Toastmasters Speech 8: Get Comfortable With Visual Aids

This project is designed to examine the use of slides, transparencies, flip charts, whiteboards, or props. In Madrid Toastmasters we don’t have a flip chart, whiteboard or an OHP, therefore, my visual aids were color printouts in A3 size that I showed during key moments of the speech. It is important to remember that your own body language is a very powerful visual aid because it makes your story three-dimensional and alive.

The steps I followed to craft this speech were the following:

  • I chose a topic which almost everybody knows about and that is very visual in itself.
  • I made several oral drafts that I recorded on my phone.
  • Then I listened to those recordings and started to write down the parts I liked.
  • Next, I worked on the written version. This process helped me clean out the structure and visualize the sections where a visual aid should be present.
  • The following step was to find simple and clear images that would illustrate the point, choose the most relevant ones and print them out in the most appropriate format.
  • I’m sure you guessed what the next step was: practice, practice, practice.

Since this time I first crafted the spoken version of the speech, when I delivered it I felt more comfortable improvising and taking some twists and turns based on the reaction I was getting from the audience. I felt I was actually involved in an amplified, collective dialogue. Some techniques I used to achieve this were:

  • asking questions to get the audience thinking and then provide my answer.
  • using actual dialogues with characters instead of telling them what happened.
  • showing the visual aid and pausing for a few seconds, explain and point when necessary and go on with the story.

I got a very positive feedback from my evaluator and from the audience, but the best thing was to see that people were coming to me and asking me more questions about the speech after the meeting was over!

Speech transcript:

To be or not to be… on Facebook


Please raise your hand if you have a Facebook account. Congratulations. You belong to the one billion users worldwide of this platform.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Today it is a special day for me because I’m celebrating my second anniversary of a life without Facebook.

You might be thinking that I’m a black sheep and that I don’t belong to the 21st century, but that is not true. I am on Twitter, Linkedin, G+, WhatsApp and I have a blog. I just don’t have Facebook and I think my life is better because of it.

A few weeks ago I was in Geneva taking an intensive French course. I met some nice people and made some new friends. Towards the end of my stay I asked them to go out for lunch to say goodbye to them. We went to a nice restaurant on a top floor with a view of the Alps covered in snow. We sat at the table and could smell wonderful Thai food and were eager to share this moment, but one of them, Marylene, kept looking at her phone every few minutes. After a while I asked her, “Marylene, are you waiting for something important?” And she said “No, I’m just looking at my FB wall. I started wearing glasses yesterday and I wanted to see what people think.”

Obviously that was immensely more important than having an actual conversation with us, and the problem was, that after a while even I started to look at her pictures, and her friends’ pictures of their pets, and trips, and food. Do you see the danger here? There are several studies that suggest this very simple fact:talking to peopleBesides affecting the quality of our relationships with people, there is another very important thing that I felt Facebook was taking away from me:

My time.

An average user spends 421 minutes on Facebook every month. This is the same as 7 hours and one minute. Can you imagine what you would do if you had 7 extra hours every month? I can think of a few things I would do: sleep more, take a yoga class, and go have coffee with friends. In fact that’s what I have been doing ever since I quit Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing with a member of Madrid Toastmasters, and with some other friends, the benefits of having a Facebook account. It is true that there are some nice features: you can centralize your photos and contacts, you can inform people of what you are up to, or you can follow interesting articles on fan pages. However I see two problems here.

The first one is privacy. Are you aware of who is looking at your content and do you really want them to know all those details?

If something is private or it affects your loved ones, don’t be narcissistic, and don’t put in on Facebook, you could be hurting someone without realizing it or you could be posting something you might regret later.

The second problem is information overload which is again related to time. My fellow Toastmaster was telling me that she is a musician and she uses FB to promote her gigs. There was a time when I was a performing artist as well and used FB to promote my gigs. I have to say that although it gave me visibility, the hundreds of likes didn’t actually transform into ticket sales, while actually talking to people or sending them personalized messages, did. In terms of following fan pages or groups, I would like you to think honestly if you have time to do all that, and read books, the press and your reports from work.

Although I don’t think that Facebook in itself is inherently bad, I think it is very addictive and it can have a clear negative impact on your time and the quality of your personal relationships. Don’t you agree it’s worth looking into the use you make of it and see if you can make any changes for the better?

I would like to propose to you a 21-Facebook detox plan. For the next 7 days track the time you spend on Facebook. Start your stopwatch when you log on and stop it when you log off, even if you are multitasking. Write down your times and take note of the kind of things you do on Facebook without judging yourself. Just observe and note. If after those 7 days you decide that being of Facebook is still worth your time, set yourself a maximum daily use of Facebook and stick to it for two weeks. Be disciplined and honest with yourself. I promise you that after these 21 days you will notice small changes in your use of time and in the quality of your interaction with the people you love the most. The rewards will be worth it. I guarantee it.

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Public Speaking Workshop in Zaragoza

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buechner


It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, you will need to speak publicly at some point in time.

This intensive one-day workshop is ideal for those of you who want to improve your public speaking skills and speak English as a second language.

The purpose of this class is to get you to deliver a 3-minute speech applying techniques such as effective eye-contact, vocal variety/voice projection and body language.

We will first ease you into an English-speaking environment so you can get comfortable with the language. Then we will work on several techniques to get you to relax, find your speaking voice, cope with stage fright, get comfortable with your own body language and connect with the audience through a powerful delivery.

Since we learn best when we are having fun, this workshop will be held at Bebesano, the perfect venue to create a friendly learning environment and to enjoy good food and drink.

We want to give you all the personal attention and feedback you deserve. For this reason places are limited and we encourage you to book yours no later than June 5th.

An upper-intermediate/advance level of English is required.

To sign up please follow this link, and we will get in touch with you soon.


Bebesano. Calle Pedro Maria Ric, 30, Zaragoza
When: Saturday 13 June from 10:00 to 18:00

Where: Bebesano. Calle Pedro Maria Ric, 30

How much: €100 (Lunch included)


For more information send an email to


About us:


Aline Casanova is a conference interpreter, Toastmaster and English teacher. She’s had formal training in dance, voice techniques, and public speaking in the U.S.A. and in Spain.

Pilar Barceló Soler is an English teacher specialized in speaking practice. She has worked for several international organizations and has been in charge of delivering training workshops for the British Council across the UK over the last two years.

Virginia Vázquez Vaccaro is a conference interpreter and specialised translator. She was the official interpreter/translator at the Argentine Embassy in London and a project manager at the British Council before moving to Spain.


Toastmasters Competent Communicator Speech 6

Speech number 6

This project teaches you how to widen your range of vocal variety. The goal is to  use volume, pitch, rate, add meaning and interest, pauses. Personally the biggest challenge was that I already tend to get good feedback in terms of vocal variety but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try things that would normally make me feel a bit self-conscious.

Sprouting seeds
Sprouting seeds

Useful Tips:

  1. Choose a topic for your speech that you are passionate about. If you have strong emotions you will find it easier to play with volume, rate or pitch.
  2. Meet with your mentor or a friend to practice your speech. Even if you haven’t memorized it completely, a second opinion will be very useful in terms of the words or phrases you should lengthen, shorten, or play with. My mentor’s feedback was invaluable in this sense. He gave specific advice on HOW to say certain sections and when to add silence for dramatic purposes.
  3. If you have trouble memorizing your speech, divide and you shall conquer. I found that even though I lived this experience, reflected upon it for a while and wrote the speech myself, it was still hard to memorize (and thus to practice it afterwards) because I chose the words very carefully and I didn’t want to deliver my speech haphazardly (it makes me waste precious time). My strategy then was to divide the speech in sections and give them a short heading. But it had to be something specific (avoid intro, body, conclusion) such as farmer with accent, or woman and seeds, or my science experiment. I memorized this short mental map with its key words first. then I went section by section, and then I tried to link it up. When i noticed that some sections were still weak, thanks to this structure I was able to review specific segments without losing details or connectors.
  4. Record yourself. Whether you prefer video or just audio, the feedback you’ll get from hearing and seeing yourself will help you point out the things you like and can enhance and the things that need work. For example, I once got several feedback forms saying that sometimes I looked up too much. It wasn’t until I saw myself in a recorded practice that I realized how that looked to the audience and I managed to change it. You will also see if you sound monotonous or too fast. If you are feeling brave you could even listen to your recordings with somebody else and write down their comments.


I hope you enjoy project number 6 as much as I did and that you get some valuable tools to enhance your public speaking skills. Below you will find the speech I wrote for this project.


Mr/Madam TM, fellow TM’s and guests,

A few weeks ago I went to Norway to work as a volunteer interpreter for an international movement called La Via Campesina. They fight for food sovereignty and for the right of peasant farmers  to produce, multiply and exchange their own seeds for free.

As part of the activities, we went to visit an ecological goat farm. Let me show you a picture of the baby goats I saw. They were so cute! You may be wondering what seeds have to do with goats, and this is what the farmer told us in a very think Norwegian accent:

“We produce about 40,000 liters of goat milk a year. If the milk is good quality, we sell it at 8 KR a liter and we set some aside to make excellent quality cheese. If the milk is not so good, we can only sell it for 4 KR a liter and we don’t even bother trying to make cheese.” As you can see, if the quality of the milk is not right, they only get half their income for the same amount of work in an entire year.

The farmer then said that in order to produce good milk the goats needed to be healthy. He said that if they feed them mostly grass organically produced by them their goats almost never get sick and they get good milk.

As a long-time city dweller, my knowledge of goats and seeds, I must confess, is very limited. However, this whole experience reminded me of a science experiment I did in the 2nd grade. Our teacher asked us to take a couple of beans and put them in a small jar on top of some wet cotton balls. She told us to water them every third day to keep them moist, to place them next to a window and to wait.

I remember first checking on my beans and seeing that nothing was happening day after day. But then one day I saw a tiny white sprout sticking out of one of the seeds. I was so excited I went around showing it to everyone in the house. A few days later the bud grew and it became the root. Shortly after, the seed opened in half and two tiny leaves started to unfold. After a couple more days, the seedling developed and into a tiny plant and the seed disappeared. It was time to transplant it into a pot with good dirt. From then on I watered my plant every third day and just watched it grow in amazement. It got taller and greener every day. Shortly after it needed a stick so it could wrap around and keep developing. Then one day, it started to grow flowers. The flowers transformed into a pod, the pod grew and finally the plant gave way to new seeds.


My visit to the goat farms in Norway reminded me of some very valuable lessons connected with seeds, with all seeds, but especially with my metaphorical seeds. Many great philosophers and poets have used seeds to teach us about the emergence of great potential over time. A humble kernel can grow into a huge tree that can even populate an entire forest if the conditions are right.

In one of the talks I interpreted (about food sovereignty) I heard a woman from La Via Campesina explain how peasant farmers had selected their plants for centuries, choosing those which had larger fruits or more grains, and adapting them to different soils, climates and tastes.

I really liked this idea because in life when we want to make something happen, we have to start by planting a seed. This seed can be a dream or a thought that you have to select and perhaps adapt to whatever cards life might have dealt you. Another important element, you have to make sure the conditions are right: the soil where you plant has to be full of nutrients (perhaps finding the right people to help you develop your idea, or the right partner to start a family).Then, it has to get plenty of light and air (productive thoughts, ventilation). Remember you have to water it every so often. This means that you have to write your to-do lists and get to work. And finally you have to do what my second grade teacher said with the authority of an elementary school teacher: be patient and wait.

The waiting part may sometimes be the hardest part. Sometimes we want or need things to happen quickly, and when we go and check on our seeds, we see that the soil is just there. It looks like nothing is happening underground. At this point it is tempting to get impatient and to spray your soil with chemical fertilizers to try to help things a little bit. It might even be tempting to say, oh forget about this seed, it is taking too long, and go get a “genetically improved” seed that will perhaps grow faster, but… beware. The fruit produced by a seed that was modified may not be as tasty, it may just taste like foam. It might grow faster and yield a couple more apples, but then you may not be able to use those seeds again. If you added a ton of fertilizers, your fruit may not be as safe to eat.

The most valuable lesson that I learned from the farm in the frozen mountains of Norway, is not only that baby goats are really cute and they’ll produce great milk if you feed them right, but also I learned that your own ideas, your projects, your seeds, are valuable. Be convinced of their potential.

Plant the right seeds and you can populate a forest, feed a community or even start a revolution. You have to do your job: select your seeds, sow them, wait and harvest, but it is worth it. As the American Poet Henry David Thoreau said:

“I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”