The Art of Speaking  

Real life skills you gain from Toastmasters?

Mastering public speaking

YouTube /Wade Paterson

Within a typical Toastmasters meeting, there are a number of different roles that club members can sign up for.

A few examples are: Toastmaster, Humourist, Grammarian, Ah Counter, Timer, General Evaluator, Table Topics Master, etc. Those who sign up for these roles not only help ensure the Toastmasters meeting is a success, but they also gain experience communicating in scenarios that directly relate to real life.

In this month’s column and accompanying video, I break down eight different Toastmasters roles and explain how club members benefit from signing up for these roles.

The Grammarian

The Grammarian role has a couple of purposes. The first is to come up with a word-of-the-day, to help expand each club member’s lexicon. The second part of the Grammarian position is to listen throughout the meeting for good uses of language or vocabulary, and find opportunities when speakers could have used more impactful words.

Vocabulary is an important aspect of communication. Whether you’re speaking in front of an audience or having a one-on-one conversation, you gain instant credibility when you’re able to use thought-provoking words that capture the imagination of your audience.

The Timer

The role of the Timer is to — you guessed it — track the timing of each speaker throughout the meeting. At the end of the meeting, the Timer delivers a report to club members, letting them know if they stayed within their allotted time when speaking.

Staying on time while giving a speech is incredibly important. Beyond the importance of keeping your audience engaged, if your speech is part of a larger event, ending too quickly or speaking for too long can impact the agenda and throw everything out of whack. One thing to note is that many people speak quicker when in front of an audience than they do when practicing on their own.

The Ah Counter

“Ahh, umm, err, uhh.” These are a few of the common crutch or filler words speakers use to fill in the silence when speaking in front of a group of people. The role of the Ah Counter at a Toastmasters meeting is to catch these usages and inform club members so they can eliminate filler words from their speeches in the future.

Too many filler words can be incredibly distracting and take away from your message in real life conversations. Eliminating these crutch words makes you sound more polished, and you will earn the attention and respect of those who you are communicating with.

Table Topics Master

Impromptu speaking is one of the hardest things to do as a public speaker. The purpose of a Table Topics Master is to ask club members random questions, to which they are asked to deliver an answer by speaking for one to two minutes.

Whether you’re being asked a question by an audience member following a speech, or being asked a question at a cocktail party, thinking on your feet is an important skill to have. Table Topics helps you sharpen your ability to give a thoughtful answer quickly, and it gives the Table Topics Master the opportunity to come up with creative questions.


Every speaking opportunity within a Toastmasters meeting is evaluated. Speech and role evaluators are tasked with listening carefully, taking notes, then providing meaningful feedback to speakers so they can improve in the future.

Most people think the only purpose of Toastmasters is to make you a better speaker; however, a side benefit to participating in Toastmasters is that you become a better listener as well.

The Humourist

The Humourist’s purpose is simple: make the audience laugh.
Humour is one of the most effective skills a speaker can have because it does two things. First: It relaxes the audience. When a new speaker takes the stage, the audience is typically wondering whether or not this person is going to be enjoyable to listen to. If the speaker can make them laugh quickly, the audience relaxes knowing it’s going to be an enjoyable speech. Second: It relaxes you, the speaker. When the audience laughs, it builds your confidence because you know those in attendance are enjoying themselves.

The Toast

The Toast is typically one of the first parts of a Toastmasters meeting agenda. The Toast often reflects the theme of the week, and sets the tone for the rest of the meeting.
Being able to deliver a toast at a social or professional event is a powerful skill to have. Not many people are willing to stand up and say a few words about the occasion; however, those who do often create a moment that will be memorable for attendees.

The Toastmaster

The Toastmaster role is, in my opinion, the most difficult position to sign up for at a Toastmasters meeting. The Toastmaster is the quarterback of the meeting. Doing the role successfully requires preparation and the ability to transition smoothly between speakers, while keeping the entire meeting on time.

The real life benefit of signing up for the Toastmaster role is that it is great practice for being an MC. Whether it’s being a wedding MC or hosting a work event, the ability to keep an agenda structured and ensure the day flows smoothly is a difficult, but important, skill to acquire.

If you’re based in Kelowna and looking to join a Toastmasters club, you can find more information here.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Can ChatGPT make you a better communicator?

Using AI to communicate

YouTube /Wade Paterson

A few months ago, Open AI released a tool called ChatGPT, which leverages artificial intelligence to answer questions and perform tasks based on prompts it receives.

ChatGPT is beneficial because it can help with tasks such as natural language processing and understanding, which can improve communication and productivity in various industries. Additionally, ChatGPT can also be used to generate human-like texts, which can assist in tasks such as language translation and content creation.

Don’t believe me? You should, because the previous paragraph is not my own writing; in fact, I asked ChatGPT to provide me with two sentences why it is a tool that is beneficial to society, and I copy and pasted the answer it provided into the previous paragraph.

Like many people, my mind has been blown at this artificial intelligence tool’s sophistication and ability to perform challenging tasks within seconds. As an experiment, I wanted to see what kind of advice ChatGPT could deliver regarding how to utilize body language when public speaking. Public speaking is something I have been focused on for years, and I figured my content and YouTube videos could surely provide better advice than some artificial intelligence tool.

But, I was humbled.

Below is the response I received from ChatGPT when asked: “How do I use body language effectively when speaking in public?”

Using body language effectively when speaking in public can help to engage your audience and reinforce your message. Here are a few tips for using body language effectively when speaking in public:
1. Stand up straight and maintain good posture. This will make you look confident and help project your voice.

2. Use gestures to emphasize your points and make your presentation more interesting. Avoid overusing gestures, as this can be distracting.

3. Make eye contact with your audience. This will help to engage them and make them feel like you are speaking directly to them.

4. Use facial expressions to show emotion and help convey your message. Smiling can help to put your audience at ease, while a serious expression can help emphasize an important point.

5. Use your body to move around the stage or presentation area. This can help to keep your audience engaged and prevent them from getting bored.

Overall, they key is to use body language in a natural and authentic way that enhances your message and engages your audience.

Wow! I was blown away by the quality of response that this AI tool delivered. The fourth tip was even one that I personally hadn’t thought of previously when teaching people about effective body language.

Over the past couple months, I’ve had the chance to experiment more with ChatGPT, and I’ve realized there are even more ways it can help us be more impactful communicators.

For example:

• ChatGPT can help you produce blog article ideas if you’re experiencing writer’s block. Try prompting it with: “Give me 10 ideas for blog articles about gardening (or whatever subject you’re interested in)” and watch the results.

• ChatGPT can summarize. If you’ve written a full article, copy/paste it into ChatGPT and ask it to provide you with a headline and a summary.

• ChatGPT can build you a speech. By giving it a few specific prompts on length and subject matter, within seconds the artificial intelligence tool can put together an impressive string of thoughts that may provide inspiration for your next speech.

While this technology is impressive, it’s not perfect. On its website, ChatGPT explains it may occasionally generate incorrect information or biased content. It also has limited knowledge of the world and events prior to 2021.

But, if you haven’t already tried experimenting with ChatGPT’s capabilities, I’d encourage you to give it a go. You can access the tool here.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

What to do 24 hours before giving a speech

Public speaking preparation

YouTube /Wade Paterson

There are a few things you can do 24 hours before delivering a speech that will maximize your chances of finding success and communicating effectively.

Before I break down the specifics to focus on in the last 24 hours, it’s important to note this advice is only helpful if you’ve adequately prepared for your speech in advance and practiced multiple times.

If you’re 24 hours away from giving a speech that you haven’t even started to think about yet, this column, unfortunately, won’t be of much help to you.

24 hours before your speech

Let’s assume it’s 6 p.m. and you’re giving a speech at 6 p.m. the next day. This is the ideal point in time to do one final full run through.

Find a quiet place and practice your speech as if you’re doing the real thing.

In other columns, I’ve talked about presenting in front of family members or friends to get their feedback and constructive criticism. However, I strongly suggest you don’t do that 24 hours before delivering your speech.

At that point in time, you’re committed to the speech you’ve prepared and you likely don’t have time to make significant changes. Feedback from others may negatively impact your confidence, and with only one day to go, you want your confidence to be as high as possible.

10 hours before your speech

You wake up and now there’s 10 hours until you are to deliver your speech.

At this point in time you should quickly go over your notes or slides one last time so they are fresh in your mind. Also, use this as a final check for any resources you may need for your speech.

Are your notes printed off? If you have any slides or visual aids, are those ready to go? Is your laptop charged if you are using it?

One hour before your speech

If it’s possible to get to the venue in advance, this is a great opportunity to understand the layout of the room and the area you will be speaking at.

Whenever possible, I personally like to go to the front of the room and look out at the chairs where people will eventually be seated. In my experience, this has been a game changer in building last-minute confidence, because when I eventually do step on stage, I’m already familiar with the vantage point and I feel more comfortable.

Also, use this opportunity to get familiar with the stage and figure out where you can set your notes if you’re using them.

A few minutes before your speech

It's almost show time!

Use the bathroom and then fill up a glass of water. Even if you think you don’t need water, sometimes our mouths get dry when we speak in front of a group, so it’s best to have water on hand.

Depending on the room layout, if there is a place you can stand to the side before walking directly on stage, try to stand up a few minutes before your speech so your body is ready to go.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


How to give a toast at a holiday party?

Public speaking tips

YouTube /Wade Paterson

With the holiday season coming up, there will likely be opportunities to say a few special words to commemorate gatherings of family members and friends.

It's crazy to think, but sometimes we get more nervous about a toast in front of a small gathering of loved ones than we do to give a lengthy speech in front of hundreds of people.

There are a few reasons for that. First, toasts seem spontaneous, therefore, people will probably not expect you to share your thoughts in a formal manner. Second, speaking in front of strangers is usually less intimidating than formally speaking in front of those we care about.

What I love about toasts is they add a special touch to any occasion. Toasts are a memorable way to formally articulate the way everyone is feeling.
In this column, I will share three important things to consider before delivering a toast over the holidays.

1. Pick your timing

Toasts are best delivered early in the evening, after everyone has arrived at the event. If it’s a dinner party, it’s usually best to wait until everyone is seated at the table and regular conversation has begun. Once there is a bit of a pause in the discussion, pick your moment, stand up, and address the group.

Here is an example of an opening to a hypothetical toast someone could deliver who is hosting their family who, let’s pretend, hasn’t been together for years:

“If I could get everyone’s attention, I’d like to say a few words.

“It’s been three years since the last time we were all under one roof. Back then, Sue and John were newlyweds. Now they have a child. Abby was in college and now she has an exciting career. Justin was single and now, well, Justin, you’re still single.

“All kidding aside, I forgot how much I missed gatherings like this until each of you walked through the door earlier this evening. They say family is what makes a house a home, and I certainly feel that this evening.

“Three years is a long time, but seeing you all here this evening confirms it has been worth the wait.
With that in mind, let’s raise our glasses and toast: To family.”

2. Keep it short and sweet

There’s nothing worse than someone who goes on and on during an unsolicited speaking opportunity. Toasts aren’t the time for long, drawn out stories. Instead, aim to speak for one to two minutes. Share a few nice words, perhaps sprinkle in a bit of humour, and try to wrap it up concisely.

The other thing to note is the actual thing you toast to should be short and easy to remember. For example, instead of saying: “Let’s raise our glasses and toast to wonderful family memories that will last a lifetime,” simply say: “Let’s raise our glasses and toast to family.”

The longer the toasting phrase, the more likely people will forget what you’re toasting to and stumble over their words.

3. The host should (usually) toast

In most cases, the host should be the one to deliver a toast.

If you want to give a toast at a party you aren’t hosting, you should definitely check with this host before delivering your own toast. You want to make sure he or she wasn’t planning on saying something, and even if they’re not, they will appreciate you asking before stepping up and doing it.

If you do deliver a toast at an event you’re not hosting, take the opportunity to thank the host before diving further into whatever you’re hoping to say.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

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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