The latest Faces of Four interview highlights Dennis Chase. Dennis is a Distinguished Toastmaster and instrumental member of Genentech Toastmasters. He also happens to he a part of the planning committee for the upcoming District 4 Fall Conference. Let’s take a moment to get to know Dennis.
Tell us a little about your Toastmasters career (e.g. How long have you been with the organization, what clubs do you belong to, what made you join, etc.).
I have been with Toastmasters (mainly Genentech Toastmasters) since October of 2011 but really didn’t get started until Feb of 2012. I have belonged to other clubs as well, even when on assignment in South Carolina for 6 months in 2012-2013.
I originally joined Toastmasters because I needed to train instructors who were delivering material I had written. I wanted to get some additional ideas about giving them constructive criticism. Since I had been a public speaker since high school, I figured there wasn’t much for me to learn. However, about six months into speechmaking at Toastmasters my manager said, “You know, your presentations have become a lot more concise.” So much for not teaching ‘an old dog new tricks.’ J
Two of my proudest achievements in Toastmasters came recently. After serving as Division H Director from July 2015 to June 2016, I was named Division Director of the Year. At the same time, I was working on my DTM, which I completed at the beginning of September. Being a District Officer and completing a DTM at the same time is not easy, but it is doable. I’d be glad to share some pointers with folks who’d like advice.
How has Toastmasters helped you in your professional career?
From day one I have made Toastmasters part of my professional development plan, especially the leadership and organizational elements. Toastmasters is a great way to demonstrate tangible results on a development plan because we get so many opportunities. For example, if it’s your goal to become more confident in your presentations, you can gain experience in contests and through your CC efforts. Both of these provide evidence of improvement.
For me, taking on leadership roles has allowed me to demonstrate strategic direction and prioritization. For example, as DD you get handed a team that you did not ‘hire’ plus you need to motivate them to reach their own goals and inspire others as well. Sound like management? It is.
Leadership roles like VP PR, VPE, President and DD gave me the chance to make changes and introduce creative ideas. I talk about these opportunities at every personnel review.
(Incidentally, if you belong to a corporate club you absolutely MUST include Toastmasters in your development planning. Why not get credit for work you are doing already? Also try to include Toastmasters if you’re in a public club, but it may be a harder sell.)
What is the best public speaking advice you’ve ever received?
There are a few pieces of advice that I’ve found important and I’ve tried to pass along to others.
“Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.”
I know this is basic, but I’m always surprised when we don’t use this in EVERY speech, including evaluations and Table Topics. Organization makes your speech easier to follow as it allows your audience to check off your main points as you reach them. Speaking of audiences …
“Try to understand your audience and tailor your speech to them.”
When I was in college I was required to take a basic Public Speaking course despite my experience. I thought it would be ‘cool’ to start a presentation on Speech Anxiety with an introduction where I pretended to be really nervous and finding it hard to continue. The rest of the class HATED me for the rest of the semester since they thought I was making fun of them – which, in a way, I was.
“Give Back. Be a mentor.”
I love seeing people become more confident speakers and leaders. Teach others. Run contests. Give your club officers great ideas and participation. This will make your overall TM experience more rewarding. I know this isn’t specifically public speaking advice, but more TM advice. Be in it not just for yourself.
What has surprised you the most about yourself since you joined Toastmasters?
I already mentioned getting better at presentations, as mentioned by my manager. I was pleasantly surprised to advance to District level at my first Evaluation Contest experience. I have always prided myself on being a good explainer, and I think/hope that came through as part of my contest evaluations.
I think that some of the ways I choose to challenge myself have surprised me. For example, being Table Topics Master without knowing what the questions will be. Doing a Visual Aids speech (CC#8) without slides. Entering the Humorous Contest. Being a DD. Coaching club officers to find their own answers and path forward vs. telling them what to do. These are all ways I have challenged myself which never occurred to me when I first joined.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of Toastmasters?
I sing with the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, where we already are rehearsing (in August) our Holiday Concert material. We do a lot of concerts in November-December each year around the Bay Area and beyond. This hobby gives me more confidence in those times during speeches when I am required to sing (yes, sing, believe it or not). It also came in handy during a Table Topics session where the Topicsmaster had me sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”
I have sung in about 50 languages, but a first this year will be singing in Whoish/Whovian for “Welcome Christmas” from The Grinch. Check out www.sfgmc.org for our concert schedule.
I also like to travel, and usually take a cruise or two every year. In September I went on my first Alaska cruise. In 2013 I took a 9,000 mile road trip around the USA by myself, visiting friends along the way and seeing states I’d never visited before.
How would you describe the perfect meal?
For me the perfect meal isn’t just described by the food, but also the company. To be perfect the meal would need to offer a variety of diverse taste experiences and a variety of diverse people and opinions and senses of humor. The right wine doesn’t hurt, either.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
There are probably several things most people don’t know about me. I’ll give you a few to choose from.
- The 9,000 mile road trip in Oct-Nov 2013, which I interrupted twice to fly back for the Division and the District Contest. When I commit to being a contestant, I commit! J
- I was born on Cape Cod, MA and used to have a relatively thick ‘down-East’ accent growing up. Think of the guys in the Ocean Spray commercials. ‘But it’s not there now!’ My speech teachers thank you.
- I’ve done a lot of Bay Area musical theater and operetta. If you ever went to a Lamplighters show from 2002-2012 at various venues, you probably saw me on stage in one costume or another.
- I was a contestant on “Wheel of Fortune” in the 90s and I have the tape to prove it. Yes, this formed the basis of a speech.
What questions do you have for Dennis? Please feel free to leave a comment below or come say hi to him at the upcoming Fall conference. Registration is open at https://goo.gl/mDCyFF