Thursday, August 30, 2012

Weekly Recap: "Don't Sweat the Petty Things"

“…And don’t pet the sweaty things, either.” Jason wisely pointed out.

This week’s ‘Word of the Day,’ sanguine, has been brought to you by Grammarian Jessica. Sanguine is defined as cheerful and optimistic, it also means bloody and ruddy-faced (and I think I may have been the only one today who forgot to use it!).

ANNOUNCEMENT: Toastmaster Jeff informed us today that there will be two upcoming contests for Toastmasters: the Table Topics and the Humorous Speech contest. The Electric Toasters Table Topics contest will start September 19th. The winner of our local chapter will represent us in the finals. More info will be provided when possible, including sign ups, so keep your peepers open for it.


Our opening speaker Craig bid us “Welcome to the Wonderful World of Toastmasters.” Last week it was brought to light that there was some confusion about the processes of how Toastmasters works. This particularly included assigning the agenda. Today Craig gave us a lot of clarity about the inner workings, and what resources are available to us. He also shed some light for us on approaching our Competent Communication and Competent Leadership handbooks. I won’t elaborate further, as either Craig or I will share the details in its own post. In his parting words, Craig reminded us that, as is the case in most (if not all) facets of life, what we get out of Toastmasters is equivalent to what we put in. 

Next Robert conveyed a moral tale about how, with training, you can conquer fear. In storytelling format he told us about a threatening scuba incident he experienced several years ago. His mask had been leaking as he descended into the depths. By the time he reached the bottom, it had progressed into a serious problem. In his unsuccessful struggle to blow the water out of his mask, losing precious air in the process, he was also pulled off course by the current. The situation got desperate and he decided to head back for the surface. His dive computer beeped at him incessantly, however, indicating that he was ascending too fast. It was important that he heed the warning. Were he to rise too fast would have resulted in serious health issues. As tempting as it was to panic, Robert remembered his training, and kept calm by ascending at a crawl’s pace. In the end he made it back safely (obviously). He later learned that even the most experienced divers have gone through situations similar to his own.

“Let’s Play ‘Hide the Pickle’” was the promising title Jason chose for his speech, and it did not disappoint. Jason’s humorous account (designed to cater to a younger audience) focused on various legends surrounding the mystery of the “Christmas Pickle” ornament. The first told of a German immigrant who served as a union private during the US Civil War. He was captured and, dying in a prison camp from starvation and illness, pleaded to a Confederate guard on Christmas Eve for a pickle as his last wish. The guard conceded, and snuck for him a pickle, which led to a miraculous recovery. After his release, the union soldier hung a pickle on the Christmas tree in remembrance of that day. The second legend tells of two Spanish school children who got lost in an unfamiliar area. They stopped at an inn, but the innkeeper was evil and tricked them. After trapping them in pickle-barrels he stole their belongings and left them there, until Saint Nick found them and released them with his magical staff.

‘Don’t Sweat the Petty Things’ TABLE TOPICS:

Susannah comes from a long line of worriers, and feels that in the past worrying has steered her away from experiences that would have been engaging, challenging, and would have helped her to grow. Therefore she feels it’s overall better not to worry so much, and concluded with a quote “I’m a very old man, and I have worried about many things, most of which never happened.”

Greg used to work for a transmission provider, so he knows plenty of what it’s like to worry about every possible thing that could go wrong. In his experience, regulations aimed at preventing bad things from happening, inadvertently backfired, having caused those very things to happen. Drawing from those experiences, he concludes that worrying too much about something can definitely cause it to happen.


Eric acclaimed Craig for having broken down the ET internet presence that he, and other newer members, hadn’t known or misperceived about the resources available to us. He also echoed what Craig had said, that “what you get is what you put into it.”

Wei praised Robert for his strong storytelling form and powerful delivery. Wei also made note of his colorful range of vocabulary, having used no notes in the delivery of his speech.

Mike applauded Jason for his entertaining delivery, and noted his great use of imagery. Mike also acclaimed him for having a very natural speaking presence and tone of voice.

Karen took up the General Evaluator role at the last minute, and did a great job. She praised Eric’s evaluation of Craig, noting his emphatic voice. She gave cheer to Wei’s consistent steady pace. Lastly, she acknowledged Mike for always having a very relaxed disposition up at the podium.

  • Best Speaker Awarded to Jason Kent
  • Best Evaluator Awarded to Mike Fajen.
  • Best Table Topics Awarded to Susannah [?].

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Weekly Recap: "I'd Rather Be at the Circus..."

…Was the conclusion Karen came to as this week’s Toastmaster. She took the original ambiguous theme “Would you rather” and gave it her own twist, focusing on the big top, obviously! Throughout the meeting she provided more information about the history of origins of the circus than I thought possible. This included the use and treatment of elephants and the invention of ‘fairy-floss’—err, cotton candy. 

And like a circus, today’s meeting was a little chaotic, as only three of us were there to fill our roles today. Everyone else had to perform multiple roles on the spot! There was a lot of role-juggling, and a special mention goes out to Jessica. She managed to acrobatically handle… I don’t know—5 roles(?) all in one meeting, and did a fantastic job!

This week’s ‘Word of the Day,’ extravagant, was provided by Grammarian Scott, which was well suited to the circus theme. Jeff's ‘Thought of the Day’ goes as follows: 
Savor what we have today, because that’s what we have today. Tomorrow’s going to come no matter what… So look forward to and embrace what is coming forward, because there’s not much we can do about it.

We also had a special guest appearance from new ‘Area Governor’ Max Lopez, whose duties at Toastmasters is to ‘visit all the local chapters and take notes,’ as former Area Governor Jeff put it. Both Max and Jeff delivered superb impromptu speeches. Jeff took the stage first, using Eric’s setup question to launch into a speech about commercial real estate, offering advice about investing in the purchasing and trading of businesses. 

Next Max took the spotlight, and gave an inspiring speech which talked about how his boss’s suggestion led him to Toastmasters, that he used to have a stutter, and what it was like as he fought through and overcame it. It is worth noting that he never stuttered during this speech and, as Jessica (his evaluator) noted, nobody would have known that he ever had a stuttering issue. 

I can’t imagine how much more intense the difficulty of public speaking would have been for me to have the added encumbrance of a stammer. I can’t confidently say I could see myself doing it, but he did. Not only did he overcome that obstacle, he’s picked up some notable speaking accomplishments along the way. Good for you, Max. 

‘Would You Rather’ TABLE TOPICS:

Eric, though hard-pressed to decide, would ultimately rather lose every debate but be right, rather than win every argument and be wrong, chiefly due to his opposition to presenting misinformation. Kayla knew the clear choice was to blather like Yoda rather than breathe like Darth Vader, and ‘work she would to her advantage of it she’d make.’ Craig argued that rather than live in a world of complete security at the cost of freedom, or vice versa, he’d prefer to live in an America overseen by a benevolent dictator that ensured security but gave some freedoms. Super competitive Jessica told us she’d rather go onto a game show over a reality series, and would meticulously destroy her opposition. Ryan told us that when he finds a lion in his room, he’d pass by the banjo, whip, and barstool, and blind it into submission with a laser-pointer, then make his getaway. 

Craig served as evaluator for Jeff, crediting him for his ‘Gift of Gab’ skills. Next Jessica evaluated Max, giving praise for immediately changing the energy and ‘warmed up the room.’ General Evaluator Eric explained how the agenda assignment works (in reply to Scott's query), and commended Jessica’s point about avoiding the use of jargon acronyms. 

  • Best Speaker Awarded to Max Lopez.
  • Best Evaluator Awarded to Jessica Zahnow.
  • Best Table Topics Awarded to Eric Williams.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Electric Toasters Blog 2.0

I believe it was on my first visit that current Treasurer Craig Jones delivered a speech outlining his initiative to ratchet up the Electric Toaster’s online presence. I remember it involved a big easel traced with diagrams sprawled over several pages through which he flipped back and forth, gestured with a lot of pointing. We in the audience nodded, grunting in agreement to this sentiment with a lot of head bobbing. Wrapping up his proposition, he asked of any volunteers, which was met with a lot of sideways glances in attempt to look away inconspicuously, acting as if deep in thought or suddenly late for a meeting. No?—that was just me then? In any case, that was in late March I think. 

Two months ago I presented my icebreaker speech. Though primarily focusing on my love for quantum mechanics, it incorporated my aspiration for writing with it. Afterwards Craig offered me the privilege and opportunity to contribute to this blog. There are two obvious inferences to be assumed, those being: (1) I accepted his invitation, and (2) I took my time getting this introductory post started (being this was two months ago). Sorry about that second bit. 

So a little about myself, my name is Ben. I turned 25 as of July, and have been a contractor at PGE for about two and half years now. After studying at PSU for two years I went broke and decided that an English degree with $40k of debt didn’t look like a promising future (though when able I’ve been taking classes in Computer Science). I tend to be shy around people I’m unfamiliar with, something I am trying to improve upon, which is one of the initial reasons I joined Toastmasters. 

There are several professions I’m personally enamored with (too many, actually); dominant among them is the aforementioned desire to write. Don’t worry, there’s no need to anguish in apprehension at the possibility that I might use an indubitably ostentatious display of flamboyantly superfluous vernacular in a meager attempt of pretentiously superimposing a fallacious air of sophistication—that would be erroneous.

It’s fair to say we come to Toastmasters looking to take something for ourselves. That obvious ‘something’ is, of course, to improve our public speaking skills. However, there are other motives that may very well bring us here as well. Some might include networking, leadership skills, buffing up resumes, making new friends, or even just going out and trying something new. Whatever your particular motivations might be, all different kinds of people come to Toastmasters for the same primary purpose.

Though speaking is central to Toastmasters’s focus, we should encourage and foster an environment that’s not only comfortable and friendly. Moreover we ought to strive for a club you can say you’re a part of, not just one you attend. In my personal opinion this contrast separates the clubs that thrive from the ones that merely survive. This is so because it inspires a sense of loyalty between members and the organization itself that is mutually beneficial. 

That having been said, it is this very distinction that ET leadership, my co-contributors, and I hope to help achieve for the Electric Toasters chapter. How do we aim to do this, you ask? 

1.     More, More, More! – The plan is to add a higher frequency of posts, spanning over a larger spectrum of topics, from a wider range of contributors (such as myself). 
2.     Member Networking – Did you know that Karen wrote a book about lighthouses? Or that ET President Mike invented his own gadget for keeping bicyclists safe? This kind of information should be available here for your perusal, and when possible we will endeavor to make it so. 

3.     New Member Introductions – Given consent, we will welcome new members to the club, offering them a proper introduction, supplying a little information about them (whatever they choose to share). 

4.     Typical Blog Content – Short essays, tricks and tips, 10 Steps to Blah-Blah-ing your Blah, all the usual suspects. Important announcements and other such bulletin board type material will be posted as well, where needed.

5.     Weekly Summary Reports – Pretty much explains itself; we’ll draw highlights on each speech, word-of-the-day’s, and so on (I’ll leave out the grammarian’s report). Honestly, this one’s a bit stickier, being as none of us will attend every week’s meetings, so count on seeing some inconsistency here.

Okay, so what are you trying to do again, you ask?

The goal is to make this blog a member-interactive experience. Something that’s not a strict exhibition to public speaking, but is inclusive to its members in such a way that if we're lucky we just might have people visiting one-tenth of the number of times they check their Facebook page. 

A little overly ambitious for sure, but that’s where we could use your help! if you’ve got something to say: a suggestion, a topic you’d like explored, a question to pose or advice to offer, or a story to share,  whatever it is let us know! Leave a comment if it relates directly to the post, or contact one of us directly. 

Thanks for reading, keep an eye out for more content heading your way!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gniteem Sdrawkcab (Backwards meeting)

All in all it was a memorable meeting for all.  I look forward to my second backwards meeting  . . . in about 5-10 years J  
TM Craig signing off…

Oh woops, I was still in backwards mode.  Backwards mode you say… why is that, read further and find out:

Last week we had 4 guests and about 10 members who all had about the same amount of experience with a backwards meeting.  It started with President Mike ‘closing the meeting’ and making a few comments about how this was a great meeting.  We all appreciated his fortune telling abilities.

We then had the evaluation portion of the meeting.  Steve Wilcox and his team reported on how well (or poorly) each of the speakers did “before they spoke”. 

Table topics was interesting!  The speaker was called on (based on the ah counters list of who ‘spoke’) and gave their TT speech, then TT master Eric created a question.  Very interesting  :)

We continued with Speaker 2, Ashley who gave a very interesting speech about responding too quickly with thoughts or issues with a person.  She provided an example of how jumping to conclusions almost caused a dual between Abe Lincoln and an advisory.  Lincoln learned to think about the consequences of a response … prior to sending it.  Ashley gave a similar story about not responding to a person while angry.  A good lesson for all of us.

Speech #1 was given by Sarah Mammon about the sub-conscious mind and how it controls many of the things we do without thinking about them or even realizing we are doing them.  Things like breathing or driving from one place to another and not remembering making the turns . . .
This was very appropriate for the backwards meeting where we all had to THINK about each part of the meeting with our conscious mind!!!  Little things like the tense of a verb while describing a speech we hadn’t yet heard.

All in all it was a memorable meeting for all.  I look forward to my second backwards meeting  . . . in about 5-10 years J  
TM Craig signing off…

While the backwards meeting might have tested some of us, we are hoping to spice up the meetings a bit every quarter and do a different format.  We will let you know when the next alternative format meeting will occur… stay tuned!