Business Resources: Toastmasters


I’m always looking to learn more skills to make me a better businessperson and I love sharing them with you guys! 

Speaking on stage and creating video is something that I have been doing in the last couple of years and it turns out, I really love it! I enjoy sharing my knowledge and I like the personal connection that happens when people get to see me speak instead of just reading the words that I type (though I like to think you can hear my voice in my written words too!).

Toastmasters has been on my to do list for a long time and this past fall a couple of friends decided to join, so I went along for the ride. My goal? To improve my speaking skills.

But aren’t you already comfortable speaking in front of a crowd?

So, the short answer is yes. And, um, I’ve been getting better and better. But, um, I can’t seem to stop using a lot of filler words when I speak – um, so, LOTS of “so". 

I wanted to clean up my speaking so that it sounded more professional and polished.  Originally I told people it was because I wanted my speaking to be more formal, but that’s really the wrong word.  I just want it to be cleaner and more concise without my mouth constantly sounding like it’s trying to keep up with my brain.

What am I learning?

Toastmasters gives you a lot of opportunities to get up in front of a crowd in a lot of different ways. You can give the toast for the evening, you can be the Toastmaster for the evening, which is like being the emcee, you can tell a joke, or you can be the timekeeper.

I'm looking forward to being pushed out of my comfort zone because that's when you really get the opportunity to learn things. I gave my first speech and I was more nervous than I've been in a long time speaking in front of a crowd, simply because it was so different. I gave a 5 minute speech that was about myself and that I had planned from start to finish.

I spent hours preparing and it paid off because the crowd enjoyed it, I got great feedback, and I now feel more confident going forward towards my next speech, both for Toastmasters and in my business.

Tell me in the comments, are you comfortable with public speaking? What helped you? And if you aren't, have you ever considered Toastmasters?

How speaking can help you build online relationships

Social media for business isn’t always about making connections online. It’s also about making connections in person and then bringing those relationships online so you can nurture them far more frequently than you could if you had to wait until you saw that person again.

A great way to get in front of new people is to offer to speak at events. I do this a fair amount around Ottawa and it has not only been a great way to grow my network, it’s also been a great way to grow my mailing list.

Today I’m going to share a few tips on what I’ve done with in-person networking and speaking opportunities that you can use for yourself. 

Offer to share your expertise

Knowing what value you bring to your audience is key whenever you’re marketing yourself and your business. Come up with a few topics that are in line with your key messages that would be of value to others and offer to share them with the group. This often means a quick 10-15 minute talk, not a full hour or longer.

Some of the main topics that I suggest for myself include:

  • Is social media important for business?
  • Do I need to send email newsletters?
  • How to create a simple plan to simplify use of social media for your business

If you aren’t B2B (business to business) this may feel like more of a struggle, but it's doable, especially if you do the work to find the right event.

  • Share personal stories of success that incorporate what you do. This way you’re sharing a lot about your business while also providing them with value.
  • Find events that make more sense to your group. 

Do you teach “mom and me yoga”? Reach out to  some breastfeeding groups, early years centres, pre-natal workshop leaders, etc. and offer to do a 10 minute talk on how to relax, find calm and maybe go through a few simple poses on your own.

Do you clean houses? Find an event that helps promote work life balance and share tips on how to stay on top of cleaning without feeling overwhelmed.

Do you sell shoes? Find some women’s events and offer to talk about the latest fashion in boots or how to transition shoes when fashion changes.

Tips for speaking

If you don’t do much speaking the idea of getting up in front of a group of people and talking about something, even for ten minutes, might feel really scary. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Make basic notes (bullet points) so that you don’t end up reading a speech instead of talking to the crowd.
  • Have a hand out that you can refer to and look at. It becomes a prop and something to help you stay on track when you lose focus.
  • Find someone friendly in the crowd to look at whenever you feel overwhelmed or nervous. There’s always at least one friendly face in the crowd.

How to then get online

One of the biggest reasons you're doing this is so that you can start connecting with the people you're meeting online so, here are a few things to do during and after the event to do that:

  • Tell people what you do and carry around a paper newsletter sign up sheet and ask them to sign up to keep getting more free valuable content from you on a regular basis.
  • Connect with the people you meet within a day or two on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter. Let them know it was nice to meet them and that you'd love to keep in touch.

Leave a comment letting me know what kinds of events you've found speaking opportunities at and how well you do at bringing your in-person networking contacts online after the events.

Join us tonight for a Twitter chat about email newsletters from 8-9pm using the hashtag #wwcnewsletters. Twitter chats are a great way to learn a lot in a short period of time AND meet some great people to stay connected to online!

Building relationships online - an interview with Rebecca Stanisic

I've been trying to do a lot more video this year and this week I tried a new type - the interview video!  

Rebecca Stanisic, from A Little Bit of Momsense and agreed to let me ask her about how she has successfully built relationships online.

Rebecca started online with a personal blog and has since not only successfully monetized her blog, she also acts as a brand ambassador for several companies and helps other companies manage their social media.

As someone I have personally witnessed have so much success building relationships online, she was the perfect person to sit down and chat with.

If you enjoyed this video, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to like the video, as well as leave a comment here or on the video! Let us know what you have found works well for building relationships online.

One easy step to guarantee improved email marketing results

I go to a lot of networking events and hand out my business card on a regular basis. I talk to a lot of business owners and end up meeting quite a few who offer services that I am (potentially) going to be interested in. I always try to have a little more conversation with business owners that I might call for help one day. I like to get to know more about who they are and how they work. It gives me greater comfort when the day comes that I make the call to ask for help. It also helps me remember their name and what they do.

Apart from giving out my card, I take a lot of cards as well. The give and take is usually reciprocal. If you’ve ever been to a networking event, you know how it goes.

In the aftermath of almost every networking event, I inevitably start receiving newsletters that I have not personally subscribed to or given my permission to add my email to the list.

This bothers me.

Not because I don’t want the newsletters (sometimes I do). 

It bothers me because it’s not the best way to grow an engaged email list. In fact, in just a few months, this tactic could put some of those very business owners I was thinking of doing business with in the position of breaking the law in Canada.

Canada’s new legislation - in effect July 1, 2014

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation has been in the works for years. While it’s long overdue and has its challenges, some of the basic principles of consent have long been considered best practices for “commercial electronic messages” (a.k.a. email marketing). The CASL’s information page about commercial electronic messages states:

Generally, the sender will need to obtain consent from the recipient before sending the message and will need to include information that identifies the sender and enables the recipient to withdraw consent.

Three requirements:

Make sure you have permission to add someone to your list.

An opt-in form on your website is one way to gain consent. If you want to subscribe everyone you meet at an event, ask first. We actually use a double opt-in to protect our subscribers from having their email added by someone else. This means that if you subscribe to our newsletter (a very good idea, by the way), you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. We don’t do this to annoy you. We do it to make sure you’re only subscribed if you truly want to be. Without the email confirmation, anyone could enter your address and subscribe you. We wouldn’t know you hadn’t consented, but you sure would.

Identify who you are when you send an email.

We have a statement in every email that goes out to our newsletter list - it tells the recipient why they’re subscribed to our email list. I have gotten emails from businesses that had me scratching my head - why am I getting this? I look through and if they don’t have a statement like this to remind me, I will probably hit unsubscribe. (I might anyway if I haven’t given permission.)

Make sure there is a clear, easy way to unsubscribe.

The phrase this information page uses is “withdraw consent”. I like that phrase. It describes perfectly what that action is. Unsubscribes are telling you they don’t consent to receive content anymore. It doesn’t mean the person isn’t interested. It doesn’t mean they won’t come back. But that decision must be respected. Ultimately, it improves the quality of your email list if the people who are subscribed truly want to see your content. I do a mass unsubscribe every 12-18 months to start fresh and declutter my inbox. I often resubscribe to the lists that deliver value in areas I need.

It was best practice long before it was law

Seth Godin coined the phrase Permission Marketing (affiliate) in his book in 1999. If you haven’t read the book, you can get an idea of the permission marketing philosophy from Seth’s Blog. Asking permission requires patience and level-headed focus on the end goal. Getting distracted by vanity metrics such as newsletter subscriber counts leads to practices like adding every person you meet to your list whether it’s relevant for them or not. Wouldn’t you rather have 100 relevant subscribers with a 50% open rate than 5,000 with a 1% open rate?

What’s that one easy step?

Get permission.

Don’t assume you have it; know you do. I guarantee your email marketing will go much better with a list of people who have invited you into their inbox.  

Small business resources: in-person networking opportunities

One of the biggest opportunities with social media, in my opinion, is building on a relationship you recently formed in person.  For example, you meet two people at a local networking event in the pring and then see them both again at the same networking event in the fall.  

You remember talking to the first person and maybe even think you remember what they do, but you don’t remember their name.  You smile and awkardly tell them it’s nice to see them again and wonder if someone else will walk up so that you can hear this person introduce themselves to that person so you don’t have to admit you can’t remember a thing about them.

The second person tweeted you that very day to tell you it was nice to meet you and then connected with you on LinkedIn within 48 hours.  Since then you’ve chatted about some of the articles he’s shared and he’s asked you a few questions on what you do based on your tweets and LinkedIn activity.  When you see them again, for only the second time ever in person, you feel like you know them well.

Today I’m sharing three ideas for ways you can get out into your local business community to meet other small business owners and potential clients.

Networking clubs

You can join a networking club.  Some require weekly attendance, and some don’t.  These types of clubs give you the opportunity to really get to know a group of business owners so you can build a network for referals.  Each club will never have more than one person in your industry which means you aren’t competing agaisnt a lot of other people doing exactly the same thing as you do.

While these clubs don’t work well for every business owner, there is a lot of opportunity for business owners who can work together (mortgage brokes, insurance, realtors, home inspectors, etc) to find a a real resource, and it can also be great for someone who works in a less common field (like social media) because you can visit other chapters and promote yourself.

A few examples of these types of groups include BNI, SSN and GR Networking (we’re a member of GR).

Special interest networking groups

There are a lot of groups that cater to smaller interests.  You can find women’s groups, tech based groups, community based groups, industry based groups - the options are limitless!

Here are a few ideas to get you started: has great events just about everywhere.  (We often attend Third Tuesday)

Eventbrite has become a go to place to sell event tickets and is therefore a great resource for finding events to attend.

Women’s networking groups.  Almost every community has them.  We’re a member of a few including the Women in Biz Network and the Women’s Business Network (they’re all called really similar things so good women’s business network and your city and you’ll probably come up with something!)

Your local Chamber of Commerce

Karen and I are both members of two of the Ottawa-area Chambers of Commerce.  I’m a member in Orleans and she’s a member in Kanata. By getting to know other business owners you create relationships that open the doors to not only more customers but more publicity and potential partnerships.  

Right now we’re nominated for a Business Excellence Awards with the Orleans Chamber because of our involvement (and we’d love for you to take a second to vote for us too - we’re in section 14 :)

Where do you like to go for in-person networking?  Leave a comment and let us know!