Tag Archives: ToastMasters

Creating membership magic: tactics for Toastmasters

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3pm Friday 11 November, 2016, Dubhlinn D71 Toastmasters Conference

Is your club struggling to build membership? Do you have a hard time getting visitors to come along? Do visitors come to your club, but not become members?

This workshop will give you the tips and tricks you need to attract visitors to your club and convert them to members. Laura Bruce, President of Inverness Toastmasters, will share her story of how her club went from only 7 paid-up members in April 2015, to 27 members just 18 months later.

She will share her ACE Formula ™ — a suite of online and offline tools that she used as VP Membership to attract  and engage visitors, and convert those visitors into Toastmasters. She will also share her expertise as founder of Bruce Public Relations to show how the humble media release can be a powerful tool to raise the profile of your club.

Who will benefit from this workshop?

Any one with a club that is struggling with low member numbers. Any club that attracts visitors but hasn’t been successful in converting them to members. Any club that is facing extinction.

Special relevance to: VPs Membership, VPs PR, Presidents, Area and Division Directors

Come along and learn how to put the ACE Formula ™ to work creating membership magic for  your club!

For more information: http://www.dubhlinn2016.com/laura-bruce

If you would like a copy of the slides, click here. 

Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 Awards, and how we can all be “shining stars”

Shining Star winner 2016 Laura Bruce of Bruce Public Relations, with Highland Business Women’s Club President Isla Cruden

On Friday night at the Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 Awards, I was named winner of the inaugural Shining Star award for Most Inspiring Woman in Business. It was a real honour, and not for the reasons you might expect.

Created by the Club this year, the reason this award means so much to me is because it recognises the kind of businesswoman that typified the finalists in this category, and one that that I would encourage every woman to be: someone who is not simply good in business, but who makes a point of helping others to succeed as well.

I believe we have an obligation to help others, not just in business, but in the communities in which we live. What good is it to be successful, if your success does not help light a path, and pave the way for others to follow?

With organisations like the public speaking club Toastmasters, I have been very gratified, watching as new members I have encouraged to get involved develop their skills, and start to feel more comfortable speaking to groups. With the Highland Business Women’s Club I have encouraged dozens of women to join the Club and hosted nearly as many at meetings. Several of them took my advice, and among the finalists and winners on Friday night were at least a dozen members I encouraged to join. How gratifying!

Finalists in the Highland Business Women's Club 2016 awards -- photo by Alison White Photography

Finalists in the Highland Business Women’s Club 2016 awards — photo by Alison White Photography

I would encourage anyone who is settled into their business, and competent at what they do, to start to look outside. Find ways to have an impact beyond your own business, to have an impact beyond your own bottom line. If you are lucky, like me you will see women who had been hanging back, start to get into the thick of things. You will see people make connections with each other that didn’t exist before you introduced them. But most of all, you will feel a warm glow that you don’t get just from making your clients happy. You will get the satisfaction of knowing that you have made an impact on someone and something completely apart from your commercial activities. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

We can all be “Shining Stars”. So give it a shot. The life you transform may be your own.

Harness the “power of three” to power up your next presentation

As a business person, chances are you are going to have to do a presentation sooner or later. If the thought of composing something from scratch strikes you with fear, I’m going to let you in on a little secret, which will make every presentation you make much simpler to master.

woman doing a presentation

Being asked to do a presentation need not strike panic – a structure will get you started

It’s called “the power of three”, and in this case, the word “power” is very apt. When you are making a presentation – whether it’s a pitch to a potential new client, or updating your colleagues on the latest developments in your department – the ‘power of three’ provides an almost magical structure to ensure you deliver just the right amount of information. It’s the reason there’s “three wise men”, “three musketeers” as well as “three little pigs”!

Think of it as a sandwich. Your content – the “meat” of your presentation – will be up to you. But by putting “the power of three” to work for you, you will have a very robust structure that is simple to follow, and helps package your information into a format your audience can readily take in.

To get started, first identify the main points you want to convey in your presentation. This will be the “bacon, lettuce and tomato” in your sandwich. You may have five or ten, but there may be some overlap. Group them into themes. Then eliminate the weakest ones, and whittle it down to your three strongest or most important points. State your first point or theme, and support it with an example or a story. Then move on to the next one. Before you know it, you will have a well-structured presentation, based around three powerful points.

For best results, wrap your three points between an introduction and a conclusion. This is the “bread” that holds your filling together. Opening with an introduction will put your audience at ease. Tell them what they can expect to take away from your talk. This will motivate them to listen, and help them relax and know they are in good hands. Tell them you have three main points you will make. Now primed for what to expect, they can listen to your presentation’s main points, and follow each one. Conclude by summarising your three points at the end.

Armed with the “power of three” you now have a format you can rely upon again and again, for presentations of any length. Having a “go-to” structure to apply to your content will help ease the pain of making presentations. Your audience will find them easier to follow, and you may even find that you start to enjoy doing them!

Making effective presentations is crucial to becoming an effective leader, but often, we don’t get much opportunity to develop this skill. One of the best places to become more comfortable making presentations is Toastmasters. There are clubs all over the world, including one in Inverness which meets the 2nd and 4th Wednesday each month. Visit www.toastmastersinverness.com and come along to a meeting. You’ll soon be more at ease doing presentations at work. You may even find you have a talent for it!

Laura Bruce is an award-winning speaker and the founder of Bruce Public Relations, based in Inverness, where she works with forward-thinking organisations to raise their profile. She is the two-times Scotland champion of impromptu public speaking (2015, 2014) and recently placed second in Scotland in the 2015 Toastmasters International Speech Contest. If you would like Laura’s help to improve your next presentation, contact her here.

Photo copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_lightpoet’> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The PR you do every day (but may not be aware of!)

Networking events can be pleasant, once you are comfortable speaking. Just ask these three!

Networking events can be pleasant, once you are comfortable speaking. Just ask these three!

It’s a mouthful of a title, but bear with me: as a businessperson, every time you open your mouth, you are doing PR for your business. If this has come as a shock, don’t be discouraged.

What I am getting at, is that your business’s “PR” is not just what you formally do with your PR agency or marketing team. PR is far more than just the sum total of media releases you issue, the social media messaging you send, or the media coverage you generate.

As my late mentor Lou Cahill APR famously said, “You’ve got PR whether you like it or not.”

In essence, what Lou was saying is, you and your business have a reputation. The variable he highlighted, is the degree to which you manage it.

And like it or not, every time you open your mouth, you are contributing to the sum total of that reputation. I was struck by this at the BNI meeting in Inverness last week. I am a founder member of BNI Highland; BNI is a worldwide business networking organisation founded by Dr Ivan Misner. Something that I immediately realised is that the group’s format of a 60-second presentation by each member — at every meeting, every week — is something that strikes fear into a number of would-be members.

What I am noticing however, is that after even two or three meetings, some member’s presentation skills are improving. They are becoming more at ease with speaking to the group about their business. Some [read: Hamish Malcolm, Grant] are even making the most of these “mini-pitches” by incorporating humour and using inventive props. Well done to them!

They may not realise it, but each member’s incremental improvements in their weekly pitch, results in an improvement in their business’s PR, because we all go away with an improved image of their firm. Woefully, the converse is equally true: people who mumble their way through a pitch, speak too quietly or never get to the point are not doing their own, or their business’s, reputation any favours.

If the thought of making a 60-second pitch about your business fills you with dread, then Toastmasters is the place to replace your fear with confidence, and get the skills to make sure you communicate effectively. You’ll have the unexpected benefit of making some new friends as well.

But remember, every time you open your mouth, you are contributing to your business’s reputation. You owe it to yourself to do the best you can. If you haven’t got the skills to do the job well, the onus is on you to get them. Your business deserves it. Don’t let it down.

Toastmasters Inverness is hosting a social evening Wednesday 17th June at 7pm at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness. If you are interested in learning more about the group, go along for dinner and to get a feel for what the group offers. Membership in Toastmasters may be the best, most cost-effective investment you can make in your business! Click here to find out more about the dinner Wednesday evening.

What a difference a year makes: My Toastmasters year in review

Members of Toastmasters clubs from across the north and east of Scotland at Inverness Toastmasters 5 October.

Members of Toastmasters clubs from across the north and east of Scotland at Inverness Toastmasters 5 October.

I just checked and I can hardly believe it: it was one year ago, today, that I posted about my first experience at the public speaking group Toastmasters. I had attended my first meeting, and decided to blog about it.

My experience at that first meeting was very positive. It was — and continues to be — a warm and welcoming group. (With a name like “Inverness Toastmonsters”, it would be hard not to like them.) I joined the group in January and have attended religiously. Well, regularly.

One of the things that keeps me going back is a regular feature of the meetings: “Table Topics”. For the uninitiated, Table Topics is an absolute adrenaline thrill-ride of an activity: you volunteer to speak to the audience on a topic that you aren’t yet aware of. You are given your topic . . . as you walk to the front of the room!

It’s marvellous! Some people hate it. I think you either love Table Topics, or you hate it. I love it. I recently described it to my Toastmasters friends as “the crack cocaine of public speaking”. Not that I know a lot about crack, but I have gathered it’s highly addictive. And that is how I feel about Table Topics.

Which is why it is so particularly gratifying to have won — less than a year after joining — the Area 43 Table Topics Competition. Next stop: Perth for the Scotland-wide finals! I can’t wait. I am a bit nervous, but mostly I am just really looking forward to it.

Inverness Toastmonsters President Stuart Byfield presenting my prize last Sunday.

Inverness Toastmonsters President Stuart Byfield presenting my prize last Sunday.

Which brings me back to the point of that original blog, one year ago tomorrow. Sometimes, stretching yourself means doing things that you *aren’t * afraid of, even if you’ve never done them before. So if public speaking is something that you think you might just have a flair for, or, if you don’t feel completely terrified by it, come along to your local Toastmasters meeting. You never know, you may just find yourself at the national finals.

Stretching yourself: 3 ways to grow personally and professionally

Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International

I attended my first Toastmasters meeting last night, here in Inverness. I was warmly welcomed, and despite being asked to speak extemporaneously for one minute, I have to say, it was a very pleasant experience. Given the trepidation most people feel about speaking in public, I was surprised to find I wasn’t nervous at all.

In fact, I was so not nervous, that when they were looking for volunteers at the start of the meeting, I volunteered for one of the roles! In total, I got up to speak in front of the group three times last night. The first occasion was to introduce myself. The second was to give my “Table Topic” speech — an impromptu speech on a topic provided to you as you stand up (!), and finally, to present my Grammarian’s report.

And you know what? It went swimmingly. I was completely comfortable, despite the newness of the surroundings, and the fact I had never been to a Toastmasters meeting in my life.

And that made me wonder: is this group is a good fit for me? If you have no trouble getting up in front of a roomful of strangers and saying a few words — or worse, delivering an entire speech — should you belong to a group whose express purpose is to improve your confidence and public speaking?

I believe the answer is “yes”. Why? First, because even if you are comfortable with something, it doesn’t mean that you can’t improve. We all have areas that we are experienced at — let’s say, writing — but that we know we can continue to develop with practise.

Secondly, being comfortable with something probably means you have the skills and expertise to help to develop another’s ability.

And that’s what these groups are often about. If everyone was a pro, then no one would need the group. But because everyone’s skills are at a different level, it means that expertise can be shared within the group, so that even experienced speakers can continue to progress.

And that’s the thing — even though I was comfortable at the Toastmasters meeting, I know I can still learn a great deal from these people. Toastmasters isn’t just about public speaking — it’s a leadership development programme. And who can’t benefit from that?

And how did I come to that? By stepping inside my comfort zone. Paradoxical, but true: there is a lot to be gained from trying something that doesn’t terrify you.

So here are my 3 tips to continue your professional development:

  1. Try something you aren’t terrified of. Just because you are comfortable with something, doesn’t mean you can’t improve. Toastmasters provides a venue where people with a range of skills in public speaking can develop at their own pace, in a safe environment, with a proven format. That’s a goldmine waiting to be tapped.
  2. Remember that learning can happen even when you aren’t aware of it. Every time you do something, you get better at it. Incremental changes aren’t obvious, but think about it: I bet you are a much better typist now than you were even five years ago. That’s the power of repetition.
  3. Remember that there’s often more to it than meets the eye. Talented listeners at Toastmasters (like Gilda at last night’s meeting) are able to identify — and critique — the structure of a speech, something most of us wouldn’t have the first clue about!

Chairing a meeting may involve speaking in front of a group, but it is also an opportunity to become a more confident leader. People at a meeting you are chairing are like guests in your home: it’s your job to ensure they are comfortable, feel safe to speak up, and ultimately, benefit from having accepted your invitation. Toastmasters and groups like it provide an ideal opportunity to develop that expertise.

And so, to the Inverness “ToastMonsters” group, I say “thank you!” Thank you for the warm welcome, and thank you for providing me with an opportunity to develop a skill that is partly formed, but my no means at expert level. And for opening my eyes to an opportunity to develop a host of other skills I hadn’t considered. I will be seeing you folks again next time!

For those wanting to learn more, I have pasted some information below about Toastmasters: 

The Toastmasters Mission: A statement of shared values

Every Toastmasters club shares the same mission, clearly defined in the following mission statement:

We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater selfconfidence and personal growth.

Through this mission, each Toastmaster gains a clear understanding of the club’s purpose, and the organization as a whole benefits from a shared set of values and goals.

Click here (and see below) for more information: Toastmasters Britain and Ireland – Inverness Chapter

Inverness Toastmasters is one of the newest members of the Toastmasters International family.

We meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Glen Mhor Hotel, on Ness Bank in the centre of Inverness. It’s just by the River Ness, more or less opposite the cathedral and close to Inverness Castle.

Our meetings are inclusive, educational and fun. They allow you to practice your communication and leadership skills in a friendly and supportive environment.

Come along and find out more!