Danielle, Jessie and Melody discuss their experience at the Toastmasters Convention and analyze some of the speakers
Melody and Jessie were kind enough to help out at the Inspired Coaching booth at the Toastmasters International Convention last week. We got chatting about our experiences at the Alum Open Mic evening. . .
Jessie: I guess my favourite part of the convention was just meeting all these people when they were coming to the booth and what I got to learn about them, their background and what they were struggling with and their public speaking journey. I liked speaking to people, getting to know them, and it was good to see that they were very interested in what Inspired Coaching has to offer.
We had a really long in-depth chat, so we won't post the whole thing here. Please read the full article, watch the other videos and check out our photos.
Melody: Yes, for me it was also the people. Meeting people from different backgrounds with different stories. One of the gentlemen who came second in the semifinals, he JUST didn't make it to the finals, I asked him “What was your story?” and he told me about it. Everyone had something like that. Everyone had been working on something. Everyone had a story to tell. It was great to speak to them about why it is that they're there and why they're taking this journey. What challenges they've faced, what hopes they have. And within that, having people from all different countries, their perspectives were different and their stories were so different and it was really really interesting.
Danielle: Unfortunately you missed it Melody, but Jessie and I got to see the flag procession—twice, once in the morning when they were rehearsing, and once in the evening for the event. There were so many flags!
Jessie: I didn't expect that. I didn't expect TM to be implemented in so many countries. That was insane.
Melody: Big organization.
Danielle: I went to the Mastering Your Mouth Toastmasters club in Vancouver the Monday after the convention. I heard a lot of people who attended the convention came to check out a few local clubs. At the meeting I was at on Monday one of the guys who was there was an Australian who had been the the first non-North American to compete in the International Competition in the 70s. Isn't that amazing?
Melody: The range of reasons that people participate is interesting. I noticed that the people who came, some of them were on personal journeys just “I want to do better at work” and other people were like “I want to be an international public speaker!”
Danielle: And that was in the needs assessments too. I was so glad that you both were out front doing all the extroverted stuff and I got to be behind the booth doing the stuff that I feel comfortable with. There were some people who were terrified of speaking and hadn't really gotten started yet and there were some who were really good speakers and I was thinking “Wow I really hope I have something to offer you” but they really wanted to get to that next level, they really wanted to get to their accreditation or monetize what they were doing. And everything in between. A lot of people, because of their experience in Toastmasters, were really aware of where they wanted to improve their voice. They'd come to me with a list in the needs assessment. “I really know I need help with this and to improve this I just don't know how to do it.” That was encouraging because it means we're filling a very real gap.
Melody: It was cute too because some of them had this little thing that said First Timer on their lanyards and I remember once I said “Oooh you're a first timer!” and, Danielle, you said “Hey, hey! Now don't pick on the first timers.” And I'm like “No I'm not, I think that's awesome it's your first time here! What's your experience?” Because the experience is different the first time versus somebody who comes every year.
Danielle: Some people only came for the competition and it was cool to hear what people thought of the competition, but some people came for the whole thing; and to hear what that was like with the education and the business meetings, hundreds of people voting on one thing in 30 seconds, that must take an extreme level of organization. I'm curious to know what their systems are like behind the scenes. Not just the speaking but the business structure. I hadn't really thought about it but of course something that big must have really streamlined processes.
Melody: Very well organized. From what I could tell that was a well-organized convention.
Danielle: Everything ran on time. In Vancouver that's almost unheard of. There were a lot of really helpful people too, even outside the leadership or organizational team. Just so many lovely, friendly people.
Melody: I have to share a cute story. I was standing at our booth and I heard these two people meet, this man and this woman and I think they didn't know each other and they were making conversation and at one point the woman turned and looked at him and said “Did you know that men in Canada cook?” and he said “Oh! They cook!” and she's “Yes! In your country do the men cook?”
Danielle: That is hilarious!
Melody: Then he said “Before I was married I used to cook.” and she agreed “Ah, but now you're married you don't cook.”
“No, no.” He said. There was a pause then she said “And do you know that men in Canada clean too?” I nearly lost it!
Danielle: Do you think she was shopping for a Canadian man?
Melody: I don't know. But it was so funny. They were obviously from different countries and I thought it was so funny, this conversation about ‘Canadian men.’ I did love telling people about Vancouver. And asking them about Vancouver and helping them figure out where they were going. That was a lot of fun. And I learned that in Vancouver we apparently have a lot of Toastmasters clubs.
Danielle: And yet we met so few local people! I feel like Vancouverites didn't take advantage of the fact that this international event happened in our backyard. I know we get a lot of international events, but there are so many Toastmasters here.
Melody: People kept saying to me “Wow there are so many clubs here. Where I'm from there are only one or two.” What is it about Vancouver that we have so many clubs?
Jessie: A lot of them are corporate, lunchtime clubs within an organization. BC Hydro when I was there had one every Tuesday for an hour.
Melody: Right so those clubs would have different goals. The people in those clubs probably aren't trying to be international public speakers, they want to be better at what they do, at presentations and meetings, and then there are other clubs for entrepreneurs and those would have different goals.
I was surprised by how many people only came to the competition. Paying for the plane ticket and a hotel in Vancouver, which we know was a lot of money, and yet then they only bought a ticket for the competition and didn't attend all of the educational events. There was so much education to take advantage of.
Danielle: I imagine people were thinking “I'm spending this much already, I'll just stay in Vancouver over night,” but compared to the plane ticket, is an extra night or two in a hotel that much?
Jessie: I missed the contest. How was it?
Melody: The guy who won, I liked him. I liked what he said, I liked his imagery, I liked his stories. I thought he deserved to win. Is he the world's greatest speaker? I don't know. I don't have anything to judge that on. I think it should be touted as the TOASTMASTER international best speaker. People kept telling me, these are the 10 best speakers in the world.
Danielle: In Toastmasters. This year. Which means a lot. But of course there are so many AMAZING speakers who aren't part of Toastmasters.
Melody: A couple of the other speakers were a bit disorganized or overly memorized.
Jessie: Part of that must have been the pressure. Nervousness. I can't imagine anyone could get to that level and not prepare enough for this competition.
Melody: Vocally some of them needed work, they were speaking up on top of their voice. One woman had a fried voice and used lots of up-speak. Toastmasters doesn't do a lot of vocal work and you see it in the speeches. I really wish that one guy had gotten in the top three, the French guy.
Jessie: There was a French guy?
Melody: Yeah, he did a talk about his grandmother.
Danielle: Oh yeah I loved that and I really like the guy who came third. I also loved the guy who did magic tricks, he had great charisma and I don't think he was unprepared as such, it was just some of the links didn't work and the structure could have used some tweaking.
Jessie: What did the speakers talk about?
Danielle: It was really broad because they have to appeal to everyone. It was mostly about the message, less about the delivery I feel.
Melody: Inspirational. I had a card that detailed how speakers were being evaluated. 50% of the score was on content!
Danielle: When they say the best speakers, it could almost be best speech creators. So much emphasis is on how they compose the speech.
Jessie: If it was the best speakers only, based on the Charisma Checklist, that would have been something else!
Danielle: Yeah the guy who came first was actually less polished but more heartfelt. It was hard to find someone who was strong in both those areas. I felt either the speakers were really polished or really connected, but not both. Perhaps the winner was the best of both worlds, not completely in either area, but mostly connected and mostly organized. The guy who spoke about potential missed a real opportunity of capitalizing on his personal speaking style. The speech was really good but the delivery was weaker than the other contestants.
Melody: I think he was trying to follow all the Toastmaster rules with gestures and repetition, and it fell flat because he was trying to follow all the rules rather than actually just “get on stage and be me.” It wasn't natural.
Danielle: That's a great example of the difference between doing things from the inside out instead of outside in, because he was good and those types of performance habits do work if they're fully inhabited and fully charismatic. But his energy was smaller and he had a smaller voice and he was kinda shy and if he had run with that it would have worked SO well with his content!
Melody: His talk was great, but as you say, he was trying to be bigger than he was.
Danielle: If he'd known his personal style better and capitalized on it I think he could have won.
Danielle: I was disappointed with the first woman who spoke about loving her body because that's such an important message and she was very brave. But as someone who doesn't have a more ‘normal’ body, hearing someone go on about how her body is so different from everyone else when I'm looking at her and she looks pretty close to every woman I see on TV, I understand that body issues aren't actually to do with being different, but I just got really annoyed.
Melody: And her original premise was very specific “The women in my family have big calves.” If she had stuck with that I think that might have worked. But she went on from there to try and cover the whole body. We have big calves. And thighs. And hips. And I hate my arms. It lost its punch.
Jessie: What was the point at the end?
Danielle: To embrace your body as it is because of what it does for you in life, it's not about looks but functionality etc. Which is a good message. There's a lesson in this. As Melody pointed out, when we start really specific, when we go from the microcosm to the macrocosm, which is a format I personally love, we have to make sure the bigger example is still in alignment with the specific instance. It can't just be related, it has to show how this tiny thing happens exactly the same in this big thing. You have to stick with your concept and zoom out. You can't try to appeal to everyone and hash it together. That dilutes and detracts from the strength of your message.
Melody: One thing I noticed that I know we'll definitely keep for next time is that the booths where people were standing, even if it was behind the table, and engaging with people, did SO much better. It's obvious, but worth remembering. The booths that had people sitting talking to each other or on their computer, it's harder to pique interest and harder for the passers-by to approach. A reminder of how not to do a trade show booth. Also, the guys next to us selling the Air Timer had a challenge, it would be great if we had a fun activity to do at the booth and give prizes for when people complete it.
Danielle: Great idea! And of course I immediately think of doing the toilet paper breath race. We could have a score board. Oh, wait—we'd need a wall. And I suppose that's not very sexy. We'll have to think of something fun we can do for next time.
Melody: Yes and include it on social media. We have some time to think about it.
Danielle: Yes and it'd be so fun to do like an acting or directing challenge like introduce yourself as a character or in a funny voice.
Jessie: Do you realize you are playing “Yes and. . .” ?
Danielle: Yes! And we should open this up to the community if anyone has any ideas of what they'd like to see.
If you have any ideas of a fun challenge to do at our next trade show can you leave your suggestions in the comments below?