Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Have you done the Gratitude Dance yet?

The theme of the last meeting of WestConn Toastmasters was "Gratitude" and it was amazing how all the members were able to weave some gratitude into their (often unrelated) TableTopics questions.

Speaking of gratitude... one of the blogs I read featured the video below of the "Gratitude Dance". The Gratitude Dance is basically people jumping around and looking foolish... but it got me thinking about a couple things:

First, Don't we all need a little bit more foolishness in our life? When was the last time you "let loose" and just did something crazy? Didn't it feel good?? Or at least energizing?

Secondly, What would happen if we all did the "Gratitude Dance" instead of just saying "Thank You"? Certainly more people would smile!

Now, what if we all decided that December 26th, 2007 would be the first (annual?) Gratitude Day and we would all do the Gratitude Dance (instead of saying Thank You) !?! Maybe the Gratitude Dance could be for the bigger "Thank You" occasions... like someone donating a kidney for you or giving you their parking spot right next to the door of the mall.

The UK has "Boxing Day" on this day, so it makes sense that the rest of the world should have Gratitude Day ! (In addition to Thanksgiving, of course. There can't be enough gratitude in the world.)

Before you decide whether or not to participate ... Did you know that Gratitude can make you happier? David J. Pollay writes in his article, Increase Your Happiness. Build Gratitude Chains™ in Your Life.
in Positive Psychology News Daily that ...
Robert Emmons, psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, demonstrated in his research that grateful people are happier. In his new book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Emmons wrote, “Our groundbreaking research has shown that grateful people
experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism, and that the practice of gratitude as a discipline protects a person from the destructive impulses of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness.”

Check out the video of the Gratitude dance and leave a comment below to let us know what you think about the idea of Gratitude Day on Dec.26!

Dare to Believe... and be Different !

Jack Welch, famed CEO of General Electric, in a recent book talked about how he got "out of the pile" early in his career. He set himself apart from the rest of the "normal" employees and that made all the difference.

(And for those that have not heard... he also blew up a manufacturing facility ... and his career survived.)

On the other hand, it might feel sometimes like you are the "Mole" in the "Whack-a-Mole" game (see photo, copied from this website)... every time you pop your head up with something new or different, there is someone there to WHACK you back down.

Sometimes you just have to play a different game ... and not settle for mediocrity!

A recent article titled "Avoiding Mediocrity: Do You Dare to Be Different?" from is deceptively easy to read... but, for some of us, incredibly difficult to put into action in your life. The author, Donald Latumahina, poses the following questions...
Do you dare to be different?
1. Do you have a dream?
2. Are you doing what you want or what you should?
3. Do you worry more about being loved than being what you love?
4. Do you choose what is safe rather than what is right?
5. If you had only six months left to live, would you do what
you are doing now?

Click here to read the whole article.

Then, ask yourself... "Are you the person you want to be?"

Can you Dare to Believe... in yourself?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Throw Away the Crutch Words .... has provided another great article for Toastmasters....

Tips in the article include...

  • Don't fear the silence

  • Practice, practice, practice!

  • Breathe In, Not Out

  • Avoid them in Conversation

  • Get a Counter

  • Comma = 1 pause

  • Period = 2 pauses

  • Double Underline key words and phrases

  • If Your Lost, Don`t Panic!

  • Enthusiasm Cuts Crunch

  • Plan Tricky Parts

  • Quality over Quantity

I especially liked their BONUS TIP...
Bonus Tip - Join Toastmasters
I strongly suggest joining Toastmasters to anyone wanting to improve their speaking and get rid of nasty crutch words. I was able to go from a fountain of um`s and ah`s to near elimination with just a few months of weekly meetings. Toastmasters can also do more than just cut crutch words. They can also work with you on the finer points of presenting, such as gestures, tone of voice, body language and content. By working on these points you can master your craft and have the confidence to speak in front of any audience.

The author of this article, Scott Young is a university student who writes about productivity, habits and self-improvement.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What can be accomplished in 5-7 minutes?

I found this on the blog, Presentation Zen, and thought it would be of interest to fellow Toastmasters.
Severn Cullis-Suzuki now in her late 20s, started the Environmental Children's Organization (ECO) when she was only 9-years-old. ECO was a small group of children committed to learning and teaching other kids about environmental issues. In 1992 they raised their own money and attended the UN's Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. A then 12-year-old Severn closed a Plenary Session with this amazing speech that received a standing ovation. She received a lot of praise for her talk then—even Al Gore called it "the best speech at Rio."
The video below shows Severin giving a speech that is under 7 minutes to an international environmental conference back in 1992. Take a look and you will see that age is not a restriction on public speaking.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Conquering Fear of Public Speaking...

In Steve Tobak's blog, Train Wreck: Steve Tobak's Views on Disfunctional Corporate Behaviour, he posts a short but very insightful article on Conquering Fear of Public Speaking.

Steve's article includes some good suggestions that could be used by Toastmasters ...
.... Well, there really is no wholesale cure [to fear of public speaking], so to speak. But in a way, that's good news. As big and bad as this fear is, it really only takes a small amount of time, understanding and practice to conquer it.

You see, fear is a natural response to a wide variety of stimuli. As I said before, it's an ancient survival mechanism. It's how you interpret it, however, that counts. Courage is recognizing your fear and doing the right thing anyway. You have to face your fear, and that's where the answer begins.

Steve's specific suggestions for conquering (or at least taming) feare are listed below (he has more explanation of each in his article)...

* Face your fear.
* Know your material cold.
* Take the pressure off yourself.
* Interact with your audience.
* Ask what's the worst that can happen?

He sums it up nicely...

... The point is you're not going to die or lose your loved ones. You'll always have another chance; there will always be other opportunities to shine. Don't think of your speech or presentation as an event; think of it as part of the process of life. Fear is part of it. Have courage and faith, you'll get
through it.

click here to read Steve's complete article !

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sorry seems to be ....

visit Seth Godin's blogSeth Godin, author of "Purple Cow" and "The Big Moo" (both of which were raffled off as prizes at the D53 Fall conference last weekend), has a good blog article with some tips for Toastmasters.

I was at a gala a few weeks ago (featuring no less than ten speakers). At least 80% of them began their talk by saying,
"I know you're hungry, but..."
or "I know it's late, but..."
or "I know you want to go home, but..." and then apologized for giving a speech.

If your speech needs to be prefaced by an apology...
don't give it.

That's why they call it giving a speech. It's a
gift. If you have to apologize, it's no longer a gift, is it?

Special TM Opportunity... Helping with Global Messenger training

Greetings Fellow Toastmasters!

We have a special opportunity to use your Toastmasters skills outside of a regular Toastmasters meeting ...

The email below describes what Jim Parsons, Div.F Governor, did to help out the Special Olympics organization in the Albany, NY area and, through his contacts, they are now hoping to do something similar in our area!

Please read through Jim's brief email and let me know if you would be interested in participating in something similar in nearby parts of NY state (in a range of counties south of Albany to NYC). If you know of other Toastmasters who you think might be excited by this opportunity, please forward a link to this post to them too.

I am looking for a number of volunteers (4-8 to start) plus at least one person who would like to step up and take on the coordinator role for this event ... perhaps as a High Performance Leadership (HPL) project towards their TM advanced leadership award.

I hope to hear from you soon ! Please send me an email if there are any questions.

Dave Wheeler
Div.A Governor, 2006-8

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Jim Parsons
Date: Jul 24, 2007 12:21 PM
Subject: [d53toastmasters] Division F and Global Messengers
[NOTE: This is an OLD email that was sent back in July 2007. It is provided here for info only.]

Division F Toastmasters is joining with Special Olympics to train the Global Messengers who give speeches at various fundraisers for Special Olympics. The training will take place on Saturday, August 8 at the University of Albany from 10 to 4 and will involve 4-8 messengers and their mentors.

The messengers will already have been instructed to prepare a 2-minute speech. At the start of the workshop each messenger will be assigned a toastmaster to work with. This person will talk about what the messenger wants to say and will then evaluate the speech once it is given. After all the messengers give their first speech, I plan to give a short speech on giving speeches and I would like to get a volunteer from Toastmasters to give a short speech on writing a speech.

Once our educational speeches are done, the evaluators will meet with the messengers and discuss their speech and how they can improve. If we have time, I thought we could do some table topics as a group to help the messengers get some practice. I have asked the folks at Special Olympics to help us by submitting questions that the messengers may be asked when they are at an event.

We will conclude by having the messengers give their speech once again and incorporate the changes that we recommended.

Please let me know if you would like to participate. I am looking for 4-8 volunteers to help with this program. Your role would be to help evaluate the messenger's speeches for both content and presentation and help them improve. The goal is to have the messengers finish the day with a good speech that they can give in public. As I mentioned I am also looking for someone to give a speech on writing a speech or some other topic that you think will be helpful.

For those of you outside Division F who are interested in this project, I will write a summary of our day after we are done. There may be a Special Olympics Chapter in your area and you may wish to contact them.

Thanks you!

Jim Parsons

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Fall 2007 Leadership Summit & Conference ....

WOW !!!

What a fun time!

I hope everyone had as good a time (and learned as much) as I did at the District 53 conference last Saturday!

Highlights included...

Loads and Loads of Energy & Lots of prizes...

Special thanks to our MC for the day... Croix Sather.

The educational sessions were very good... some even said "OUTSTANDING"! (I'm not making that up!) Click here to download the Attendee Reference book and learn more about all the great sessions we had. It also includes "Where's Waldo at the Fall Conference?" and "One Last Thought..." from the host Div.A Governor.

The contests were INCREDIBLE !

It was an evening of many excellent speeches and Brian Cavanaugh won the Humorous contest (on the left in the picture to the right) while Nana Danso was the first runner-up. The person between them is the "Dare To Believe" guy from the District 2007-8 logo. (He was known as simply "Dare Guy" by the end of the night.)

In the Tabletopics contest, Marv Cross won (center in picture below) with Liz Trendowski (left) and Kate Zap (right) as 2nd and 1st runner up, respectively. (If my memory is correct.) The TableTopics question (to the best of my recollection) was something like..."Your autobiography is # 1 on the best seller list. What 3 themes were features in the book?"

Special Thanks to our ContestMasters...
TableTopicsMaster ...Glenn Harrison and Humor Contestmaster ... the well-dressed Bill Corbett.

Attendence at the Fall conference perfectly fit the facility. In terms of numbers, there were 50 more people at this event than there were the last time it was held in Division A. Granted, they were hindered by the weather in 2004 but the number of people was still good for a Fall conference!

Everyone enjoyed the two speeches by International Director, Kristin Nicholson ... especially her energy and contagious (positive) attitude! We also learned about DISC (ask an attendee who heard her speech what each letter stands for).

Here is what our District Governor had to say ....
I’m delighted with the conference and ecstatic about the superb job done by the conference team. A great time was had by all and I’m certain our financial results will be impressive. BTW, I’ve got the logo guy in my office and I thank the team for creating a giant version of our logo for this year. I was and am
thrilled by it.

I extend my thanks to all who attended and to those
who were not able to be there, you missed a truly memorable gathering of our members.

Will Ryan DTM
Overall.... A GREAT time was had by all and hopefully next time we will have even more people !

Please leave your comments below ! We would love to hear what you think about the conference !

Dave "The Wheel" Wheeler
Division A Governor, 2006-8

Good editing tips!

The folks over at have another great article for Toastmasters...

The more speeches I write, the more important an effective editing and refining / improvement process is to the quality of my speech. This is especially critical (or at least most noticable) in Toastmasters speech contests where, assuming you win, you get a chance to give the same speech multiple times and edit/improve it between each speaking opportunity. (That also highlights a drawback of just doing a different speech every time as you move through a Toastmasters manual... you don't get to develop your editing skills as much.)

Here is what they say over at

... if writing isn’t taught well enough or often enough these days, editing is hardly taught at all. This is too bad, since editing is where the real work of writing is at. More than just proofreading, good editing improves the clarity and forcefulness of a piece.

Here’s some tips and tricks to help you make your writing more effective:
  • Read out loud
  • Read in reverse
  • Sleep on it
  • Cut, don’t add
  • Justify yourself
  • Eliminate pretentious language
  • Throw out and get rid of unnecessary redundancies
    [blog editor's note: See the unnecessary redundancy in this tip?]
  • Kill unsightly adverbs
  • Avoid Passive sentences sums it up this way...

Good editing, like good writing (or, better, as part of good
writing), is an art. It takes time and practice to develop a real talent for editing, but the end result is worth it — your writing will be more alive, more effective, and ultimately more likely to be read. And that is, after all, what’s important: that your audience reads and, just as crucially, understands your
Click here for the complete article!

Good suggestions for anyone writing their next speech ... or an article for the Yankee Activator !!
... or even a blog !

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More about the District Council Meeting...

District Council Meeting Info

In November and May, our monthly district business meeting is a bit different from our other 10 monthly meetings. Instead of an Executive Committee meeting, which includes the 44 district officers, the November and May district meetings are District Council meetings.

The DC meetings include all 44 district officers, but also include the Presidents and VPEs from each of our clubs. We still do the Division and Sr Team reports, but we also conduct other district business that meeting representatives are entitled to vote on, as described below.

District officers are expected/encouraged to attend both annual DC meetings. However, you do not need to RSVP to the District Secretary, like we request for the other 10 monthly meetings. That is because your registration for the conference is also your RSVP for the business meeting. I do hope that you are planning to attend and have already registered.

A message was sent to all D53 Club Presidents and VPEs that we have e-mail addresses for. This is essentially an electronic copy of the call to meeting invitation that was sent in hard copy a few weeks ago. Please be advised of the following:

1. The District Council, which always holds its meetings in conjunction with the District Conference, is the voting body of the district. Any business activity that impacts the entire district, such as district officer elections and club alignment (conducted during the Spring DC meeting), and budget approval (conducted during the Fall DC meeting), must be voted on and approved by the DC. For this reason, it is critically important that we achieve a quorum at this meeting. We need YOUR help in encouraging each club to be represented at this meeting.

2. Each club gets 2 votes, one for the President and one for the VPE. Any club member in good standing can be identified to represent one or both of the club's eligible votes. If the club member attending is NOT the President or VPE, a PROXY form signed by the President or VPE is required to identify the attending club member as the official representative for the club. A single signed proxy can entitle any one member to represent one or both votes for the club. If the attending member is either the President or VPE of the club, then that person can represent one or both votes for the club, AND NO PROXY FORM IS NEEDED.

3. If no member of the club is able to attend, then that club will not be represented at the DC meeting. ONLY a member of the club can represent that club at the DC meetings. This is very different from the Regional and International meetings where the clubs can assign their proxies to the District Governor to vote on their behalf. Because of this significant difference, meeting proxy forms are always a source of confusion for club officers and even for district officers, such as yourselves.

4. NOTE that a district officer automatically has one vote at the DC meetings, and it is therefore important for you to attend as well. You can also represent one or both votes for a club or clubs that you belong to. If you happen to be the President or VPE of the club, then the above rule holds and you do not need a proxy form. If you are NOT the President or VPE of your club, you can still represent them but you, just like any other club member, require a proxy form signed by either the President or VPE.

5. As a district officer, you can represent a maximum of three votes, one for your district office and up to two from a club or clubs that you belong to. No matter how many clubs you belong to, you are still limited to a maximum of three votes. This can be your district office vote plus two votes from one of your clubs, or one vote each from two clubs that you belong to.

6. So the maximum number of votes that any representative can hold is three if the person is a district officer and two otherwise.

7. It is also very important to note that your proxy or your position is not your ballot to vote, it only makes you eligible. Every voting representative must pick up a Credentials Package at the Credentials Desk, near the registration table, prior to the DC meeting. The Credentials Table staff validates each person seeking to be a representative at the DC meeting, in accordance with the rules described above. Once validated, the member will be given a Credentials Package, which includes one voting ballot, and one or two additional ballots, if they request and qualify for them. The DC meeting begins at 4:00pm and the Credentials Table closes at 3:00pm so that the quorum report can be assembled in time for presentation at the start of the meeting.

8. Note that the district proxy form can be copied as needed by your club officers. The form presented does NOT have to be the original form sent to them a few weeks ago (another difference from the Regional and International proxy forms). They can use the original, a copy, a printed copy from the an electronic CTM kit, etc. A copy of the proxy form was also included in your CTM kit, which was sent to you as well as the club Presidents and VPEs a few weeks ago. The copy sent out is intended for you to provide to your clubs if they lose theirs. It is not needed by you for any other purpose. So district officers can feel free to distribute copies to any club that needs them. In addition to the copy included in the attached CTM kit, I there is also a PDF copy of just the proxy form, in case it is needed by one of your clubs.",

I know this all seems a bit complex, but it's the way we need to conduct business for our DC meetings. I do hope that this explanation helps to clarify this process for you a little, and that you will be able to share this clarification with your clubs. If you have any questions about any of this, let me know.

Dare to Believe!!

District 53 motto 2007-2008


Norm Thibodeau (DTM)
Toastmasters International District 53
Editor's Note: This was originally written and addressed to District officers and edited slightly for use by anyone attending the Council meeting (club officers as well as district officers). We tried to be 100% accurate in our edits, but you may want to contact your Area Gov. or Div.Gov. or Norm for clarification of any questions.