The Art of Speaking  

Life lessons from a master

By Ross Freake

Dana wants to talk like Ted — except for the Irish accent.

Dana Nease had been a Toastmaster for 10 days when she met Ted Corcoran, former president of Toastmasters International, at club-officer training for Okanagan clubs where he was the keynote speaker.

Her new club, Kelowna AM Toastmasters, was organizing the event, and, a week after joining, she volunteered to help.

If she didn’t know if before, she learned one valuable life lesson from Corcoran: it is in giving that we receive. While everyone else was taking officer training, Nease was receiving training from one of the best Toastmasters in the world.

“Instead of resting and preparing for his closing speech, Ted chose to share his pearls of wisdom with me,” she said.

“He graciously offered a one-on-one mentoring session with me for over an hour while I took a break from operating the coffee station.”

Nease had joined Toastmasters because she thought the new year was a perfect time to explore personal and professional growth.

“Kelowna AM Toastmasters seemed to be a perfect match.”

Ten days after joining, she heard what the Irish version of the perfect Toastmaster sounds like — and was inspired.

“Ted was passionate, heartfelt and motivating as he told his story of what to expect from Toastmasters — from reviewing the organization’s core values to overcoming the challenges of club goals.

“He shared his expertise regarding cultivating new membership and how to strengthen leadership. I knew then that I had made the right decision to join.

“Toastmasters’ provides a safe and supportive environment to learn to become a better speaker, listener, writer, leader and person.”

Ted was equally impressed with Nease, and, during his speech, acknowledged her as someone exemplifying Toastmasters’ core values, which are:

  • integrity
  • respect
  • service
  • excellence

While Corcoran was mentoring Nease about the additional benefits of Toastmasters program (a sense of camaraderie and belonging, goal-setting, networking, and building solid personal and professional relationships, etc.) a college student asked if she could have a cup of coffee.

 “’Of course, I replied,’ and I asked her if she was with Toastmasters. She wasn’t, but she asked me all about the program. Ted just watched. “After five minutes, she was hooked and made a plan to join the Toastmasters Okanagan College Club the following Wednesday.

“In Ted’s wrap-up speech, he took the time to acknowledge me, a newbie. I can’t tell you how I will cherish this moment for a long time.”

It wasn’t just newbies impressed and inspired by the Irish raconteur, the veterans also raved about his charm, his storytelling and his willingness to share his knowledge.

“His conversational style was one of the aspects I particularly loved about his presentations,” said Moya Webb, president of Okanagan College Toastmasters.

“He had taken the time to get to know a few people in the audience and with just the little joke here and there, it began to feel like a group of friends talking rather than a keynote speaker broadcasting to a large group.

“That was quite an achievement I thought, a true gift to be able to connect to a group as individuals.
“His phenomenal memory and ability to offer that specific piece of advice here and there that was pertinent to the situation rather than pre-canned was also inspiring.”

Webb, a former division director, heard Corcoran at the spring conference where she was inspired by his abilities to speak, listen and pay attention to detail, but the connections he made with individual leaders set a new level of expectation for the event.

“I also noticed he attended the district executive meeting where all of the division directors gave their semi annual reports. Ted was clearly listening and approached me after the meeting and commented on some of the things I had included in my report. 

“I was surprised that someone with Ted's seniority was at that meeting when he didn't need to be, but was clearly listening closely and then taking a moment to support and coach individuals.”

Lorne Barker shared Nease’s and Webb’s enthusiasm for Corcoran the speaker and Corcoran the man.
“I found the best part of Ted's speaking was his easy-going manner and humour interjected throughout his talks. Personal stories also enhanced each speech that he gave,” said Barker, president of Kelowna Toastmasters.

“I learned we should never stop educating ourselves. We should always strive to do our best and we should always take every opportunity to give back to Toastmasters what it has given us.”

Sofia Simeonidis was so impressed with Corcoran, she was quoting him two weeks later at an executive meeting of the OC club, where she is sergeant at arms.

Like everyone who heard Corcoran speak, she got a few tips about speaking, listening, evaluating and leading, but, like Nease, her biggest take always were life lessons.

"The magic of life happens when we step outside our comfort zone," she said. “Ted became a president of his club on his first meeting, so when you dare to take chances in life you grow, new avenues open, you live.”

That has added meaning when you realize that English is a second language for Simeonidis and Toastmasters poses a much greater challenge for her.
On her business card it says: “P.S. If something sounds Greek to you, it's because I am A Greek.”

That’s something that would cause a chuckle in an Irishman like Corcoran — and something he would borrow for a future speech because he knows that the only real sin is seeing a good idea, or story, and not stealing it.

Ross Freake is president of Kelowna AM Toastmasters.

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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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