Rough Around the Edges

Written by PJ, Morningstar’s Past President

The Toastmaster role is so challenging that it’s rare to see someone take it to a new level, as Sheila did this morning. Sheila decided to reinvent the Chair’s opening gambit.

Walking to the lectern, she launched into a story without so much as a Hello, without a single word of fanfare. The story was so witty and sexy and honest that I momentarily forgot where I was and what we were supposed to be doing there at Harmony Hall.

Turns out the story was an excerpt from Sheila’s personal memoir. (I’ll buy a dozen!) She depicted a younger version of herself, a person with a self-image that was “rough around the edges.” Which—Ta-da!—was the meeting’s theme.

If Sheila’s smooth experiment was an antidote to the “rough” theme, she succeeded tremendously. And what better place to deploy Speechcraft expertise than at the start? Beginnings are potent. We remember them. They set the pace.

I should know a bit about beginnings, since my most recent speech concerns “getting to the point.” Having rewritten the talk for four different occasions, I’ve discovered that getting to the point is a many-faceted thing.

“The point” is not only the core message of a presentation, but it should give the audience a damn good reason to invest valuable time in listening further. A classy start such as Sheila’s was this morning gave us the feeling that we were in the hands of a pro. Which encourages us all to relax. Which helps us all perform our own roles at our smoothest best. (Grammar police!)

And talk about smooth!

William ever so smoothly interpreted another author’s formula for success in life.

Katherine’s smooth report of her High Performance Leadership project (an executive manual) belied a lot of rough, tough work over the past nine months. Thanks, Kat!

And I give Kay special recognition for saying in her “Inspiration” that the iceberg that sunk the Titanic was obviously “rough around the edges.”

Okay, I need one more bit of clever word-play to close this piece—here goes:

Reflecting on Sheila as Chair this morning, I see a relatively new Morningstar who has come a long way in a short time. A little rough around the edges only a few months ago, Sheila has polished her skills to a degree that astonishes all of us. Of Sheila we can say without a doubt that here is one Toastmaster who is no longer a diamond in the rough.


See you next week.



Chop Wood, Carry Water

Today’s Post Written by Frank Coldicott

Forty-seven years to earn a DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster)?

It was a proud moment to receive recognition yesterday morning for this rather noteworthy achievement, having first joined Toastmasters in Vernon, Club 1929 in September 1967. As I mentioned in my acceptance, I have seen many changes in these years. My first manual, called Basic Training, was similar to our Competent Communicator manual but focused on rather mechanical yet effective “how-to’s” of Public Speaking and Robert’s Rules of Order. Significant of the day was that Toastmasters was an all-men’s organization. The Advanced Manual was simply another 10 speeches.

Through the next 30 years, Toastmasters saw many changes: improved materials and designations were accompanied by opening the doors to women. The basic concept of Ralph Smedley has remained the same although the introduction of the leadership track and the “Better Listening et al” has given way to the focus on Becoming Leaders. This has enriched the program immeasurably.

The last 15 years of my Toastmasters experience have been the richest. Overlander Toastmasters Club in Kamloops, Advanced Speaker’s Klub in Vancouver and Morning Stars Club here in Gibsons have all enriched my life in ways beyond adequate description. With the encouragement of so many, it became clear that always ‘starting over’ with the latest materials was a valuable pursuit.

Today, I thank all Toastmasters who have kept that encouragement alive. I extend special thanks to Patricia who challenged me and provided a model of focus. She also yesterday nailed it when she described the awards as the ‘harvest’ for the period of sowing and tilling. Yet, like the Buddhist notion of achieving enlightenment which requires ‘chopping wood and hauling water’, it (like our achievement in Toastmasters) follows that when enlightened, one should ‘chop more wood and haul more water’.

Thank you Morning Stars….still chopping wood.

Traveling Toastmaster

Written by Sheila Cameron

I joined Morningstars Toastmasters in September and only managed to attend a few meetings before heading off into the sunset (Tofino, BC) for two months and the sunshine (California and Arizona) for two months.

Since it is called Toastmasters “International”, I was inspired to make a few calls before I left the Sunshine Coast. I thought it would be fun to try out a few other clubs and I was pleased to make contact with clubs in Ucluelet, BC, Palm Desert, CA, and Tucson, AZ.

In Ucluelet

I had a blast at the Pacific Rim Toastmasters Club in Ucluelet. Their club meets weekly and is attended mainly by three very dedicated ladies. It was an absolute hoot watching the three of them as they shuffled and shared roles and responsibilities.

Imagine being Toastmaster, Inspirator, Evaluator AND Timer. Or TableTopics Master, Grammarian, AND Jokemaster.  Kudos to them for their dedication to the club as they try to increase membership and attendance. Besides myself, there was usually one other guest or “almost” member. During one of the meetings, they invited the Junior Rangers (age 12-19) so we had a big crowd of over twenty people.

Our Morningstars club president, PJ, asked me to look up his niece (in Tofino) and invite her out to a meeting. I met Jessica the evening that the Junior Rangers came out. She rode her very cool bike over to where I was staying and we drove together down to Ucluelet. She was lovely, and even made banana bread for my family. I wish the Pac Rim Club all the best and wish to express deep gratitude for their welcoming presence and the fun and warm laughs we shared. I also got a chance to do two speeches!

Next to the South

Unfortunately, I was not able to extricate myself from my family during either of our stays in Palm Desert or Tucson in order to attend a meeting. Drat! I was really looking forward to seeing how yet another club operates but it was not meant to be.

Hmmmmm…..perhaps it was in part because I got completely caught up in reading the memoir of our club member, Patricia Hetherington. The Winter Gardener was a bold and beautiful account of a little piece of Patricia’s history, a little piece of the garden/fabric of her life. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Even though I only made it to one other club during my absence, I would like to encourage others to take a chance at trying an International meeting the next time you are away. You can attend as a guest (anywhere?) in the world, meet new people, hear new ideas, and even participate.

I am home. It is cold and a bit rainy. But still, nothing beats home. I have the sunny smiles of the Morningstars to look forward to.

Local Toastmaster and World Traveller

Written by Kay Chapman of Morningstars Toastmasters Club

“You can’t fix any disease without fixing the underlying conditions” says Dr. Kate Wotton.

queen of EverythingMorningstars Toastmasters member Dr. Kate Wotton was interviewed by Associate Publisher Cathie Roy for an article in the Coast Reporter of Sept 7th, 2012. The focus of the article was Kate’s travels as a health care practitioner and teacher.

Kate leads a most fascinating professional life, all the while giving of her wise, caring, adventurous self.  She has practiced in Canada’s north, in Africa and Pakistan as a physician, a leader, a friend and a teacher.  She knew from the beginning that her interest was in healing in far flung areas so she set out to prepare herself with experiences in Canada’s north and by furthering her education.

Kate soon saw the need for basic education in health and sanitation as well as the need for hands on training. As well as administering to patients she works within communities to train community based health workers to spread the teachings.  Along with this step she authored manuals that can be downloaded, easily understood and used by anyone.  The books are free and enhanced with charming drawings by a Ugandan artist.

Kate has recently returned from working in Uganda so I for one am hoping to hear more from this brave, caring, modest and interesting woman.

Another Milestone

Patricia Hetherington ACG/ALB

Patricia Hetherington, a resident of Gibsons and a member of Morningstars, has just completed a major goal in Toastmasters. Read about it in this interview.

How long have you been in Toastmasters and why did you join?

One morning at 7:15 am I saw friends heading to their car – looking like they were happy and having fun. When I asked where they were going at that hour, they said Toastmasters! They also asked, Why don’t you come? I went to the meeting and felt like a duck in water within 5 minutes.  I joined immediately. That was 6 years ago.

You just reached a really important milestone. Tell us about that.

I have just completed my ACG – Advanced Communication Gold. It’s a hefty award to earn because in addition to completing 2 speech manuals, there was the requirement to present a Success Leadership Education Session and coach a member in her first 3 speeches.

As we progress through the communication and leadership levels, the mountain gets progressively steeper; it becomes more difficult to earn the awards. ACG has taken me 3 years to complete. During the 2011/2012 Toastmasters year, I was Area 76 Governor which kept my attention more focused on other [Vancouver] clubs, and making it difficult to work on my own goals.

What would you say to someone who was thinking of joining Toastmasters?

Would you like to surround yourself with smart, enthusiastic, supportive folk who are interested in seeing you learn & grow? If so, Toastmaster’s the place to go. It is truly a treasure if you love language, want to polish up your speaking skills as well as leadership skills, meet great people and raise the bar in your life! It’s also fabulous value for a minimal cost.

What’s the next milestone you want to achieve in Toastmasters?

In order to earn my ALS Advanced Leader Silver, I require a 6-month role of mentoring a newly chartered club. Clubs don’t charter all that often so I am keen to find one for the 2012/2013 year. Finishing this mentorship requirement, I will earn my DTM Distinguished Toastmaster [which I call the black belt.] This is a personal goal because I like to complete what I start. The journey to DTM will take me 7 years in total. Sounds like a long time, but it is a challenging process. Most members do not reach this one.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

People complain about our 7:15 am start time. Like a friend of mine, who walked the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage in Spain with me, says, “If we weren’t doing this, we’d be doing something else.” That just about says it. Besides, where else can you have this much fun & excitement this early in the am?

Competent Communicator Indeed!

That’s Joan on the right.

For Toastmasters the various Speech Series are guides designed to help toastmasters learn new presentation skills for communicating effectively in front of an audience.

Our club recently celebrated along with  Joan Higgs as she achieved an important milestone in the series. Joan answered the following questions to share her experience.

What’s your favourite thing about Toastmasters meetings?

I love that every meeting is always different, inspiring, and full of friendly laughter.

You recently reached a milestone. What was it and what did you have to achieve to reach your goal?

 I just delivered my 10th speech, which qualifies me as a “Competent Communicator”. That’s the first Toastmasters benchmark. I took a couple of years to do it. The toughest part for me isn’t presenting the speeches — it’s making the time to write and practice them well ahead of time. Practice really is the key, as with anything else.

What’s next for you in Toastmasters?

 In September I’ll begin working through the manuals I selected for my ACB (Advanced Communicator Bronze). I’m motivated less by the designations than by the opportunities they afford to progress and improve. I chose Persuasive Speaking and The Professional Speaker. Should prove interesting!


Joan Higgs lives in Roberts Creek but doesn’t mind driving to Gibsons for those early Morningstars meetings. A recent graduate of SFU (BA and MA in Social Anthropology), she embodies the credo of “lifelong learning”. Predating and postdating her academic interests, Joan is committed to personal transformation through meditation and self-inquiry.