Category Archives: toastmasters
I recently had the honor of playing the role of game show host of a Notes/Domino edition of Jeopardy! at CollabSphere User Group Conference. This was the Day 2 Lunchtime entertainment.
The contestants were Helen Mendoza, an HCL customer from Chicago, IL, USA; Roberto Boccadoro, an HCL business partner from Milan, Italy; and Luis Guirigay, an HCL employee from Boca Raton, FL, USA.
Hosted by me, HCL Ambassador David Hablewitz.
Many requested it, so here is the replay of that fun game.
It opens with the pre-game chat to relax the contestants and wait for the audience arrive. The actual game starts at timestamp 5:00 and ends around 38:00 followed by more conversation. Actual attendance was about 60 people. Event organizer Richard Moy (Donna) did have a gift certificate for the winner.
Sadly, on November 8, less than 2 weeks after this event, Alex Trebek, the host of the actual TV game show for 36 years, passed away from pancreatic cancer. It was a great honor and tribute to have the privilege to serve as moderator and will make this event so much more meaningful to me. While you’re watching, please take a moment to view the video in youtube and subscribe to my youtube channel or click the subscribe button at the end of the video.
A few logistical details for those interested:
The meeting was run as a webinar in Zoom, though it could have been done in any online conferencing software. Helen and Luis chose to use the virtual background feature in Zoom. Roberto used the IRL background feature (in real life). For my background, the introduction bumper, and some game controls and audio effects (which were muffled) were managed using Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS Studio) software. The website used to host the online game was https://www.playfactile.com/
The game website does provide for a method of using a buzzer, but I opted to keep this as simple as possible to avoid potential technical difficulties and it really was entertaining to hear the contestants’ voices when they buzz. This also switched the speaker view in Zoom to the person when they buzzed. The recording of the event only shows one camera at a time, but during the live event, the cameras of all 3 contestants and the host were visible at all times. This was really fun to do and it was a great success, especially considering I had only a week to pull it all together. Freddy The Bassett also made a cameo appearance at the very beginning.
I always thought Tom Hanks was a captivating speaker, but never analyzed carefully to figure out why. If you want to be a more interesting speaker, practice the 4 tips in this video. If you’re in toastmasters, you may have heard some of this, but not with this much detail (vocal variety, body language, eye contact) and there is more here that you might not have heard before:
1. story gap
2. emotional intrigue
3. inherit the character
4. audience inclusion
Watch it and tell me what you think in the comments. (disclaimer: I don’t know about or have anything to do with the promo at the end of the video.)
If there is something people dread more than public speaking, it is probably speaking in front of a camera. But until we go back to meeting in person, we are stuck giving our speeches and presentations to a camera at home.
Unfortunately, being skilled at speaking to a live audience does not ensure you will be good at presenting to a camera. But with every challenge also comes opportunity. And by making a conscious effort to improve on camera, you will expand, refine, and diversify your speaking skills in more ways than you ever could by giving in-person speeches alone. Watch this speech to get some ideas:
Bonus: Wash your hands for 20 seconds
1. Have a simple, uncluttered background
2. Dress as you would for an in-person speech
3. Mark where to stand with a towel (and be barefoot)
4. Look at the camera, not at the screen
…but don’t stare! Look away occasionally, more naturally
5. Study Late Night talk show hosts for examples
6. Sit 3-5 feet or stand 4-6 feet from the camera (where the front row would be sitting)
7. If presenting, consider standing instead of sitting
8. Move around the stage
9. Use body language, gestures and facial expressions
10. Even if you aren’t giving a speech, don’t put your camera down low!
11. Put the camera level with your eyes and tipped slightly down
12. Put the camera on a tripod or other stable support
13. Using your phone? Prop it on a box if you don’t have a tripod
14. ALWAYS use landscape (horizontal) orientation!
15. Have multiple light sources
16. Avoid bright light / windows behind you
17. Avoid harsh lighting / spotlights
18. Don’t stand too close to the wall
19. Only use virtual backgrounds if you must
20. Virtual backgrounds work best with a green screen
21. Simple, natural backgrounds are best
22. Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers sit because they do a 1 hour show
23. Silence your cell phone and close all apps on your computer
24. Put pets and kids far, far away… Unless they are quiet like @FreddyTheBassett
25. Use an external microphone
26. Cell phone earbuds make good microphones
27. Be close to camera-mounted microphones
28. Soundcheck your audio before the meeting starts
29. Use fresh/fully charged batteries or plug into an outlet
30. Be in a quiet location
31. Close any windows during your speech
32. Join early to test audio, video, visual aids, timer
33. Pin the timer’s video AND have your own timer
34. Connect to the internet using a wire instead of wifi if possible
Watch what works well for others and try different things and have fun with this new platform for speaking! Be sure to check out the other Toastmasters tips I’ve posted by clicking the Toastmasters tab at the top of this page.
This video demonstrates how to:
1. Create a Facebook event.
2. Simplify the steps to invite your friends to the event.
3. Promote your event beyond the people you know.
For more Toastmasters tips, visit https://davidhablewitz.com/category/toastmasters/
Breakout rooms are free in Zoom if you know how to enable them.
Watch this video to learn how.
I’ve gathered more information on this topic regarding iPads, Androids, and older PCs.
A few notes from the video:
- The Zoom app on Android devices doesn’t have the Virtual Background function.
You will need to use good old colored paper to indicate the colors. Be sure to keep holding up each color until time to switch colors. I have not yet tested this functionality in WebEx.
- Some older or lower end models of PCs can’t handle the Virtual Background feature in Zoom. I have not yet explored the details in WebEx.
Steps to add color cards as background images on the iPad:
- Visit http://bit.ly/timerbackgrounds
- Click each file one-by-one and download it to the iPad (don’t use the Download All)
- Open Downloads
- Tap the first file to open it, then tap it again to make it full screen.
- Take a screenshot (press the power button and the home button at the same time). This adds it to the photos which is where Zoom looks for background images.
- Repeat steps 4 & 5 for each photo
- Open Zoom. Tap on the ellipsis (…) in the top right, then tap on Virtual Backgrounds
- Click the + icon at the bottom of the screen, then select the first image (white) to add it to the backgrounds.
- Repeat this for green, yellow and red in order.
- Leave this open while timing and choose NONE for your background between speeches, then choose WHITE when the speaker starts and GREEN, YELLOW, and RED at the appropriate times.
Please add comments with your own ideas or experiences with this process to make it better. See more of my Toastmasters tips at https://davidhablewitz.com/category/toastmasters/
There is a new trend to hold meetings online. In particular, many Toastmasters clubs are moving to an online format as we wait for the pandemic to subside. I have been working from home for about 8 years now and I have a few tips to improve your online meeting experience. Today I will talk about how you can use the virtual background to enhance any presentation, but particularly if you are in the Timer role in your Toastmasters meeting. This is specific to online meetings using Webex or Zoom.
- Download the virtual background images from http://bit.ly/timerbackgrounds
- Start / join your online meeting.
- Add the images to your available virtual backgrounds.
- Before the speech starts, cover your camera lens.
- Change your background at the appropriate time for each speech:
Use None before/after the speech
Use White (Timing…) when timing is started,
Use the standard Green, Yellow, Red at the appropriate time
The purpose of covering your camera is so that your image isn’t distracting the speaker in front of the background image. You will note that there are 4 virtual background images. Be sure to use the White background when the speaker starts talking so everyone knows you have started timing. Optionally you can type “Started”, “Green”, “Yellow”, “Red” in the meeting chat so that the audience knows without looking at your video where the timing is. This should NOT be done during a contest.
For maximum visibility, if you have additional ideas for improving this procedure, please post your comments here rather than in Facebook or youtube.
Toastmasters meetings online is a great way to practice for using web meetings in other settings. Explore other ways you can use these techniques to enhance your viewers’ online experience. For more Toastmasters tips, visit
(See also the second article I published on this which has more tips on the limitations of Virtual Backgrounds and how to use it on other devices:
Part 2: Using Zoom Virtual Backgrounds for Toastmasters Timer Role on iPads & Androids
Study this video to learn there is no limit to how much you can enhance your speech with body language:
And watch this video (starting at 3:07) to see just how much difference a well-placed pause… can make in your speech. Notice when the biggest laughs come. Imagine replacing the beat with words and make your speech much more humorous with nothing more than………….a pause.
Many beginner Toastmasters see their speech from their own point of view, both in how they talk and how they use the stage. With practice, speakers learn to see and hear (and deliver) their speech considering the audience’s point of view. Before explaining how that works, it is helpful to understand the terminology.
Stage Left & Stage Right
House Right & House Left
The term “House” or “Stage” is in reference to what you are looking at. So if you’re in the audience, you are looking at the stage. If you’re on stage, you’re looking at the house. (And if you’re one of my whitewater paddling friends, you already know River Left and River Right is the perspective as you look down river.) Here is a video explaining it:
Read the full article about it here.
Now how do you use this info? Most cultures read from left to right and observe the passage of time going from left to right. So for clarity to your audience your story should follow that flow. So if you are talking about an event that came first, you would stand or point to Stage Left. As you refer to events through time, you move across the stage to Stage Right. You may make several trips through time this way and your story may come to a conclusion in the present which you would come back to front and center to deliver final the message.
Joining Toastmasters and speaking in front of members of your club can be intimidating. So the thought of competing in front of strangers who are judging your performance can be downright terrifying. Many Toastmasters would never even consider competing. It is easy to forget that Toastmasters is a safe place to fail, not just in front of your friends in your own club, but in the company of Toastmasters everywhere in any Toastmasters setting. The value of competing is in stepping further outside your comfort zone, experiencing the success of speaking to perform, and meeting people from other clubs who have the same goals.
It is not that only the best speakers compete, but rather
those who compete become the best speakers.
The following video is a speech I delivered at Willows Voices Toastmasters on 2/1/2019 giving a bit of insight into my experience competing and a few tips on the evaluation contest. But whether you are competing in the Speech Evaluation, Table Topics, Humorous Speech, or International Speech, there is value in watching this short presentation.
Here are the links referenced in the video:
Judge’s Ballot for Evaluation Contest: http://bit.ly/evaluationballot2020
Judge’s Ballot for International Speech Contest: https://bit.ly/tmspeechcontestballot2020
July 2018- June 2019 Contest Rulebook: http://bit.ly/2020contestrulebook
3 Toastmasters.org videos on judging contests: http://bit.ly/judgingspeeches
People often assume that the contests are only for those who are good speakers. Au Contraire! It is not that only the best speakers compete, but rather those who compete become the best speakers.
Discovery! Leave it to the Toastmasters district headquartered in Silicon Valley to come up with a website that tells everything you could want to know about the new Pathways education program in Toastmasters. Thank you District 4 (San Francisco/Palo Alto)
Start Here. Go ahead, It will open in another window. I’ll wait here.
As you go through the information, everything about Pathways will become clear.
Of all the resources on that page, this one is the heart of it all. Once there, click on one of the paths and then surf through the tabs of each project level and under each level, click through the projects. It’s all there! Every project description. This will help you choose your path. When you click on this link, I expect you’ll get too caught up in it to return here, so enjoy. Bookmark that page or come back here and click on the Toastmasters Resources I will be adding to the menu. Other handy resources they have list are:
- Pathways Paths and Projects (webpage)
Description of all ten Paths and their related project options.
- Pathways Paths and Core Competencies (11 page pdf)
- Pathways Project Description Reference Guide (59 page pdf)
- Getting Started Using Pathways (2 page PDF)
- Pathways Fast Start (34 page pdf)
Along with Base Camp screenshots for getting started includes submitting Ice Breaker project for completion (page 22)
- The Navigator (pdf)
Provided in the “new member kit” to members who join after Pathways launch. Pathways description provided on page 9-14
- Getting Started Using Pathways Base Camp Manager (4 page PDF)
- Base Camp Manager Duties (44 page pdf)
Step-by-step instructions for VPEs to respond to member level completion requests and track member progress.
To learn from this amazing speaker and World Champion of Public Speaking for one.
If you know a CEO, manager, supervisor or friend who could benefit from learning better leadership or public speaking skills, you might ask them to consider coming to this event in Lynnwood, WA. Suggesting they attend may be like telling a friend they have bad breath: Once they get over the embarrassment, they will thank you for it.
This 1-day conference on leadership and public speaking is good enough that you won’t care how nice the weather is outside. Seriously. No, I’m not getting paid to say that. I’ve just attended in the past and I know how good the presenters are. It made a huge difference in my presentation at IBM Think Conference last month.