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

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.

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.

The Value of a DTM Mentor

Your (Distinguished Toastmaster) DTM mentor will support you with your goals whether you have decided to pursue a traditional or a Pathways DTM.

Your DTM mentor can be a member of your club or a member of another club. You and your mentor can discuss how often to meet to talk about your progress and next steps.

A mentor will help you define the timetable for your goal. Requirements for a traditional DTM must be completed by June 2020. A Pathways DTM does not have a deadline specified by Toastmasters International. You and your mentor should discuss the overall timing, then break your goal into manageable segments with short, medium and long-term goals for success.Perhaps you are looking for additional speaking opportunities. I mentored a few Toastmasters who were able to serve as a model speaker for evaluation contests at other clubs, areas, and divisions outside their own.

Your DTM mentor can also let you know about clubs who might have fewer members than your club and frequently look for Toastmasters outside of their club to fill a speaking role on their agenda. It’s a good idea to have your next speech ready to go in case a prepared speaker has to cancel at the last minute and you can readily fill in.

You and your DTM mentor can meet Toastmasters outside of your club(s) at training sessions, contests and conferences. Meeting new people helps generate different ideas to help you reach your goals.

At a conference planning meeting, my DTM mentor informed me about two people seeking their DTM. I learned that they scheduled two educational workshops at a library on a weekend and invited everyone in the district to attend. This way they were able to reach a large audience and could present their training sessions without having to take time away from their regularly scheduled club meeting time.

You might be seeking a leadership role and need advice and connections for serving as a district officer or a sponsor, mentor, or coach. Your DTM mentor can help you with that information to get an appointment. Contact the District Director for more information.

For more information about DTM mentors, please contact the District 83 Destination DTM Chair.

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.

The Founding of NJIT Toastmasters

Before starting at NJIT, a mentor of mine had emphasized to me the importance of “soft skills” and encouraged me to join Toastmasters International–a non-profit organization that helps its members to develop their communication and leadership skills. I immediately joined NJIT’s Toastmasters club in my first semester. Unfortunately, the club was not well attended nor officially chartered with the organization-it did not provide the enthusiastic and supportive learning environment that my mentor had talked about. At the end of the year the club’s leadership wanted to disband the club.  

I saw a clear need for Toastmasters at NJIT. Our institute has brilliant analytical thinkers with a strong focus on science, engineering, and math. However, soft skills were overlooked at the student’s expense. Their extraordinary capabilities would go unnoticed if they could not communicate or lead effectively. To address this issue, I became club president and decided to reinvigorate it, chartering with Toastmasters International so that students could benefit.

I knew it would be challenging to establish the club and fill this niche in our community. I had no membership base, resources, or leadership team to begin with. I was not sure how I would persuade students to realize the importance of and make time for personal development and to become due-paying members. I did, however, have a strong vision and purpose for the club and the belief that I could create it.

Continue reading “The Founding of NJIT Toastmasters”

Mentoring Matters: An Interview with DTM Mark Grebenau

One of my mentors, DTM Mark Grebenau shared his story of continuous self-improvement, hope it serves as an inspiration for us all. Mentoring plays a significant role in Toastmasters as they help create the social glue that ensures we stick together. We set our educational and leadership goals and our mentors keep us accountable.

DTM Mark Grebenau is a Toastmaster with over 30 years’ experience. In the past, he has held several leadership positions including that of Area Governor and Division Governor. He has completed his 14th CC and will complete his 17th CC within this Toastmasters fiscal year (2017-2018). DTM Mark is a formidable orator whose creativity seems ceaseless. His speeches are meticulous, carefully sprinkled with humor and impactful. His evaluations are geared to help us grow in our speech craft.

TM Alton James, ACB, ALB award DTM Mark Grebenau his 14th CC pin.

Mark prepared me for my speech contests. The results were, my winning at the Club Level and at the Area (2015-2016). He has also helped me temper my goal driven nature with a deep sense of humility, as we are all volunteers try to become better. In our 2016-2017 term, for my HPL, he was willing to take on 6 new mentees from the Toastmasters at NJIT club. Even during a time of personal pain over losing his mom. Mark loves to give back. He loves to teach. This is what drives him and in turn motivates us.

Continue reading “Mentoring Matters: An Interview with DTM Mark Grebenau”

The Results of Officer Training Round 1: Is Your Team Fully Trained?

Between June 24 and August 31, District 83 conducted seventeen Officer Trainings. In total, approximately 640 officers out of 1,148, or around 56% of officers, have been trained in Round 1 for the current Toastmaster year.

Now, that total may be off. The total is based on all clubs having seven officers, but that is not necessarily true. Some clubs do not have seven officers. This could be good news because our results may be even greater than what I have presented at this time. On the other hand, when I say approximately 640 officers were trained, it is possible that some of our officers have been trained out of our District and the data has not been passed to our District yet or that some forms were not completed in a way that allows our district to identify club and officer’s position.

Officer Training is a determining factor in achieving your club success plan and meeting all your goals in the Distinguished Club Program. With that said, this is the time to review your club’s current Officer Training status. Please go to Toastmasters International Club Performance Reports for District 83 and check on the records for your club. If you find that you have not received all your officer’s trained numbers, please email me to identify who is missing in your club and then research to give your club the credit.

Continue reading “The Results of Officer Training Round 1: Is Your Team Fully Trained?”

Meet the Area Directors: Paul Ireifej

Name: Paul Ireifej

Position: Area 62 Director

Club(s): AT&T Middletown Toastmasters

What are your plans for the district/area/division?

I have three priorities for Area 62. First, I want to improve club climate in all of my clubs. Club climate determines if guests become members and if members are retained and developed. Club climate has to do with the learning environment provided by your club and member interactions. Second, I want to promote participation in club contests. Contests are a great way to sharpen your speaking abilities and delivered a practiced, polished speech that you don’t normally prepare when working through the standard manuals. Also it exposes you to delivering a speech in front of new audience members (if you get to area, division and district levels). Third, I want to focus on goal setting and planning to achieve Distinguished club status. If you plan ahead and set yourself up for success, your club can be distinguished. 

Continue reading “Meet the Area Directors: Paul Ireifej”

Get Your Own Grit

“Nope, I’m not available Mr. President. I’m traveling this week to North Carolina on the 1st of September and I won’t be able to attend toastmasters meeting this week on the 5th. Will see you in 2 weeks.”

That was me telling my club president that I wont be able to attend our  club meeting as I’m travelling to North Carolina on holiday this week for 10 days. The good thing about Toastmasters is that it is everywhere you go. For me, Toastmasters stand for continuous education and self development. In most, cases we do not excuse ourselves from what others enforce on us to comply such as our job responsibilities, but we regularly excuse ourselves from our own self development.

Jim Rohn, one of the most respected success gurus, says, “Formal education will make you a living; self education will make you a fortune.”

Continue reading “Get Your Own Grit”

Why I am a Toastmaster

Five years ago this week, after a lot of research and with a heap of trepidation, I visited Old Bridge Toastmasters for the first time. I felt a little awkward going to something where I didn’t know anyone, but the people were friendly enough.

They had this interesting program where you could earn awards for completing different sets of tasks. It appealed to me as a nerd, but there was no way I would ever be able to summon the courage to do all of this. 40 speeches? I couldn’t possibly have that much to say. Be a club officer? Maybe one day, I could build up the courage to run for Sergeant at Arms. Serve as a district officer? Terrifying! Mentor someone? I have nothing to offer anyone, I thought.

And yet, when we had an open house two months later, I offered to be the guinea pig and give my first speech. When it came time to elect officers, I took a deep breath and ran for Vice President of Education. As my confidence grew, I took on more. Metaphorically speaking, a crawl became a walk became a run.

Continue reading “Why I am a Toastmaster”