Author Archives: alonsomendizabal

Springing into growth and action! – BY ERIC BASTIEN

Fluctuating temperatures, sun, rain, snow, crocuses, and….the Oakville Lifestyle Spring Home Show!, are all clear signs that Spring 2019 has arrived. 

This year’s Oakville Lifestyle Spring Home Show took place from Friday, April 5th to Sunday, April 7th at the Glen Abbey Recreation Centre.  The successful show, organized by our very own Toastmaster Sharon Jenkins and her husband Dave Jenkins from Jenkins Show Productions, drew in thousands from Oakville and surrounding areas.

This year and for the very first time, First Oakville Toastmasters participated in the show.  11 enthusiastic club members volunteered to man the Toastmasters booth and represent the club with pride. 

With smiling faces and brochures in hand, the club members could be heard greeting visitors with questions such as:

  • Would you love to improve your communication skills? 
  • Have you considered developing your public speaking skills?
  • How are your leadership skills, could they be better?

The show was well attended and many visitors stopped at our booth to ask questions and learn about Toastmasters International and our club. Many decided to sign up to receive information regarding next year’s Open House events.

A big thank you to our committed volunteers for ensuring our club was well represented, and to Sharon for making this possible.

Our club always benefits from opportunities to reach out to the community and foster a growing interest in Toastmasters.


Eric Bastien & Tanouja Rama

We’re going to the Division D Contest!!

Pack your enthusiasm, your cheers and applauses because First Oakville Toastmasters is going to the Division D contest on Tuesday, March 19th, 2019!!

A huge congratulations to both Mark Molder for placing 1st in the Area 87 Evaluation Contest and to Fei Sun for placing 1st (two years in a row) at the Area 87 International Speech Contest.

A big thank you to Trafalgar Toastmasters for hosting this Area Contest and to all our members who came out to support our speakers and volunteer to help run the contest.   A big thank you to our cheering section:   Firas, Linda, Sharon, John, Deborah, Rebecca, Robert, Eric, Samantha, and Alonso.

First Oakville Toastmasters is where leaders are made.  Guests are always welcomed to attend our meetings and to learn how we can help you reach your public speaking goals.



Contest details:


Tuesday, March 19, 2019 6:00pm – to 9:00pm

South Common Community Centre

2233 South Millway , Mississauga (Green Arbor Room)

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner – The 62nd FOTM Charter Party Report

On February 2nd 2018, with the support of a great Charter Party Committee, we successfully hosted our 62nd annual FOTM Charter Party and the second round of our International Speech Contest at the very prestigious Burlington Golf and Country Club.

charter party program cover


Fei Sun, our very VP of Education has again been crowned our club’s international speech contest winner with her speech titled “The Mohawk Boy”.  Fei Sun is no stranger to the Toastmaster stage as this is the second year that she moves on to represent First Oakville at the Area contest which will be held on Monday February 11th 2019 at Trafalgar Toastmasters.  We will all be cheering Fei on!  CONGRATULATIONS FEI!


Photo 1:  Fei Sun being presented with the trophy by president Alonso Mendizabal
Photo 2: Second place went to our long time member, our beloved John Smissen.
Photo 3: Fei Sun with the District’s current champion, Roger Caesar.
Photo 4:  All 4 contestants starting from the right, Firas Farah, John Smissen, Fei Sun and Rebecca Valero.

As part of the Charter Party, it is tradition to commemorate our immediate past president which without, a lot of the momentum and continuity in this year’s FOTM growth strategy would not be possible, thank you Rebecca Valero for the hard work, support and behind the scene work you do daily as immediate past president.


Pic 1:  President Alonso Mendizabal presenting Rebecca with the recognition gavel for her service
Pic 2:  Some of the Boss Ladies of FOTM (Marion West, Rebecca Valero and Cheryl Etherington)
Pic 3:  Our very own VP of Membership Tanouja Rama, President Alonso Mendizabal and Veronica Costa at the welcome table
Pic 4:  President Alonso Mendizabal and Andy the Piper

This was a stellar evening that continued with a lot of dancing and celebrating as we had the pleasure of hosting guests from the district, past International Speech Contest District Champions and Wold Finalists, our very own Gold Speakers coaches, as well as past and present Area Directors from different areas, past and new FOTM family members and executive members from other toastmaster clubs and some very “CALIENTE” Salsa lessons spearheaded by our VP of Membership Tanouja Rama.


Special thanks to our guests Roger Caesar, Gregory CN Smith, Dennis Bartel, John Andrews, Kim Ludec, Kristina Johnston, Carl “MIGHTY” Naus, Lou Mulligan, Shelley Orchin, Ian Horne and Sarah Horne for supporting our 62nd Charter Party.

Most of all, a huge thank you to my presidential mentor Peter West from PETER WEST PHOTOGRAPHY for capturing all the photos and videos of the evening.


Cheers to another 63+ years of 1st Oakville Toastmasters!

FOTM President 2018-2019, Alonso Mendizabal.




The evening would not have been the same without the support from all our sponsors:





62 and counting…FOTM anniversary

In 1957 Louis St. Laurent was the current Canadian Prime Minister; Dwight D. Eisenhower was the President of the US.  The Montreal Canadians won their ninth Stanley Cup.  Wham-O released the first Frisbee Toy.  USSR launched Sputnik 1, inaugurating the Space age and Space Race.  The Final Episode of I love Lucy Aired, and of course, Toastmaster Club #2245, Oakville Toastmasters officially chartered February 1st, 1957 with 23 members.

We became First Oakville at the behest of other Oakville clubs in recognition of us being the first club in Oakville and because we either sponsored or supported the other new clubs in town.   The name Oakville Toastmasters continues to be a significant part of our club history and is synonymous with our club name, history and culture. 

Up until 1973, our club’s membership was entirely male.  However, looking back at the meeting minutes from 1964, it appears that members were organizing social meetings in order to include their spouses. It was August 1st, 1973 when Toastmasters International opened up membership to women and luckily they did because our club has flourished with the exceptional leadership of past female members and mentors throughout the years.

Prior to email, there was a telephone committee that would call all members to confirm their weekly role or speaking spot.  The club often organized summer picnics and members took turns hosting swim parties. 

Naturally, the club has evolved over the years and we continue strive to meet our member’s needs and focus on our member growth.  Every year the President and their executive as well as committee members, have the honour of organizing the annual Charter Party.

It is an honour to cordially invite you to celebrate First Oakville Toastmaster’s 62nd Anniversary Charter Party on the 2nd of February 2018.  Doors open at 6pm, call to order 6:50pm led by a traditional piper.  Our celebration will take place at the Burlington Golf & Country Club.  We will have 4 excellent club speakers that will compete for the club level International Speech Contest title.  The winner will represent the club at the Area Contest in February 2019 and also win the George McVitty Trophy.

It’s going to be a party!!!  Tickets are $75.00 per person and include a three-course meal, International Speech Contest, Door Prizes, DJ & Entertainment.

Please RSVP with menu choices and dietary restrictions to Alonso Mendizabal, Club President at



Hello 2019! This will be a good year.

Happy New Year First Oakville Toastmasters!

We hope you have spent a nice Christmas break with friends and family and are ready for an exciting 2019.  This will be a good year.  How do I know?  Because you have chosen to say YES to your growth by being a part of Toastmasters.  Every meeting you attend is a new opportunity to practise a new role, and try out a different public speaking technique.  Where else can you do this week after week?

If you haven’t joined us yet, guests are always welcome!  We encourage you to join us for up to 3 meetings for free so that you can see first hand what our awesome club has to offer.  Our weekly meetings consists of an impromptu speaking session called, “Table Topics”, we also have three prepared speeches and each speaker receives an oral evaluation and written feedback from all of our members and guests.

Growth is just right around the corner.  Join us on Thursdays from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at 1494 Wallace Road, Oakville, ON.  (Marion Hall)

This will be a good year!

Alonso Mendizabal
Club President First Oakville Toastmasters


The Holidays are Here at FOTM

Holidays are Here Banner

The Christmas and Holiday season is here, and while many of us are stressing over gifts, decorations and preparations, it’s important also to slow down and remember that, no matter what the marketing machine tells us day after day, the season is bigger than the things we buy. At First Oakville Toastmasters, we build up that bigger Christmas and holiday cheer by celebrating with the people in our club.

The greatest gift we have at FOTM is the many diverse people from all walks of life who make up our club – people who don’t just mentor each other on speaking and leadership, but also get together as friends to share special occasions. When I first joined FOTM last fall, I couldn’t help but notice the extra energy in the air at each weekly meeting as the Christmas season drew nearer. It wasn’t just that more people were bringing Christmas decorations to the meetings, it was the excitement of getting away from the hustle and bustle of the outside and spending time with familiar faces and new friends.

It all peaked at FOTM’s Annual Christmas Party, when everyone gathered together to ring in the season with a night of great food, games and prizes. The air in the room was full of the Christmas spirit, and not just because of the Etherington Family’s amazing Santa Clauses who visited us, but because all of us, no matter what our backgrounds or traditions, were able to share in some unbridled holiday cheer and joy, and that is one of the key ingredients that make the holidays what they are. This year we are bringing the same excitement to our Christmas Party at the King’s Arm in beautiful downtown Oakville.

From everyone at First Oakville Toastmasters, we wish you and all your loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. However you celebrate this season, we hope it’s a time of peace and love for everyone you know. Here’s to a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with great speaking and great opportunities!

Blog Post written by ROY CAMPBELL

Chirstmas Party FLyer for Blog

The International Speech Contest journey by Fei Sun

Have you thought of entering the First Oakville Toastmasters Club Level International Speech Contest? 

There are so many benefits to joining Toastmasters and the most successful Toastmasters will tell you that their growth catapulted when they started entering contests.  You get to step outside of your comfort zone even more and as you progress in the contests you get to speak and share your story with different audiences that you normally would not have been exposed to. 

Last year our club had the privilege of witnessing Fei Sun really step out of her comfort zone by delivering a very touching speech, “Mental Hug” and she made it all the way to compete at the Division level and won second place.  Fei inspired us with her passion and dedication, her words and  also her grit.   This year Fei is serving as our Club VP Education and we interviewed her on her personal experience from participating in this contest.



1.  Why did you decide to enter the International Speech Contest?

It was one of my 2018 New Year resolutions.   I was looking for some challenges that I could take on and the contest seemed like a scary enough idea to challenge myself with.

I have to mention that Adrian Scott said to me after my 3rd speech in the club: “This would be a good speech for the International Contest. Just think about it.” That was the first encouragement that I received to enter the contest and it was when I started thinking about entering. 

If you are a newer member like me and someone mentioned that to you – make a note of it.  

2.  From the first contest in January to your last competition in March, how many times did you re-work your speech, Mental Hug?

With the help from my mentor, fellow members and our open house guests, I made significant changes to my script almost every time I spoke. I did the same speech 6 times in total (club, Charter Party, test speaker, area, open house, division). And in between those major revisions, I made minor changes as soon as any idea came to mind.

3.  Did you use your mentor for help?  How was that experience?

YES! My mentor, Sharon Jenkins, was there with me for every step I took. Sharon (and her family) spent a lot of time giving me feedback and encouragement. She helped me take both my content and delivery to the next level. I even brought my dress and shoes to show Sharon before I felt confident that they were good for our Charter Party. The experience of working with Sharon was priceless.

I call on all newer members to reach out to your mentor if you are not meeting/talking regularly. You will see how much more there is to your Toastmasters experience.

4.  What did you learn throughout this process of competing?

I would have never imagined how much I could learn from this process.

What I learned about myself.  I remember attending the 2017 Charter Party and being blown away by the contestants (Adrian Scott, John Boteng, Peter West and Allan Osborn). That was 7 months after I became a Toastmaster.   And there I was, 12 months later, competing as one of the 4 contestants at the Charter Party.

What I learned about myself is that I can achieve something that was seemingly impossible much faster. And it is simple: learn from my mentor/other members and give it all the effort I could afford. I believe this is true for every newer member and really, that stage is a lot closer than we think!

What I learned about Toastmasters. As I progressed to the area and division contest, I started to understand the tremendous effort putting together an event requires, including our club meeting. I started to understand the governance of the organization. Think about it, there are over 352,000 toastmasters globally and it is run by volunteers. As a newer member, have you wondered how that works?  Do you know what area and division mean? I had no idea.

What I learned about Toastmasters is, there’s a whole Toastmasters world out there and the possibilities are unlimited. Knowing what’s happening beyond the club level is like understanding the mechanics of a car and that makes us better and more confident drivers.

What I learned about the speech contest. What techniques did I learn and practice? What are the specific tips I learned that helped me? Read these two blog posts and you will have it all. How to Win The International Speech Contest by Marion West and How to Beat Roger Caesar by Peter West. I followed EVERY single piece of advice that the West family have given us in these two posts. Did I mention you need a mentor? That is where we get personalized advice after practicing everything above.

5.  Would you do it again?

Yes, absolutely! My 4-year-old son is my biggest fan. He would wake up the morning after a contest night, and asks, ‘Mom, did you win?’. And that is the perfect time for me to teach him about ‘personal best’. So my answer is always ‘yes’. I want to keep doing it, so that one day he is old enough to join us and we may even compete together!

6.  Which contest was your favourite?  Best crowd, best feeling?

I loved every contest and the Division Contest has to be my favourite.  The Club President and VP Public Relations rallied and brought so many members to cheer.   Everyone’s energy fueled me. I felt that I was on a mission to deliver something that is important for all of us. It was quite an emotional experience. I would not have experienced it if I didn’t sign up to compete.

7.  How did you manage nerves?

I practiced techniques recommended by  Amy Cuddy (TED Talk and my mentor Sharon always tells me, nerves is good and use that energy when you are on the stage. It really works.

Right before my division speech, Peter West took me for a ‘silly run’ in the hallway. As we ran up and down, we threw our arms in the air, shook them around like no one was watching. Peter was also repeating loudly, “Shake it up. Shake it up. Don’t sit and stew in the nerves.” That was a big mental hug – thanks Peter.

8.  What are your goals with first Oakville toastmasters for next year?

3 things that I would like to achieve…in priority order:

  1. 1.To contribute to the development of our club by serving as the current VP Education.  My goal is to provide each member with the best opportunity to develop themselves
  2. 2.To encourage other newer members to participate in contests. And help to create the same experience and support that I’ve had for them
  3. 3.Complete my CC manual (3 speeches away) and compete again in the International Speech Contest 2019

Our Club International Speech Contest will take place on January 10th, 2019.  The top 4 speakers will then proceed to compete at our 62nd Charter Party that will take place on February 2nd, 2019 at the Burlington Golf and Country Club.  If you are ready to step outside of your comfort zone, talk to our VP Education Fei Sun to find out how you can sign up.


Disconnect from your phone and connect with your voice.


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Did you know that nearly half of Canadians use their cellphones at least two hours a day?  (The Forum Research Poll 2018) .  I spend way too much time on phone.  I am constantly connected for business purposes, Toastmasters, keeping in touch with family and friends, and social media of course, and you probably do too!  My usage time is more than 2 hours a day, easily.

At First Oakville Toastmasters we have a no cellphone standing rule.  Leave it in your car or your purse.  The rule might seem strict but honestly aside from travelling on an airplane, when else do you get to disconnect from your phone for a few hours?

A few weeks ago one of our members, Monica Virmani (founder of The Virmani Foundation), shared this very thoughtful speaking out on human relations and with her permission I wanted to share her message.

We are living in a digital age hat has taken over our world in   the way we think, in the way we operate and in the way we interact with one another. No doubt it has helped us make more contacts and but less connections. We are becoming more aware of the world around us but less aware of our human relations. We depend more on internet than on our own family and friends. As a result, we are becoming human robots. In this on-line world of social media I am grateful there is there is an organization like First Oakville Toastmaster’s that greets you with a smile, encourages you to communicate, gives you a helping hand and empowers you to be the best version of yourself. This is what I have learnt from my fellow toastmasters

Alone I can “SAY” but

Together we can talk

Alone I can “enjoy” but

Together we can celebrate

Alone I can “Smile”

But together we can laugh

That is the beauty of Human relations

We are nothing without each other.

So join us next Thursday, disconnect from your smartphone and connect with other likeminded individuals that are focused on finding their voice and improving their communication skills.

We meet every Thursday from 7:30pm to 9:30pm at The Knights of Columbus – 1494 Wallace Road (Marion Hall), Oakville, ON.

Resist Violence, Resist Hatred – by Roy Campbell

As we continue our 2018 – 2019 journey, it is great to see our speakers take opportunities to remind us of the ugly reality and political chaos we are living through.  One of our newer members, and club Secretary, Roy Campbell, who is a great writer, took the opportunity in our weekly speaking out session to share a great message that reminded all club members and guests why it is important to exercise our voice in order to retain the beautiful Canada that we all love.  With Roy’s permission, and as the proud club President, I am sharing his speaking out session below.  Thank you Roy!

Speaking Out, Presented at First Oakville Toastmasters on November 1, 2018

By Roy Campbell

Last Saturday, 11 people were killed while worshipping at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Their killer was one of many people driven to violence by far-right hatred and alienation. The same week, another man attempted to bomb a list of political targets who are frequently demonized by right-wing politicians and media. The polarization caused by fear-mongering and increasingly brutal political rhetoric is costing lives.

This isn’t the world I was promised. I grew up with the idea that prejudice and political violence were outdated and rapidly fading away, yet the more I look at the world today, the less accurate that idea seems.

We have to put a stop to this. We can’t think that society will simply be fixed now that the suspects of these crimes have been captured, because there are many more people still out there who hold onto the same hatred.

It’s up to us, wherever we lie on the political spectrum, to resist this kind of violence and hatred wherever it is found; to call it out and say that it is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We need to change people’s minds when we can. But just as importantly, we must hold our leaders accountable for what they endorse or allow to happen, by speaking out and by voting.

Resist violence. Resist hatred.

Top 5 Reasons Why YOU Should Attend Our Open House Oct 25, 2018

First Oakville Toastmasters is hosting their second Open House of the Year this Thursday, October 25, 2018 featuring a very special guest speaker, Roger Caesar, DTM.

If you have ever thought about attending a Toastmaster meeting, this is a great one to attend and if you need a little convincing here are the top 5 reasons why “YOU” should attend.


Roger Caesar is an award winning speaker and he will be our keynote speaker for the Open House.  He will be delivering a speech and presenting an interactive workshop.  You will learn some very helpful public speaking skills directly from Roger.  Roger is a Four-Time Toastmasters District Champion in public speaking, he is a Four-Time semi finalist at the World Championships and a 2014 Humorous Speech Champion District 86.

2.  Discover Toastmasters and our Club

Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that has existed since 1924.  It operates with clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.

First Oakville Toastmasters officially chartered in 1957.  For the last 61 years we have been a group of fun-loving, professional individuals from diverse backgrounds who take the Toastmaster program and our growth seriously.

3.  Do Something Different

“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”  Tony Robbins.

4.  Open The Door To Career Opportunities

Your fear of public speaking may be holding you back at work.  According to an article in Forbes, the fear of presenting is very real among professionals in corporate America today, so much so that many people are desperate to avoid it.

Why not stand out, and face your fear of public speaking and even conquer it!

5.  Be Our Guest!  It’s FREE

That’s right!  You can attend our Toastmaster club meetings up to 3 times in order to determine if this program and our club is a match for you.  By your third meeting you will have a good idea if this hands-on approach will work for you.


Join us this Thursday, October 25th, 2018 at 1494 Wallace Road, Oakville, ON.  7:30pm to 9:30pm.  (plan to arrive 10 minutes earlier to get settled in).

We are excited to meet YOU!

Alonso Mendizabal, First Oakville Toastmasters Club President