Serving at a Toastmasters Conference

This past Friday and Saturday offered me two opportunities to serve at an annual Toastmasters Conference held at a geographically compact district in the Midwestern United States.

Tostmasters 2(Courtesy of Toastmasters International).

The first form of service focused on understanding a part of the needs of attendees, presenters, honorees, and competitors for office and in the speaking contests. This included logistical considerations including directions, parking needs, technology needs, and selected committee leadership over both days of the event. The execution of this role occurred over a period of weeks and including interfacing with members of the hosting venue, the conference leaders, the district director, the program quality director for the district, and members that helped me coordinate the event.

Tostmasters 3(Courtesy of Toastmasters International).

The second form of service included offering an educational session for attendees. I presented with a co-presenter. Conference attendees interested in learning reasons and techniques to speak in public with a partner were the target audience for the 45-minute presentation and interactive session. Our event included discussion of transitions, partner styles, considerations of different levels of experience and influence, and concrete tales where the technique was used in real life. We also discussed how our individual club came to practice the technique and learned to use the form over a period of months.

Tostmasters 4(Courtesy of Toastmasters International).

Both journeys of service offered confidence and experience with interpersonal and professional growth. I really appreciate the opportunities afforded me by my home district and the members of that district to fine tune my service skills by leading by example in these two meaningful ways.

Tostmasters 5(Courtesy of Toastmasters International).

To learn what Toastmasters is, click here. To learn how Toastmasters works, click here. to find a club near you, click here.

Tostmasters 6(Courtesy of Toastmasters International).

To learn about our Education program, click here. To learn about our Youth Leadership program, click here.

Tostmasters 7(Courtesy of Toastmasters International).

Matt – Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Robert B. Cialdini and the book ‘Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade’

Four Minute Books summarizes the Robert B. Cialdini book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade in one sentence. “Pre-Suasion takes you through the latest social psychology research to explain how marketers, persuaders and our environment primes us to say certain things and take specific actions, as well as how you can harness the same ideas to master the art of persuasion.”

Pre-Suasion 2(Robert B. Cialdini is a psychologist and the writer of Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade).

The premise of the book has much to do with careful communicating rather than getting people to think the way you wish. This may seem like a clever way of making a difference without distinction, though the point is about using care to set the stage carefully. As Four Minute Books rightly says about Pre-Suasion, the book is “about setting the stage the right way, so they’ll automatically want to when the time comes.”

Pre-Suasion 3(A key point of Robert B. Cialdini‘s book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade).

Three lessons pulled from the book are summarized for us by Four Minute Books. First, “so-called leading or pre-suasive questions elicit certain answers and prime us to decide in a specific way.” Second, “we put more relevance on what’s attention-grabbing, so beware!” Third, “the words we use determine what we do – more than we think.” Cialdini is careful to articulate that he discusses this from the perspective of both sides of a two-sided coin. Those two sides are that “we’re being pre-suaded in our everyday lives and how you and I can use those very same tactics to persuade others,” as quoted from Four Minute Books.

Pre-Suasion 4(Robert B. Cialdini‘s book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade).

We at Matt Lynn Digital reviewed Robert B. Cialdini‘s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the review available here. There is a debt to Cialdini‘s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion that are referenced as a sort of shorthand through Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, though a thorough comprehension of the first book does not feel necessary as a means of applying the larger lessons of the second, or vice versa. Take a deeper look at the Four Minute Book summary of Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade to dig deeper into examples of the three lessons.

Pre-Suasion 5(Robert B. Cialdini‘s book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade).

Making the lessons a bit more specific, I’ll share a personal example for how I will be using the three lessons in context. I participate in Toastmasters, wherein I practice the concepts of persuasion and influence as a learning objective for properly meeting the expectations of the audience to whom I speak. The second weekend of May, I will be speak educationally with a partner, offering the audience some reasons for speaking not alone but with a colleague. Our educational agenda is to convince people of the appropriateness for speaking with a partner. Cialdini quotes writer Saul Bellow on the speaking with a partner to indicate value. To wit, Bellow observed “that we when ask for advice, we are usually asking for an accomplice.” In this, and in speaking with partners, the notion of getting advice or a partnership typically gets you advice, the speech support, and an accomplice.

Pre-Suasion 6(Robert B. Cialdini‘s book Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade).

The practical point that backs-up the message of Cialdini‘s Pre-Suasion is that an argument for my personal context is that in speaking with a partner, and advising one another, you get an arguably better experience for the audience as well as for both speakers in drawing you both closer. Applying this to work, getting a commitment through an accomplice that is a good speaker, a master of a certain subject, a boss, or some other influential person in your organization makes you each of the things you see in your partner. If you are looking at the less influential player, your credibility is strengthened by building your accomplice. This is commitment, even more relevant if commitment in behavior, which reflect the tactics Cialdini raises with Pre-Suasion. I give Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert B. Cialdini 3.75-stars on a scale of one-to-five stars.

Matt – Saturday, May 4, 2019

My Toastmasters journey

Not everyone is a natural storyteller, interpersonal communicator, listener, speaker in public, or speaker through technology. Similarly, leadership that uses communication, the ability to set visions or make decisions, the ability to delegate or execute professional, productive meetings comes naturally to everyone. Taking specific steps to develop skills such as these, among others, led me to join an international organization called Toastmasters in 2016.

Many join Toastmasters seeking personal growth somewhere on that spectrum. Some stay beyond that to help others grow in these points. Still others join for the friendship and social rewards of gathering with or mentoring like minded people on the road to betterment. While all of these are reasons for me to participate with Toastmasters, my journey has been one of taking confidence from the application of speaking and leadership exercise while offering similar feedback to friends and colleagues across the clubs, district, and region I frequent.

My initial decision to explore Toastmasters came as I approached the winter holiday season in 2015. I hadn’t been making the professional impact in my career or workplace that I wanted. It felt like I was getting a bit isolated among my peers at work. The common sense yet hard realization I had come to was that the requirement to change the fundamental narrative of the situation rested with me. I needed to change the perceptions that existed about my ability to grow, influence, and accomplish with limited intervention from others. The skills that Toastmasters offered were natural things to investigate.

I visited a club near my home, finding the people there welcoming and competent. The club was of a smaller size, which meant that my inclination towards shyness or lack of assertiveness would need to be things I could confront early on without feeling overly embarrassed by lacking the things that the people of Toastmasters could help me address. We had a fit after visiting in December. I joined at the first meeting in January of 2016.

Two weeks later, I gave my Icebreaker speech. I was stiff, glued to the lectern, and largely reading from the script that I had written. The club offered expressions of excitement right from the beginning. Members offered me a sense that my first step was exciting for them too. I felt the truth and encouraging words of members that wanted to see me succeed, and more to the point get started with the journey.

Within a year, I had given 10 speeches and earned an educational award. I provided feedback to other speakers and led parts of the meeting. In time for the start of the 2016/2017 Toastmasters year in July, I was elected president of the club.

The club had limited success my first year, yet I learned much about things to do and try. The importance of setting a vision, calling the occasional club executive meeting, and making progress towards a collective goal through my own initiative became clear. The club showed me with firm yet tough feedback that others would not suggest the steps you needed to take. Those folks would offer specific recommendations when asked for specific help. The lessons of these points were taken into the 2017-2018 year when I served as an Area Director within my district.

This role meant that I would help five clubs with the things I had confronted the year before within my club. I started a newsletter for my clubs that highlighted successes as well as things coming up in the next 6-8 weeks. I gave folks clear ways to get in touch with me for questions, advice, or help. I visited clubs multiple times through the year, helping with Open Houses, marketing material, training, feedback, contests, and even press releases. All the things that I didn’t know to do in my year as club president came out as area director. I earned three more educational awards. My home club earned the second highest honor possible within Toastmasters. The District Director awarded me with Area Director of the Year honors. The lessons of my first year of learning to lead bore fruit with my second year of leadership.

I am currently serving as an elected official in my district, namely as Central Division Director. I am supporting five area directors in their journeys of discovery and growth. I am feeling much more confident speaking, leading, and setting vision after listening to the people that I serve. I am learning more about budgeting for an organization as well as the chances to address conflict, change, and growth. Either this Toastmaster year or next, I expect to earn the level of Distinguished Toastmaster. Maybe I will pursue a position on the Trio for me district, though there is time to determine that. For those that are curious, this journey can be one that we share.

Matt – Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Malcolm Gladwell and ‘The Tipping Point’

In his 2002 book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell tells us that “[t]he tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” I’ve been studying the notion of influence and persuasion recently, and read The Tipping Point as a means of enhancing my understanding.

The Tipping Point 3(The big idea of The Tipping Point)

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell concisely shares the message for how ideas catch on and become adopted. The notion is positively reinforced through examples of ideas like shoes that were adopted by an early set of adopters in Manhattan (the first example) followed a few examples later by skater shoes adopted out of a skater community in southern California. The examination in this book gets into how this happens along with the types of people who make this happen.

The Tipping Point 2 - Malcolm Gladwell(Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Point)

Three points that Gladwell indicates as highly important include the notion, first, for the nature of the message. The message must be sticky. The message needs to be delivered in a common sense context. The message needs to be delivered to somebody who will act.

The Tipping Point 4(Delivering a message that tips)

The correctness of any given message does not guarantee the tipping, or large scale adoption, of a message. The audience for that message needs to trust the person or people delivering the message, along with the integrity of those delivering the message. The three groups that deliver messages are connectors, mavens, and salesmen.

The Tipping Point 5(The right people need to deliver the message)

Mavens are the most important in that chain as they have earned trust through being experts in a subject with an interest to help. Paul Revere with his midnight ride during the US Revolutionary War was a maven. Connectors are those loose connections of acquaintances that are less than friends that have knowledge of the critical help for a situation. Think of a connector not as the good friend who knows you are looking for a job; Think of the connector as the person in your friend’s network who knows about the job that fits your skill set. A salesmen (or salesperson) is the person in a specific context trying to help you decide to make a purchase.

Overall, the message here was a helpful one. In fact, I used this technique just recently in a Toastmasters speech where I was trying to sell my club on some public relations changes. The approach used was comfortable and readily applied. For that, I grant The Tipping Point 4.0-stars out of 5.

Matt – Saturday, November 10, 2018

Book Review: Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

As some of you that read this blog know, I joined a communication, confidence, and leadership growth group in January of 2016 called Toastmasters International. A gentleman there took a risk by affording me the opportunity to practice my leadership skills.  He offered the challenge to be uncomfortable for awhile in supporting not only myself and my club. He allowed me to serve the people of five clubs in an area of my city that I hadn’t really explored much during the first roughly 40-years of my life.

I was first introduced to the gentleman, Mr. Tay, in April 2017. This friend reads two to four books on leadership each year to keep current with new ideas that can help him in his career. Mindful and continuous improvement are cornerstones of the advice that I have received from Mr. Tay. This approach brought me to the book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want.

Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni co-wrote Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, a book that gets into a concept that Goodreads calls “surprisingly simple.” The notion underpinning the book is that “frequent short conversations with employees about their career goals and options integrated seamlessly into the normal course of business” will help keep employees growing, engaged, and happily productive within your organization.

Grow or Go 2(Beverly Kay)

The framework that Kaye and Winkle Giulioni voice clearly in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go includes talks about understanding your own hindsight, combining it with foresight into department, company, and industry trends, and then joining the two with context to gain insight.

Much of the book indicates what it will tell you and then did. Chapters three and four get into the notion of hindsight to determine who you are, where you’ve been, what you love, and where you excel. Foresight in chapter five looks to have managers help employees look forward, outward, and toward trends, changes, and the big picture. Chapters six through eight focus on leveraging insight from the convergence of hindsight and foresight.

Grow or Go 3(Julie Winkle Giulioni)

Career-oriented books about leadership and development are definitely not the material for everyone. Conversations about a Toastmasters career further are not the types of information that will excite folks. Taking concrete action to lead and grow through direct action within clubs, and then more passive reflection and thought to shape further action, is further not the thing folks want.

In combining the two and reviewing a book well at 4.0-starts out of 5.0 stars, know that I received insight that I wanted while getting to practice the techniques within. Thanks, Mr. Tay, for sharing the opportunity to read this and apply it in the real world.

Matt – Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review: Simon Sinek starts with why over how or what

Simon Sinek introduced the highly influential concept of The Golden Circle in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. This book appeared in my sphere when a retired business owner in one of my Toastmasters International public communication clubs brought up the notion of marketing the club based on why we do things rather than what we do or how we do them.

Start With Why 2(The Golden Circle)

The book gets into the notions of moving from why to how to what, which is the system that Sinek called The Golden Circle (18-minute video here)Simon Sinek makes the case that his system of communicating on why and through beliefs mirrors biology.

Biology underpins The Golden Circle, per Sinek, because it follows the notion of biology by clarifying similarities to the way our brains function. The newest and outermost section of the brain (the neocortex) processes sensory information, higher level reasoning, and communicating through language. This part of the brain also corresponds to the question of what.

Start With Why 4(The biology of the theory)

The middle two sections deal in the limbic system, which gets into our feelings, memories, moods, and behavior. The limbic system addresses the questions of how and why humans behave the way we do. In other words. our feelings, memories, moods, and behavior controls a larger portion of our means for making decisions than does the neocortex.

Start With Why 3(The Celery Test)

A simple test (or framework) for effective use of is the notion of The Golden Circle is The Celery Test. This four-minute Celery Test video moves from a results-based why into a purposeful, belief-based means for action. The Celery Test gets to the notion of acting consistently with your belief system in living your beliefs.

Start With Why 5(Simon Sinek)

There is much philosophical satisfaction that I take from Start With Why, and for that my inclination is to rate the book as 4.5-stars out of 5.0. The notion that the book could have been a more concise pamphlet or video is not lost on me, though the larger benefit of The Celery Test and the comparison to biology in the book were satisfying parts of the reading journey for me. I recommend this book to those wanting a self-help book for your own edification.

Matt – Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Offering a Song of Love

Three times before today, we at Matt Lynn Digital have offered a firsthand experience with the speaking and leadership organization called Toastmasters International. This organization has helped me grow personally in confidence, vision creation, voice, and many areas professionally and personally.

There was the time where in this blog where I compared my early experience in confidence finding to peeling back the layers of an onion. There was another time where I was excited to hear the current president of the Toastmasters organization speak to members of my district. There was the time where I mentioned cultivating the relationships formed in Toastmasters to help me land a new career opportunity following a layoff with my employer of more than 16-years.

As you might tell from the opening two paragraphs, my heart wishes to offer a feeling of gratitude for the growth and bridge of friendship that I found during my time there. One of the ways I have given back to Toastmasters is in service to the district where I experience the organization. Stated another way, I aim to give back by sharing my talents and willingness to support others taking or supporting similar journeys themselves.

Finally, I bring myself to the example that brings me to my bigger point. I was giving a speech to my home club on a night when Lynn, the better half of this blog team, visited the club after a rough day at home. Sensing an opportunity to entertain my Toastmaster colleagues and wife at the same time, I chose to sing in public for one of two times I had in my entire public speaking career.

Modifying the lyrics to Bette Midler‘s song The Rose, I sang the song of love to our then 11-year-old dog to my wife. The dynamic of the singing as well as the dynamic of an interplay through unaccustomed presentation style was less than award-winning music while being full blown emotionally dynamic and groundbreaking for a group that had previously seen me take a less pronounced public speaking style.

The Toastmaster Rose 2(Bette Midler)

The speech itself professed my love for Kayley, included visual images of Kayley for the audience to share, and included some precious moments of love and cuteness. The subject matter even included the speech title, which included the simulated barking of the letter R five-times in rhythmic succession.

The entertainment value and coherence of the speech brought itself together in the end by tying the “puppy love” of my affection for our dog into a telling of how it was that my first introduction to our four-legged friend that began to build the affection my wife and I would build from infatuation, to something mature, to the very real decisions to act together as one in marriage. In five-to-seven minutes, I had taken my club and my wife on a journey of puppy love, song, and vision to the mature dynamic of a love story that was unwrapped for everyone to see.

At least, that concept of unwrapping is how I tell myself in my head the speech went. The striving for something that compelling was there. I had given this speech to the members of my club at a winter meeting in December 2016. The time to share it here, with you, was today. Happy new year.

Matt – Saturday, January 6, 2018