Category Archives: Organize Your Speech

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

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.

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.

Inner Beauty

The Toastmaster of the day role requires various skills such as organisation, leadership and quick thinking skills. Marina, who played this role exhibited all of these skills. Ola performed her first role as the grammarian and she appeared natural, Ana also did a professional job as the timekeeper of the evening.
Just before the speakers, David gave an interesting thought as to why men and women wear buttons on different sides their clothes.
IMG_6030In the first speech of the evening, Juliet did not fail to impress. She was confident and natural as ever. The gist of her speech was around inner beauty. Juliet spoke with ease and took charge of the stage as she spoke about looking beyond appearance. After using some anecdotes to add a personal touch, she ended her speech by ordering the audience to hug each other. On a cold evening like it was, a hug was very much needed indeed!
IMG_6032Second to the stage was Maria with a very thoroughly researched speech about the different parts of the brain and their functionalities. Her use of visual aid help the audience to not only understand but also visualise the part of the brain being talked about. If there is one take home lesson from Maria’s speech, it was her advice on meditation and also focusing on activities with full attention. Alberto her evaluator was pleased with the speech and suggested pauses during her next speech for the audience’s brain to better absorb the information.
Mabel chose to centre her fourth speech on focusing on yourself with the title; “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. She did something clever, instead of the old saying; “Treats others how you would like to be treated” Mabel preached about “Treat yourself how you would like to be treated”. She used effective body language and anecdotes to present her point.
IMG_6036On the next part of the meeting, Table Topic Master Jane, was keen enough to bring some books along for Manulo, John, Ana, Christian and Jonas to give an impromptu speech about why they should not be lent the books. It was amusing to witness the quick thinking skills of the participants. Table topics are always the amusement point of every Toastmaster’s meeting and this was no different.

Written By Christian

Making your voice heard

Our toastmaster of the day, John, started the session explaining the organisation objectives. His aim was to clarify expectations and inform our guests. Amongst them, we have a former member of a Canadian toastmaster club, an ex-member of Ericsson club, the president of Standing Ovation club, three visitors from Germany, a group of engineers from Airbus and of course some locals. All of them interested on knowing what Toastmaster is all about. Around 30 people filled Anthony’s place.

Eric, as Grammarian, proposed two expression as word of the day: “at the helm” and “only a matter of time”. Julian, the guy with the Italian name and the Australian passport as he was introduced, used both of them one minute later while explaining his Timekeeper role. That was quick!

IMG_0176 (1)Victor, who has just joined the club, delivered a Thought of the day speech around the usage of painting and architecture through civilizations. He used plenty of visual aids to demonstrated how art is a priceless mirror of the society at a given time.

Maria, apart from being the General evaluator, delivered a Thought of the day speech around Toastmaster motto “where leaders are made”. Is there anybody out there who still doubts that all great leaders are great communicators?

The two main speakers of the day were Ana and Pilar. Ana’s “Do It Yourself” speech inspired us to consider DIY as a source of self-satisfaction. The speech included tips to help us get started: use pinterest to discover projects and visit the DIY fair celebrated twice a year in Madrid. Pilar’s “Home is where the heart is” was a call to spend time discovering your local area. She explained us how her plans to relocate to Bristol have caused her to spend her summer holidays visiting Alicante’s wonders: Santa Pola lighthouse, Tabarca island, …

IMG_0181Jim and Raul were the speeches evaluators. Both of them gave precise improvement points using constructive feedback, which is Toastmasters trademark.

Finally, Christian, Juliet, Jack, Ana, Jim, Jane and John were the “victims” of Alberto, the table topic master. He made them participate in a “Secret Santa” event as part of a company party. What would be your acceptance speech after receiving a “How to be nice and make friends” manual?

I should also mention that we had a special group of guests. A family having an early dinner help everybody demonstrate how important is to project the voice to the whole room in order to be heard. Their participation on this regard was priceless.

Written by Javier.

August in Madrid

After two outdoors meetings in Retiro Park, we came back to our usual venue: Anthony’s Place.

Our new Sergeant at Arms, Jesus, who opened our first meeting in August, had imagined a poor attendance, but we had plenty of guests, and many of them were “Toastmasters”. Because some members of other Toastmasters clubs in Madrid (Excelencia, Standing Ovation…), who missed the Toastmasters environment during their clubs’ “summer breaks”, attended and took part in the meeting. And Allan visited Toastmasters Madrid too!! Allan is a member of two Toastmasters clubs in London, who was spending his vacation in Madrid.

Masha, the Toastmaster of the Day, had thoroughly prepared her role. She had written all the participants in advance, asking for their favourite quotation. Thanks to herm we learnt useful thoughts about success, mistakes… while we knew better our fellow Toastmasters.

Before starting with the prepared speeches, we attended an introduction of our supporting roles: Grammarian and Timekeeper.

Juliette, the Grammarian, chose PRACTICABLE, as the word of the day. It turned to be a great success, due to the amount of speakers who used it during our meeting.

FullSizeRenderWe are happy when a new member steps up as Victor did. He is the newest member of our club and volunteered to be Timekeeper.

But if, somebody talked about time, it was Mabel. From the very beginning of her second speech, she made us notice how we experiment the pass of time, and how talk about time: “we find, waste, spend… time”.  Mabel´s evaluator, Alex, realized that time existed for him too, when Victor, the timekeeper, showed the red card, and was about to interrupt his evaluation.

The second speech of the evening was a “Demonstration speech”, from an Advanced Manual, that Eric delivered successfully. He pointed out that while dancing “every move you make, means a lot, every step has a meaning, and remember, somebody can be watching”. Raúl Martín was watching him, with attention. During his evaluation, Raúl congratulated Eric for his magnificent body language, and how successfully “he did the most difficult thing on stage”: keeping the audience attention.

Instead of a third speech, we had an Educational Session led by Luci. In her path to become Advance Leader, she taught us that “goal setting” is in human nature, we all make new year´s resolutions…but how do we go from goal to reality? We heard some ideas and proposals. Luci suggested that we can use the tools we already have: Easy-speak allows us to make our communication and leadership goals available.

20150805_212514 Julian @ TTAfter the speeches, Ana Virtudes, led an original Table Topics session: The four victims created a story that began with our rock star, Julian. After him, Javier, tried to sell a ticket for a concert, but Nacho preferred to stay at home with his Dalmatian print blanket. The story ended when Allan invited all of us to attend a fancy dress party!!! Hard job for Alisha, the Table Topics Evaluator, to find room for improvement, but she did! And for all the participants.

Our General evaluator was Jim, who evaluated the whole meeting, and those participants who hadn’t been evaluated so far. He specially praised Alisha’s effort: “Excellent, from Excelencia”.

The meeting ended with Masha requesting members to upload a picture of each one to Easy-Speak (the tool we use to plan meetings and club events). We all concur, as our final quotation, that “Easy-speak is more important than LinkedIn, Twitter or even Facebook”.

Written by Raquel