The Art of Speaking  

Leading by example

Toastmasters not only helped me become a better speaker, but helped make me a better leader.

I have learned from many people and I continue to grow and to not only be a leader to myself, but to my family, my mentees, employees, friends and community.

Toastmasters is just one of the many ways I strive to learn to develop my abilities and grow as a leader.

My background has primarily been in retail:

  • managing stores
  • merchandising
  • team leader
  • analyzing
  • store openings
  • buying — with such companies as Woolworth Canada, Footlocker, Ricki’s,(Comark group).

During the last eight years, I have partnered with CMS Toys to run Halloween Alley stores in the Okanagan (Most recently adding the district co-ordinator role over-seeing stores all across Canada.

I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that strong leadership skills are a key ingredient to success in business and in life.

There are many books on leadership, and I encourage you to read them, but in business, it’s important to learn from everyone, and to create your own skills and style.

My favourite book is Yes or No: The guide to Better Decisions, by Spencer Johnson

It may sound unusual, but it teaches you to own your decisions and to keep moving forward.

Top influencers such as Richard Branson, Napoleon Hill, John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill state that we need to fail to become more successful.

Even actor Will Smith has advice on using failure as a tool to get better.

“Fail early, fail often, fail forward,” he said.

We all want people to be proud of us, to be better role models and achieve our dreams and aspirations.

I will share with you some of what I believe can make you a well-rounded leader.

Inspire, be passionate and motivate

Everyone has a vision. Share it! With everyone you know. I recently asked the owners of Halloween Alley what they thought my contributions to the company were.

“You are the company’s biggest cheerleader,” they said.

I agree. Although my stores are only open seasonally, I breathe and promote the Halloween Alley brand all year.

Your enthusiasm and excitement for whatever you do is addictive; you need to believe that everyone would want to be a part of whatever it is you do.

You are the most invested. For every action, there is a reaction, so let’s make them great ones.

Be proud of what you do!

Be a teacher

No one knows your product and vision better than you.

It must be a priority to teach your staff, and your family, to be better than you.

We have a huge opportunity to share the best tool in the world — our knowledge.

If we take time in the beginning to set people up, grant them access to the things and information they need, you will eliminate frustration and find you’ll be able to work more efficiently together.

If something is working, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Give up ownership!

Although the hardest thing for us to do, as a good leader we must realize that we need a full team to be successful.

Whether it is our children or an employee, we need a team working cohesively to create a better world. As VP of membership and previous vice president of public relations for Kelowna AM Toastmasters, I'm part of the club executive that works to ensure a great experience.

Take a step back, and allow others to rise and be the best they can be.

I wear many hats in my life and these are just a few things what I believe help me a better leader. Taking on new roles and consistently challenging myself to learn and grow makes me who I am today.

We meet people for a reason, a season or a lifetime, so make the most of and be the best to everyone who enters your life.

Deb Lawless is a mother of three very busy and active children, an entrepreneur, an employee (working part time in the accounts payable department at Total Restoration Services), district co-ordinator For Halloween Alley and VP of Membership for Kelowna AM Toastmasters.


Webb of words

Moya Webb will be the Okanagan’s champion when the best talkers in Southern B.C. clash in Kelowna this weekend.

Webb won the Toastmasters Division K (the Okanagan and Western Kootenays) International speech and Evaluation contests. That earned her the right to compete at the Division 21 (Southern B.C. and Vancouver Island) spring conference.

“It is quite an honour to have Moya represent us in both the International Speech and Evaluation contests,” said Jennifer Mlazgar, director of Division K.

“She is a true representation of what it means to be a Toastmaster, so to be able to see her compete at this level is an honour and privilege,” said Mlazgar, a Penticton accountant, who has won the District 21 impromptu speaking contest.

Webb is the quintessential Toastmaster — dedicated, hard-working and always learning. In addition to the two division championships, she has won area contests for humour and impromptu speaking.

In 2017, she also received the District 21 Toastmaster of the Year Award for leadership.

“Toastmasters is the best training program I've ever been on in my career, and certainly the most cost effective,” said Webb, who has a BSc and MBA.

And she has poured her heart and soul into that training program since joining the Kelowna Club in 2006.

She has since been area and division director, sponsored the Okanagan College Toastmasters club and the Downtown Express club, and is now helping start another one.

She is a member of two clubs: OC Toastmasters and Kelowna AM.

“This is the first time I have won the International speech contest at even the club level. I guess I never felt before I had anything to offer from an inspirational perspective,” said Webb, who, with her husband, Dave, runs InvLogik Solutions.

She almost pulled out of the club contest this year because she didn't think she had a good enough speech – until one wrote itself while she was sitting on a Big White chairlift.

“A new speech came into my head — just like that. In basic terms, I considered how the lessons learned while learning to ski were great life lessons for designing a fabulous life.”

In spite of her accomplishments, Webb is humble and self-effacing; she was surprised to win the division since she came second in the area contest.

“The fact that I had come second to Dave Maller (Westside Toastmasters) in the area contest and then beat him at the division contest was unexpected. It was a tough contest.”

After the area contest, she re-wrote parts of her speech, gave it at various city clubs, seeking feedback and incorporating what she felt helped make it a winning speech.

“I even changed the title. I practised it, edited it, practised it some more and felt very good about it.”

While many people have butterflies before they give a speech, Webb had them after winning the division contest.

“I do feel a little intimidated, but at the same time a little excited. That's what competing does for you. The more you challenge yourself, the more you grow and the better the results.”

After Webb won the International, a five-to-seven-minute speech, she competed in the Evaluation contest in which listening and the ability to pick out nuances that most people miss are crucial. Contestants then have five minutes to spin a coherent three-minute story that teaches the speaker and the audience.

“I find the Evaluation contest much harder, because I can't prepare. I have to depend on what I hear, what I think and how I feel about the test speech.

“This is what I'm most nervous about for the district level contest — I could just draw a blank and have no idea what to say. When I say it like that, it makes you wonder why I decided to compete.”

But, she argues, when people step out of their comfort zones, their abilities grow and so does their comfort zones.

“If I have pulled anything out of all of this, it is that I enjoy spending my time with energetic, positive people, working together to achieve something worthwhile and giving back in some way.

“I like to make the best of every day, because you never know what lies around the corner.”

Erin Trifunov was second in the International speech contest and Sharleen McBlain second in the Evaluation. Both are members of the Kelowna Club, which is marking its 60th anniversary this weekend at the spring conference.

Club creates champions

Former premier Bill Bennett was president. So was his brother, R.J. And well-know businessman Tom Capozzi.

They are among the prominent and less-than-prominent members of the Kelowna Club, the city's first Toastmasters Club, which is marking its 60th anniversary this year.

There will be a celebration during the Toastmasters District 21 spring conference banquet April 20-22 at the Coast Capri Hotel, and June 4 at the Rotary Centre of the Arts.

The Kelowna Club — and the seven others in the Central Okanagan — is part of an international organization with 352,000 members in 141 countries.

Toastmasters was started in 1924 by Ralph Smedley in Santa Ana, Calif. It became international when First Canadian Toastmasters formed in Victoria in 1935.

Although Erin Trifunov and Vera Ito are from different generations and have never met, they have much in common.

Trifunov joined the Kelowna Club two years ago, and Ito retired from it two years earlier after 27 years giving speeches, listening to others and evaluating how they did with suggestions how they could improve.

They have something else in common — they are both champions.

Trifunov just won the club and area championships in speech evaluation and the International — a five to seven minute speech — while Ito is a former B.C. impromptu speaking champion.

And they both joined the Kelowna Club in pursuit of excellence.

"I originally was taken to a meeting by a friend that I'd met in the Pursuit of Excellence courses," Ito said. "Toastmasters seemed to be an organization that would help me gain confidence in my abilities, and indeed it did."

In addition to speaking, listening and leadership skills, Toastmasters also teaches how to adapt and flow with circumstances, a skill in high demand during the impromptu speaking part (called table topics) of every Toastmaster meeting.

And those skills are transferable to life, something Ito learned in 1989, just after she joined the Kelowna Club.

"A group of us went to the fall conference in Vancouver, but there was a major slide on the Coq and we got stuck about a mile from the toll booth. It turned out to be a 12-hour trip; we amused ourselves by playing table topics.

"Next day, the person who was supposed to be representing Division C in the TT contest had not arrived. Our division chairman, Ken Richardson, was trying to convince someone else to do it, who refused, and I found myself saying 'well if you're really desperate, I guess I could give it a go.'"To my great surprise, I won."

Trifunov, project manager of a highperformance computing organization, joined after the birth of her third child.

"I was just returning to work and was feeling a bit rusty and nervous when speaking at meetings and giving presentations.

"Also, working from home and still spending a lot of time around young children meant I didn't have many opportunities to practise key meeting skills such as responding to impromptu questions, basic and formal introductions, running a meeting, or even having adult conversations.

"Toastmasters provided all these opportunities and more."

The Kelowna Club has been teaching excellence and providing opportunities since in1959 when it was started by Don McGillvary, its first president.

Since a president can, normally, only serve a one-year term at a time, there have been many in addition to the two Bennetts and Capozzi.

Ito was president for 1.5 years in 1991-93 and again from July 1998 to June 1999.

Melody Bailey, the current president, joined because Monday was the only night she had free. Three years later, after numerous speech and competitions, she still enjoys every moment of the Toastmasters experience.

"I joined to keep up, and improve, my public-speaking skills and I've stayed because there is a always something more to learn and room to grow."

Former president Lorne Barker is still a member after eight years for the same reason. The former stand-up comic on cruise ships wasn't afraid of public speaking, but he wanted to be better.

"No matter what you do in life, even if you are good at it, you can always improve."

Pat Nelson, a Toastmaster for 31 years, was a charter member of the Fabulous Facilitators in Edmonton, but joined the Kelowna Club five years ago.

"I was terrified to speak in public," said the retired librarian. "I went from being unable to introduce myself in a club meeting to being a trainer, and speaking at conferences in Canada and the U.S.

"Toastmasters will make you confident and a skilled communicator and you will have fun doing it."

Those are sentiments that hundreds, if not thousands, of members and former members would echo.


Learning to listen

By Justina LeeStolz

Many people know of Toastmasters as an international speaking organization that churns out brilliant public speakers, but the less known or less advertised benefit of this organization is the incredible direction and focus on teaching people how to listen.

You can talk and talk for days and get nowhere, but true progress and advancement of communication comes from affective and active listening.

Think, for instance, of that one person you always see who just loves telling you all about their world; their life, their dog, their car and their troubles.

What a bore!

Now, think of that one person who you absolutely love talking to and running into even for a few minutes because you always walk away feeling fulfilled, inspired, motivated and satisfied.

The difference, likely, is that the second person is someone who talks with you rather than gabs at you.

When we dialogue with someone who shows a genuine interest in who we are, what we have to say and what we are up to, there is a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment because we have the opportunity to give and also to receive meaningful content.

How do we become better listeners? Just listen more? No, that’s obviously not working.

There is a skill and effort required to listen well and to be an active participant in an interaction and conversation with another. Toastmasters is an incredible starting place to learn the skills necessary to become an excellent listener; skills such as:

  • detail mapping
  • probing
  • attentiveness

What in the world are these fandangled listening skills?

Detail mapping is being able to hear, remember and organize key points that someone expresses to you that can be used to help understand and relate to their character and their overall viewpoint of the world.

Probing is an extension of detail mapping, which helps you to pull out key pieces of information to propel the conversation forward by asking more questions that allow the other person to keep talking and provide fuel to the dialogue fire.

It is always awkward to end up in a conversation where things seem to go stale and quiet because no one knows what to say next. Probing is a necessary skill to pull out easy conversation and talking points.

Finally, attentiveness. In a world of constant distraction and instantaneous responses, remaining attentive to a single conversation with a real life human can be, well, challenging.

One simple, simple key to focusing is to put your phone away. Sounds simple, right? Not so much.

When I say put your phone away, I don’t mean simply put it in your pocket, so you can’t see it; I mean, put it on silent (not vibrate as that’s still a distraction) and put it out of sight and out of reach.

Knowing your schedule, where you need to be next and setting that awareness and time expectation with your conversation partner is key to being able to remain present in the conversation until the moment that you need to leave.

You can read all about how to be a good listener, but the proof is in the practice. The more you practise, the better you get and the faster you improve.

What better place to be vulnerable in learning a new skill than with a group of people who are supportive and on their own learning pathway to success?

Toastmasters offers many useful and transferable tools to its members with listening being foremost one of the most valuable and underrated benefits.

Check out your local Kelowna AM Toastmasters group today.

Justina LeeStolz, Personal Real Estate Corporation | Realtor with Century 21. Contact her at 
[email protected]; 250-808-3638.

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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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