Powerful Words on Purpose: My Toastmaster Story

Do you remember the first time you realized that the spoken word had power?

Was it when you were small and asked someone to be your friend, and they said yes?

Or, maybe someone used words to hurt you and even though your mom said, “Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will never hurt you,” you knew that wasn’t true.

Or, maybe, like me, you found out . . . by accident . . . words just came out of your mouth and people reacted.

This me at three. Big teeth. Big smile. Bad hair days. . . .some things never change!

However, one thing that did change for me at 3 was that I realized the power of the spoken word.

My mother had brought me to work to meet her boss and coworkers. One look at her boss and I was in awe. She was just about the ugliest woman I had ever seen—long pointy chin, hooked nose, dark, bushy eyebrows over beady eyes. I blurted out, “Mommy! She looks like the Wicked Witch of the West!” Suddenly, there was complete silence. Wow. I had made quite an impression!
My mother turned to me and said, “Diane, don’t you mean, Glenda the Good Witch?”

Hello? Did my mother just lose her mind? “No. Glenda was pretty!”

Fortunately, my mother’s boss started laughing and all was well. And I had found a new power—the power of words.

Over the years, I have continued to learn that my words can have a powerful effect.

From saying “I do” more than 30 years ago when I married my husband to saying yes to adopting my 2 youngest children. When we adopted our youngest child, Yuri, six years ago at age 12 from Russia, words were especially important as both my husband and I had to prepare 10-minute speeches to deliver in front of the judge—speeches that had to be interpreted as we spoke and speeches that would determine if the judge would allow us to adopt Yuri. I even had to convince the judge that we weren’t adopting Yuri just to be slave labor or to harvest his organs.

Those were powerful, life-changing words.

I can thank Toastmasters for helping me develop powerful words.

I’d like to tell you that my joining Toastmasters was part of a bigger plan for my life—a powerful plan for powerful words—but it wasn’t—well, maybe it was—it just wasn’t my plan.

When I first visited a club, Rogers Toastmasters, in late 2003, I wasn’t looking to become a polished speaker or to enhance my leadership skills; I was just looking for a club that would allow my homeschooled, teenaged son to participate, even though he was too young to join. They welcomed his participation, on one condition—I had to join the club!

I joined the club and the next week, I was in a leadership position, as educational vice president, helping to plan club meetings. Over the past few years I have held several club and district leadership positions, greatly improving both my management and leadership skills—“on-the-job” leadership training in the non-threatening and supportive environment that is a hallmark of Toastmasters.

In addition to growing in leadership, I grew in communication skills, through the various projects emphasizing different aspects of communication from the basics of organizing a speech to the challenges of leading discussions. I even entered and won a few speech contests.

As my confidence as a speaker and leader grew, I began to see myself differently. I began to see myself as someone who could use words that could uplift and inspire others—and I could do it on purpose! And, I started with helping people in Toastmasters.

I’ll never forget the first time I mentored someone in Toastmasters—her name was Barb.

Barb was an older woman, in her mid-60s.

When Barb joined my club, I was excited. Now I wasn’t the only woman in the club! I couldn’t wait to hear her icebreaker speech.

The day of her icebreaker arrived and she approached the lectern like someone on a death march. When she got there, she set her notes down, gripped the sides of the lectern, and looked down at her notes and . . . for the next 5 minutes . . . didn’t look up.

Her voice shook. Her hands shook. The lectern—well, it looked like we were having an earthquake. Then, she started to hyperventilate.

It was one of those speeches that both the audience and the speaker couldn’t wait for it to end.

When she finished, she sat down next to me and didn’t say a word until the end of the meeting when she turned to me and said.

“That was awful. I quit.”

I didn’t want her to quit. She was the only other woman, after all!

“Barb, why did you join?” I asked.

“Well, I want to be able to speak at my church to raise funds for a medical mission trip to Argentina.”

“Barb, if that’s still important to you, don’t quit. I’ll help you.”

For the next 6 months, My club members and I helped Barb overcome her fears and polish her presentations.

Six months after that dreadful speech, Barb not only spoke at her church, she also competed in the club humorous speech contest and won!

“I’ll help you.” Powerful words.

Other toastmasters have helped me–encouraged me even more than I have encouraged them—with powerful words of encouragement.

It was with the encouragement of other toastmasters, that I began to consider developing myself as a professional speaker.

Three years ago I applied for a job to teach high school class room workshops for a local college. Vitalia Bryn-Pundyk—she and her husband Roman, are both Distinguished Toastmasters and professional speakers—was a major source of encouragement.  Vitalia was employed at the college and she clued me in that the “information session” was really a thinly disguised audition—everybody had to stand up and talk for a couple of minutes—they used that impromptu speaking to thin the crowd. That was the first of 3 auditions. For the third audition, they told us to prepare to sell something to teens—a product, a service or a concept for 3 minutes. However, they also said, that they would tell us to stop before the 3 minutes was up—when they had heard enough to make a decision.

Picture this: a classroom style room with the two decision makers sitting at the back. 10-15 people who had made it through first two rounds of auditions and this is the final audition. You don’t know how long you really will be speaking, but you know you have to wow them at the start.

Guess how long I spoke before they told me to sit down?

Only 20 seconds.

I used a familiar example—one I’d heard another speaker use—but high school students probably hadn’t.

“Raise your hand if you’d like this $100 bill.”

(I held up  a $100 bill. After most raised their hands, I immediately crumpled the bill, threw it on the ground, stomped on it and then jumped on it with both feet.  I then Then picked up and showed crumpled bill to the audience)

“Do you still want it?” (people raised hands) “Of course! It’s still worth the same!”

“Like this $100 bill, even though some people may have crumpled you, or trampled on you in the past, you are still worth the same.”

I had more but that’s where they stopped me and I got the job.

I could thank my toastmaster experience, and my toastmaster friend’s powerful words of encouragement.

That’s how I got my start as a professional speaker! I now speak to corporations and associations on communication and leadership topics, coach others on speaking and even teach a speech class to homeschooled students.

Where could your powerful words take you?

Now, you might not want to be a professional speaker, but your powerful words can make a difference to yourself and to those you influence. But the most powerful words don’t come out of your mouth accidentally.

Find your powerful words–on purpose–with Toastmasters!

I also have made a short version of my Toastmaster story as a Toastmaster Testimonial Tract that other Toastmasters can use as a template.

Toastmaster Testimonial Tract

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Business Storytelling Instant Teleseminar: Captivate, Connect and Convince!

“Get Naked” Business Storytelling for Leaders:
For Stronger, Memorable Communication and Presentations

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Would you like your message to be remembered and repeated? Would you like to build trust and gain buy-in from all your audiences, from clients to team members to stakeholders? Would you like to feel confident that your presentations engage your listeners?

You can do all that and more with strategic storytelling. Strategic storytelling is nothing new. Scheherazade, the ancient storyteller of 1001 Arabian Nights, beguiled a king and saved her own life and the lives of countless others by telling stories. In our own times, Steve Jobs was a legendary storyteller, who engaged the imaginations of millions with his strategic, engaging storytelling skills—and helped his company make billions of dollars and build a brand mystique while he did it.

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  • 60-minute mp3 of the teleseminar
  • 14-page reference workbook pdf
  • teleseminar transcript pdf
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Storytelling is a powerful way to captivate, connect and convince. If you want people to remember your message and to remember you, tell a story. Let Diane show you how!

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  • The number one thing all stories must have
  • How famous people, such as Steve Jobs, use storytelling to be more memorable
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  • How to craft a compelling story that’s true to your personality
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Diane is a speaker and the author of Small Talk, BIG Results: Chit Chat Your Way to Success!, and the co-author of Perfect Phrases for Icebreakers. Diane speaks internationally for organizations that want to help their people have better, more profitable conversations.

Audiences find her Small Talk Big Results presentations engaging and authentic. An engineer by training, Diane has owned several small businesses and has trained business owners, corporate employees and non-profit volunteers on how to become better networkers, conversationalist and presenters. She also has a presentation coaching business, Virtual Speech Coach

My Story in 4 Faces: Using Photos to Recall Stories

Almost any presentation, even business presentations, can be enhanced by using personal stories to anchor your points.  But, how do you recall and apply those personal stories?  One technique is to look at photos, specifically photos of yourself and try to recall where you were at in life and/or the story behind the photo.  Often one photo can result in multiple story ideas.  In preparation for a workshop that I’m giving on Saturday,  Storytelling for Business, I dug up my old photo albums (I’ve only digitized a few photos taken prior to 2001) and dug up some memories.  The four photos above and their brief explanations below will give you a flavor for the concept.  That, and you will see some of the very fashionable glasses that I’ve worn over the years!

Every face tells a story.

Age 11 I am in 5th grade and am about 10 years older than my brother.  We are about to have a formal picture taken, probably at Kmart.  My mother took lots of pictures.  I think it was to preserve the fantasy of a happy family.  My parents were not happy together.  I would go to my basement room and tune out their arguments by playing my violin.

Themes:  Fantasy vs. Reality, Tuning Out the Negative

Age 22 This picture was taken right before I left for my first day of work as an engineer for General Dynamics in San Diego.  I look so young and innocent.  I had no idea about the realities of being a woman in a male-dominated field.  Or, how ill-prepared I was by college.

Themes:  Being Different, Discrimination, Experience vs. Head Knowledge

Age 27  I became a full-time mother and homemaker, while at the same time building an Amway business with my husband.  We were going to be rich and have perfect children.  I became an invisible woman—my husband’s wife and my children’s mother.

Themes:  Managing Multiple Priorities, Identity Crisis, Unrealistic Dreams

Age 48  This is my first photo for my professional speaking business.  I didn’t have much money to spend because our technology business wasn’t doing well.  At the end of the year, we had declared bankruptcy.  I smiled to hide the pain.

Themes:  Starting a business on a Shoestring, Dealing with Loss, Rising from the Ashes

Need a story to anchor your point?  Try looking at some pictures!

 

 

4 Easy PowerPoint Principles for Visually Engaging Slides

I have to admit it–I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint presentations.  Not as they are usually done, anyway!  A bunch of text or data thrown on a screen isn’t very engaging.  Worse yet is when people read their slides.  However, there are a few things you can do for your very next presentation that will make your presentation “pop” and engage your audience.  Do you have some other simple tips?
Slides with transcription of audio:

All too often a PowerPoint presentation is the Kiss of Death for an audience.  You don’t want to be THAT presenter do you?  Today I’m going to give you some EASY ways to make your PowerPoint slides “Pop” that your audience will love!I’ll briefly give examples of 4 EASY Power Point Principles:

1. Go BIG—Use Big Pictures
2. Create Contrast with Pictures not Words
3. Try the Photographer’s Secret—The “Rule of thirds”  for eye-catching slides
4. Less is More—the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle for PowerPoint Presentations

Here is an average PowerPoint slide:  Title on top, picture on the bottom.  It could be worse—it could be all text.  It could be a difficult-to-see picture.  Or there could be too many pictures.  So, it’s not too bad.  But there is something really simple that you can do to have a greater impact.

Yep—just use a BIG picture.  Let the picture take up the whole slide, if possible.  Rather than have a title, Just talk about the slide or maybe have a single word “Empowerment.”  When a picture takes up a whole slide our minds imagine the picture bleeding off the edge, so it’s even bigger than what you have on the slide.

Here it is again, the average PowerPoint slide

Big Picture Impact

A different crop—and maybe a little more interesting.  Try using the “Photographers Secret” The Rule of thirds for some of your images

Imagine your slide divided into horizontal and vertical thirds—the intersections are the “Power Points” of your Power Point slide —where the focus of your image can have greater visual impact.  It can also give a picture a different “feel”

Here’s the same picture with the grid overlaid. Now, you don’t actually have to have a grid.  You can just estimate it.

  Here’s another tree picture—quite different from the first!

  Notice that it is fairly centered.  This picture gives me a sense of foreboding and a feeling of being dominated –like I can’t escape.  What if I crop it just a little bit differently?

This is only a slightly different angle—but having more sky on the right gives me a feeling of greater hope.  Play around with your composition and evoke different emotions in your audience.
You can also use the rule of thirds with placement of people in your pictures.
Again with the grid overlaid.

So, Do you want to Stand Out in a crowd and have your PowerPoint Slides Be more visually interesting to engage your audience?  Remember to use BIG PICTURES and . . .

Try using the Rule of Thirds—You can use it to place pictures AND TEXT in the Power Point positions!  Another way to engage your audience is to use . . .
. . . Eye-catching contrast.  Our brains are hard-wired to notice contrast.

Don’t do this—don’t make your text color and background color too similar.  It might be easy for you to see on your computer screen but it isn’t so easy from the back of the room.

Easier to read, isn’t it?  However, some of the best use of contrast isn’t really in what you write.  For example, let’s look at the weekly groceries for 2 families. This information is from the book “Hungry Planet.”

Here’s a family from the U.S.  I could, like many presenters, also read the slide to you, which begs the question—why have a slide if you are just going to read it?  Just note that they spend a lot of money.

Here’s a family from Chad–$1.23.  It’s hard to imagine isn’t it!?!  But is there a more effective way to present the information—a way that will have greater impact?  Remember the saying . . .

 A picture is worth . . . a thousand words!  Here is another way to convey the contrast:
The groceries that the US family consumed in a week.

A week’s worth of food for the Chad family.  Pictures are a shortcut to our minds.  They are a short cut to our emotions.  A picture is worth  a thousand words.

And LESS is MORE!  With a picture you can convey MOREwith using LESS—fewer words can actually help people understand what you are trying to get across.  Let’s say I wanted to compare the percentage of people who own multiple dogs vs. the percentage who own multiple cats.
I could use a table.  Note my table contains extra information.  I really only want to talk about the fact that 40% of dog owners own more than one dog while 52% of cat owners own more than one cat.  Maybe a chart would be easier?
Well, Maybe not—I had to write out the statement “Cat owners are more likely to own multiple cats”  What if we just used a couple of pictures?
40 percent of dog owners own more than one dog while . . .
52% of Cat owners own more than one cat.  Much more appealing—Less is More, our final principle.

Also remember to:

Go BIG—Use Big Pictures

Create Contrast with Pictures not Words

Try the Photographer’s secret—The “Rule of thirds”  for eye-catching slides

I do have one bonus principle for you . . .

This is me.  I like to have fun in my presentations—and you certainly can add some fun to your slides

—even little changes can make them fun.   Don’t let your PowerPoint slides be the Kiss of Death!

Keep it Simple, Bold and interesting and your Audiences will love you!