Monthly Archives: October 2011

Running Late

Hi Everybody:

Val’s question last night “is running late an issue” (and, more
importantly, the answer) I find very, very interesting:

There was a general assumption that timing was a fairly serious
issue.  Personally, I don’t feel that strongly about it, but I felt
others did so I went along with it.  (And, btw, I, personally, feel
we shouldn’t be careless about it either, also; there is a  balance).

Yet, this assumption was never investigated until Val raised it as a

And, when she did, the answer was not at all what the club expected,
I suspect – strongly by a 2 to 1 margin “no” (I certainly was quite


Key Lesson Of The Meeting:  always, when possible, gather the facts
directly – avoid assumptions, pre-conceived ideas.  Things may not be
what you think/assume.

I’m sure we all have had this thought/message given to us at various
points in the past – ‘avoid assumptions’, yet we, as  humans,
continue to do it – take dubious intellectual shortcuts unconsciously.

This is not to say that conscious, verified, accepted, documented
assumptions are bad, but unconscious ones definitely are – they are
never verified, never explicitly thought about, inherently invisible
and may be wrong.  And if they’re wrong, you’re off on a tangent,
potentially wasting  a lot of time.


The Timing of Meetings

Dear Fellow Toastmasters:
As VP Education, I was especially interested to hear the both the discussion last week and subsequent suggestions last night with regards to the timing of our meetings. Thanks to Peter West for choosing a subject for his assignment that also serves as critical information to the members of First Oakville.
After listening to our members offer their opinions, my understanding is that even though timing is not an issue for two-thirds of our members, it is important to be more aware of the timing of each role during the course of the evening.  Some of us are not sure what the timing should be.  This will be rectified by education ~ both by distribution of a listing of recommended times for each role, and also by conducting a session to explain pertinent aspects of each role (including the timing).  This awareness should improve the timing of the meeting automatically as long as we enforce the recommendations.
Furthermore, the timing is affected by how many speeches the VP Education schedules.  This is a challenge for me because I have promised to support the educational goals of each and every member from the new member to the most seasoned member.  Why is it difficult?  If we stick to only three speeches per night, it could take up to two years to achieve a basic Competent Communicator designation because of the large membership of First Oakville.  Not to mention that as our senior members approach the advanced manuals, many of the presentations are more than seven minutes.   The truth is that if a member does not see progress and work towards their goals in a timely manner, they lose enthusiasm and momentum for the programme itself.
My first response is to schedule the majority of meetings with only three speeches for the next couple of months.  Let’s work on timing in all parts of the meeting, and become more focused and aware in each and every role we perform.  After the first of the year I have booked a few meetings with four speeches because we are gearing up for the International Contest and I want to offer more speaking opportunities leading up to contest season.
Aside from our own speaking schedule, we have two clubs in Oakville looking for speakers!  Most especially, Glen Abbey Toastmasters who meet on Wednesday evenings at the Sheridan Residence Centre is in dire need of speakers.  Also, Trafalgar Club is more than happy to accept guest speakers. Trafalgar meets on Monday evenings (7:15) at the Oakville Public Library on Navy Street.  Their membership base has decreased significantly this past year.  This is an excellent opportunity to not only move forward more quickly in the quest for your educational goals, but also a unique opportunity to receive evaluations from Toastmasters outside our own beloved First Oakville Toastmasters.  Your participation is also assisting a fellow Club at the same time. Please contact me so that I may arrange with the VP Education of each Club for a speaking opportunity.
Secondly, I am convinced that offering extra workshops (as our budget allows) in parliamentary procedure, evaluation and learning the roles of the meeting will help us become more efficient during the course of our regular meetings.  Based on interest polled last night, this is something that our members would support wholeheartedly.
Finally, the Executive will be discussing those top three points determined by the membership last evening at our next Executive meeting.  We have been given the privilege and responsibility to maintain the high standards and integrity of First Oakville Toastmasters that so many before us have worked so diligently to achieve.
It is a privilege to be a member of a Club that can work towards a solution together for the good of all Toastmasters!
I welcome any and all feedback.
Best regards,
Linda Rossi
VP Education
First Oakville Toastmasters

The Sgt.-at-Arms Speaks Out

This post comes from First Oakville Toastmaster’s Sgt.-At-Arms Glenn Marshall who offers the following insightful thoughts:


We had a very different meeting last week – we had a significantly longer than normal speech, or more precisely, a 20 minute brainstorming session, a new type of speech, with the topic “ending meetings on time”.

This has sparked several thoughts:

1.  As was mentioned, adding a longer than normal speech to a meeting that reasonably often runs late, on the topic of running late, is rather ironic…

2.  This was a good idea.  Why don’t we do this more often?

The obvious, reasonable answer is “time is already an issue”.

Glenn’s First Favorite Quote Of The Week is from George Bernard  Shaw:  The reasonable person adapts to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to themselves.  Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable person.

Our club is bubbling with positive energy and ideas – its unfortunate we don’t have an outlet to let them flow even further.  Lets create one!

Lets explore periodic Saturday morning meetings (monthly?).  We’ve proven through our workshop program last year that we can get a reasonable turnout – lets take it to the next level.

And we can extend the First Oakville Toastmaster’s season into the summer, at least by a bit – it is the opinion of yours truly that we seem to end early – extending to the end of June seems to be worth considering.  Some members are not available during the summer and some want a break – how much of a break?  Is there a sufficient core that want to continue?

Lets take a step back and ask a bigger question:  Is stopping attending First Oakville Toastmaster’s during the summer a break (a helpful respite, a needed opportunity for a long summer vacation) or is it a penalty (a valuable source of positive, feeds-on-itself energy and inspiration is withdrawn needlessly)?

More meeting time, particularly on Saturdays, could result in interesting directions being explored, and provide the opportunity to explore non traditional length speeches and grow/explore in unexpected ways, personally and as a club.

Another brainstorming topic – what new things would you like to see explored at  First Oakville on Saturdays?  What do you want to receive?  What do you want to provide?  Are there speeches given that you would be interested in hearing the “long version” of?

We are very fortunate at First Oakville – we have a wonderful group of interesting, thoughtful, intelligent, skilled, wise, committed, energetic, positive people – why not take this further, if the group is willing?

Which leads me to Glenn’s Second Favorite Quote Of The Week, this one from Margaret Mead:

A small group of thoughtful people can change the world.  Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

October is Toastmaster Month

The Overflow Effect

This post comes from First Oakville Toastmaster’s treasurer Tyler Bayley:

When we take the chance to perform a table topic, a speech, act as an evaluator or the chair, or even take on the role of greeter; we are not just learning how to communicate more clearly… NO NO…

There is something more going on… Something Better…

 During a recent Post-Toastmaster meeting, I was sitting with our fearless leader Dave Webster enjoying a delicious pint of Guinness.   After a few minutes conversing about the wonderful wonderfulness of Toastmasters, we both concluded that we were getting much more from the club than just better presentation and speaking skills.  We (like so many already) realized that Toastmasters produces an oddly amazing effect … an overflow effect.

What is this overflow effect you ask? Well, Dave and I have both seen significant changes in our level of confidence.  The confidence gained from each Toastmaster meeting doesn’t stay caged and confined within the walls of Toastmasters… NO NO… this confidence overflows into all other areas of our lives.

Now I cannot vouch for Dave, but the confidence in myself, my relationships, at the workplace, even in my problem solving and time management skills are all noticeably better.   Isn’t this a remarkable club? Isn’t Toastmasters an amazing opportunity?  Here we thought we were joining to simply improve our presenting and public speaking skills, and we end up joining a club to improve every area of our lives.

So I will leave you with this, the next time you are offered a table topic, what are you going say?

“No”, or are you going to let the confidence overflow?


Talking Points


Points to Ponder

POINT ONE: Ending on Time

Last night’s chairperson came to me after the meeting and asked for my opinion on how we could have ended earlier. Now ending at 9:45 p.m. isn’t a disaster by any means but there are places where we could have picked up that time and next week you are going to get your opportunity to help the club executive decide what to do to help chairs end meeting on time. (And BTW last night’s was a fun night and I congratulated the chair. Not every meeting had as much laugher and good fellowship IMHO.)

Years ago we always ended on time. This letting the agenda get away from us is just a habit and a bad one at that.

Should we limit the Toastmasters introduction to 60 seconds instead of five minutes as what happened last night?

How about the GE’s report where more often than not I hear the GE say: “I see my time is up but I need to say…” and then they go on for an additional five minutes?

How about reinforcing with the officers that they have 60 seconds not four or five minutes for their reports?

Speaking Out should go two minutes and not four or five as happened last night. It was me 😦 and I got told when I got home.

Newcomers, who don’t understand the importance of learning how to conduct business meetings yet, have called in the past for the elimination of the business session but that defeats the point of learning leadership skills and should be strongly rebuffed.

Any way you get the point and next week you’ll have 20 minutes or so to offer them to the club.

POINT TWO: Cellphones 

My speaking out session (which went too long) involved cellphones. One of our members said he had his cellphone with him but it was on vibrate. At the Area Club Contest night audience members were asked to turn off their devices as a vibrating phone is just a temptation to bring it out to see whose calling and then there’s the temptation to talk or text. This is both disruptive and disrespectful of our fellow members.

Not only that but I question the wisdom of being attached to a cellphone 24/7.  I do not bring my cellphones to business meetings and I don’t bring them to Toastmasters. But then again I’m not a nuclear scientist or on call in my work as a brain surgeon 🙂

POINT THREE: Missing Assignments

In past years we’ve had times when members routinely didn’t fulfil their assigned roles and either just didn’t show up or sent an email blast to the club and promptly forgot to ensure that their role was filled. This is behaviour that in a working situation can result in really ugly consequences and at Toastmasters it is equally discouraged. If you are assigned a role for an upcoming meeting and can’t fulfil it, it is your responsibility to find a replacement. When you just don’t show up everyone knows as your name is on the printed agenda. Other club members now have to make last-minute arrangements to compensate.

As a mentor to several members I share with them my concerns when I see they drop an assignment. If we don’t get on this early in the year by spring we are faced with an epidemic of no-shows.

POINT FOUR: The money motion

Despite how it might look, I am not trying to obstruct the motion to create a club trophy to be award in our evaluation contest. What is holding this motion up is it is not worded clearly enough to be supported.

Here’s what I’d suggest should happen:

  • The motion should read “I move that First Oakville Club allot $100 (or whatever the amount) to create a club-level evaluation contest trophy*.
  • Somewhere in the debate a member should rise to a point of parliamentary inquiry and ask, through the chair, for the treasurer (who should have had this discussion already with the mover of the motion) to report if the club has sufficient funds. The chair should ask the treasurer to reply and he or she should simply say yes there are sufficient funds available or no there is no budget available for this request.)
  • The next motion should read “I move we refer the naming of the trophy to the executive committee**”

* See Robert’s Rules of Order – section four Handling A Motion – The Stating of the Question by the Chair – part 20

** The naming of the trophy is a matter that must be referred to a committee and not open to debate (but the committee’s recommendation maybe voted upon) as in this situation it involves a sitting member and may affect her reputation or status in the club.

POINT FIVE: Why does any of this matter?

In a month’s time I am anticipating being asked to chair a revitalization meeting of a club which stopped functioning years ago. If asked, I will accept. Since no annual meeting has been held in years the current board of directors cannot assume they have the support of the membership and that the old bylaws are null and void.

Notice 30 days in advance of the meeting has been sent out to paid-up members and former members (who can buy a membership at the door if they wish to participate).

At the meeting I will ask for a verbal vote confirming the assembly’s desire that I chair the meeting. Assuming a positive outcome I will then ask the assembly to approve the use of Robert’s Rules of Order. (Unless I politic this issue it will be resisted by those who don’t understand why it is critical to the success of the revitalization process.)

If we get this far, I will ask for a motion to declare the existing constitution and bylaws defunct. (The bylaws calls for there to be five board members and with a club with 20 paid-up members this is going to be impossible.)

So if that gets passed I will ask for a motion to create three board of director’s positions. If that gets passed will hold an election.

If the election takes place I entertain a motion to adjourn (so that the new board can work on bringing forward a plan of action to the club at a future meeting where motions can be moved, seconded, debated and votes taken).

And all of this I learned at First Oakville Toastmasters during business sessions like the one we held last night. That’s why all of the above is possible.

It’s more than just talking

Here’s the new crisis public relations: When you’ve got something to say, say it right away.

Say it before your critics can say it. Say it before the media finds out. Say it loud and often. And keep saying it until nobody is listening anymore.

At Toastmasters we learn how to say things really well and thanks to Toastmasters International’s new emphasis on leadership, I’m sure we’ll be getting more information on how to say what we want to say more effectively.

Case in point is this morning’s (Thursday) mea culpa by RIM’s CIO Robin Bienfait in regards to RIM’s catastrophic failure that started on Monday morning and quickly affected the entire RIM system.

Here’s a link to the statement: RIM’s CIO Robin Bienfait’s video statement .

What do you see?

I see a very unhappy executive who offers no assurances that the worst is over and RIM is on top of the issue. The subdued background sure didn’t help. And what’s with the golf shirt. Bet he had to change from his suit.

What would I liked to have seen?

First, I would have liked to have seen something on Monday and not Thursday. This is way too little and way too late.

Second, I would have had my CEO and not the CIO on camera in shirt sleeves showing me video of him supervising the replacement of the switch in Britain which failed (quickly followed by a backup switch that also failed under the load). I’d have had him on camera saying “Here’s what went wrong and here’s what we’re going to fix it.”

Instead we got the existing video and accompanying information releases.

Look stuff happens. We all know that. My guess is RIM didn’t realize that the initial problem wasn’t going to be the larger issue. Like I said it was the backup of email the clogged the system and is delaying recovery. My guess again is the engineering staff (who are trained problem solvers were saying “We got it. We got it…..We don’t got it….We got it…We got it…Darn we don’t got it”) who created a delay in getting the initial information out faster. This a failure of leadership and RIM is paying the price big time with a loss of confidence in its customer base and a beating on the stock market.

RIM’s proprietary system has lead to this catastrophic issue and according to news commentators this is the third time that RIM has faced similar issues without coming up with a contingency plan in place. RIM management IMHO needs to show even more leadership here.

So what should RIM do now?

How about a big discount on RIM Playbooks to every Blackberry user? Now that would be a start 🙂

Tips for Better Communications

2_Tips to Better Communication_Feedback-1

VP of Membership Report on Area Contest

This report comes from Heather Cunningham, First Oakville Toastmaster’s VP of Membership:

What a turnout we had at the Area Humorous Speech Contest and Table Topics Contest on Thursday night.  It was literally standing room only until our Sgt. At Arms (Glenn Marshall) brought in more chairs for people to sit on along the back wall.  We had eight guests that night, and were sitting four to a table.  Everyone was in high spirits, ready to be entertained, and we were not disappointed.

The topic for the Table Topics Contest was “stream”.

For Fredericque Herel, stream reminded her of streams of income; for Chris Czerwinski, stream made him think of fish swimming upstream;  Joan Graham told us about her stream of gaining and losing weight; and Peter West told a wonderfully funny story about fly fishing with his buddy Gary.  All were very good with Joan Graham taking first place and Peter West taking second.  Joan has a wickedly dry sense of humour and a deadpan delivery that is absolutely hilarious.  But, in my opinion, Peter had the better story.  In his usual manner, Peter graciously thanked the TT Chair and then in his engaging way told a humorous story with great gestures, great warmth and a clean ending that tied in neatly with the topic.

And then we had the Humorous Speech Contest chaired by our own Val Clements.  As always, Val was witty and engaging.  Paul Schemilt started us off with a funny story about growing up with a last name like “Schemilt”, Diane Castello warned us against the pitfalls of buying a house, Renata Noronha humoured us with stories about her twin sister, and then David KILLED IT again with his speech about Mexico, Mariachi bands and Montezuma’s Revenge.  Great job David!

Our boys did us proud on Thursday night.  The talent of this club is unmistakable and makes me proud to be a member.

Let’s all cheer David on at the Division L Contest at Dundas Town Hall in Dundas on October 21st!