Four Key Questions You Need to Develop a Character-Driven Life
We’ve come a long way this year, and it’s time to look back and see how we’ve grown. Maybe you’ve become an even better communicator. Maybe you’ve learned valuable leadership lessons, or taken on roles that you didn’t realize you could handle.
We can think back and measure our tangible successes. But what about our character? Character is one of the greatest gifts we get from the Toastmasters program, and yet it’s also one of the most difficult to define. It’s something that comes with time and patience for ourselves and for others.
I’ve learned that the most respected and admired members in our organization are guided by their own sense of integrity. It shapes everything they do. How many of us can say the same?
These people continually put themselves through a core values test before taking action. Their values are distilled into four key questions.
Am I acting with integrity? In other words, is this action something that I can be proud of? Would the mentors I trust and admire think this is a good idea? How about if no one were looking — would I do the same thing?
We have so many options when it comes to our behaviour. Checking in with ourselves before making decisions can help us make doing the right thing standard practice.
In the coming year, take this quote as inspiration:
“Real integrity is doing the right thing knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
Am I treating others with respect? There’s a reason variations of the Golden Rule are revered among so many cultures. It’s not only a basic tenant of human behaviour, it’s a difficult standard to follow. There are times when we are not acting as our best selves. It could be that we’re stressed, tired, frustrated. It could be that we haven’t yet mastered our communication or leadership skills.
Whatever the reason, though, the simple fact of the matter is that treating others disrespectfully says volumes about who you no matter how articulate your communication skills are. Disrespectful people may get things done at first, but eventually the corrosive power of disrespect eats away at any true authority.
Inspiration for the coming year:
“Never trade respect for attention.”
Will what I am about to do help or support my fellow members? This is a sign of good leadership: working and encouraging other people to be their best selves. You know the old saying “a rising tide floats all boats”? It’s true. Helping others shows that you understand that success isn’t something you achieve alone — it requires the support of many people along the way.
Teamwork is especially valued at Toastmasters. After all, this is a volunteer organization. Where would any of us be if our founder weren’t motivated by a drive to help other people? How would this international community have grown and prospered? The answer, of course, is that it wouldn’t — it took the daily commitment of thousands of members doing the right thing every day.
Inspiration for the coming year:
“If serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.”
How can I improve? This question is perhaps the hardest to answer. How many of us can clearly see our own faults and have the self-compassion to change ourselves without judgment? Yet the greatest, most inspiring leaders are those who not only see what can change around them, they see what they can change inside themselves.
If you’re stuck in an unsuccessful pattern, take a minute to ask yourself: How am I contributing to the situation? If you had to alter the situation without changing the behaviour of other people, how would you do so?
Inspiration for the coming year:
“Become what you respect. Mirror what you admire.”
As we set course for the new year, take a little time to reflect not only on how you want to grow your communication and leadership abilities, but also how you can set a new standard for yourself. And remember: “Excellence is not being the best; it is doing your best.”
Seven Secrets of Successful Segues
Serving as an event facilitator, coordinator or master of ceremonies is an honour, and doing it well is an art. The role requires an element of spontaneity, a measure of flexibility, a sense of flow and a bit of grace. But most importantly, it requires an understanding of what the role entails – and what it does not. There is a distinct difference between facilitation and presentation. A masterful facilitator shines the spotlight on the presenters, drawing the audience’s attention to the details that make each speaker noteworthy, then shifting the attention, or segueing, to the next speaker.
Segues serve to “bookend” each presentation with a brief introduction and a concluding comment that flows easily into the next introduction. These links between speakers create cohesion and a sense of momentum for the entire event.
As the event facilitator, it is important to stay upbeat and positive, bringing a cheerful and eager spirit to the stage. At the same time, the role requires the ability to direct the spotlight, not hog it. Drawing attention to each speaker in turn, transitioning from one to the next, positions you as the strand between the pearls – but never a pearl.
It’s a big responsibility to facilitate an event, so here are some simple tips to help you stay centered and help everyone shine their brightest.
- First and foremost, remember this: The best way for a facilitator to look good is to make the speaker(s) look good.
- Ramp up the enthusiasm! Encourage the audience to give more applause or show more appreciation for each performance. Your enthusiasm evokes a stronger response from the audience, so be sure to clap, smile and mention something positive about each presenter.
- After each speaker leaves the stage, help him or her make a lasting impression by repeating a phrase, idea or highlight from the speech. When you do, you’re helping the audience retain key concepts and reap more value from the presentation.
- After a speech, refrain from supplementing it with additional information or attempting to soften what the speaker said. To do so would diminish the speaker’s credibility. You are not there to supplement the presentations or modify the audience’s perception. Let the speech stand for itself.
- Your personal evaluation of a speaker should never be shared with the audience. Your role is to present them, not judge them.
- If you have heard a joke or story before, don’t mention it.
- Humour is a great way to bridge from one speaker to the next, but it is essential to be tasteful and respectful. Teasing a speaker is unacceptable, unless he or she is a comedian.
And finally, a quick reminder: after the last speaker has left the stage, remember to give that speaker the same type of “bookend” comments that you gave every other speaker before you began your concluding remarks. This final segue maintains the feeling of consistency and flow that you’ve worked so hard to create – and when you can keep things flowing right up to the end, you’ll know you’ve mastered the secrets of successful segues.
Page’s Nine Nuggets for Networking
When you meet people at a networking event, shake hands, smile and look them in the eye. Greeting people warmly is always welcome.
Have professionally designed and printed business cards available to give on request. Better yet, make a point of asking others for their cards . . . that way, you can follow up and not wait for them to contact you.
Listen well when talking with others. Use your eyes, heart and brain as well as your ears to engage in a full conversation. Never look over the person’s shoulder to pick out someone “more important.”
Take opportunities to praise people for the contributions they make. Letting them take a bow makes you both feel good!
Make a point of regularly connecting with people on your key contact list, even when you aren’t requesting something from them. They will feel nurtured by your outreach.
Follow up your networking conversations within a day or two (that’s why you ask for the other’s card). Graciously follow through on any agreements you make—and do it as soon as practical.
If you’re in a conversation with people who are badmouthing others, do the reverse. Say positive things instead; “goodmouth” them as recommended by Susan Rhohan.
Acknowledge what others do and who they are by sending cards, emails or letters. Frequently congratulate those in your networking circle on their ideas and achievements.
Always ask people how you can help them accomplish their goals. Get specific details and follow through on what you promised. Doing that will build loyalty and trust every time!
Supersize these nuggets, then share them with others. Have fun networking!
What It Takes To Be a Champion
When I was a child and someone mentioned the word “champion,” I had visions of standing on the winner’s podium, wearing a medal and glowing with pride as the crowd erupted with applause. Now that I’m an adult, and more importantly, a Toastmaster, I know the word “champion” means so much more.
Champion is a rich and complex word. As a noun, it highlights the leader, the most skilled or adept person in a competition. And, as a verb, to champion means to get behind someone or something, to lift up and empower.
The truest champions embody this word in both ways. Not only do they prove themselves to be exceptionally skilled, they also prove themselves to be deeply humble as they celebrate and empower others.
In 2010 Jamie MacDonald won the District 21 International Speech Contest—he was our district champion. And as the others who won in the International Speech Contest semifinals, Jamie poured his heart and soul into preparing for the World Championship of Public Speaking. He crafted and delivered his speech with passion and enthusiasm, skill and charm, giving everything he had that day on the international stage.
But when the winner was announced, Jamie’s name was not called. His heart sank, his eyes fell, his spirits dropped. It could have been a low point … but in that moment, it became a turning point—a moment of transformation, brought to life by the people seated in the next row.
Quickly and quietly they rose to their feet. Jamie assumed the former world champions were heading for the stage, eager to congratulate the winner and welcome him into their ranks. But he was wrong. Something far more profound was at hand … something that spoke volumes about the people within our beloved — Toastmasters organization.
Much to his surprise, one by one these champion speakers filed out of their row and headed straight for those who had not won that day. With warmth and compassion, they reached out to acknowledge each one, shaking hands and offering words of encouragement. Look how far you came; you have so much to be proud of. What an excellent speech you gave! You are so talented; I hope to see you on this stage again next year. They wanted each competitor to know that even though they didn’t win that day, they could—and should—rise to speak again.
A true champion isn’t just a competitor, chasing the spotlight and the glory. Oh, no! The truest champion embodies the spirit of competition, recognizing the outstanding abilities and contributions of every single person who competes. True champions uphold a standard of excellence that permeates all aspects of life and in the end just want to do their best. Deliver their message.
In Toastmasters, we like to say that there are winners and there are learners. But no matter how a competition concludes, anyone can be a champion, simply by striving to embody the truest definition of the word: to lift others up and help them move forward. To advance a cause that is larger than oneself.
To be a champion is to embody a wholehearted state of excellence—not only to excel and achieve, but to literally become your very best. Ultimately, this is larger than the circumstance at hand. It’s not just a momentary act of accomplishment; it’s a gracious state of being—and that is perhaps the most impressive achievement.
Simple Steps to Gain & Retain Members…
1. SIX Steps to Greeting Guests
Warmly welcome guest(s) and introduce them to other members of your club. Seat guests next to a seasoned Toastmaster who will explain what is happening in the meeting.
Ask guest(s) for their name(s) and use it. Addressing them correctly lets guest know you care. It also helps everyone remember.
Uncover or discover their needs, before giving an avalanche of information about Toastmasters.Guests will appreciate that their needs are being prioritized.
Thank guest(s) for coming. Always appreciate the time guest(s) took to attend a meeting or event.
Invite guests to join. Ask, but do not pressure.
Welcome guests back.
2. THREE Questions to Ask Guests at the end of the Meeting
Do you believe Toastmasters is a place where people can grow and hone their communication and leadership skills?
Do you think you would benefit from the Toastmasters program?
We would love to have you join our club. Are you Interested in becoming a member?
3. SIX Steps to Retaining Members
- Greet fellow members with a handshake or a hug if that’s your club culture.
- Know fellow members’ names and how to properly pronounce them.
- Give members evaluations that they will grow and learn from.
- Value members time – Don’t waste it! Have stellar meetings.
- Thank members for what they do.
- Call members if they are absent to find out why they are not attending.
4. Give outstanding Evaluations That Do FOUR Things:
- Build self-esteem.
- Show core strengths that remind the person of what they are good at. Most people have ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) running around in their head and need a reminder of their strengths.
- Take the speaker one step further in their skills.
- Share how building skills connects to their personal goals.