The ‘Lang Scots Mile’

Our Pathway program started some months ago, and many of our members have had already the chance to try it. In order to provide some interesting insight on what this change has meant, we contacted some of those people who started in the Competent Communicator classic manual, and did the transition to the new program, to ask their impressions in this change.

The first one to answer was Neil MacLure, ACB, CL, who sent the following thoughts…

 

“From the public speaking perspective, there are two important lessons incorporated in Pathways which, at best, only got lip service in the traditional program.

 

The first is how to give and receive evaluations properly.

This not only gives some practical advice and actual practice in evaluating a fellow toastmaster, but also enables to develop a critical ear for structure and delivery which, in turn, helps in crafting one’s own speech projects.

 

The second important lesson in Pathways you don’t find in the traditional program is an appreciation of the benefits of mentoring.

Unfortunately, up until now, education on the befits of mentoring has been patchy – to the extent that even some “experienced” members have missed the opportunity to be better speakers because they think it’s best to do it themselves and don’t need mentoring.

On the other hand, all the Toastmasters I’ve known who became excellent speakers willingly accepted mentoring… without exception.

 

The other major difference is in the much wider variety of projects offered by Pathways.

In the traditional program, the new member was required to do all ten projects of the “Competent Communicator” series before being allowed to embark on anything of special interest, such as humorously speaking or storytelling. That could take two years – if they stayed the course. Furthermore, if the member really wanted to solve a personal issue, such as leading a team at work, they’d have to wait a long time to get a chance of the necessary experience… and then only if they were prepared to join a club committee and be elected to a senior role.

In Pathways the member can choose right from the outset which projects, including leadership projects, will be most helpful to them and of most interest. This is much more time efficient for the member.

 

In summary, my view is that Pathways wins over the traditional program by a ‘Lang Scots Mile’.”

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Personal views

The last meeting, on Thursday 30th August, was characterised by the usual variety of speeches and ideas, and what really stood out was the high level of delivery they all had.

Wellcome Musiyamanje’s “Personal Identity” was his first icebreaker in the “Innovative planning” Pathway program. He started wondering how we can talk about who we really are, and not about some “exterior” aspect. He took his first name as an example, something which always caused some additional, puzzling questions when he introduced himself to someone else. He amusingly confirmed that people usually said “Wellcome, you’re welcome”; he also added the other two recurring questions they made were if he was Nigerian and if he were a student. Questions could define three different types of personal aspects. There is the “Personal Identity” (our own features and characteristics), the “Personal Image” (how we are seen by the others) and the “Personal Brand” (a combination of both elements). Wellcome has several qualifications, but they don’t define his identity: another person, too, could have the same qualifications, but they will never be him. Talking about his job and what he does, as well, doesn’t define him. However, his personal identity can be revealed by what he likes, for example, to teach, to solve problems and to help the others… and if he succeeds in all this, he’ll be happy and, answering to a thank you, he’ll say “You’re welcome”.

Eileen Scott, too, had her icebreaker speech in the “Dynamic Leadership” Pathways program, although this was certainly not her first speech in our club. She started recalling her first icebreaker nine years earlier when the path to regain her abilities as speaker had started. She thinks what helped her a lot was the evaluation, so she decided to do a survey about herself, distributed among her family and friends. She summarised the results in a series of slides, and she commented on them. There were different types of questions, like what she likes and dislikes, what are her strengths and what one likes the best about her. At the end of this amusing examination, she quoted Robert Burns (“O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!”), and she concluded the greatest gift of all this was the evaluation.

Finally, Marcin Aleksander Radecki reached the fifth step in the “Interpretative reading” program, that is “The Oratorical Speech”. For this, he deftly read “Stephen Fry on the Catholic Church”, a transcript of his speech during a debate hosted in the Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, in October 2009, about whether the Catholic Church could be considered or not a force for good in the world.

It’s always interesting and enjoyable to see such different types of speeches from the two parallel programs, the classic “Competent Communicator” Manual, and the new Pathway program, and you can be sure there will be other new interesting and engaging speeches at our next meeting, on Thursday 13th September.

Slice of life speeches

On Thursday 16th August the usual triplet of speeches entertained all the members and guests who attended our meeting.

Hendrick Hendrick delivered his first speech entitled “A Beautiful Mind” for his “Persuasive Influence” Pathway program. With this icebreaker, he wanted to talk a bit about growth. In his opinion, growth gives him a better balance in life, and any kind of growth improves relationships, beliefs, etc. He studied Chemical engineering for 4 years in Manchester: when he succeeded in his exams, he felt he had positively grown because he could grasp the subject; when they didn’t work well, he felt he had grown in that occasion, too, despite the results. Now he is working in the IT field, but he doesn’t think he wasted any time studying something completely different from what he is currently doing because that period made him grow. Looking back at his past, he realizes he had an attitude slightly narrow: he only thought at the academy and not about other things. On the contrary, now he is trying to learn different things. He is also trying to change his mindset: the most important growth is the mind so he invites everybody to make our beautiful mind even more beautiful.

Then with “My Grandfather, an extraordinary man”, Ricardo Galera continued his Competent Communication manual, with his second speech – that is, “Organise your Speech”, whose objective is “Strong opening and conclusion; outline that can be followed and understood; clear message with supporting material; appropriate transitions”. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, his grandfather took a spoon before they fled to Catalonia, because it would have been useful to eat. The man had always had a hard life: at 4 he lost his mother; at 7 he went to live with a relative because his father married a second time and his new wife didn’t want him with them; at 11 he became a shepherd, at 17 he went to the Army and some time later he married Carmen. They had 7 children and lived on a farm. His grandfather had a passion to tell stories, and Ricardo provided us with an example: when he was a boy, he used to climb a tree to watch the birds. Once, however, he found a snake and to escape him, he fell from 20 feet high. When he woke up, he returned home and was punished for his lateness. His grandfather, with all the difficulties he experienced and with his seven children, left a legacy of love and kindness.

Finally, Mabel Prieto delivered, too, her second speech, as Ricardo did, and the title was a declaration of what she was going to tell: “Digital Humanitarians”. In Mabel’s words and experience, the Internet deeply changed the world. She volunteered in a refugee camp, and she noticed that refugees couldn’t do anything while they were waiting for their visa, and this process could take up to 2 years. There, she discovered how the Internet could help them. For example, there was an app which was able to top up the mobiles of the people in need. This opened her eyes to the possibilities which could lie in front of her. Last Christmas a teacher, who was teaching English through Skype, contacted her because she was looking for a partner in her new project: to teach languages to refugees. She accepted the challenge, she learnt how social media work and the possible impact they may have, and now she has a company working only online, without a physical office. She also gave three examples of people they helped to learn a new language because they had to leave their countries and relocate somewhere else, because of their beliefs, skills or sexual orientation.

Three different personal experiences and speeches, which let us wonder what we might expect at the next meeting on 30th August.

Speeches and hand-outs

On Thursday 2nd August, two out of three speeches had a hand-out to stir our curiosity and to provide some additional elements.

Andrew Grant gave his seventh speech – “Research Your Topic”, from the Competent Communicator Manual – whose objective is “Collect information from numerous sources, carefully support the points and opinions with specific facts, examples, and illustrations gathered through research”. Starting from a personal recollection – his grandfather fought in World War II –, he talked about what Enigma was and the efforts made by the scientists at Bletchley Park to break that code used by Germany for secret, diplomatic and military communication. It was based on the use of a special typewriter which, through three rotors, changed the letters which were typed. As an example of this, he showed a paper with the example of a coded message and a photo of the Enigma machine. The code, however, had three weaknesses:

  1. Each letter was always changed with every letter except the correct one
  2. Each message started with the same beginning
  3. The position of the rotors was always the same, so the changes happened with the same pattern

When the British were able to break Enigma, they were faced with a dilemma: if they had always used the information they were decoding, the Axis would have understood they had cracked the code: this meant they had to let many soldiers die not to reveal what they had discovered. Although several lives were lost because of these tactics, it has been estimated that solving Enigma enabled the Allies to shorten the length of the war from two to four years: in this way, a very large amount of lives were saved.

Martin Seagroatt, too, with his third speech entitled “Does artificial intelligence pose an existential threat to humanity” – which covered the “Get to the Point” step, from the Competent Communicator Manual – started handing out a piece of paper depicting the three possible ideas one might have about Artificial Intelligence (A.I.): a positive, a balanced and a negative one. Martin first asked his audience in which idea they identified themselves, then he continued to talk about his fear that A.I. might have some negative aspects. For example, we will be able to create some supercomputers very soon, and they, too, will be able to devise and create new computers of their one: however, we cannot predict which type of devices they will be and what effect they might have on us.

On a similar note, with all these implementations we can’t predict how the A.I. will evolve, if they are going to follow our aims or if they have a logic of their own. In all these scenarios, there will always be the possibility of human errors and malfunctions, thus conveying the idea that a bleak future for the human species might not be such a far-fetched theory.

Moira Beaton “revisited” her previous speech, “Hidden in Plain Sight”, incorporating the observations and the feedback the evaluator originally gave her. This “update” of her speech was part of the program she is following: in fact, in the “Presentation Mastery” there is a project where the member has to “present either a new speech or the same speech that incorporates some or all of the feedback received from the presentation of the first speech”. This new “version” about the perils and the difficulties to detect the hidden sugar in the food had a stronger delivery, the technical aspects of the subject were explained in a clearer way, and the usage of the slides was improved.

Three examples of speeches which had some innovative aspects in their delivery, thus showing the variety of techniques we may learn in our club. Don’t miss, then, our next meeting on 16th August.

Today is the day…

Today is the day of our biweekly club meeting, when you deliver your prepared speech or you are called to participate in the table topic… so it is never too late to remember which are the 8 golden tips to help you cope with nervousness before presenting to an audience:

  1. Arrive early to the meeting room to get familiar with the space. If you plan to use technology or visual aids, you may find it helpful to practice with them before the meeting begins.
  2. Practice your speech and revise it until you can present it with ease.
  3. Concentrate on your breathing. You can ease your tension by doing breathing exercises that work for you.
  4. Visualize yourself giving a successful speech. Picture the audience applauding as you finish and return to your seat.
  5. Realize that audience members support your success. They aren’t there to judge you. They want to hear your message.
  6. Don’t call attention to your nervousness. If you don’t say anything about it, likely nobody will notice.
  7. Concentrate on the message you are communicating to your audience. Your nervous feelings will be reduced if you focus your attention away from your anxieties.
  8. Take every opportunity to speak. Experience builds confidence. Most beginning speakers find that they manage anxiety better after each speech they give.