Elaine Lung has been with Toastmasters for over two decades since joining the Xilinx Xpressionists in September of 1999. Given her tenure with Toastmasters, one may presume that Elaine has always had a strong passion for public speaking and presenting. However, this is not the case. Elaine began her journey hesitantly. For much of her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, Elaine described herself as someone who was comfortable with letting others speak on her behalf. Today, Elaine is the owner of her self-founded business, Elaine Lung & Associates, which centers on enhancing speaking skills for business professionals. She is also a certified speaking coach, President of her own Toastmasters club, Silicon Valley ImprovMasters, and a recent winner of the District 101 Speech Evaluation Contest. How did Elaine transform from a fearful fly-on-the-wall to a businesswoman with a career centered around public speaking? Read on:
Prior to joining Toastmasters, what was your experience with public speaking like?
I grew up in the Midwest (Ohio) in the 70s and 80s in a household with two outspoken brothers, where speaking up was never fully encouraged nor expected of me. Women were just beginning to rise in the workplace, and speaking up as a woman was more challenging. I felt comfortable not speaking up in social situations. Despite my shyness, I was a good student and always had plenty of stories and ideas brewing in my mind. In school, I excelled at reading and writing, which refined my skills as a storyteller.
When I entered high school, I took a leap of faith and decided to participate in a high school speech contest. Entering the contest, I did not understand how the judging panel would be evaluating me. Per contest rules, the judges were to remain impassive during all participants’ speeches. Since I did not realize this rule, I panicked increasingly as I spoke and was met with a stoic audience. I fumbled through my speech, making several mistakes along the way. After I finished speaking, I walked out of the room with my shoulders slumped. As I left, feeling ashamed, I made eye contact with one of the judges. The judge gave me a shocked look, as if she could not fathom how I could have failed so miserably. That look stayed with me for 20 years. For two decades, sentiments of not feeling “good enough” stayed with me. In my mind, I constantly reinforced the thought that what I had to say was not important enough. I stayed quiet through school, college, and my initial years in the workforce. I kept my head down and worked hard, but I increasingly saw how my social anxieties were holding me back in advancing my personal life and career.
When did your Toastmasters journey begin?
After 7 years of working as a CAD engineer at Xicor, I transitioned to a new management role at Xilinx in 1999. As an engineer, I was able to stay quiet, as long as I worked diligently. When I joined Xilinx, I found my role to be quite different and realized that I needed to make a change. One day, coworkers mentioned that Xilinx had its own Toastmasters club. I was anxious to attend a meeting; even the prospect of observing other speakers and not participating myself seemed overwhelming. With my coworkers’ encouragement and mutual participation, I attended my first Xilinx Xpressionists meeting.
What were your initial experiences with Toastmasters?
When I started attending Xilinx Xpressionists meetings, I initially hid in the back of the room. Despite my hesitations, I found the club members to be very inviting and warm. Soon, the Vice President of Membership helped me complete my membership application. During my first meeting as a member, I was called on for table topics. I don’t recall anything from that experience because my mind blacked out. However, that initial experience of others caring about what I had to say was the beginning of a new, transformative journey.
After joining Xilinx Xpressionists, you worked your way up to leadership roles in various Toastmasters clubs. Can you elaborate on this journey?
At Xilinx, I received great support from my company with regards to my public speaking journey. The club officers created an environment within which I felt safe. About 6 months after joining Xilinx Xpressionists, I was approached by the club Vice President of Education who asked me to run for his role in the next club election. I became the Vice President of Education, followed by Secretary, culminating with President. Eventually, I left Xilinx and became involved with district leadership. With the help of friends, I went on to found three Bay Area Toastmasters clubs in succession: Silicon Valley Storytellers, San Mateo Storytellers, and Silicon Valley ImprovMasters. The people in these clubs truly enabled my success. I experienced firsthand the power of networking, and I found that Toastmasters is as much a networking group as a self-improvement group.
You currently serve as President of Silicon Valley ImprovMasters, which you founded in 2015. Can you talk about how your club differs from a standard Toastmasters club?
Our club focuses on honing the improv mindset. Through this club, I have gained more confidence with speaking on the fly as well as listening attentively to ask educated questions after speaker presentations. Life is without a script. Improving your improvisational skills will not only help you become a better speaker, but will also help you move through life more effectively.
Of all the speeches you have now delivered, which one of yours is a personal favorite?
One speech that stands out to me is a story about forgiveness. In my speech, I reminisced about a time I had paid for an expensive dinner that I had been looking forward to eating all day. I had just sat down to eat when the doorbell rang. After opening the door, I returned to the dinner table to find that my delicious meal had disappeared! My brother’s dog, Petey, had eaten my dinner! In the moment, I was furious with Petey. The speech traced my journey of coming to terms with my lost meal and forgiving Petey.
I woke up one morning to demo the speech at a 7 AM Toastmasters meeting at a new club 50 miles away. During my speech, an audience member started crying. She later told me that my experience with Petey reminded her of the journey of forgiveness she was seeking in her relationship with her son. In that moment, I realized that not every person in the audience would hear the same thing when I told a story. My 50-mile, early-morning trek had been worth it. I went on to tell that speech to other audiences. Another individual approached me one year after I had delivered the speech at a different event to describe how the story had resonated with her. These experiences were very memorable to me!
Do you have any final words of advice for our members?
For anyone who grew up letting someone else do the talking for them, or for anyone who has felt too shy to speak up, it is never too late to become the person you have always wanted to be. Toastmasters can help you along your journey.
Written by Ramya Ramachandran of Intuitively Speaking Toastmasters Club
Ranking highly among my passions are traveling the world and Toastmasters – That means that being a Club Ambassador and the associated mission is such a great fit and comes naturally to me! It may also explain why I took on the role of Club Ambassador Chair for District 101 in 2018-2019. In March 2019, I had an opportunity (a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity if you will) to travel to a pristine and beautiful place, the “last continent” – Antarctica!! I was traveling there with 100 other runners on to complete an important personal milestone of running at least one full marathon across each continent and joining the exclusive 7 Continents Club. I digress. Anytime I visit a new city, country, or continent for that matter, part of my Toastmasters mission is to look up and visit clubs. Over the last 6 years as a Toastmaster, I have had the opportunity of visiting over 20 clubs across 5 continents. Naturally, when the Antarctica opportunity came up, I looked up clubs to visit there too.
It was a month before my trip. I had heard that there might be a Toastmasters club in Antarctica. A search on the Toastmasters website came up empty. So did speaking to members and district leaders and feverishly searching the internet, with my closest friends, Google and Bing 😉 . Since I was part of a tour group on a ship, I was not even sure if I could break away to visit a club anyway. Maybe, this is a blessing in disguise, I thought.
Time passed – it was now 2 weeks before the trip. The Club Ambassador in me was getting unsettled. I had to visit a club. Then it hit me… if there was no club on the continent, why not create my own club meeting? After all, with 100 of us on a ship together for 14 days, what better way to spend some of the time than sharing our stories at a Toastmasters meeting? I reached out to our tour coordinator, Stephanie. I wanted to know if they would let me host a Toastmasters meeting and fit it within the already hectic trip itinerary. Stephanie was helpful, but was non-committal since the team captain had the final say.
There was now barely a week left. I had to do something and quickly!! I decided I would host my own meeting on the ship – The only thing I was going off of was the hope – even though there was no way to contact our team captain, no way to know if there were other Toastmasters on the ship (since they didn’t give out details of others on the ship), no way to know if after all this, a meeting would happen after all. I also realized that to do this in an official manner, I might need approval from the Toastmasters organization, but there was no time. Was this effort jinxed? I heard an inner voice say NO!! I had to keep moving forward. I decided I needed at least 2 things – a commemorative banner and an agenda. Over the next 2 days, I designed the banner and put together an agenda. All set… or so I thought! I had yet to get the team captain on my side. But that had to wait until I got on that ship.
On March 11th, we landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to acclimatize ahead of our marathon and the ship that would take us there. Completely the marathon successfully was definitely at the top of our mind for all. While in Buenos Aires, I had an opportunity to briefly meet our Toastmaster brethren at BA Tango Toastmasters. Three days later, we found ourselves setting sail through the notorious Drake Passage – one of the most dangerous passages in the world. Antarctica, here we come! On the second night on the ship, over a drink, I approached our team captain, Jeff. To my pleasant surprise, it turned out that Jeff had heard about Toastmasters and he told me that he would figure how to fit it into the ship itinerary. He recommended that we scheduled it after we had completed the marathon. Made sense to me and I was thrilled! But wait, the next task was to get my ship mates interested. Even my ship roommate, Rajesh was not spared :-). Jeff’s support turned out to be critical. He announced the plans for the Toastmasters meeting one night at dinner when most of my 100 shipmates were present and invited me to add my comments. And to top that, he added it to the official agenda and that helped build credibility for the event. Separately, I kept spreading the word to my new friends on the ship. One of the wonderful folks that I had befriended during the trip was Bruce and Helen who are from Australia and now live in Houston. During one of our conversations, Bruce mentioned to me that he was a Toastmaster in his past life. That was such welcome news! I immediately enrolled Bruce to be Table Topics Master for the upcoming meeting and he was a willing participant. By the time we approached the day of the meeting, I had about 10 people who had committed to be there and at least 5 of those kind souls had agreed to speak.
The fateful day came – Slowly but surely, the room started filling up. First it was 8 out of the 10 committed…then, more – we were up to 15 folks… By the time we were done we had 25 people in the room Jeff kicked off the meeting and did a stellar job briefly talking about Toastmasters and why we were all here. I was the Toastmaster and led the meeting expressing gratitude to all who came and promising them it was going to be a worthwhile session. Two prepared speeches and 8 table topics later led by Bruce, we still had the rapt attention of all 25 folks. Most of them seemed to be having a really good time. As the meeting wrapped up, I thanked Jeff, Bruce and the ten speakers profusely and everyone who attended the meeting. I asked them all to sign the banner and they did! (see the banner in the pic with Jeff) After all, it is not very often that a meeting like this happens in Antarctica. Most of them came by and told me that they had a great time and they would look into Toastmasters. A month later, a couple folks even wrote to me saying that they had checked out Toastmasters after they got back home and one of them told me that she had decided to even join Toastmasters!
What a great time and we have the pictures to prove it! There were so many fond memories from this trip and Toastmasters was there with me all the way. Mission accomplished!
By the time Henry Miller arrived in California in 1989 with his two children, he had already lived on two continents, performed on many of the world’s most famous stages, and had a budding career as an accountant with Helmsley Spear Inc. It wasn’t until eight years later in 1997 that his Toastmasters journey began. His travels from Trinidad to Jamaica to New York City to San Jose were just the foundation – the next stage of his life would be filled with many more achievements and successes.
In Toastmasters, Henry is a DTM in the traditional program and is District 101’s first ever Pathway’s DTM. Over the past 21 years, Henry has been District 4 Lieutenant Governor of Education and Training (LGET)(2008-09) and District 4 Governor (2009-10), he has competed at the Regional levels twice and once at the Semifinals of the World Championship of Public Speaking for District 4. In 2017 he won the Humorous Speech Contest at the District level. He is associated with five clubs and serves as a coach and mentor to several individuals and clubs in the area. But mostly, Henry is a man dedicated to service, the support of others and is a sheer joy to speak with! I am honored to have had the opportunity to conduct this One in 101 Interview with him this April 2019.
Q: When did your Toastmasters journey begin?
A: I was working in Technical Support and had to deal with customers over the phone who sometimes had heavy accents. My manager, Archie, was monitoring one of my calls. When the call was over, he was impressed with how I had handled the situation and said, “Henry, you should join Toastmasters!” to which I replied, “Sorry, I don’t drink in my lunch hour.” Not long after I joined SCO Toastmasters, and so began my Toastmasters journey.
Q: You began your career as a musician. How does music influence your speeches?
A: Music has always been a part of my life. I play the trumpet, guitar, and bass guitar. I also have done music composition and arranging. I was part of the Trinidad Folk Performing Company called “Ambikaila”. The company traveled to England, France the US, and the Caribbean. Their tours included 21 performances at the Royal Festival Hall in England and performances at the Kennedy Center in the US. These experiences helped me gain confidence when facing audiences. I do believe the structure of a good song is similar to that of a good speech; they both need a foundational statement. When you feel strongly about a situation, the words often begin to flow. Public speaking is also a performing art with words.
Q: In Toastmasters you’ve achieved many notable accomplishments. Which one are you most proud of?
A: At the 2008-09 International Convention, the year I was LGET for District 4, I was personally presented with the award for Excellence in Education, Training, and Exceptional Leadership by the International President of Toastmasters. That was quite an honor.
That award was indeed a team effort. Our team was all about leading by example. Our District leadership team had a close relationship with the Area and Division Governors, and we worked on inspiring all of our members to ‘Raise the Bar.’ We achieved that by bringing World Champions to speak at our conferences and to provide workshops and training through the Toastmasters year.
Q: What inspired you to pursue attaining your Pathways DTM so quickly?
A: As a Pathways Guide when the program was launched I got a lot of pushback from club members to adopt the new program. I decided to pursue Pathways to become familiar with the good, the bad and the ugly about the application and the various paths. I wanted to be as informed as possible to be an effective guide. I quickly realized that most of the content matched up perfectly with the traditional manuals. I then took some of my old speeches and further refined them in Pathways. The on-line lessons helped me identify some of the blind spots in those speeches and reinforced what I had learned from the traditional manuals.
Q: What’s the best approach to pursuing the Pathways Program?
A: It’s essential to develop your own plan. That said, my approach is to open a path and at the same time open a notepad or Word application on my computer. I then cut and paste things that catch my eye. By the end of the lesson, I have all the information necessary to give a new speech or edit one of my old speeches. With this approach you can make some of your old speeches new again.
Q: Of all the lessons you’ve learned about effective public speaking and speech techniques, in your opinion what are the most important?
A: This has been the subject of much conversation throughout the years between many fellow Toastmasters and me. I do believe it comes down to these three main points:
- Authenticity. Sharing who you are and what you are about, drawing from your experience and expertise (academic or life). Always model what you preach.
- A good speech must have a good structure and a purpose. The purpose must resonate with the audience. The structure should offer balance, using humor as a resolution to any tension in your speech. Never leave your audience hanging.
- A good speech has a strong message, one that you repeat throughout your speech. There’s a “Scarlet Ribbon” analogy I adopted from a World Champion Toastmaster’s coaching – “A good speech should have a Scarlet Ribbon running through it – it is woven throughout your speech, and at the end, you need to tie the bow.” Sell the message, be confident, believe in what you are saying and tie the bow at the end. The speech is a gift to your audience.
Q: What’s next for you in Toastmasters?
A: I am taking a bit of a step back. I will continue mentoring, coaching clubs, participating in the five clubs I’m associated with, and writing in my blog, Henryomiller.com.
Q: It has been such a pleasure speaking with you today! Do you have any final words of advice or thoughts for our members?
A: Toastmasters is a journey – yours and mine. It is a personal development journey to be of value to others – It is a journey that makes life worth living – as I have stated in some of my speeches, “make you good better and your better your best – never let it rest until your good becomes your better and your better becomes your best.”
Written by Peggy McGrath
I’ve been to a few TLI’s over the years. They’ve all been good, but this TLI seemed extra-ordinary. TLI Chair Cam Hoang and her team delivered a well-organized event from food to facilities, printed materials to the bookstore. All 225 attendees were registered, catered to and at 8:20am ready to reap the benefits of the day.
Message from District Director
With all in order, Pavan Datla, Program Quality Director, kicked the meeting off then invited Francoise Muller, District 101 Director, to the stage. Francoise implored us to embrace the Pathways program. She drew an analogy between spending a day in her driveway studying all the buttons in her new car and using this same focused exploratory approach in the Pathways interface. Brilliant! As someone who has just completed Level1, a personal multi-month endeavor of fits and starts in the interface, this was sage advice worth heeding. My TLI journey had begun.
Keynote by Pres Vasilev
During Pres Vasilev’s entertaining keynote speech he shared his personal methods and mentors’ advice on practicing for and delivering his World Champion Speech; how he recorded and listened to his speech repeatedly on his headphones; how he practiced his speech on anyone who would listen, from a cab driver to his multiple clubs; how his mentors helped him improve pronunciation, word choice, timing, and speech structure; and how he learned to speak from the heart not just the head.
All of his learnings were little gems for the audience. Each a special treasure to take home and experiment with ourselves. However, the real take-away was the enduring message he wove throughout the speech, delivered each time with the same gesture to reinforce the message: “that’s what we’re here for…helping one another”. Inspirational!
COT Training (President) by Dave
Energized from Pres’s speech and Francoise’s call to action I bounded into the President’s Officer Training. It was a mastermind session led by Dave Spence. Ideas were shared, and the interactive discussion provided us with new approaches to lead our clubs in the most positive, supportive & encouraging environments. For me the take-away was “Vision”. While my home club is on track to achieve President’s Distinguished Club, a longer-term vision would serve us well. Powerful!
Ken Braly’s workshop
After Officer Training I faced the difficult decision of choosing an educational session. I wanted to take them all! In the end I decided on Ken Braly’s Pathways and Kristian Crump’s Evaluation sessions. The former was transformational. It was like someone lifted the veil and I could finally navigate Pathways clearly. Not so much because it is that difficult to navigate, but rather a few quick tips seemed to eliminate the intimidation and confusion I had formerly experienced. It was liberating.
The other great take-away from Ken’s training was learning the Basecamp Manager features for Club Presidents, VPE’s and Secretaries. Empowering! (After the TLI I spent hours surfing the pathways interface. I implore each of you to do the same. Ken shared his website kenb.com/pathways, a great place to clear up any confusion you may personally be feeling about the interface.)
Evaluation workshop by Kristian Crump
Kristian taught us how to use his “Roadmap to Success” evaluation template and shared strategies on delivering quality feedback using sentences like “You effectively communicated when you…”, “Why this works so well is because…”; and ways of addressing the speaker and the audience during an evaluation. The experiential exercises reinforced our learnings. Motivational!
At the bottom of Kristian’s “Roadmap to Success” template is the section “Lasting Impression (finish here)”. To that end…
My lasting impression of the TLI is one of gratitude! As Pres eloquently shared in his keynote: “That’s what we’re here for … helping one another”. Thanks everyone involved in the TLI for helping me learn new skills and expand my knowledge so that I too may help, motivate and inspire others more effectively.
by Peggy McGrath
On a sunny October morning, Toastmasters gathered at Synopsys in Mountain View for District 101’s first Fall Fusion event. Greeting us at the registration table was Spider-Man (apparently, the secret identity of Division D Director, Vaibhav Singh).
We launched into a packed day of educational sessions, activities and contests (Table Topics, Humorous Speeches and a costume contest), with networking and a nourishing full breakfast. Breakfast was later followed by a tasty Mediterranean lunch, supplemented by Halloween candy. Pavan Datla, Program Quality Director, opened the event, introduced the Fall Fusion Team, and shared news and club achievements.
Probably the only “trick” for the day was selecting between the many simultaneous educational sessions – always a difficult choice.
Morning educational sessions included:
- Art of Mentoring – Ravi Gundlapalli
- Transferable Skills: Effective Facilitation – Dave Spence
- Improv to Improve Your Leadership – Elaine Lung
Afternoon educational sessions included:
- Art of Technical Presentations – Dan Beck
- Scaling Yourself – Satish Shenoy
- Catapult Your Career Branding – Easy Steps to Success – Rita Barber
Lured by the promise of getting practical information on how to maximize productivity and be able to do more of the things we want to do – vital for anyone in this busy Silicon Valley culture – for the afternoon session I chose to attend Scaling Yourself with Satish Shenoy.
Satish began the session by referencing the movie, Office Space, where Peter, a cog in the corporate machine, spends his days doing pointless tasks or avoiding said tasks. Satish followed up with the statement, “When you walk out [of his session] you’ll have more time to do things you want to do – guaranteed!” The way to achieve this goal is through Satish’s “field and battle-tested” Framework of Plan, Focus, Optimize and Leverage.
“Plan” consists of Timing, Structure and Order. Timing: Find the time when you’re most productive. The first peak will be the time to work on Analytic activities, filling in with routine tasks in your “slump” time (usually after lunch for most people) and reserving the next peak (Recovery) for Creative elements. Good news for Larks (early risers) is that they generally have more energy and are better at getting things done (sorry night Owls). Structure: Satish uses a self-journal to plan his day; it has sections for the plan for the day, notes and ideas, goals, targets, lessons learned (reflections on the day), and wins. He begins and ends with written daily gratitude and says it has changed his whole perspective. Order: Figure out your most difficult task for the day and do it first.
“Focus” consists of Purpose, Execution and Discipline. Any goal (purpose) must have a plan; work backwards in time to determine what needs to be done when, to achieve it. Satish’s example was of his running a marathon in Africa and what actions he needed to take, daily, weekly and monthly, leading up to the date of the marathon, to make that happen. Put any short-term items on your calendar (such as “take car in for maintenance” or “buy bread”). Use the Pomodoro Technique to discipline yourself to focus without interruptions on an activity for a period of time.
“Optimize” consists of Tasks, Hacks and Tools. Satish said Optimize is about effectiveness and efficiency; doing the right things and doing the right things right. Categorize your tasks by Urgent or Not, Important or Not and Do, Defer, Delegate or Delete as appropriate. His Hacks were about eliminating the “noise” of daily work to allow time to focus on necessary work. One hack that resonated with me was to batch process emails by only turning them on and responding to them three times a day, morning, after lunch, and at the end of the day. He offered a variety of online Tools to help with time management and organization, etc.
Per Satish, “Leverage” is the “most important category there is.” It consists of creating a Personal Board of Directors comprised of Fans (“cheer you on”), Sponsors (“pull you up”) and Critics (“tell you the truth”), a Mastermind group (peer-to-peer mentoring) and taking advantage of using Virtual Assistants.
His final thoughts were to pick what works for you, start small and reward wins. Put these in place and you’re guaranteed to have more time for what you want to do.
All in all, the entire Fall Fusion was a terrific treat – much better, and the effects longer-lasting, than a basket of candy!
by Lynn Stuart