How Toastmasters Helped Me Find My Writing Voice

When I retired from teaching in 2008, I was determined to create an oasis of calm. Three decades of teaching mathematics to adolescents had cured me of any “yang” tendencies. Or so I thought. After several months of luncheon dates, book club meetings, afternoon yoga sessions, and large blocks of reading time, I found myself suffering from “yin” overload.

In short, I was bored.

I toyed with the prospect of launching a second act as a writer and spent considerable time preparing for my new career. New business cards. New computer. And dreams of a runaway best-seller.

One problem – my underdeveloped writing muscles refused to budge.

On a whim, I visited Royal City Toastmasters. Not knowing what to expect, I relaxed when I saw twelve people in the room, most of them women. I felt an instant camaraderie with the group and volunteered to participate in Table Topics (one to two minutes of impromptu speaking). As I stood in the front of the room, I received many encouraging smiles. I took several deep breaths and started to share an anecdote. At one point, everyone started clapping.

Continue reading on Kristina Stanley’s blog.


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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A young couple met with their pastor to set a date for their wedding. When the pastor asked whether they preferred a contemporary or a traditional service, they opted for the contemporary.

On the big day, a major storm forced the groom to take an alternate route to the church. The streets were flooded, so he rolled up his pant legs to keep his trousers dry. When he finally reached the church, his best man rushed him into the sanctuary and up to the altar, just as the ceremony was starting.

“Pull down your pants,” the pastor whispered.

“Uh, Reverend, I’ve changed my mind,” the groom responded. “I think I would prefer the traditional service.”

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In a hot desert country not long ago, a shopkeeper set up his stall. The man sold ties. He had ties of every variety: thin ones, wide ones, ones with stripes, others with polka dots.

On a hot, scorching day, the shopkeeper saw a cloud of dust in the horizon. As the cloud of dust of approached, the shopkeeper saw it was a man stumbling across the desert.

The traveler said, “I’ve been traveling across the desert and I’m dying of thirst. Do you have any water?”

The shopkeeper said, “Sorry, I don’t have any water. I’m out of water, but would you like to buy a tie. I have wide ones, thin ones, stripes and ones with dots.”

“I don’t need a tie. I’m dying of thirst I need water.”

“I don’t have water but there’s a village about a mile away, and I know it has a restaurant.” So, he sends the thirsty man away.

About an hour later the shopkeeper sees another dust cloud on the horizon. It’s the same thirsty man crawling on his hands and knees.

The shopkeeper asks, “Couldn’t you find the restaurant?”

The thirsty man sighs. “The restaurant wouldn’t let me in without a tie.”


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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A husband and wife were visiting the fairgrounds together one afternoon. The wife wanted to go on the Ferris wheel, but her husband was too afraid, so she went on the ride by herself.

The wheel went round and round until suddenly the wife was thrown out and landed in a heap on the ground.

Her husband raced over and asked, “Are you hurt?”

“Of course, I’m hurt!” she replied. “Three times around, and you didn’t wave once!”

Source: Readers’ Digest

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A man walks into a fish-and-chips shop with a fish under his arm and asks, “Do you have any fish cakes?”

“Of course,” says the shop owner.

“Great,” replies the man, gesturing at the fish he’s carrying. “It’s this guy’s birthday.”

Source: Readers’ Digest

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Recently, while my mother and I were having lunch at a roadside restaurant, a child at a nearby table let out a few loud shrieks. As one of five daughters born within a six-year period, I asked my mom, “How did you ever manage with all of us?”

Without hesitation, she replied, “I was the one doing the screaming.”

Source: Janice Murrin, St. John’s, NL

Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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The loaded mini-van pulled into the remaining campsite. Four children leaped from the vehicle and began feverishly unloading gear and setting up the tent. The boys rushed to gather firewood while the girls and their mother set up the camp stove and cooking utensils.

A nearby camper marveled to the father, “That’s is some display of teamwork.”

The father replied, “I have a system – no one goes to the bathroom until the camp is set up.”

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As a senior citizen drove down the motorway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife’s voice urgently warning him: “Vernon, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on M25. Please be careful!”

“Hell,” Vernon said. “It’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!”

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A little boy attended his first wedding. After the service, his cousin asked, “How many women can a man marry?”

“Sixteen,” the boy responded.

Amazed by the quick response, his cousin asked, “How do you know that?”

“Easy,” the little boy said, “All you have to do is add it up, like the pastor said: 4 better, 4 worse, 4 richer, 4 poorer.”


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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A couple walked into a dentist’s office. The man said, “Doc, I’m in one heck of a hurry. I have my buddies sitting out in my car waiting for us to play golf, so forget about the anesthetic. I don’t have time for the gums to get numb. Just pull the tooth, and be done with it! We have a 10 a.m. tee time at the best course in town and it’s already 9:30. I don’t have time for the anesthetic to work.”

The dentist wondered about this brave man who wanted to have his tooth pulled without anytime to kill the pain. He asked, “Which tooth is it?”

The man turned to his wife. “Open your mouth and show him.”

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A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. He called out: “Mama, look what I found.”

“What have you got there, dear?”

With astonishment in his voice, the boy answered, “I think it’s Adam’s underwear!”

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A Scottish mother visits her son in his New York City apartment and asks, “How do you find the Americans, Donald?”

“Mother,” says Donald, “they’re such noisy people. One neighbor won’t stop banging his head against the wall while the other screams all night long.”

“Oh, Donald! How do you put up with them?”

“What can I do? I just lie in bed quietly, playing my bagpipes.”


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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On his deathbed, a miser asked to be alone with his lawyer, doctor, and priest. “I know I am going to die,” he said. “I would like to take my money with me, so I am going to give each of you $150,000. I want you to each make sure the money gets in the coffin.”

On the day after the funeral, the guilt-stricken priest confided he only put $100,000 in the coffin.

“I’m glad you brought it up” said the doctor, “because I’ve also been feeling guilty. I only put $80,000 back.”

“You people should be ashamed of yourselves,” stormed the lawyer. “Am I the only honest person here?” He pulled out his check book. “Look here. I wrote out a check for the full $150,000!”

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Harry walked over to the Priest after services, “You know Father, I am really stuck in a quandary. I would like to attend church next week but I just can’t miss the big game.”

“Oh Harry!” said the Priest as he put his arm around Harry. “That’s what recorders are for.”

Harry’s face lit up. “You mean I could record your sermon?”

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After sending their son Paul away to college, Susan and Joe would receive regular requests for money. After one late-night call, Joe agreed to send some money. Before hanging up, he added, “I notice that you left your Physics book here. Should I send it?”

“Uh, oh yeah, OK,” Paul responded.

Several days later, Susan discovered that Joe had sent $1100 and started to reprimand him.

Joe shook his head and smiled. “Don’t worry, I taped a $100 check on the cover of the Physics book and a $1000 check inside the cover.”


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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A man walks into a nearly empty bar and orders a drink. After a few minutes he hears a voice say “Nice shirt.” He looks around, sees no one near him, and goes back to his drink.

A short while later he hears the same voice saying, out of nowhere, “I like your hair.”

Truly perplexed, he calls the bartender over and asks, “Where is that voice coming from?”

The bartender says, “It’s the nuts.”

“The nuts?” replies the man.

“Yes,” says the bartender. “They’re complimentary.”

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A man goes to a bar and asks the bartender for three glasses of beer. He gets his three glasses of beer and sits down. He takes a sip from one glass, puts it down. He takes a sip from the second glass and puts it down, then takes a sip from the third glass and puts it down.

He carries on drinking like this, taking a sip from each glass in turn. When he’s finished he goes to the bartender and asks for refills.
The bartender asks him why he takes three glasses at a time, because he could serve him one at a time, that way the beer would stay cold and wouldn’t go flat.

The man tells him: “I have two brothers, and we used to enjoy drinking together, but now they’ve moved away, I like to remember the good times we had by drinking three glasses of beer at a time. I drink one glass for myself, and one for each brother.

The bartender, and all the regulars in the bar get it, and are used to seeing the man come in and drink three glasses of beer.

One day the man comes into the bar with a sad look on his face. He orders two glasses of beer, and proceeds to drink from the two glasses, taking a sip from one, putting it down, then taking a sip from the other.

When he’s finished he goes to the bartender and asks for refills. The bartender has noticed he’s drinking two glasses and summons the courage to say how sorry he is for the loss of a brother.

“My condolences are with you,” says the bartender, “is there anything I can do?”

The man thinks for a moment, then understands. “No, no, no, my brothers are alive and are doing fine,” says the man.”It’s just I’ve been to my doctor, he says I’ve got a medical condition, and I’ve had to give up alcohol.”


Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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A man and a woman had been married for more than sixty years. During that time, they had shared almost everything; the woman had a shoe box that was off limits to her husband.

For years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover. While sorting out their affairs, the man took the shoe box to his wife’s bedside.

She agreed it was time to share the contents of the box. When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totaling $95,000. He asked her about the contents.

“When we were to be married,” she said, “my grandmother shared the secret of a happy marriage – never argue. She advised me to keep quiet and crochet a doll whenever I got angry.”

The man fought back tears. Only two precious dolls were in the box. She had only been angry with him twice in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with happiness.

“Honey,” he said “that explains the dolls, but what about all of this money? Where did it come from?”

“Oh, that?” she said. “That’s the money I made from selling the dolls.”

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Frustrated, a woman asked her doctor for advice. “My husband has a habit of talking in his sleep. Is there anything I can give him to cure this problem?

The doctor replied, “Give him an opportunity to speak when he is awake.”

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An airline company introduced a special package for businessmen: Buy your ticket and get your wife’s ticket free. Pleased with the overwhelming response, the company’s executives sent letters to all the wives, asking for their feedback.

All of the women gave the same response: “What trip?”

Tackling Table Topics

4667269_sWhen Eleni Hasapis-Chiapetto asked for advice about challenging Table Topics, she received an overwhelming response from the members of The Official Toastmasters International Members Group on LinkedIn.

After offering my own suggestions, I reflected upon the comments from other toastmasters. Impressed and inspired, I decided to share their collective wisdom.

Remember, no one knows what you are going to say, so say what comes to mind. This holds true for speeches as well. Every time we say, “I made a mistake, audience attention moves from what we are saying to wondering what we had planned, hence missing what we really say. Gordon Hill

Just don’t stop… you freeze when your brain devotes too much RAM to what you will say next as opposed to what you are saying now… Just keep talking… the CPU will work out what is coming in 5 or 10 seconds time… Trust your processor… it is only when you doubt yourself and start thinking … “I can’t answer this… I have no idea what to say next ” and that becomes the most important thing to process so you stop talking and start processing that… That then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy…Remember the most important thing is to remember the acronym… R.A.T…. Relax Attack Talk. Rod Neucom

Be easy on your self and your expectations. A past world champion of public speaking came from my home club years before I joined. When he attended the next meeting after his win, he froze during Table Topics. If it can happen to a brand new champ, it can happen to anyone. The point is to do your best, laugh, and get psyched up for the next time. Steve Piet

Over time I’ve learned that it’s best to take a few minutes to think about the question or topic before speaking. There is no rule about taking time. There have been times where I have volunteered to speak and freeze up. At that moment, I “re-do” my answer or try to finish my thought as best as I can and sit down. Everything comes with practice! Jahnavi Utukuri

reframing

Take a deep breath, smile and make eye contact with different members of the audience. Some will smile back at you, encouraging you. This will give you confidence and help you free some stress, while you think of something. Gustavo Espinosa Tavitas

Focus on your topic, I think that’s what works best. When I’ve had an issue with freezing, it is not about what I’m going to say but I’m worried that I look stupid. But here’s the deal: In a Toastmasters meeting everyone is pulling for you in TT and when you give a speech. They don’t care how you look, they don’t care if you do poorly, they are pulling for you to do the very best that you can do. Now I don’t worry as much about how I look, I simply try to do the best that I can. Timothy Elliott

Humm. My advice is to stop and THINK, and then continue. “”Freezing” is usually a brain lock for me – the mind is working faster than my mouth and the two lock up. I’m not good at BSing while I think of something else to say. And there’s nothing wrong with taking a nanosecond or two to collect one’s thoughts before continuing. Silence is golden! Don’t be afraid of silence. If all else fails, I might say, “Well, nothing is coming to mind at the moment…” or “Gee, I guess I don’t have much of an opinion on this topic…”, or in our club you’re allowed to do what politicians do and skirt the question: answer another question or talk about another topic you find yourself able to wax on about instead of the TT question given to you! What the hey? Why not? Jody Iona Palm

A number of Toastmasters in my group always begin by saying “Thank you Table Topics Master for asking me” and repeating the question. This both creates a decent introduction and gives them time to think of something to say. And remember, too: You neither have to answer the question directly nor tell the truth, so you always have any direction to take your response. Kae Bender

To be continued…

Clean Jokes for Toastmasters

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Use one of these jokes at your next meeting.

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An IT professional was playing a round of golf. Suddenly his ball sliced and landed in a shallow pond. As he was attempting to retrieve the ball he discovered a frog who, to his great surprise, started to speak! “Kiss me, and I will change into a beautiful princess, and I will be yours for a week.”

He picked up the frog and placed it in his pocket. As he continued to play golf, the frog repeated its message. “Kiss me, and I will change into a beautiful princess, and I will be yours for a whole month!”

The man continued to play his golf game and once again the frog spoke out. “Kiss me, and I will change into a beautiful princess, and I will be yours for a whole year!”

Finally, the guy turned to the frog and exclaimed, “As an IT professional, I’d rather have a talking frog!”

Source: Creekside TD Toastmasters

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An elderly man lay dying in his bed. In death’s agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength, and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom, and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door-frame, gazing into the kitchen.

Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: there, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man?

Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture. His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth; seemingly bringing him back to life. The aged and withered hand, made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when it was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife. “Stay out of those, she said, they’re for the funeral!”

Source: Creekside TD Toastmasters