Tag Archives: public speaking

Rejoining Toastmasters

Sometimes we are blessed in life by unusual circumstances. Or, to put it another way, we get lemonade when life hands us lemons. Such is my current reaffiliation with the Southlake Toastmasters of Southlake, Texas. According to its website, Toastmasters boasts 364,000 members from 145 countries around the world. Participating in Toastmasters helps develop and hone our organizational, leadership, and communication skills. I have been involved with the organization off and on since taking my first speech class in college many moons ago.

Southlake is a northern suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth. Under normal conditions, they meet at 7:00 Monday mornings at the Southlake Town Hall. (Yes, I am very much a morning person!) When I relocated from Keller to Houston in early 2016 I had to discontinue my membership for about 285 logistical reasons. Now, due to gathering restrictions courtesy of COVID-19, Toastmaster clubs around the world have pivoted to virtual meeting formats. Not only does this allow me to rejoin the Southlake group I have missed so much, but it also facilitates visiting Clubs from all over the world! See? Lemonade!

Several years ago, I added a page called “Toastmaster Speeches” to this website. I was happy to log on this morning and update that page with the Icebreaker speech I offered this morning. Although COVID has forced much of normal life to be placed on hold, I am thankful for the technology that allows us all to remain connected to some extent. To be sure, virtual meetings have their limitations, but in these trying times the technology is a Godsend.

What are you doing to maintain normalcy as we fight this pandemic? Life is short. And we’ve got to keep living it.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) kellertxdad 2021

Know Your Audience

“Did you know that workers’ compensation claims cost our company over $24 million last year!?” I asked incredulously. And, with that opening line, I lost my audience.

I had the best of intentions. I wanted to raise awareness. I wanted to achieve buy-in. I wanted my audience of operations vice presidents and warehouse managers to leave the meeting with a sense of purpose and a committed resolve to run their distribution centers in the safest manner possible. Unfortunately, I only achieved one of my three objectives, and that only in part: They all left the meeting.

This squandered opportunity underscores an often overlooked component of successful communication: the need to tailor the message to the audience. Truth is, we did have an opportunity to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Achieving the buy-in of the operations professionals who ran the warehouses and loaded the trucks was essential to our success. And, in this instance, I failed.

I joined Toastmasters to learn to organize my thoughts, tailor my presentation to the audience in the room, and deliver my message with confidence and authority.

Fast-forward one year. After the debacle of the year before I had to battle to get the risk management team a spot on the operations meeting agenda. Quite frankly, I understood management’s hesitance; my presentation the year before used an hour of valuable time and achieved nothing. I told them I had learned my lesson. I joined Toastmasters to learn to organize my thoughts, tailor my presentation to the audience in the room, and deliver my message with confidence and authority. I showed them a draft of my new presentation as I told them this year would be different. And it was.

“I want you all to close your eyes,” I said. “Picture in your mind the best order selector in your warehouse; you know, the one with the near-perfect pick rate and lowest error rating. I know that each of you already has that person pictured in your mind. Now, picture him at home because he hurt his back at work. He’s off for six months. Open your eyes.”

I had their attention. I asked, “How many of you have had this experience in your operation at least once during the past year?” Many raised their hands. I asked them, one by one, “How was your warehouse impacted by that employee’s prolonged absence from work?” All of a sudden, a discussion broke out! Operations VP’s and warehouse managers shared how overall pick rates deteriorated and overtime costs increased. Several even talked about reduced morale and reduced bonus payouts. “If I could show you three simple things you can implement now to help avoid this disruption going forward, would you consider them?” I now had their full attention. I had a room full of risk management deputies. Mission accomplished.

During that second presentation, I never talked about money. I didn’t preach the virtues of prevention as a means of reducing retained loss costs. Why? Because this audience couldn’t care less about those things. That is not the world in which they live and breathe every day.

I had the honor of addressing the attorneys and paralegals of Vernis & Bowling at their 2014 firm retreat in Orlando, FL.

I had the honor of addressing the attorneys and paralegals of Vernis & Bowling at their 2014 firm retreat in Orlando, FL.

That presentation, now some 20 years in the past, was the catalyst for some amazing results. And, for me personally, it launched a true appreciation for and enjoyment of public speaking.

I offer this glimpse into my career learning process in the hopes that you might consider (or reconsider) each slide in that PowerPoint deck you’re about to present. Persuading a Board, a C-Suite, mid-management colleagues, and operations professionals to support any given objective will typically require a different approach tailored to each of those groups. To whom are you presenting? I’m sure the content is important to you, but is the content important to them? How can you make your objective meaningful to your audience? Will your supporting facts resonate with them?

After several years of absence, I rejoined a local Toastmasters club two years ago. I believe strongly that well-honed communication and presentation skills are an essential component to any leader’s success. I know they have contributed hugely to mine.

Click here to learn more about Toastmasters and how it can help you hone your communication and presentation skills!

2015 Photo-A-Day 1.12.2015

These are the new officers of the Southlake Toastmasters Club at their installation this morning. Toastmasters is an organization that helps people from all walks of life and a variety of vocations hone their communication and leadership skills. I’ve been a member of this club since early 2013. They are a wonderful group of people from whom I have learned much.

“Ours is the only organization I know dedicated to the individual, we work together to bring out the best in each of us and then we apply these skills to help others.” ~  Ralph Smedley, Founder of Toastmasters

Southlake Toastmasters officers installation 1.12.2015

Southlake Toastmasters officers installation 1.12.2015

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