Insights on the journey . . . .
Patricia Fripp, past president of the National Speakers Association — and a person who knows about clear communication — has a rule. If you attend one of her training sessions and use the words “thing” or “stuff,” you must put $1 into a charity pot.
Why? Because Fripp believes that unspecific language can ruin your message. She’s right. But I’d take it a step further: Unspecific language can leave you — and your team — in the land of undone.
Toastmasters are word aficionados, so you would think that specificity and carefully chosen language would come naturally to us! But it takes awareness and practice to break the generalization habit.
Here is a failsafe way to incorporate specificity into your everyday life and leapfrog common obstacles. Let’s start with a couple of common club scenarios.
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.
Championis 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.
Most Toastmasters have discovered that having a mentor is the fastest way to get to their desired targets and goals. Our organization isn’t alone in this, of course — corporations, for example, invest thousands into their own mentoring programs. What’s different about Toastmasters is that mentorship has been part of the formula for success since the beginning.
“We realize that the two most important factors in Toastmasters are Mentoring and Evaluations,” said our founder, Dr. Ralph Smedley. “There is no doubt that if these two are done well and there is a good mentoring program, your club will be filled with spark plugs ready to fire upon request. Mentoring and evaluations create enthusiasm and once you light that fire the only thing it needs is some kindling.”
Planning a Toastmasters Conference is no small commitment — and it’s no small opportunity, either! A conference is a chance to highlight our efforts as an organization and to showcase our individual growth, as well. It pushes everyone involved to discover new ways of collaborating, new ways of communicating, and new ways of presenting information and insights.
Of course, great conferences don’t happen in a vacuum. They begin with great leadership. A strong Program Quality Director sets the tone for the event long before the conference is announced — and when the tone is right, it’s something everyone can feel in the air. It’s electric. It’s exciting! It’s an energy that is worth the hard work and long hours.
I’ve always been a planner. I’m a true believer in the importance of goals and constantly striving for new levels of success and understanding, but until recently I went about trying to achieve those goals the old-fashioned way: I set them, I created a plan with milestones, and I worked hard until I was satisfied.
A few months ago I read an article that upended my perspective (isn’t it a gift when that happens?). It was a story about Doug Conant, who took over the venerable Campbell Soup Company in the early 2000s. At the time, the business wasn’t doing well at all, and Conant had a huge task in front of him:
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.