Have a Holly Jolly Christmas

It’s that time of year again, the trees have gone up, lines at stores are a little bit longer, and radio stations are playing Christmas music, literally 24\7.

Christmas time is officially upon us.  However, it wouldn’t be Christmas without our First Oakville Toastmasters Christmas Party.


Last Thursday First Oakville Toastmasters brought their Christmas Cheer to O’Finns Irish Temper and it was definitely not a Silent Night.  It was a Christmas Party of epic proportions full of reindeer games, Table Topics, door prizes, a delicious 3 course meal and of course of a visit from the man himself, SANTA CLAUS.  We also collected food items to donate to a local food bank.

A big thank you to the 2017 Christmas Party Committee:

Cheryl Etherington, Linda Rossi, Alonso Mendizabal, Rebecca Valero, Tanouja Rama, John Smissen and of course our Chair, Eric Bastien.  Congratulations on a festive event.

Many thanks to Peter West for documenting our Christmas Cheer.  He managed to capture all the excitement and left us wishing we could do it all over again.  Be sure to check out the pictures here.

First Oakville Toastmasters is a group of fun-loving, professional individuals from diverse backgrounds who take the Toastmasters educational program and our growth seriously.  We have been supporting and developing each other for over 60 years and as you can see, we have a holly jolly great time while doing it!

Our regular meetings will resume on January 4th, 2017 at the Knights of Columbus Hall 1494 Wallace Road.  Until then, have yourself a Merry Christmas.




Photo credits:  Peter West 









Everything Is In Our Favour

There’s a wonderful article in today’s National Post about a 33-year-old rancher from Alberta who led one of the last great calvary charges at the Battle of Cambria in WW I.strachan-h

After assuming command of the Fort Garry Horse upon the death of the troop’s captain Lieutenant Harcus Strachan led his mounted B Squadron, swords drawn, toward a German artillery post.strachan-at-head-of-fgh-copy1

Successful in their endeavour, their bravery left them “utterly alone” kilometres behind enemy lines with only 50 men out of an original complement of 133 fit to fight. Strachan found not a horse left unwounded so he gathered his men and said:

“Everything is in our favour!”

Returning with his men on foot to friendly territory Strachan would be later be awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. In the months to follow a new weapon of war, the armoured tank, would replace the calvary of previous wars and warfare would be changed forever.

So what does an archaic wild calvary charge, one of the last of World War I, have to do with giving a speech in Toastmasters?

Ask yourself this:

When you’ve completed your speech what are the first thoughts that go through your head? What do you tell yourself? Are you optimistic and excited?

Do you say something like that was great – I did it – I learned so much?

Or do you do, as so many do, immediately start to pick apart your speech searching for every little flaw? Do you say to yourself that your speech was a failure? Do you agonize over every little slip?

This hyper-critical thinking is epidemic in society today. It sniffles creativity and makes giving a speech an experience to be dreaded.

This is not the way Toastmasters works.

After you give your next speech tell yourself that you did a great job. If you’re not up to giving yourself praise then go find your mentor and let them do it for you.

Remember all the little things you think went wrong likely weren’t even noticed by your audience. The stuff you think needs fixing will fix itself over time as you continue speaking. There’s no need to be harsh with yourself.

Everything is not lost.

Remember the Alberta rancher who went faced with insurmountable odds turned to his men and reassured them that all was going to end well….and it did.

Be optimistic. Be unafraid. Keep calm and keep speaking!

My memories of Christmas as a child: by Eric Bastien

It doesn’t matter whether you are an 11th generation Canadian like me, or whether you immigrated to Canada recently, there is no way to live in this country without the awareness of the religious and cultural celebration of Christmas in December. The evidence of this holiday is everywhere, from Santa Claus’ in malls, decorations in the stores, Christmas Carols playing on the radio, and to Christmas Lights on many houses….there is no escaping it.

Although this holiday is traditionally a Christian one, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  I have heard from people of other faiths saying that they have embraced the festive aspect of Christmas.  They too partake in gift exchanges, holiday meals, and visits from friends and family.

For me, being raised up in the French-Canadian Catholic faith and tradition, I celebrated most of my childhood Christmas’ in Quebec.  The celebration always started with a light meal in the early evening of December 24th, Christmas Eve.  My cousins and I were told by our parents that we needed to be in bed very early, usually by 8pm, if we expected to get a ‘delivery’ of gifts from Santa after midnight.  By 11:30pm, our parents woke us up, and we quickly made our way to the local church to celebrate Midnight Mass, where I remember excitedly singing French versions of Christmas songs like ‘Silent Night’ and ‘Joy to the World’.

We would arrive home shortly after 1AM, and this was when the real celebration began.  We started the celebration by having a large feast  called ‘Le Réveillon’, where we had traditional dishes like Tourtière (a special French-Canadian meat pie); pea soup; ragout de pattes de cochon (pig’s feet stew); and, of course, a bûche de Noël (Christmas Yule Log) for dessert.  This large meal was followed by the opening of presents, which miraculously were found in abundance under the Christmas tree upon our return from Church.  Of course, you can’t forget the dancing, the drinking (by the adults of course), and the music.  We were often up until well passed 5:00 am.  Christmas day, from what I remember, was a day to sleep in, play with our toys, eat left-overs, and dealing with grumpy adults, who were recovering from their hangovers.

If you celebrate Christmas, what childhood memories do you recall?  If you don’t celebrate Christmas, perhaps you celebrate another holiday which brings you fond memories.

This year’s First Oakville Toastmasters’ Christmas party is taking place on Thursday, December 7th from 6:30 to 9:30pm at O’Finn’s Irish Temper.  Tickets are on sale now.   You can pick them up from your closest Christmas Party Committee Representative.



Which Path Are You Going To Take?

The Toastmasters Pathways learning experience has launched at First Oakville Toastmasters.  Whether you have been attending club meetings for years, or you have just recently joined First Oakville Toastmasters, you may have likely heard about the new Pathways learning curriculum.


As of October 31st, 2017 new members will automatically begin the new Pathways learning curriculum.  Members who were already enrolled as a member of Toastmasters can decide whether they would like to continue with their current manuals or enroll onto the Pathways program.  For members working towards their Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) designation, there is a two-year transition period given to allow for you to complete the current program if you wish to do so.

When you enroll into Pathways you take a Pathways assessment online.  There are ten different learning paths available:


To find the one that is right for you, you need to take the online assessment.  It helps you identify the path that best meets your needs, interests and goals.  When you answer the questions, think about how you would like to grow as a speaker at work, at Toastmasters and in your personal life.   After responding to a series of questions, you will be presented with the path that best fits you and your current experience.  You may be excited, energized or even surprised by the path recommended for you.

Pathways:  Step-by-step

In order to get you started and on your way (or on your path), we have put together some step-by-step instructions to help you.

  1. Visit https://www.toastmasters.org/
  2. Log in with your ‘username’ which can be your email address that you used to register as a Toastmaster member, or you can use your member ‘ID number’.
  3. Password: If you are logging in for the first time please use the link “forgot password?”
  4. Click on ‘Education’ (top section of website)
  5. Select ‘Pathways learning experience’
  6. Click on, “Begin your journey”
  7. Choose your path for ‘yourself’ and click on ‘continue to path selection’
  8. Run pathways (it may prompt you to disable pop-up blockers)
  9. Click on ‘Base Camp’
  10. Start Pathways Assessment (this may take 10 mins)
  11. Once you complete assessment you will be given your Top 3 path choices. You can of course pick a path outside of the Top 3 suggestions, however, the suggested selections are based on the answers you provided in the assessment.

pathway results.jpg

12.  Select your chosen Path
13.  It will ask you to confirm your selection.  Click ‘yes’ to proceed
14.  Voila, you are enrolled in Pathways and you have selected a Path

pathways enrolling confirmation

We have asked three members of our club to share their Pathways enrollment experience:

Allan Osborne, VP Education:  I took my time answering the questions during the assessment.  I found it rather easy to navigate.  The assessment and path selection process for me took about 10 minutes.

My Top 3 paths were:  Innovative Planning, Leadership Development and Motivational Strategies.

I chose Leadership Development because I want to focus on growing as a leader at Toastmasters and in my career field.  I will benefit tremendously by learning about planning and time management.

For now, I am going to continue working toward my Advanced Communicator Bronze and also my Competent Leadership designations.  It’s actually an exciting year for me because I am serving on the executive, which means I will also qualify to earn my Advanced Leader Bronze.  It’s a Triple Crown year for me! (An award for members who have earned three or more education awards in one year.)  Once I complete these designations I will evaluate my goals and decide whether I will continue to pursue my DTM or start Pathways.


Alonso Mendizabal, VP Public Relations:  The assessment took me about 5-10 minutes.   I found it easy to navigate.  Make sure to disable your pop-up blockers.

My Top 3 paths were:  Leadership Development, Persuasive Influence and Innovative Planning

I selected Persuasive Influence as I thought it would provide me with an opportunity to help me organize my speeches and sales pitches resulting in more impact, and connection with my audience/clients.

I am currently two projects away from completing my Competent Communicator and one project away from completing my Competent Leadership designations.  Once I complete these milestones I will begin my Toastmaster journey with Pathways.


Rebecca Valero, Club President:  The assessment itself took about 10 minutes.  I did spend extra time reading about Base Camp.  I took my time answering the questions in the assessment.  I tried to answer the questions while thinking about what I want to accomplish at work, Toastmasters and in my personal life.

My Top 3 paths were: Innovative Planning, Leadership Development, and Presentation Mastery.

I selected Innovative Planning as it seems to address several of the areas I would like to focus my growth on at the moment.  We currently have two years to work towards our DTM designation if we wish to do so.  After some evaluation, I have decided to begin the Pathways Program.  1)  I don’t want to rush to complete my DTM and 2)  I believe it is important for me as the President of the Club this year to become very familiar with this program.

I have already completed my first project, the Ice Breaker.  There are 3 other projects remaining before I can complete my Level 1.

Which path are you going to take? 

Additional Resources:  Pathways FAQ

Let Yourself Be Inspired

Each one of us has something to contribute, a story to tell, a life experience to share. Often enough we do not recognize that.  Maybe we think our story is not enough, or that we are not ready.  Perhaps one of the best parts of Toastmasters is having the opportunity to learn how to tell your own stories, whether it is through table topics, speech writing or Chairing a meeting and selecting the topic.

This week our meeting Chair is Rosa Rodriguez and she has chosen the theme, “let yourself be inspired.”

engaged! (1).jpg

Rosa has surely inspired members & guests at First Oakville Toastmasters for the past three years.

When Rosa first joined First Oakville Toastmasters she was overwhelmed, scared and uncomfortable.  She remembers being inspired by other members  who spoke with confidence as they shared their own stories.  She was encouraged by all the support and mentoring that our members offered her and it was the combination of support and mentorship that really encouraged her to continue with her own Toastmaster journey.

Rosa has served on the executive as the Club Secretary in 2015-2016 and VP Membership 2016-2017.  Rosa has also recently completed her Competent Communicator designation.

We asked Rosa a few questions about her experience at First Oakville Toastmasters.

  1.  Why did you join Toastmasters?

I joined Toastmasters because I wanted to improve my speaking skills which at the time I was really struggling with.

  1. What have you learned from your Toastmaster journey?

I have learned that it is normal to feel nervous or even scared and being in a supportive and encouraging environment, with a positive and uplifting group makes a huge difference.

  1. What do you like most about First Oakville Toastmaters (FOTM)?

What I love most about FOTM is the support that I receive from our members.  I love our social events throughout the year.  Our meetings are a perfect way to practice the challenges that we face on a daily basis which is to speak from the heart, to be genuine, and to learn how to say it.

  1. Tell us how you have grown since joining First Oakville Toastmaster?

I feel confident now as a public speaker and a leader.  Every time I finish a project the feeling is amazing.  It just motivates me to keep going and to continue growing.

Rosa, thank you for your commitment and dedication to First Oakville Toastmasters.   Your journey is truly inspiring.

IMG-4387 As Toastmasters we have the privilege of hearing our member’s stories, challenges, lessons and it is through them that we make connections and become inspired.  Don’t let fear stop you from using your voice.  Let yourself be inspired, you may be surprised by the impact it has on you and others.

Join us this Thursday at First Oakville Toastmasters.  Guests are always welcome!


Meeting details:  Thursday evenings 7:30pm-9:30pm ( plan to arrive 10 mins early if you are a guest so that we can introduce ourselves), Knights of Columbus Oakville (Marian Hall), 1494 Wallace Rd





President’s Distinguished Club Award

Earlier this year we celebrated our 60th year making First Oakville Toastmasters the longest running public speaking and leadership program in Oakville.  Since February 1st, 1957, First Oakville Toastmasters has been a vital and vibrant part of the Oakville community giving many residents the opportunity to build their public speaking, presentation, and leadership skills.

Last night we had the pleasure of welcoming Kristina Johnston, DTM.   Kristina is currently the District 86 Program Quality Director 2017-2018 and represented District 86 as she presented our Past President, Mark Molder with a Golden Gavel in recognition of  First Oakville achieving President’s Distinguished status in 2016-2017.


President’s Distinguished is the highest level of recognition and it is a marker of a successful and strong club.  What this means is that our club met the membership prerequisite and achieved at least nine of the ten goals.  These goals include earning communication and leadership designations, recruiting new members, attending executive officer training, submitting membership renewals on time and providing a club officer list on time.  This is not accomplished by one person alone, it happens when you have a strong executive team along with a strong club culture.

As your 2017-2018 president I am working with the current Executive Team to ensure that we continue the legacy and rich history that our past presidents, executive teams, and members have worked so hard to build since 1957.

We are currently half-way towards achieving our Distinguished Club Program goals for 2017-2018 and we look forward to continuing our tradition of being a President’s Distinguished Club in District 86.

We would like to thank our 2016-2017 executive for all their contributions towards a very successful year.  Thank you to the 2016-2017 executive:  Mark Molder (President), Petra Dubec (VP Education), Rosa Rodriguez (VP Membership), Zulma Garcia (VP Public Relations), Sameet Batavia (Treasurer), Luke Jin (Secretary), Scott Richardson (SAA), and Peter West ( Immediate Past President).

This is an exciting year for First Oakville Toastmasters as we celebrate 61 years of club history this February 2018.  We have a very strong executive team with fresh new ideas.  Adrian Scott, a long time member of First Oakville Toastmasters has recently launched a brand new Mentorship Program and with Pathways launching very soon this is surely going to be a year of growth.

No matter where you are on your journey towards becoming a better speaker or leader, we welcome you here at First Oakville Toastmasters.

If you would like to know more about Toastmasters, we encourage you to visit our club and meet our members.  We are committed to helping each other grow as speakers and leaders…and we like to have fun too!

Best regards from the 2017-2018 FOTM Executive


Allan Osborne (VP Education), Alonso Mendizabal (Public Relations), Cheryl Etherington (Treasurer), Rebecca Valero (President), Danny Luu (SAA), Samantha Tam (Secretary), Luke Jin (VP Membership) not in picture.


Rebecca Valero, ACB ALB
President, First Oakville Toastmasters, Club 2245

Big Wins At Area Contest

First Oakville Toastmasters walked away with some impressive wins at last night’s Area D-87 Table Topics and Humorous Speech Contests. Our own Cheryl Etherington took first place in the hotly contested Humorous Speech and Samantha Tam took second in Table Topics. Peter West took third in both.