John Concannon, VP Membership

Do you remember the first time you attended a Toastmasters meeting? I remember my first time.

A friend of mine had been hounding me to go with her for a couple of years. “This is right up your alley. You’ll like it!” she told me.

I was intrigued by the concept, but not by the 7 am start time. Once I got over my lazy attitude, I attended my first meeting as a guest.

When the meeting was over, I was greeted warmly by someone who spent a few moments asking me if I had any questions and talking to me about what Toastmasters is all about.

While I don’t remember exactly who it was that I spoke to, I do know that I walked away from that initial meeting with a very positive impression of Park City Toastmasters.

If I were to attend a meeting as a guest today, I would probably find myself in a conversation afterwards with John Concannon.

As our current Vice President Membership, it’s John’s job to greet guests at the meetings and talk with them afterward to see if they have any questions he can answer. He also responds to email inquiries about our club and tries to increase membership.

Jon has been a Park City Toastmaster for about three years. Like many of us, John was intrigued by Toastmasters but couldn’t find time to make a formal commitment at first. A period of unemployment gave him the time he needed to explore it and decide that he liked it – so much so that he’s also served as Co-President and Treasurer.

His favorite part of Toastmasters is that, “It pushes me to do things I wouldn’t normally do and it’s an outlet for creativity.”

What Jon wants our members and potential members to know is that they, “… shouldn’t feel burdened by the responsibilities of making long speeches. Speeches are an opportunity to learn more about yourself.”

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jon Henry, Founder/Treasurer

Do you like being a part of Park City Toastmasters? If so, you have Jon Henry to thank. He’s the Founder of our Club and has been deeply involved with all aspects of it for the past ten years.

In 2000, Jon was looking to get involved in the community somehow. A friend of his, Joel Mitchell, who started the Hope Alliance, suggested that Jon start a Toastmasters club. Jon was a preacher at the time and thought this might be a good idea.

While he felt very comfortable speaking in front of large groups, he said his greatest fear at the time was, “…public speaking to a small group of people that I don’t know, like the first day of class in public school. Terrifying.”

He started looking for information online and discovered that there was another person in the community who was also trying to start a TM club. This person was Allen Stockbridge, a real estate agent with a lot of connections.

The two met with some Toastmasters from Salt Lake to discuss how to start a club and and then got busy making contacts, recruiting members, and advertising on KPCW, PCTV and the Park Record.

Within a month they had a commitment from twenty people, the minimum number of participants required to start a club.

Jon’s been attending Toastmasters meetings and doing behind the scenes work for a solid ten years now.

He’s been President, Vice President Education, and Vice President Membership. He’s been asked to be an Area Representative and can see himself as Area Governor or Division Governor in the future.

For now, he’s happy working on his speeches, competing whenever he gets the chance, and acting as our Club Treasurer.

He’s the guy who collects dues, submits new member applications and their fees to TM International, manages the bank account, check book, and credit card, and is responsible for buying supplies, resources, and breakfast once a month.

When I asked him what keeps him going, considering Toastmasters can be a very transient organization – people come for a period of time, achieve their goals (or not) and move on – he told me this, “It took me about two seconds to fall in love with Toastmasters. One, it’s a very hands on way to practice and improve not only communication but leadership skills. Two, people share themselves on a deeper level than any other setting and you develop another family of close friends.”

This “second family” really gelled on the morning of September 11, 2001. “We were at the Hampton Inn when 9/11 went down. Our second family was processing this, watching on a tv, and we just hung out there for a couple of hours. That was a hard thing to go through together.” But he’s happy to have had such a great group of people to process it with.

There have been many more good times as well. Jon appreciates that in Toastmasters, he’s able to creatively express who he is. “It’s also a lot of fun,” he says, “to see the group respond and accept me and enjoy my style… There’s a quirky side of me that loves to be strange and fun.”

Jon has also been mentor to countless members through the years. He’s always willing to share his knowledge and he has an understated style that keeps his mentees accountable and motivates them to do their best.

We thank Jon for always doing his best!

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Out for a few weeks

Sometimes life takes over and you don’t have as much time to dedicate to Toastmasters as you’d like. I’ve missed the last two meetings – one I planned for, one I didn’t – and now I’m going to have to miss another meeting in two weeks.

That’s okay, though. It’s the nature of Toastmasters that people come and go as they please and put as little or as much as they want into it.

I attended a TM conference not too long ago. What I learned in the PR break out session is that it’s sometimes tough for clubs to even hold meetings because there are times when so few people show up that each person ends up filling multiple roles. For whatever reason, members aren’t very committed to the club which results in a less than fulfilling experience.

I think it must be a vicious cycle they get into. They can’t get momentum because people aren’t motivated and if people aren’t motivated they can’t work up any momentum.

We’re lucky in our club because lots of members put a whole lot into it. It’s so much easier to pursue your own goals when you’re surrounded with people working hard to pursue theirs, don’t you think?

We kind of smile and shake our heads at what a good thing we have going at our club at the moment. Because I’ve never attended another club’s meeting I can’t say for sure what the magic ingredient is for us.

Oh no, I feel myself coming up with an assignment for myself. Yep. There it is. I’m going to attend a different TM meeting and see how different or similar our club is. As soon as I do, I’ll give you all the details. Stay tuned…

Published in: on February 27, 2010 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tracy, The VP Education

I’ve been a member of Park City Toastmasters for about a year and a half (minus a few month’s hiatus when I freaked myself out and withdrew from the club because I couldn’t think of a speech topic. I’ll talk about that another time).

I remember when I first started attending, I very much appreciated the consistency of the meetings, how well they were run and the decidedly professional atmosphere.

But, I had a lot of questions. Nothing burning, just general wondering about what everyone’s roles were and why they were doing what they were doing.

I noticed that Julio often said things before the meeting started. Sometimes Lynn seemed to be in charge, and Jon Henry sure did a lot. Then Tracy came on the scene in a much bigger way… but I didn’t know how it all worked.

As part of an ongoing series, I’ll be interviewing the officers of our club to let them shed some light on what exactly it is they do.

Yesterday, I sat with Tracy Harden, our VP of Education, and asked her to talk to me about her role. I found out she does a lot more than I (and probably  you) knew.

She told me her primary responsibility in this role is to, “Shepherd our membership through achieving the Competent Communicator, Competent Leadership, and advanced awards.”

It’s also her job to make sure everyone understands how the manuals work, and then to submit the paperwork to TM Int’l so that the member can receive his or her certificate.

In case you didn’t realize it, every time you finish a manual you receive an award for having completed it. You should also receive an in-club recognition after your fifth speech. (If you’re coming up on yours, email Tracy and let her know so we can acknowledge you.)

If that’s not enough, she’s also in charge of all the contests, which is a pile of work in and of itself!

We have several members who are near completion on a variety of manuals (including me), and Tracy has been busy making sure the schedule has allowed for them to complete those goals.

She pointed out that her role works a little differently within the context of our club. In most clubs, the VP Education assigns members their roles every week.

Our club is so large and so dynamic that people need a lot of flexibility to assign themselves. She manages our schedule on Google Docs to make sure the roles are filled, but it’s up to the members to schedule themselves.

If the schedule gets too full and people have to wait too long to speak, she’ll often set up an “advanced” meeting, usually on a Thursday, to give more people an opportunity to speak or perform other roles.

When I asked Tracy how she likes being the VP of Education, she told me, “It forced me to really understand the Toastmaster goals, how to achieve individually, and what it takes to get the Competent Leadership and Competent Communicator awards.”

It also forced her to examine what makes a great club. Serving in this role allows her to see what goes on at other clubs and it quickly became obvious what high achievers we have in Park City. She says, “We should be proud of how dynamic and professional we are.”

On a personal level, this role has allowed Tracy to build confidence in her speaking and leadership ability. It has made her a more fluid speaker at work and she finds it has heightened her community involvement.

She told me her nightstand at home is stacked with books about public speaking and leadership. Looks like the seed she planted in Toastmasters has taken root at home.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 4:58 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I didn’t do as well as I hoped in the Tall Tales contest. I got either 4th, 5th, or 6th place. The awards only went up to third.

I’m disappointed I didn’t even place, and to be honest, I allowed myself a few minutes to feel bad about all the work I put in for what was, at first glance, so little payoff.

But then I switched gears and decided to give myself a thoughtful evaluation that would include not only things to improve, but things I should give myself credit for.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. In hindsight it was pretty stupid of me to not have even glanced at the judging criteria before giving the speech. I should have known going in EXACTLY what they were looking for. Can you imagine a gymnast preparing an entire floor routine without knowing she’ll be judged on the difficulty of her flips? Man, that was dumb.

2. Hearing the other speakers’ stories, it occurred to me that mine was probably more of a fantasy story than a true tall tale. Another rookie mistake. One must follow the basic directions!

3. I don’t know how this played in the scoring, but the top three speakers all used accents (two southern, one French). I need to look into that.

4. I didn’t use my notes one bit. Being able to do that was an accomplishment for me and tells me that if I properly prepare, I CAN succeed under pressure.

5. Competition or not, I had a lot of fun practicing performing in front of everyone. I still get the feeling that I’m out of my head whenever I give a speech, but that can only improve with practice. Today I had the chance to practice.

6. I really did do my very best. I could have chosen not to compete at all and stayed completely safe in the audience. I’m proud of myself for at least accepting the challenge.

I’m sure there’s more, but those are the ones that come to the top of my head.

My advice to those who want to enter a speaking competition? Do it. Even though there was only one first place certificate, I still feel like a winner. (Okay, I don’t feel that good yet, but if I say it doesn’t that make it so?)

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” True dat.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm  Comments (1)  

Final Preparation Before Tall Tales Contest

Tomorrow is the Tall Tales contest at our club and I have a lot of mixed feelings.

On the one hand I feel pretty good about the story I’m going to tell. I’ve spent this past week honing it the best I can and now all I have to do is work on the presentation.

On the other hand I’m nervous, because every once in a while, I start wondering how my story will stack up against the competition. I know this is a total waste of energy.

I have absolutely no control over how others will perform so I’m trying hard to stay focused on things I can do to make my own performance the best it can be.

Unfortunately, the last time I gave a speech I thought I had the whole thing memorized. I thought I was all prepared to go notes-free. Less than a minute into the speech I completely froze, lost my train of thought, and had to get my notes from my seat. It was sort of humiliating.

I really want to make sure this doesn’t happen in the competition, so I’ve been reading up on how to overcome speech anxiety. I found these tips from Toastmasters International that are to the point and easy to implement (http://www.toastmasters.org/tips.htm). Cross your fingers that they work…

Gotta go now. I’m about to go implement tip #2: practice, practice, practice!

Published in: on February 8, 2010 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Two Speeches, Two Best Speaker Awards

Jude Anker joined our club in November 2009. She had a goal to bang out some great speeches — and so far she’s had tremendous success. Her first two times at the podium she won best speaker of the day. Not bad for a beginner!

I sat down with Jude to talk about her second speech, titled, “What is Beauty?”

Her speech, which was about how people define beauty in a multitude of ways, was successful because she got to the point, she wasn’t afraid to show her vulnerability, and she chose to deliver the speech in a very informal, almost conversational manner.

What no one could have guessed after having heard her speak was that at 10:00 pm the night before, she threw away the speech she had been working on for a week and started completely over.

When I asked her why she told me, “The original speech was about my difficult relationship with my dad. While I was trying to keep the speech upbeat, the darkness of it is what kept showing through. I asked my nine year old to listen to me practice and when it was over she came up to me, gave me a big hug, and told me she loved me, like she felt a little sad for me. It was then I was like, whoa, I’m not ready to talk about this.”

Afterward, Jude started watching the Grammys and flipping through a People magazine while she tried to gather her thoughts.

Watching Lady Ga Ga on tv and reading about Nicole Kidman in People gave her the idea to talk about something she might discuss with her girlfriends.

She wrote the speech in less than an hour, but felt more connected to this “superficial” story than to the one about her dad.

She says it’s because, “Jumping into something superficial actually took me to a deeper place of vulnerability. In the speech about my dad, I realized I was trying to hide myself at the same time I was trying to reveal myself. It simply didn’t work.”

When I asked Jude why she decided to write a whole new speech instead of giving up her slot and trying another time, she told me, “I didn’t think it would be too nice to give up the spot. I’m committed to Toastmasters and I knew I had to buck up and see if I could do it. I was prepared to fall on my face or get sucked into a jack rabbit hole. Luckily that didn’t happen.”

Jude just launched her own website, mitzeke.com that’s all about her “journey to discover her soul’s purpose.”

She’s looking forward to her next speech. As are we all!

Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tall Tales Competition… No Small Undertaking

Next Tuesday is the Tall Tales Competition at our club. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to participate in any contest I’m eligible for so when the first competition was announced, I threw my name in the hat.

On the one hand I was excited. On the other hand, I thought, “Now I have to think of a Tall Tale! I probably haven’t read, let alone written one, since the seventh grade… Rats!”

So what did I do next? I caused myself a whole lot of stress at the idea of having to write a speech. And I worried about it for a few weeks without sitting down to write a single word.

Luckily, after one of our Tuesday meetings I took a second to talk to Jon Henry about all the trouble I was having coming up with a concept.

He gave me this little tidbit: take a single experience from your own life, whether it’s childhood or parenthood or whatever, and exaggerate it like crazy.

I thought, “Bingo! I can do that.” The next day as I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office, I pulled out my computer and started typing.

At first, I began describing an event that happened to me in Middle School. Slowly but surely that story morphed into a complete Tall Tale.

I should not have been surprised when the final story came rushing through my fingers onto the keyboard. After nine speeches, I ought to know by now that that’s my process.

If I will just sit down to do the work, the work will get done. Duh.

I don’t know if I’ve written the winning Tall Tale, but I do know I’m glad I’m in the contest and I’ve had a lot of fun making up a silly story. Thanks, Jon!

Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 9:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Hello Park City Toastmasters!

Hello Toastmasters!

The purpose of this blog is to share our experiences as members of the Park City Toastmasters club. Come to this blog to find out how your fellow members experience Toastmasters.

I’ll be interviewing a different member every week so you’ll be able to read about everything from how some of our more advanced members prepare their speeches to how our newer members overcome the sometimes nerve wracking jitters that hit as soon as they commit to their first speech.

By sharing our stories, I’m hoping we’ll all be able to gain inspiration from one another and push each other to reach our goals, no matter how large or small.

Come back often, post comments, get involved. It’s all about you!

Enjoy!

Published in: on February 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment