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
Kristian Crump, DTM
Kristian is an Electrical Contractor and Lighting Designer. He runs his own lighting and design company called Dusk Industries Lighting and Design. He enjoys being self employed, which gives him the freedom to pursue his next career, paid public speaking. He firmly believes in the motto, “earn while you learn”. He is on a quest to make his passions profitable.
In 2015, Kristian and fellow D101 Toastmaster, Krishna Noru, started Vrisa Speech Academy, a public speaking school in the San Jose Evergreen area for youth ranging from 3rd to 12th grades. The Academy focuses on basic speech instruction to competitive debate, prepping students for college and beyond. They currently have 4 instructors and are looking to expand.
1) What got you involved in with Toastmasters?
I started with TI in March of 2006. I was running a local non profit and a mentor of mine suggested I attend a meeting to see if it would help my leadership skills. I tried a 7am meeting and quickly decided that I needed to attend an evening meeting to get the most out of the process. My home club is Bayview Toastmasters, which meets semi-monthly on Wednesdays at 6pm in Monterey.
2) How has Toastmasters changed your life?
I have gained many friends over the 12 years in the organization. How it has most drastically changed my life is the self-confidence I have received from competing and teaching the skillsets I have learned in the process. To see the growth that many new members experience is revitalizing. It keeps me coming back meeting after meeting to learn, grow, and mentor new Toastmasters.
3) Share with us some of your notable accomplishments and challenges in Toastmasters.
I started competing early in my Toastmasters journey. After one year as a member, a mentor in my club encouraged me to compete in the Evaluation Contest. I was hesitant at first, not seeing how competition between members would be healthy. After giving a few contests a try, I realized that the only person we are competing with is ourselves. It is a chance for us to test our learning from our club experience on a larger stage, with more stress and larger audiences. That is really the essence of Toastmasters – expanding our comfort zones. The more we can practice in a safe and supportive environment, the more we can find ourselves and the truths we hold near our hearts.
From that first win at the District-level Evaluation Contest back in 2007, I decided after some soul searching to really challenge myself and the possibilities in Toastmasters. I read through the winners of contests and found that no Toastmaster had won a contest twice. Could I? How preposterous would I be to try, twice? I challenged my self-belief that I could attempt this and continued to work towards a second District win. It occurred in 2013.
What was next? No one had won back-to-back District contests. I succeeded in my final attempt the next year and found that when you put your mind to something, with hard work and great mentorship, you can surprise yourself. I have won the District 4 Evaluation Contest three times and have now retired from competing in that contest to host Evaluation Seminars District-wide, helping our members achieve goals in their Toastmaster’s journey.
4) What is your next goal in Toastmasters?
My next goal is to create an online presence that will help Toastmasters along their journey. I achieved my DTM last year with the final project in my process by organizing the Annual Conference in Monterey; Sail to Success. That was a great experience working with Dave Spence, Francoise Muller, and the wonderful leaders of D101. I am working on how to make my passion for public speaking profitable. How does one take their passion and gifts and expand it to those who can grow from that information and inspiration.
5) Any words of advice and personal thought to others?
What I have learned the most out of the past 12 years and will continue to grow in the next 12 plus years is that we are all learning on this journey of personal growth, leadership, and communication. Some of us are further along the path than others while some are much further than we are. We get a chance to learn in both directions. We can surely learn from those in the organization who have given more speeches or held officer roles we have yet to hold, but we can also learn by looking back and offering mentorship to members who are earlier on their journey. Lend a hand to someone who has yet to experience what you have experienced. Give encouragement to a member who doesn’t see the horizon like you see it. We can learn a great deal by looking towards where we are going and by looking back at where we have come from. Public speaking is a participatory sport, none of us do it alone. Toastmasters are a fun and encouraging group to learn with. This old African Proverb is perfect for our journey as Servant Leaders: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
— written by Hanh Chau
Celebrating success injects life into an organization, making it worthwhile for members to contribute to its long-term success. Leadership luncheon was an opportunity to recognize all the contributions made in the past year and to ring in the new with a renewed sense of purpose.
While people nibbled on vegetables and cheesecake, the meeting was called to order. Françoise Muller recognized Distinguished Clubs. Pavan Datla gave a report on the Club Growth Program. Annual Awards were then presented by David Spence to:
Toastmaster of the Year, Gergana Angelova
Club Officer of the Year, Rex Coleman
Area Director of the Year, Satish Shenoy
Division Director of the Year, Sophia Liu
The Outgoing District Team (consisting of David Spence, Françoise Muller and Pavan Datla) were also recognized. The next item on the agenda was the most important – the “Installation” of the incoming District officers. Michael Notaro, DTM and Past International President did the honors.
Michael Notaro spoke about his own journey through Toastmasters and how saying “Yes” anytime he was asked to help eventually took him on to the highest position in the organization – the President of Toastmasters International. Using stories of people who were inspired by Toastmasters to reach great heights of success such as Debbie Fields (founder of Mrs. Fields ) and Linda Lingle (who served two terms as the Governor of Hawaii), he urged newer members to follow in their footsteps. One of the best kept secrets he said is Toastmasters. “Don’t let it be a secret” he said, encouraging attendees to spread the word.
The next item on the agenda was the appointment of the leaders – first the Executive team of District Director, Program Quality Director and Club Growth Director. This was followed by those holding various managerial positions and ended with the installation of Division Directors. The outgoing District Director David Spence was also officially designated to be the “Immediate Past District Director”
The “Piece de Resistance” of the afternoon was a roast of the outgoing District Director David Spence. From stories, skits, anecdotes and presentations, we got to know the real David Spence. Many jokes were made at David’s expense about his taciturn way of speaking. Kate Pratt, a District 4 leader, gave a hilarious presentation of a trip to Las Vegas, where David felt the hotel they stayed in did not offer value. She came up with an idea of a “Value Meal” to roast David on the motto he coined and for which he is famous, “Experience the Value” Other roasters alluded to this as well, with one person even mimicking him perfectly. David, in turn, came up with clever rebuttals for the roasts. It was an afternoon of laughs, relaxation and camaraderie – a perfect way to bring a Toastmasters year to an end and celebrate the start of a new one, with new leaders, new officers and new members.
“Above and Beyond” is the theme that Françoise Muller, the new District Director has come up with for the District. This is a great motto for all of us to follow – going above and beyond expectations, above and beyond our goals and aspirations. A good example is an officer – the VP of Membership of our club, who went above and way beyond the call of duty – hosting a booth at a festival to promote Toastmasters. It was an intensely hot day and no one else was around to help – nevertheless she persisted!
As Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
by Lakshmi Jagannathan