Can’t Get No Satisfaction

A giant mouth saying um, ah, so filler wordsThe General Evaluator recently remarked on my “uhms” and “ahs” and “sos.”

Damn. Me! A Morningstar for nine years. I should know better.

I thought I had un-uhm-ed myself. I thought I had licked those waffle words right out of my mouth. But bad habits have crept back into my speechcraft. Which reminds me what Toastmasters is all about—it’s a training.

Every Wednesday morning we show up in training mode. It’s built into the ethos of the program that we can always improve. We should never allow ourselves to think we’ve mastered the art of public speaking.

To quote Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no satisfaction,” and that’s okay, even if my speech evaluations are causing me my 19th Nervous Breakdown.

Speaking of the Rolling Stones, I joined Toastmasters in part because I aspired to strut the stage like Jagger. (I’m not kidding.) It was never going to happen, of course, but speaking on a stage seemed like a do-able option. I quickly forgot about rock stardom, because the speakers I heard blew me away.

One of the biggest challenges I discovered was weeding out those weed-words. The very ones that have crept back into my presentations. It makes me wonder if I’ve been coasting on my laurels (CC. CL, ACB. ALB). Am I guilty of treating Morningstars as a social club and not the training program it’s meant to be?

Have I forgotten that improvement is the name of the game?

Come to think of it—many rock stars could benefit from a visit to Morningstars.

Rock stars are always mumbling. For the longest time I thought the Beatles were singing: “I want to hold your ham.” And the Eurhymics were saying: “Sweet dreams are made of cheese.”

And for sure Dylan’s famous song went: “The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind.” And what group was it who sang: “Hey, you, get off of my cow…”?

If you see a rock star before next Wednesday, invite them to our meeting.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on un-ah-ing myself.


Taking On the Role of Timer

Role of Timer - ToastmastersA hallmark of effective speakers is the ability to express themselves within a specific amount of time. Members rely on the timer to pace speeches and practice adhering to a time frame. The timer is also responsible for tracking every part of the meeting agenda.

The timer’s role is fundamental to the success of every meeting. However, keeping a meeting on time is a shared responsibility between all members of the club. The timer is merely the reference point for the person speaking to know how long they have been talking.

Below are a few tips for the next time you take on the role of timer:

Before The Meeting

  • Confirm the time allotted to each prepared speech with all speakers.
  • Ask speakers for any unique timing cues (especially speeches from advanced manuals that may have multiple parts)
  • Write your explanation of timing in the clearest possible language and rehearse it. For the benefit of guests and new members, be sure to emphasize timing rules and how timing signals are given

Upon Arrival at the Meeting

  • Check that the timing equipment is working properly and that you are comfortable with its use
  • Double check timing on the agenda, in case there were changes for time

During the Meeting

  • When introduced, explain the timing rules and demonstrate the signal device.
  • Signal speakers as to the timing of their speeches and roles
  • Record each members time they used to complete their speeches and roles
  • Give times at the end of the meeting

After the Meeting

  • Return the timing equipment to the sergeant at arms.

The importance of reporting the time aloud to everyone, especially to the speakers, is to allow the Toastmasters a chance to realize how much time they actually spent on the stage – which can be either longer or, shorter than what they expected when preparing/rehearsing their speeches.

Ready to take on timer? Sign up today!


The Gift You Bring to Toastmasters Meetings

The Gift of You

“Each of us showed up with our biggest gift and gave it to everyone.”

It was an astute observation that summed up the overall feeling of Wednesday’s Morningstars Toastmasters meeting. A casual statement that spoke about our individual strengths and how they combine to create a “glowing,” energetic meeting. But it was also a reminder of the powerful contributions everyone of us makes weekly.

Sure, we sign up for roles. We craft speeches. We focus on what it is we need to do to help the meeting run smoothly. We give attention to our words, our delivery and the finer points of what is needed to fulfill our roles. But that is such a small part of the bigger picture.

It’s easy to miss the importance that YOU bring to the meeting. Each one of us has a unique trait, quality that is a gift we bring and offer to all those in the room. For some it is their sense of humour. For others, it is their energetic spirit. Perhaps you have a commanding voice. Or an insightful perspective. Each unique trait in us adds a different splash of colour that only enhances the ambiance of Harmony Hall. The more often you share your “gift,” the brighter the picture becomes.

In short, you help to make the meetings. You help to infuse it with a special energy that carries us through for the next six days. You pump up the room. You make us smile. Make us think. Make us want to be a better speaker (or leader!). You.

The positive energy and gifted room wasn’t the only high points of this morning. Here are a few other items of note:

1) Sheila C. inducted THREE new members this morning. Welcome to Neil, Maria and Bertha! Although it was technically their “first” meeting, Bertha filled her first role as Grammarian. Neil and Maria demonstrated their impromptu speaking talents by answering Table Topics questions. Way to go, guys!

2) Katherine S. completed the last project in her Advance Communications Manual. The project, “Communicating With Video,” was a web training program and promotion for her upcoming Creativity Cafe. A home run for her . . . and for our Tech Assist (Liam B.). That’s one manual done!

3) Sheila C. took us to new heights with an entertaining tale about Larry Walker. It was “uplifting” and took the energy to “soaring heights.”

4) William B. gave mad props and highlighted one of our Toastmasters who recently took center stage at the Town of Gibsons City Council meeting: Johanna R. Johanna gave a two minute speech on our organization in conjunction with February 2016 being Toastmasters International Month! (Pssst: More to come on this soon!)

Just a reminder, please sign up for roles for next week’s meeting on Feb. 10. The theme is “Love is . . . “

What? No Way!

twp eggs in a nestStanding in front of an audience can be – well, a little intimidating.

I remember my very first Toastmaster meeting. Watching the chair of the day run the meeting, I was thinking, “What? Me chair a meeting? No way. It’s going to be a long long time before I take on that role!”

It wasn’t that long.

But between my thought that first day and the first time I chaired a meeting, there was a shift in perspective. I came to see it as something which, upon analysis, wasn’t all that difficult yet offered a tremendous opportunity.

Having now chaired many meetings in my Toastmaster career, here’s how I see the role.


The chair of the meeting holds an energetic space for the agenda to unfold, and for all participants in the room. One could think of it as creating a safe container within which all club members can experience their own success. Think of the possibilities that open up outside of a Toastmaster meeting once you can ‘build the container’.


Spontaneity is a good skill to have as chair for two reasons.

First, sometimes spontaneous decisions have to be made. Something goes wrong, some technology doesn’t work, something unexpected is added to the agenda, all these require a decision and an action. It’s up to the chair to handle those moments.

Secondly, in Toastmasters the chair is responsible for what we call transitions. A transition is that brief space in time when one thing ends and another is about to begin. How do we smoothly move from inspirator to evaluator to speaker and so on?

What we say in those moments can’t be planned in advance. After all, the chair doesn’t know exactly what each person is going to say. Our challenge in the moment is to find something that bridges the gap.


Each club agrees the chair has the authority to open and close the meeting, to make introductions, to explain roles, and to make sure the meeting stays on schedule. It’s the nature of the role itself that grants the chair that authority. The chair also learns how to pass that authority to others in their particular roles, with an introduction and frequently with a handshake.

However within the role, there is also the possibility to develop the abilities of a natural leader. This is known as earned authority. Earned authority is a quality that a person has outside any particular role, and would extend beyond the role of chair. Our club has the good fortune to have many such people in our midst.


To those who have yet to chair a meeting, who have had a similar thought to mine at my first meeting, and who are waiting for some future moment to say yes, I invite you to look at the role of chair with fresh eyes.

What do YOU see?

Scared Stiff

Written by Ria Q, another new Morningstar

It is a terrific west coast morning, sunny and warm – much warmer than I would expect on a spring day. The anticipation in the hall is palpable as we settle in for a busy morning of 2 Icebreaker speeches and an interpretive reading from an Advanced Manual.

John starts us off in his usual friendly style by encouraging us to gather our thoughts, coffee and water as we all sit just as the gavel bangs down.

William as Chair calls the meeting to order. Our theme of the day is Scared Stiff.

Cathie presents the word of the day, an adjective – ‘terrific’. Interesting that the word, as Cathie points out, can have both a positive and negative meaning.

of great size, amount or intensity
informal: extremely good, excellent
archaic: causing terror, from the latin terrere ‘frighten’

Larry leads us in an inspirational toast to the sick children around the world wishing them a return to health and wellness. His inspiration comes from a documentary he saw on TV about Sick Children’s Hospital. He found it interesting, and I do too, that most of the children ‘live in the moment’. They don’t seem to realize the gravity of their situation and carry on as if this is life as it’s supposed to be – a fine reminder that every moment in this life is precious.

Xinyu as Timer, regales us with a short story about the pitfalls of time management Spanish-style and how a cultural difference lead her to miss first a bus, then two planes on her way out of Spain.

Margot, past Toastmaster and journalist, returns to present another Icebreaker in an easy, fluent style. Her self-deprecating views are funny and endearing. I look forward to hearing more from Margot in the coming months.

Sharon’s interpretative reading of fellow Toastmaster PJ’s story “The Best Way to Meet Angels” is engaging and provokes terror on a “rough-and-tumble highway in south-central Africa known as the Hell Run”. I get the feeling that a young PJ is scared stiff as he makes his way across the “1500-mile lifeline that serves the heart of a continent”. Sharon does a terrific job of re-enacting PJ’s journey.

I, Ria, present my Icebreaker titled “The Summer of My Life” in an unexpected fashion – filled with emotion and fueled by adrenaline. Although I’m scared stiff, I carry on and pull through with encouragement in the eyes of my fellow Toastmasters. It’s done! And, onto the next…

Shannon’s joke is a woe-is-me tale of her friend being locked in a college bathroom over the weekend only to realize that she is trying to escape her terrific predicament by exiting through the locked broom closet!

Katherine almost stumps us as Quizmaster when she asks the question “Where is the chicken not allowed to cross the road?” Honestly, I’m stumped!

At the end of it all, Cathie finds not many ums and ahs and informs us we used the word of the day, terrific, nine times.

I’m off to work as the day shines clear and bright and my adrenaline fades, leaving me eager to come back next week and do it all again.

I Should Have Said That!

Written by Shannon W.

This week our theme I Should Have Said That left us a wondering what or how we should – or could – have “discerned”, as our toastmaster Sheila re-framed and our first time Grammarian, Sarah L. offered. A worthy shift from judgment to compassion and accountability.

And who hasn’t had one of those moments we’d like to do over?

Judy took us even further along this line of thought. Her Inspiration was the story of Julia Ward Howe, who began the Mother’s Day celebration as a “peace day” which pointed to our right and responsibility to shape society with charity, mercy and patience.

I have to say this club doesn’t miss a chance to find the meaning. And as pointed out today, with 14 new members already this year, our messages and discernment will be percolating in every corner of our community!

That said, Katherine’s choice of story to read us this morning was exceptional. Beautifully rendered, I truly melted into the telling. William explained that the purpose of this speech from the Specialty Speeches manual was oral interpretation and connection with the audience, using both voice and body.

Well, Katherine, the visuals of this selection were a whole body and mind experience for the listeners too. I am still caught in the words “I am a child of the moon and silver”. You can come read to me any time!

More firsts….As Table Topics Master, Xinyu continued to show this club her very creative spirit as she shared her uncomfortable personal story about what she wished she had said in a certain situation, but didn’t. She then led into table topics that invited our own vulnerability: how would we have dealt to deal with the should’a/could’a of her story.

Old pro’s, PJ and Sandy nailed it. As Cathie pointed out as Table Topics Evaluator, PJ built the tension well in his own what-he-should-have-said story; and Sandy’s natural use of body language gave itself to the reflective advice she is so good at finding.

Cathie also gave us a useful “should’a. When arriving at the lectern to speak, each person“takes control” from whoever is already standing there, and then addresses the audience to keep the flow for the group. As a new speaker, I can see how this advice is an important piece for grounding myself in the startup and delivery. Done well, it is one of those invisible elements that keeps the meeting tight and focused.

To wrap up our morning, Sarah sent us out with new linguistic discernment for our ears. Her grammarian review counted 8 uses of the word of the day, and held “contentious moments” up for us to reflect on when we think “I should have said that”.

Next week’s theme is Scared Stiff.

Charge the Bean

Written  by Katherine S, President.

red beansWhat of the many possibilities could I choose on which to base my inspiration of the day? The theme was Planting a Seed, very appropriate for spring, and for our breakfast open house.

I recently moved, and while packing up, I came across a little box which contained five beans. Instantly my mind flashed to a memory.

Was it the old story of Jack in the Beanstalk? My favourite chili recipe? (Which incidentally is Moroccan Chili.)

No, this memory had to do with my former mastermind group. Each year we’d choose five beans, each one of which would represent something we wanted to experience or achieve in the coming year.

Aha! I thought. That’s what I’ll base my Inspirator role on!

When it came time for my role, I instructed everyone to hold the bean in their left hand and asked them to think of something they wanted to accomplish or achieve in the coming year.

But what good is a bean if it just sits in the hand? Imagine what would happen if we just held a seed in our hand and didn’t do anything with it.

Until we provide the right conditions  – sunlight, water, earth – it remains a seed, its potential locked away inside it forever.  Once the seed has the right conditions it will sprout and grow into whatever it’s uniquely designed to become.

The same is true of the bean that everyone was holding in their hands. What were the conditions we’d have to provide for all of our ideas to manifest?

Four Simple Steps

  1. Get very clear about the WHAT, and do not be concerned with the HOW.
  2. Listen to inner guidance and when inspired to do so, take steps toward the vision or idea.
  3. Whatever the size of the idea, deal with any doubt, fear, or anxiety that comes up about whether it’s possible.
  4. Have faith in the invisible before it becomes visible. A lot of the work is under the surface where we can’t see it.

As we all stood and charged our glasses, and charged the bean with our idea, we toasted to ‘creating the right conditions’.

I wonder what amazing things will happen in the coming year.

Forward Motion

Written by Shannon, one of our newest members.

April 29 was yet another example of how “forward moving” this club is! I’ve only just joined and I feel its energy every meeting “propelling” (word of the day) our group members along with our individual goals.

Patricia as Grammarian encouraged us this week to pick words that are “alive and give us energy”, and I’d say this club lives by that ideal! Guests again this week, and next week is our open house. We are going to need a bigger room soon.

Lots of “1st timers” took on roles…Margo as Quizmaster and Ria as Timer. (…and yes, I’ve survived my 4 minute table topics ramble awaiting the red light!)   Next week is my own “1st time timer” and I will find out for myself how hard this role can be. Everyone keeps saying it requires extra focus… so forging on with courage.

William’s inspiration fit our club particularly well with this flavour of both very new and very long standing members, encouraging us to “look for someone to inspire us to positive progress” as we move forward towards our dreams and passions.

Sheila’s speech, her final one for reaching her Competent Communicator goal, took this message further as she moved us through a compelling journey of finding connection by reaching out to others with our deepest values. Johanna’s evaluation called it a “full circle journey” for us all.

Cathie’s “Supermarket Slimming by Design” was an intriguing speech title that sat us right up with a fresh start. As Kay’s evaluation referenced, it really “kicked up the game” for all of us.

Larry’s joke about Dr Young and Dr Geezer produced some hearty chuckles throughout the telling.

Patricia and Kate wrapped up our morning with the Grammarian’s and General Evaluator’s reports. They gave us all final encouragement and sent us out to the day with fresh awareness of how planting specific words into our speeches (and I’d add our lives) can push our messages and intentions. Both their evaluations pushed us further into the words of our speakers this morning and we all went out with the “forward motion” of this club “propelling” us into our day.

Full House, No Fooling

Written by Johanna, VP of PR

Full house today, no fooling!

Two guests as well, through word of mouth. Morningstars are so enthused about our club that we can’t help but talk about our experience to friends, colleagues, and family. Opportunities to promote our club can be spontaneous in addition to our well planned, advertised efforts. They all require a willingness to speak­ up and take the time to “walk the talk”.

A New Perspective

Our meeting on April Fool’s Day emphasized “evaluation skills”, with ideas naturally evolving from unique individual perspectives. For example, Grammarian Jolanda, shared how well she was able to understand each speaker’s message that morning from her “English as a second language” point of view. It was a great reminder for us to reduce our use of jargon and run on sentences.

Presentation and Leadership

What a difference learning presentation and leadership skills can make to all aspects of our lives. Encouraging others’ self­-expression, role-­modelling the confidence to take a clear stand on an issue, or over­coming our own fears of rejection when giving and receiving constructive feedback are natural outcomes of being a Toastmasters Club member.

Morningstars in the Community

image of castLast month Sandy and I participated as “fashion announcers” in a local event, the Driftwood Players Downton Abbey production.  What fun it was, with a number of Morningstars coming to add to the audience.

On Mar 18th, our club was also been invited by the Chamber of Commerce to present three workshops in an evening session.

In an event at the end of May, Katherine will encourage community members to develop their voices and their stories at the Gibsons Library, a workshop sponsored by a local women’s health network.

Accepting invitations to speak outside of the clubs meetings is a good challenge for us, and a way we can contribute to our community.

Whenever we have the opportunity to share the Toastmaster’s journey with others, realize that our learning from being part of the program will be apparent to the listeners. It may engage their interest to join our club. As VP of Public Relations this past year, I believe Toastmasters International contributes to enhancing communication, sharing leadership knowledge, and making the world a better place for all.

We Remember

Written by Katherine, President of Morningstars

The theme, tone and feeling of the day was We Remember.

Larry, our Chair for the day, managed the meeting with grace and humour.

Pj is off for two months to Mexico, so lest he forget, we presented him with his pins for his Competent Leadership and Competent Communicator awards.

Frank as Inspirator gave a moving toast on gratitude to our veterans, and the remembrances celebrated all across the country yesterday for Nov 11.

Patricia, our Grammarian, to fit with our theme, chose reverence as the word of the day.

It was also a day for testing our abilities for impromptu speaking. Not knowing until the last minute which one of five different topics she would be speaking on was the challenge for Katherine. To speak off the cuff is an exercise in trust and staying present. And Jolanda, who is one of our newest members, in the spirit of jumping in gave her Icebreaker speech in place of a cancellation. Well done, Jolanda!

Cathie, our Timer, took some liberties with John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields, to remind us that as Toastmasters we have to keep to the time allotted to us for each role or  speech. She does not hesitate to ring the bell, our signal to stop talking now!

Table Topics was ably done by David, although he didn’t fare quite so well with the Jokemaster role. He was assisted in delivering the punchline by Sharon, and received a huge round of applause and much laughter. Sometimes the unexpected is much funnier than what was intended.

Johanna, Kate, Greg,  PJ, and Ben assisted with the other roles to round out the meeting.

The theme for the next meeting is WHAT I CAN’T BELIEVE.