All posts by Peter Baumgarten

Meet a Member: Rosey

Rosey: Third from the right


Rosey has been a member of Blue Ridge Toastmasters for years and currently serves as the club’s Sergeant at Arms.  Outside of Toastmasters, Rosey writes science fiction novels.  She has seven published novels to date, including:

  • Tell…Tell Grendel (2006)
  • Beyond Light (2008)
  • Footprint Colony on the Moon (2009)
  • Lunar Quest (2010)
  • Space is Calling Me? I’m on My Way (2010)
  • My Red Island in the Sky (2012)
  • Martian Phantom (2012)
Rosey is also a retired professional clown.

Toastmasters Experience

Rosey’s writing style in her novels is in complete dialog, but until she joined Toastmasters she didn’t know how to compose a speech. A neighbor and friend, who was a member of Blue Ridge Toastmasters, invited Rosey to a meeting. She realized she had to start from ground zero and grow. Teaching math is nothing like making a speech to contemporaries. There’s no hog-wash in teaching. Telling a story or a happening is mightily different — it’s harder because one must also be an entertainer. Rosey was encouraged by Toastmasters to actually try to publish her Sci Fi work, self-described as “weird.”  This has proven to be a successful venture, and her seventh novel was published in August 2012.

The Learning Curve is continuing at Toastmasters.  Rosey enjoys watching her Fellow Toastmasters gain confidence, improve communication skills, and enjoy becoming well-rounded personalities as we all progress with our goals and employment.  Rosey continues to participate in Toastmasters each week.  Although she has already received the Advanced Communication Gold award, she still entertains the club with her speeches, imaginative and thought-provoking Table Topics sessions, and thoughtful evaluations.

Recent Toastmasters Awards

2009-Advanced Communication Silver

2010-Advanced Communication Gold

2010-Competent Leadership


Introducing a Speaker

Content from Toastmasters International

What should you say?

Eventually, either for business or personal activities, you will serve as a host of some event where it will fall on you to introduce the speakers. Every speaker deserves a thoughtful and helpful introduction – it helps the speaker, and the audience, establish a common bond.

Short But Sweet

An introduction is a small speech, usually less than a minute. Though short, it still contains all the elements of a full speech:

  • An opening. It grabs the audience’s attention and makes them aware of the importance of the upcoming subject.
  • A body. It explains why the subject was chosen, why the speaker is qualified to address it, why it is appropriate for this audience and why this time is appropriate to discuss it.
  • A conclusion. In this case, it paves the way for the speaker to begin the presentation.

A Public Speaking Ritual

Consider the introduction as a brief ritual or ceremony, accomplishing some important goals. Such a ceremony:

  • Is transitional. It marks a speaker’s transition from being a part of the group to stepping in front of it, leading its thinking.
  • Guides thinking. It sets the tone for the topic at hand, so the group will know what to look for.
  • Adds power. It contributes to the speaker’s authority by establishing that he or she speaks from preparation, knowledge or experience.
  • Sets the mood. For example, if a serious subject was presented by the previous speaker, the introduction can prepare the audience for a more light-hearted speech to follow.

So, as the introducer, what should you say? Speeches of introduction should be graceful, witty and fun…fun to hear and fun to give! Leave out claims that the speaker is especially brilliant, successful or a “good speaker.” Instead, list his or her experience and expertise as it relates to the subject of the speech. Don’t steal the show – make it brief and all about the speaker. Know the topic of the speech and try to briefly set the mood for the audience. You’ll know you’re doing your job well when you end your introduction just as audience interest is peaking.


Are you ready to speak up?

Speak up, Asheville!

Our four-week public speaking course is starting January 7.

Do you want to:

  • Present your ideas with confidence?
  • Speak with authority?
  • Respond with poise and impact?
  • Relate to your audience and build trust?
  • Improve your interpersonal skills?

 Register today!


What to Expect

This is a four-week, seminar-style workshop conducted at the usual meeting place and time of Asheville Blue Ridge Toastmasters.  Experienced members of the club lead the workshop.  Our public speaking workshop is the most cost-effective and time-effective way to acquire and improve the skills of speaking, listening, thinking, and evaluating – skills vital to almost any profession in today’s world.

The workshop offers benefits to brand new and experienced speakers.

  • Beginners: Learn public speaking skills in a safe and supportive environment
  • Experienced speakers: Brush up on your skills and learn new time-tested techniques from Toastmasters International
  • Curious visitors: Get to know the members of Asheville Blue Ridge Toastmasters and decide if the club is right for you
  • Current members: Exercise your communication and leadership skills in a new setting

This is an active, participatory workshop – in just four weeks you’ll advance from observing others and learning speaking techniques to standing in front of the audience delivering your own speech!  At the end of the workshop you’ll receive a certificate of completion and discounted membership should you choose to join the Asheville Blue Ridge Toastmasters Club.

The workshop is just $20 for all four sessions, and advance registration is required.

 Register today and get ready to speak up!


The Most Challenging Toastmasters Speech of My Life

(and also the most successful)

by Rick Fornoff
Early in my Toastmasters career, in fact with my #3 speech in the manual, I was faced with the most difficult audience ever – my parents.  My speech was a humorous speech, a clever parody of a talk on time management.  While rehearsing I presented it to my parents in my living room the day before I was scheduled to give it at Toastmasters.

Now I love my parents, but they are not demonstrative people.  As I stood before them and gave my speech to them they sat in chairs, unsmiling and with arms folded across their chests.  The speech was obviously dying.  Despite their lack of overt enthusiasm I took my parents as guests the next day to our TM meeting to watch me give the speech, which drew much laughter and was very well received.  After the meeting my father commented that I seemed much less nervous than I had the day before.  I said, “Well, today you weren’t 50% of the audience.”

In fact, the speech was so popular that some suggested that I hone it a bit and enter it in the club Humorous Speech contest to be held a couple of months later.  I did that and to my surprise my presentation of that speech won the club, area, and district contests to land me in the district level (all of North Carolina) Humorous Speech contest.  My experience with that is a whole other story for some future newsletter, but needless to say that speech never faced as challenging an audience as it did that first time with my parents.


Proposals and Pitches

Content from Toastmasters International – Proposals and Pitches.

Stimulate action!

When you present a proposal or a pitch, you are trying to do more than simply inform – you are trying to persuade.

A proposal seeks to stimulate action or acceptance of an idea. Here are some examples: A company’s research and development chief proposes that top management authorize additional funding for a key project. An architect presents designs for a condominium complex. An advertising agency director proposes a new ad campaign to a prospective client. An insurance sales representative pitches the idea of a company-sponsored bowling team to the owner of a bowling alley.

In all of these cases, your speech must include sections designed to inform. It often involves a discussion on dollars spent versus gains made. And the gains may be high-tech in nature, such as an improved insulin pump for diabetics. For such situations, some technical information must be included. Yet, the objective of the presentation is to sell a product, a concept or a set of recommendations. By combining your technical expertise with the ability to present proposals that get positive results, you’ll generate many opportunities for visibility and career advancement.

Follow these four steps to prepare:

  • Determine your purpose.
  • Analyze your audience and determine its needs.
  • State your main message and support it.
  • Urge the audience to take definite action.

You must determine the effect you want your presentation to have on the audience. Are you selling a product or service? Recommending a course of action? Striving for agreement or approval? Be specific about what you want your proposal to accomplish.

Analyze your audience, and then create your main message to address their wants and needs. Be sure to translate the features of your product, service, idea or recommendation into audience benefits – and target the benefit to fit that audience. For example, if a company’s need is for a quality product with excellent durability, these are the qualities you would highlight as opposed to emphasizing cost savings.

Organizing your proposal
To organize your ideas into an effective proposal, use an approach developed in the field of journalism – the “inverted pyramid.” In the “inverted pyramid” format, the most important information is given in the first few paragraphs. As you present the pitch, the information becomes less and less crucial. This way, your presentation can be cut short, yet remain effective. This approach has other important benefits.

To make the most of these benefits, begin with your main message, followed by the supporting points and detailed data. If your listeners agree with your main message, the supporting material that follows it will reinforce their agreement. If they disagree, they will be focused on your viewpoint from the beginning, and your logic may win them over to your side. If you are allowed your fully-allotted time, make the most of it by ending with a call to action. Telling the audience what you want them to do may seem too aggressive, but it actually helps the audience to select a course of action.

Use visual aids
Effective visuals can illustrate and clarify your verbal message. On the other hand, poor or poorly presented visual aids can seriously damage your proposal and create a negative impression with the audience.

So, keep your visual aids clearly visible to each person in the audience. They must be simple, with each page or slide illustrating a single point.

Handling questions and answers
A question-and-answer period following your proposal or pitch benefits both you and your audience. It provides you with feedback indicating to what extent your listeners accept and agree with your proposal. It also lets you reinforce your message by addressing areas that concern the audience. And it benefits your listeners by giving them an opportunity to get clarification of ideas and data in your proposal.

Here are some tips for effectively dealing with audience questions:

  • Plan for them. Announce at the outset of your speech that you will entertain questions. Plan a smooth transition between the conclusion of your proposal and the question-and-answer portion of the presentation.
  • Anticipate questions. Try to anticipate the questions your audience will ask. One way is to rehearse your proposal before colleagues or friends and see what questions they have. This has an added benefit: It can indicate elements you’ve neglected to include in your proposal.
  • Clarify the question. Before attempting to answer a question, be sure you understand what the questioner wants. If necessary, rephrase it, asking if your interpretation is correct. If you don’t know the answer, admit it, but tell the questioner you will find out the answer later and contact him or her.
  • Don’t be defensive. Give your listeners the impression you welcome their questions and appreciate the opportunity to answer them. Your positive attitude can be the “icing on the cake” for a successful proposal.
  • Align your answer with your main message. Rather than blurting out the first response that comes to mind, mentally evaluate how you can answer the question in a way that supports what you’ve said in your proposal.
  • Disarm loaded questions. Occasionally a questioner may try to trip you with a loaded question—one based on false premises or irrelevant assumptions. Be polite, but don’t back down from your position. You can disarm the questioner by asking him or her to explain the question and share information.
  • Divert irrelevant questions. Don’t waste time on questions that are out of place, even if you know the answers. Politely ask the person how the question bears on the proposal.
  • Divide complex questions. If a questioner hits you with a multifaceted question, split it into components before answering it. This helps you, as well as other listeners.
  • Summarize. Watch your allotted time. Before it expires, conclude by briefly summarizing your proposal. This way, you can control (and prepare for) the way your presentation ends. This is the final impression you leave on your audience, so make it positive and upbeat.

How I Prepare a Speech for Toastmasters

by Lara Gillease

I gave a speech on June 14 in which the purpose was to entertain the audience. It was supposed to be a well organized, easy to follow talk. I decided to speak about how I got to Asheville. I love hearing others’ stories about this and am always surprised when I meet someone who was born and raised here since so many of us are transplants.

In preparing the speech, I had many false starts as I had too many details and difficulty in organizing it. What really helps me in preparing any speech once I know the topic is to figure out how to capture the audience’s attention. In this speech I asked the audience questions about whether they were born and raised here and three options of what brought them here. Once I figure out the introduction, I write it down word for word. I say it aloud until I have it memorized.

Next in the preparation process, I just start talking aloud after the introduction and listen to what comes out of my mouth. Usually this is when I have the most starts and stops. I struggle with how to say what I want most effectively. As I keep talking I start to weed out unnecessary ways of saying things.

Then I start timing myself while speaking aloud to figure out whether I have too much information. I have always had too much information in my speeches, which are usually five to seven minutes long. It sounds like a long time but once you get talking the time seems to fly. I then distill down what I am saying even more. That’s when the speech starts to take shape.

Next I begin fretting over the conclusion. I usually tie it back into how I initially captured the audience’s attention as well as provide a summary. I feel my conclusions overall could be stronger. I am working on them.

I received great encouragement and some valuable feedback from my toastmasters’ colleagues after my speech. I also enjoyed sharing a snapshot of my life with others and feeling the sense of accomplishment of having learned from the process and a job well done.


Winners of 2012 Speech Club Contest

Congratulations to Asheville’s Blue Ridge Toastmaster Jeannie who won 1st place for Table Topics (Improptu Speaking) 0n Monday March 19, 2012 Speech Club Contest.

Congratulations to Asheville’s Blue Ridge Toastmaster Lara who won 1st place for International Speech – Speech Title, “A Cartwheel of Achievement.”

On Saturday March 24, 2012 Area 13 Speech Contest, Jeannie won 2nd place for Table Topics (Improptu Speaking) and Lara won 1st place for International Speech

On Saturday April 21, 2012 Division A Speech Contest, Jeannie won 2nd place for Table Topics (Improptu Speaking) and Lara won 2nd place for International Speech.



My Toastmasters Story

by Chuck Blethen, DTM

I originally joined TM in my late 20s. After a break, I rejoined Toastmasters about 15 years ago.  I came back after I made a presentation to a Fortune 500 company’s Board of Directors in which I stumbled through a presentation punctuated with so many Ah’s and Ums that it was embarrassing.I immediately joined a local Toastmasters club in Arizona to regain my speaking and presentation skills. Since then I have been an avid supporter of Toastmasters to keep my speaking skills sharp. Later, I was able to combine my speaking skills with my hobby of winemaking and grape growing to the point I authored a book “The Wine Etiquette Guide – Defense Against Wine Snobbery”.This led me to teaching classes at local community colleges and universities and I served as a wine etiquette consultant to several major corporations. I then obtained speaking engagements aboard cruise ships that allowed me to take my wife on free vacations eating and drinking our way around the world. I know, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

I will NEVER be able to give back to Toastmasters what Toastmasters has given me. I have served as club officer positions in several clubs, Area Governor, and I have spent six years serving as a District officer in two different districts. Last year I was honored to be awarded the Outstanding Toastmaster of the Year in District 37 – a very humbling experience. I highly recommend Toastmasters to everyone interested in developing their professional career.