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What my first Toastmasters meeting taught me about persuasion

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Yesterday I attended my first Toastmasters session.

It was fascinating, and as a student of human nature I learned a ton.

Both from observing and from holding my first few speeches.

Toastmasters International is global nonprofit dedicated to helping people improve their leadership and public speaking skills.

If you live in a decently sized town, there’s probably a local branch.

The meetings are extremely well organized and structured.

Up to the minute!

You start with introductions, the agenda for the day, then you go into 3 prepared speeches. After those there’s a quick break and then more speeches, but impromptu ones. The conductor asks questions and a few of the participants get to answer with a 1-2 minute improvised speech.

As a guest on my first meeting, I was asked to join those discussions to break the ice. So I did.

Here’s 3 uncommon things I learned about persuasion…

1) In persuasion, attention to detail and deconstruction matter

Every single speech was evaluated with scorecards and following specific parameters (content, style, delivery etc). They evaluated not only every speech, but also the Toastmaster himself. And not just that, the evaluators were evaluated too! (meta)

I believe this crazy attention to detail is critical if you want to become a good persuader and public speaker. And being able to deconstruct someone else’s speech helps not only them, but yourself as well. Because next time you will pay attention to their mistakes and to the things they did well. And you’ll follow your own advice. It sticks in your head because you put effort into the analysis.

2) Timing counts too

Every speech and even the speeches’ evaluation were timed. The timekeeper was responsible for turning 3 lights on during your speech: green meaning you passed the minimum allotted time, orange and you’re in the middle range, and finally red – you’ve exceeded your maximum time.

Being held accountable for your delivery this way, reminds you that timing is not secondary in public speaking. It teaches you to be responsible for and professional about your presentation.

And lastly…

3) When we’re all on the same boat, the only thing left to do is to row

The environment you find yourself in at a meeting is conducive for a “just get the hell over yourself” mindset. You get to see how apparently confident people on the surface, shatter under the pressure of not even 100, but 10 people in the room. And you realize that we’re all insecure, doubtful humans.

It’s a freeing feeling though. Because there’s nothing else to do than stepping up and giving your best speech. Knowing that, no matter how you feel, you won’t be judged.

What can these teach us about copy?

That deconstructing someone else’s copy works.

That we never have an unlimited amount of time to convince people to buy.

And that immersing yourself in the market makes you empathize with those people.

I highly recommend you attend your local Toastmasters meetings if you can. We all spend way too much in front of our laptops anyway.

Time to get real and personal.

Quote and reflection of the day:

“Self-respect, courage, and integrity look good on a man.”

  • Robert Glover, No More Mr. Nice Guy

The right, aligned mindset leads to the right presence. It positions you to be who you need to be, so the people around you can see no separation between your inner and outer world.

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