Lessons Learned from Chasing the Championship

In August 2018, I participated in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking semi-finals in Chicago, IL.  Starting with over 35,000 contestants entering local contests, this competition has been called the “American Idol” of public speaking – the largest of its kind in the world. I placed 2nd in my round, which ranked me among the top 20 speakers in Toastmasters globally.  My speech, “Like A Princess,” was a humorous and emotional story about my daughter Sydney’s 5th birthday party and the lessons I learned about creating special moments for the people I love.  The story and the underlying message resonated with the audience and the judges.  Since the contest, I reflected on my experiences to provide the following considerations if you plan to chase the championship:

Clear Messages, Well Delivered – The top speakers connected with the audience with crystal clear messages that were expertly delivered. The best contest speeches were finely crafted messages, with purposeful words, clear take-always, and a strong call to action. Top speakers bring audiences into their stories, carry them through a range of emotions, and connect with them on a personal level. Delivery is equally as important since the goal is to establish your credibility, and communicate a powerful message.  A clear message with a strong delivery is an unbeatable combination.

Purposeful Practice & Preparation – We become experts by purposefully preparing and practicing our craft.  Top contestants demonstrated a higher level of preparedness.  In 2018, I practiced with dozens of Toastmasters clubs, with audiences of various sizes, backgrounds, and levels expertise to get critical feedback on where to adjust my speech and delivery. Every time you get on stage should be viewed as an opportunity to practice and prepare for the next speech.

Collaboration Is Critical – Your ability to collaborate is critical to your trajectory as a speaker. It allows you to elevate your skills in a shorter period of time, while getting others invested in your success. I am grateful for my Toastmaster colleagues. Their contribution to my public speaking journey has been priceless.  Collaboration allows speakers to better connect with their audiences and enables us to achieve outstanding results.

Even if you never plan to chase the championship, and you just want to excel at public speaking, it is critical to deliver clear messages, practice purposefully, and collaborate with colleagues. Consider attending a local Toastmaster meeting to begin your journey.

About the Author:

Mario Lewis, DTM, is an award-winning, energetic speaker, and presentation coach, who provides audiences and individuals with motivational messages and strategies to become powerful and dynamic communicators. He delivers high-powered talks at leadership conferences, and corporate events that teach people how to CONNECT with their audiences to make their message unforgettable.  As a finalist in the Toastmasters’ 2012 World Championship of Public Speaking (and a semi-finalist in 2017 and 2018), the largest public speaking contest in the world, Mario has demonstrated the unique ability to engage audiences of all sizes and backgrounds.

Mario Lewis, DTM

Email:  Mario@MarioLewisConnects.com

Website: https://mariolewisconnects.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mario-lewis-5963a51a7/

Communication and Leadership in Times of Uncertainty

The current pandemic has created uncertainty and ambiguity across the globe. For leaders, it is time to rethink how we lead and influence others to stay positive and focused.  How can leaders reduce stress and anxiety, while at the same time provide a layer of support, courage, and unity?

Strong leadership, using integrative and collaborative communication is essential.  Integrative and collaborative leadership means that everyone has a place at the table, and that the input of every member of the team is respected.  This method creates synergy, which translates into profits for stakeholders.  It ensures that both teams and stakeholders are engaged, encouraged, and focused.

A leader’s communication throughout and after COVID-19 will impact the ability of the company, its staff and community leaders to perform at their highest levels.

Below are few best practices that can help leaders navigate your teams in these uncertain times:

  1. Be Honest and Consistent:

When a team member or stakeholder asks you a question, give them an honest answer. Don’t defocus or provide a vague response. Honesty creates trust and an environment for the team to feel safe.  In addition, be consistent in all your actions and communication dialogue:  consistency depicts predictability and reputation.

  1. Appreciate and acknowledge the team:

Take the time to recognize the team and acknowledge them for their efforts. Appreciate group, as well as individual efforts; most importantly, personalize your message to make each member feel valued. Periodically recognizing small acts and behaviors creates an environment of appreciation and high-performance culture

  1. Be flexible and emphatic:

In these times of crisis, your team members may lack motivation due to stress.  Leaders must communicate with empathy as well as a supportive mindset to jointly face the current situation. Your actions must exude core values and support.

  1. Create a supportive environment to encourage team health and wellness:

Emotional support involves letting your team know that they are being cared for and that they should feel comfortable discussing work and nonwork-related issues. A good leader communicates and provides a supportive environment to encourage good health and employee wellness and recognizes that some members may have families and friends who may require additional attention and care. Healthy employees will always remain happy and loyal to their leader and to their organization.


A leader’s influence can change the dynamic of a team.

Leaders can influence how people interpret and react to situations. If leaders fail to communicate, it creates an environment of mistrust, ambiguity and may lead to spread of rumors that can damage the reputation of the company and the leader.

In times of uncertainty, strong leadership through integrative and collaborative communication helps to minimize distractions, creates bonding with the staff and members, and most importantly, keeps everyone focused in a safe environment.  Your team will know that you genuinely care, and communication helps build a strong connection with them on multiple levels.


Times of uncertainty will always reveal your leadership maturity. Keeping your team engaged through constant, clear communication often conveys to them that a consistent and confident Leader is there to help them navigate through rough waters.


 About the Author:

Margarita Estrada, DTM, is an author and former panic attack sufferer turned energetic, dynamic speaker who knows how to inspire an audience and never let them go.  Known as The Well-Connected Writer©, she is a skilled storyteller and wordsmith who authored and published the bi-lingual memoir, Vignettes of a Family Journey, to create awareness about Alzheimer’s disease, and its effects on the family.  Margarita is the chair of OMNI-PRO Speakers Bureau, sponsored by District 83 Toastmasters, and is a member of Impact 21 Toastmasters in Rahway, NJ and Dining to Speak Toastmasters, in Fairfield, NJ.

6 Powerful Tips to Elevate and Amplify Your Virtual Presence in Online Meetings

We are all in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 situation translates to tremendous change as the situation and markets rapidly evolve. To successfully lead and manage teams in uncertain times, every leader must effectively communicate and be fully engaged with employees, colleagues, clients, family, and friends.

As people across the globe adjust to working remotely, video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and more are being leveraged for business meetings and virtual team collaboration. However, virtual meetings also need the speaker or host to adjust their style and online presence to be effective, as well as ensure the audience is engaged throughout the entire conversation and meeting agenda. It is very easy for leaders to assume that in-person presence of a conference room is the same as their virtual presence in facilitating a remote/virtual meeting. It is important to remember that attendees often multi-task in virtual meetings and a few dominate the discussion or remain disengaged.

What is a Virtual Presence?

A presence is the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing. In the context of an online meeting, virtual presence is the skill required to have engaging and impactful conversations as well as effectively deliver a positive and impactful digital experience to your audience. Elevating both your persona and presence in a Zoom, Teams, or other virtual meeting, requires not only engaging the audience in video conference-style modality but also ensuring your message is delivered as intended.

Here are 6 powerful tips for every leader to help exude their virtual presence as well as engage their audience:

Prepare, Engage, and Conclude


  1. Technology Readiness:

Test the online meeting technology in advance. Always recommend the participants to test the virtual meeting technology prior to the meeting. Ensure the meeting link, dial-in instructions, and discussion topics are sent well ahead of the meeting. People need the ability to participate via audio but make it clear if video conference is the preferred norm. Pre-arrange how participants will check in on changing meeting arrangements or instructions. This will help the speaker or host to avoid delays and technical distractions in order to ensure a smooth start.

  1. Agenda and Timeliness:

As a host or the main facilitator, start the meeting a few minutes early. Set clear objectives and send out a detailed agenda including any background documents or presentation(s) to review. A structured agenda always helps to keep things on track and makes sure everyone knows the meeting schedule and topics. Many of the online meeting platforms have capabilities to send out reminders prior to the scheduled meeting.


  1. Lights, camera, action!

The first step is to establish trust within the virtual participants. When using video capabilities, look and focus into your camera, be present and mindful. Ensure you have good lightning. Use a good virtual background to ensure it is palatable and not distracting.

To make everyone feel connected, use eye contact with the audience by focusing on your camera or webcam. Video conferences are best effective when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language. Practice looking into your camera during the meeting when you speak to keep the audience engaged.

  1. Pauses and Inflection:

Good virtual presence goes beyond enabling webcams and screen sharing. A strong voice, especially in virtual meetings, convey confidence, credibility and makes a strong connection with your audience.

Pausing at intervals or during transitions gives participants a few moments to reflect or note down key discussion points. Vocal variety, or inflection, is a way to communicate by changing the sound of your voice using different speeds and tones. Good vocal variety helps keep the audience engaged and clues them in on your meaning, feelings or emphasis.

  1. Audience Involvement and Feedback:

Audience participation is critical for the success of any meeting, whether physical or digital. As facilitators, we need to monitor the flow of the conversation and keep things moving. Check on the participation: who has shown up and for how long?

The speaker or host can periodically call on participants to comment, speak, or answer a question. The facilitator can also use the meeting platform poll feature or “raise-a-hand” feature to capture the voice of the audience and solicit their feedback. The chat window is also an effective tool to share audience feedback across the group or to the speaker.


  1. Summarize and Close:

Always reserve some time at the end of the meeting for Q&A. Thank the participants for their time and feedback and encourage them to use the chat and poll in future meetings. It’s a good practice for the speaker to close the meeting with a brief summary and participants to-dos or action items.

Virtual meetings have now become are an integral part of our daily lives. These powerful tips and best practices will help any speaker or meeting host to elevate and amplify your virtual presence. In addition, these skills are very relevant to online meetings, virtual trainings, or webinars – for both hosts and participants. it will help in your personal and professional life to be well prepared when the time comes to take on the opportunities that arise in your social and professional networking efforts and/or leadership position.

About the Author:Somesh has over 25+ years of experience in Senior Management roles within the Financial and Technology Industry. Somesh has been associated with Toastmasters from the past 7 years and currently serves as Area Director for District 83, Area 41. He also is part of District 83, Speakers Bureau and has conducted several Youth Leadership workshops across US, Europe and India.

Somesh Chablani, DTM                                                                Cell: 347-276-2026          Email: toastmaster.somesh@gmail.com

Two Key Skills to Help You Reach Your Goals

The new year brings the intention of setting resolutions that we want to accomplish but statistics show that just 30 days into the new year over 75% of people give up on them. This year YOU can be a part of the 8% that actually stay committed and achieve their resolutions. First, you need to get clear on what you want to accomplish in the new year. Are you looking to excel in your career? Is there someone you have had your eye on but aren’t sure how to strike up a conversation? Would you like to pick up an engaging hobby where you can meet like-minded individuals?

There are so many areas of your life that you can set goals to improve but you may not realize that your communication and leadership skills serve as the foundation for goal achievement. How you communicate what you are trying to accomplish, and the process in which you approach reaching your goals is crucial to your success.

There are many great resources to help improve communication and leadership, one of the most effective resources being Toastmasters International. This non-profit organization uses a network of clubs across the entire world to promote communication, public speaking, and leadership.

This year put your excuses aside and make the commitment to attend a Toastmasters meeting. District 83 has over 170 clubs with meetings taking place in Northern New Jersey, Staten Island, and Rockland Co., NY. There are 26 out of 30 days in January 2020 to attend a meeting in these areas.

For more information on where to attend a meeting check out the calendar below or find a meeting near you at http://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club

Blog contributed by Jenna Barone, EC2
District 83 Public Relations Manager
Jenna has been a Toastmasters since March 2018 and is working on her Effective Coaching path in the Pathways program. She is a member of Clifton Toastmasters where she serves as club Secretary.

Setting Your Intention for the New Toastmasters Year

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

What does it mean to have vision? I had to stop and ask myself this back in May of 2019 when I found myself coming to the end of a particularly hectic season in my life. I was a newlywed working a full time, demanding job, teaching college students part-time as my side gig, volunteering with a local TEDx event, two Toastmasters clubs (I was an officer of one of them), and so on. At the time, vision was just trying to see the metaphorical finish line at the end of every day. I knew something had to change.

With the promise of life slowing down a bit, I returned to the long-cherished exercise of the vision board to re-evaluate my priorities. On Monday, June 17th, I summoned people across all walks of my life-church, Toastmasters, and family-to set two hours aside to not only help me fulfill a project for my Level 4 in Pathways but to also ponder the question of vision with me. A vision board is a collage of images meant to inspire or motivate you. For me, it challenged me to sit down and really ask myself “what do you want?” As a chronic over-committer, the issue wasn’t about discovering my passion. It was how I can work toward my goals within those passions while still maintaining a healthy balance in all areas of life. Toastmasters are notorious for over-committing.

The beauty of a new Toastmasters year is that it is a second chance to reset the clock (the first being actual New Year’s Day on January 1st). It gives us the chance to evaluate our goals in being part of this organization.

Set your Toastmasters intention for 2019-2020. 

What do you want to accomplish? Why? Everybody’s objective in joining Toastmasters is a little different. What can you do to work toward that objective? We often get lost in why we do things but instead give of our time and energy mindlessly. Before we know it, we look back on the year wondering where the time has gone and why we aren’t any closer to our goals. Articulating our vision can lead to ultimate fulfillment while avoiding burnout.

My intention is to build membership and enrichment of the Toastmasters experience within the club I am now president of-Shore Speakers. This vision has been a long time coming with the deep love I have for this club. I want to also knock out my last award in the traditional program-my ACB-and complete my HPL-Pathways style. My vision may also include only being part of one club instead of two to avoid the overload I am so prone to mentioned above. Sometimes being intentional about something means you may have less exposure to it.

I challenge you to write out the things you would like to accomplish this year with the investment you are making in yourself as a member of Toastmasters. If you are a visual person, settle in with a stack of magazines, some poster board, scissors, and glue and have at it! (not sure where to start? Here is an article to help you out). A vision board is something I see every day to remind me to set my intention every day and for the Toastmasters year ahead.

Additional Opportunities Beyond Your Club

Toastmasters often look for additional speaking and leadership opportunities outside of their club in order to complete an educational award in either the traditional or the Pathways program.

A few of our District leaders shared their ideas and inspiration.

Janette Alexander, DTM advised, “We’re starting an advanced club in Randolph, NJ. We need speakers. We meet the first and third Tuesday of the month from 6:30- 8pm. Because we are not chartered yet, you would give the credit for speeches completed to your home club. If you are looking for places, we have a place for you.”

Michelle Tropper, DTM shared, “Consider training events for the educational modules in the Traditional program. They are required. That’s a great venue for that.”

She continued, “Come to the Hail and Farewell event on July 27 at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Bridgewater, NJ. It takes place from 11 am-3pm. Consider presenting a toast or a roast and get speech credit.

This is a great opportunity that many people don’t even think about.”

Consider the Special Occasion Speeches manual in the traditional education program or one of the speeches in the Pathways Level 3 project, “Deliver Social Speeches.” Always think, “Is this an event where I can present? You’re going there anyway. Why not make it worth your while? Make yourself part of the program.”

Michelle also recommends, for Area and Division contests, call around to clubs near you or have the leaders send you an email. Speakers and role holders are always needed.

Always be ready, have a speech in your pocket and have your evaluation forms from your traditional manual or Pathways resources with you. Sketch out a game plan.

Other opportunities include speaking if you are conducting a presentation for work or a community organization. Some of these could include Girl Scouts, the Rotary, the Junior League. Have another Toastmaster attend, provide an evaluation for you and you can get speech credit.

Work seminars could also be an opportunity, so look at the criteria for speeches for discussion leader and seminars projects. Again, get an evaluation from a Toastmaster in attendance.

Once you make Toastmasters part of what you do, you are always thinking of leveraging opportunities.

Create a website or a blog post.

Some people go to networking events all the time. You’re going anyway. Family events. You’re engaging in every day. It’s a matter of being mindful of what you’re doing day to day. Michelle continues, “The longer you are a Toastmaster, the less you think about it. Develop the skills for communication and conversation. That’s what I think is exciting about Pathways.”

Subhash Harmalker, DTM, has extensive experience helping at Area and Division contests. “It is a great opportunity for networking. You’re also providing service, which is very satisfying. Providing goodwill can help you boost confidence and morale. When you venture outside your comfort zone, you learn. Compete in a contest. Learn from observing others.”

Whether you are beginning your Toastmasters journey in Pathways or are finishing up a DTM in the traditional program, these leaders have suggested excellent examples for us to explore Toastmasters opportunities outside of our club.

Opportunities Beyond Your Club

Whether you are pursuing a traditional or a Pathways DTM award, there are several opportunities for learning about speaking and leadership beyond your club environment. The fun and excitement is extended beyond your manuals and Pathways resources.

Visit other clubs

Talk to members of the other club and learn new ways of conducting a meeting. Explore a community club if you are a member of a corporate club. Check out an advanced club if you are interested in taking your skills to the next level and seek comprehensive feedback.

District-sponsored education and training sessions

Attend club officer training to not only learn about your role, but also to meet your counterparts in other clubs. Sometimes, general education sessions are presented in addition to the officer breakout sessions.

Pathways training sessions are another great opportunity to get your questions answered and share best practices as we navigate this exciting educational experience and learn together. These could take place as standalone sessions or after a District gathering.

Area and Division contests

At the Evaluation contests, the Contest Chairs seek out model (also known as test) speakers from other locations so the contestants experience new ideas from someone who might be unfamiliar to them.

As a model speaker, you can present your speech to an audience in another area or division and ask an audience member for a written evaluation as long as the duties as a contest official do not pose a conflict of interest. Bring your manual or Pathways resource with you. Take notes from the speech evaluators and consider implementing their suggestions in your future speeches.

District Annual Conferences

Join fellow Toastmasters at the District Annual Conference, May 3-5, 2019 at the APA Hotel in Woodbridge, NJ. Register for the conference here. Learn new ideas at educational workshops. Network with other Toastmasters. Become inspired and entertained at the International speech and Humorous speech contests. Hone your speech evaluation and Table Topics skills observing the best in the District compete.

Conference logo design by Su Brooks.

Blog contributed by Su Brooks, DTM 2                                                              District 83 Training Coordinator and Social Media Strategist

Su has been a Toastmaster since July 2000 and has earned two DTM awards in the Traditional program. In Pathways, she is working on three paths: Leadership Development, Presentation Mastery, and Engaging Humor. In addition, she recently began the Pathways Mentoring Program.

For 2018-2019, she serves as the Sergeant at Arms for Talk of Monmouth, an advanced club in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and as the District Training Coordinator and a Social Media Strategist.

She is a member of No Limits Toastmasters in Staten Island, New York, where she serves as the audio technician on the production crew for Toastmasters in the Community, a cable TV show.

For 2019-2020, Su will take on the role of Destination DTM Chair for District 83.

Planning and scheduling your speeches and leadership roles

Whether pursuing a traditional or a Pathways DTM, you will need to complete several speeches and perform many leadership roles in order to attain your goal. You have a variety of opportunities available.

I discussed this topic with Bill Atkins, DTM, a member of Red Bank Toastmasters, Talk of Monmouth (an advanced club) and the soon-to-be-chartered Holmdel Toastmasters club. Here are some of the ideas we talked about when I mentored Bill while he was completing his DTM.

Photo credit: Anne Gilson, DTM, PDG, RA

Your club(s)

Sign up on your own on the club’s website (if your club uses this method) but be respectful that other members want speaking spots, too. Let your VPE and mentor know about your goal.

Other clubs

Visit other clubs that may have speaking spots and support roles available if they have fewer members in their club and struggle to fill roles.

Join another club

Consider joining an additional club if your schedule and budget will allow it. For example, if you are a member of a corporate club, consider a community club, an advanced club or a specialty club.

The importance of planning

Bill shared some advice that helped him complete his DTM sooner than he thought possible. He stated, “One of the most important things I learned from Su is to have a Toastmasters calendar to plan the requirements and speaking opportunities. Planning, then writing down what and where I would be completing projects and speeches, helped me advance to the next level more quickly.”

Photo provided by Bill Atkins, DTM

Outside of Toastmasters

With permission of your club VPE, you can present speeches at work or in the community. Receive speech credit when you meet the project requirements and have a Toastmaster present as your speech evaluator. Consult your traditional manuals or Pathways project resources for complete details.

Bill continued, “Because of my Toastmasters experience, I have been able to speak at many other opportunities outside of Toastmasters. These include speaking to an audience of over 400 people for two hours at a conference in Washington, DC, many local business organizations, as well as conducting training at businesses such as car dealerships, real estate firms and corporations.”

“I will be completing my first full path, Presentation Mastery, while also working on the Effective Coaching path. I am using the same calendar planning strategy I learned from Su, my DTM mentor,” Bill concluded.


Blog contributed by Su Brooks, DTM 2                                                              District 83 Training Coordinator and Social Media Strategist

Su has been a Toastmaster since July 2000 and has earned two DTM awards in the Traditional program. In Pathways, she is working on three paths: Leadership Development, Presentation Mastery, and Engaging Humor. In addition, she recently began the Pathways Mentoring Program.

For 2018-2019, she serves as the Sergeant at Arms for Talk of Monmouth, an advanced club in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and as the District Training Coordinator and a Social Media Strategist.

She is a member of No Limits Toastmasters in Staten Island, New York, where she serves as the audio technician on the production crew for Toastmasters in the Community, a cable TV show.

For 2019-2020, Su will take on the role of Destination DTM Chair for District 83.


One of the greatest experiences in Toastmasters is reciprocating by helping fellow Toastmasters achieve their goals while you achieve yours. This creates an ever-expanding circle of sharing compared to a one-time experience between two or more people.

Here are ten Toastmasters tips to help you reach milestones whether you plan to achieve a traditional or a Pathways DTM:

  1. Organize a club officer training session in your division with permission from district leaders
  2. Serve as a trainer at club officer training
  3. Assist at club, area, division and district contests if you are not a contestant
  4. Provide advice in your area of expertise for a club member’s speech; he/she helps in a similar way for you
  5. If practical, carpool with fellow club members to contests, meetings, district special events or training sessions
  6. Serve on a guidance committee for a Toastmaster working on a traditional or Pathways High Performance Leadership (HPL) project
  7. If you are a speaker, offer to evaluate another speaker during a club speakout
  8. Help a fellow club member become confident beginning Pathways when you are both ready
  9. Inspire a fellow Toastmaster to take on a club or district officer role for 2019-2020 and share what you learned during your term
  10. Notify club members seeking speaking slots when you learn about opportunities in other clubs

Often, club members are eager to help; Go ahead and ask.

Blog contributed by Su Brooks, DTM 2                                                              District 83 Training Coordinator and Social Media Strategist

Su has been a Toastmaster since July 2000 and has earned two DTM awards in the Traditional program. In Pathways, she is working on three paths: Leadership Development, Presentation Mastery, and Engaging Humor. In addition, she recently began the Pathways Mentoring Program.

For 2018-2019, she serves as the Sergeant at Arms for Talk of Monmouth, an advanced club in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and as the District Training Coordinator and a Social Media Strategist.

She is a member of No Limits Toastmasters in Staten Island, New York, where she serves as the audio technician on the production crew for Toastmasters in the Community, a cable TV show.

For 2019-2020, Su will take on the role of Destination DTM Chair for District 83.

New Year, New Goals

With a new year upon us, it is easy to get swept up in lofty resolutions we make year after year. We get overwhelmed when we have so many goals in front of us, yet hopeful with the prospect of a clean slate when the clock strikes midnight.. With those goals, we also have to have a plan in place in order to see forward movement on those goals. Imagine deciding that you want to go on a trip with your family, yet you do nothing in advance to prepare for the trip. On the first day of travel, you begin driving aimlessly, unsure of your destination or where you will end up. This will likely result in a lot of wasted time and money as well as endless amounts of frustration because no preparations were made in advance.

Before we know it, we will be halfway through 2019, wondering where the time has gone. In order to avoid looking back on the year is disbelief and disappointment, much like an unplanned vacation, begin to set your expectations now and make a plan in order to reach your goals. You can do that by:

Visualizing what you want. Ashley Rifkin of Talk of Monmouth advanced club finished her HPL project back in April. She taught a mindfulness workshop, asking attendees what they desired in life. The usual answers came up-a house, a car, or a job promotion. In turn, Ashley asked why that is what they wanted. The why is typically what helps us be able to see what we want more clearly. Most Toastmasters have the end goal of earning a DTM, but why do you want that? For me, I want to become better about displaying quality leadership and communication as well as time management, which means achieving a difficult goal in a short period. Right now, that goal is not a DTM, but to earn the triple crown working in both Pathways and traditional learning programs. I visualized delivering speeches that would allow me to present on the things I’m passionate about and connect with my audience. That meant completing the projects in my advanced manuals as well as the ones in my chosen path. The Triple Crown-achieving three educational awards in one Toastmasters year-is an excellent way to execute the speeches I want to focus on while still giving myself a concrete deadline to meet for better time management. Your goals won’t always look the same as your neighbor’s.

Breaking down your goals in small increments. Once I knew what I wanted, I made a detailed plan. I gave myself a timeline so I could be mindful of how frequently I should be speaking and when I should begin to plan for my larger leadership projects. For example, I am a member of two clubs and in 2019, I am aiming to deliver one speech per month. In addition, I have a timeline detailing when I plan to complete each level or educational achievement. This is especially important if your goal is particularly time sensitive. One resource that helped me plan was District 17’s website with all of the paths and projects listed, courtesy of Bill Atkins of Talk of Monmouth: https://toastmastersd17.org/resources/pathways/paths-projects/. While I don’t expect to earn my DTM until 2022, just knowing what my goal is for this year, this quarter, or even this month, makes it all the more realistic and exciting to think about. This leads me to my last point.

Be realistic. One speech per month is realistic for me with my lifestyle, the number of clubs I am part of, and factoring in all of my other commitments. For you, you may want to aim for one speech every two to three months. As long as you have a plan in place and can see the finish line (even if it is 5-6 years from now!), you know what you have to do to move one step closer with every role you sign up for. The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they are often declared without any preparation or consideration of what is doable given the season in your life. If you just had a child, are going through a divorce, or have recently taken on more responsibilities at work, be kind to yourself and be realistic about what you can do. The best part of your 2019 plan is that it can be adjusted at any time as needed.

As you begin to think about your goals and plans for 2019, jot them down and write out some bullet points on how you will execute them. In the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

Happy New Year, District 83!