Thriving During the Pandemic Times - The Road Travelled

George How

Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 16 to combat the spread of COVID-19. Our community club OTM Oakville Toastmasters meets on Thursday evenings at the St Simon’s Anglican Church (McKay Hall), Oakville. I have been informed by St Simon Warden on March 14 that the location was no longer available for use. What do we do now? Cancel meetings indefinitely? The pandemic times presented a problematic situation. OTM rose to the challenge, by being up and running our 1st Online meeting via the ZOOM platform on March 19.

On a personal basis, I took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about video conference tools, online meetings, etiquettes, Dos and Don’ts, security aspects, etc. A snapshot of the participation and learning activities include: District 60 1st Online Judges Training via ZOOM, District 60 Division G 1st Online International Speech Contest, District 86 1st Online Speechcraft by Som Speaks, Toastmasters International 1st Online Webinar on Thriving During Social Distancing, Promoting Toastmasters, and George How Survey on Usage of Various Video Conference Platforms amongst the Official Toastmasters International Members Facebook Group. Visiting various Club Online Meetings and Open Houses provided the vehicle to learn, exchange and adopt new ideas: MCEBT, Brampton Talks, MI Speaks & Chennai Speakers, and Mississauga Sales and Marketing.

Indeed OTM has been thriving during these pandemic times. OTM held their 9th Online meeting on May 14. OTM hosted the Club's 1st Online Learning Workshop on “Effective Evaluation” by Steve Elliot on April 16. OTM hosted the Club 2nd Online Learning Workshop on “How to Write a Speech in 15 Minutes” by Aurie Contosta, Division C Director on May 14. Throughout these challenging times, the Club pursued on its drive towards continued excellence. The Mission: to provide the members with quality, inspirational and educational learning experience in a positive, safe, and virtual environment, whilst respecting social distancing.

The 15-Minutes Speech Preparation Workshop, based on a John Wang Worksheet was a great learning experience. Aurie helped the participants through the various phases of speech preparation. Two hardy souls volunteered to deliver their “impromptu” speeches. Hitesh “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Politicians”, and Mirjana “I am Hooked” were evaluated by Josephine and Paulette respectively. Everybody pushed the envelope during the Online Workshop. Participants from across the province were connected, from Belleville to Sarnia, to Northern Ontario. The Guest Participants (“Awesome Strangers”, per Mirjana) came from 10 Clubs, giving rise to the workshop potential and positive impact on approximately 250 Toastmasters. All in all, it was a most rewarding experience. A synergistic win for OTM, OTM Members, and fellow Toastmasters within District 86!

Acknowledgements: OTM Club Officers, OTM Club Members, Som Speaks, Brahm Memone DTM, Glynis D’Souza DTM, Iona Rondricks DTM, Annie Bai DTM, Madan Chauhan DTM, Hilgay Beckles DTM, John Wang DTM, Shahan Aaron, Novette Gordon, Lucia Yglesias, District 60 Angela Ho DTM. Thank You Steve Elliot and Aurie Contosta DTM for conducting the Online Learning Workshops. Huge Thank You Speech Writing Workshop Participants: Cityvp Manjit (GMAT), Elise Leblanc (Voix du Nord), Hitesh Parmar (Markham), Igor Varshavsky (Fluid Communicators & Leaders), Jale Fancey (Riverspeak), Lily Wang (MCEBT), Mirjana Sheridan (Brampton Talks), Rachelle Alincy (Fellowship), Sandra Valks (Belleville Speakeasy), Suzanne Rondeau (Mots du Midi), Bryce Fung, and Anoop Srinivasan.

George How Pak Hing, PEng, DTM
OTM Oakville Toastmasters # 5940499, Club Founder
Area Director of the Year, 2016-2017
Submitted May 17, 2020

New Virtual Open Houses & Events

Virtual Open Houses

Toastmasters clubs in District 86 and around the world were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that they needed to adapt to the new normal, such as holding online meetings. Sadly, this new normal has not convinced many members to renew their memberships because they prefer the traditional experience of conducting in-person meetings that they embraced for years.

In today’s fast-growing digital age, businesses today adopted the idea of having online meetings as professionals interact virtually around the globe. Many of you are wondering what does this have to do with Toastmasters?

Our new and potential members are looking for ways to improve their communication and leadership skills, as well as grow their professional development and self–confidence in our competitive digital marketplace. While we are dealing with this pandemic of job loss and economic turmoil, this is a chance for all members, including us long-time members, to set an example and educate one another of conducting successful online meetings.

Most interestingly, I witnessed two clubs that already embraced the concept of having virtual events that attracted all members.

As part of my HPL project, I worked with my guidance committee from my club at Mississauga Sales and Marketing towards rebuilding our membership. On May 8th, we hosted our 1st Virtual Open House by inviting a keynote speaker and other members outside of our club to take on our meeting roles. I was delighted to say that 27 attendees had fun with their meeting roles and in Table Topics. The best part of our event was two of our attendees participated from India.

The following event that I attended got more interesting. On May 9th, Hershaw Toastmasters hosted its 30th anniversary online. I had the privilege to hear speeches from the founder of the club, Isabel Hershaw, DTM, and the Past Club President of the club and Past District 86 Director, Vitaliy Fursov, DTM. Along with my fellow District 86 executive officers, as Public Relations Manager, I was invited to share my remarks to help them mark this milestone. Overall, I loved how they reimagined the ambiance of this online event, such as encouraging all 77 attendees to dress up and toast with their favorite drink.

We should not let this new-normal stop us from conducting fun meetings and hosting other Toastmaster special events. While counting the days of physical self-isolation, we can still embrace the traditions of our Toastmasters meeting experience, given that we have the technological means to do so online. All clubs in District 86 should consider organizing virtual social meetings, just like Mississauga Sales and Marketing and Hershaw Toastmasters did, as they promoted all members to connect, engage, communicate and celebrate in the SAFETY of their own home.

Samaa El Sayed, ACG, ALB
Public Relations Manager, District 86

Hershaw Toastmasters is 30!


Isabel Hershaw and a small group of Toastmasters chartered Hershaw Toastmasters in Brampton on February 1, 1990 and the club has been embracing the club mission to support members as they improve their communication and leadership skills ever since. While the club held a small celebration at a regular club meeting at the beginning of February, the plan was to hold a much larger celebration on May 9th when the weather improved. Sadly, now other things have gotten in the way of us celebrating with everyone in person.

In true Toastmaster form, the club is not going to let even a pandemic get in the way of recognizing this milestone and paying tribute to the club founder, Isabel Hershaw. With a venue change to Zoom, Hershaw Toastmasters will be celebrating as planned on May 9th at 7:00 p.m. and everyone is invited to share an evening of speeches, table topics and fun!

Please register on Eventbrite. Registrants will receive an email by May 7th with the agenda and Zoom meeting information. Registration is at

We hope you can all be there!

Best regards,
Sue Hopcroft, DTM

Video Tips by Bud Brown

Talking Heads? I Don't Think So

BudBrown2With all of the virtual meetings going on in Toastmasters clubs these days, it occurs to me that we need to learn (and teach) another skill set.

We can benefit greatly from becoming more effective at developing a screen presence. Today, I am referring to two skill sets:

1. Facial expression and upper body language and
2. Screen eye contact

Take a look at the main players on the news channels for an example of what NOT to do. People do not call these people “talking heads” for nothing. Their facial expression is almost schooled in it’s lack of expression and their vocal variety is practically invariable.

As a contrast, observe the people in the small screens in the corner of the larger screen; the people doing a sign language interpretation of the main speaker. Their faces are filled with expression and their hands do more than just interpret. Even their use of hands is filled with expression! This is at least part of the model we can emulate.

What appears on the screen of your audience can and should draw their eye; capture their interest.

Is your presentation important? Let that show in your face! Is there humour? Let your face know it. Lips can curve upward or twitch with unspoken “almost” laughter. Dimples can appear and eyes can twinkle. Your head can tilt to express irony, quizzicality and even as you pause for effect. World Champion of Public Speaking, Darrin LaCroix, decries practicing in front of a mirror and when it comes to learning your speech, I agree. But all of the devices I just mentioned can be practiced in a mirror.

Movement of the head can also impart meaning: Nodding, shaking a head in the negative and tilting the head as mentioned before are all useful. The next speech that you give in a video conference, practice head and hand movement and emoting in a mirror ahead of time. learn how to impart the emotions; the attitude and the sensation of your message with your physical presentation. This is your first step.

Next, is eye contact. When you look directly at the camera lens, it is the same as looking directly at a member of your audience. Now consider what it is like when you have a physical audience. Toastmasters recommends that you pick people at disparate locations in the audience and hold their eye for a few seconds then move on. When I was competing in the International Speech Contest at The District level, they had to video our speeches in HD and in high quality audio to be sent to a regional committee who would decide who, from the Region would move on to the International Conference semi-finals. We were asked NOT  to look directly at the camera. Instead, we looked at audience members on either side of the camera and at a table of people directly
under the camera.

I recommend that when doing a speech for video, look to one side of the camera lens, look at the lens and look to the other side of the lens. Do this all as if you were looking at individuals in an actual audience. You can physically move your head as you change the “virtual” person you are engaging. This will simulate what your eye contact would be like if you were present in their room.

Finally we come to voice. Emotive power in your voice is key to getting your message to have more power. Let your feelings out! You wouldn’t even be giving this speech unless it meant something to you. So let people know what it means.

That is the sum total of my advice to you today.

  • Let your head and face be free to move and emote
  • Make eye contact as if you were present with your audience
  • Make your voice impart your message

The rest of your presentation should draw on the skills that you are already learning in the Toastmasters program:
Vocal variety | facial expression | speech structure | rhetoric: grammar and so on.

These skills are not just for your Toastmaster meetings. They are for meetings with your cohort at work, in group meetings with other groups than Toastmasters and even with your family and friends.

Toastmasters is valuable for connecting and becoming known as a leader and communicator. Video is just another medium for that reputation.

Good Speaking!
Bud Brown DTM ES4 VL4

Are You Ready?

Tuula Redditt sketchARE YOU READY? Are you ready ... for the COVID-19 pandemic? Every morning our alarm wakes us to news on the COVID-19 Virus and its rapid case increase all over the world. As Toastmasters what are you doing to prepare for this?  Fellow Toastmasters many of our clubs have been stricken by this news and unfortunately it lands right before renewal time for some clubs. What do we say to our members? How can we help keep our clubs going during this outbreak?

As VP Membership for our Speak to Inspire TM noon hour club we were lucky enough to have 8 members renew to have our minimum to be in good standing. Some corporate clubs aren't so lucky. With the economic meltdown and businesses suffering there is the possibility of layoffs and cutbacks. Some corporate clubs have cancelled their meetings until further notice.

How is Toastmasters International dealing with this situation and all the questions their valued members might have? I went online and chatted with TI on their chat line and at the time our districts in Ontario were not affected and should continue business as usual. That was Mar 7th before they declared it a pandemic. Now I cannot get on their chat line. 

In a previous blog I reflected on a story about my experiences with health issues that prevented me from attending Toastmasters and events this past month because my immune system was at risk. Here are some tips on how we can all do our part in preventing ouselves from getting sick moving forward.

As Toastmasters we love shaking hands and we have recently discovered that avoiding shaking hands can help prevent the spread of germs don't you agree? That being said our club has come up with a not-so-secret handshake by simply tapping elbows as our greeting as a precaution. Or perhaps even better a bow. This is a great start and here are some more tips we can do as well:

  • If you feel sick in any way STAY AT HOME and sleep it off and sweat it out. There is also a super cold bug going around. Avoid the hospital if you can.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after going out.
  • Do not touch your face. It's amazing how we get into a habit of touching our nose, our mouth and rubbing our eyes with our germ infested fingers.
  • Avoid eating in the car. Have sanitizing wipes to wipe down steering wheel and car interior.
  • Tissues and every day necessities are priced through the roof but stock up!
  • At our last meeting a lady wore lady! It was quite fashionable too.
  • Masks are no where to found so bring a scarf especially outside if you have a cold so your lungs don't freeze leading to pneumonia. I'm sewing up my own masks made out of coffee filters.... just in case.
  • Meetings and events are cancelling meetings for an unknown period of time. Stay tuned for email flashes and announcements sent by our district and most of all stay safe and keep your family and friends safe.

These are just a few tips that we can share with anyone and everyone you know... not just Toastmasters.

As the pandemic develops I will update what I know just to keep this blog filled with helpful information.

Above all keep a positive outlook and we can beat this outbreak and hopefully share our stories of survival ... at Toastmasters!

Your D86 2018-2019 Toastmaster of the Year, Tuula Redditt

First Time To The Conference?

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As a First Timer to the Conference you get treated royally. A special reception is held just for you where you have the opportunity to rub elbows with the District Trio, Toastmasters International Dignitaries and the accomplished DTM’s. A team building exercise helps break the ice and helps you get to know your fellow first timers, DTM's and Dignitaries a little bit better. This is done especially for the First Timers to welcome them and make them feel comfortable in unfamiliar territory when attending their first conference.

We want the First Timers experience to be a positive one. A chance to learning, gain knowledge, experience the workshops, observe the best of the best speakers, make new friends and have a lot of fun.

I’ll be looking out for you April 24th.

Eva Britton, DTM

District 86 Conference Co-Chair 2020

LINK to register on Eventbrite

LINK to conference page

Toastmasters: Your Pathway to Emotional Intelligence

By Philip Lai ACS, Area D82 Director, member of both Clarkson Toastmasters and Port Credit Club

There are more than 168,000 Toastmasters Clubs in 143 countries around the world today. Of the 358,000 plus members worldwide, many join Toastmasters to gain more confidence in public speaking. Since 1924, the Toastmasters program has provided a well-structured, positive and feedback-rich environment for members to build capability and confidence in communication at members’ own pace. The unique meeting format and educational system provide a near perfect environment in which members could invigorate their emotional intelligence, an integral part of effective leadership, while having fun. 

What is Emotional Intelligence (EQ)?

It is “the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves, and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships”. (Working with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman).
According to Goleman, EQ is essentially a composite set of competencies that can be learned and significantly improved over time if appropriate learning conditions are present.
Generally speaking EQ is made up of five clusters of competencies. Mastery of these EQ competencies is critical to the overall successes and well-being in many aspects of our life according to the researchers.

The 5 Emotional Intelligence Competencies and Toastmasters Experiences

  1. Self Awareness - self knowledge, self confidence, and emotional awareness.
    Toastmasters Experience - Evaluation, with encouragement and constructive feedback, is the cornerstone of the Toastmasters program. Essentially, all speakers in the meeting will receive feedback one way or the other from fellow members. Sometimes, the feedback helps confirm what we already knew about our strengths and weaknesses. Other times, the evaluators would shed light on our “blind spots”, which could be our unrecognized strengths or stumbling blocks. These insights are critical and invaluable to the development of our self knowledge and understanding. 
  2. Self Regulation - self control and self management.
    Toastmasters Experience – While a typical Toastmasters speech would last between 5-7 minutes, it often takes hours if not days to prepare for it. It takes much efforts and planning to ensure we have a coherent message for the audience. Obviously, a great deal of self-management and prioritization are required to allow us to stay focused on the task. 
  3. Motivation - achievement, commitment, initiative, and optimism.
    Toastmasters Experience – Motivation works multiple ways in Toastmasters. First, members get guidance in developing our communication skills based on a well-structured curriculum called Pathways. We choose among the 11 Paths that are currently available based on own interest and aspiration. Each Path covers a variety of learning projects and speaking assignments spanning across 5 levels of complexity. Members’ achievement of each level is promptly recognized and celebrated at meetings.
    Second, members are encouraged to pursue our learning at our own pace. While it is not uncommon for many of us to complete our Pathways Level 1 in a number of months, quite a few others have indeed finished their entire Path in a similar time frame. It is therefore entirely up to us to make the journey a “dash” or a “marathon” as we are the one responsible for our own growth. 
  4. Empathy - awareness of others’ feelings, needs, and concerns.
    Toastmasters Experience – Members develop our speaking skills through giving and receiving mutual evaluation and feedback. The desire and ability to provide constructive feedback to each other is very important. For feedback to be of value to the receivers, it must be given with sensitivity and care. Above all, members need to have a heightened sense of awareness of the speaker’s feelings, goals and concerns. Empathy, therefore, is a key competence in providing constructive feedback and evaluation that motivate.
    As research has shown, empathy is a learned set of behaviors which can be improved through practices and receiving feedback. The good news is that the feedback-rich environment provided by the Toastmasters program offers an optimum condition by which we can develop our empathic capabilities effectively.
  5. Social Skills - influence, leadership, teamwork, and conflict management.
    Toastmasters Experience – members are offered many opportunities to develop social skills through the meetings and educational programs.
    It is also worth mentioning here is there are plenty of leadership development opportunities through serving on the club’s executive committee. By serving fellow members, club executives have the opportunity to sharpen their inter-personal and influencing skills, learn to collaborate with others by working through individual differences, and resolving conflicts constructively.


Emotional Intelligence is a learnable set of skills that matter much to our everyday life and overall well-being. With the right learning conditions, EQ competencies could be developed and greatly enhanced. The above-mentioned Toastmasters experiences represent a small sample of such learning opportunities. Readers are cordially invited to discover and benefit from the many more growth opportunities as you immerse yourselves in the vast array of Toastmasters experiences.

Dear Toastmaster Authors

Are you a Toastmasters Published Author or Do you know someone who is?

How would you like to connect with 200+ people in less than 3 days?

  • Sell your own products (book, DVD, multimedia, etc.) & Keep 100% of your earnings
  • Inspire a large audience and Gain exposure with your story
  • Have a dedicated space and Connect with other Toastmasters who are authors

Access poster & guidelines for the Author's corner HERE>>>
Register by April 4, 2020 for the full conference at  HERE>> to book your spot. 

Contact the Author Corner Chair Aurie Contosta at to get your booth set up at

the Hilton Meadowvale, 6750 Mississauga Road, ON L5N 2L3

Thank you,
Authors’ Corner Chair

Toastmasters International Values:  Integrity • Respect • Service • Excellence
Our Principles:   Lead By Example • Work / Play as a Team

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