Archive for July, 2008

Cartoon Caption Contest Results

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Our July Cartoon Caption Contest was The Bicycle by professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.  He can create custom cartoons for your special project.

Our caption contests are announced on the first of the month.

Our joke contests are announced on the 15th of the month.

Here are the top lines from this month’s contest.



And with all the money you’ll save on gas, you can rent your own apartment.
     Nancy Lininger, Camarillo, California, USA


I told you it had a manual transmission and great fuel economy.
     N Diamond


With this baby, my only carbon footprint is the wear on the rubber tires.
     Bernard Wong, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia.

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – This one solves two major national problems, energy and obesity.
  – Lance Armstrong has one just like it and look who he is dating!
  – That’s a radar detector.  A car only has 5 speeds, this has 12, think how fast you can go.
  – It won’t go highway speeds, but if anyone gets in your way just press this button on the little black eliminator box…and zzzzap!
  – Think of it as the ultimate green car.
  – We’re downsizing–and by the way, you start your paper route tomorrow.
  – You’ll only have to use it until gas comes down to $3.25 a gallon.
   – My doctor ordered me to pedal around the block twice a day because I am suffering from Bicycle-Cell-Anemia.
  – Don’t be embarrassed…just tell your friends it’s a hybrid.

A Toastmaster Speaks In China (Part 3)

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Conclusion of Interview with Darren LaCroix about his speaking trip to China.

What elements of your presentation really connected?
My facial expressions!  One thing I noticed is that they loved my energy.  That’s one thing they connected with.  I tend to be high energy and animated.  Animated delivery engaged them.  It’s an amplified form of communication.  It was like turning on a microphone.  They could hear me better.  My grammar and pronunciation may not be as perfect as someone like David Brooks, but my energy helped to make up for that.  What I lose in eloquence I gain in energy, enthusiasm and sharing of emotion.

Here’s something fascinating.  I was judging a Mandarin speech contest in Malaysia, not as an official judge but I was just filling in the judging form as I watched the contest.  And I picked the winner.  And I had no idea what he was saying.  But because of rapport, audience response, how he commanded the stage, I picked the winner. 
Compared to a regular Toastmasters presentation, what did you do differently in China? 
I found that nearly everyone in the club where I spoke was young.  And seemed that 95 percent of those attending the District Conference were under 30.  Just the opposite of here in the USA.  Many of them use it as a place to work on their English.  It’s a value-added program for communication skills.   So as the first World Champion to speak at a District Conference in mainland China, I really needed to make sure I was encouraging.  I wanted to show them where I started from. 

I did two programs.  On Friday night I did my coaching program, showing an early version of my winning speech:  Ouch!  And they told me what was the difference between the early version and the final contest version.  And Saturday, I talked about where I started and showed my Stitches comedy club clip, my first time on stage, and how really bad it was. 

I really tried to emphasize that this is a process we can all learn and that I’m just a guy who used the system of Toastmasters better than most.  So I beat myself up showing how bad I was at the beginning to be encouraging.  One of the things I always remember from Rosemary Verri, who was one of my early mentors and the one who brought me into speaking in NSA, “the problem is funny, the solution is serious.”  So I made fun of me and where I was at, to give them hope.  And then I shared the process that got me here.  So I took that very serious, but I made light of where I started.  It’s something I normally do in my programs, but in China I made sure I emphasized it more than I usually do.  I wanted to show them that anyone can learn these skills if they commit to it.  Anyone can learn to be funny if they are willing to make some mistakes.  And realize that there’s really no one night or one speech that defines you.  Even the best bomb.  Even the best need to get over it.  So my normal program might be 20 percent Hope, my program in China was 40 percent Hope.

Thank you Darren for sharing highlights and insights from your speaking trip to China.  It sounds like you had a great time and a fun adventure.  We can all learn from your experience. 

 Part One  —  Part Two

A Toastmaster Speaks in China (Part 2)

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Continuing Interview of Darren LaCroix about his speaking trip to China.

How did you prepare for your China programs?
I bought books and when I hit the ground in China I spent a lot of time asking questions and talking to as many people as I could.  The best advice I received, which was brilliant, came from  Keith Ostergard, a native Virginian who is now the District 85P Governor in Beijing,  and he is married to a woman from China.  Keith said “Darren, don’t try to change your presentation.  The problem is if you’re trying to edit as you go, you’re not going to be present in the moment.  All I want you to do is slow down.”  Which makes all the sense in the world.  Because when I studied the other World Champions, in their contest speeches, they took their time, they went slower and they took longer pauses, but it’s dawning on me that this is even more crucial to the international people in the audience.  In any audience some may not be native-English speaking.  And they’re having to translate what you say in their heads.  And in China almost 100 percent has to translate.  I think it was brilliant advice.  And as a presenter, I would give that advice to everyone, who is American or a native-English speaker, because we can’t get too caught up in editing.  They want to hear your presentation the way you usually give it.

So my pacing was to do my rants just like I’d normally do, but then I’d pause longer before I’d go to the next segment, wait for them to catch up.  It’s like doing a race and pulling something behind you with a bungee cord.  I didn’t slow the whole thing down, but I would stop once in awhile to let them catch up.  One of the most difficult things for us to do as speakers is to stand there and say nothing.  But we have to give them time to reflect and we, as speakers, need to be comfortable with the silence. 

Did you try to learn some Chinese?
I took a couple of years of Spanish in Junior High School, and I’ll always remember those encouraging words of my teacher Leopold Williams, “LaCroix you bloody idiot!”  So I wasn’t very good in foreign languages.  In China, I learned a greeting, walked on stage and opened with Ni Hao, which is welcome in Chinese. I wanted them to know that I cared enough to learn how to say hello.  And I had one line which I’ll probably blog about, I said “looking around here I have never felt so (and I used the Chinese word for foreigner).”  It got an OK laugh.  I really thought it would have been funnier.  But it’s a risk. It’s about them.  It’s a calculated risk.  If it’s about the audience, it’s OK to take risks.  And it’s OK not to get great laughs.  The purpose of it isn’t the laugh as much as it is to connect.  So I’ll always take a little bit of a risk so long as it’s about them.  One of the first things you should do is learn some slang.  They loved it when I said bullshit in Chinese.

How was it doing humor in China?  How was humor perceived differently?  And how was it the same?
Well, first, I had my celebrity status working for me.  I advertise in Toastmaster Magazine.  And they had shown my Ouch! speech at a meeting before my arrival.  It makes your first five to seven minutes easier, but after that if you’re not funny it doesn’t matter who you are.

I found that sarcasm was perceived very differently, and I think it’s cultural.  I know many people who are Asian-American who love sarcasm and laugh at it, but that’s part of our society.  In China, my perception is that sarcasm is perceived more directly and it’s perceived as mean or negative when that’s not where my heart is.  I love sarcasm and I enjoy it, but I can see where if it’s not a culture you’ve grown up in, it could seem really negative or caustic.  And I’m not referring to really negative humor, but rather something that we as a culture just think of as normal teasing of someone or even teasing of ourselves. 

Here’s something that really worked.  I asked them:  If you wanted to learn to be a comedian, who would you go to for advice?  To a comedian, right?  That’s great.  So what did I do?  I went to my family.  It was the biggest response I got in the whole hour and a half.  The response was huge. The size of the laughter shocked me.  And it turned into applause.  When laughing turns into applause, it’s like they’re saying “Amen brother.  You’re preaching to the choir.”  When you think about it logically, their culture is so much more traditional, I know my parents were traditional and set in their ways, and in China it’s even a bigger taboo to go against your parents.  So I think that’s why that line really resonated there.

Part OnePart Three

A Toastmaster Speaks In China (Part 1)

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

This is a three-part interview of speaker Darren LaCroix, Toastmasters 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, on his speaking trip to China

It was a typical day for two Toastmasters in Las Vegas.  We played Frisbee Golf in the morning.  We did the interview over Pizza for lunch.  And we attended a Toastmasters meeting in the evening.  And never once set foot in a casino.

What was it like speaking in China?  Was it your first time?

It was not my first time to Asia.  But it was my first time to mainland China.  I’ve spoken in Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore before.  And I’ve spoken in the Middle-East, Oman.  It was very different speaking in Asian countries than speaking in the USA.  I found that they laughed in places where I never had laugh lines before. And they wouldn’t laugh at my biggest laugh lines.  I had to stay in the moment and also not be shaken by they fact that they didn’t laugh where I always get laughs.  Sometimes we can feel, as a speaker, that you’re bombing, or it’s not working or that you’re not connected.  One of my big battles was to let go of the thought that I was bombing or that they didn’t like me; even though sometimes the laughs just weren’t there. 

How are audiences different in China? 

I noticed that they are like sponges, they’re leaning in.  A general audience in the United States, and I’m not picking on any particular organization, about 10-20 percent are really connected and really want to learn.  Most people are just sitting back and enjoying, and some are just concerned with their own problems or they’re there just because they have to be there…casual listeners.  In Asia, I find it’s just the opposite where 80 percent are intensely listening to you and really there to absorb anything they can learn.

I think back to when I won the Toastmasters world championship, the following year I spoke at a Regional Conference.  And here I am, the gentleman who won the contest the year before, and I was doing a workshop.  There were eight contestants in that region who were competing in the International Contest that year.  Three of the eight approached me for help.  The other five I never heard anything from.  It was widely publicized that I would be at that conference, but only three approached me for help.  One of them asked me to watch him at his club two or three times.  I was able to fit it into my schedule and was happy to go.  Another one had a 20-minute phone conversation with me.  The third one sent me an email with two quick questions. 

Now I remember when I was competing the year before, Mark Brown, the 1995 champion, was speaking at a convention I was attending.  And I’m in the front row, leaning over, taking notes, sopping up everything that I can.  Mark said that I stood out because I was so eager, and I don’t know if he even knew that I was a contestant at that point.  But what blew my mind was that I never even saw any of the other five contestants.  They weren’t even in my session.  And yet they were competing later that day.  Now it’s not like you should make a lot of changes the day of the contest, however wouldn’t you want to hear or be inspired by someone who won the contest you’re about to compete in? It just blows my mind.  Now I know there are people who have family priorities.  And I understand that, but I don’t think five of them did. I think more of them could have been there.  I think it goes back to a mindset.  Now going back to the results of that contest, I said there was one gentleman who I personally coached at a couple of his clubs, a woman I spoke to on the phone for 20 minutes and a man who sent me a couple of questions on email.  Ironically, they finished first, second and third.  The gentleman I coached came in first.  The woman who called me came in second and the guy who emailed me came in third.  Now it’s not an ego thing.  It had nothing to do with ME.  It had to do with their mindset, because I know we can extrapolate the work that they did with me to everything else that they did. 

The reason I bring that story up is that every time I’ve spoken in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and China…most people had that mindset.  Not all, but at least 80 to 90 percent were leaning in and sponging everything they could.  So I would take an Asian audience any day even if they don’t laugh at some of my jokes. [laughs]  It’s so much easier speaking to an audience that is just leaning in and dieing to connect with you.

Part TwoPart Three

Observational Humor — Case Study #26

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Here’s another Observational Humor monologue from a Toastmasters meeting. 

The Set-Up (What happened and what was said during the meeting before the monologue was delivered.)

1.  Steve mentioned in his speech that some speakers at a conference he had attended took the stage with no introduction.  Often they said something like:  “Well, OK.  I guess it’s time to get started.”

2.  Roselyn gave a speech about her experience as a race car driver going 180 mph.  Another member, Bill Lusk, is also an avid race car driver.

3.  Pam and Bryant hosted a club officer installation party at their new home in the North part of Las Vegas.  It was a very long drive to get to their home.

4.  Roselyn, in her Race Car speech, told of a near-crash experience.  She said her incident wasn’t headline material but that she made the centerfold.

5.  Roselyn had been given the advice to attach yourself to the rear end of the car in front of you.

6. In Steve’s speech he said that when speaking he likes to focus on smiling and friendly faces.

The Monologue

Well OK.  I guess it’s time to get started.  (I thought this was a simple, cute opener.  It surprised me by getting a very big laugh.  My analysis of the response, in the moment, was that the audience interpreted the line differently than I had intended.  I had only meant to use a “trite” opening for my monologue.  But I believe the audience thought I was implying, “OK we’ve heard Observational Humor from several people.  Now it’s time for the REAL Observational Humor.”  That interpretation never occurred to me before I used the line.  But I welcome laughs even when they are stumbled upon.  And I pretended that the interpertation of the audience is what I intended right from the start.)

Who would have guessed that Roselyn was a female Bill Lusk!  (A big laugh from a fairly obvious comparison which had not been stated before.)

Last Monday, I went to our club party at Pam and Bryant’s home in the North part of Las Vegas.  For those of you who haven’t been to their new home…when you go…take your passport.  (A very big laugh.  I think many people felt as I did, “Wow, this place is way out of town.”  A common experience is a good source of humor.)

It was interesting that Roselyn’s speech was on FOCUS.  Because when she said she was the centerfold…I lost my focus.  And I had just regained my focus because I had lost it earlier when she said she had attached herself to someone’s rear end.  (Two huge laughs with a joke and a topper.)

Steve mentioned that when he’s speaking he likes to focus on friendly smiling people.  That explains why he never looks at me.  (Self deprecation.  I’m a nice guy, but would never be accused of being Mr Smiley Face.)

Joke Contest — Creative Humor Writing

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Our July Joke Contest is a spin-off of our Tiny Homes contest in June.

It’s time to explore the opposite angle of home size:  The Big House!

The classic cliche is that a home is so big it has its own zip code or area code.  That could be slanted to:  My home is so big it has three micro-climates.

Here are three other angles to jump-start your thinking:

  – My house is so big, my mother-in-law can visit for two weeks and I never see her.

  – My single-story house is so big it has three elevators.

  – My house is so big that the front yard is in California and the back yard is in Hawaii.  You should see the pool.

Put on your humor hat and get to work.  Write as many lines as you can.  Set them aside and revisit them a couple of days later.  Rewrite and refine.  Look for funnier words.  Submit your best lines to by July 31, 2008.

Tiny Homes Joke Contest Results

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Here are the result of our Tiny Home Joke Contest.  The theme was suggested by Steve and Erin Pavlina.

Look for our next contest: The Big House!

Our Cartoon Caption Contests are announced on the first of the month and our Joke Contests are announced in the middle of the month.

Now it’s time for our top lines:


I like it, but it’s a little snug. Does it come in 10.5 in brown suede?
     Roland Taub, Houston, Texas, USA


Not a typo. It is square inches.
     Arun K, Chennai, India


Great walk-in closet. I’m dying to see the rest of the place.
     Keith Connes, Goleta, California, USA

HONORABLE MENTION (in random order)

  – The front door and the back door are the same door.
  – The living room set was made by Mattel.
  – I think you could get more square-footage, for less, simply by committing a felony.
  – It’s really all about location…there is nothing else left.
  – So…how long have we been stuck in the elevator? Oops, sorry I guess didn’t notice there were no buttons next to your door.
  – We hired a closet organizer to decorate our new apartment.
  – Ad on Craigslist: Looking for a roommate who could share the rent and has an alternative place to live on Wed-Fri.
  – This must be the 7-dwarf’s guest bungalow.
  – Honey, I shrunk the house.
  – A realtor to a prospect:  This house was designed and owned by a famous movie star…Yoda.
  – I built a house like this once.  Of course, I was 6 and it was made of Lincoln Logs.
  – Besides a microwave oven, it has a microwave refrigerator, a microwave toaster, and a microwave hot tub.
  – The refrigerator dairy section can only hold Condensed Milk and Quarter-&-Quarter Cream.
  – “I won’t have THIS breathe all our oxygen tonight” said hubby…and then he took away my parsley mini-pot.
  – My home is so small that the home security system is a soldier ant.
  – You are so full of hot air that you can heat the whole house with one breath.
  – Heating bill? Nah, we just light a candle.
  – My home is so small we use it when we play Monopoly.

Steve Pavlina and Erin Pavlina suggested the Tiny Home contest theme.  Here are some more of their lines:

  – Look, when I stand here, I’m in four different rooms at once.
  – When we look out our window in Las Vegas, we can see the back of the wall you see out your window in Manhattan.
  – How much of the leftovers do we need to eat before we can fit them in your fridge?
  – My coffee cup won’t fit on your coffee table. I should have bought an espresso.
  – When you go to bed, do you sleep with the lid open or closed?
  – Why does it smell like sardines in here?
  – When you meet a neighbor in the hallway, who has to back up?
  – We like how your apartment mandates that when one door closes, another door opens.
  – Does my purse count as a carry-on bag?
  – Did you just move in? The directory still lists your apartment as belonging to Frodo.
  – We just met your neighbors in the hallway:  Happy, Sleepy, and Dopey.
  – Can you verify that your address is Apt 416-3/158ths?
  – Why did a computer voice just announce that we only have 30 minutes of oxygen remaining?

Humor and Presentation Skills Resources

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Here are some excellent resources you’ll enjoy.

Take a look at David Zinger’s List of almost 300 Bloggers Who Inspire Me.  You’re sure to find many links that you’ll love.

You’ll enjoy an article on using humor to build business relationships by columnist Steve Strauss.  Ask An Expert: For Serious Results, Bring On The Funny.  Steve also has an excellent Blog about developing your business, Business As Unusual.  Check it out.

For links to many quality presentation skills blog posts visit Alltop.

On the Speaking About Presenting Blog you’ll find a Review of top 10 speaking blogs at Alltop.

Observational Humor Master

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Here is a response to several questions about the Observational Humor segment in a Toastmasters meeting, posted in the comment section of Observational Humor Case Study #25, By Sol Morrison, Santa Barbara, California, USA.

The Observational Humor segment comes just before the General Evaluator evaluates the overall meeting.  It is placed there so that nearly the entire meeting has been conducted, yet the Observational Humor is still held accountable for good taste because the General Evaluator has the last word.  The segment is listed on the printed agenda. 

The Observational Humor segment replaces the Joke Master (where a member tells a joke). 

The position of Observational Humor Master is rotated among the members who want the challenge.  Before the OH Master presents his/her monologue, the floor is open to all members to present observational humor lines.  At a typical meeting of 25 members, about 7 members will have observations to share.  No one is forced to do Observational Humor.   The entire Observational Humor part of the meeting might take 10 minutes.

We do Observational Humor at every meeting.  For most people, it’s one of the high points of the meeting.  Our club has the reputation of having fun and energized meetings.  We have one of the largest clubs in the District, about 40 members.  Our meetings are 90 minutes.  The majority of our members also have membership in another club.  We have about 60 clubs in Las Vegas.  It’s a great Toastmasters town.

I’d say that our members enjoy the Observational Humor.  We try to keep the humor non offensive.  However over the years, there may have been a small number who didn’t enjoy it (for whatever reason), and I would guess that they’re now enjoying the company of another club.  One size does not fit all. 

One new thing we’re adding to our OH (Observational Humor) segment is to ensure that the Best Humor Ribbon does not necessarily go to someone speaking during the OH part of the meeting.  Occasionally it goes to the Toastmaster of the Evening who does a fun and funny job of putting the meeting together.  Or it might go to a guest who gets a laugh introducing him or herself to the club.  Sometimes it might go to a member who almost never uses humor who delivers one great line during the OH session, perhaps winning over the OH Master who delivers a good monologue.  Or to a speaker or table topics person who demonstrates a humor technique that we’d like to highlight.  We explain WHY the person is winning the Best Humor Ribbon,  making it an Educational Moment.

Creative Humor Writing — Cartoon Caption Contest

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

It’s time for the July Cartoon Caption Contest featuring the artwork of professional cartoonist Dan Rosandich.

Our caption contests are announced on the first of the month.

Our joke contests are announced on the 15th of the month.

Here is this month’s cartoon and one possible caption:


I know it’s not a car, Mikey, but it does have GPS.

Challenge yourself to create five captions. If that’s easy, try ten captions. Select your best lines and submit them to by July 20, 2008.

Dan Rosandich can create custom artwork for your next project, book, website, newsletter, T-shirt, and more. Visit his web site!