Monthly Archives: April 2017

5 Quick tips for the “newbies”

by Petra Dubec

I was a newbie 2 years ago. As I reflect on the past 2 years somehow it feels like I have been a Toastmaster for ever. I think this is due to 2 main reasons: 1. Great encouraging environment, which creates the feeling of belonging; 2. Learning and growing – you soak it up like a sponge. Every week I still pick up something new.

You have joined – congrats! Now what? Here are some tips that helped me kick off my TM experience:


You’re probably wondering what it means to speak for 5-7min. I know I was.

Based on average speaking speed (130wpm) 5min = 650 word, 7min = 900 words.

My challenge was filling the minimum time requirement, but aim closer to the 5min mark as most people go overtime.


Easier said than done. Lot of my tension was in my jaw and neck, which I realized after my first speech, as I had a stiff neck the next day. Jaw exercises are helpful, I’m sure you can Google the best ones for you but below is a simple one I benefited from:

Open your mouth wide, and shut it again. Repeat 5 times.

Make a buzzing sound with your lips together, but don’t clench your jaw.

As funny as this sounds & looks, the pros in Hollywood do this, so go ahead relax your jaw muscles and feel like a super star.


There are huge benefits talking to the more experienced Toastmasters and I find they are such wealth of encouragement and Good Company. So arrive early to meetings and work on your social skills – try to talk to someone you do not know yet or don’t usually talk to, challenge yourself. In my experience it’s always proven to be a win /win situation (we’re all curious and take interest in other peoples’ lives). Get involved in committees to plan different events and practice your leadership skills. We all have something to offer and you’ll be surprised how many talents you’ll discover you have and how many you’ll gain from the experience.


Mentors are priceless; they will share their experience with you and pass on what worked for them. Most importantly they will guide you and help you achieve your goals. Besides their great advice, meeting with your mentor will force you to write down your goals and help you to work towards them. Working from your first manual is just a tip of an iceberg. So talk to your VP of ED or get someone you feel comfortable with and ask them to be frank with you. You need to take the initiative and express interest. Be open to suggestions.


What’s the worst thing that can happen? No matter how your 1st couple of speeches will land, it will be a gauge to measure yourself against. The lower it is, the higher you can climb. You’ll get great feedback and you’ll remind us of our own starting line, which we’ll appreciate.

Remember – we all have been there, so just have fun, the learning will follow!



Fiat justicia*

Sometimes our business sessions can seem overly pedantic and technical. This is especially true when we’re debating a contentious or even provocative motion.

So why do we practice parliamentary procedure?GavelClub.gif

Right now, two school boards in the GTA (Peel and York) are embroiled in heated controversy and meetings of the boards have been chaotic with disorderly protests resulting in police being called.

The disruption of public meetings (or private meetings of company boards, clubs and organizations) by unruly protestors doesn’t just affect the contentious matters at hand but are an affront to the democratic process itself.

In other words somebody thinks that outshouting or threatening people with whom they disagree is an okay thing to do. It isn’t at least it isn’t in a democratic society.

Why should you care? And, what does this have to do with Toastmasters? 

As a member of a club you have a duty to participate in the business of the club. You’ll find the rules for parliamentary process in a book called Robert’s Rules of Order.200px-Roberts_Rules_1st

Certainly we vote in an executive (a topic I will return to soon) to serve the club and is trained by District to handle the day-to-day work of keeping our club running but the executive isn’t empowered to be a decision-making group. Decision-making is up to you, the individual club member.

Your vote in club issues is of vital importance to the health of your club. 

Past president Adrian Scott got me thinking about due process after he sent me an email with an attachment from Food Allergy Canada that outlines the organization’s concerns with a forthcoming decision by Toronto City Council that affects its members.

Here’s a link to the statement on the group’s website.

You’ll notice that Food Allergy Canada is advocating action to help influence the Toronto  city council vote on the adoption to stock epinephrine in Toronto restaurants and other public places. In the email the author describes the process of how this particular motion was deferred to a committee and then returned to council with a recommendation and now is ready for a vote.

This is politics at its best.

First, you convince an elected member of a decision-making body to make a motion that supports your interests. (At our club any member can make a motion.) Then, as the issue requires input from a technically informed committee, the motion is sent to them for a specific period of time.

As the report from the committee is returned and the issue is scheduled to be debated again, you and your organization reach out to the committee members asking them to support your point of view.

The motion is again brought forward for debate which will now include the report from committee and it will be either adopted or lost depending on the vote of all members of council.

The alternative is either anarchy or rule by imperial fiat neither of which are desirable or fair.

A chairperson who neglects to court the assembly’s support of any decision (If there be no objection I declare…) will find themselves unable to proceed as calls of “objection to consideration” will force immediate votes of confidence by the members.

While it is true “a chair gets away with what a chair gets away with” there is a limit to the goodwill and willingness of any assembly to go along with decisions they have not been invited to debate and vote upon.

The minority have a right to be heard (and heard fully) while the majority have the right to rule. You may not like it but it is fair and applies to when it be the king (or chair) or the lowest, most aggrieved and humble citizen.

*Let right be done.