Helena Rhim's First Toastmasters Speech Kicked Ass!

Since I evaluated Helena Rhim’s Toastmasters speech, I asked her what she was physically experiencing while she was speaking:

  • My body was shaking
  • When I paused I could feel my face turning red
  • I felt the vein in neck throbbing
  • My hands were clammy

Even though she was nervous and experienced all of these symptoms, we the audience, could not tell. She looked great! She presented a smooth and easy-to-follow story. Her speaking was well-paced. She had good eye contact, hand gestures, and vocal variety.

NO “ums” or “ahs.” And NO notes.

I chatted with her at the end of the meeting and asked her about her writing and rehearsal process. “All-in-all I probably rehearsed my speech 30 times,” she said.

When she mentioned all of the physical symptoms she experienced, I said, “Yes! That’s awesome.” She mustered through, and now has one speech under her belt. That’s the courage it takes to grow!

Helena was impressive with her purposeful use of pauses instead of the normal filler-words like “ums” or “ahs.” I could see her actively being mindful by forcing a pause before her next line – and it looked natural. This is an advanced technique that she told me she’s been working hard on for the past few weeks. “I practiced not saying “ums” and “ahs” when I was out and about during my daily routine,” she said. “I forced myself to be mindful of it and practiced stopping myself from saying “ums” when interacting with people during the day.”


Items for improvement:

  • Present speech in front of the podium/lectern
  • Break up the standing-still pose by taking one or two purposeful steps to the left and right

Club: Capital City Toastmasters #142, Sacramento, CA (Facebook Page)
Date: April 9, 2018

How To Grow Your Toastmasters Club

Want to know how to grow your Toastmasters club?

You didn’t join Toastmasters to get good at Toastmasters. You joined to get better at your real life!

Why did you join? And the newest members in your club, why did they join? If you want to grow your Toastmasters club, make sure and keep their dream alive.

Your growth is your club’s growth.

Your progress within your own club means more of your co-workers, friends, and family notice your progress, You’re a walking billboard advertisement showcasing the benefits of Toastmasters. You’re the proof that it works!

You’re the perfect example of a before & after weight lose photo. Your increased self-confidence and public speaking skills are what your co-workers, your boss, your employees, your friends notice. In the real world, your best sales pitch to inviting guests to your club is your personal growth.

Your club is like a garden.

Like plants in a garden, each of your club members is unique. Some need more light, while others are wall-flowers. Some need lots of water, while others can go for long periods on their own. From veteran members to first-time guests, each person has a specific reason for seeking out Toastmasters.

Stories from my own Toastmasters club:

Rona J.: Finance major. Joined because she wanted to be better at public speaking. Didn’t give her first “Ice Breaker” speech until a year after joining. Today, Rona is a badass at speaking, and can smoothly run a club meeting as the Toastmaster.

Ceci D.: Works in corporate America. Hated always being afraid of speaking at work. Presented her 10th speech in her Competent Communicator manual 5 years after joining. Ceci is now the one who always takes on a meeting role, presents a learning moment, and/or participates in Table Topics.

Tianna W.: Just wanted to face her fear of public speaking. Tianna went on to compete in the 2014 Humorous Speech Contest at the District level.

Jenny M.: Her job requires her to read a pre-written update to more than 100 company employees via Skype. Jenny is great at speaking off-the-cuff – she’s funny and a great storyteller. But reading off of a script terrifies the hell out of her! It was my journey from first Ice Breaker speech to winning the District-level International Speech Contest in 2013 – and documenting how I dealt with the fear of public speaking – that Jenny applied in her work environment. In Jenny’s own words:

“Was reading your blog post prior to my 5 minute work presentation via phone to 100 participants. By using the techniques you wrote about, I was able to deliver a better speech. Thank you for taking the time to blog about your approach prior to and during speeches.”

You are a light at the end of the tunnel for everyone in your club – and everyone on your life. Your growth is your club’s growth! When you grow, your core of influence sees it. And when your club members grow, THEIR core of influence sees it. It so much easier to invite guests to your club when you’re growing.

Grow your club with people from the real world.

Molly is a physics major. She told me that she used to be terrified of public speaking. So much so that she dropped many college classes when the teacher mentioned that students would be required to give a presentation in front of the class. Her years of experience as a Barista have helped make her willing to push through her fears, and now she’s much more comfortable in front of a class full of students.

Your Toastmasters club is the only safe place to practice public speaking. You just need to keep an eye out for people that can benefit from it.

It’s like a second family.

Your club is like your second family. That’s not something you can explain to a guest, but like reading a great book or watching a great movie, you can’t wait for them to experience it too. There’s a fellowship in your club.

Look for the people in your everyday life that are thirsty, that are looking for a great book or movie. And as World Champion of Public Speaking, Darren LaCroix, says:

“Toastmasters is a great place to practice screwing up!”

This is a great invitation to someone you know that’s afraid of public speaking, that wants to build their self-confidence, that wants to climb the corporate ladder more quickly.

Practicing Panic Makes You A Better Speaker

Why is embracing panic so important? Because…

Appearing calm under pressure is a sign of leadership.

Not knowing how to respond to panic can prevent you from starting in the first place. Fear of public speaking. Fear of failure. Fear of getting punched in the face. Fear of starting your own business. Fear of looking stupid in front of a crowded room.

After tonight’s Toastmasters International Speech Contest (Round 2, Area 82) in Sacramento, CA, I had a good hour-long chat with an audience member. Since they do Jiu-Jitsu, we stumbled on a good analogy for the benefit of embracing panic:

Just like the “panic” your body feels when you’re getting choked out in Jiu-Jitsu, you gotta practice feeling the “panic” of making mistakes while speaking in front of a live audience. Just like you get practice time on the Jiu-Jitsu mat, you gotta get practice time at a Toastmasters club and in speech contests.

Practicing panic-filled situations pushes you way out in front of everybody else! In public speaking, your biggest fear will be what to do when you’re competing in a speech contest and you forget your lines – like one of my speech competitors did during her speech last night. What do you actually do?

Just like getting choked-out in Jiu-Jitsu, you needed to have already put yourself in a panic situation so you know how your body reacts when it panics. In Jiu-Jitsu, you gotta get on the mat and feel it – and practice all of the next-move responses. Same in public speaking. You need the experience of making mistakes in front of a live audience. You need to know what your body feels like when you forget your next line.

Practice panic in the safety of the dojo and the safety of a Toastmasters club, so you can out-perform everybody else when you’re out in the real world!

The actions you can take are: get on the Jiu-Jitsu mat and compete; get in front of a Toastmasters club audience and compete in speech contests.

Toastmasters Speech Contest Tips – James Jeffley

James Jeffley made it all the way to THE BIG STAGE during the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking contests in 2015 and 2014. James made it to the final top-10 winners out of 30,000 competitors, worldwide. TWICE!

His District 39 Keynote includes his 3 overarching tips for developing your speech:

  1. What’s your takeaway MESSAGE?
  2. What’s your takeaway ACTION?
  3. What’s your takeaway BENEFIT?

Toastmasters District 39 Keynote (Part 1)

Toastmasters District 39 Keynote (Part 2)

Should You Memorize Your Toastmasters Speech?

World Champions of Public Speaking all said they do it!

There’s a raging debate in the Toastmasters public speaking community about whether or not you should memorize your 5-7 minute speech. Some commenters are emphatic: “NO MEMORIZING! You’ll look and sound like a robot.” Others memorized the opening and closing of their speeches, and casually rehearsed the main points in the body of their speech.

Many Toastmasters said that in order to keep their speech sounding fresh, they only practiced it a few times. Some practiced their speech 3 times, out loud, while videotaping. Others practiced their speech to themselves – just in their head – 10 times.

This all started when a club member finished presenting her 5th speech in the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual. The first 5 speeches are read-from-notes speeches, which is tough enough when you’re starting out. The remaining 5 speeches of the 10-speech manual are to be presented without notes.

“So how, exactly, do I give my speech without notes?” Mindy asked, in desperation and despair. “It’s tough enough doing my speech WITH notes.”

With conflicting answers from the Toastmasters I had asked, I went straight to the World Champions of Public Speaking and ask each of them directly.

I asked 8 previous World Champions of Public Speaking the following question:

“Did you memorize, word-for-word, your World Championship speech?”

The answer is YES. But that’s not where their answers ended…

Jim Key – 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking

Jim Key: Yes, BUT… It is more important to internalize the message of your speech than it is to memorize the text. That way, if anything happens to distract from that word-for-word performance, it won’t derail you. (Something distracted me, and I started off my 2003 WCPS speech differently than I’d written it.)

Me: Thanks so much for pointing out the diff between memorizing and internalizing, Jim. And starting your speech differently shows the power of internalizing.

Jim Key: Perhaps an even better example of the power of internalizing is that during the 2000 [sic] WCPS Finals, I completely forgot where I was at in my speech *during* my speech (About halfway through). I did a quick “start-from-the-beginning, fast-forward-to-that-moment” and my mind, and resume. On the video, it just looks like a really nice pause 🙂

Me: WOW! That’s crazy lol. And right in the middle of it all. I assume 2000’s speech was memorized word-for-word, but 2003’s had the extra internalizing working for you.

Jim Key: I wasn’t in the Finals in 2000. I’ll assume that you mean 2001, and say that what you’ve said is pretty accurate. Though there was a point where I spontaneously decided to make a tweak…to pause after asking the audience to sing the Barney song with me…to allow time for a reaction. And what it got was a pretty significant reaction.

Me: Yes, 2001; sorry. Cool that you spontaneously asked the audience to sing the Barney song. That’s ballzy – and awesome!

Jim Key: Asking them wasn’t the spontaneous part. I had planned to do that, but the idea still scared me such that I decided to ask and then rush right into singing it. Something in my head said ‘lay it out there and wait’. The response was beyond what I could’ve hoped for.

Me: Whoa, so the “lay it out there and wait” part was the spontaneous tweak. And the audience totally came through. That must have felt amazing, that the audience was “with you” on this.

Jim Key: It did. Gauging by the way they reacted to the MC’s briefing, and during the early part of my speech, I had a sense that they’d be with me. I just didn’t know it to that degree. Looking back, I think many (if not all) speeches that stand out take some type of risk or do something differently. In 2001, that was it for me.

Me: Thanks so much for your time and behind-the-scenes.

Lance Miller – 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking

Lance Miller: I knew it word for word – but I did not memorize it – there is a huge difference!

Jock Elliot – 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking

Jock Elliot: Yes. For all my [5-7 min.] competition speeches, I memorize them. In fact, I go further than that, I internalize them so that they as natural and easy as breathing.

For other [longer] presentations, while I write them out as clearly as I can to make sure I get all my points in the right order, I then reduce that to dot points, perhaps using several key phrases but otherwise, just talking naturally and conversationally about the points being made.

Randy Harvey – 2004 World Champion of Public Speaking

Randy Harvey: Of course I did. But only because I wanted to get the message across.

Ryan Avery – 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking

Ryan Avery: Yes sir!

Craig Valentine – 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking

Craig Valentine: I believe so. It was a long time ago but I believe I did. However, I never wrote it down.

Mark Brown – 1995 World Champion of Public Speaking

Mark Brown: I did.

Me: Thanks so much, Mark. Appreciate the help.

Mark Brown: It’s important that they (Toastmasters club members) understand WHY they should memorize.

Me: That’d definitely be helpful. Do you have a recommendation for what I can tell my club to help them understand why it’s important for them to memorize?

Mark Brown: Good writing creates a good speech. Memorizing ensures that good writing isn’t forgotten.

The best and most descriptive language doesn’t necessarily flow from one’s mouth spontaneously. Word, phrase & sentence selection are critical, and even if one thinks of some great ones at any given time, if they aren’t practiced and memorized, they will be forgotten.

Me: That totally makes sense. One of my club members writes great descriptive material and she wants to be able to deliver it without notes. Thanks much. I’ll share this with her and the club.

Darren LaCroix – 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking

Darren LaCroix: Internalize, don’t memorize

Me: Thanks much, Darren. I guess “internalization” is a big step past memorization?

Darren LaCroix: Yes, but also not word for word. See my recent blog post about: TED-fluence on www.darrenlacroix.com

Me: Awesome; thanks for the direction, Darren.


Enough of the World Champs mentioned internalizing their speech for me to take it seriously. They go the extra mile by going beyond the memorization phase: practice > memorize > internalize.

What does internalize mean? As Jim Key put it, “I internalized my speech so that even in the event of a distraction I would not be thrown off.”

Practice is like: You draw a map of directions to your new job and you follow the map until you get there. Or, you punch the address in to your phone and let Siri guide you.

Memorize is like: You drive the same route enough times that you don’t need the map or Siri anymore. You’ve memorized the names of the street signs.

Internalize is like: Forget Siri, forget the map, forget the street signs. You can drive to work blindfolded. It’s second-nature.

There’s a second theme that bubbled to the surface too: WHY memorizing is important.

Mark Brown: Good writing creates a good speech. Memorizing ensures that good writing isn’t forgotten. The best and most descriptive language doesn’t necessarily flow from one’s mouth spontaneously. Word, phrase & sentence selection are critical, and even if one thinks of some great ones at any given time, if they aren’t practiced and memorized, they will be forgotten. More resources:

How To Practice A 5-7 Minute Toastmasters Speech

You will discover that some techniques for practicing your speech work well, while others do not. My approach for practicing a speech is unique to me, so it’s important for you to gather advice from others as well. Research which patterns, practices and procedures work best for you to present a 5-7 minute speech, without notes, while coming across as confident and natural.

I added Ryan Avery‘s advice and write my speech in as close to poem form as possible. Then I took the advice of a number of World Champions of Public Speaking, like Ed Tate, and I memorize every word (for a 5-7 min speech). I then take my printed-out speech outside to my practice area and practice my speech out loud at least 6 times. This is my first of many run-throughs to get a feel for the stage and timing.

I’m also going through my stage positions while practicing out loud. I discovered that my stage positions also help me remember my next line/story.

After practicing my speech in my practice space over a week (3-6 times per day), then I don’t need my printed-out speech anymore. The speech has become part of me because it’s been marinating throughout my practice sessions.

At this point, I start doing an exercise that Ed Tate recommends: saying my speech at 2x it’s normal speed. It’s tough-going at first, but I find it very helpful.

There also comes a time when I don’t practice my speech at all – because I’m sick of all the damn practice. I take a break and come back to it a week later. This break, like a much-needed vacation, does wonders for being confident and sounding natural.

World-renowned speech coach, Patricia Fripp, advises that writing out your speech in a logical sequence helps you remember it better.