The Art of Speaking  

You need more than goals

You Need More Than Goals To Succeed

By Ravi Raman

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein

It is my opinion that to maximize one’s potential, not just to achieve but to contribute, that goals are a vital tool.

Goals enable the mind and body to organize resources in a manner that create a favorable outcome. Goals are the north star by which we can build the habits and systems that lead to a brighter future.

I’d go so far as to say that humans are designed to be goal-seeking animals, with important aspects of our brain and physiology “lighting up” when pursuing a worthy goal.

You might think, by the tone of the past few sentences, that I think goals, and their achievement, are all that matter when it comes to living a full and successful life.

If you believe that, you are incorrect.

When we want to break free from the predictable and achieve something entirely new, we require more than just a worthy target.

We need something beyond a destination that is predetermined. We need fresh ideas and new thoughts that will help us get to where we need to go.

The new thought does not spring from predictability, planning or extrapolation from the past. New thinking comes from a different place.

The Value of Emptiness

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
Henry David Thoreau

New thoughts come from blank space, free time and quiet moments.

They can be triggered by a good book, new conversations, a fantastic movie, or fresh perspectives shared by a new friend. New thoughts can, and often do, come from the sudden embrace of a meandering mind.

Albert Einstein, for example, stumbled upon his special theory of relativity while taking a break from intensive mathematical work to allow his mind to wander and daydream.

Nothing I am saying contradicts the fact that goals are immensely useful and, dare I say, vital. What I am saying is that in addition to a habit of setting goals, be open enough to allow new thoughts into your world.


Cultivate a greater awareness to what you are doing moment by moment. Increase your curiosity, and strike up conversations with the people around you, even if you don’t think they would be of any direct relevance to your current projects or goals.

Most crucially, create blank space in your day, both free time and free mental space and quietude, to allow the fresh thought to emerge.

Anyone Can Do It

Even the busiest among us can create this time and space. Here are three examples:

  • Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn is known to block up to two hours of free time per day on his calendar, divided into four, 30-minute increments. Why? To allow new thought and fresh ideas to emerge.
  • Bill Gate famously retreated from his busy job as leader of Microsoft for a week, twice a year, to think about the future.
  • Yuval Harari, the author of the outstanding book, Sapiens (I recently read it, as did Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg), takes 30–60 days away from his busy teaching, writing and travel schedule to go on meditation retreat each year. Harari does this in addition to a twice-a-day hour-long meditation practice.

My Challenge to You

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.
Sir Ken Robinson

My challenge to you, particularly the goal-crazy ones among us (I include myself in this cohort), is to create empty time and space in your day to unleash your originality and creativity.

Use this time to be bored, daydream and allow new thoughts to enter your world. Be it 10 minutes or two hours, see what this fallow ground will yield regarding creative ideas and insights.

It’s my belief that through entering this void, you will ultimately gain more progress than even the best SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results focused, timely) goal could create on its own.

Ravi Raman is an executive career coach and long-time veteran of Microsoft. raviraman.com. This article appeared on his blog and in Toastmaster magazine.


6 little white lies

By Maurice DeCastro 

We live in the age of information, where people hardly have time to think clearly, let alone absorb the plethora of instant communication they are bombarded with.

That presents a significant challenge for most employees when they are asked to impress their colleagues with that all-important presentation.

Avoid these six “white lies” we often tell ourselves in our haste to impress:

State-of-the-art software will make me a better presenter

Someone once said to me, “The truth is like the centre of town; it doesn’t matter which road you take to get there, the centre of town is the centre of town.”

When it comes to presenting, the truth is that your presentation isn’t about the software — it’s about you.

When I first started to play tennis, I had this brilliant idea that buying the lightest, most expensive racquet would improve my game exponentially. It didn’t.

I’ve seen some fabulous presentations by speakers using Keynote and Prezi, and I’ve seen some horrendous ones too. The same goes for PowerPoint and just about every other software I’ve seen speakers use.

It’s not about what you have to show, it’s about what you have to say. No visual aid will ever replace the use of a clear, powerful and beautifully told story designed to inspire change.

TIP: Never start with the software. Craft a compelling message and story first, and then decide whether you need any tools to help bring them to life.

My audience expects me to be perfect

The problem with perfection is that in the world of presenting and public speaking, your audience rarely gets to see the real you. What they get is a highly polished and slick speaker who isn’t really interested in them, because the speaker’s prime interest is in looking good.

TIP: Credibility will always trump perfection, so help your audience get to know you better and understand why you’re so passionate about your message. Your job is to give them something to help them, not you, look and feel good.

I don’t need to prepare, I’ll just speak from my heart

It’s a nice sentiment, but how is this working for you? Speaking from the heart with belief, energy and passion is a prerequisite to the task at hand, but fail to prepare at your own peril.

When it comes to engaging your audience, there are no shortcuts.

TIP: Don’t look for what’s easy; look for what’s right. Research and understand your audience thoroughly, hone your message like a finely tuned piano, craft your story and then practise, practise, practise.

My content is really the only thing that counts

Really? The key to a successful presentation is congruence — all aspects of the speech have to fit together. You have to deliver your content in a way that resonates with your audience so they can see that you mean, feel and believe every word you say.

We’ve all endured presentations that sounded content-rich, but were delivered in a way that left us totally uninspired.

TIP: Focus on content, delivery and impact. Everything you say, show and do and the way you say, show and do it should be aligned to how you want your audience to feel, from start to finish.

I have to have as few slides as possible

This is exactly that premise that leads so many presenters into hot water. They believe they should cram as much information as they can onto each slide.

Consequently, the presenter ends up reading the content out loud while the audience members try to read it to themselves — not a good mix.

TIP: If you use slides at all, they should be used simply to add color, life and impact to your message.

They are like billboards: designed to help you visually get a message across quickly, and you can use as many as you need to as long as each one is clear and adds significant value. Think like a designer.

Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em … tell ’em … then, tell ’em what you told ’em

In my experience, most audiences are composed of intelligent and discerning people, so you really don’t have to repeat yourself as if audience members didn’t get the message the first time.

While there is some logic to the “tell ’em” strategy, it removes the speaker’s responsibility to build a clear and powerful message in the first place — a message that you only have to share once.

TIP: Here’s a better rule: Tell ’em. Tell ’em like you mean it. Tell ’em so they get it the first time.

Maurice DeCastro is a former corporate executive. He left the boardroom to create a London-based business that helps leaders connect with people. Learn more at www.mindfulpresenter.com. This article appeared in Toastmasters magazine.

Essence of great leadership

By Terry "Starbucker" St. Marie

What are the 10 qualities that make a great leader, and a more human one, too?

What are the attitudes and attributes of those who step into the arena and lead their teams to achieve the success trifecta:

  • a great business,
  • a happy team,
  • a fulfilled leader?

In my view, it boils down to having all the following.

Positivity — It’s what I call “looking at the literal world in a favorable way.” You are certainly not a Pollyanna, but the arrow must always stay pointing up.

Purpose — You must have a place to which you want to lead someone, or a group (or yourself), that goes beyond just profit.

Empathy — You have to be able to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes, and apply the Golden Rule.

Humility — You want to make your team better than you. You shine the light on them. It’s not about you.

Will — You have to really want to get there, somehow, some way. And that needs to be right on your sleeve for all of your team to see, and feel.

Relentlessness — Your positive tone, message, vision, values and expectations are out there, constantly, week after week, day after day, hour by hour.

Persistence — You are never satisfied. The bar can always be raised.

Curiosity — You don’t know everything, so first you need to admit it. You want to keep learning, and learning and learning.

Trust — It’s the sacred bond between you and your team that must be earned, not just be freely given or taken.

Positivity — You have to love leading your team, and not be afraid to talk about it, or express it.

The 8 Principles of More Human Leadership

Crossing the bridge from “I” to “We”— It can’t be about you. It’s about a team.

Asking for trust and keeping your promises —Integrity is an absolute must.

Establishing a mantra of key values — It’s the glue that holds all of us together.

Finding and teaching more human leaders — The legacy must be passed on; we can’t do it ourselves.

Building a culture of accountability — It’s all about fair- ness and shared responsibility.

Measuring, monitoring and managing with the right metrics — The team needs to know where they stand, and what they are aiming for.

Fighting complacency and the naysayers — Inertia is a momentum killer. So are those who still desire the old ways.

Connecting it all to a higher purpose — Humans want to be part of a meaningful cause that’s bigger than themselves.

Terry "Starbucker" St. Marie is a writer, consultant, entrepreneur and startup investor in Portland, Ore. He’s also the co-founder and publisher of the media platform focused on Oregon entrepreneurs, BuiltOregon.com. He has been named one of the Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts by Inc. magazine. Read more at www.terrystarbucker.com.

This article appeared in Toastmasters magazine.


Learning to listen

By Ross Freake

Terror turned into terrific for OChristy Wiley when she joined the Penticton Toastmasters Club.

"I was looking for a venue to overcome my fears as well as something that was just simply mine," she said shortly after placing second in the Toastmasters Division K (Okanagan and the West Kootenays) annual International Speech Contest in Penticton.

"As a mom and a professional, my job is to take care of others, I wanted something that was just for me and for my growth and improvement. The Penticton Toastmasters Club meets at the Shatford Centre Tuesday at 6 p.m.

"The club is full of a variety of interesting and fun people from every walk of life — different ages, different backgrounds," said Wiley, who runs her own business, Cottage to Castle Bookkeeping Services.

"I simply enjoy the opportunity to make friends with them, supporting their individual goals and journeys and cheering them on. There is not a single evening in Toastmasters that I have not spent the meeting smiling, laughing and just being encouraged.

"After a full day of working, it's not always easy to drag yourself to one more thing, but once I am there, sitting with my Toastmaster family, I am always so glad that I came."

Wiley, who joined Toastmasters a year ago, is already a champion speaker, but is also working on her leadership skills — an equally important component of Toastmasters — and is on the club's executive board.

"Every time I attend a meeting, I am accomplishing my goals, I am stretching my limitations and increasing my skills.

"Every time I stand up and speak, I am still terrified, I still feel nauseous and my knees are knocking, but now I have the ability to steady my voice, to breathe and to maintain an outward calm that hides the panic attack.

She is also polishing another important life skill: listening.

"The interesting part of Toastmasters that people do not tend to hear about it is the listening part of the program. Yes, you learn to speak, yet the second half is spent listening.

"I am not a good listener and Toastmasters has done wonders for me, helping me learn to listen and hear what someone is saying. My communication with my spouse, my family and my friends has improved immensely as a result."

Most people never step beyond giving speeches at the club level, but she decided to compete because she believes only in complete participation do people get the full value of Toastmasters.

"Toastmasters International is truly an accomplished and proven track for creating leaders who are effective communicators.

"That is my goal. By embracing the entire experience I will become better, stronger, more confident and those qualities are going to improve all areas of my life."

Wiley has two 19-year-old sons and her International competition speech grew from a conversation with a friend about her boys graduating from high school and staying home to go to Okanagan College.

"I was savouring every moment with them before they were gone."

She delivered it as a 10-minute speech at her club, but had to cut out three minutes for the International Speech competition.

"I practised the speech every day, everywhere. My biggest concern was that in the midst of the stress and anxiety of being in the contest, all eyes on me, that I would lose the words, lose the flow, lose the speech. So I had to have it completely down."

She came second to Reen Rose, of the Kelowna AM club, an accomplished and veteran speaker, who also won the division contest the previous year.

Neil Anthes of Westside Toastmasters was third.

Wiley's speech began this way: "To savour something is to enjoy something by especially or completely dwelling on it. Life is made up of moments becoming minutes, minutes becoming hours, hours to days and days to years.

"Before you know it, time has gone by and when it is gone it cannot be undone or redone. So by urging you to savour life, I am simply suggesting that you are aware of the moments that are worth pausing and reflecting on.

"Grab them with both hands and relish the life, love and richness that they hold."

Ross Freake is the president of Kelowna AM Toastmasters.

More The Art of Speaking articles

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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