Things I’ve learned since joining Toastmasters

I joined Toastmasters at this time last year. In that year, I think I’ve grown quite a bit, both professionally and personally. I was putting together some guest packets today, and I remembered something my 16 year cousin said. She said that it was a pet peeve of hers when someone apologized for doing something they didn’t need to apologize for. That reminded me of one of the first evaluations I received in Toastmasters, which quickly brought up other things that have really stuck with me over the year.

First, a quick background on the program. Once you’re a member you begin working on one, or both, of these designations: competent communicator (CC) and competent leader (CL). You can do them simultaneously. The CC is a collection of 10 speeches, which is all done at your own pace. Each one encompasses skills that build upon each other. For example, your first few speeches are really the bones of public speaking. As you move along in your manual, you’re bringing in more skills, such as using visual aids and vocal variety. When you’ve completed the manual, you have a great tool kit of skills you’ve learned throughout the past 10 speeches. The CL designation is earned by doing different roles within the meeting, such as timer, toastmaster, grammarian or any of the evaluator roles. I won’t spend much more time on that is this post, as it can get confusing.

The beauty of Toastmasters is that it is flexible and you can talk about whatever you want. I truly thought I would have to give speeches about finance, corporate marketing, and other corporate things, but boy was I wrong. To date, I’ve give four speeches with topics ranging from cats to hipsters.  I think it takes some skill to give a speech about cats to a group of corporate folks!

Here are some tips that I think will be beneficial to anyone looking to become a better public speaker.

1. Do not apologize: As a presenter, it is easy to apologize for many things – for being late, for not knowing what to say next, for mixing words up – but don’t apologize! You didn’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to apologize for. In one of the first evaluations I received, my evaluator reminded me that I did not need to apologize for using my notes. This stuck with me, even a year later! Be confident, your audience will notice your confidence.

2. You know what you’re talking about: Unless you’re giving a presentation with very specific facts and details, you know what you’re talking about. Don’t rely on your notes. Especially if you’re telling a story – you’ve written it out ahead of time, you know what you want to say and it is your story.

3. Watch the filler words: This is the main reason I joined Toastmasters. I found myself filling my statements with unneeded filler words such as um, ah, like, and ya’know. Try this: pause instead of filling with those words. And hey, your audience will think that you’re thinking, and it makes you look smarter. After a lot of practice and being more self-aware, I can say I have greatly reduced filler words from my vocabulary. In addition to reducing them from your own daily life, you will notice how much people use these words. Oddly enough, it is a nice reminder that you’re doing a good thing in NOT using them.

These are just a few of the many things I have learned from being a member of Toastmasters. I have found it beneficial in any professional setting, and it runs off into my personal life! I pay a lot more attention to what I am saying, how I am saying it, and the true purpose of what I’m saying.

If you’re interested in attending a meeting, my club meets on Tuesdays at 12pm in downtown St. Paul. You can also check out the Toastmasters International website to find a meeting near you. 

Social Media Breakfast #46 – Career Planning

I attended the Social Media Breakfast – Minneapolis/St. Paul last Friday for the first time. I am surprised that this was my first event, but I am so glad I went. The speaker was Paul DeBettignies, and the event was held at Stanley’s Bar Room in Minneapolis. Paul is a well-known headhunter in the Twin Cities, and I was so glad he was the speaker. He is very knowledgable and is good about throwing jokes into his presentation to avoid that boring “someone talking at you” thing. I learned a lot of good things, and I’m glad to share a few of them with you.

Paul DeBettignies, photo by Teresa Boardman,

Paul started off comparing job searching to dating – am I wearing the right outfit? Should I call two days after? Or should I email? Did they like me? To be honest, job searching is like dating! You should LOVE your career. Just like dating, you shouldn’t settle for something, but search for something that helps you be the best you can be. Enough of the corniness, let’s move on to the good information.

1. Quality, not quantity: You don’t need more contacts, you need deeper relationships with your current contacts. You’re connected to 200 people on LinkedIn and you barely know them? Send someone a message, ask them to join you for coffee and talk about your goals, ask them for advice.

2. Take control of your job search: Don’t wait for a recruiter to contact you, seek people out. Attend networking events. Make it clear that you’re job searching to your friends, find out who they know and how you can get in touch with them. Be proactive and sell yourself. Would you hire yourself? Would you call yourself back?

3. Create a portfolio: You need to show what you can do. What’s a better way to do that than to have a portfolio Whether it’s a website or blog, make sure it’s strong and a good representation of your work and your personality.

photo by Teresa Boardman,

4. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great tool, and there was a lot of discussion around this. First of all, do not link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile, unless your tweets are strictly business. If you’re connected with your boss on LinkedIn and you don’t want it known that you’re job searching, make your profile updates private while you update your profile. Then, when you’re done updating, you can make your updates public again. That way, those you’re connected to won’t see that you’re updating.

5. Resume: If you’re going to be making a move in the next 9 – 12 months, start looking at job posts now so you can get your resume in shape.

Whether you’re completely content in your career or ready for your next big move, all of these tips are helpful. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and never share or post anything that you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see.

In addition to the great presentation, the 2012 Minnesota Blogger Conference was announced. It will be held on Saturday, September 22nd 2012 at Allina Commons in Minneapolis. I’m excited to be on the planning committee this year. Last year’s event was a huge success, I learned so much and left completely inspired. This year will be just as great! The website is actively updated and they’re active on Facebook and Twitter.