Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Best Gift ever ...

As a Toastmaster, you understand the value of personal development, improved communication and leadership skills along with the boost of confidence that you get from progressing through the Toastmasters program. Wouldn't those things make a good gift?

TM as a gift?
Have you ever considered giving Toastmasters as a Christmas or Chanukah gift? How about as a "Happy New Year's" gift? (Bet you would be remembered for that!) Plus, if someone started in January (which you could write in your gift card), the membership dues would be pro-rated !

Priced right!
Instead of $27 dollars per year, the TI dues for people starting in January would only be $13.50. On top of that is the $20 New Member fee (for C & L manuals) plus any club dues... but for around $33.50 plus club dues someone would gain access to "The Toastmasters Experience" !

Why not give the gift of Toastmasters instead of book or a tie? It is not much more and it could change someone's life !

How can I "wrap it"?
Of course you could think of many creative ways to present a Toastmasters membership as a gift ... but here are some ideas to help. It is probably best to start with a notecard or Christmas card so you can express your thanks to the person and explain a little about Toastmasters. For example,
"Toastmasters is a worldwide non-profit organization dedicated to developing communication and leadership skills through a supportive, learning environment."

(Yes, that's kind of boring ... I'm sure you can come up with something better.)
The Check:
Next, write out a check to "Toastmasters International" for $33.50 and insert it in your card along with the TI web address ( so they can go online and find a club that is convenient. It would be good to note that the gift may (or may not) include the club dues... and you want to make your recipient aware that some clubs have separate dues to cover their meeting facilities or other requirements.

Act Now!
The recipient should also know that some organizations (Toastmasters especially) won't take checks that are "too old". If a check is 60 or 90 days old (I forget what the exact cutoff is), they will be rejected. This means that the gift needs to be used NOW ! (And as we all know... personal development works best with a little bit of "urgency" behind it!)

As Staples says... That was easy !
Now... doesn't that make you feel good? You are helping someone have a better life ... and with the current economic situation, everyone needs to have good communication (i.e. interviewing) skills and Toastmasters is the perfect place to get them!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays !

District 53's own
"Kung Fu Panda"
wishes everyone

a Happy Holiday Season

and best wishes for an OUTSTANDING New Year !

We hope to see you at a District 53 event in 2009!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interview with Jana Barnhill by HR Mgmt. Assoc.

When Toastmasters International President, Jana Barnhill, visited District 53 in October 2008, she was interviewed by Michael Stone, Board member of the HR Management Association of Western New England.

That interview is now available on the web:

(click here)

Happy Holidays!

(Special thanks to our District Governor, Karin von Kaenel, who sent out a notice to tell us that the audio file was available.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Midwinter training starts NOW !

The start of Mid-Winter Officer Training 2008-09 is Dec. 1st and the first training event was held last Saturday afternoon at the Russell Library in Middletown, CT.

This training event was held in conjunction with the monthly D53 Executive Committee meeting and the training included sessions on "Building A Club", "Marketing on the Web", "SpeechCraft", "Getting TM on radio & TV" and much more. A "Case Study Exercise" was also included in the training and Springfield Toastmasters had 3 officers in attendence who volunteered to be the "featured club".

Case Study Approach:
The Case Study Exercise consisted of an interview with the featured club's officers so that all the other officers in attendence could learn about the history, challenges and practices used by the featured club.

After the opening interview, the audience was broken into two groups and given about 20 minutes to brainstorm 1) the challenge(s) / issue(s) / key problem that the featured club is facing and 2) come up with some suggestions.

After the 20 minutes working session, each group presented their "recommendations" in a 3-5 minute speech. This was followed with a final interview with the featured club's officers to get their reaction to the suggestions.

Here is a quote from one of the featured club's officers ...
"From my perspective, the exercise in which we participated was really valuable. It gave us some ideas and now we will implement those ideas. I am hopeful that we can infuse some enthusiasm into the club moving forward. ... Attending [training] provides an opportunity to meet other Toastmasters from around the region, the officers at all levels, and to gain information that otherwise might get missed. I can’t wait to go back to the club and share."
Pictures: (from top to bottom)
  • District Governor Karin von Kaenel served as Toastmaster for the EC meeting as well as the MidWinter Training session.
  • Dave Wheeler, Lt.Gov.-Marketing, explains the Case Study Exercise.
  • Case Study Presentation #2
  • Case Study Presentation #1
  • Featured club officers from Springfield Toastmasters
Did you know...
Midwinter training does not just apply to club officers. The Sr. Leadership team for District 53 spent most of last weekend in New Jersey for training alongside district officers from all the other districts in our region (Region 7).

Ideas the Sr. Team brought back....
  • How to better serve our members
  • What are Toastmaster protocols and how do they help improve your Toastmasters experience
  • Better transitions from year to year
  • Training ideas for Division Governors and Area Governors
  • Ways to involve more Toastmasters in leadership
  • MORE FUN ! (you will have to come to a district event to see what this means!)
When are you going to Midwinter Training? Check out the district 53 website ( for more details or contact your Division or Area Governor for training dates in your local area.

Be The Change You Want To See!

International Speech Contest Season starts soon!

Toastmasters International Speech Contest typically focuses on speeches that are especially inspirational or motivational... so to kick off the "Intl. Speech Contest Season", I've found a short (2 min.) video with clips from a bunch of movies that distills them down to the "best of the best" ...

Happy Speech Contest Season !
Dave Wheeler
D53 LGM, 2008-9

Monday, December 08, 2008

The next time you are Grammarian...

Brian Clark over at has an excellent blog post titled, "The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words".

Here is a brief excerpt...
It may be inconceivable for you to misuse a word, but a quick look around the web reveals plenty of people doing it. And it’s all too easy when we hear or see others use words incorrectly and parrot them without knowing it’s wrong.

We know by now that great copy and content often purposefully breaks the rules of grammar. It’s only when you break the rules by
mistake that you look dumb.

So let’s take a look at 27 commonly misused words. Some
are common mistakes that can cost you when trying to keep a reader’s attention. Others are more obscure and just interesting to know.

Adverse / Averse
Adverse means unfavorable. Averse means reluctant.

The next time you are the Grammarian at your club's meeting... think about whether or not speakers are using these commonly misused words correctly or incorrectly !

Toastmaster Timer for iPhone

A while back, we reviewed some online timing software to help you practice your Toastmaster speeches (click here) and just recently, I got the email below from a Toastmaster in California who is selling a timing application for an iPhone. Arash's application costs $1.99 via iTunes and while I don't have an iPhone (yet), I do like the feature where it "flashes when you are disqualified".

(Running over time is something I am working on correcting.)

What do you use to practice? Contest season is coming up!

From:Arash Shokouh
Subject: Toastmaster Timer for iPhone

I am a member of the Los Gatos Silver Tongued Cats club in Los Gatos, Ca. A classmate and I have designed a toastmaster speech assistant for the iPhone called SpeechMate. It's meant to help you practice your speeches on the iPhone using the green/yellow/red TM timing system with optional sound cues.

We're trying to get feedback about the app from fellow Toastmasters so I was wondering if you could possibly mention it to your club members. Here's the iTunes link, or you can search for SpeechMate on the App Store on the iPhone.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Arash Shokouh
Toastmasters Member
Los Gatos Silver Tongued Cats

Monday, November 24, 2008

Personal Development ... for Smart People!

We don't review books very often on this blog, but occasionally one comes along that I'm sure other Toastmasters would really appreciate.... and Steve Pavlina's new book titled Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth definitely falls in that category !

Toastmasters Connection
First, I should point out that Steve is a Toastmaster in Las Vegas and he often includes references to his "Toastmasters exploits" in his blog (which is very interesting).

Attitude is # 1
Second, Steve has one of the best attitudes toward personal development and growth that I've ever seen. In fact, he has devoted his business (and a good chunk of his life) to the subject of Personal Development. (It kind of makes sense that he would eventually find Toastmasters, doesn't it?)

In his blog, you can get a feeling for his attitude by how he has documented a wide range of his own personal "30 Day Trials". This is where he tries out things like "PolyPhasic Sleep Schedule", "Raw Food Diet" and most recently, "Juice Feasting Diet" to see if they work for him (and we all get to live vicariously through his experiences). For an introduction to his blog, check out his website's home page at

Great [but slow] Book
Third, his book is outstanding. I got it over a month and a half ago and it has taken me that long to read all of it. To put that in perspective, I can usually I can get through a book in about a week by finding spare minutes in my daily schedule. The "problem" with Steve's book is that it is TOO GOOD !

There were so many concepts and ideas in the book that I would read for a few pages and then stop to think about how it relates to my life. It was like driving through a beautiful neighborhood... with plenty of speed bumps!

Speed Bumps
Some of the "speed bumps" are by Steve's design. He inserts "Exercises" for you to try that help you stretch your thinking and, sometimes, learn more about yourself. Other times it is just the way he phrases or explains a particular concepts that makes you stop and think.

For example...
One of the ideas that got me thinking was when he wrote about "taking an hour for yourself every day". I had been looking for a "way of thinking" that would help get me motivated to jump out of bed and really "hit the ground running". Steve's suggestions allowed me to change my thinking (and my habits) so that I've been waking up like a kid at Christmas.... ready to jump out of bed and really enjoy that first hour of the day!

As you can imagine, with ideas like these that call for immediate action, it took quite a while to read Steve's book... but I certainly enjoyed the process!
Constructive Suggestions
As you all know, a Toastmasters evaluation would not be complete without some ideas for improvement.... so here you go, Steve:

1) The hardcover book needs a companion audiobook. If I could have listened to the book while I was driving to/from work... I'm sure I could have gotten through it more quickly. (I was also distracted by other audiobooks I DID listen to during the time I was reading Steve's book.)

2) The next product should be a workshop DVD where Steve takes people through the concepts in the book and it follows them through the changes they make in their life.

3) Steve needs to get out to the East Coast more often! He has visited New York City and put together an informal Meet&Greet event, but wouldn't it be great if he could speak at our district conference? [Hint. Hint.] I wonder if his home district has tapped him to present at a district conference yet?

I would definitely recommend Steve Pavlina's book, "Personal Development for Smart People" and I look forward to reading your reactions in the comments section of this blog !

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reminder: Advanced TM meeting rescheduled to Thurs. Nov.20, 7:30-9:00pm, Ridgefield CT Library, History Room

Greetings fellow Advanced Toastmasters !

I came across an incredible speech as well as an equally well-done evaluation...

The speech is a short 8 minute keynote speech by a 5th grader in front of 20,000 people !

If you take a look at it, we can discuss ideas to apply to our own speeches when we meet on Thursday !

Plus... we will have a Pecha Kucha (PK) speech by our District Governor, Karin von Kaenel !

See you on Thursday !

Dave Wheeler
D53 LGM, 2008-9
DiversityUSA Club President, 2007-9

Monday, November 17, 2008

Yankee Candle Hosts Interclub Speech-a-thon

Subject: Yankee Candle Hosts Interclub Speech-a-thon
Division E - A First Interclub Speechathon
by Bryan Bridges

Tuesday, 11 Nov 2008 -Deerfield, MA -- On Veterans Day about thirty Toastmasters from District 53 gathered at the Yankee Candle Headquarters in South Deerfield MA to enjoy the first interclub Speechathon. Nine speakers from four clubs delivered a variety of manual speeches. Each was evaluated by the audience and by a dedicated speech evaluator and each received a report from a grammarian, an ah counter and a timer. Also nine people, in addition to the evaluators, completed a task from their Competent Leader (CL) manual at the event. Several other people involved in the planning also received CL credit.

Speakers for the Veterans Day 2008 Speech-a-thon.
Front row left to right: Leeanne Herman (YCC), Jim Munro (VEP), Dennis Kunkler (PV), Arden Billings (YCC), Mike Finn (SE), Jim Kagai (SE). Back Row left to right: Davit Khachatryan (SE), Rob Wilson (VEP), Croix Sather (Division E Gov.), Frank Fasano (PV).

[Abbreviations: PV –Pioneer Valley Club, SE –Speakeasy Club, YCC –Yankee Candle express Club, VEP –Veterans Education Project.]

During the breaks folks bought goodies at the bake sale and tickets to the 50-50 raffle and drawing for a Yankee Candle gift basket. The money raised, $89 plus the generous gift of the 50-50 raffle winnings ($25), went to the Veteran Education Project. VEP works with Veterans training them to speak of their experiences to various audiences.

The event was designed to give Toastmasters an opportunity to give manual speeches, earn CL credit and have fun and socialize with other Toastmasters from a variety of clubs.

The next interclub Speechathon –The Fabulous St. Patty's Day Speak and Eat, is scheduled for Saturday the 14th of March 2009.

While it is early in the planning stages we know that you can look forward to a pot luck dinner, food related charities and table topics in addition to the CL and speaking opportunities. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Stag Captures 'Bo' the Traveling Gavel

From: Roger H Brown
Date: Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 9:24 PM
Subject: The Stag Captures 'Bo' the Traveling Gavel

The Stag Toastmaster Club of Area B4 captured "Bo" the traveling gavel from the Greater Hartford Toastmasters Club #919 on November 11, '08.

The following Stag TM members visited the GHTM of Area B5:

Sue McNamara, Norm Thibodeau and Club President Christine Embser.

The Stag Toastmasters Club meets the first and third Wednesday of each month from noon until 1:00pm at The Hartford Tower Bldg, 690 Asylum Ave, in Hartford, CT.
Contact phone (860) 547 9851

From left to right is GHTM President Yvonne Duncan, Sue McNamara, Norm Thibodeau and Stag TM President Christine Embser.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Psychological of Selling (when writing)

A great article from (click here to read the whole article) ...

People are highly complex and often mysterious, so we all struggle to understand our fellow humans. However, now that you’ve gotten over being afraid to sell, here are a few basic psychological tidbits that can help you write compelling

Key points from the article ...
  • People make decisions emotionally.
  • People justify decisions with facts.
  • People are egocentric.
  • People look for value.
  • People think in terms of people.
  • You can’t force people to do anything.
  • People love to buy.
  • People are naturally suspicious.
  • People are always looking for something.
  • People buy “direct” because of convenience and exclusivity.
  • People like to see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it before they buy it.
  • Most people follow the crowd.
If you are signed up for the Sales Communications Skills workshop on Nov.4th, the full article (which explains all the points above) is "required reading" !

If you would like to sign up for the workshop at Marist College, in the Lowell Thomas Communication center, rm.125 from 9am-12noon... send an email to theshot92 [at] !

Friday, October 31, 2008

Want to challenge and improve your communication skills? ... even more than TableTopics?

Have you ever thought how sales skills could expand your career options? Have you ever wondered what it is like to Sell?

Well, you have your chance to find out ... in a supportive Toastmasters environment.

On Tuesday, Nov. 4th, there will be a workshop called...
"Sales Communication Skills for Toastmasters" !

It will be held from 9am-12noon at Marist College, in the Lowell Thomas Communications Center, rm.125
3399 North Road, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601.

Anyone who is interested should send me an email to sign up.

What is the workshop going to cover? Click here to find out.

What is the agenda? click here.

If you would like to move beyond TableTopics, perhaps it is time that you stepped up to Sales Communication Skills !

If you want to be more persuasive in business ... or in your personal life... this is for you!

There are less than 20 spaces and they will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Send me an email now. If you are on the Yahoo Group... do not "reply all". Send the email directly to me at the address below.

See you there !

Dave Wheeler
D53 LGM, 2008-9
Be The Change You Want To See !

P.S. Please pass this along to anyone with our district who might like to attend.

Fwd: Speak up or maybe sink down

From: Roger Brown
Date: Oct 31, 2008 8:15 AM
Subject: Speak up or maybe sink down

Speak up or maybe sink down
Verbal skills, confidence are major career assets, and they can be learned.
By Laura Raines

For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Check it out !

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy 84th Birthday Toastmasters International

From: Cavanaugh, Brian
Date: Oct 22, 2008 9:22 AM
Subject: Happy 84th Birthday Toastmasters International

Greetings District 53,

Happy 84th Birthday Toastmasters International!

On Wed. Oct. 22, 1924, Dr. Ralph C. Smedley founded Toastmasters
at the YMCA in Santa Ana, CA.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Veterans Day Speech-a-thon at Yankee Candle HQ

Subject: Veterans Day Speech-a-thon
Where: Yankee Candle HQ

There will be an interclub Speech-a-thon at 6:30 pm on 11 November, 2008.

The event will be at 16 Yankee Candle Way in South Deerfield MA (that is the Yankee HQ and the site of the YCC Express Toastmasters Club.)

The HQ is about a mile and a half north of the flagship store. YankeeCandle has given folks who come a coupon for use that day so come early and start your Christmas shopping with a bargain at the second largest tourist attraction in Massachusetts*.

There will be (toastmaster) celebrity speakers and newbies. A diverse group of speakers indeed. We still have a few slots for speakers and a lot of need for functionaries (here is your chance to get two or three of your CL manual tasks completed.)

There will also be a wonderful bake sale. Come and enjoy an evening of speaking, some goodies and a good time with Toastmasters from around the district.

For more information contact Bryan Bridges at:
writerbryanb [at]

* I was not sure where this claim came from ... it kind of makes you wonder, "What is the 1st largest tourist attraction in MA?"... I found the following online:

“Boston Duck Tours was the 8th largest tourist Attraction in
Massachusetts based on 2004 visitors, the only attractions that saw more guests were (in order), Faneuil Hall Marketplace, The Freedom trail, The Museum of Science, The New England Aquarium, The Museum of Fine Arts, Minute Man National Historic Park and Old North Church.
- Boston Business Journal’s - Book of Lists, January 2006

A little more research led me to this where the Yankee Candle Director of store planning, Hugh Hall, said they were second behind The Freedom Trail.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Quick Quote

"If I went back to college again, I'd concentrate on two areas: learning to write and to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively." - Gerald R. Ford

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Media Mixer Meeting concept

I was reading an interesting book called "Can We Do That?! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work--And Why Your Company Needs Them" by Peter Shankman and it gave me an idea to help promote Toastmasters ...

In the book, Peter talks about "adding value" and "being a resource" for a reporter before you ask them to write an article about you or your client.

One of the ways that he suggests to do that is to offer your expertise.

He has a great letter in the book where he states all the different things that he or his clients have done to show the scope of connections that he has and how it might be of value to a reporter.

Here is the idea for Toastmasters.... What if the VP-PR for a Toastmasters club invited a specific reporter (or other media contacts) to a "Media Mixer" event (i.e. a Toastmasters meeting) where the theme of the meeting is designed to showcase the experience and interests of all the Toastmasters members?

Obviously the reporter would see a Toastmasters meeting in action but they would also be introduced to a wide range of very interesting people who could give them material for many, many articles in the future.

The side benefit... Toastmasters would likely be mentioned in any of the stories that were printed or aired.

It probably would not hurt to have some good food and other incentives (like a REAL nice invitation with a personal follow up telephone call) to get the reporter(s) to the meeting, but it could plant some good publicity seeds... plus it would create personal connections between the Toastmasters club and someone in the media.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below !

Friday, September 26, 2008

Division E Contest Pix !

Division E contestants from both the Evaluation Contest and the Humorous Speech Contest on Sept. 25th, 2008.

Front row (l-r):
Suzanna Opper
Allura Adelson

Back row (l-r):
Martha LaCroix
Tom Southard

Michelle DeDominicis
Robert Ribist
Mike Finn

ContestMaster Richard Peck, presents the first place trophy to Robert Ribist!

Division B Evaluation and Humorous Contest Results

The results of the 2008 Division B Evaluation and Humorous Speech Contest !

Congratulation to the participants:

Evaluation Contestants
B1 Bob Kirkendall
B2 Stacey Bridgewater
B3 Joe Soucie
B4 Wadia Cowell
B5 Arnold S. Grot

Humorous Contestants
B1 Bob Kirkendall
B2 Steve Barrett
B4 Matt Weston
B5 Michael Aron

Especially to our winners!!!!

Division B Evaluation Speech Contest:
Winner: Bob Kirkendall
1st runner-up: Stacey Bridgewater
2nd runner-up:
Arnie Grot

Division B Humorous Speech Contest:
Winner: Mike Aron
1st runner-up: Steve Barrett

A special thanks to:
Aetna, Life & Casualty #3610 for hosting the Division B contest
To Lorie McGee SAA and Sharon Ofori President for all their hard work
To the best Contest Master- Norm Thibodeau!
An excellent target speech by Alyssa "Minervini" Brown
All the contestants for making this an exciting and fun contest!
All the volunteers who helped judge, time, and count; Peggy, Bonnie, Bette, Sid, Bonnie, Calvin, Yvonne, Kevin Finn, Michael O'Brien. And to and Bill Sweeney for your assistance
My fellow district officers - Karin, Marsha, Paul, Rich, Ray, Norm, Doug and Ute for your support and energy.
And to all the members and guests who support the event!

Hope to see everyone at the District 53 Humorous and Evaluation Contests on October 11th, 2008 @ the District 53 Conference in Trumbull, CT. For information on the district 53 conference, visit the
District 53 Website.

Thank you so much for making this a successful event!

Judith M. Chambers

Division B Governor, 2008 - 09
District 53, Toastmasters International

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Div.D Contest Pix !

Division D Evaluation contest ...
(l-r) RoZanne Ho, Geoff Thomas, David Moore, Caryn Vincent.

Division D Humorous Speech contest ...
(l-r) Marda Gutierrez, Ankit Thakkar, Bill Miranda, Ro-Zanne Ho, Brett Middleton

Brian Cavanaugh performs his "Fall Conference Sing-along" for the Division D contestants and audience.

Division A Contest winners !

Names for these pictures will be added soon... We just wanted to get them on the blog as soon as possible !

Monday, September 22, 2008

Introduce the Elephant !

At the beginning of his "Last Lecture", Randy Pausch said, "If there is an elephant in the room, introduce him!"

The "elephant" in Randy's case was that most of the audience knew that he was dying of pancreatic cancer and was given only 3-6 months to live by his doctors. (He went on to live 18 months.)

The "Elephant" in many Toastmasters clubs right now is the unsettling state of the economy and the potential impact it could have on the finances of members.

As the October 1st dues renewal deadline is fast approaching, many members are probably asking themselves...
"Should I renew my Toastmasters membership?"
Well, let's say HI ! to the elephant and see what he has to say ....
First, do you remember the last time there was a recession in the US economy? Did it last forever? No. It turned around. The economy goes in cycles and while there is plenty of "gloom & doom" in the news right now, things will improve.
[Elephants are renowned for having a very long memory.]
Given the current conditions, when is the best time to improve your skills and become more competitive in the job market? Does it make sense to wait until a layoff to improve your communication and leadership skills?

Now is the time to re-dedicate yourself to achieving your CC, AC, CL or AL. Set some goals for the coming year and you will be in a stronger position no matter what happens to the economy !
[Elephants are all about strength.]
Toastmasters is the perfect place to develop new abilities ... if you are not limited by your thinking. Henry Ford once said, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you are right." Don't fall into the trap of thinking, "I can't do a speech this month... it has been too long...I'll just do a few table topics and hang out at the meetings." Push yourself and learn by doing !
[Did you know that elephants in the circus are kept in one place by a tiny rope tied to a small stake in the ground. The elephant could easily pull out the stake but they are trained from a young age to accept the idea that they cannot escape. Learn from an elephant and don't let your thinking tie you down!]
We all know that Toastmasters is incredibly cost effective when compared to other forms of schooling or training. Many people probably spend more on coffee than they do on personal development ... are you one of those people?

[Elephants are also very frugal with their money.
I'll bet you did not know that.]
Congratulations... you now have been introduced to the elephant in the room.

Don't let your goals (or your fellow members) be trampled by an elephant when it becomes time to send in their dues!

We all need to be a part of Toastmasters ... now more than ever!

Posted by your friendly neighborhood D53 pachyderm expert!

Multiple World Champions at Adv.TM meeting Thurs.9/25 at Ridgefield (CT) Library, 7:30pm

Attention Advanced Toastmasters !

When you read the headline above, I'm sure you said to yourself, "There must be a catch. Multiple World Champions don't just show up at a Toastmasters club's meeting."

There WILL be World Champions of Public Speaking at the meeting this Thursday ....

.... on DVD.

Now, before you dismiss this opportunity, let me tell you what we are going to do . . .

As a club, we will be watching the winning speeches by multiple world champions of public speaking and evaluating them using the methods we use for our own Advanced members.

Do you think that the world champions did nothing wrong and that was how they became champions? Not necessarily. Do you think they did some things EXTREMELY well and that helped them to become world champions? Probably. In either case, their performances have something to teach us !

FREE SAMPLE !!! Click here to see a small sample of Ed Tate, World Champion of Public Speaking. What do you think he did well? What could he have done better?

Join us on Thursday, 9/25 at DiversityUSA Advanced Toastmasters in the "History Room" at the Ridgefield Public Library starting at 7:30pm. Guests are welcome !

Ridgefield library is located at 472 Main Street, Ridgefield, CT 06877
click here for a map showing the location. Directions are available on the library's web site:Â

Please pass this invitation along to any Toastmaster who has achieved their CC or Advanced Communicator awards. We would love to have them attend a meeting and learn about opportunities for growth through DiversityUSA Advanced Toastmasters Club.

Posted by Dave Wheeler
President, DiversityUSA Advanced Toastmasters, 2008-9
District 53 LGM, 2008-9
860-309-0070 (cell)

UPcoming meeting dates: 4th Thurs. of each month

Photo of Darren courtesy of

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

We have a new survey >>>>>>

In anticipation of the upcoming Fall Conference, we have created a new survey.

Check it out ... over there in the right margin....>>>>>>>>>

Please submit your votes by filling in the "check boxes" in the table on the right and hitting the "Submit" link at the bottom!

Sales Communication Skills ...for Toastmasters

In a previous post, the concept of a Sales Communication Skills (SCS) Workshop was presented.
(click here to read more about it).

Below is an overview / agenda of the SCS workshop.

Intro (2-3 min.)
- basic housekeeping
- agenda / goals
- introduce trainers

The importance of Sales (3-5 min., motivational)
- Role of Sales in business and other organizations
- Personal selling & persuasion
- Motivation (Why are you doing this?)

Product Knowledge (Why is it worth selling?) (8-10 min., Exercise / Presentations 30 min.)
- Features vs. Benefits
- Exercise... what are you selling about Toastmasters? Develop 1 min. Elevator Speech (in pairs)
- Present TM Elevator Speech

Lead Generation / Keeping the pipeline full (8-10 min., Exercise 30 min.)
- Advertising / Web marketing
- PR
- Networking
- Research
- Exercise... Research companies in D53 that are good candidates for TM.
- Review results of exercise

[ Break ] 10 min.

Questioning / Listening (8-10 min., Exercise 30 min.)
- Uncovering needs
- Exercise... (Role play sales calls to companies re: TM), handouts with predetermined "needs"
- Group feedback from exercise

Gaining Customer Commitment and Follow-Through
(Speaker 10-15 min., Exercise 40 min.)
- "Closing" questions (3 best)- Overcoming objections
- Persistent follow up
- Exercise... (Actual sales calls to companies re: TM)
- Group feedback & follow-up action steps

Wrap-up. Group Feedback on overall program. (15 min.)

Total Time: 2:34 - 2:48... realistically around 3 hours.
The larger the group, the longer it will take to get through all the exercises, participant presentations and feedback sessions. Current estimates based on a group of approximately 10-20 people.

Networking Opportunities:

Since the whole workshop is targeted to be done by lunchtime, it is theoretically possible (assuming the instructors are in a good mood) that they could take attendees out to lunch ! How about McDonald's if at least one demo meeting is scheduled ... or a nice sit-down restaurant if they schedule 4 or more demo meetings?

We are still trying to find a location where the workshop could be held. It would be ideal if we had computer / internet access. We assume we will have telephone access since most people have cell phones (if there is cell coverage). Since many of the exercises involve calling actual companies, the workshop would need to be on a weekday, probably 9-12.

We are also looking for experienced Sales people (or Sales trainers) that might want to 1) serve as "Sales Advisors" to the whole process of developing the workshop or 2) Present a segment as part of the workshop.

If you are interested in attending or presenting or just have suggestions, please contact District 53's Lt.Gov.-Marketing, Dave Wheeler at theshot92 [at]

Monday, September 15, 2008

What's your club's "rituals"?

A recent article by Jackie Huba (click here) about the importance of rituals for die-hard Pittsburgh Steelers fans in cities outside of Pittsburgh got me thinking about whether or not there were any rituals within Toastmasters that added to the experience of a meeting.

Jackie points out...
Rituals are the code of ceremonies observed by an organization. They are the shared experiences of a group. They create emotional glue. To an outsider, a ritual can be weird, wacky or just plain stupid. To people inside the organization, they may be metaphors for life, death, or renewal. For never-say-die Steelers fans, rituals can symbolize all of the above.
She also provides some fun examples ...
... at the Chicago Steelers bar (and others I've visited), the rituals were abundant:
Does your Toastmasters club have any rituals?

Perhaps all the club officers make it a point to talk to guests and ask them what brought them to Toastmasters.
Then if the Toastmaster introduces the guests during the meeting and asks them "what brought them to Toastmasters" it gives the guest a chance to speak in front of the club (after having practiced their response before the meeting when all the club officers asked the same question).

In one of my clubs, we always ask if anyone has had a "public speaking success outside of the club". We feel that this is important because Toastmasters is about developing skills in a supportive environment, but the acid test is when you apply your skills in the "real world" !

What rituals could your club develop to boost the excitement of each meeting?
Have you heard about a new ritual that will be started at the Fall 2008 District 53 conference?

It is being called "The Parade of Banners" and if you saw the opening ceremonies of the Olympics... well, you have not seen anything until you have seen the D53 Parade of Banners !

Clubs are encouraged to bring their (full size) club banner and nominate someone (who will be at the conference) to carry your club banner in the Parade. Don't worry if your club does not have a full size banner... contact Mike Aron, Chairperson for the Parade of Banners, for alternative ideas.

Will this become a ritual for District 53?
Come to the Fall conference and find out.

As Jackie's article summarizes...

... it's repetition of rituals combined with emotional subtext that creates meaning. People will tell their friends and family about the rituals they experience when the context is right. That just leaves it up to an organization being open and brave enough to establish and follow rituals that's difficult...

As the District theme says ... Be The Change You Want To See !
... and build the rituals that will take your club to a new level !

Friday, September 12, 2008

Announcement: Division A Contest

From: Alison Easton
Date: Sep 12, 2008 4:12 PM
Announcement: Division A Contest

Dear Fellow Toastmasters!

The Division A district officer team and West Conn Toastmasters cordially invites you to the Division A Humorous and Evaluation Contest!

When: Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Time: 7:30pm – 10:00pm
Where: Wooster School library
91 Miry Brook Road
Danbury, CT 06810
All contestants please RSVP by Monday, September 22nd to Alison Easton

Google Location Link:,-73.495992&spn=0.005507,0.013486&z=17

Contestants & participants (judges, timers, counters, etc) should arrive by 7:00pm for briefings.
Light refreshments will be served and there will be a silent auction of TM goodies to help defray the cost of the room.

Please contact Alison Easton, Division A Governor or Anne Swartout, President of WestConn Toastmasters if you would like to be a judge, timer, counter for the contest.

Humorous Speech Contestants:

A1 Winner -- Derek McGee, Poughkeepsie Area Chamber Toastmasters, club 4396
A1 1st runner-up -- Maureen Creagan, The Bureaucrats Toastmasters, club 790849

A2 Winner -- Jose Hernandez, IBM Poughkeepsie Speechmakers Toastmasters, club 315
A2 1st runner-up -- Patrick Meaney, IBM Poughkeepsie Speechmakers Toastmasters, club 315

A3 Winner -- Louis Ruidisch, Henry Hudson Club #4507
A3 1st runner-up --
Louise Messina, Henry Hudson Club #4507

A4 Winner -- Dan Rapley, Wooster Heights Toastmasters club 9685
A4 1st runner-up -- Pete Lane, Socially Speaking Toastmasters club 4720

Evaluation Speech Contestants:

A1 Winner -- Richard Basener, Poughkeepsie Area Chamber Toastmasters, club 4396

A2 Winner -- Bob Cohn, Putnam Speaks Toastmasters, club 4839
A2 1st runner-up -- Patrick Meaney, IBM Poughkeepsie Speechmakers Toastmasters, club 315

A3 Winner -- Patricia Hendrickson, Catskill Club #9542
A3 1st runner-up --
Carole Hurst, Orange County Club #9315

A4 Winner -- Kevin Wortman, WestConn Toastmasters club 599
A4 1st runner-up -- John Tepedino, Barnum Square Toastmasters club 1701

Thank you! Any questions, please let me know.

Alison Easton
Division A Governor - District 53

Sales Communication Skills ...for Toastmasters

"Sales is like TableTopics ...
... just more challenging!"
- D53 Public Relations Officer, Angela Lussier

Have you ever thought that your business would improve if you developed Sales Communication Skills?
Would your career get a boost if you could sell your ideas inside or outside your company?

Sales4TM Workshop
District 53 is developing an "Introduction to Sales Skills for Toastmasters" and we are hoping to schedule it in October (or November) at the latest. It will be scheduled on a weekday for about 3 hours, probably in the morning.

The Basics
This workshop starts out by covering the basic building blocks of Selling & Persuasive Communication and will take your existing Toastmasters knowledge and speaking skills to a whole new level.

Why Sales?
We will address why [the function of] Sales is necessary for a successful organization as well as the preconceptions and myths surrounding Sales.

Hands-On Training
Attendees will participate in a series of exercises where you will do actual research (lead generation), develop a sales script and make actual calls to actual prospects (for corporate TM clubs). Each exercise will include feedback plus ideas to help overcome future challenges (e.g. mindset, systems,etc.)

If you are interested in learning more about this event, please send an email to Dave Wheeler, D53 LGM.
Dave's email address is theshot92 [at] If you would like to take a larger role in the workshop (organizer, presenter, coordinator), please let Dave know as well.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Gavel that fits in an envelope....

I found this neat "gavel" via a post by Neatorama blog and while they call it a "mallet", it looks alot like something that Toastmasters could put to good use !

The cost (on the website) is $40 and they have a bunch of other very interesting products as well..

I wonder how many people would be able to make it into a mallet / gavel if they did not have directions? Sounds like a neat puzzle for the Toastmaster on your Gift List!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Taking on [Tabletopic] Questions

Two recent articles (1) (2)by Scott Ginsberg, "The Name Tag Guy" or "Mr.Approachability", provided some great hints that you could use in your next meeting during Table Topics.

Here are his 10 ideas for responding to questions ...

1. “Well, there are a couple of answers to that question.”

2. “Well, that depends on how you define the word ‘x.’”

3. Word distinction ... between two commonly confused or misused words.

4. Pause.

5. “Well, let’s take that in pieces...”

6. Reverse the question.

7. “You know, I’d really have to think about that.”

8. "It doesn’t matter.”

9. “OK, well, that’s really THREE questions…”

10. I don’t know.

Since there is probably a TableTopic question in your near future, you might want to check out Scott's articles !

Article 1 (items 1-5)
Article 2 (items 6-10)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Brutally Honest and Caring Evaluations

As the Evaluation Contests progress from the club level to the area level all around Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, I am reminded of the real reason for giving evaluations... to learn new ideas that you can use in future speeches and improve you speaking skills!

Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, gave me an interesting idea in his recent newsletter that could apply to the upcoming evaluation contests and anyone who wants to give (and get) excellent evaluations that help you improve.

Brutal, Honest . . . Caring?
by Darren LaCroix

How do you know if people truly care about you? Seriously? Is it when they're nice to you? How do you feel when someone tells says, "You've got something in your teeth." Do you want to know?

... At our last coaching camp, one of the attendees told me they'd heard I was "mean" when giving feedback. Really? At first I got defensive. Then it dawned on me that I'm no different. Receiving feedback is different from each individual. Different people will take the same exact feedback in a different
way. What is the "purpose" of the feedback? To show that you're better? Or to help grow?

... Some presenters are surrounded by people who can't give them a higher level of feedback. They're the "king" of their club, and they may be content with that. This is probably pretty good for their self-esteem, but it's not good for their growth. What kind of people are you surrounded by? Are they helping you grow?

.... How do you look at feedback from people who have more expertise than you?

... No mentor ever "niced" me to the next level.
Darren brings up a good point... growth comes from feedback... but the one part he does not touch on is that it is equally important to present the feedback in a manner that will be accepted.
Here are some ideas you might want to consider the next time you give an evaluation ...

- A lot of people use the "Sandwich Technique" (a constructive criticism with a compliment on either side) but I've often seen evaluators who are overly harsh with their "constructive criticism" and insincere with the compliments. This effectively defeats the whole idea of the Sandwich Technique.

- The "Simple Suggestion Technique" is another idea where you simply phrase your "constructive criticisms" as suggestions or ideas that you (the evaluator) might have tried. This takes the emphasis off of doing something WRONG (which is harsh and raises the speaker's defenses) and puts the emphasis on trying something DIFFERENT.

- Another way is the "Clean Slate Approach" where you start with "Here are some suggestions for your next speech... " This helps take the focus off of what went wrong in this speech and puts it on the next speech (which is a clean slate). The speaker will be less defensive about his or her next speech and may actually use your suggestions (which is really the mark of an effective evaluation).

- The "Challenge Approach" works with some speakers, but not with all. It can be started "With everything you did right, the one thing that would take your speaking to the next level is ..." This statement should grab the speaker's attention and may even motivate them to see if they can really "take their speech to the next level" !

- The "Perception Approach" starts out with "My perception of your speech is that ...." This is especially good when you want to address the speaker's theme or overall goal for the speech. If the speaker did not clearly get his or her key points, this will be an important skill for them to develop and will show incredible improvements in future speechs (if they are given a good evaluation and they take it to heart).

These "lead-in's" can help you present the feedback ... without turning off the speaker. There are also variations on these as part of the Toastmasters Module, "Evaluate to Motivate" which is a great [pre-written] speech that anyone can edit (to "make it your own") and give to your club.

What about the Speaker?
Of course, as Darren points out, it is still the speaker's responsibility to be open to the suggestions (that's all they really are) and incorporate what makes sense.

Evaluations can be emotionally charged and it is important to do them well so that the speaker improves and the audience can learn from the evaluation as well.

Contests too !
How was your club's Evaluation contest? Be sure to attend your Area and Division contests to see some excellent evaluations and, of course, you will want to attend the District 53 Fall Conference on October 10th & 11th to see the winners compete for the top prize for evaluations !

Advanced Evaluations:
If you already have your CC and want an even higher level of evaluation for your speeches, you might want to consider joining one of the Advanced Clubs in District 53...
  • DiversityUSA Advanced Club, Ridgefield (CT) Library,
    meets on the 4th Thursday, 7:15-8:45pm.

  • ProSpeakers, Springfield (MA) Chamber of Commerce
    meets on the 3rd Thursday 6:30-8:30pm.

  • Central CT Advanced Toastmasters, meetings 4th Wed @ NU, Berlin, CT
  • NEW Advanced club forming... Capital Advanced Toastmasters, South Saratoga Chamber of Commerce office, near Albany, NY. Meets the 1st Monday of the month, 6:30-8:00pm. Contact Melinda Burns at mburns14 [at] for more info.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Congratulations: A New Club in Division E

Welcome and Congratulations to the Club sponsors, charter members and all who made this new Toastmasters Club possible.

ESPI Toastmasters Club (O) Open to all interested parties

Meeting Place:
Energy Services Providers, Inc. (ESPI)
877 South St, Pittsfield, MA 01201

District: 53
Area: E1 (Thanks to Ann Bloch!)
Club Number: 1223576

Charter Date: 08/20/2008

Meeting Time: 12:30 pm, Wednesday

Phone: 866 937 3774

Energy Services Providers, Inc. (ESPI) supplies electricity and natural gas, and a variety of other energy cost savings services (energy-efficient lighting, HVAC, compressors, controls, etc.) in several states. ESPI is currently the fastest growing electricity supplier in the State of New York.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Presidential Citation for Ute Brinkmann

From: Roger H Brown

Subject: Presidential Citation
for Ute Brinkmann

On behalf of the members of District 53, we extend Congratulations and Thanks to Ute Brinkmann, DTM for the dedication to excellence and the contributions made to District 53, its Clubs and its members.
Ute was presented with a Presidential Citation from TI President Chris Ford at the Hall of Fame ceremonies at the annual TI Convention held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Ute's award reads:

The Presidential Citation
is presented to

Ute Brinkmann, DTM

for outstanding contributions to Toastmasters International
and its program of
Communication and Leadership

Chris K. Ford, DTM, President
International Convention
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
August 2008

District 53 recognized at International Convention

Congratulations to our '07-08 District Leadership Team!

At the Hall of Fame ceremonies at the 77th Annual Toastmasters International Convention held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada our District 53 was recognized as a Distinguished District.

In the picture, we see our top 3 leaders for 2007-08 holding recognition awards: Marsha Kiley "Excellence in Marketing;"Karin Von Kaenel "Excellence in Education and Training;" andWill Ryan "Distinguished District."

The Distinguished District Program recognizes those districts that meet Toastmasters International’s growth and educational goals. The program, which begins July 1st and ends June 30th, sets goals in the areas most critical to a district’s success. Every district that meets all its goals and the program prerequisites is awarded the designation Distinguished District.

Photo caption: From left to right,Ute Brinkmann (Presidential Citation recipient), R7 International Director Val Albert, Deb Grehn, Don Logie, LGET Marsha Kiley,DG Karin Von Kaenel, Immediate Past TI President Chris Ford,IPDG Will Ryan, and Rich Couture.

NOTE: Thanks to Roger Brown for passing along this post.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ignite ... a new(?) speaking format

I just heard about an interesting speaking "format" called Ignite.
If you had five minutes on stage what would you say? What if you only got 20 slides and they rotated automatically after 15 seconds? Around the world geeks have been putting together Ignite nights to show their answers...

Ignite usually has two parts: the Ignite Contest, where people make things, and Ignite Talks, where presenters get 20 slides and five minutes to make their point. Sometimes I've only had Talks, but the contest is fun and can serve as a great warm-up for the talks.
This activity is similar to Pecha Kucha (check out this post for news on that) and either format might be adapted to create an interesting Toastmasters theme meeting. (Don't forget the D53 Meeting Theme contest wiki !)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If it's worth doing, it's worth SINGING !

It has been a while since I posted something from Seth Godin (my favorite marketing author & blogger), but when I saw this post, I just had to pass it along...

Sing it!

I spent some time a few days ago listening to a nascent band performing classic rock songs.

The first group sang a note-for-note rendition of a song by the Stones. The notes were right, but nothing else was. The singer didn’t know what the song meant. And the musicians, they just stood there. No energy, no smiles, no connection. It could have been a funeral with a great soundtrack.

A concert isn’t about the music, is it? And a restaurant isn’t about the food.

The funny thing is that learning to Sing It is a lot easier than learning how to play the guitar. For some reason, we work on the technique before we worry about adding the joy.

If you’re going to go to all the trouble of learning the song and performing it, then SING IT. Sing it loud and with feeling and like you mean it. Deliver it, don’t just make it. When you answer the phone or greet me at your office or come to a meeting or write something, don’t bother if all you’re going to do is do it. Sing it or stay home.

As a speaker or artist, how often do we get trapped by the mechanics of what we are doing and forget that a good part (probably the biggest part) of the value comes from our emotion and connection with the material.

In other words, how we SING IT !

Are you singing today? Why not?
Leave a comment below and tell us !

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What have Marsha and Karin gotten themselves into?

When I saw the 3rd panel (shown to the right) in this comic strip (see link below for the full strip), I thought it might be a glimpse into the year ahead for Karin & Marsha...

Don't worry Marsha & Karin ... at least it will be a FUN YEAR !

Dave Wheeler
D53 LGM, 2008-9

One benefit of Toastmasters Evaluations...

I was reading an article by David J. Pollay (author of "The Law of The Garbage Truck") recently and came across the following quote...

...Martin Seligman, co-founder of Positive Psychology, and Christopher Peterson, an expert on strengths and virtues in people, found in their research that by simply naming a strength in someone you amplify it. ...
Doesn't that sound like a Toastmasters evaluation? Did you realize you had that power over the speaker you are evaluating?

This is just one more aspect to think of when you are giving evaluations...
amplifying strengths (notice strengths is PLURAL)
and helping to overcome weaknesses !

What's your tip to improve Toastmasters evaluations?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Happy Swiss National Day !

In honor of our District 53 Governor's heritage, we direct your attention to today's special occasion...

August 1st is Swiss National Day !

According to wikipedia...

It is celebrated each year on August 1st with town-wide paper lantern parades, bonfires, hanging strings of Swiss flags and fireworks.
You might also want to check out the district 53 website to see what the district theme logo looks like ! I'm not sure if it will be there tomorrow so this might be a "limited time offer"!

Be The Change You Want To See!