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Insights from an online Toastmasters club | David F. Carr, Writer, Editor, Web consultant

Toastmasters is a big deal – with about a half a million members worldwide. So what can you learn from the guy who started one of their very first clubs to exist entirely online?

Join V2’s Head of Strategy Roger Courville as he interviews David F. Carr, Senior Insights Manager at Similarweb, writer published in more places than you can count, including VentureBeat, Information Week, and Forbes. Importantly for this discussion, David founded one of the very first Toastmasters clubs to exist entirely online, chaired EVV Con virtual presentations conference, and developer of online tools for Toastmaster clubs including and WordPress for Toastmasters.

In this discussion, David shares insights that include

· What changes when presentations move from onsite to online

· How audience engagement differs online versus onsite

· Tactics for transitioning Toastmasters speeches and meeting management

· Insights from producing a multi-year, multi-speaker conference that is entirely virtual

· The role of AI tools such as ChatGPT when creating presentations

· How to work with presenters of varying skill levels

· And more!


Series: Thought Leader Conversations

Sponsor: V2, LLC, expert virtual and hybrid event production,

Host: Roger Courville, CSP,

***Unedited Transcript***

[00:00:00] Roger Courville, CSP: Why can you learn about virtual presentations, if not producing full on online conferences from the guy who started one of the very first entirely online Toastmasters clubs? Well, I'm glad you asked, and hello and welcome to Lessons and more from an online Toastmasters club. I think that's how I'm gonna put it.

I think you're gonna really enjoy this this little bit of time with our cot, thought Leader Conversations sponsored by virtual venues, the crew with 163 years of combined experience, just helping you reach your goals through virtual and event and hybrid event production. But today, that's not about us and I'm excited to welcome someone that I.

Is brilliant because I've seen the club that he started in action, and even if you don't know much about Toastmasters, you're in for a treat because. David's brain is deep. I love this guy. Let me introduce you to David F Car, versatile and inventive writer, editor and web consultant, creator of Toast

WordPress for Toastmasters project senior Insights manager at SimilarWeb, but just you can find his writing all over the place, right? Venture Beat Forbes Information Week, Facebook, on and on. Welcome, David. Thank you. You know, I probably could just go on and on, but why don't, will you just fill in some gaps here?

Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do, and we'll kick it off.

[00:01:26] David Carr: Sure. I'm best known as a writer and editor. I was a journalist in the technology industry for many years, and one of the things that I. Was the collaboration technologies. And this is, I guess Slack has kind of become a huge deal over the past couple of years, but this was before Slack.

You might remember Yammer. Yeah. Yammer was like, well, will take Facebook and we will mash it up and corporatize it. And they eventually. Bought by Microsoft and then Microsoft eventually forgot about them, parked them off to the side, started something else called Teams. But I was covering collaboration technologies and then working for some collaboration technology, , companies as an evangelist and a writer and editor around the time that video started to become sort of a more integrated piece of the puzzle.

The idea that you might be sharing documents with people, chatting with people, and then, Hey, let's start a video conference. And, and doing that spontaneously rather than, you know, three weeks to set up the video conference and, and, and rent the room that has, that was specially equipped. , you know, you could do it off your, your, , laptop webcam and, , It just struck me that this was gonna be, start to become a much more common part of business, of business presentations, business communication, , and I was already in Toastmasters.

We're, we're both in Toastmasters. Not everybody on the, the call is necessarily in Toastmasters. Maybe they don't wanna be Toastmasters. That's okay. Um, but, you know, it is a, a. A good organization to go to, to get lots of practice because I always say, you know, I took a public speaking class in college and I probably got to speak once or twice.

Um, but in, in an environment, , like a Toastmasters club, you get to speak really as often as you want. You get some practice every week interacting with people. Hopefully expressing yourself out loud in a convincing way. And, you know, I got into Toastmasters originally because I was a writer and editor.

I was a professional communicator, but very much more comfortable behind the keyboard than up in front of a group of people. Wanted to balance that out a little bit. So, let's see, I guess the, it is sort of a chicken and the egg. I, I, I was interested in. The world of collaboration and workplace technologies and presentation technology was gonna change.

, I was also working on what they call the Distinguished Toastmasters Award, , which is supposed to be a, a big deal. It's a, a crowning achievement, except that I know people who have five or six of these things. So, , I dunno. Um, they don't exactly hand them out like candy. You have, you have to do some serious work, and one of the things you have to do is, Start a new club or nurse one back to health as a club coach.

And I tried the nursing one back to Health Path and , after a few months the club still wasn't all that much healthier. But, , meanwhile I had this, this idea of there were a couple of online only Toastmaster clubs that had already been started. The people who started the very first ones, they actually had to kind of run the bureaucratic gauntlet of Toastmaster.

Because originally the idea was that if you were meeting in a video format, it wasn't a real meeting. If you gave a speech in a video format, it wasn't a real speech. Not like if you stood up in front of a bunch of people arrest me.

[00:05:33] Roger Courville, CSP: I've heard that more times than I can count

[00:05:35] David Carr: you know, there was a, at some point enough people were doing it.

, I know there was a group in Australia that was doing it sort of on the sly. , you know, they were, they're breaking all the rules because they had members who were spread out geographically, and this was the practical way for them to get together was, was over video. And, , eventually Toastmasters International did allow a pilot project, which became a club called Edisons, which is still around.

There were a handful of these clubs, but I think a lot of them really had been started with the idea of here's a different way of doing Toastmasters. Here's a different way of, of bringing together people to do what we're already doing. And my idea was kind of, This is a different kind of presentation format.

And so let's start a club that is explicitly focused on how can you be a person who gives good webinars or presents business meetings online that are effective. How can you be to do that better than the the other folks and, you know, maybe make a stronger impression? And there was this guy, , Roger Courville, who I heard about from somebody.

Who actually came as a guest speaker early on and helped us get the thing kicked off. So thank you, Roger. , so this is back in 2017. We started this, and then of course when the pandemic came along, , you've, you know, told this story many times and heard this story many times. Suddenly, , everybody had to be virtual, right?

And, , you know, folks came to, , my club, the online presenters test master's. To learn how it was done. And so we, we kind of developed a, a bigger reputation around that. Um, you know, had a lot of fun with it, you know, tried, definitely did try and help people just, you know, think through the issues. Um, you know, typically speeches and toastmasters are timed, so you needed some way of showing the timing lights online.

Right. Um, just, just the logistics of that actually wind up being. Fairly complicated, particularly if you get a big meeting and Zoom is automatically rearranging, , your Hollywood squares, , and the timer goes off the screen. Right. Um, you know, over time we've figured out different workarounds for that.

They're, they're not perfect. Um, I wish there was. I wish Zoom would like, give me a way of plugging in a little app that would just show her timing light in the corner. , and we could be done with it. But we, you know, we still try and improvise our way through it. And, um, you know, of course, you know, we're not doing this in Zoom, , we're using another platform.

And I've, you know, worked with others, Microsoft teams, , has, has a video component. , we use Google Meet, , at my office quite often just because it's kind of easy to set up. It's integrated with the Google Calendar and all that. And, , but if, if you know the basic techniques, you definitely can bring it across.

Many different modes. So actually, you, you told me to talk for a probably should let you ask a question,

[00:08:57] Roger Courville, CSP: but in a way it's just you and me having a cup of coffee or this time of the evening, maybe, , you're having a glass of wine and I and to me though, that is part of what connecting with real people is about.

Right. You have a deep well of experience and it's different when you and I have a convers. And long form. Podcasting, of course, is a thing now because people listen to it a little more like radio than, okay, I'm looking for a specific piece of information tactically, therefore, I don't want that blog post to be more than 400 words, or I'm gonna, I'm gonna click away from it or whatever.

But, because, you know, I mean, I'm guessing someone here listening, in fact, they, you can, they can reach out to you if they wanna learn from you. And I'll get you. David's contact info here as we roll. But you know, Toastmasters in one sense is really well known because they do something really well, right?

They take someone who either doesn't know anything about presentation skills, or maybe they do, but they just want that environment to, to practice in and provide a format that is really structured that really is effective at mar, you know, walking people through. Various aspects of the skills to become a, an accomplished and comfortable presenter.

The, and I'm gonna, I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but one of the downsides is that sometimes people who have a really Vested interest in a way that they do things. And I've seen, honestly, I've seen this same kind of transition in like higher ed who has a lot of vested interest in brick and mortar.

Interestingly, you'd think they would've been the early adopters in. In virtual con, you know, in virtual meetings and conferencing, and they were really slow and some of 'em really still suck at it. I can tell you, as a guy in grad school yeah, some of 'em really still don't do that well. But I'm really glad that you joined us because I guess maybe one of those opening questions, and we'll just let her flow from here would be, You had, and this, I think it's one of the things that, you know, you and I originally like connected on.

I'm like, ah, here is somebody that gets it. Which is that a medium demands some form of adaptation, right? You can write a story in a book. You can write a story in a movie. And even if it's the same story for the same audience, the discipline of how you connect through that medium is different in a book, right?

Versus a movie. And sometimes we forget that when we go from presenting in person to presenting online, and that's why we see so much just info barf over PowerPoint. As opposed to great, ah, there's actually ways we can connect with real human beings here. Well,

[00:11:44] David Carr: and, and, and actually that's, , something we, we have to fight against in Toastmaster too, is that people do sometimes have the idea that, , we're meeting online.

I'm giving a, a speech online. Ah, so, , first thing I need to do is come up with a PowerPoint presentation, right? Is is, is it They, they think an online presentation is. Requires slides as opposed to thinking, how can I enhance my presentation? Or, or, or slides the thing, right? And if even if I wanna use slides, does it have to be, you know, Toastmaster speech is usually five to seven minutes.

Does it have to be seven minutes worth of slides? Or do I just talk to the camera for a few minutes and then bring up a couple of slides that show something that would be hard to explain in words alone, and then drop the slides and have a conversation towards the end. Right. So those are the kinds of things, you know, just basic things that, that I've tried to work with the members of our, our club on and, ,

[00:12:58] Roger Courville, CSP: What have you observed and.

Because you, I think, just had a natural inclination for the space and because now you've had this online club for six years. What have you observed that where people begin versus how they transition as they grow into going, ah, this medium uniquely lets me do some things to connect with people. I can't do in person, for instance.

Right? Because when a change of medium means you lose something, but it also means you gain something. And I'm just curious how you see people grow through the process of embracing and if not mastering how to present online. I.

[00:13:43] David Carr: Well, I mean, I guess the answer is, , at varying rates. Yeah. Um, you know, because I think we do have, I mean, I, I, I talked about, you know, my grand mission for the club is this is gonna be the place you're gonna learn, , mastery of these skills.

And I think we still have some people who come to us and they wanna give a conventional Toastmaster speech. Um, and it's fine, you know, if, if they, if they enjoy the environment, they may come because they appreciate the quality of the evaluations. So the, the format is peer to peer feedback, usually from, you know, a more experienced person.

Giving you feedback. Sometimes it's a less experienced person, but they might give you the best feedback, , because they, you know, they don't make the, the same assumptions. But, um, I mean, I, I definitely have seen, , some members grow in using the technology more strategically. I, you know, I, I. I have mixed feelings about, like the virtual backgrounds is, is like people get a little bit too obsessed about, about that.

And yeah, everybody has to have a virtual background that matches the theme of the meeting. Um, ,

[00:15:15] Roger Courville, CSP: but well, let's talk about that for a second, which I, I think

[00:15:18] David Carr: is fine. , it's if people are having fun and it's engaging, that's great. Um, But, you know, I'm sorry. I should let you answer your, ask your question or make your comment, but I do wanna mention that I've also seen, , one woman who is giving, um, a talk about, you know, her childhood, , in Asia, and she had a virtual background.

And as the story advanced, the background changed. Right. So it was helping her tell the story. So just thinking through those kinds of, , issues can be great. And, and on the other hand, I've seen people put up virtual backgrounds that have all sorts of text and their head, head is in front of the text. So you, you spend time squinting at it trying to figure out what is it that it says in behind them, and why did they think that was important to show?

So, You know, we definitely see people at, at all different levels, but we established a role in the club of a person who is the watcher. And the watcher is supposed to pay attention to what kind of body language you can fit in the camera square, but also your use of virtual backgrounds, of slides, of other things.

Does it enhance or, or detractors. From the presentation. So that's one of the ways that we've tried to build into the process something that's specific to the medium and make sure that we address that in every meeting.

[00:16:56] Roger Courville, CSP: I wanna put an exclamation point behind something that you just said, and I'm gonna paraphrase it so if I don't get it right you know, set me straight.

Well, when you described the Asian woman. Whose virtual background changed with the unfolding of her story? To me, that's a great example of saying, how does this help me present my idea more persuasively or in a manner that illuminates or tells the story better? And I don't want that to be missed.

I think that's a brilliant insight on your part. Because one of the things, well, I, this even goes back to you and me talking about, say, Prezi or other presentation tools, right? Right. Before we push the record button, right? Because, you know, it's kinda like, to me, animations and PowerPoint and when somebody doesn't really know what's going on, you know, their PowerPoint for a little bit looks like a kid who, who, who got into dad's wine for a little bit.

And you, and, and pretty soon you got flying crap from Mars. Until they figure out, ah, here's where and how animation or builds or however you wanna refer to it, are part of telling the story. Right. And so to me, using a virtual background, if that was part of telling the story, awesome. That's a brilliant application as opposed to, oh, looks like I'm on a beach somewhere.

Nobody thinks you're on a beach somewhere.

[00:18:23] David Carr: And I have, I have seen too, Um, you know, they have a virtual background that is, it's the meeting theme or just some image that amused them, and it's kind of contrary to the message that they deliver when they actually come on to give their speech. Now, if it was an impromptu speech, , fine, but if you, if you had time to plan it, you do want to think about what you put on screen and everything should be deliberate.

I know you've talked about. It being, thinking of it like a movie script to have the pacing of a movie. But, you know, directors talk about everything that appears on screen, should have a purpose, you know, may maybe, and, and particularly like the first shot or the last shot, right? You know, if, if you, if you think about construction, your presentations that way, , you're gonna.

A more artistic and impressive and convincing presentation, right?

[00:19:27] Roger Courville, CSP: I think that I just love the fact that you sit with people week in and week out and do that and are part of helping people grow, right? Obviously, the pandemic brought a punch of late adopters or market technology. Laggards which is the industry term for people who tend to adopt technology.

A little later say, I know you know that but a lot of new folks came on and go, oh my gosh, now I've gotta do this. Now what? And I think that it's been a real positive because I think it has helped remove some of the stigma. Right. I mean, I've seen clients go from a predominantly in-person seminar model and three years later they started moving their multi-day, you know, multi or multi-day seminars online because they had to.

And now all of a sudden, three years later, their business model has changed. Doesn't mean they've left in-person stuff behind. They've started to go, ah, this feels, fits a unique place in terms of how. How we reach and serve, you know, potential clients. And

[00:20:37] David Carr: I'm curious cause they haven't figured out how to go back or, you know, does sort of, , do you transition back?

Do you try and go to hybrid? Do you try and do every other thing in person? They're, they're all,

[00:20:50] Roger Courville, CSP: you know what, interestingly, like a lot of people, cuz hybrid's a hot topic and we do a lot of hybrid event production because, Well, because that's what clients want. Interestingly, that particular client wanted to go in the direction of hybrid and then realized as it turns out, one of my main contacts there has a master's in education and therefore things like an instructional designer.

And I started walking through the complexities of what it means to present to, if not. Two audiences that are having entirely different, so psychosocial experiences. If your goal is engagement, it's kind of hard to say, Hey, use a poll when half of everybody isn't sitting in front of the platform.

And it's harder for production, it's harder for presenters and therefore, you know, most hybrid events. There are some notable exceptions, but a lot of hybrid events end up, you know, defaulting to the lowest common denominator, which. The virtual people are just flies on a wall watching a something that might as well be a YouTube video.

And yeah. So but speaking of bigger conferences beside, beyond just that, I know that actually, well that was one of the things that you pioneered with early on Toastmasters and now independent of Toastmasters as well. But still led and done. Lots of Toastmasters people in terms of volunteers and speakers on a variety of topics.

Talk to us about that evolution for us. What was it like when you first went that did that first multi, it was a full day. Am I remembering correctly? Was it your first one?

[00:22:26] David Carr: Yeah, we, we did, we did a full day one, then we did a, a two day one. , so this was, was known as Vtm Con, which. Virtual Toastmasters conference that we tried to, well, we were, we were, um, we tried to keep it to the initials actually, for the most part.

And we eventually got told by Toastmasters International that we couldn't call it that anymore. Um, so we did this originally at the end of 2020. December, 2020. , I believe that's the one that, that we had you speak at. And, , again, in the spring of 2021, when 2022 came around, I was organizing it again.

And that was the first year that I was actually the chair. And this was not actually my concept originally. , I helped with the promotion of it and some of the organization of it. But we wound up having to change the name to Ev v Con, so it was supposed to be elevate the value of virtual. Um, so you can go to evv and see some of the replays.

We had a world champion of public speaking, , Mike Carr, who's no, no relation to me. , but he won the World Championship in 2020, which was the first year, which had to be held a hundred percent online. Um, and he, you know, had a very inventive, um, way of using the camera frame to help tell his story. Um, very interesting guy.

, and so, um, if you go to actually David f There's a bunch of links to things, , including this, , replaced from this old conference. And the, the, the interview that I did with Mike Carr, , prior to the event, um, I'd, I'd like some more people to see that because, , I think, I thought he, he'd gave some, some really valuable insights and tips and, and part of his thing was just, Hey, virtual isn't going.

Why not get good at it? , and you know, he was, he was starting, , he was at that point where we were transitioning to doing more hybrid things and you know, also trying to figure out the logistics of that and how you have to think about it differently as a presenter, as I think you've already alluded to.

Um, so what did you learn? Fun experience, but, ,

[00:24:59] Roger Courville, CSP: what did you learn along the way in terms of working with speakers? Imagine, I would imagine some of our. Some of our audience here very well might be given the nature of the business virtual venues is in, might be thinking about doing their own programs and now they're the ones out trying to herd the cats.

I mean speakers, you know, and go, okay, how am I getting eight or 20 speakers ready to go for this thing that's gonna unfold over a day or two?

[00:25:26] David Carr: Yeah. Well, , well, we also have the, the additional challenge of getting people to do it for free, , because we have no budget, you know, and a number of, a number of them are people who are associated with Toastmasters in some way.

And so they, you know, it's, they're, they're giving back thing. It may also be their promote their, their book, um, , venue. What did we learn about working with speakers?

Yeah. I don't know whether I have any great tips there. I mean, I, I, I guess I did try and, um, work through the process of making sure that we're gonna get somebody who's gonna deliver some actual, , value to the, the audience. Um, and not be, um, you know, horribly front and center, self promotional. Um, and I, I can think of at least one example where somebody kind of made it through that filter and it wa it was kind of from beginning to end.

It was how you can, you know, participate in my sign up for my course, participate in my program, , I've got all the answers. As opposed to people came to us who, who were just, , so wonderfully, , entertaining and I wish I, I had more of the, the names, , off the top of my head. Um,

[00:26:55] Roger Courville, CSP: that's okay. I mean, I'll tell you why I threw that question at you because one, I spoke at the first one and I know from what we do that that can be its own challenge.

Honestly, it's why a lot of meeting planners. Often go to pre-recorded content and run simulated live. And wh and while I think that has a place in the world, I think it generally leaves money on the table. It's usually a pain avoidance and or ease of production issue. When a meeting planner goes, Hey, let's pre-record all the, and then we'll just, You know, live q and a as opposed to, and I mean, honestly, when I'm feeling a little bit snarky I often wanna say, if your audience showed up to an in-person conference and you played them a video upfront and then said you can ask questions at the end, would they feel like they got their money's worth?

And of course they generally chuckle and I'm like, well then why the heck do we do that online? Not saying it doesn't have its place, but I was just curious if there was something in particular that you found besides. Elbow grease and getting people ready one at a time.

[00:28:03] David Carr: We had to pull together a team of sort of volunteer production people too.

And at the first one, I know we did have a Zoom bomber come in or a couple of Zoom bombers come in, so we had to kick people out of the meeting. So I haven't I don't know if I hear of that happening anymore. I think that was little bit, I don't either, a little bit of a fad and lately I haven't worried about it very much.

It hasn't happened again.

[00:28:26] Roger Courville, CSP: I haven't heard about an incident in, I dunno, a couple years. So,

[00:28:33] David Carr: yep. They've found other things to pick on, I guess.

[00:28:37] Roger Courville, CSP: So do you have currently scheduled an evv con come upcoming? Well,

[00:28:45] David Carr: it's okay. the last one was kind of weird because, I got this cease and desist letter from Toastmasters International a month before the event was gonna go on as Vtm Con.

They said, you can't call it that anymore. So we had to rebrand the whole thing. , we had to let the speakers know that we were rebranding it, and then we had to kinda like, reassure them that they weren't somehow getting in trouble with Toastmasters International by still participating in it. Got it. and, and even some of the, um, our, a lot of our publicity.

Was kind of through Toastmasters channels or had been in the past. And so we were getting these, these warning signs about, , can you, you know, promote it on a, a Toastmasters social media group? Can you, , can, can, can the club, even the participating clubs who are contributing volunteers, Could they tell their members that they ought to attend this event?

Well, gee, maybe they shouldn't, because Toastmasters International might find out and whack them with a wet noodle. Um, and so it was, it was, you know, it, I, I think it was still a successful event. I enjoyed doing it, and we talked about doing it again independently of Toastmasters. It's just. So many of the people involved, were doing it as Toastmasters volunteers, that it's right, ridiculous to c carry forward with it without calling it a Toastmasters event.

Well, that's why

[00:30:18] Roger Courville, CSP: we give of our time, right? I mean, I can't, I've spoken for, I can't tell you how many clubs at, right? At Toastmasters conference, and I never got paid a dime. It was my own version of giving back.

[00:30:29] David Carr: So I've gone back to the, the official and said, you know, give me a way.

Having legal status for it. Their objection was actually that, , it wasn't, we were, it was supposed to be sponsored by a group of clubs and they said, well, you can't form a group of clubs unless it's a district, an area, a division, unless it's some predefined. Entity sanctioned by Toastmasters International.

Right? And, and I've said, well, look, you, you have a lot of people who are making friends all over the world because clubs are virtual now, right? Or some clubs are virtual or hybrid, , and they don't fit into these neat geographic boundaries that you've established and you've used to organize your, run your organization for years.

And you need to recognize that you need to, you know, create. Council area, division, whatever you wanna call it. I, I, I don't really care that much. , some people have said that it should be, you know, a separate, , district, which is usually like, , a state or a big part of a state in the US or, or you know, a region in another part of the country.

I don't know whether it needs to be that exactly, but there ought to be some legal framework where we're not gonna get in trouble. Doing something cooperatively. And, ,

[00:31:59] Roger Courville, CSP: well, you know what though? That's a, it,

[00:32:01] David Carr: it, it strikes me that there are probably many occasions where two or three Toastmasters clubs got together and said, let's put on a show and did something cooperatively without asking the , , you know, the chief lawyer at Toastmasters International for permission to do it right.

, and nobody noticed, but. But now for whatever reason, it's an issue. You

[00:32:23] Roger Courville, CSP: know, that whole thing is actually an analogy, I think for what we've seen a lot of in the world, which is we have this organization that's been around for decades that. That is actually structured at the most foundational level based on geography, and now the internet comes and disrupts the whole thing.

Right, right. And, and we, we struggle with how to do, I mean, we saw businesses deal with that. We saw media deal with that and, and I saw record industry

[00:32:51] David Carr: deal with that. I was told that I was somehow endangering Toastmasters nonprofit status and, you know, there, there may well be illegitimate legal issues.

It's just, I, I can't imagine that there's no way of working them. Yeah.

[00:33:06] Roger Courville, CSP: So let's talk about, let's, let's, let's wrap up here with maybe another trick or three that you've seen in your own club. Other things that you've just seen that you thought were particularly interesting or innovative or, um, something that someone might walk away here with going, oh, I wanna go figure out how to.

[00:33:32] David Carr: , well, you know, I, I don't know, this isn't exactly an online Toast mastery thing, um, but Well, that's okay. I think of my, my friend, , Graham Karens, who's one of the people who helped start the club who, um, was, , professional, , in radio for many years. So, you know, he is a professional, professional speaker.

But the, , the fun gig that he has is he goes on cruises for free, , as, as a cruise ship educational speaker. And so there is a, there is a workshop on our website where he talks about how to do that and, um, That, that's actually one of the things that, that I've worked on over the years is actually having a really wit rich website for the club with replays of past educational programs that we've done.

And so, um, I would encourage people to, , just type online presenters, Toastmasters into Google and you'll find it. Um, we can probably share in the, in the show notes. What the exact

[00:34:41] Roger Courville, CSP: Yeah, we'll share the, share it now just in case somebody's listening because Alright. They may not be watching.

[00:34:47] David Carr: It is op dot toast

Toast Toast most is, is actually a service, um, that I run for hosting, , Toastmasters Club websites. So it's kind of a, a software ser as a service. Um, instance of, , some, some WordPress extensions that I've hooked up. And, and actually one of the, the ways that that has evolved, , in conjunction with doing the, the Toastmasters Club is trying to, to create more digital ways of doing things that traditionally have been done on paper, like accepting a membership applic.

Like evaluating another speaker where it was, you know, you handed the speaker a piece of paper that had a little form on it, where things to check off and places to make notes. And so now we have a, a digital version of that built into our website. So you can click through from the same screen that you would use to sign up for a roll next week.

You can click through to evaluate. And tell him how many times he said on his, , speech, which is usually a lot.

[00:36:08] Roger Courville, CSP: Are there any other technologies given that you've, you know, your, your background in writing and particularly in the tech space as a, as a journalist, just outta curiosity, and this doesn't even have to have to do with virtual presentations or anything, any other cool little tools that you've seen that you, , that you think are interest.

[00:36:31] David Carr: Well, there's, there's chat. G P T. Everybody's talking about chat, G p T, right? , I'm spending in my day job at SimilarWeb, I work with journalists to develop stories based on internet trends. And so, um, you know, measuring the growth of chat g p T is, is. I mean, it's just phenomenal. It's an up to the right, , hockey stick.

Like, , you never saw, um, , yeah, we were talking, talking with, , journalists about, , Microsoft incorporating some of those technologies into the Bing search engine. But chat, G P T on its own is, is on the verge of probably next month, it will have more traffic to Chatt p t than to the entire Bing, , search engine, which has been around since 2009.

And this thing's been around since November. Um, you know, I, I guess in, in the context of speaking, you know, I've seen some things in the, , , the Toastmasters group on Facebook about, you know, does the organization need to forbid people from using this in their speech preparation? To me as, as a professional writer, I'd rather, instead of taking it as a threat, I'd take it as a tool for overcoming writer's.

Because I don't think it's gonna turn out the, the best essay or the best script for a speech or anything like that, but it might gimme a starting point. I, I did have it write some jokes for me when I was humorous, , at my brick and mortar club, the, the other week. And so I, it was, I just started out with, you know, give me a joke that starts out, , to artificial intelligence, was walk into a bar and then I, I said, you know, can you make it, can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Um, can you know, can we work in this aspect? So I basically had a conversation with the. To develop this story, and then I tweaked it a little bit more as myself. So I, I think that's interesting to use as. A starting point for a speech. Now, don't use it for the whole speech. , you wouldn't want to because you, you don't want people to think you sound like a robot, but if it, if it gives

[00:38:50] Roger Courville, CSP: you, and if you just, if you just deliver what chat g b t delivers, so can the person next to you.

And that's kind of, it's

[00:39:01] David Carr: I think a little bit, there was some of this conversation when we first got search engines. You know, will it make it too easy for students to do research? , they won't actually have to go to the library and, and search through the, the, , card catalog? Yeah, sure. , I mean, on the other hand, there are all these people going around giving presentations on how you can get fabulously rich using, , chat G p T and I, I, I'm, I'm skeptical.

I mean, I, I think it, I think it, it, it's probably a tool that everybody should learn how to. Just as you learned how to use Google search effectively, and maybe you, maybe if you're a power user, you learned, , some special keywords to enter in there. There's, there's something similar going on with trying to figure out the prompt that you can fit in feed into one of these programs that will spit back something interesting.

, and the other thing I, I mentioned to you briefly before the. , it was a technology I just saw called, , air Glass. Um, and, , I wanna make an introduction for you there. Um, but it's a, a guy I was friendly with, , who, who was an, an analyst when I was a reporter, and I would go to him for, for quotes on different collaboration technologies.

He's, he's now over. And it is a little bit like a Prezi, where instead of you being in a little box and the presentation taking up most of the screen, you can be on screen two. Except that here it's, , a transparent, , image. So the information you're trying to present can actually sort of hover in front of you.

Is it sort of a minority? Effect, , a holographic effect. But it, I mean, it's just an overlay. Yeah. But you can ratchet up and down the transparency. Wanna see more of me, wanna see more of my presentation? Or, or, or do you just need to see the slide right now for a few minutes and then fade back and have it be more me?

, and I, I, I said I would demo it except that, um, the first couple of times I tried to demo it, I didn't quite know what I was doing. So I need to figure out what, , actually those of you who are in the audience come to online presenters, Toastmasters, I think the, the week after next. , on Monday the 13th, I've, I've put myself down as somebody who will give a, a tech tip demo of this, and then I'm hoping to have somebody from the company to come visit us, , maybe a weeks later.

Nice. So, well, and

[00:41:40] Roger Courville, CSP: I'll follow that up by saying, , this interview won't be published in time for that with regard to that being just a couple weeks away. So if someone wants to find you and. Let's just make sure that they can find you and or, um, the, the website where you might have that, if that happens to be publicly available.

Sure. Um, it's the best way to connect with you.

[00:42:08] David Carr: , LinkedIn's pretty, pretty good. Um, so on most social media, I am David F. Carr. So LinkedIn it would be slash i n David F. Carr. Right. But, , but there's, there is also a data, david f Which to be honest with you, I hadn't updated in months. I did it right before this.

, just to put the, the link in there to my, , oh, do we even mention, I, I I just have an article published today on, , hybrid Toastmasters Club meetings. Um,

[00:42:43] Roger Courville, CSP: yeah, we're working That Be

[00:42:45] David Carr: Found Magazine. We'll be found in Toastmasters magazine. , we can add the link in the chat and you'll find a link to

Um, and it, that has links to my other, um, social media, , personas, some other resources, the EV v con website, online presenters, um, a anything else I could think of. I stuck on the homepage for right now. So all

[00:43:13] Roger Courville, CSP: good. And yeah, just get me, get me whatever you'd like in the show notes and, and we will have that.

And that way if somebody is listening to this while they're driving or something like that, You can, you know, you, this will be on YouTube and you know, we embed it into a blog, et cetera. So we, we include all of those extra things so that you can find David and some of these things that you've heard us talking about.

David, my last question for you is this, are there any questions that I should have asked you that I haven't?

[00:43:46] David Carr: No, I think we covered it pretty well. I'm, I'm, , I'm happy. I'm happy. Good. Um, actually, we were talking a little bit about ai. Have you tried the, , the AI speech evaluation tool that, , Toastmasters is offering?

[00:44:04] Roger Courville, CSP: No, but then I'm spending more time on my doctoral studies than speaking these days. Um, no, but I'm fascinated. You can

[00:44:13] David Carr: either dictate something into it or upload a video clip. , it is, , vicious as an eye counter as in terms of. Counting your, your verbal disfluencies. It will, you know, index them and let you jump to them.

But it also looks at other kinds of rep repetitive language. Gives you some automated feedback. , you know, it's not on the same level as a speech case, but actually the way Toastmasters recommends you use it is to prepare for speech and certainly anybody out there who is preparing for a professional speech or a professional business presentation.

Not a bad idea. The propagation prep, practice it. Get some, a little bit of automated feedback and you know, if, if there's time, get feedback from an actual human, , as well, but you know, why not, why not try it? , see, see what it will do for you. Not that I did it before I came on this, this program, but, , I would've been smart if I.

I love

[00:45:17] Roger Courville, CSP: how AI is propagating into all kinds of things, and I've seen that similar kind of thing in a video editor that I use called Descript. Mm-hmm. Where you upload your video and then you can edit the video by editing the transcript and you know, it is a. It is so sensitive that it brings out all the ums and A's, and I'm like, man, I suck.

But at the same time, it's great video

[00:45:44] David Carr: awareness. So the thing I like about video editing is if you have precise enough control, you can edit those out. Well, one of

[00:45:51] Roger Courville, CSP: the things that Descripts does is, is that it will auto do. Really, and, and it will train over time. So I think it's interesting to see where AI goes.

But to your point, and maybe this is kind of the, the closing thought, the tool isn't what makes someone a presenter any more than the golf club is the, the thing that makes the person a great golfer. It helps to have great tools, but you've gotta begin. What do I want to do? How do I want to communicate?

And telling a great story is telling a great story regardless of what tools you have. And that,

[00:46:28] David Carr: that's why I often tell people, , you know, drop the presentation, drop the force field, let us see you right.

[00:46:39] Roger Courville, CSP: Well, David, thank you so much for taking the time to share a little bit of your experience and, um, and I'll just say this to each and every one of you.

Thanks for hanging out with us again on, , another episode of Thought Leader Conversations. Again, , David's contact information and various websites, , and links to these things will be in the show notes and, , we will see you on the next version of.


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