The Magic of Toastmasters Will Change You


Ask the Toastmasters’ world champion of public speaking “how did you do it?” and Presiyan Vasilev will, kindly and willingly, share his journey and experience with you. He did just that during an educational open house hosted by View Masters at Willis Tower (Club #1933228) on February 3, 2014 at the Metropolitan Club.

Amy Segami, the “Meet The Pres” event chair, had the idea for this type of educational event with Pres last fall. Each belong to the Extreme (#595201) and Windy City Professional Speakers (#5283) Toastmasters’ clubs. According to Bruce Chambers, View Masters club president, and co-host, confirmed that the event was attended by more than sixty guests; mostly by current Chicago area club members and a one-third interested in membership.

The format of the evening was a combination of presentation, review and open discussion; true to the round table evaluation format used by many Toastmasters’ clubs. Presiyan (“Pres”) Vasilev has a welcoming stage style, an innate ability to connect with the audience. Inviting questions and responses so that everyone could participate. Pres’ generosity to share and include everyone made for a highly engaging and motivational evening.
In my mind, Toastmasters is about education and you gain confidence and leadership skills from that. Pres' talk did just that;  stressing that the key to becoming an accomplished speaker is the art of evaluation,” stated Bruce Chambers.


Pres Vasilev immigrated to the United States 11 years ago from Sofia, Bulgaria, in search of "multicultural variety" and self-improvement. He found his voice in Toastmasters, where he joined six clubs in Chicago. "I love competing, and I have benefited from the wonderful support of my Toastmasters family," he said. Vasilev says he looks forward to returning the favor and wants to use his championship experience to mentor others. He offers the following advice: "Never give up!"


There were three key take-aways from the evening, based on Pres’ formula for speech success.

The miles travelled to get to the above formula was PRACTICE.

Practice at listening. Evaluating speakers during club meetings, listening to hundreds of speeches, watching the best of the best like TED, previous Toastmaster winners and many others via the wonders of YouTube. Listening. Even listening to his own speech. Every opportunity to hear the words spoken, incorporating what he believed gave the speech clarity.

Practice speaking. “Never miss an opportunity to practice!” As Toastmasters, we can utilize the Ambassador program to visit clubs in our own districts and even around the world. Pres commented that he probably visited every club in the Chicago metropolitan area to give his, now infamous, “Changed By A Tire” speech. He is/was a member of six Toastmasters clubs. Every opportunity to practice your speech… every 5-7 minute time used to his advantage.The small audience waiting to board the plane to the cab driver driving him to the hotel from the airport. And, let’s not forget family and friends.

Create your own evaluation form of five questions when visiting other clubs.
  1. What are the strengths?
  2. What can be improved?
  3. Any unanswered questions?
  4. What was the message?
  5. How did it make you feel?

Every detail counts. Even the smallest of details can improve your speech. One suggestion he received from a guest at a club meeting he was ready to shrugged off as irrelevant. At the core, Pres’ speech is about changing a flat tire. Very physical with alot of movement -- something everyone can relate. Pres noticed that he was spending too much time rolling up his sleeves after he removed his suit jacket. The suggestion: have your sleeves pre-rolled, under your jacket. The visual result is that you’re ready to get to work.

Pres agonized about the prop used at the conclusion of his speech. While rehearsing in the hotel room in front of a mirror, he noticed the 3x5” card sticking out of his shirt pocket was distraction, falling out onto the floor. An exhaustive search by the front desk staff resulted in a paper cutter so the card could be trimmed to fit neatly and discretely into his pocket.

Other insights from the open house “Meet the Pres” evening came from the replay of the three winning speeches, including Pres’ own speech. The evaluations focused on three areas: content, delivery and timing.

The Magic of Toastmasters Will Change You.
So often we hear fellow Toastmasters say “I don’t know what to turn into a speech!” Some of the best speeches are ignited by some of the most insignificant ‘things.’ A flat tire, a Big Mac, a childhood story. Ideas are everywhere. Draw upon your own experiences. Your own observations. Be yourself. The magic (and the hard work) is turning that spark in a single story so that it is believable and connects with your audience. A story/speech that you can build upon… wear like a favorite coat that keeps your warm during the winter.

Your Speech is a Symphony.
Referring back to Pres’ formula to achieve CLARITY, we must tread delicately like a surgeon and with the courage of a lion. Be open to feedback and experiment with physical, as well as verbal, effects. Your speech begins the moment you step onto the stage and the connection with your audience begins. Is there anything about your dress that might be considered a distraction? Or, will it be incorporated into your presentation? Even the manner in which you use the stage can add meaning.
  • Stepping backward to add physical meaning to emotions like fear or sadness.
  • Walk diagonally from back stage left to front stage right to illustrate a long distance travelled, like flying from New York to Los Angeles.

Physical gestures and facial expressions should have a connection to your story and/or evoke emotion. When you read a story to a child, do you add vocal effects to words/phrases? Are you moving your hands? How about your eyebrows? The smile on your face. Your speech is a performance, use the Toastmasters’ tools (and feedback) to make every aspect of your delivery add to the emotion or message of the story.

“You” Matter.
Can you wordsmith your speech to as few as words as possible and still maintain clarity. Incorporate concrete words (ie house, car, mountain, sky, water) as visual clues so your audience can paint the picture in their own minds. Thus, giving you the opportunity to add the vocal varieties, they physical movements and facial expressions which will add the layer(s) of emotion. Test your metaphors to validate the connection you’re trying to make, will the audience understand? Strive to maintain balance with “show” and “substance”. Pres detailed the word count and time of the speeches. The comparison:

Word Count
Key Phrase Repeated
Shurook Albanna ~ Third Place
“Finding the Pear”
Key Phrase I 5X
Key Phrase II 4X
Kingli Biddle ~ Second Place
“The Sitting Place”
Presiyan Vasilev ~ First Place
“Changed By A Tire”

Here’s another detail Pres drew to our attention, the use if “I” and “You”:


“You” is powerful. It draws the audience in, individually.  Be the host/hostess greeting everyone at the door, welcoming. “Is there anything I can get you?” Look at the numbers in the chart above.

Craft Your Story.
When you’re crafting your award winning speech, consider:

  • Be authentic. Speak from your hear/your experiences.
  • Openness. Be open to ideas, even the crazy ones. Be open to feedback.
  • Practice. Never miss an opportunity to practice.
  • Repetition. Key phrases, concepts, and “you”.
  • Balance. Humor vs drama. Action vs stillness.
  • Study. Never stop learning. Reach out to mentors.
  • Details. Every aspect, every word, every detail matters.
  • Persistence. Never give up on your story.

The “Meet the Pres” open house event validated Pres’ comment that Toastmasters is the “best personal development laboratory you can find.” A welcoming space where anyone can improve their communication and leadership skills in an environment that fosters learning and collaboration.

Visit Toastmasters International for more information:

The event chair would like to acknowledge Metropolitan Club for their generosity in hosting the “Meet The Pres” Open House and for the support of View Masters who volunteered to make the event a successful evening.


February 18, 2014
Article by Joann Sondy, View Masters VP-PR

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