Sunday, March 18, 2007

I Hate Public Speaking

Don't let this video describe your future of speaking in public. Continually learn and practice new ways to improve your communication with others.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Are You a Public Speaker?

Do you consider yourself a public speaker?

Most people don’t, but I have learned through Toastmasters that everyone is a public speaker. It doesn’t matter whether you are speaking with one person or thousands of people.

We all think of getting up in front of a group and giving a speech, like I am right now, as public speaking. However, there are times every day you are a public speaker. Your ability to speak effectively can impact your life in areas including your health, wealth, and relationships.

Consider these examples:

  • You are very sick. Parts of your body hurt that you didn't know could hurt. You're at your doctor's office, sitting in the examination room. The doctor walks in and asks, "How are you?" You answer, "Fine." He asks, "What seems to be the problem?" You reply, "I don't feel good."

    The doctor has many patients he needs to help each day. He only has a few minutes to spend with you to find out what your symptoms are, diagnose what the cause is, and then determine how to medically treat you. If he has to spend most of his time trying to get you to tell him why you are in his office in the first place, his ability to treat you might diminish because of lack of time.

    Your ability to speak effectively can affect your health.
  • You successfully completed a major project at work. The result of your efforts increased the profits of the company substantially. You feel you should be compensated with a pay raise.

    You walk into your boss's office. He asks what he can do for you. With hands in your pockets, eyes staring at the floor, feet shifting back and forth, you say "I …um, ah… think I should …um… get a …ah… raise." You may or may not get the raise, but it certainly wouldn't be due to the way you asked your boss to consider it. In fact, you may have hurt your chances of getting that raise you deserve.

    Your ability to speak effectively can affect your wealth.
  • You are at home, reclining in your favorite chair and reading today's newspaper. Your spouse walks up to you, touches you on the shoulder and asks, "What would you like for dinner tonight?" Your response, without moving your eyes from the newspaper, is "I love you." Can you think of anything that would start a fight faster?

    Your ability to speak effectively can affect your relationships.

To be effective means more than knowing what words you are going to say. Some studies have shown that the words you use only account for about 7% of what you actually communicate. Other aspects include vocal tone, facial expression, body gestures, eye contact, your appearance and how your talk is organized and focused.

Now, I am going to have each one of you come up here and do a short talk… Not really, but did your heart start racing when I said that?

There is a technique that I learned from Toastmasters that helps me relax before I give a talk. Do this with me.

  1. Sit comfortably with your back straight
  2. Breathe in slowly
  3. Hold your breath for 4-5 seconds
  4. Slowly exhale

It is recommended that you repeat these steps about 10-20 times. However, without doing them for 10 times, didn’t it still help you to feel more relaxed? Toastmasters has provided me many tips like this one that has helped me to be more effective in my public speaking. It has also provided me the opportunity to practice using those tips in a supportive environment.

I encourage you to pursue ways of improving your public speaking. Getting involved in Toastmasters is a great way to do that. It not only will improve your ability to make a speech in front of a group of people, but it will also have a positive impact on key areas of your life including your health, wealth, and relationships.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Toastmasters or Bust

How many of you are involved in Toastmasters to improve your communication skills?

Many of us have joined Toastmasters to improve our communication skills. We can have a tremendous impact on others if we are armed with effective communication skills.

Do you remember your first public speech as an adult?

My first public speech as an adult went like this: About 22 years ago, I had just finished leading a test of a major electronic system. Because I was analyzing the test information, my boss told me I was going to present the results to our sponsor. A few days later I was standing in front of a room of about 200 people. I was nervous, sweating and my voice was shaking as I gave the results. I had no formal training or constructive feedback. Although my speaking has improved since that day, I still have not received any formal training and very little feedback until I joined Toastmasters. Since then, I have learned a tremendous amount. Has that ever happened to you? Can you relate to my experience? Many of you probably have similar experiences you could share.

Before Toastmasters, I believed the longer the speech the greater the impact. This would have made our 5 to 10 minute Toastmaster speeches we practice of limited value. I was wrong! Consider speeches that had a major impact on our nation:

* Abraham Lincoln’s "Gettysburg Address" speech was less than 3 minutes long.
* Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech was just over 9 minutes long.
* President Kennedy’s challenge to go to the moon was under 8 minutes long.

Even our short Toastmaster speeches have the potential to make a significant impact. Our communication skills need to be at their best in order for us to have this level of impact. Toastmasters provides us with the opportunity to improve our communication skills through learning effective techniques, practicing those techniques, and receiving constructive feedback.

We don’t have to rely solely on family and friends. Consider this feedback that I learned from "Speaking Secrets of the Masters." A new minister had just spoken his first sermon and asked his grandmother for a critique. She said she only saw 3 things wrong with it. "First, you read your sermon. Second, you didn’t read it well. And third, it wasn’t worth reading!"

Receiving only negative feedback is not constructive. It is just as bad not to receive any feedback at all.

Several months ago I was asked to lead our church in a prayer during one of the services. My wife and son were both ill that morning so I put on some new clothing I had purchased the night before and headed to my church. After talking with several friends and introducing myself to some people I didn’t know, the service started. When the appropriate time came, I walked up to the platform and looked over the crowd. I was looking out at about 800 people. I actually used a couple of techniques I learned in Toastmasters and said the prayer. Everything went well. When I got home later that day, my son met me in the kitchen. He looked down at my pants and pulled off one of those long plastic strips from my pant leg. You know, the ones that have size 40x32 printed 10 times on it in large print. How embarrassing! No one said anything to me at the church. I have no doubt the minister, the choir, and several people that were seated up front saw it. Sometimes feedback before a speech can be useful.

Fortunately in Toastmasters we are able to receive constructive and supportive feedback. Our communication skills will improve as we practice and apply that constructive feedback we receive.

As if improving our communication skills was not enough, we also get additional value from being Toastmasters. Some of this value comes from developing leadership skills, meeting new friends, being uplifted twice a month by other speeches, and gaining new knowledge. I have been thinking about and searching out additional information on globalization following Dean’s recent speech on the topic.

The only way we will not improve is to not participate. We need to take advantage of the opportunity we have in Toastmasters. Your participation will not only provide you with new communication and leadership skills, knowledge and friends, it also will help provide the same to others.

A new Toastmasters year is going to start soon. How are you going to participate? Are you going to give more speeches and work toward your next award? Are you going to be an officer? Maybe you are going to be a mentor to someone else. Your participation will make you a better and more effective person. You will also be helping all of us in the club to be better and more effective. Determine what your goals need to be and then make them a reality.

Friday, November 25, 2005

You Can Help Eliminate Arthritis

Are you aware that today over 66 million people have arthritis or chronic joint pain? On average, that is approximately one in three people that are suffering from arthritis at this moment. That is almost as large as the population of Virginia...times 10!

Do you think the chronic joint pain caused by arthritis is reserved for the elderly? It isn't limited to those that are older. Arthritis affects all ages. There are nearly 300,000 children in America with some form of arthritis or rheumatic disease.

If you happen to be one of the fortunate who is not currently suffering from arthritis, don't think it is not affecting you. Arthritis costs the U.S. economy $86.2 billion annually. That is not a mistake. The cost to our country is in the billions of dollars each year.

I know several people whose lives are impacted by arthritis and related diseases. My wife is one of those. Kim continually experiences joint pain due to arthritis and lupus. She takes medications daily and frequently visits doctors and physical therapists to cope with the hurting. Surgeries have also taken place in the past.

Do you know someone with arthritis? You might be surprised at what he or she has to go through to deal with the hurting. You might also be surprised at the limits it places on daily living.

I decided to make a difference. I became a volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation. They are the only national not-for-profit organization that supports the more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions with advocacy, programs, services and research. They partner with organizations to offer exercise programs and courses specifically for those affected by arthritis. They offer these programs in my own hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Each year the Arthritis Foundation holds walks across the country to raise funds and awareness. My team, the Pain Killers, participated in the Fredericksburg Arthritis Walk this past May. We helped raise more than $33,000.00 in Fredericksburg for the Arthritis Foundation. I now have the honor of being selected as the chairperson for the 2006 Fredericksburg Arthritis Walk.

I encourage you to honor that person you know with arthritis by helping with the Arthritis Walk in your area. Get your friends and coworkers involved as well. There are many ways to get involved. You will make new friends and have fun while working to eliminate the #1 cause of disability.

To learn more about arthritis and to find an Arthritis Walk in your area go to or call 404-872-7100. To join or donate to Team Pain Killers go to Roger Carr is the founder of Everyday Giving ( and a volunteer with the Arthritis Foundation, Virginia Chapter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don't Ruin Your Summer Fun

I love summer! Summer is my favorite season of the year. I love playing sports outside and walking on the beach. I especially enjoy being at an outdoor barbecue. Maybe you enjoy summer activities as well. Imagine with me for a moment being at an outdoor barbecue. Just a little distance away from you there’s a swimming pool full of kids who are having fun playing, laughing and splashing in the water. In another spot there might be a horseshoe game playing. You can hear the “clank” of the horseshoes hitting the posts as the players are trying to get a ringer. And of course there’s the barbecue grill. On the grill might be hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken or steaks. The only thing better than the smell coming from the grill is the taste of the food when it’s time to eat. Can you just imagine the fun that you will have this summer?

Now fast forward with me a few hours. You are at home and your skin is starting to itch. Just before bedtime you’re taking your shirt or blouse off to get into your bed clothes and just the material rubbing up against your skin is painful. When you do go to bed that evening you toss and turn trying to get into a position that isn’t painful so that you can go to sleep. However, you spend hours awake only thinking about the pain that your body is experiencing instead of the tremendous fun you had that day. What is the reason for this itching and pain? You have probably guessed it. You have a sunburn!

Fortunately you can do something about it before it happens. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has provided us with some steps that we can take to help reduce our chance of having to deal with sun damage. These seven simple action steps are as follows:

1. Limit Time in the Midday Sun - The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Whenever possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.

2. Wear a Hat - A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection to your eyes, ears, face, and the back of your neck - areas particularly prone to overexposure to the sun.

3. Cover Up - Wearing tightly woven, loose-fitting, and full-length clothing is a good way to protect your skin from the sun's UV rays.

4. Wear Sunglasses that Block 99-100% of UV Radiation -Sunglasses that provide 99-100% UVA and UVB protection will greatly reduce sun exposure that can lead to cataracts and other eye damage. Check the label when buying sunglasses.

5. Always Use Sunscreen - Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher liberally on exposed skin. Reapply every 2 hours, or after working, swimming, playing, or exercising outdoors. Even waterproof sunscreen can come off when you towel off, sweat, or spend extended periods of time in the water.

6. Avoid Sunlamps and Tanning Parlors - The light source from sunbeds and sunlamps damages the skin and unprotected eyes. It's a good idea to avoid artificial sources of UV light.

7. Watch for the UV Index - The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun. Developed by the National Weather Service (NWS) and EPA, the UV Index is issued daily in selected cities across the United States.

Why am I telling you about these simple action steps that can help protect you from the sun? I want you to have fun this summer. I want you to have fun this summer under the sun.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Little Things Do Make a Difference

Think back over your life. Think about the people that had a positive influence on you. If your past was like mine, many of those that influenced you didn’t even realize the impact that they had on you. The influence was due to them caring about and doing some little thing. What little things have been done for you that changed your life? What little things have you done for someone else that might have changed theirs?

I have been influenced by little things done by others.

I had a boss that asked whether I had the guts to take a job he felt I could do. It was a job I wasn’t even qualified to apply for. That question influenced me to set my career goals at a higher level and faster pace than they were at that time.

When I recently visited a Toastmasters group they made me feel welcome from the first day I set foot in the room. Laurence made it a point to introduce me to several members before the first meeting started. Roz leaned over to me on my second visit, just before my Ice Breaker speech, to let me know what to expect and to let me know I would do great. I am grateful to both of them.

Children can influence us as well. A great example of this happened to me at a Cub Scout summer camp here in Fredericksburg. For those of you who are not familiar with Cub Scouts, the boys range from 1st through 5th grade. I showed up on the morning of the first day of camp just to make sure everything went smooth for our group since I was the leader. We got everyone registered for the week’s events, set up a canopy where the scouts and leaders could get into the shade for lunch and then headed to the flagpole. At the flagpole, all of the camp participants said the Pledge of Allegiance and then started to give instructions. In the middle of the instructions, one of the 1st grade boys tugged on my pant leg. When I looked down at him he had the biggest smile on his face. He said, “Mr. Carr, I’m having a really good time” and he meant it! They hadn’t even started their first camp activity yet. At that moment I knew all of the hours I put in as a scout leader were well worth it.

I have found that we can influence others by doing little things for them.

You can influence others by providing help when it is needed. When I say provide help, I am not just talking about offering to help. Most people will not take you up on an offer even if they desperately need it. I remember taking food to a couple that was sick. This was not anyone I knew. It was a friend of someone that was in my Sunday school class. Two years later they saw me, thanked me and told me how much that meant to them. They even remembered my name after two years! Another way I have helped was to provide advice to coworkers that now refer to me as their mentor. Also, to help families pack up a truck to move. Some of these families are friends of ours today even though they live several states away.

Another way I have found that you can influence others is by saying, “thank you.” I don’t think I ever realized the power of saying thank you until a few months ago. I was at a professional symposium in Northern Virginia. I was one of the symposium leaders. During a lunch break I stayed in the room where one of the classes was being given to watch all of the personal belongings of the students while they were at lunch. During the break, three of the hotel workers came into the room to fill water pitchers and put out clean glasses. One of the workers was obviously a mentally challenged person that was hired to help. His job was to put the clean glasses on the tables. When he serviced the table I was sitting at I said a simple “thank you.” I will never forget the look on his face. I could have told him he won the lottery and he couldn’t have looked any more excited! Even after they left the room to go to the next, I could still hear him shouting as loud as he could about the “nice man.”

Writing notes is a third way you can potentially influence others.
I started writing thank you notes about a year ago. I have been thanked over and over for some of these notes of appreciation and told I didn’t have to do that. I have recently learned and started using at times a new way of writing notes. Purchase some inexpensive, inspirational books that have had a positive impact on you. Write an encouraging note inside the cover of one of those books and give it to the person. You will feel good just doing it.

I can look back over my past and remember several moments in time that God used someone doing a little thing that encouraged me. I have also heard from others that have been influenced by me for doing the same. There are many kinds of little things you can do to encourage others. Some of these involve providing help when there is a need, saying thank you, and writing notes. What are you going to do today for someone that will make a difference in their life?