Category Archives: Interview Corner

7 Big Ideas From Gothenburg

Last weekend I participated in The Toastmasters Division G Fall Conference in Gothenburg. The conference included some great workshops on leadership and public speaking. This post is a condensed version of my 7 favourite take-aways from the workshops. If you went to the conference you can use the article as a reminder; if not, here’s a few notes on what you missed. In either case I’m happy to be the nerdy kid who shares my notes (as long as you don’t take my lunch money).

1. We see don’t see things as they are

A young girl looking out the window, sees her neighbour drying some dirty clothes. “Why are they drying the clothes, when it’s still dirty?” she asks her mother. The mum looks, but doesn’t say anything.

The next day, the same thing happens. The girl tells her mum about the dirty clothes, and the mum doesn’t say anything.

On the third day, when the girl looks, the clothes are clean. The girl says: “She finally washed it. Did you say something to her?”

The mum smiles: “I got up early and washed your windows.”

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Credit: Thanks to Andrei Popescu for sharing this story.

More information:

2. Negative feedback hurts

The human brain experiences negative feedback similarly to physical pain. Therefore, think about how your words affect other people, when giving them feedback.

Credit: Thanks to Danni Liljekrans ( for sharing this idea.

More: Emotional and Physical Pain Activate Similar Brain Regions (Psychology Today)

3. Radical Candor

The previous idea tells us how negative feedback hurts. But being kind and positive isn’t enough. When giving people feedback, remember these two things:

  • Care about the person
  • Challenge the person

Do you ever hold back when giving feedback, because you don’t want to hurt the other person? In that case you’re in the unicorn-zone. You are caring, but not challenging. Thus, you are creating a fantasy world for the other person, which makes her feel good, but doesn’t serve in the long run. If you’re the opposite (challenging, but not caring), you’re just being a dick. This is shown as a devil in the graph above. If you’re neither challenging nor caring, you’re doing everything wrong (symbolised above as an indifferent and manipulative snake. If you’re both caring and challenging, you’re using what Kim Scott calls radical candor. You are building up the other person, and helping her grow at the same time.

Okay, enough with the unicorns. Here’s what the model really looks like:

Credit: Thanks to Danni Liljekrans ( for sharing this idea.


Bonus: This concept relates to the “Supportive/Demanding Parenting Matrix

4. Listen to yourself

Imagine you’re in a high stakes situation where lots of people want to offer their advice (for instance when competing in the world championship of public speaking). It get’s increasingly difficult to trust your own voice.

The importance of being true to yourself and your story, increases when more people are giving you advice.

Credit: Denise Banks-Grasedyck (

5. The Five Levels of Leadership

Denise talked about the five levels of leadership, and she posed three questions for leaders to ask themselves:

  • What do I want in a leader?
  • Why should anyone follow me? (what will they get?)
  • What impact do I want to make on my followers and their communities?

Credit: Denise Banks-Grasedyck (

More about the five levels of leadership:


6. Egg, Carrot or Coffee?

When facing a difficult situation, do you handle it like Eggs, Carrots or Coffee?

  • Eggs are soft, but when thrown into a difficult situation (AKA boiling water), they become harder. Do you become tougher, when facing hardships?
  • Carrots are hard, and boiling water makes them soft.
  • With Coffee, it’s completely different: Coffee changes the water

When life punches you in the face, be like coffee. Change the difficult situation.

Credit: Thanks to Andrei Popescu for sharing this story.

7. But vs And

The word “but” is a commonly used (and terrible) word, for responding to other people’s ideas. “But” creates a “me vs you”-feeling – like you’re on different teams, fighting for different things. Instead use the word “and”. It feels much better for the person you’re talking to. It feels like you’re building on his ideas – rather than rejecting them.

Credit: Denise Banks-Grasedyck (

These are my favourite takeaways from the workshops. If you were there, I’d love to hear about your favourite take-aways from the weekend. Feel free to write a comment.

Thanks everyone for a great conference!

Wrote by Christian Staal member of Division G on LinkedIn

Know more about District 95 International Speech Contest Winner

Timisoara, Romania, 14 May, 2016 — Laszlo Szucs of BudapestHungary outshined six local participants to win the district-level competition of the Toastmasters International Speech Contest, representing 15 countries of Central and Northern and Estern Europe.

Laszlo Szucs has qualified to advance to the semifinal rounds of the contest. Szucs is vying for one of 10 spots in the to be held at the Toastmasters International Convention Saturday, Aug. 20 in Washington, D.C.

Just to let District 95 Toastmasters representative better I asked Laszlo three questions about public speaking.

While thinking about public speaking people usually point first association: stage-fright. Tell us about stage fright. Did you feel it? During finals? During semifinals?

Of course I did (smile), but only before the speeches. However, I would rather call it excitement and I love it. If I don’t feel this excitement that scares me, it means I will not be that good. The excitement can be transformed into a good energy which helps me to focus on the audience and my message. Before semifinals and finals contestants were doing their warm up tricks, we all have our “talismans”. I have 3 tricks, mainly coming from my boxing background:

  • I pull my shoelaces very tight, which is good at the beginning where the speakers are most vulnerable. I feel my stable stance thanks to this trick which gives me strength.
  • I drink a lot before the speech. This makes me relaxed. Of course, I am talking about still water (smile)
  • I set the competition mode like athletes: If I am too excited I take deep breaths which calms me down, if I am sleepy then I massage my ears which rises my blood pressure and gives me energy.

One more thing, part time I am holding public speaking trainings and just before the conference I had 7 days of training in a row. Stage time is extremely important.

Asked “who invited bulb?” most people usually say “Edison”, without thinking he worked in team. Great inventors worked in team. Scientist make they dicoverys in team. And what about public speaking? Is it team work or individual work? You were alone on stage…

This journey was like walking a long distance along the beach with my mentors towards our destination. There were the footprints of many people in the sand, but looking back I noticed that at many times along the path especially at the very lowest and saddest times, one set of footprints was missing. And You know why? Because those moments they carried me on their back.

I love this poem and I like to use it as a metaphor for highlighting the importance of teamwork. Speaking is absolutely a teamwork. I had 4 mentors preparing me for this speech: some of them were focusing on the content, some of them on the delivery and one of them was next to me even in the last seconds before the speeches. If I could give you Fellow Toastmasters just one advice, I would say that go and get a mentor.

form left: 1st place Laszlo Szucs; 2nd place Vanya Eide; 3td place Ovidiu Oltean photo: Lukasz Koscinski

from left: 1st place Laszlo Szucs; 2nd place Vanya Eide; 3rd place Ovidiu Oltean
photo: Lukasz Koscinski

 You will represent District 95 on World Championship. How do you  prepare?

I was in national team of boxing in my country, but I admit this will be  the biggest competition in my life so far. It is hyper exciting. Therefore,  I  will recycle everything I learned about preparation and training  camps in  sport. I will do the preparation with daily practicing in  Toastmasters and  holding public speaking trainings.

Also, I will have some special preparation and “speaking tours”, I got  lots of invitations from Berlin to Moscow for which I am very thankful.  Regarding special preparation, I am going to a local high security prison  … to speak in front of inmates on a regular basis. I just got my striped prison uniform and who knows what else my mentors will figure out (smile). So after this preparation the World Championship will be a real relief (smile)


Just to help District 95 Toastmasters understand what you have achieved let me mention The Toastmasters International Speech Contest is the world’s largest speech contest, involving 30,000 participants from 135 countries.

It culminates with the popular World Championship of Public Speaking held annually at the organization’s

As you will compete against ninety-eight winners from districts around the world in the semifinal round we wish you fruitfull preparation process and a victory in the final contest.


Mariola Siorek was talking to Laszlo Szucs – District 95 International Speach Contest winner and representative World Championships of Public Speaking 2016.