Attending the Toastmasters Formation D’orateurs et de Leaders in Blainville (a city close to Montreal) was an eye-opening experience; I didn't realize how poor my presentation skills were until I was told that I stated a total of 5 "Uhms", and that was only in my introduction. The topic of discussion was desserts, which is naturally a topic that I find interest in. We were put on the spot with challenges such as coming up with a 2 minute impromptu speech on chocolate lava cakes, coming up with a story about a particular dessert experience, and hearing other participants share their stories and public speaking techniques - the best part was that everything was in French! Initially we found it hard to understand since Montreal's French contains a lot of slang and since they're fluent, they speak at a very fast pace. However, after a few warm-ups we got used to it and found that our French speaking skills not only came a lot easier but the amount of pauses, "uhms", and stutters drastically reduced by the end of the night. The event came to an end after 3 new members presented their speeches on “Qui suis-je?” (Who am I?). We were then evaluated by the Toastmasters directory panel on areas that we could brush up on, our pace, and our overall performance. They gave us extremely helpful tips that will help us at Sauder during our class presentations, in case competitions, or even in work environments where we'll be pitching ideas and projects that require top-notch public speaking skills. Being able to discuss a fun topic, in a language that is absolutely essential if I were to pursue a career in Quebec or even Ontario, was an amazing experience and it made me more aware of some of the speaking habits that I need to improve such as using “filler words”, posture, tone, volume, and overall body language.
Si Jia Wen
What happened: As a subsidiary of Toastmasters International, the event followed the meeting
guidelines of their parent company. They opened by introducing the topic of the meeting, which was
desserts. They then moved into the table topics, which was the most entertaining part of the evening, as participants performed impromptu speeches on numerous intriguing prompts (eg. “Tell me about a time when you or you an individual get their just deserts”). Following a brief break, they moved onto prepared speeches, where three individuals told their story of, “Who Am I?” After going over evaluations for the speakers who presented, the meeting was adjourned.
What I learned: I used to do debate back in high school, and in debate the primary focus is on the
content of the speech. That being said, this Toastmasters event was a completely different learning
environment because their focus was on the delivery and communication of the speech, rather than the content. The most helpful part of the event were the evaluations, where select individuals gave feedback on how speakers performed. They were very specific and constructive, yet very supporting and helpful at the same time. I know that I share a lot of the same habits as the members who spoke, so much of the feedback was applicable to my own speaking style as well, including
1) being graceful when looking down at notes,
2) speaking slower, and
3) keeping my arms to my sides for open body language and hand
What surprised me (and other cool things that happened):
Timing: The meeting was very lax and casual, albeit they were extremely strict on time. They
had one individual who kept time during the entire meeting to ensure that all speakers
(including the chair) kept to their allocated time slot. The meeting started and ended exactly
on time, which rarely happens at events nowadays!
Ah counter: In addition to the timer, they also had a designate person who kept track of the
number of times speakers used the work “ah” or other filler words. Although I did not get an
opportunity to speak much, I was recognized as one of the people who did not have any filler
words in their speech.
Impromptu speeches: The most impressive thing about this event was the skill of the
members. When given a random topic and asked to speak on the spot, the majority of them
were able to do it with poise and control. This exemplifies the skill of each individual and the
effectiveness of the Toastmasters program.