Monthly Archives: June 2015

Happy 800th Birthday Magna Carta

Newcomers to Toastmasters (and members of corporate clubs which often don’t have business sessions at each meeting) question why we use parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order. Some even question why we have business meetings.

In a five-part series, The National Post tells all.Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)

Today’s excellent article by Daniel Hannan, a British Conservative member of the European Parliament and author of “Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World, explains why we have business meetings in Toastmasters.

Really 🙂 I kid you not!

Magna Carta, the great charter, forced upon a reluctant King John by his barons who had congregated in a “parliament” (to talk) on the fields of Runnymede near Windso on June 15, 1215 to end the royal use of “force and will” to make the law.

The barons were especially upset with John’s adventures in Europe and they wished to end funding for such follies. They marshalled themselves into an organized military faction that challenged John’s ability to continue to rule.300px-King_John_from_De_Rege_Johanne

John, seeing an unhappy future in the making, signed Magna Carta 800 years ago.

So what does this mean to us today?

It means that the king (or in the case of Toastmasters the chairperson) is not above the law.

Hannan quoted from England’s 18th century prime minister Pitt the Elder who called Magna Carta “England’s Bible” and said:

“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the storms may enter, the rain may enter – but the King of England may not enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.”

What does this astonishing statement mean?

It declares that for all time, in British common law, the king is not the supreme leader or authority. It is the law of the people and thus for a king or his forces to force an entry into a home of the most common person, a judge must issue a warrant.

Some years ago someone at our Toastmaster club suggest meetings should end at 10 p.m. so we’d have sufficient time to hear our speakers and do our evaluations more fully. It sounded like a good idea.

A motion was moved during a business session and a seconder supported the motion and a debate and vote followed and the 10 p.m. idea failed as many Toastmasters didn’t want to stay so late. Since we use Robert’s Rules of Order the decision was open and transparent and abided by the members.

Pretty simple stuff but the methodology goes back 800 years when a powerful king was forced by the will of the people to sign a piece of parchment.

New Toastmasters and others who object to our business sessions and the use of parliamentary procedure do not understand what is at stake or worse perhaps they do and they are uncomfortable trusting in the protection of The Great Charter.

It’s all about learning how to work and live together as a society.

Another Legendary Summer Party

We had dancing and limbo. We had great food and drink. We had a great turnout and another super First Oakville Summer Party is history.P6131182-1

Photos from yesterday’s party held at President Adrian’s (and Sue’s) home are up on the club Flickr site (all 1200 images here and a select few images here.)

The Summer Party is the last official event of the 2014-2015 season of Toastmasters at First Oakville and what a great and interesting year it has been.

How To Run A Mass Training Session

It was a privilege to be part of the big divisional training session for newly elected executive teams from local area Toastmaster clubs.

I’d guess that attendance had to be over 250 with training for all club officers (president, vp of ed, vp of membership, vp of public relations, treasurer, secretary and Sgt.-at-arms).

First Oakville was one of the few (and maybe the only) club that had all seven incoming executives at the same training on the same day.

I was also very pleased to see four officers from the corporate club I mentor Stoney Creek Union Gas Ramblers who sat with the First Oakville crew.

Despite my being a Toastmaster for over 22 or 23 years now I still learned a lot at the training. For one thing, lots has changed since the last time I was president back in 2003. Back then I can’t remember submitting a Distinguished Club Plan (and honestly I don’t think I did) and there’s lots more paperwork these days.IMG_0521

The training session was a good opportunity for me to remember some of the key elements of putting on a mass training event.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • As the organizers did on Saturday, start on time no matter what
  • Keep the introduction part short and snappy
  • Focus on the fun of learning and then let the learning begin
  • At the breakout sessions seek audience participation
  • Audience participation makes training fun and the time flies
  • Everyone I saw used a powerpoint. I wouldn’t
  • I’d have a handout or an online powerpoint but I’d engage the audience directly face to face
  • There’s only so much a presenter can offer in one hour
  • Keep presentations to five or six points only and offer additional information as a takeaway
  • Trying to cover too many points is an exercise in frustration for the audience and the presenter
  • Under no circumstances have a lengthy presentation right before lunch 🙂
  • End your presentation five minutes early rather than one minute (or more) late and your audience will love you
  • Remember even in teaching a workshop start with a bang and end with a bang and keep the audience engaged throughout
  • If you’re asked to be a presenter the adage of why this speech (or workshop) and why this audience still applies
  • If you don’t know something say so. Don’t guess
  • Have fun and if you do, so will your audience

Putting on a big workshop is a big job and the organizers of Saturday’s event can be very proud of what they accomplished. If you get an opportunity to be a presenter or a participant keep some of these points in mind and enjoy your day.

Trained and Ready to Go


Congratulations to the entire incoming executive team who all showed up for training on Saturday morning (June 6) in Mississauga at a local high school.

Out of an estimated crowd of over 200 First Oakville was one of the few clubs (and possibly the only club) to send all seven executive members to training at the same time to the same place.

Look forward to a very exciting year of Toastmasters with this group in service to us all.