Let me close the “Toastmasters blogging week” by informing you about a great Toastmasters event in Madrid next May 7th.
We will celebrate the Division Conference in Madrid (this is happening in Madrid only once about every 4 years). It will be open to all kind of participants. You don’t need to be already a member to take part in it.
There will be some very interesting presentations but most important of all, there will be 3 speaking contests: public speaking contest in Spanish and English and evaluation contest. There it will be decided who are the champions for Spain & Portugal, who will compete in the next level. It will be a big show, where you’ll be able to meet many people, learn a lot and put an end to the day with a wonderful gala dinner. There is a wonderful team working to make it a great event.
Even though I am now based in Toulouse, I’ll go to Madrid that day to take part in that event as the contest chairman, in case you hesitate whether to join the event not knowing anyone (you’ll at least know me!).
Yesterday I posted the speech I gave at Rosemasters club last Saturday. As I mentioned there, on Saturday we celebrated the contests of the club.
This is a special occasion every year. Actually, there are two such special occasions in the year. In the spring we celebrate the speech contest and the evaluation contest, while in the fall we celebrate the humorous speech contest and the table topics contest (this last one is about improvisation).
Normally, in weekly meetings, members do not compete. The contrary, the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting you to speak in front of a friendly audience. As the mission of the clubs reads “The mission of a Toastmasters club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every individual member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.”
Nevertheless, some of our members (~5% of them) like to take the opportunity to compete, to prove themselves how they can improve and enjoy facing new and bigger audiences with every upper step of the competition. The competition also puts you an extra point of stress that it’s very good to learn how to handle it.
I have taken part in such contests, and even though I haven’t won, I can tell it’s a wonderful and unique experience. You really prepare and polish your speeches, paying attention to every detail. Then, the day of the contest is for you to enjoy it.
I remember when I competed in Lisbon in April 2009. It was a big auditorium, filled with about 100 people. They offered us to use a micro. I turned down the offer. I thought: “when am I going to have the chance to try if I can project my voice to the last corner of the room? And with such a friendly audience”. When the contest finished, I went to check with a woman sitting at the very back of the room whether she could hear me well. She could. That was my victory for that day.
By now, everybody probably has heard about the octopus Paul picking winners of World Cup football matches. So far, it got right all the results of Germany. Today it picked Spain as winner of the final next Sunday. See the video of its memorable performance in CNN.
First thought: what a monumental charade this is! Second thought I had today at work: what if Paul was picking stocks for an investment fund?
The thought is not that out of the box: Burton G. Malkiel in his 1973 book, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” (which I strongly recommend), suggested that a blindfolded monkey throwing darts to select stocks wouldn’t do worse than professional fund managers.
The Wall Street Journal went a step further and tried to prove the point. They did so organizing the 6-months Dartboard contest in 1988, a contest that continued along 14 years in more than a hundred 6-months periods. They didn’t use a monkey but the newspaper staff and they weren’t blindfolded. Nevertheless, the stock picks were quite random. See the explanation of that fun story in this article from Goergette Jansen a few months before the contest was to be finished in 2002.
So, how did the “monkey” do against the pros? Dartboard picks won the contest 39% of the times while pros won 61% of them. So, the pros got better results the majority of the time. Nevertheless, think that 39% of the times you would have been better off leaving your investments decisions to the darts, a monkey or octopus Paul (call it the way you want) than professional managers who get paid to maximize your returns… uh.
After those 14 years, pros racked up an average of 10.2% gain while the darts got a 3.5% gain (this is way better than my company-sponsored BBVA pension fund…).
So, next time you jokingly comment on Paul, think that you might as well ask him where to put your money and even get better results than when listening to the advice of the broker of your bank…
Two weeks ago I attended the Toastmasters District 59 Conference, “Springtime at the Beach”, in The Hague. This was the first time I attended such a conference, and I was impressed at the level of the speakers and the organization of the conference itself.
Being an Area Governor, for me the event lasted two days and half, starting on Friday June 4th afternoon with an executive committee meeting, following with the start of the conference, later the evaluation contest and a party with divisions showcase. That wasn’t a slow start.
On Saturday we had some workshops, the elections of new officers and the international speech contest. The way the conference, workshops and elections are held reminded me very much of my time at AEGEE and how there the Agorae were held; even some of the topics covered are similar, the way sometimes the focus is put on the procedure and not on listening at length to what the candidates plan to do if elected, etc…
On Sunday we had more workshops and the training for the new district officers (namely Division and Area Governors).
International Speech Contest. This is the main attraction of the event. We could say that we paid the 135€ fee of it to attend this contest. We had 10 speeches, one representing each division. As I wrote above, the level was very high. I couldn’t see a clear winner; a prove of that is that only one of my 3 favourites came among the 3 first ones. The winner, Na Elom Amouh, told us about his journey from Togo to Munich and how we should never give up in the pursuit of our dreams. A motivational speech. In general, most speeches in these competitions tend to call the audience for noble purposes, inspire good behaviours, etc. I must admit that some of those speeches do get to move you.
Evaluation Contest. Here, the participants had to evaluate a very good speech from former District Gov Christopher Magyar. This is not an easy task, as it is always more difficult to find points of improvement. Even though in this contest the level was very high as well, with very analytical and encouraging evaluations, this time my 3 favourites came in the first 3 positions, the winner being Tara Majumdar.
Miscellanea. There are many small details, side happenings, different situations that contribute to enlarge the baggage the one takes from the conference.
The landscape surrounding the conference letting members to relax.
The music being played in the plenary sessions, especially the banners parade bringing up the spirits of all attendees.
The chance to have meals in the terrace.
The wonderful garden for the gala party and the party at the beach.
The attentive organisers… the continuous availability of stroop waffles, coffees, etc.
The counting of votes behind the scenes… when each one is coming up with a different number!
The entertaining way in which chairs conducted the contests.
The experience of tweeting the event (from @TM_Madrid and @javierirastorza)…
Learning experience. Overall, the conference is an intense learning experience. You learn how others organise officers’ trainings, set up clubs, give recognition to members, set up workshops, and use different techniques and skills in public speaking… To end this post I wanted to remark two workshops that I attended and especially liked:
Pecha Kucha: this is a presentation technique originally from Japan that consists of preparing a presentation that consists of 20 slides, each one lasting 20 seconds and that will run automatically. You, the presenter, can’t stop it so you need to time yourself to precisely convey your different messages when each slide is being shown. It was very dynamic and I think it’s a nice challenge to try it one day. Check out the calendar of Pecha Kucha nights in different cities around the World.
Youth Leadership Program: this is Toastmasters program for youngsters. A couple of Toastmasters explained how they have carried it in a school with teenagers. From what I saw, it must be a very rewarding experience, a way to give back something to society and at the same time a way to help young students improve their skills. This is also another challenge I might try one day.
Next District conference… in Barcelona; I’ve already booked my place there!