Tag Archives: Toastmasters

The 7 Minute Star (book review)

Some weeks ago I read “The Seven Minute Star”, by Florian Mueck. Florian is a fellow Toastmaster from one of the clubs in Barcelona who I met some years ago in a division conference in Madrid.

He is a very energetic speaker and I remember that he came in 2nd in the International Speech contest in that division conference. I have seen him some other times along these years. In one of those occasions, I believe in Porto, he mentioned that he was writing a book. I remember him mentioning something about some stairs, a way to the top, etc. And about a year later here I am, having read the book and writing the review.

The book is a quick guide to become a proficient public speaker by following 15 steps (confidence, transparency, first sentence, eye contact, voice, body language, visual aids, structure, rhetoric, anecdotes, quotations, humor, enthusiasm, passion, and smile). It is a very easy and enjoyable read (~100 pgs.) with lots of stories and examples. If you have no previous experience in public speaking, the book is a very informative guide.

If you are a member of Toastmasters, you may have noticed that the Toastmasters program covers many of those steps in the book, though he adds some more tips: for example, the smile (then you recall having always seen Florian smiling!) or the stress in the use of quotations (though I may disagree in the approach! I would say “read a lot and pick some quotes out of what you’ve read” instead of learning some quotes right away).

Another good point is that in the book he presents some tools he has developed, for example the “speech development template”. I recommend you to pay a visit to his website, where other tools (speech evaluation template) and analysis are available.

If you would like to know more about Toastmasters and you happen to live in or nearby Madrid, take the opportunity to attend the Division Conference of Toastmasters next Saturday May 7th in Madrid.

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Great Toastmasters Conference in Madrid (May 7th)

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!).

Check the website of the event, “Madrid Conference 2011: Dare to fly, dare to shine!” and register to it (there is an early bird discount if you register before end of March).

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How does Toastmasters Work

I realize that I have often talked about Toastmasters in this blog (last days included), shared the script of some of my speeches, etc… but I have not dedicated a post just to explain what Toastmasters is.

I found a video where Lance Miller explains in just 7 minutes the Toastmasters experience. Lance Miller is one member of Toastmasters who after working hard for years and trying several times won the World Championship of public speaking in 2005. I had the chance of attending a conference in Lisbon in 2009 where he gave a presentation; he is a great and a very motivating speaker. You can see it in the video.

If you want to know more about Toastmasters, no matter where you live in the world, most probably there is Toastmasters club nearby, check it out.  If you are one of my acquaintances and happen to live in Madrid, please, note that there are 5 clubs in Madrid. Find them here.

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Learning from contests

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.

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Snowball (Compound interest)

I wanted to share with you in this post a speech I gave last Saturday at Rosemasters club contest. I was not contesting but a speech was needed for the evaluation contest, so I volunteered.

Why do I share this speech in particular? Not because it was especially good (nor especially bad), but because it has some insights that could help some of you in case you hadn’t reflected on them or made the numbers yourself.

I titled the speech “Snowball” but a more suitable title would have been “Snowball, or the beauty of compound interest”. Please, note that the metaphor of the snowball it’s not mine, so no need to praise my originality here. I borrowed it from Alison Schroeder’s biography of Warren Buffett “Snowball”, which I reviewed in other post in this blog (I take the opportunity to recommend the book again).

Below you can watch the video uploaded in Youtube (from the second 0:42 some helping hand lifts the camera, please be patient during those first seconds). Below the video I share the script of the speech so you can actually see the formula and the charts I showed. Reflect on it; it may help you a lot a long way down the road.

—–

Script:

“How many of you used to play with snow when you were a child?

Do you remember what the process you followed to build snowballs was? You started by making a small ball with your hands, like this. Then, you left it on the ground and let it roll over itself, so it was gaining more snowflakes and thus getting a bit bigger with every roll… for you it was a small effort, and after some time of rolling and rolling over, you easily could end up with big snowball like this.

Mr Contest chair, fellow members and guests,

Today I haven’t come to talk about snow. I want

  1. to explain the concept of compound interest
  2. to show how important it can be for or future and
  3. maybe to persuade you to take some action.

Let’s start:

This is the formula.

It shows what is the future value (FV) of an investment’s present value (PV) that gains a fixed interest rate (i) for n periods.

To put it simple, it means that the interest that we earn over the investment in the first year, will enter the calculation in the second year. In a very similar way that small snowflakes are making the snowball bigger.

  • The importance of compound interest for our future.

Who is the younger member of the audience today? I will ask you one question, let me see if I get the answer I want.

Are you saving and investing with your retirement in mind? Do you have pension plan or fund?

An extremely important factor in this discussion is that time in the formula appears in the exponent. This means the longer the time period, the better. Or put it in another way, the sooner we start investing or saving, the better.

I made two quick calculations to show you. Imagine a 25 year old person who just started working. If he or she is able to save 250 euros per month, that is 3,000 euros per year, and puts it in a conservative fund which earns 3% a year… by the time he is 65 he will have around 230.000€. His yearly contribution would have been 123.000€. So another 110.000€ will have come from the interest. He will practically have doubled his money.

On the other hand, take a 50 year old person who never saved any money beforehand. He will have to save it in only the last 15 years of his working life. To make the comparison, I supposed that he contributed the same 123.000€ in those 15 years, for this he has to save 8.200 per year or 680€ per month… when he is 65 he will have 150.000€, having earned about 30.000€ from the interests, 4 times less!

Effect of a 3% compound interest over 40 years.

If the young person would invest in more volatile asset, for example the stock market, which historically earns about 8% every year, the new figures would be these ones.

  • 840.000 – earning 720.000 from interests
  • 222.000 – earning 100.000 from interests / 7 times less.

Effect of a 8% compound interest over 40 years.

Finally, with this discussion I wanted to explain little bit the compound interest, how it is making your savings grow, and even though at the beginning the growth seems very slow this is because the growth with time is exponential and we human beings are not very patient, thus it is important to start early saving small amounts, as snowflakes… in the end you will have a big snowball.

Start saving and see you at the retirement age.”

—–

Final comment: as you may have noticed there several passages when what I say differs from the script. I didn’t learn it by heart. During my first speeches in Toastmasters I tried to do so. Now I am departing from that approach. However, I do write the speech to give it a clear structure, to polish some parts, spot words I may have difficulty in pronouncing (so I can replace them for others) and count the amount of words so I am sure it fits in 5 to 7 minutes (often 7’30”… never more or fellow Toastmasters will start clapping).

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Start blogging

Today it’s been a year since I started this blog. I wrote the first post on February 9th 2010, and went live a few days later. I had been musing the idea of starting it for some months plus some people close to me encouraged me to do so as well.

In the end I decided to give it a try. Initially, I took it as a learning process: It would force me to learn what that of blogging was, some etiquette about them, etc… Few days after the starting the blog I created my Twitter account and gave it a try with some other tools… still, there are many other tools and applications that I still have to learn and use.

During those days I had the simile in my head of our previous generation: some of them are not even using the internet for as little as 10% of the things we use it for (buying things, social media, reading the papers, watching videos, etc.). It all started because some years ago they did not push themselves to try it, when it was all starting. This was what moved me to start. Who knows how the Internet will evolve from now to 10 years time? But what it is sure is that it won’t go backwards, so we better do as much as we can not to stay behind.

I just finished reading the book “Todo va a cambiar”, by Enrique Dans (in Spanish; I may write about the book soon), in the last chapters you may read the following passage:

“¿Debe […] empezar un blog? La respuesta es clara y concisa: si no lo ha hecho hasta ahora, sí”

Starting the blog is relatively easy; you just need to follow the instructions of any of the free blogging services. Continuing with it is a bit more difficult. You need to be creative, think about more or less valuable ideas that you want to transmit: During this first year I have written 120 posts, about 10 per month or one every 3 days… behind some of them there are hours, of thought, of calculations, of editing. But it has always been fun (as my brother said “you started it because you wanted to preach freely”).

It is fun to think about ideas, that later may or may not be translated into a post, while you are travelling, reading the paper, watching a video, etc. It is fun to see the statistics (over 8,000 visits during this first year), make calculations with them (for an average of 22 visits/day), it is fun to read and reply to comments, and even better to see someone recommending one of your posts.

There are many, yes, many other very good reasons for writing a blog.

Since some months ago I follow in Twitter and read the blog of Connor Neill, a professor at IESE business school. I had the chance to attend a workshop/conference by him at the Toastmasters District 59 Fall conference in Barcelona last November where he spoke about leadership. One of the pieces of advice he gave was to write every day for some time, be it 5 minutes, 500 words…

You may find a very good post in his blog that describes very well that part of his presentation about the importance of writing, where he gives up to 20 “starting questions to use for reflection”.

Should you start a blog? The answer is clear and concise: if you haven’t done it yet, yes.

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New Year’s resolutions vs. goal setting

During the Table Topics session of last week’s Toastmasters Madrid meeting, a friend asked one of the members whether he was the type of person that used to set goals for himself or have New Year’s resolutions.

The member was very determined in his answer: “yes, I am definitely a fan of goal-setting”. He cited a study in Harvard Business School where they found that the 3% of graduates who had written goals, and plans to accomplish them, ten years later were earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together… (it doesn’t say whether within that 3% there was a single individual, the kind of Bill Gates, who made himself just those ten times of the remaining 97%).

Then I saw a Facebook status update by another friend: “85% of my personal goals for this year – achieved.” (Bear in mind that this fellow is an outstanding individual).

Finally, two days ago I found in Twitter  a retweet of another post by Sid Savara about how to undertake a personal year-end review.

… Why not?

I decided that this year I’ll start writing down my goals and attaching a detailed plan to achieve them, instead of just thinking on January 1st of a few well-intentioned resolutions such as “learn languages”, “lose some pounds”, etc., and forgetting them by the 3rd of January. (By the way, thanks to Sergio, Javier, Alex & Conor for their inspiration).

If by 2021 I am making ten times as 97% of the readers of this blog combined, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you well in advance!

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Summary of 2010

Let me share with you a brief recap of my 2010.

This was a heavy learning year, to name a few learning experiences:

  • I continued to study French,
  • Toastmasters: I delivered some speeches at Toastmasters, received the CL and ALB awards, and attended 2 District 59 conferences and 1 Division H conference.
  • I went to several EOI conferences and others, including one with the economist Robert E. Lucas who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1995 and the TEDx Madrid event.
  • I read over a dozen books, many of which I commented here (being the 3 ones I liked the most these ones: first, second and third). At the end of the year I was given an eBook so I expect this trend to continue.
  • I continued to enjoy the subscription to The Economist (frankly, one of the best decisions I’ve taken in recent years) and subscribed to Scientific American for a dime.

I also had lots of fun reading and learning things related to aerospace & defence, to investments, and enjoyed supporting some charities and especially seeing some friends starting to support them as well.

Travelling. Either we together or I visited for the first time Porto, Morocco, Tunisia, Poland and Egypt. We also spent some time in Luxembourg, Brazil, Netherlands, Sevilla and France. Travelling well over 65,000 km last year (equivalent to 1.6 rounds to the Earth). Of all the places we visited, the view that I liked the most was the falls of Iguaçu, no doubt.

Javi 2.0 Encouraged by Luca and some friends I started this blog in February 2010 and a twitter account shortly afterwards. I reckon that my twitter account has become one of my biggest hobbies and sources of information apart from a communication channel with friends. I even saw some friends (here and here) and my sister starting their own blogs!

In the sports side… even though this has been a great year for Spanish sportsmen, it hasn’t been so for Real Madrid: not for the football or basketball section (being the last year I attended with the season ticket). On the personal side I competed in two championships of Minifutbol but won neither one, the same applies to paddle tournaments… the best sports moment was completing once again the San Silvestre race.

Other reasons for joy have been:

  • our friends Amalia & Paco, María & Alberto, Janine & Rients, Leyre & German got married,
  • we saw the newborns Paula and Javier, while two of our friends are pregnant today (that we know),
  • my sister finished her bachelor and continued studying a master; my brother finished his MBA and joined my company; my mother continued to take several courses.

To close the year, I got a new position within the same company in another country, where I moved a month ago. This will allow me to continue learning and experiencing new things!

I use to tell my friends and family that since long ago I feel that I enjoy more and more each coming year and am happier with time; this year, with a few bad moments included (including some sad losses), has been no exception to the trend. Thanks to all of you who contributed to it. As I say, if it continues like this, I may explode one of these years :-).

Now it’s time to make some few resolutions for 2011 as well… I have thought of 5, that if I manage to fulfill, next year’s account will be even shinier. I wish you the same: keep learning and enjoying your time.

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Impact of an AdWords campaign (cont.)

After my previous post was published, I had a conversation about it and received some comments. These made me think that it could be interesting to comment on the other 2 campaigns to gain more insight about how AdWords works and how useful it can or cannot be. First, let me share some data of the 3 campaigns:

  • Al Andalus club (Rota, Cadiz): had a cost of 29.68€ for 250 clicks, thus 0.12€ per click (CPC). It appeared in the screens 208,520 times. It used 72 words or combination of words, restricted to a circular area about 90km around Rota.
  • Standing Ovation club (Madrid): had a cost of 16.56€ for 59 clicks, thus 0.28€ per click (CPC). It appeared in the screens 166,291 times. It used 49 words or combination of words and was restricted to Madrid region.
  • Blog: had a cost of 51.96€ for 1,410 clicks, thus 0.04€ per click (CPC). It appeared in the screens 3,685,521 times. It used 41 words or combination of words and was not geographically restricted.

Even though I am not an expert in AdWords, from what I have experienced and as you can see above:

  • The more clicks it has the lower the price per click will be.
  • You may set a maximum amount of money you want to spend per day (I normally didn’t spend more than 1.5€ euro per day per campaign), this means that once that amount is reached your campaign is de-activated until the next day (ads won’t appear for some hours).
  • Using more words does not necessarily translate into more clicks. You need to find adequate words, related to the website, so it appears and appears high enough in the web. Also, some words are more expensive than others, though the price varies with the number of clicks.
  • The ads themselves need to be attractive, as it may appear many times but still needs to make people click on it. In that sense, the most successful one was that of Al Andalus (people clicked on it 0.12% of the times it appeared; 3 times more effective than the other 2 campaigns).
  • You need to focus the campaign in the segment you want to target. E.g., I first centered the area for Al Andalus campaign, until I found out that some clicks (consuming campaign money) came from Tanger and other Moroccan cities… I had to move the target area, as no one from Morocco would go to the club on a weekly basis.

I didn’t measure any kind of conversion rate as I am not selling anything through my blog nor could I check how many guests went to Al Andalus or Standing Ovation meetings thanks to ads (I was not attending those clubs); and that would be an extremely interesting indicator for any business.

Finally, my friend got the 75€ from a special offer from Google. In the Iberia in-flight magazine (“Ronda”), I have also seen some months ago codes for 50€ to be used in AdWords campaigns. So, be aware of possible next opportunities and give it a try (and you can always spend some little money as a learning experience – everything is very well explained inside AdWords tool).

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Giving feedback at Pixar

Reading the a past issue of The Economist I came across the article “Planning for the sequel”, about how Pixar is preparing itself to continue with its creativity levels for the long-term.

The newspaper remarks two aspects of Pixar’s approach: the company puts people before projects and effort in getting people work together. Regarding the second reason, let me paste some of the sentences of the article:

“Employees show unfinished work to one another in daily meetings, so get used to giving and receiving constructive criticism.

[…] This system of constant feedback is designed to bring problems to the surface before they mutate into crises, and to provide creative teams with a source of inspiration.

[…] Pixar demands that each review identify at least five things that did not go well in the film, as well as five that did.”

Having been a member of the public speaking association Toastmasters for two years I have had the chance of seeing hundreds of evaluations. Evaluations of prepared speeches, of impromptu speeches, of meetings, of evaluators, of skilled and beginner speakers… it is not a so easy task to sit and think in a couple of minutes of 5 things that you really liked and some valuable points of improvement. It’s even less easy to speak them up in a structured, candid and, at the same time, encouraging way. And that is another thing that you can learn in Toastmasters: giving feedback through effective evaluations.

See how we do it in written at Madrid Toastmasters club (Excelencia Toastmasters uses the same form in Spanish):

Madrid Toastmasters club evaluation form.

No wonder that the majority of the 12,500 Toastmasters clubs worldwide are corporate clubs.

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