Monthly Archives: September 2011

AREA 52 Contests

Report on Contest Night

Hello Fellow Toastmasters!
What a phenomenal and exciting night we had at First Oakville last night!  Between both the Table Topics and Humourous Contests, we had 21 separate instances of self-challenge and friendly competition.
First of all, congratulations to all of our winners!
Table Topics
First Place        Peter West
Second Place   Matt Wagner
Third Place       Marion West
First Place        David Locke
Second Place   Heather Cunningham
Third Place       Deborah Bartucci
Also, congratulations to each and every contestant.
It was especially wonderful to see some of our newest Toastmasters competing in one or both contests (Dennis MacDonald and Cam McDougall come to mind).
It was also refreshing to have a few members decide last minute to participate and encouraging that they felt comfortable enough to do so.
The audience was riveted to hear 12 different responses to the Table Topics theme, which was ‘Attitude’.  Each variation on the topic actually revealed a deeper insight into the minds of our beloved Toastmasters.
All I can say about our Humorous Contest is that I have never laughed so much at a contest!  The subject matters ranged from ‘Montezuma’s Revenge’ to the marketing of wine to death and insurance.  If you missed the contest last night, please be sure to check out the videos posted.

I offer a special thanks to all behind the scenes that supported the contests either as chief judge, judge, counter or timekeeper.  This was tricky to manage since we had so many participants.  The offer of assistance with little notice and the amount of flexibility was greatly appreciated.

Our next contests will be in late January ~ the International Speech Contest and the Evaluation Contest.  It is not too early to begin planning that award winning International Speech or honing your evaluation skills!
Furthermore, take a look at your Competent Leadership Manual for requirements such as serving as a Chairman or Chief Judge.
Finally, Peter and David will compete at the Area Contest on Thursday, October 6 here at First Oakville!
Please come out and support our winners!  Second place winners be ready and waiting since you will be on-call in case our first place winner cannot attend.
Best regards,
Linda Rossi
VP Education
First Oakville Toastmasters

President’s 2011 Message

Well, we’ve had two meetings already and I’m finally getting down to writing my first blog post I really wanted to get out two weeks ago!

Time flies at Toastmasters!

The new executive held two lively meetings prior to the kick off of the new season, I’d like to thank the membership for selecting a fabulous team of individuals to help me guide the club through the new season. We’e got lots of ideas, some of which you may have heard already.

As I mentioned during our first meeting, we want to protect the wonderful culture we have at First Oakville and our focus will be around the “Four F’s” – keeping the club:

  • Fun
  • Focused (on development of all members)
  • Functional (well organized and well planned)
  • Feedback (we want to know what you want and what we can do better)

One of the most gratifying experiences for me so far has been to see so many members return for another season. While always disappointing to see anyone move on, we only lost five members this year and I think three of those were due to relocation to other parts of the GTA.

Guest turnout has been high at both meetings and I believe we could achieve a Smedley Award this year by attracting five new members before the end of the month. This will win us a free new banner with the new TMI logo to hang all our ribbons on!

We’ve already received lots of valuable feedback from the survey our VP Education sent out and a couple of observations are worth commenting on.

First, it’s clear the workshops we held last season were very popular and there is a high level of interest to continue with these, we hear you, stay tuned!

Secondly, for many of you, keeping meetings on time is important and I want to assure you the executive is sensitive to this, however, I ask you to keep in mind that we are a large club and we are all there to learn, keeping roles and speeches to the allocated time is part of the learning experience and as such, we won’t be perfect.

Some speeches are also longer that the typical 5-7 minutes, and there is no way the VP Ed knows this when the schedule is put together and if you do the math, if we run with four speakers on a night, it’s almost impossible to finish at 9:30pm. So with the structure of our meetings, there will be times we run over.

Finally, as your president, I hope you all have a wonderful 2011-2012 season at First Oakville, come out to as many meetings as you can possibly make and make sure you get up and speak at least once!

And don’t forget your manuals!

Visit from the Area Governor

First Oakville Toastmasters saw another six guests show up last night and one joined and one was our Area Governor Carol Todd-Skuce from Trafalgar Toastmasters.

It was an interesting meeting with an address by the area governor and an induction of new members plus the new business session and three speakers and we ended pretty close to on time.

Some members are going to have to remember that dinner meetings start early and it’s a worthy challenge to arrive on time. Coming in late is disruptive.

There were several opportunities where speakers could have been much more concise and we should look at those opportunities in the future.

In addition to inducting the executive, the area governor talked about the new branding of Toastmasters from the International headquarters which was influenced by the organization’s growth in Asian countries and thus the reduction of English from the brand.

In private the area governor mused out loud that it might be time to form another club in the Oakville/Burlington area. With First Oakville likely to hit 50 members before Christmas and I’m thinking 60 by year’s end we’ve got to do something.

Having this many members makes for a dynamic and exciting Toastmaster club but it limits the opportunities for members to speak and participate.

And of course what would a visit from the area governor be without a pitch for the fall conference which is coming to London, Ontario on the weekend of Nov. 25. For $220, which includes meals, it’s a pretty good deal and a fun weekend away.

(In photo: Left to right – Toastmasters Eleanor Hayward (Secretary), Elaine Collins (VP of Public Relations), Area Governor Carol Todd-Skuce, Glenn Marshall (Sgt.-At-Arms), Linda Rossi (VP of Education), David Webster (President), Heather Cunningham (VP of Membership) and Tyler Bayley (Treasurer).

How to use DropBox

If you were a speaker or an evaluator at a First Oakville Toastmaster meeting then you’ve got a video of yourself waiting in the club’s DropBox folder.

To get a DropBox folder link you must be on the club’s membership list and have requested a link.

All speakers with videos in DropBox are invited to drag their folder out of DropBox. This will remove the file from the master folder and it will thus be gone and unavailable to anyone else.

All evaluators share the same video file and thus should make a copy of the file and drag the copy out of DropBox and onto their computer.

All files are erased prior to the next batch of files being loaded.

DropBox is a secure, private (FTP) file sharing system and has worked well for the club.

The right to rule and the right to protest

(This post originally appeared on The Toastmaster blog.)

Two articles in the weekend newspapers gets me thinking on this topic Sunday morning.

Article one is from Saturday’s Globe and Mail. It’s an essay by Michael Ignatieff (yes that Michael Ignatieff) about a government’s right to rule.

In it, he says, that one of the tasks of government and perhaps the first task, is to protect, to defend and to secure.

Any government that does not, loses their legitimacy, their capacity and their competence.

Mr. Ignatieff then lists the failures of the American government  which include 911, weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, New Orleans, the economic crisis, the mortgage bubble, the Gulf of Mexico wellhead burst and the US national debt.

He says that when you look at this list of government failures there’s no surprise that the American people have grown cynical of government.

The second article, from the Sunday New York Times, is about a woman in India who has been on a hunger strike to protest government policy!

The 39-year-old poet and activist was returned to her hospital bed to be feed by a court-ordered feeding tube after she refused to drop her hunger strike.

And what is she protesting? Her cause is to get India to remove the laws that shield security forces from prosecution.

And she has held to this protest for 11 years.

So what’s this got to do with Toastmasters?

Here’s another illustration that might help to set the stage.

Another national organization of which I was an executive member until I resigned last year (somewhat in protest as I could no longer in good faith support the decisions being made or not made by the leaders of the organization) is facing total collapse as the membership falls and few, if any, seem inclined to put their names forward for office.

Why has this happened? IMHO it’s because the leaders of the organization ran the national association like a private business. Decisions were made that served the organization but didn’t serve the members and now the members are voting with their feet.

This is a failure of governance. The executive team lost its legitimacy to govern and the members are not supporting them and the organization is going to fail.

So back to Toastmasters.

We can take these lessons right down to the club level and apply them to individual meetings.

Our club executives are elected to serve and not govern.

Executive teams that understand this principle thrive even in difficult times. Why? Because they have the support of the members of the club behind them. And while there maybe differences of opinion, which is healthy, there is no descent or protest that results and the members will rush to the defence of its executive group and support their decisions if subject to outside attack.

Even the chairperson of the night is wise to remember that their agenda does not represent the sovereign will of the assembly. The agenda is merely a guide to what might happen during the night. The actual power to change the agenda rests with the assembly.

And it is the responsibility of every member to be ever vigilant and ready to protest whenever they think the will of the assembly is not being served.

Thankfully in Toastmasters we do not have to go on 11-year hunger strikes.

It is absolutely essentially and our duty as members that we remember that our leaders (whether they be the chair for evening, the executive team or our national leaders) are fallible and need our help and support. We can help support them by being vigilant and willing to share our thoughts with the greater assembly every time we think we can be helpful.

In Toastmasters we find how to do this in Robert’s Rules of Order.

Every member should be aware of what is happening during the meeting.

If for any reason you are not certain of what to do, you are allowed to stand and say “Mr. Chair, I rise to a parliamentary inquiry.”

The chair may reply or ask the Parliamentarian for an opinion.

BTW when you’re the Parliamentarian, you are not expected to know all the answers.

If you do not know you may ask an individual from the assembly to offer an opinion of which you may or may not take. The chairperson should not allow members to comment without being first recognized and then asked to stand.

In the situation where you believe that procedurally something is out of order you again rise without waiting to be recognized (and you may interrupt a speaker who has the floor) and say: Mr. or Madame Chairman I rise to a point of order. You do not need a seconder.

The chair is obliged by our procedural law (Robert’s Rules) to recognize you immediately and say “State your point of order.”

If the chair makes a decision that you disagree with or you feel offends the will of the assembly then it is your responsibility as a member to rise (again without being recognized) and state (loudly) “I appeal from the decision of the chair.” This appeal requires a seconder and the chair may choose to explain their decision but he or she is obligated to call for a vote of the assembly.

Chairpersons and executive groups and national leaders don’t make perfect decisions. They do the best they can. It is up to the rest of us to offer them our guidance. If we fail to do so, we have no right to complain when they attempt to fulfill their roles.

By the way, when challenged the chair may ask the assembly to comment and thereby start a debate.

The chair may also ask the Parliamentarian to give an opinion and when the Parliamentarian rises all debate must cease and all other members, which the exception of the chair, must be seated and be silent.

How to write and deliver a speech in 10 minutes

Okay so let’s say you’re asked to say a few words at your company’s annual meeting or your best friend’s wedding or your Toastmaster meeting.

The only problem is you forgot about it. (Sorry to tell you kids but this happens a lot when you get older. I carry a tape recorder around somedays.)

So rather than sneak out the door, you decide you can do this!

Here’s what I’ve done in the past:

  1. Write out the first line or two that tells the audience what you’re going to say;
  2. Write the topic line for two or three stories that illustrate your point;
  3. Write out your closing so you’re sure you hit it (If I’m going to screw anything up, it will be the big closing line);
  4. Walk confidently to the lectern, shake the presenter’s hand and put a BIG smile on your face;
  5. Read the first line, tell your stories, read your closing line (if necessary) and receive the applause.
What I don’t do regardless of what happens:
  1. I never apologize for anything or say I’m sorry:
  2. I never let anything distract me. (Once had the lights fail during a major talk at a conference. The mic still worked so I said: “Well I’ve never had this effect before.” Got a big laugh and lots of sympathy);
  3. If I forget where I am, I insert a dramatic pause (It’s sure dramatic to me.);
  4. If I really forget everything I stall by saying” “The next thing I say will be the most important part of my speech”*
  5. After the speech, I never admit to anything.
Do you have any tips for new (or more seasoned) members that you care to share on the blog?
* I’ve actually done this during a speech. Totally lost my train of thought and was in front of the lectern without my notes (which probably wouldn’t have helped me anyway) and stood there smiling like a mad man at the audience whose members kept leaning in to hear whatever gem it was I was going to impart. After what seemed like an eternity I figured out what to say and said it with great emphasis. The audience was enthralled. Marion was laughing her head off at the back of the room as she knows this is one of my ways of getting out of a bad situation.


We grow leaders

Joining a Toastmaster club is a privilege. Guests who wish to join fill out an application and the club members vote whether or not to accept the application.

Once the cheque clears the bank the applicant can now call themselves a Toastmaster. But the formalities don’t end there. Very soon the vice president of membership holds an induction ceremony where the new member and their fellow club members exchange a series of pledges.

While the wording may change from club to club essentially the member pledges to attend meetings regularly and prepare fully for each assignment. They also are required to apply themselves to the Toastmaster program, participate in club activities, evaluate others in a positive, constructive manner, to create open, friendly relationships with fellow members and to bring new members into Toastmasters.

This is a big pledge.

Among other things it means that even if you’re not on the agenda you have pledged to attend meetings regularly. When we attend meetings regularly we get to know our fellow members. We have the opportunity to speak during Table Topics and the business session. We can offer helpful positive evaluations to the speakers and in this we learn how to become better evaluators. Not showing up when we’re not on the agenda means that not only are we missing out on a learning opportunity but we’re not keeping out word.

The same thing goes when we decide we’re not going to complete the role assigned to us on the agenda.

Not only does this inconvenience your fellow members but you are missed and it is noticed. If you can’t attend for whatever reason, it’s your responsibility to find a replacement. Firing off an email to the club list is allowed but it remains your responsibility to ensure the role is filled. Members who regularly miss filling their roles can expect a call from the vp of ed or their mentor.

Agendas are sent out in advance so that we can make plans to fulfill our roles. Whether it’s something as simple as greeting or helping the sergeant-at-arms or being the chair or the Toastmaster each role is important in its own way. New members who are greeters have an opportunity to meet their fellow members and, perhaps more importantly, are the first person guests meet when they come in the door. A warm and welcoming greeting can do much to encourage newcomers to join Toastmasters.

The chair for the evening sets the tone for the entire night. A well-prepared chair (and Toastmaster) can deliver a memorable and enjoyable meeting that starts and ends on time (a rare feat lately).

But is all this emphasis on pledges and keeping our word just so much pedantic babbling.

No not at all.

Toastmasters International has just launched a new branding campaign for the world-wide organizations and leadership skills are now on a equal level to to speaking skills. There’s a new slogan” Toastmasters International – Where Leaders Are Made.”

The world needs leaders who inspire and motivate others to help solve the global issues that befall us whether it’s to do with the economy or war or hunger.

This is the role of Toastmasters and it starts by keeping to our word around showing up and completing the task to the best of our abilities.

Your comments are always welcome on this blog.