Archive for April, 2009

New Executive Sponsor, Frances McIsaac

April 29, 2009

Fellow Toastmasters,

In the past number of months, our club has been in contact with various groups in CIBC management.  Today, we are glad to announce that we have secured Frances McIsaac, Vice President, Training and Development, to be our new executive sponsor for Toast of CIBC. 

This relationship demonstrates the success of Toast of CIBC as the bank recognizes our club as a valuable resource for professional development in public speaking and leadership.  We will continue to communicate with Frances to coordinate a club visit by her in the upcoming months.  Please join us in welcoming her and show our strengths as Toastmasters.



Hondy Hung

President, Toast of CIBC


Interview with a “Solar-Powered” Champion

April 29, 2009

Victoria Barclay: Peter, congratulations on winning first at our Club level and then the Area International Speech Contest for 2008-09! You will go on to the Division contest March 23rd. How many Toastmasters contests have you participated in since the day you joined?

Peter Lizon: I have participated in a few at the club level but in every one I played a different role. I was an evaluation contestant, a chair and a judge. There are so many different opportunities and experiences available during contests!

It was my first time at an Area or Division contest. The Division contest was an amazing experience. I think I may be at risk of becoming addicted.

VB: Take us back, please, to the very first Toastmasters meeting that you attended. What do you remember about it?

PL: I remember being sold on Toastmasters by a few people over 3 or 4 years before joining so I was excited to find out what it was really like. I always imagined there would be some sort of drinking and toasting involved but instead there was a rather formal meeting. I remember a feeling of awe and inspiration in seeing how professionally the meeting was run and how eloquent the speakers were.

VB: What was it like, giving your icebreaker speech? I recall it had a lot to do with the solar energy car—yet another “contest” you became familiar with…

PL: I can’t really remember my icebreaker speech anymore but I’m sure I did mention the solar car. That contest was an experience to remember for the rest of my life!

VB: Tell us a little about the Solar Car project—that’s a side of Peter that we don’t know much about at our Club.

PL: Two years on a project, working alongside a team of over 100 individuals, anywhere from 20 to 30 hours a week on top of an insane engineering schedule. And it all came down to two weeks of racing against a field of other North American engineering schools. The race was a fantastic road trip along historic route 66, from Chicago to Los Angeles. I’ll have to present the photographs from the trip one day as a speech. People always mention to students that school is not as challenging as a real job but in this case it is the opposite. I have yet to come across a job or an assignment that has provided such an intense experience, testing a team of individuals in all aspects: emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally. The solar car race has now been downgraded to a line or two on my résumé. Employers most often write it off as some student project. I hope to experience something like it in my professional life.

VB: What made you decide to join Toastmasters, and how has your Toastmasters experience met up with expectations? Did you have any inkling that you would become a speaking champion for our Club?

PL: I found that presentations, whether for work or for school, took a long time to prepare for. I also found that there were a few people delivering presentations who seemed to be able to do so quickly and smoothly. I discovered their secret – Toastmasters!

My experience has been an interesting one. I remember being very ambitious when I started the club but have now somehow managed to drastically extend the period between my speeches. This contest experience has been somewhat an awakening from the slumber, a jolt of electricity. I plan on finishing the last few speeches in the next few months. As for being a speaking champion for the Club, I think there’s a lot left to learn before I can consider myself anywhere close to a champ.

VB: I met you a few days before you delivered this year’s International speech and you mentioned you had been watching some great speeches on video. What video was this, and what speeches were most thought-provoking to you?

PL: The videos were: Magic Moments; DVD 1: Clips – 1990-2000 World Championship of Public Speaking Finalists (19 speakers); and DVD 2: Clips – 2001-2003 World Championship of Public Speaking Finalists.

I borrowed these videos from our own Club library. It’s a tremendous resource. David Brooks is the host and he deconstructs winning speeches and points out what it takes to write and deliver that winning speech. I highly recommend the series to all our club members. I don’t think there was one single speech that was the one that I could say was thought-provoking. By seeing a series of fantastic speeches your mind begins to see what makes them fantastic and your heart begins to feel inspiration.

VB: When you plan your contest speech, how does it normally go: do you start with the main message you want to get across, and then decide how to back it up with story, or do you begin with a couple of anecdotes in mind and try to draw a moral or conclusion from them?

PL: I tried to follow something resembling a speech development process initially but that didn’t really work. I think you can do that only if you have been writing speeches for a long time. I brainstormed speech ideas, ideas that were relevant to me that I could speak passionately about. Then I pruned the ideas down to ones that I thought would be most relevant to the audience. I did have some anecdotes in mind once I narrowed the topic and then tried to connect them into a story. At this point, the speech was still a work in progress even though it was delivered at our club level.

The real polishing began afterwards. This stage took hours and hours of sitting down with a number of invaluable mentors like Hondy Hung and Jacqueline Ryl, reworking the structure and word choices, rehearsing gestures. Practice practice practice! A speech definitely gets worse the more you practice it, but then it gets better. A lot better!

VB: I recall sitting beside you at our Club contest and thinking how calm you seemed. Do you “go into a zone” before you speak competitively? After all, a speech can be rather intricate and hard to remember the exact phrasing under pressure.

PL: Calm? No I was definitely not calm. Someone once told me that no matter how much you practice and how many speeches you have delivered you will never be calm. It’s all about somehow controlling your nervousness, channeling that energy productively.

I learned a trick from my scuba diving experience. I used to suck down a tank of air within 40 minutes tops. A dive master once taught me that if I calm myself completely right before I dive under water my tank will last longer and my experience will be more rewarding. I find the same lesson applicable to a speech. Always calm yourself before the big presentation, take a few deep breaths, visualize the audience smiling and nodding.

VB: What is your advice for members who are thinking about competing in speech contests?

PL: Sign up and do it. Don’t think too much about it. They are a rare but very valuable opportunity. Your speech doesn’t have to perfect right off the bat. If you win a round then perhaps your speech is good and you can work hard to make it better. Think of it as an iterative process – the higher you go in the contests the more you should work on your speech.