Spicing Up The Grammarian’s Role

The Grammarian is meant to help all club members improve their grammar and vocabulary by introducing new words to meeting participants and monitor language and grammar usage.

The Tradition

Piggy BankIn the Madrid Toastmasters Club, the tradition is to have the Grammarian give a “word of the day”, give a definition and a couple of examples hoping that speakers will use it during the meeting. Every time they do, they’ll get credit. On the other hand, every time they use a filler word, they will be charged €0.10. At the end of the meeting the Grammarian gives a report and collects the money which will be donated to Kiva.org.

Last time I attended a meeting, I decided to take on the Grammarian’s role, but I decided to stray away from my club’s tradition and add a little bit of spice.

Cause for Concern: Connectors are not filler words

In the last few meetings I have attended I noticed not only that the “filler versus word of the day” challenge had been mastered by most club members, but also that there was an alarming shortage in the use of connectors and that to me is a cause for concern.

Connectors are the words that build the skeleton of your speech, whether prepared or improvised. They are the linking words that show the relationship between two sentences or ideas. If you don’t have enough connectors, the audience cannot follow your line of thought and are left wondering what you really meant. Sometimes in the meetings I have noticed that the speakers avoid connectors such as so, like, or well because they are afraid of being marked down for fillers, which should not be the case if they are being used as connectors.

So let’s make a quick clarification: a filler is an utterance or word that adds no meaning. They mostly buy you time to think, but by repeating them you sometimes create repetitive patterns that irritate your listeners.

Connectors, on the other hand, are crucial. They tell your audience what you are thinking and allow them to follow you no matter where you go.

So, if you use “so” like I just did to mean “therefore” that is not a filler but a crucial connector.

Some commonly used connectors are: Because, however, if, or, so and, then, like.

After this lengthy explanation, I asked club members to give me some connectors of their own, and they came up with examples such as:

Since, despite, nevertheless, on the other hand, such as, whether, not only… but also, in spite of, consequently, etc.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Since members and guests seemed interested on the issue at hand, I told them I was going to give them an extra challenge. In addition to the traditional credit versus debit of fillers and word of the day, I would give them extra credit if I heard a deliberate use of appropriate connectors. The challenge was accepted!

Besides my usual tasks, I wrote down every connector the speakers used and I gave them a brief result at the end. In my report I named one of our speakers the “Champion of Connectors” of the evening, and this was very positive for him because he was feeling quite discouraged after forgetting a chunk of his speech. He came to me to thank me for the comment, and later other members told me to it had been a positive experience for him and for them, because I had brought something new to their attention.

In reality, the good use of connectors is dealt with in Speech 2 of the Competent Communicator Manual. Moreover, it is a good way for non-native speakers to significantly improve their command of the language and the quality of their speech.

I encourage club members of the Madrid Toastmasters Club and beyond, to take advantage of this educational setting to really try to add value to the experience by finding new challenges to enhance the use of language during meetings. You will have fun and your fellow members will appreciate it.

Aline Casanova is a member of Madrid Toastmasters sin 2009. She is currently a freelance conference interpreter for the United Nations Office in Geneva, in addition to working as a specialized translator and public speaking coach.

Speak With Confidence

Despite the Real Madrid match, a multitude of members including a decent amount of guest came out to witness Ola, Jack and Juliet deliver their icebreaker and 7th speeches respectively.

The Toastmaster of the evening, Luciana, along with the time keeper Villy and grammarian Rose ensured that the meeting run smoothly.

IMG_2738First to the stage was Ola who dazzled the audience with her flawless movements and expressive hand gestures as she spoke about her life. For her first ever speech, she did well taking control of the stage. Her fairy tale style speech, focused on abandoning her native land Poland at the age of  23 years,  to begin a new life in sunny Spain. As an introvert, she declared that the move had made her more lively and open. Although it was her Icebreaker speech, Ola exhibited vital public speaking skills such as maintaining eye contact with audience, and she was even able to use humour in her speech.

It was no fairy tale speech with Jack. He was very expressive about the things he likes, thanks to the Beatles vinyl, Atletico de Madrid jersey and a family portrait he had brought along to back up his case.

Any toastmaster member would attest that delivering your Icebreaker speech can be nerve-wracking but not Jack, he kept his cool, was calm and collected and owned the stage. His speech had a clear structure and  a good conclusion.

IMG_2737Juliet started her speech with a question which immediately captured the audience’s attention. Her chosen subject about beauty touched the audience heart. Thanks to her personal anecdotes, Juliet made her speech a personal one. Also the use of visual aids helped to follow and understand her speech. Juliet appeared natural on stage and spoke with a clear loud voice backed with superb movements.

After the prepared speeches, it was time for the impromptu speeches which was well thought and wonderfully executed by the Table Topic Master Masha.

Lewis, Jesus, Nacho, and Jim were the fortunate ones to participate in the Table Topics, they were to guess the person behind a secret and also elaborate more on that secret.

All in all it was a it a great meeting, and most importantly we learned some dark secrets about some members.

Written by Christian

Speech Contest

Working Behind The Scenes

An effective mentor is essential for a new member when taking his or her first steps at Toastmasters. It makes them feel more secure and that, as a club, we are interested in them. Given that we meet just twice a month and we are all “so pleased to see each other” we can look like a clique and a difficult group to break into.

A good mentor will give – in addition to guidance with the first four speeches – feedback on smaller roles taken, like Timer, Grammarian and Thought of the Day. They will introduce the mentee to other members and chase them up if they miss two meetings for example. A good mentor will also encourage the new member to set goals, a speech perhaps once every two months. While some mentees/mentors meet for a coffee to discuss speech ideas, I find it just as efficient using email. It is nice if this system is explained to our guests as it is reassuring, and it might even sway the balance in favor of joining Toastmasters.

VP of Mentorship is, in fact, a new committee position that we started in Madrid Toastmasters a few years ago in order to take some pressure off the VP of Membership. It has proved very successful and our sister club, Excelencia Toastmasters has also introduced the role. The VP of Mentorship can, for example, speak to new members before and after the meeting, while the VP of Membership can look after guests. It is helpful if the Sergeant at Arms, or Toastmaster of the Day, can be reminded to introduce these new members at the start of the meeting as they can easily be confused with visitors.

When looking for a mentor for someone I encourage the new member to come along to the main bar after the meeting where our free tapas await us. I introduce them to several members and observe what experienced member they chat to the longest, and the following day I suggest by email that they pair up! Another question to be kept in mind is that some of our members also join to improve their English, so it is quite useful to pair up a native with a non-native speaker.

Speech ContestThe VP of Mentorship should also leave some time to follow-up the introduction. Is the mentor actually being proactive? Are they still attending meetings? Some mentors may forget who they have been assigned (if they are mentoring several people) and a mentee may be waiting in the sidelines for the other person to take the initiative.

It is always a thrill when a member makes a tenth speech and becomes a Competent Communicator, but we should always remember that behind every successful speaker there stands a mentor!

Written by Jane Kinnear, CC, CL

IMG_2023

Any wordmonger in the room?

IMG_2027On Wednesday 16th we gathered at Anthony’s Place to see three of our members, Mabel, Ana and Alberto, demonstrate how the objectives of their respective speeches could be achieved.

The meeting began with the introduction of our guests. Jaime, a member of Excelencia Toastmasters club. Carla and Sam, both of them English teachers. Blanca, whose mother had recommended her to visit a Toastmaster meeting. And a girl, friend of our fellow member Masha, from Moldova.

Raquel, our Toastmaster of the Day, told us about the Toastmasters International new app. Before the meeting, she had contacted all the participants to ask them for the app they found most useful. That is how we learnt that the most useful app for Quyen, who was filling the role of grammarian, is Waze. She introduced wordmonger as the word of the day. I have to say, few of the participants found a challenge to use it correctly. Additionally, we learnt that Iván, our timekeeper of the day, most useful app is Fintonic.

IMG_2032Before the speeches started, Eric used the thought of the day section to tell us about the most dangerous word in the world: no. And how brain reacts to negative idea. Great start.

Mabel, whose favorite app is Runkeeper, delivered the speech “Superheroes”. After a moment of silence, she confessed she had superpowers. She used her movements, gestures and facial expressions to convince us that we could also be Superheroes. We just need to master the “Champion Position”. Those that were not able to make it, missed a great opportunity to be a more powerful individual.

Ana, who calls herself a Whatsapp addict, become a Competent Communicator after successfully completing project #10 of the manual. Her speech “Follow your hunches” was an inspiring tour of her life and why is important to act on our intuitions. Ana cleverly used well recognized songs to lead the audience through a self-discovery journey.

IMG_2042Alberto, who picked e-Park as his most useful app, completed the first project of the Storytelling manual by delivering the speech “The Pied Piper”. He started asking us to close our eyes and imagine that we were in bed. That peaceful moment was quickly left behind when he introduced one of the main characters in the story, rats. The plot was an intelligent reinterpretation of The Pied Piper of Hamelin with a tougher end.

Strangely enough, only one app was chosen by more than one person. Teresa and Luis, who were both evaluators, chose the app that informs about public transportation in Madrid. Both of them together with Carlos, Ana and Jim gave constructive feedback to all the meeting participants aiming to improve their skills. Ana, our VP of PR, confessed Raquel she doesn’t let Twitter rest.

IMG_2048Maria, as the table topic master, ask some “victims” to deliver an elevator speech to a capital investor while waiting in line at a coffee shop. The pre-set business ideas run from a matchmaking service for dogs to auction-based restaurants. I have to say all the participants, Jack, Navinya, Santi, Juliet and Rose, achieved their mission

I almost forgot to mention that Jim, our club founder, mentioned that Alberto’s speech reminded him of the book “A nation of sheep” by William J Lederer. I’m sure it is a worthwhile reading.

Written by Javier.

Snowflakes keep falling on my head…

Manolo, standing in for Jesús, opened the meeting and introduced our Toastmaster of the Day, Masha.
The meeting had a wintery feel as the room had been decorated with paper snowflakes and Masha explained that where she comes from, winter starts on the 1st of December. The room was packed as we had plenty of members and 12 guests.
Alex A. acted as Grammarian and introduced the very fitting word of the day “pollution”. Luis acted as Timer.
Ivan was our first speaker. The title of his speech was “Are you happy?” and he took us through the theoretical side of being happy, explaining spikes of happiness as opposed to long term happiness, and the differences between physiological and self-actualization happiness. He added a personal touch about how much he had learnt from his granny.
On a parallel note, our next speaker also on Project 2 talked about goals and “It’s never too late”. He gave us tips on achieving goals using the “smart technique”. He talked on the importance of persistence, and he gave us real life examples using Thomas Edison and JK Rowling.
20151202_210741_resizedThe meeting then took quite a turn as our next speaker Teresa, doing an advanced manual on poetry reading, took us north to a fishing village by the hand of Pulitzer prize winner, Elizabeth Bishop. We were indeed impressed by “At the fishhouses” with a myriad of rich adjectives and metaphors that brought these cold waters alive.
Next we had three evaluations on the three speeches. Mabel was pushed to find recommendations for Ivan except for using more pauses to reinforce the conclusion. In her opinion there were a couple too many anecdotes and ideas that “polluted” the message and made it a bit less clear.
Christian was applauded for not using any notes and for the clear outline of his speech, but Raquel advised him to give personal examples of what he was “preaching” which would draw him closer to the audience.
Nacho, evaluating Teresa, pointed out how well she had done on such a difficult project. She was advised to read sentences as a whole and to make sure the pauses went in the right places.
We were all ears for Table Topics performed by Javier A. He said he wanted us to pretend to be ministers and to come out with our election promises. The lucky few to be chosen were Villy on Transport (having just arrived in Madrid she was a bit flummoxed with this one). Luis G. on Education told us after his Finnish experience he would put just ten kids in a classroom and he would put a stop to dubbing movies. Rosa on Taxes said she would tax people according to their savings, the more you saved the less tax you would pay, and the less trash you chucked out the less tax also. Alex H. on the Environment explained how he would confiscate 25% of the profit of any company polluting Madrid. Ola on Employment just managed to keep going for one minute and she promised that under her anyone wanting to work would be able to work.
Jim evaluating Table Topics praised Javier on the subject matter and for reminding people they did not actually have to be smart in their answers. Villy got into trouble for not answering the question, Luis got praise for being a quick thinker but he was told the phrase “education in Spain sucks” was a little strong. Rosa was advised not to say “thank you” at the end of an intervention, and Alex H. was also commended for being a quick thinker.
The Timer and Grammarian gave their reports and Carlos H. wrapped up the meeting as General Evaluator. He pointed out that several people had to watch their enunciation and he disagreed with Ivan’s evaluator regarding too much info in Ivan’s speech detracting from the message.
Nacho proudly introduced three people who have been recognized lately: Raquel as an Outstanding Member by the Division, Masha for having done wonderfully well at the District Conference and Alex, the newest Distinguished Toastmaster in Madrid. Raquel announced the Christmas Party on Friday 18th December at Alta Burguesía, cost 20 euros pp.
Masha closed the meeting at 22:15 reminding us to do small things with our loved ones this winter, like making snowflakes.

Writeen by Jane.