A Toastmaster’s Learning Experience from teaching Youth Leadership

Youth leadership Program (YLP)  helps students to learn public speaking and develop leadership skills. Also, it teaches them the ability to analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

We usually draw leadership lessons from other leaders at work or teachers, parents, community, and many others. Observing the young participants during the YLP sessions helped me remind myself of the importance of leadership skills and the need to continually apply them to inspire, educate, and transform others.

#1: Importance of Smiling and Having fun

Children are so care-free and have fun. They keep smiling through the entire session 😊.
Moreover, all of them want to be the “Joke master” as they have tons of jokes to share. The laughter and smiles set the mood as well as creates a very positive and supportive environment.

 #2: Be Curious and Ask questions

Children do not have preconceived notions or judgments. They are full of curiosity and ask questions. They want to understand the “Why” and pose logical questions. Natural curiosity leading to questions is a crucial leadership skill for success.

#3: Resilience makes you strong 

I have seen many currents, and past students overcome so much adversity, be it in a challenging home situation or coping up with studies. However, they still rise. Children with greater resilience are better able to manage stress. They always have a positive attitude and maintain a hopeful outlook.

#4: Be Creative and Think outside the box

Children think so creatively and come up with a solution, which is simply amazing. For example, the table topics suggested by them were so unique, and in one of our YLP sessions, the students came up with a fiction story at the end of the impromptu speaking section of the meeting. I felt so privileged to learn and grow from their ideas.

Teaching children is such a fulfilling and rewarding experience. Besides, providing leadership training prepares youth with positive life skills that they will carry into adulthood.

Nelson Mandela said it very well  “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.”

About the Author:

Somesh Chablani is a member of the OMNI-PRO Speakers Bureau, sponsored by District 83 Toastmasters. He loves to mentor students and members on public speaking. Somesh works for one of the leading Fortune 500 Tech company and leads a global team. Outside of work, Somesh likes to spend time with his family, practices laughter yoga and conducts Youth Leadership Programs.

Somesh Chablani, DTM
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/someshchablani

Meet the Winner of the District 83 Banner Design Contest, Luis Leiva

Luis Leiva, District 83’s 2019 banner design                                             winner

Prior to the 2019 Toastmasters International Convention, the members of District 83 got to work designing a banner that would be entered in a contest. The grand prize? Your work featured in the Parade of Distinguished Districts at the 2019 International Convention, $50 in TI bucks, and recognition across District 83. You can’t forget bragging rights.

If you’re new to Toastmasters or didn’t catch the contest this time around, you can read more about it in our previous blog post. Taking home a win is Speakability Club member, Luis Leiva. District 83 Public Relations Manager, Jenna Barone, recently interviewed Luis so we can learn more about the creative mind behind the winning banner design. 

Luis Leiva’s winning banner design.

JB: What club are you in and for how long? 

LL: I belong to the Speakability Club out of Scotch Plains. I first attended Toastmasters Dec 19th 2018 

JB: Why did you join toastmasters? 

LL: I joined Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills. I aspire to be a keynote speaker and travel the world helping others and changing lives. I know if I want to get there I have to surround myself with people who are like minded and take speaking / presenting seriously. I researched on Youtube, “How to become a better speaker” and Toastmasters kept coming up, I then looked for a local chapter and found Speakability. I am grateful that there is an organization that helps people come together to improve not only speaking skills but communication in general. 

JB: What inspired your design? 

LL: To be honest with you, when I opened the email I saw that the designs were due the next day, I had 30 mins to kill before my next appointment so I decided to through my design in. My design came as a result of having to always create artwork for my company “Culture Estate”. As an entrepreneur you have to wear many hats and graphic designer has to be one of them if you want your vision to become a reality. I like simple and clean so the design had to reflect that. 

JB: Where do you see yourself 5 years from now, and how will Toastmasters play a role toward that end? 

LL: Like I mentioned, one of my goals is to take my public speaking to the highest level. I will be a sought after keynote speaker who travels to all parts of the world to help people get out of mediocrity and start living the life they want. I was recently asked why I go to Toastmasters if I am already a good speaker. My response is that I will always be a member because there are always people you can learn from and If you think you’re too good to learn then that’s when you stop growing. 

JB: What do you value most? 

LL: I value the organization and structure that Toastmaster offers. I would compare it to trying to learn music on your own or actually learning from a composer the notes, tempo and rhythm. It is a fast track to learning how to give an effective speech, lead, motivate, and communicate with others. I deeply value the science, and nuances behind speaking which help create a talk that can move the audience. 

District 83 2019 Banner Design Contest

As the 2018-2019 Toastmasters year comes to a close, District 83 is excited to celebrate another year of being an international Distinguished District. With the International Convention next month in Denver, it is important to think of ways to stand out while we network with Toastmasters from around the world and get the 2019-2020 year off to a strong start. What better way to showcase your creativity (and earn some incredible prizes) than to enter the international banner design contest? Here are the details:

  • The contest is open to members in good standing, though certain district leaders are not eligible to enter (District Director, Program Quality Director, Club Growth Director, and Public Relations Manager). The winning design will be presented on a 4 ft by 8 ft banner that will be carried on stage by the District 83 team at the international convention on August 22nd during the Parade of Distinguished Districts.
  • The design MUST include the Toastmasters logo as well as the words “District 83 Toastmasters-Distinguished District” with the 2018-2019 District 83 theme in mind: ProACTIVE EmPOWERment. Not a graphic artist? Team up with a talented friend and split the award and recognition that comes with it.

Besides the international recognition your design will give you, you will be featured in the District 83 newsletter and blog for your incredible work. Have you had your eye on an item in the Toastmasters International shop like that portable banner stand or Toastmasters branded tablecloth for a polished and professional look for all of your club’s future meetings? The winning design will be awarded a $50 gift certificate to go toward any item(s) of your choice in the shop.

With the convention fast approaching, we encourage you to use the designs from past years, displayed below, to help you get started. You’ll want to have your design submitted to Jenna Barone, Public Relations Manager (jennabarone92@gmail.com) and Margarita Estrada, Immediate Past Public Relations Manager (Impact21estrada@gmail.com) before or by Sunday, July 21, 2019 to enter the contest.

We look forward to seeing some creative designs and cannot wait to proudly showcase District 83 in style at the international convention.

Introducing Pres Vasiliev – Keynote Speaker for D83 Fall Celebration: Recognizing Success!

Pres (Presiyan) Vasiliev, 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking (WCPS),  Keynote Speaker for the District 83 Fall Celebration:  Recognizing Success! (for individual members and clubs) on Saturday, November 17th, at the APA Woodbridge Hotel, 120 South Wood Avenue, in Iselin, NJ.  (Go to tm83.org to register!)

On Saturday, October 20th, 2018, Margarita Estrada, District 83 Public Relations Manager, had a conversation with Pres Vasiliev, where he shared his feelings about winning the WCPS in 2013 for his speech, Changed By a Tire, as well as his enthusiasm about his visit to District 83.   

What are your thoughts about coming to the District 83 Fall Awards and Recognition Celebration?

I look forward to meeting the members of District 83!  I can’t wait to help them become better storytellers and give them the tools they need to share their message more effectively and convey their vision more memorably. 

What does Proactive Empowerment mean to you in terms of Leadership?

I see it as a great strategy for building a better club and a better organization.  Why?  Because when you proactively help your team members – with your time, with your advice, with your encouragement – you trigger in them the desire to return the favor.  The more you help your team members, the more they will help you.  Such a team effort can achieve astonishing results.

What can we expect in your keynote address?

You will witness the defeats and triumphs, the decisions and discoveries, the mentors and helpers that shaped my journey to World Champion of Public Speaking.  You will also pick up powerful public speaking tools, tactics and techniques that you can apply right away to improve your communication and leadership skills. 

Tell us about your experience winning the World Championship of Public Speaking.  What have you learned?  What surprised you?

The biggest lesson for me was this: Believe in yourself, your story, and your message.  During my journey, there were moments of self-doubt – moments when I wondered, “Will the audience connect with me and my message?”  But the hard work and the help of fellow Toastmasters gave me the confidence I needed to succeed.  My preparation included speaking in more than 50 clubs.  What surprised me was that I learned something new from each club.  You never know where a good idea will come from, and as long as you stay open to feedback and help from others, you will gain tremendous insight.

How has Toastmasters impacted your life?

Toastmasters changed my life.  It built my confidence, sharpened my communication skills, and helped me launch my dream career as a professional speaker and executive speech coach.  Today I do what I love – speaking, teaching, and coaching give great meaning to my life.

Storytelling seems to be the ‘buzz’ word in the media.  What role does storytelling play in your presentations and why is it so important?

Stories help my audience experience my message.  If you give your audience a laundry list of lessons, chances are they won’t remember more than one or two.  But if you weave these lessons into a carefully crafted story, then your lessons will be much more memorable.  Moreover, when you use personal stories to get your message across, your audience will not only learn from you but also connect with you.

What advice do you have for fellow Toastmasters?

Always reach out to others for help and advice.  Seek feedback, take notes, and never stop asking questions.  With the help of others, you can achieve your goals and dreams.  During my journey, I found great mentors and coaches who helped me achieve my goal.  And if I can do it, so can you. 

If you were to define your life in one word, what would it be?

Persistence.  When I look back at my life, I see the willingness to keep going no matter what comes my way.  For me, the key to success is setting high goals and then persistently working towards their achievement. 

This event will truly be a celebration!  We will recognize Toastmasters 25+ years as Club Members!  These are Toastmasters who have been active in our organization for 25+ years.  In addition, we will recognize Pathways Guides and Ambassadors, as well as clubs who have attained the following as of September 30th.

  • Distinguished as of September 30th
  • Smedley Awards 
  • 20 Member Club & Club Strength
  • Friendly Neighbor
  • Traveling Gavel
  • Club Anniversaries (5-yr intervals)
  • New Clubs
  • Area & Div Directors Submission of Success Plan
  • Attendance at Summer TLI

The District 83 Toastmasters Fall Celebration:  Recognizing Success! will be held on Saturday, November 17th, at the APA Woodbridge Hotel, 120 South Wood Avenue, in Iselin, NJ.  Bring your friends!  Bring your family!  Bring your work colleagues!  You don’t want to miss it!  To register go to:  tm83.org!  If you have any questions, please email Co-Chair Emilia Volyand at ebheat@aol.com.


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.

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

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!

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.

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”

Mentoring and It’s Benefits

Many new member feel the need for assistance in navigating how the process works and would like help with preparing for their first speech. By partnering an existing member with a newer member to provide support, the mentoring program addresses this need.

At Midtown Toastmasters, a specially curated position of VP Mentorship was created. The VP developed a club Mentoring Program to provide insight and support to all members.  The program partners new and existing members with a veteran member, who helps with preparation of the new member’s first speech or meeting role, navigation of Toastmasters education and leadership opportunities, input on assignments, and anything else the new member may need help with.

Continue reading “Mentoring and It’s Benefits”