Monthly Archives: October 2009

Halloween Treat

DAVE WEBSTER HALLOWEEN Blog copyNever let it be said that 1st Oakville Toastmasters doesn’t get into the “spirit” of things. Our 1st place speaker for this past thursday, Toastmaster Dave Webster has agreed to share his Halloween speech with us. This is a “treat”…


Yes it’s Halloween and we’re all dressed up, but do you have any idea why you’re doing this? Why you’ve dressed yourselves up in what would look completely ridiculous on any other day? Have you been carving pumpkins and made the front of your house look like a graveyard. Is that big bowl of candy by the front door yet, ready for the first batch of little horrors to arrive?

Halloween dates back as far as 1200BC. We can find its roots in an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (Sau-in), meaning “summers end”; the beginning of the darker half of the year. The Celts believed the borders between this world and the “otherworld” touched at Sau-in and allowed the spirits to cross. Dead ancestors would drop in, but evil spirits also crossed, so the Celts disguised themselves by dressing in ghoulish costumes and masks to trick the real evil spirits and protect themselves
In the 9th century, the church tried to supplant the pagan celebration with a Christian holiday. The word Halloween comes from a shortened version of “Hallows Eve”, the evening before All Saints Day. In fact back then, the next day started at sunset, so Halloween and All Saints were the same day. The church got the name Halloween to stick, but most of the rituals go back to those Celts.

For instance, I’m sure many of you have carved pumpkins this week. You can thank the Celts for that. They believed the head was the most powerful and spiritual part of the body, so they carved faces in turnips, placed a lighted candle inside and put them in their windows to keep evil spirits out. Those Celts that went looking for turnips must have been the first generation of Headhunters!

And the phrase Jack o’lantern comes from a legend about a greedy, gambling, hard-drinking old Irish farmer called Stingy Jack (I like him already). He tricked the devil into climbing a tree and he trapped him up there by carving a cross into the tree trunk. In revenge, the devil cursed him, condemning Jack to wander the earth at night forever, with only a lighted candle inside a hollowed turnip.
Our family spends hours carving pumpkins around the kitchen table making one incredible mess of stringy flesh, juice, seeds… and the occasional Jack o lantern.

When I grew up in England, we didn’t carve any vegetables. We called Halloween “mischief night” and roamed the neighborhood in darkness doing naughty pranks, some innocent and some not so much. We’d knock on doors and run away (how original!), or tip garbage bins over – and it wasn’t me who broke Mrs Parkin’s window!! I guess we were sometimes a little over zealous playing the “evil spirits” bit.

I still get up to mischief on Halloween, I dress as a witch with newspaper stuffing coming out from between my clothes and sit very still on a stool by the front door. The kids think I’m a stuffed mannequin until they reach the door, then I move and speak – they run away screaming! The tricks on me at our house!
“Trick or treating” evolved from something called “souling”. In medieval times, the poor dressed up in costumes on All Saints Day and begged for food in exchange for reciting prayers for peoples souls.
So fellow toastmasters, tonight we’re celebrating an ancient pagan ritual that’s evolved and been added to over the centuries. It’s celebrated in different ways and under different names around the world. But the common theme goes back to those Celts 3000 years ago talking to the dead and trying to scare away the evil spirits. Got to believe there has to be something in it to have survived this long – so watch out tonight as you drive home, a dead relative like Uncle Fred or Auntie Edna may just want to pop out of nowhere and have a chat .

Trick or treat?

TM Halloween Pic for blog

First Oakville Toastmasters Getting Into The “Spirit” of Things



Toastmasters International Turns 85

85th_Ann_Logo_300_dpiThe nonprofit best known for public speaking has benefited more than 4 million people through improved communication and leadership skills that bolster personal and professional growth

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, CALIF., Oct. 22, 2009 – Eighty-five years ago today, Dr. Ralph C. Smedley held the first official Toastmasters meeting in the basement of a YMCA in Santa Ana, Calif. Not even Dr. Smedley could have envisioned the history he was making on that day. The organization that started as a small group of people dedicated to teaching after-dinner speeches to young men has evolved into a worldwide leader in communication and leadership development. Since that first meeting in 1924, more than 4 million people have benefited from the Toastmasters experience.

“Toastmasters’ long-term success and growth is a tribute to Dr. Smedley’s vision,” says Toastmasters International President Gary A. Schmidt. “He understood that communication isn’t optional and leadership isn’t always innate, but both can be learned through doing.” Today, Toastmasters’ 250,000-plus active members participate in over 12,500 clubs spanning 106 countries. From Dubai to New Zealand, Saskatchewan to Connecticut, each day thousands of Toastmasters participate in meetings to learn and practice valuable communication and leadership skills in a supportive environment.

Michael Avedissian of Reading, Pennsylvania, is one of the organization’s longest-term members. He moved from Germany to the United States in 1954 and joined Toastmasters the following year. He credits the Reading Toastmasters Club with saving his engineering career and his new life in America by helping him learn and practice English. “Toastmasters gave me the ability to deliver the reports and presentations that were required for my career.”

Many organizations stall or even crumble during difficult economic times. Toastmasters has withstood the test of time and has even grown 5% annually since 2005 because it offers practical skills that are critical for success in today’s competitive environment.

Ann Maxfield of Austin, Minn., recently was able to begin a new career as an e-learning coordinator at Hormel Foods. With her Toastmasters training, she aced the interviews. “People in management know about Toastmasters and look to it as valuable training for the skills and experiences they require in employees,” she says.

The Toastmasters program also helps political and business leaders prepare for the demands of their positions. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle is one of many with political aspirations who found help in Toastmasters. “It is the best and least expensive personal improvement class you can go to,” says Lingle.

Clubs around the world will celebrate the anniversary with special meetings. Locally, First Oakville Toastmasters,
which meets at the Quality Hotel 754 Bronte Road, on Thursday evenings at 7:30 pm will offer special presentations. The general public is invited to visit a meeting and learn more about what Toastmasters has to offer. Contact Michelle Gillies at 905.469.2350 for more information.

About Toastmasters
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches communication and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. The organization currently has more than 250,000 members in 12,500 clubs in 106 countries. Since its founding 85 years ago in October 1924, the organization has helped more than four million men and women give presentations with poise and confidence. For information about local Toastmasters clubs, please visit

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Competing in Contests

DEBORAH BARTUCCISubmitted by Toastmaster Deborah Bartucci

I am a contest competing hound. When I originally joined First Oakville Toastmasters I made a pact with myself that I would participate in the Toastmaster program and that I would enter as many contests as possible. Well after 7 years, I have been in all of the contests – Table Topics, Tall Tales, Evaluation, Humourous and of course International contest.

I have grown to like them all but my favourites are Tall Tales and Humourous contests. Just recently we held our Humourous contest – what fun!!! With this contest you get to tell a zany story, have fun, and make people laugh. If you read anything in the Toastmaster training you will know “ if you can make the audience laugh you have them in the palm of your hand”. It is a great place to practice incorporating laughter into any speech.

The night of our contest there were great speeches – a tough competition- has all of the competitors were excellent. To our good fortune, Matt Wagner and I moved forward to the Area level.
As this is a new area for First Oakville Toastmasters it was a new challenge. I learned that sometimes you become too comfortable always competing, as we have, in the same area since I joined. There were new clubs in this new area which in turn meant new competitors. I was a little nervous at first just coming out of my comfort zone but soon the adrenaline kicked in and I had some fun.

I encourage all of you to stretch your limits, move out of your comfort zone, have some fun and sign up for the next contest you are eligible for.

Why the CL manual? Why speech projects?

Donald with beard at Christmas headshotSubmitted by Toastmaster Donald Knowles

It helps to understand Toastmasters if you think of it as one of the original night school programs, but in 1OV’s case, with bar service. A most astute accommodation on the executive’s part.

The various programs have been set up to develop both communications skills and to help people develop leadership as well.

That is why there are the two tracks, starting with the Competent Communicator and the Competent Leader designations.

Each of the projects are set to teach and develop a particular skill. But these two programs are just the beginning. If you are willing, then there are follow on courses and programs, each designed to lead you forward in your personal development.

As you, the TM member and therefore student, learns new skills, or survives the perils of public speaking, you develop confidence and slowly acquire the desire to attack more challenging roles. When you participate in club meetings, sometimes just by being there, you pick up tips and techniques from those who have been there before you. This again reinforces your learning process and helps to build confidence. Unlike regular night school TM is much like the London tourist buses, you can enter and leave as you see fit, depending upon your destination and your travel itinerary.

So, if you are into self development and want to extend your personal network at the same time, if you want to learn new skills and gain confidence, then please consider the various programs and do the exercises. In the end you will be rewarded with new skills, new confidence , and designations that you rightfully earned through diligence and work. Those are all things that you can be proud of and can be practically applied to your life and goals. It truly is an interesting trip, not just a destination.

Reach Out and “Click” Someone

Michelle_for_cardsSubmitted by Toastmaster Michelle Gillies

Toastmasters is an amazing organization. The very first meeting was held on October 22, 1924 in Santa Ana, California. Fast forward 85 years and 12,000-plus clubs that meet in 106 countries and you have Toastmasters International, today. That is incredible! What really makes that incredible is that because of the internet we all have access to each other.

I admit I spend a lot of time on the computer. It has become a necessary tool for me professionally and personally. As well as websites, I use  twitterlinkedinfacebook and blogs. This has opened up the world to me immeasurably and I have met and communicated with some of the finest Toastmasters across the world.

Debbie Roes lives in San Diego, California. We met on twitter. She is the webmaster for District 5  and has been very generous with her time and advice. Check out her District 5 Toastmasters site and then check out her Ovation Timer site where she has some excellent speaking tips and video “snippets”.

Dr. Shaun Jamison is a Distinguished Toastmaster. He’s from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and we met on linkedin in and we chat on twitter. I read his blog  on a regular basis.

I also belong to a group called “The Official Toastmasters International Members Group” on linkedin. I have talked to Toastmasters in Hawaii, Germany, and Taiwan …to name a few.

My point is (and I do have one), your family of Toastmasters is bigger than you could imagine and it is time to get to know them. Just take that first step and visit the Toastmasters International site.

Enjoy the adventure!