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Members' Forum January 2018


An Inspiring Article

As president of The Stuttering Foundation, I can’t tell you how many Toastmasters members sent me your inspiring cover article on Genein Letford [October] and how she succeeded in overcoming her stuttering by playing the trumpet. Over the years, I have known many people who stutter who raised their confidence or became more fluent through participation in Toastmasters.

The Stuttering Foundation website has a list of “Famous People Who Stutter” in addition to a “Celebrity Corner” section of biographical articles on famous people who stutter. So many of these famous people found their voice through acting or singing. Genein Letford’s story conveys that a person who stutters can find improvement in fluency and/or self-esteem through playing a musical instrument.


Jane Fraser

President of The Stuttering Foundation
Memphis, Tennessee



I’ll Take That Dare

John Cadley concluded his September column entitled “Malapropisms” with: “My then-6-year-old son ... asked me if I was drinking decapitated coffee. Beat that. I dare you.”

I’ll take that dare, John! My lovely and talented wife of 21 years is notorious for her unintentional but memorable rhetorical accidents. Though technically not malapropisms, here are three of my favorites:

“There are two open bottles of ketchup in the fridge. The one on the right is the openest.”

Suffering from a head cold, my wife’s response to my suggestion that we postpone a planned recreational vehicle trip was, “If I was going to stay home, I would have done it a long time ago!”

And my all-time favorite: When she heard a car drive up to the house, she asked, “Will you go out and see if that’s whoever it is?”


Sky Shipley

High Noon Toastmasters of Prescott club
Prescott, Arizona



How Do I Stop, Ya Know, Using Um and Ah?

I believe a major reason speakers use filler words is because they are trying too hard. For any subject, there are usually several ways of saying the same thing. If you are always looking for the “best way” to say something (assuming there is one), then you will invariably find yourself inserting “ums,” “ahs,” “you knows” and other distractions. In the vast majority of cases, sacrificing fluency while searching for the best word or words just isn’t worth it.

If you think you could have said something better, start your next sentence with, “To be more precise . . . ,” then say it better. This technique will not only keep your speech fluent, it will make you appear to be the master of your subject, not its apprentice.

I have seen people who once regularly used 15 to 20 filler words apply this technique to reduce the number to four or five, and occasionally down to zero, literally from one meeting to the next.


Philip Yaffe, ACB, CL

Armada Toastmasters
Brussels, Belgium



It Can Still Be About You

I just read the “My Turn” article by Karen Friedman “Speakers: It’s Not About You.” While Lesson 1 was on point, I take exception to her advice, especially in lessons 2 and 3. Karen’s advice was to not tell stories about yourself but that is in direct contradiction with the advice to always include a personal story. Perhaps what she should have said was to be sure the story is appropriate then make sure to include the lesson from the story for the audience’s benefit (tell a story, make a point). Lesson 3 is in direct contradiction to the “embrace your power” advice we so often give to uncertain speakers. Many speakers shrink back instead of standing confidently and being the experts that they are. Maybe Karen experienced someone who was an over-the-top egotist, but for the vast majority, confidence and personal stories are key to a great presentation.


Pam Wilson, DTM

Speakers Bureau Toastmasters club
Reston, Virginia



“I believe a major reason speakers use filler words is because they are trying too hard.”

— PHILIP YAFFE, ACB, CL
Armada Toastmasters
Brussels, Belgium


Bell-Out the Ahs

I strongly agree with the article written by Lisa Marshall on how to stop using ums and ahs! Being an active Toastmaster for 63 years, I can say that this subject is always at the forefront during a meeting. Though most clubs give an Ah-Counter report at the end of meetings, the results are soon forgotten. Coaches in golf or tennis do not wait for an hour on how to swing properly. The pupil is reminded immediately of what to do. Years ago I came up with the idea of a bell master immediately hitting a call bell when an ah is uttered. It has worked wonders for all members. We do not ring the bell for guests or members who have not yet given their Ice Breaker speech. The maximum number of rings is twice throughout the meeting. This reminds the speaker and all in attendance to be aware of the use of ahs.


Burt Epstein, ATM

Fox Talkz Toastmasters
Los Angeles, California





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