2014

My High Performance Leadership Project

Since joining Toastmasters International in June 2011, I've wanted to become a DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) and part of the Leadership Track to take you there includes doing a HPL (High Performance Leadership) Project.  After a lot of thought I decided what I wanted to do and put my guidance committee together and I gave the introduction speech for my HPL project at Word Weavers on 26 March.  The guidelines for the HPL introduction speech indicate that you should share your vision and mission with the club.  The speech is kind of a kick-off of your project within your club. In my case I also wanted to encourage the members of my club to join me on the project, so that they will take an active part in my project. During the project phase I will put a team together and we’ll determine the details of what will be done during the project as well as the timing of the project activities. I’ll have further meetings with my Guidance Committee where I’ll review the project planning, status and how things are going.  At the end of the project I will give a speech with a lessons learned about the project. What follows is based on the text of the speech I delivered. I’ve left in some detail that I had to cut for time purposes from the speech I delivered. 



Fellow Word Weavers, Mr/Madame Toastmaster, honored guests.  At a meeting in January, Norbert said something that really stuck in my mind and that was that he didn’t like the way things were today and would like to be able to turn back the clock 20 to 30 years.  While, people fondly look back at the good old days, I know that I’m guilty of this, I’m here to propose something different today. I’d like to bring Word Weavers out of the Stone Age and into the Digital Age.

About the HPL

“As populations increase and cultures and people become increasingly diverse, more issues – and more problems -- face us than ever before… Many of the critical issues and problems today are the kind government is least equipped to handle… This is why the world needs strong, competent leaders now more than ever before. Progress can only happen when someone assumes a leadership role – when someone decides there is a problem, a need or an injustice, and takes action to solve the problem, fulfill the need or correct the injustice.“ (this statement comes out of the HPL manual)

Toastmasters has recognized the need to develop leaders and the HPL (High Performance Leadership) project is a product of this recognition. Gandi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Mother Teresa are all unconventional leaders who were able to accomplish great things without the traditional political authority that we’re used to seeing in historical leaders. What we’re going to do won’t be spoken of in the same breathe as these great figures but it is something that will help Word Weavers to grow and to prepare for the future.

Vision & Mission Statement


To bring Word Weavers from the Stone Age into the Digital Age.


Word Weavers, Toastmasters of Wiesbaden, will become commonly known throughout the Wiesbaden/Mainz area to adult residents of all ages. Potential visitors will be able to find us relatively easily within popular search engines and social media sites. We’ll expand the Digital Footprint of Word Weavers.

People Google everything today, so Word Weavers needs to be found on Google.  Google changes their search formula all the time. In fact there are people that are paid tons of money to try to figure it out. But I’ve noticed that there is more and more of a focus on social media in their rankings.  If you Google someone you’ll like find a Facebook entry and a LinkedIn entry and other social media sites in the top returns.


You have probably all heard that Facebook has over 1 billion users and if it were a country it would be the 3rd largest in the world. It is easy to get lost in statistics and forget about all the people.  Boiled done, Social Media is people sharing things socially, with family, friends, colleagues, and so on. I’d like to share 3 stories with about Social Media with you now.

You might have heard about the Pink Tutu project.  In order to cheer up his wife who was being treated for cancer, Bob Carey, started taking pictures of himself running around in a pink tutu.  The video of their story on YouTube has over 2 million views and Deutsch Telekom has been promoting their story.  Bob Carey not only cheered up his wife and the other women that were being treated for cancer with her, but his story has raised cancer awareness and tells us how Social Media can spread the word and connect with people all over the world.

Facebook was doing lookback videos earlier this year. They showed when users joined, popular pictures and status updates made by the user and many of them were very touching. John Berlin, desperately wanted to see the video for his son that had recently died.  He launched a campaign to do this and I found it on Facebook via a radio station that I listened to back in Detroit. This campaign got the attention of Facebook and he got to see the lookback video for his son. John Berlin showed us that it is possible to get a company to listen to us and he was able to tap into the feelings of parents and non-parents who would want to be able to do the same thing if we lost a child. 

Some of you will remember that I did a speech about the presentation site SlideShare, there were maybe twentysome people there when I gave it.  I also did a workshop for business English teachers in Frankfurt with twentysome people present. I put both presentations on SlideShare and both presentations have been viewed by more than 1000 people.  I love the idea that I can give a speech or presentation one time, that it can be viewed by people all over the world that weren’t there when I gave it. We all want our speeches to be heard and to make an impact. Since setting up my profile on SlideShare, over 26,000 people have viewed my presentations. With Social Media you can put something online or share something where a lot of people look at it in a short period of time or that people can look at over a long period of time after it was initially posted or shared, the best outcome is of course to have a good combination of both.

What we’ll do during the project
·        Update our website to attract more visitors and keep them coming back
·        Establish profiles on popular social media sites
·        Post regular updates where we have profiles

Each and every one of you is doing amazing things. When I look around and I see the growth that all of you have made from speech to speech, this same possibility for growth can and should be our gift to the world.  We don’t want Word Weavers and Toastmasters to be a secret. Toastmasters is re-engineering their educational program to better meet the needs of members and potential members. They’re working to make sure that Toastmasters stays relevant and we can do this via this project And we can let the world know about some of the great things that are happening. This is not just my HPL, it is really an HPL for the club.

Hillary Clinton once said that it takes a village to raise a child, well, Word Weavers is like our own child, it takes everyone to be a successful club. 

Join me in our HPL, there is room for everyone!
  • You’ll learn how Social Media can help Word Weavers to grow and thrive
  • You’ll have fun
  • You’ll be a part of a great team
  • And,You don’t need to know anything about Social Media to start.
I’ll be talking to all of you about what role you will play. 

Together we can bring Word Weavers out of the Stone Age and into the Digital Age.

The Word Weavers website can be found at:
Our Facebook Page is at:
We have a Flickr group at:

Feel free to follow along as my HPL project unfolds. I will share a lot of my experience and I hope that other clubs can benefit from my experiences.

Note:  I created the graphic above based on using the quote from the HPL Manual.  I believe it is a very powerful statement. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Spectacular Speaking is Transformational

Have you ever been part of a Transformational event? This is the best way that I can describe #SpecSpeak2014 in Warsaw, Poland last week!  Six amazing speakers from six different countries came together to share the tools of their craft, and what an unbelievable impact they had on the participants. The effect was Spectacular, to say the least.

John Zimmer shared the importance of speech preparation (including knowing what your message is and analyzing your audience) and gave us good useful tips for making use of presentation tools (i.e. PowerPoint, Keynote).  Peter Zinn showed us how powerful stories are and why we should be using them to connect with our audiences. Although people want the logic, they really want this to come via stories. Florian Mueck demonstrated how a good speech structure should look (and I don't think that any of the attendees will forget about the tailpipe anytime soon!). Tobias Rodrigues told us how to be persuasive via Logos (logic), Pathos (credibility of the speaker) and Ethos (emotion).  Olivia Schofield demonstrated the importance of breathing, entrance onto the stage, and so many of the things that have made her an engaging speaker.  Jerzy  Zientkowski was the Master of Ceremony, weaving all the different speakers and segments together via his sense of humor.  Jerzy reminds me a lot of a the comedian Yakov Smirnoff, so not only did we learn a lot but we laughed a lot and had a lot of fun.

What really stands out, for me, was the transformations that I saw in everyone. There was a woman that had been talked into attending by a friend, but she really had no idea what was going to happen, AND she was promised that she wouldn't have to speak!  She did give a speech on the 2nd day, and what a speech it was.  She told us about how she wasn't really happy in her career and a life changing event. She had such a warmth and sincerity that everyone in the audience connected with her.  This woman did an impromptu exercise where she was an orchestra conductor leading the audience, who were all playing imaginary instruments. You should have seen the look on her face, she was just beaming with excitement and joy as she was up there conducting. One of the guys is a programmer who is introverted (as many of think that programmers are) he experimented with movement as he told us three stories of his life and the lessons he learned from each one. I was astounded by the camera women, who took us on an incredible journey of a documentary that she did while she was in Japan. Two of the speakers really incorporated the presentation tips we were shown on the first day to liven up some business presentations that would normally bored the audience to death.  All of the participants incorporated some of what they learned into amazing results.  I'm really curious to see how all of the participants incorporate what they've learned into their lives.

Another thing that really stands out, for me, was the authenticity of all the participants. There were several Polish people (as you might expect, since we were in Poland) and a Russian women.  For most of them, English was definitely not their mother tongue.  I've discovered in the time that I've lived in Germany (and in Europe), that many people will use this as a crutch to hold them back or apologize that their English is not that great. To me, this only makes them more sincere and it makes me want to hear them all that much more. We should not let anyone's language "not being perfect" stop us from communicating, we can often get someone's message, even when it isn't perfectly formulated. This is all something that we need to keep in mind in when we're dealing with different people from around Europe and around the world.  There were so many great people that attended the event, this along is enough to attend the next event.

I do have a disclaimer to make. Olivia talked to me in January about becoming involved in promoting the event via Social Media and I did know a few of the speakers up front, but I was just as excited about attending the event (if not more) than any the other participants. I'm now looking forward to seeing how I'll make use of what I've learned and what effect it will have on me.  I can't recommend attending a Spectacular Speaking event enough.  We all need to be better communicators, for our own reasons.  Some of us want to be better public speakers; others could stand to be able to give presentations to their teams, bosses, clients, and so on.  Why be an ordinary speaker, when you can be a Spectacular Speaker! Stay tuned for the next Spectacular Speaking event.

You Might Like to Know....

Florian Mueck wrote about some of the more memorable phrases here.
Olivia has quite a few events in the next few weeks.
John's blog can be found here.
Florian's website is here.
The website of Tobias Rodrigues can be found here.
Jerzy Zientkowski can be found at the Speakerslair.
Peter Zinn can be followed on Twitter @PeterZinn
I interviewed a few of the Spectacular Speakers and will be posting the interviews at the Toastmasters Podcast Europe.