Friday, February 27, 2009

Look deep into my eyes.......

How important is it to have eye contact with your audience?

Probably bigger than you imagine ... especially if you consider it is an extension of the impact that eye contact makes in one-on-one conversations.

I read a great little article on the Greatness Project blog where they said...
... That direct, deep look fosters a connection which creates great moments of creativity, collaboration, intimacy and a host of other positive behaviors. When I connect in this manner, or someone connects with me, the ability to create something positive is almost effortless because by the simple action of
looking someone in the eye, I acknowledge their personhood, uniqueness and contribution.
Wow, those are pretty strong words for a simple concept like "eye contact"... but when was the last time you really noticed it?

I was at a tradeshow (for Toastmasters, as a matter of fact) in Bridgeport, CT and noticed that the people who made eye contact during a conversation seemed to have a much better "connection" and seemed to be listening better than those that did not maintain eye contact.

(And, to be fair, I noticed when I was not maintaining eye contact ... so the gaps in connection could have been my fault too.)

How can you improve your "Eye Contact"?
This is what they said over at The Greatness Project blog...
I make sure I see the color of their eyes. If I don't know the color of their eyes at the end of the conversation, I know I have not looked at them.
Interesting concept.... care to try it the next time you are having a conversation with someone? How about when you are speaking to a small audience... like at a Toastmasters meeting?

Leave a comment below and let us know how it worked for you !

Toastmasters at Bridgeport (CT) Business Expo

A number of Toastmasters, led by Peggy Jean, President of Greater Bridgeport Toastmasters, worked at a Toastmasters booth at the Bridgeport Business Expo today (Feb.27th, 2009).

The event was well attended and plenty of potential Toastmasters stopped by the booth to learn more about what we do.
What really surprised me was the GREAT response we got at the Bridgeport Business Expo. It is hard to tell how many of the people we spoke with will become members, but it was definitely worth the time and effort.

The Toastmasters who worked at the booth got a chance to stretch their communication skills in many new ways since working a tradeshow booth requires many different types of communication.
You have to 1) be able to "break the ice" with someone walking by ("Have you heard of Toastmasters?" worked pretty well for me), 2) be able to explain Toastmasters quickly to someone who may not be interested (yet) and finally, 3) find out how Toastmasters can help them (through questions and your own knowledge of & experience with TM).
This type of interaction is not something that happens every day and certainly not in the volume that we saw in Bridgeport. Overall, it was an excellent experience and I would encourage other Toastmasters to try it themselves... just be sure to wear good shoes (the concrete floors are tough on the feet).

Some booths offered prizes to entice visitors to stop at their booths but we really did not have anything to offer in Bridgeport (not even candy) but we did pretty well even so. I've done many tradeshows and I think it does not hurt to have a prize.
On the other hand, you have to be careful not to rely on the prize to get people's contact information... it is better to actually talk to them and generate real interest. If you rely on the prize to get names, you end up with leads that are less likely to turn into guests and could end up wasting someone's time following up.
Peggy Jean (behind the Bridgeport Mayor's Lecturn)

2nd from Top:
Mayor Bill Finch drew a good crowd for his brief (encouraging) comments.
3rd from Top:
District 53 Governor, Karin von Kaenel along with Peggy Jean at the Toastmasters booth. (This was before the expo got started since the crowds made it difficult to move after a while.)
4th from top:
Dave Wheeler, D53 Lt.Gov.-Marketing, at the Mayor's Lectern... which just only goes to prove that if you set up a microphone and a lecturn... a Toastmaster will find it !

The representative of CT's Governor reads the announcement from the governor. D53's former PRO, De Boone, also was helping out the organizers of the event and is seen in the white shirt to the right side of the lecturn !
D53 Toastmasters are EVERYWHERE !

Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Lost" members?

Are you focusing on the positive or the negative aspects?
I got an email today about a layoff at a company in District 53 where we have a corporate club. In the email, the writer talked about how they "lost some of their club officers" due to the layoff.

Are the people who are laid off really LOST?
Certainly they won't have their membership paid for by their old company anymore, but chances are they still have some time left on the current paid membership (or they may be able to negotiate a renewal into their exit package).

These members are definitely not lost... they are simply in the process of transitioning to another Toastmasters club where they can expand their personal network of connections and possibly find an even better job!

It does no good to dwell on things in the past... and by leveraging their Toastmasters experience these "lost members" will be miles ahead of others in the job market !
... there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it
so. ...
- Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, scene 2
You control what you choose to focus on.

Make it something that moves you in a positive direction !

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reminder: DiversityUSA Advanced TM meeting tonight!

DiversityUSA Advanced Toastmasters will be meeting TONIGHT at 7:15-8:45pm, Ridgefield (CT) Library, History Room.

Dave Wheeler is hoping to give a speech and would appreciate your expert evaluations! If someone else has a speech that they would like to have evaluated, please let us know and we can put you on the agenda.

Be sure to bring your tips & ideas to pass along to our fellow members !

Guests are welcome too !

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Smartest Thing I Ever Did...

There is a "meme" or recurring idea / topic floating around blogs on the internet about "The Smartest Thing I Ever Did..." and Div.E Governor, Croix Sather, forwarded me this link...
In his blog article, Thom Singer says ...

One Of The Smartest Things I Ever Did was.... join a Toastmasters club.

...I timidly attended my first meeting of the Balcones Toastmasters Club in Austin, Texas ....and discovered that I was not alone in my fears. Over the next few years I improved both my abilities and my confidence in delivering presentations.

What is the Smartest Thing you've ever done?

The smartest thing I've ever done (aside from joining Toastmasters which is obviously a "given") was probably getting married... but not for the reason you might think.

Some people may not know that I am currently divorced which makes it even stranger that I still consider getting married one of the smartest things I've ever done.

The reason is that, in hindsight, I can recognize that while the relationship with my wife was not always "easy", I definitely appreciate how much it made me grow as a person.

I have a better appreciation for the dynamics of relationships now. I can empathize with other people more than I did before. I have a clearer understanding of my own point of view and have even developed (a few) better habits as a result of my marriage.

Don't get the wrong idea. I'm definitely still a "work-in-process" and there were many reasons the relationship did not work out but I would not trade my marriage for anything.

How about you? What was the smartest thing you ever did?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy(?) Groundhog Day

Roger Brown, past District 53 Governor, reminded me that today (Feb.2nd) is Groundhog Day... which, in turn, reminded me of the Bill Murray movie of the same name.

I always thought that Groundhog Day (the movie, not the "holiday") had a great lesson for life and, besides, I'm a big fan of Bill Murray and can't resist the opportunity to use his movies to make a point.
Unrelated line from the movie:
[to the groundhog who he's holding behind the wheel of the truck he's driving... see picture to the right.]
Don't drive angry. Do not drive angry.
Back to the story ...
In the movie, Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) repeats the same day (Groundhog Day) over and over again. He is in some sort of "time loop" and he can remember everything that happened in the previous days (even though no one else can).

Analogy ... or is it a Metaphor?
Have you ever gotten into a rut where you were running the same "loop" over and over again? ... going to work every day, doing the same thing, day in and day out? And then you realized that a month had passed ... or a year ... or more ... without any progress being made toward the things that were really important in your life?

If so, you could be living in your own, personal "Groundhog Day".

What does Phil Connors do to get out of his Groundhog Day?
At first, he gets depressed and figures life is not worth living... especially since he is a "big city person" trapped in small town Punxsutawney, PA.
Phil: I've been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned.
Rita: Oh, really?
Phil: ...and every morning I wake up without a scratch on me, not a dent in the fender... I am an immortal.

Eventually, Phil realizes that he can become involved in the lives of the people around him and find activities that he enjoys.

He catches a boy who falls out of a tree and he helps 3 old ladies who get a flat tire. He talks to nearly every local person and learns what "makes them tick".
Phil: Nancy, she works in a dress shop... and she makes sounds like a chipmunk when she gets really excited.

He takes up the piano and progresses from a lowly beginner to eventually playing in the band featured at the Groundhog Day celebration.
Piano Teacher: Not bad... Mr. Connors, you say this is your first lesson?
Phil: Yes, but my father was a piano *mover*, so...

And he also finds love. (It is a Hollywood movie after all.)

What about you?
On this Groundhog Day, are you going to make a change? Or are you going to continue in your rut?

The one thing that I learned from watching (and re-watching) Groundhog Day is that "Small changes, done often, can accumulate to produce amazing results!"

What will you have to show for your life next month or next year?

What are going to work into your life?

Find the time. Make the time.

It is your life !

Happy Groundhog Day !

[Side Note to District Conference organizers: I wonder if we could get Bill to speak at one of our District conferences? I think he lives in upstate NY.]