Embrace Change

Let me tell you about my day. I woke up this morning and used the percolator to make coffee. I went to the office and sat down at my manual typewriter and used a rotary phone to make some calls. When I came back from lunch, my secretary handed me a pile of pink slips with phone messages and two faxes. I love the modern world.

Obviously change is a big part of our world and impacts our daily lives. No matter how happy we are with how things are, life will change. Change can be expected or unexpected, and in either case, attitude is everything and how we react to change is what counts. The Serenity Prayer directs us to ask that we be granted me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

Here are some tips for having a good attitude when it comes to change.

  • Accept that change can be good and can be a chance to challenge one’s self to try new things.
  • Understand why change is occurring. If your company changes its hours, vacation policy or bonus structure, you cannot view this as a personal affront and it may be a sign of things to come.
  • View change as a new beginning. We celebrate new years, weddings, commencements, new jobs for the opportunities they will bring.
  • Change is new and takes you away from the same old, same old.
  • Be curious. Ask questions about the change, its impact and what is expected by you.
  • Short term does not equal long term. While in the short term, change may require new ways of foing things and the need to adapt. Over time, the “new” becomes familiar and less scary.
  • Ask yourself, how can I make this change work for me? How will you benefit?

Tomorrow morning, when you’re making Keurig coffee, having breakfast, get to work and check email on your smartphone and laptop and receive a text about a change in meeting time, think about which changes are coming and list the positives of these changes, and you’ll realize that change can be good.

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Welcome Visitors

Who remembers their first visit to a Toastmasters club meeting? Were you “shopping” for a club? Were you nervous? Did you feel welcome? Had you visited other clubs? Did you join the first club that you visited?

My informal survey indicates that most people stick with the first club they visit. They would probably never return if they didn’t feel welcomed.

Keep up the good work!

New members are the lifeblood of thriving Toastmaster Clubs:

  • They provide new ideas.
  • They expand our vision and network.
  • They bring new enthusiasm.
  • They keep us on our toes.
  • They see things that we have become blind to.
  • They give us opportunities to mentor.
  • They replace people who leave.

How do we convert visitors to members? Greet them with a smile; make them feel welcome and “at home”. Make an effort to talk with them after the meeting. Go low-key on the selling of your club; people like to buy, not to be overwhelmed with the sale. Jot down their names to introduce them at the beginning of the meeting. Assign a member to “befriend” each visitor and sit with them during the meeting.

You probably already know everything written here; even so, a gentle reminder is always helpful.

Keep up the good work! Who knows? You may be the reason they join your club.

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District 83 – Youth Leadership Program

The Youth Leadership Program (YLP) is a workshop consisting of eight one- to two-hour sessions that enable young people under the age of 18 to develop their communication and leadership skills through practical experience.

In the workshop, young people learn valuable communication and leadership skills including but not limited to preparing and giving speeches, giving constructive feedback (Evaluation), giving impromptu talks (Table Topics), understanding and controlling various speech features like their voice, vocabulary, gestures, use of speaking area and more.

The YLP workshops are structured for small group learning and are limited to 25 students. A coordinator who attends each meeting facilitates them. Meetings generally follow a format similar to that of a Toastmasters club meeting, with an announced agenda that includes practice in parliamentary procedure, prepared and impromptu speeches and the selection of presiding officers.

If you want to be an YLP Coordinator or want to know more about the program, please contact District 83 YLP Coordinator.

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Why would someone stay in Toastmasters for 15 years?

I never thought I’d be involved for 15 years! I have always had high goals and being a fantastic speaker is one of my top goals in life.

I was so afraid of public speaking, I would drop a class while going for my Bachelor’s, once I found out giving a speech was a requirement. That sounds crazy to me now. What I wouldn’t give to speak to an audience of 500! My record is 250 and I know someday I’ll break 1000.

If you’ve been counting, that’s 2 reasons I’ve stayed. Though I have my DTM, I’m not the best speaker I can be.

Getting over the fear of public speaking is not easy. It is arguably the hardest fear you’ll conqueror in your life. According to Lominger, Presentation Skills have a development difficulty level of “Moderate” (Political Savvy and Conflict Management are examples of “Hardest”), which means it takes years to be proficient. How quickly you get better depends on many variables, about yours skills, your fear level and your dedication to self learning. I set 2 goals for myself:

    1. Speak at every meeting. Grab a role if I can and ask my mentor how to do it (or look it up). In the “old days,” there was a cute booklet called “A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats” that I could quickly skim in the meeting if I role like I wasn’t comfortable yet. I also volunteered to speak in Table Topics, even if I didn’t know what I was going to say. To me, “winning” was not yet what I said and how I did it, it was just getting up in front of everyone and saying something.
    2. Schedule a speech a month. This ensured I kept working on my skillset by giving a speech a month. Side Benefit: I advanced a Communication Track Award level every year. (Yes, that means now I have more CC’s, ACB, ACS and ACG’s than I can count!).I found myself surprised at the other skills I developed without realizing it!

  1. Listening
    – A 360 peer review assessment about 2 years into joining Toastmasters revealed that my top skill was now listening! I was shocked! It took me a few weeks to figure out that it was because of Toastmasters and trying to listen to speeches while at the same time being Timer, Evaluator, etc. that built this skill.

Leadership – A year after that, about 3 years in, I found myself as a manager of first one person, and then, as a result of people moving out of my area after a re-organization, a manager of 9. With no management experience, just my Toastmaster Officer training and my intuition, I lead that team to have the one of the company’s highest Gallup Engagement scores and the Top Supply Department US Engagement Score for 2 sessions in a row! My team and I were famous for a brief time in our careers, doing interviews with real reporters for our company’s, (Mars Wrigley Confectionary) internal home page. I also was nominated by a direct report for the “Make the Difference Award” and made it to the Regional Competition. All this I attribute to Toastmasters. Being an officer and networking with great leaders like Irene and Arnold Card and Paula & Willy Markert at Conferences gave me a foundation for being a Visionary, Motivational Speaker, and the ability to handle conflict.

I started 2 clubs. I co-started “Skylands Community Club” with Jen O’Hagen when BASF left the International Trade Zone. When my job moved over to the “chocolate-side” of the business in Hackettstown, I started a new company club called “Mars Sweet Talkers”. While Skylands disbanded due to a re-organization at the Mount Olive location where the entire leadership team left the business, “Sweet Talkers” still exists with 35-40 people strong. Mars Wrigley Confectionary strongly supports the group, which has been a key to it’s success. It’s given our Leadership Team valuable visibility to President’s and Vice President’s, that still exists today.

Mars Sweet Talkers is currently working on building-out their mentor program. We’re going from assigning everyone a mentor to giving mentors and mentee guidance and gathering feedback to assess areas of opportunities.

Our biggest challenge has been getting volunteers to take on the President’s role. This year, we were able to successfully transition to a new President and we’ve gone a lot stronger because of it! Our fearless leader, Patti Snyder, focuses on attendance while the club benefits from her passions as a Trainer and Education Leader.

I still can’t do “humor”. It alludes me. I won’t give up, even if it takes me another 15 years!

Mary Verrone, DTM
· 2007 Toastmaster of the Year
· 2011 Area Humorous Speech Contest, 2nd Place
· 2011 Area Speech Contest, 2nd Place
· 2012 Area International Speech Contest, 1st Place
· 2012 Area Evaluation Contest, 2nd Place
· 2014 Area Evaluation Contest, 2nd Place
· 2015-2016 District Administrative Manager

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Expand Your Circle

As time passes we either expand our circle of interests or let it contract. Contracting our circle is easy and safe; expanding it takes effort. Toastmasters is a safe way to step out of our comfort zone.

One reason that Toastmasters is safe is that your are part of a team. I felt the support the members had for each other from the get-go. Safe is not the same as no competition. If competition motivates you, you can join contests. If the thought of losing demotivates you, there is no pressure to compete. The informal competition at club meetings is what you make of it.  All competition and Toastmaster titles aim for improvement.

Toastmasters allows you to face the fear of public speaking at your own pace. Start by listening to other people’s speeches and watching them grow. Listen to evaluations and see that everyone has room for growth. Speak at every meeting. Socialize. Encourage others. Take on a small role such as “Report of the Timer.” Introduce yourself with a joke as the Jokemaster and follow up with your Ice Breaker speech. Try to speak at every meeting. The Word of the Day and Grammarian are other opportunities to speak in front of people. When my career involved frequent speaking I kept my fear well under control and settled down after the first minute; when there were gaps between speaking engagements the tension rose.

Listening is another important life-skill. Volunteer for the role of Grammarian;  it develops listening and speaking skills. The Grammarian listens closely to all the speeches, synthesizes the results and quickly develops a readout. A minute of advance preparation and jotting down notes is much more effective than giving an ad-hoc readout. When you aren’t the Grammarian listen to other people’s speeches with a new ear.  Other speeches often provide a mirror in that I hear things that I either like or dislike in my own speeches.  I am encouraged by hearing how others rebound from errors. Listening to evaluations provides insights into what others think are important in speeches. Performing quiet shadow evaluations sharpens listening skills and helps internalize improvement ideas.

Grow with Toastmasters. Stretch yourself at every meeting. Share your experience on the Toastmasters District 83 Blog.

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Joyce’s Ice Breaker Speech – Insights of a New Toastmaster

At a recent Carpe Diem Toastmasters club meeting, I had the honor of hearing Joyce Quinn’s “Ice Breaker” speech entitled “My Career”.  It was interesting to learn about her youth and the decisions she made and the experiences she had that led her to a career as a Speech Pathologist.

Joyce is an active member of our club.  She is always willing to perform various and multiple meeting roles.  She is also very agreeable to fill these roles even “on the fly” right at the start of a meeting when last minute help is needed.  I recall that, from her earliest days with the club, she would even volunteer to be a Table Topics speaker.  However, it took Joyce a few months after joining to schedule her first speech, despite encouragement from club members. 

I was curious about her hesitancy and asked for some insight about what led her to Toastmasters and about the preparation efforts for and the presentation of her first speech, in the hope that she could enlighten others who have also newly joined a club and could be feeling some hesitancy about speaking. 

When considering joining Toastmasters, Joyce believed that the noncompetitive and encouraging environment would help her to improve her overall communication and presentation skills and help her to become more outgoing.  She felt that becoming more proficient in these skills would give her more confidence professionally.   When asked about her hesitancy to schedule the “Ice Breaker” speech, Joyce mentioned that she first wanted to become acclimated to the club members and the club environment.  Basically, she wanted to build up her courage.

Joyce outlined for me the preparation process she used for her speech.  She gave lots of thought to what she wanted to say and what people would want to hear.  She read her Competent Communicator manual, looked on the web for sample speeches, and even met with her mentor; who happens to be me.  When her thoughts were sorted about her intent, she wrote out her speech and practiced it a couple of times in the days beforehand.

I asked Joyce about the appropriateness of the evaluation she received.  She felt that her evaluator’s feedback was positive, constructive and that the specific insightful points mentioned were helpful.  She believes that the overall experience, preparation through presentation and evaluation, was positive and is looking forward to her next speech.

Joyce offered these recommendations to others who are thinking of presenting their “Ice Breaker” speech:

    • Think about your club’s warm reception and friendly environment to overcome any apprehension that you might have.
    • Keep your momentum going… as soon as you start making speeches always be planning your next one.
    • Don’t let your fears stop you!!!

What great advice for all of us!

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Why I am Thankful for Toastmasters?

If you love public speaking and have a commitment to become a talented speaker; I can assure you that Toastmasters can be a great investment in yourself.  Well, I would like to elucidate my predilection by three important aspects of this organization: positiveness, leadership and opportunity. 

Toastmasters is an organization where people come to learn and to share inspiring stories.  Members are encouraged to always be positive toward every member of the club.  Ever since I became a member of the Sunset Toastmasters at Pearl River, NY and every time I attend a meeting there; I always feel inspired to continue following a positive path.

Another aspect of Toastmasters is leadership.  In a world where leaders are in charge of the direction of society, it is imperative that young leaders associate with people who can help them becoming great leaders.  Toastmasters is an organization that can help create effective leaders with integrity by encouraging them to be responsible and to be positive.

Last, there are many opportunities to increase our knowledge and skills. We have the advantage to master our craft by giving speeches and listening to free speeches to become talented speakers and effective leaders.

Joel Osteen once said “You need to associate with people who inspire you, people that challenge you to raise higher, people that make you better. Don’t waste your valuable time with people that are not adding to your growth.  Your destiny is too important.”

Toastmasters offers that opportunity to be around people that will support and help you improve in all aspects of your life.  Thus, I am very thankful to be a member of Toastmasters.

Giving and Receiving Feedback


When I joined Toastmasters I was nervous while speaking, uncomfortable receiving evaluations, and had qualms about giving evaluations. This blog might be helpful if you share these feelings. Feedback is important. Leaders receive and give quality feedback; high-performance teams have tight feedback loops. These skills are necessary for personal and team growth.

Receiving Feedback

People don’t join Toastmasters because they are good speakers; they join to become the best speakers they can be. Toastmasters need both encouragement and constructive criticism. Encouragement is important to help continue. Receiving areas for improvement is necessary for growth. Welcome criticism even though it can be threatening.

Some tips for benefiting from feedback:
  • Don’t be defensive. Control your emotions.
  • Give thanks and express gratitude for the effort they put in to construct the feedback. It would have been easy for them to say that everything was fine. Thanking them helps control your emotions.
  • Understand what they said and why they said it.
  • Ask questions with the goal to understand, not to reach agreement.
  • Remember they are giving opinions with the goal to help, so there is no need to explain yourself.
  • Take time to consider what to do with the feedback.
  • Share the feedback with one or two people you trust. Discuss your implementation ideas with them.
  • Try at least one idea. Log the others for future consideration.

Better to Give Than Receive

Toastmasters who have completed six speeches have the opportunity to pay forward the help they received. Feedback is precious, so don’t squander the opportunity. Toastmasters seldom give more than one speech per month.

Make the most of this opportunity:
  • Remember the goal of giving feedback is to help others.
  • Remember how you feel when receiving feedback.
  • Read Toastmaster’s Effective Evaluation Manual.
  • Have your mentor gave tips before the evaluation and suggestions for improvement after.
  • Consider the speaker –
    • A new speaker needs encouragement.
    • Experienced speakers need areas for improvement. They can benefit by getting another perspective.

Outside of Toastmasters

Practice receiving feedback. Make sure you are ready to hear it before you ask. I find that I am more sensitive receiving criticism from family members and close friends than from fellow Toastmasters. Don’t give feedback unless invited or unless you are in a position to do so (parent, teacher or manager).

We are interested in your feedback experiences. Please share them in the comments section.


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DCP: A Roadmap to Success

In the repertoire of Toastmasters abbreviations, DCP short for Distinguished Club Program is a critical piece of the club success plan. Toastmasters defines the DCP as “an annual program, running from July 1 through June 30. The program consists of 10 goals your club should strive to achieve during this time.” The DCP provides a standard of excellence for the club. Just as joining fitness center is not enough to achieve physical goals, joining Toastmasters is not enough to achieve success as a speaker or leader—one has to work the program and the DCP provides the framework to track how well the club is doing in helping its members to succeed. The DCP focuses primarily on education and membership — two fundamentals of a successful club.

At the beginning of the Toastmasters year, the new club officers should meet and determine how they will work to achieve the DCP goals. While certain goals are generally delegated to certain officers, club officers are a team and need to work together to achieve success. The remaining club members also have an obligation to work through manuals and projects, pay dues on time, and help to recruit new members. The goals are identified below along with the Club Officer responsible for that goal.

Goals 1 and 2: Two Competent Communicator (CC) awards and two more CCs. (VP-Education)

Goals 3 and 4: One Advanced Communicator (AC) and one more AC. (Having members who are working on advanced manuals demonstrates that a club is retaining dedicated members.) (VP-Education)

Goals 5 and 6: One Competent Leader (CL), Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB), Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) or Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award, and one more CL, ALB, ALS or DTM. (VP-Education)

Goals 7 and 8: Add four new members to the club and four more new members. (With the ongoing churn of members due to new jobs, new commitments, it is important to grow with new members.) (VP-Membership)

Goal 9: Four club officers participate in both the summer and winter annual club officer training. (Trained club officers is essential to member success. According the Toastmaster policy, credit is not given for non-officers attending in place of elected officers, and credit is given only for one person per office.) (All officers)

Goal 10: Timely submission of an officer list and membership dues. (Secretary/Treasurer)

When a club participates in the Distinguished Club Program and achieves Distinguished recognition, everyone benefits from both new skills and new ideas, not to mention new friends.

On July 1, Toastmasters International calculates the number of goals clubs achieved in the previous year and recognizes them as a Distinguished Club, Select Distinguished Club, or President’s Distinguished Club as follows:

  • Achieve five of 10 goals to be a Distinguished Club
  • Achieve seven of 10 goals to be a Select Distinguished Club
  • Achieve nine of 10 goals to be a President’s Distinguished Club

District 83 is on its way to success in 2017-2018. Congrats to Bayer, Hunterdon Speak Easy, State Street, Opportunity Seeking, Freehold Phrasers, Impact 21, AT&T Middletown, Westfield, Fairleigh Early Birds for completing 5 DCP goals thus far.

There is still plenty of time before June 30, 2018 for members to complete “one level up” of an education-leadership designation, to have open houses, membership campaigns and for officers to attend training.

Let’s do all we can to make our clubs distinguished.

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Club Spotlight: Washington Park Toastmasters


“Our club is unique because our people are unique. Let me explain this in more detail. Most often you find clubs where the agenda is planned, people are in place, but at times things happen where there has to be some adjustments. Our members take the lead and aren’t afraid to adjust at the very last minute. We are strong, vibrant and welcoming to all who visit. We are a people that believe in morals, values and bringing out the very best of others. Creating that light airy, fun, inviting culture is what we strive to enhance even the club more. This wouldn’t happen unless we have those unique people who are crucial to the weaving of this club. We are better together!” – My’chal Wilkins

“My experience my about the club is interesting and fascinating because of the following:

  1. I am always welcomed regardless of how much time I take off from club activities.  Sometimes, I receive emails from club members inquiring if I am doing fine.
  2. My personal coach is always available to guide me with Toastmaster topics and materials. 
  3. I am inspired by some individuals who have perfected their communication skills but still keep coming to the club.
  4. I am also amazed by the generosity of Audible to allow us to share the food intended for their staff.” – Seku Sannor

Continue reading “Club Spotlight: Washington Park Toastmasters”

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