Spirited Speech Masters poses with Shibu Varghese and Dan Rex

Using Writing Prompts to Improve at Table Topics

300 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly

Looking for a way to improve at delivering compelling table topic speeches? Try a writing prompt notebook like this one from Piccadilly. Each lined page has 1-2 brief prompts along the lines of what you might expect to encounter in a table topics session during a Toastmasters meeting. Flip through, pick a prompt (or throw literary caution to the wind and select one randomly) then write out a half to full page response. To ensure you focus on impromptu thinking, try not to pause during your writing (the process of writing already provides a built-in delay). And try to resist the urge to wordsmith since this isn’t something you’re generally able to do when speaking extemporaneously.

This type of exercise is great because it’s easily portable and can be done on your own, i.e. when you’re jonesing for your next meeting, but it’s still six days away!

2019.06.27 Weekly Window

We had an extra special meeting today, celebrating the 15th anniversary of Dawn first having joined Toastmasters, a momentous accomplishment. We celebrated with cake and strawberries! Congratulations, Dawn!

Usamah graciously fulfilled the role of Toastmaster-of-the-Day, selecting the theme “Happiness” and explaining that the root of the word — hap — means luck or chance. As our Grammarian, Joann opted to highlight the differences between the two related words, sympathy and empathy.

Loni gave a short presentation on the three main objectives of our web site: Recruiting, Member Recognition, and Information Sharing, along with a call to action for all members to consider ways they might contribute to the web site’s development. For those interested, the PowerPoint presentation is available for download here.

Asad joined our chapter and even delivered his Icebreaker speech, “Introduction to Me.” His introductory speech included advice to never stop learning and to use teaching others as a source of personal growth.

As our Table Topics Master, Karl borrowed inspiration from the recent live-action release of Disney’s Aladdin and asked volunteers to speak about the three wishes they would ask for, were they to encounter a magic genie of their own.

Christine volunteered first, explaining that she would forego the traditional wish for riches in favor of success for her son, good health, and world peace.

Asad didn’t let having delivered a full-length prepared speech deter him from participating in Table Topics today, wishing that his parents lived close to him, that everyone in the world should know Project Management (who wouldn’t wish for that?), and that he could take the genie up to heaven with him.

Boundless wealth? Eternal youth? World-wide understanding of Project Management? Decisions, decisions!

Joann used her three wishes to eliminate Houston traffic, add more green space to the city, and to have her own personal aircraft to commute to and from work (no doubt some of that green space would come in handy as a personal landing pad).

At the end of the meeting, Sally passed around a sheet with assignments for members to serve as Toastmaster-of-the-Day for upcoming meetings. Please be sure to check when your assigned meeting will be so you can feel comfortable and adequately prepared. And don’t forget that, as Toastmaster-of-the-Day, you get to select a meeting theme!

  • Best Table Topics: Asad
  • Most Improved Speaker: Asad
  • Best Evaluator: Sally
  • Best Speaker: Loni

2019.06.20 Weekly Window

This week, we had a tremendous turnout of long-time members and a number of visitors. We were also able to welcome Maxine back after a few months’ hiatus and welcomed Doug, a brand-new member! That means we still have three new- or returning-member prizes available to be claimed! Join or return today to win a beautiful wooden magnet in the shape of the great state of Texas, handmade by our Treasurer, Dawn!

Join or rejoin today to win a fabulous, handmade wooden magnet!

Joann served as our Toastmaster-of-the-Day, and while ordinarily quite upbeat, it was clear that she was feeding off the energy of the room today! For the benefit of our several guests, she outlined the basic structure of our meetings, leading us through an explanation of several of the weekly roles as the “dashboard of our rocket”! Stellar job, Joann!

As our Grammarian, Maxine introduced us to the word malapert, which seemed to be a big hit with those present, being used more than five times in today’s meeting!

Usamah delivered a speech entitled “My Wife’s Cancer Journey,” sharing an intimate glimpse into his wife’s cancer journey and giving us all pause to consider the use of warlike terminology — battle, warrior, fight — when we talk about cancer and cancer patients. Having given this speech will allow Usamah to complete the Competent Communicator manual, earning him the CC educational distinction. Congratulations, Usamah!

Loni filled the role of Topics Master, soliciting volunteers from the audience to speak extemporaneously on a number of topics.

One of our guests, Christine, was actually the first to volunteer, recounting how she dealt with the loss of her mother by crocheting a blanket. This was a lovely story humorously punctuated by an explanation that her blanket eventually got quite large since her mother had never taught her how to stop crocheting!

Rachel rejoined us today and related a responsibility she would prefer to permanently eschew while still acknowledging the odious task as a continued source of personal growth.

Doug didn’t let his status as a new member deter him from volunteering for Table Topics, speaking about his time with his wife in Brazil, learning Portuguese through non-traditional methods.

Finally, Dawn answered a question about the part of her job she most enjoys. She related the exhilaration she sometimes experiences during a work-crisis and explained that she takes pride in being able to make a difference in the clinical environment. She even gave a specific example of a dialysis report that has positively impacted patient outcomes.

Christine receiving the Best of Table Topics award from President Sally Boyd

Thank you to all of our members and guests who turned out this week. I hope you will be able to join us next week when I will be speaking on the ways we can all hopefully benefit from the utilities available through our new newish web site! (There’s still one speaker slot available, however!)

  • Best Table Topics: Christine

President’s Update

Spirited Speech Masters is having a “Jumping June” this last month of the Toastmasters year! On June 10th, we had our officer elections, and I’m pleased to say that we have all of our Officer Positions filled!  Our 2019-2020 Officers will be:

  • President: Joann Hester
  • Vice President Education (VPE): Sally Boyd
  • Vice President Membership (VPM): Twana Benjamin
  • Vice President Public Relations (VPPR): Loni Huff
  • Treasurer: Dawn Sandlin
  • Secretary: Allison Powers
  • Sergeant-at-Arms (SAA): Naureen Syed
  • Immediate Past President (IPP): Sally Boyd

I am really excited to see some of our newer members step up into officer positions.  Good luck to all of our new officers!  Our officer installation will be July 11th.  We will be installed by our new Area Director, Patricia Koch!  There will also be speeches by our outgoing and incoming Presidents.

Open House!

Our open house was so much fun!  We had a great crowd!  Dawn Sandlin gave a great speech on packing a backpack, and Loni Huff did a wonderful job as her evaluator!  Thanks to Joann Hester for an interesting Word-of-the-Day, and we introduced the practice of snapping our fingers when someone uses the WotD!  Karl Jonsson had the Table Topics theme of “Vacations,” and several of our guests gave great presentations.  We hope to see some new members coming in soon!  Finally, both Allison Powers and Naureen Syed gave their “#MyWhy” speeches, telling why they joined Toastmasters!  Overall, it was a great meeting.  Thanks to all of the members who pitched in to help!

How to Give a Great Speech Evaluation

When people think of Toastmasters, the first thing that usually comes to mind is giving speeches. And while we are certainly focused on developing our oratory skills, we also develop the ability to evaluate speakers. A good evaluation provides valuable feedback — delivered in a supportive and constructive manner — to help a speaker continue development.

Jonathan Peng is the winner of the 2017 District 85 Evaluation Contest. In the video below, he gives tips on how to deliver a stronger, more compelling evaluation, including emphasizing that an evaluation shouldn’t necessarily be delivered solely to the speaker but should make an effort to make the audience feel included, as well.

Upcoming Officer Elections

The June 6th meeting will include voting for the slate of 2019-2020 officers. We have a full slate of officer nominations:

  • Sergeant at Arms: Naureen Syed
  • Treasurer: Dawn Sandlin
  • Secretary: Allison Powers
  • VP Public Relations: Loni Huff
  • VP Membership: Twana Benjamin
  • VP Education: Sally Boyd
  • President: Joann Hester

Additional nominations will be requested from the floor (but the person nominated must accept the nomination).  You may also nominate yourself. Please attend, if at all possible, even if you are unable to be present for the entire meeting, as voting will take place during the first ten to fifteen minutes.

The June 13th meeting will be our annual Open House and will feature a slightly revised format. In an effort to promote recruitment, we are holding a Membership Contest! Prizes will be awarded to the member who brings the greatest number of guests and to the member who has the greatest number of people join our chapter (the latter of which will be determined on July 25). In addition, a special prize will be given to the first five visitors who join within the month of June!

If you haven’t already, please sign up to bring one or more food items or beverages to the Open House event! And if you haven’t picked up your red-envelope invitations to hand out to friends and colleagues, you can pick them up from Sally.

The June 27th meeting will feature officer installation with speeches by the outgoing and incoming Presidents.  Come and celebrate our Toastmasters Year in Review and hear our great plans for next year!

Open House 2019

Spirited Speech Masters is excited to invite you to attend an open house on Thursday, June 13th at 12 noon to 1 PM in 1MC16.3312 (one of the central conference rooms, badge access required).

Dawn Sandlin will be delivering a speech entitled “The Kitchen Sink.” Dawn enjoys backpacking over long distances and, through years of experience, has fine-tuned the contents of her backpack for the greatest efficiency and lowest weight. Come benefit from her extensive, field-tested knowledge and see the benefits that Toastmasters can offer!

Light refreshments will be served.

05.23.2019 Weekly Window

The theme of today’s weekly meeting was “homecoming” as we welcomed Dawn and Sally back after a couple weeks of vacation. We were also fortunate enough to have two guests join us, providing new faces and fresh perspectives!

Loni served as today’s grammarian, introducing the thematically appropriate Word-of-the-Day, odyssey. (Psst! Did you know we collect all of the words of the day over on our glossary page?)

Sally spoke about the value of team building, comparing her experience when planning and executing two different projects, one with team-building and one without. Because we were short-handed, Sally also served as Table Topics Master, providing three prompts related to homecoming.

Dawn’s finished Windsor chair

Loni spoke extemporaneously about how her home is defined by the presence of family. Our guest Vydia regaled us with a funny story about how a spontaneous (attempted) trip to visit Mexico left them temporarily stranded in the no man’s land at the U.S.-Mexico border. And Dawn treated us to a story her recent trip to a Mennonite community in Waco, Texas where she learned to build a Windsor-style chair starting from a log and using traditional techniques.

Thank you to everyone who turned out for this week’s meeting and a special thank you to our two guests, Vydia and Lena. We hope to see you both again!

Finally, we are pleased to announce that Dawn recently achieved Competent Toastmaster (CTM) and Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB), having completed two Advanced Communication & Leadership Program manuals. Congratulations, Dawn!

  • Best Table Topics: Vydia

7 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using

Charismatic speakers often use hand gestures to reinforce their intended message. Here is a short (7 minute) video showing seven different hand gestures you can incorporate when speaking.

Learn more about the effective use of hand gestures when speaking at 20 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using.

About the Author: Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best-selling author and behavioral investigator with the web site Science of People.

2019.05.16 Weekly Window

Despite a lower-than-average turnout this week, we still managed to hold a fun and inspirational meeting. Joann served as Toastmaster of the Day as well as speaker, delivering a speech from the Successful Club Series: Creating the Best Club Climate, which enumerated several ways that we can improve the quality of our chapter meetings, including:

  • Making a good impression
  • Welcoming guests
  • Showing new members we care

The completion of this speech counts toward the Advanced Leader Bronze award from the Advanced Leadership curriculum that pre-dates Pathways.

Loni volunteered as this week’s Grammarian, offering up a pair of antonymous idioms as this week’s “Word of the Day”: rose-colored glasses and jaundiced eye.

Allison served as this week’s Table Topics Master, prompting members with several great questions. Loni talked about wanting to develop her graphic design skills, being primarily self-taught. Naureen shared stories of growing up in Pakistan, climbing mango trees and chasing chickens. And Tina split our sides with an anecdote about beginning her journey as an aspiring ballerina by managing to get her head stuck between the mirror and wall-mounted bar of the dance studio where she was enrolled.

Next week, we look forward to welcoming back several currently vacationing members and hope to see you there, as well!

  • Best Table Topics: Loni
  • Most Improved Speaker: Tina