Last week we talked about New Year’s Resolutions. Have you made yours? I proposed three distinctive goals for 2012:

1. Start a Writer’s Journal:

2. Be a Member Guide:

3. Compete in a Contest:

Of course, now you are wondering – HOW? What do you need to do to next?

Excellent questions. You recognize that New Year’s resolutions fail because we set goals, but never come up with plans to accomplish them. Without a plan, a goal is just a wish.

This week we will talk about the steps that you will take to make your resolutions happen. Get ready.

1. How to Start a Writer’s Journal:

THE FIRST STEP is to buy a strong, durable notebook, one that you can carry around all the time. You may prefer to start an electronic “Writer’s Journal” File Folder on your desktop, or even in your OUTLOOK or email system.

NEXT, divide the notebook into sections (or create subfolders on your computer or email files). I suggest these section titles:

•Interesting observations
•Story ideas
•Good words (for word of the day)
•Inspirational thoughts
•Good jokes and humor
•Good quotes
•Good message/point/lesson learned/”moral of the story”

You can change or add your own sections as you go along. Organize it to work best for you and your interests.

I suggested the “good message” section because you want each presentation to have a clear, concise message. These are usually ‘lessons learned” from your experiences, lessons on how to be prepared in the future. Those lessons may help someone in your audience, also.

STEP THREE is to begin adding material to your file. PROMISE YOURSELF that you will add at least five entries each week (about one a day).

STEP FOUR, the last step, is where you find the most value –Select a day and time each week to look through your notes. You only need to commit a few minutes a week to look through them.

You will soon recognize what a great resource you have created, and will stir other ideas and memories.

2. Be a Member Guide:

You decided that you are not ready to be a mentor. Becoming a “guide” for new members and guests is an excellent alternative.

THE FIRST STEP is to pay attention at each Toastmasters meeting. Watch how members fulfill their roles. What do you like? What could they do better? Make notes for yourself.

STEP TWO is simple. At every meeting, ask one member or guest, “Do you have any questions about your role? Can I be of any help?” It does not have to be a new member. Just approach someone who has been in the club for a few months or less, or is here for the first time. Explain the equipment and form to a new Timer. Suggest a “word of the day” to a Grammarian.

For STEP THREE, begin to compile the forms and notes that you use for various roles. Make copies. Collect them in a folder. Bring the folder to your meetings. When someone has questions, you can pull out a form. I even have generic “speaker introduction” forms, “words of the day” lists, jokes, and lists of possible speech topics.

By the end of the year you will be seen in your club as an expert and the “go to” resource for any Toastmasters questions. That is a good mentor.

3. Prepare to Compete in a Contest:

Where to begin the most challenging, and most rewarding resolution depends on what you like to do best. In any case, it is important to start early.

STEP ONE is to decide which contest to enter. The four basic Toastmasters contests are: Table Topics (impromptu speaking); International Speech (inspirational or motivational); Evaluations; and, Humorous Speech.

Next, do your RESEARCH. Seek advice from others who have competed or judged. For all except the Evaluation contest, your next step is to decide on stories, theme or message. Listen more carefully to other speakers, and silently critique them.

STEP THREE is to decide on a theme or message. Remember, it does not have to be “global” or “world changing.” Personal stories that led to “little life lessons” are very poignant (and, often very funny). List a few to start, then play with them until you find the one(s) that work best.

Step FOUR is PRACTICE. After you decided (at least initially) on your message and story, give speeches using it. Use it in your Table Topics responses. Any story has more than one message. Find a way to lead your answer to your message.

Practice in your shower, or in your free time. Speak at other clubs. Visit an advanced club.

STEP FIVE is the most obvious. Tell your club officers that you intend to participate in the contest. Tell them early. Before your speeches, tell your evaluators. Ask them to evaluate you as a contestant.

Finally, by the day of the real contest, you will be ready.

Don’t forget. Next year you can also mentor another member on competing.


Do something for your personal and professional life. Commit to your resolutions. It is not too late to get started.

Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the year, you find that you are also accomplishing the other goals that your club officers recommended – earning your education and leadership awards, recruiting members, and becoming an officer.

Have Fun Doing It.


Author's Bio: 

Fred Haley, published author and speaker, has been a member of Toastmasters for over 12 years. Fred has earned two Distinguished Toastmasters awards. His web site, is “Every Toastmaster’s first stop for advice and resources.” Fred publishes a weekly ToastMentor newsletter. Contact Fred at