Henry Miller, DTM, PDG and Peggy McGrath

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:

  1. Authenticity. Sharing who you are and what you are about, drawing from your experience and expertise (academic or life). Always model what you preach.
  2. 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.
  3. 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