Year 2020 in Review

As the end of the year approaches, we prepare ourselves for all things holiday: food and family, rest and relaxation, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, peace on earth, and the annual year in review list. But this is 2020, and that means different, unprecedented, disrupted. By necessity, traditions will be a little well, untraditional, this year. In fact, many of us will ring in the new year - “Bye-Bye 2020!”-- with great gusto and much optimism from the safety of our living rooms. Seasons greetings will be digital, the laptop will have pride of place at the holiday dinner table, and for the first time in my lifetime, babysitters will be unemployed on New Year’s Eve. Still, there’s much to cheer and many lessons learned. So, to highlight some hallmarks here’s my top 10 list of the good stuff that happened in 2020.

1. We slowed down and found joy in simplicity
2. We explored new frontiers in learning
3. We added new family members in our households
4. We added fur-babies to our families
5. We walked more; we used our cars less
6. We recognized systemic racism and vowed to do better
7. We learned that a “bubble” is not always made of soap - and it can be a verb (“to bubble”)
8. We said leadership must be inclusive
9. We added the mask as a fashion accessory
10. We continued our Toastmasters’ journey and strengthened our community.

We learned new words too. Not just “social distancing” and “Zooming” but my new favorite, teleoanticipation. As we wave goodbye (and good riddance!) to 2020, and hello to the promise of 2021, I can think of few words more apt right now. It’s vocabulary that comes from the world of long-distance running and it describes the finish line - or, more precisely, how far away the finish line is in the race. In this COVID-19 journey, we are all runners. No doubt, we have surprised ourselves by what we have endured already, and the incredible feats we have overcome. Now, as we enter the final stretch, we see the road is challenging, and we are tired. The finish line is in view, and we have a clearer sense of the energy it will take to get there.

We wish you the strength and hope you need to cross the finish line safely.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Dr. Claire Kelly, PhD
Director, Curriculum & Research - Appleby College
OTM Oakville Toastmasters, Club Member December 2020

Speaking to a Virtual Audience

One of the goals of a speaker is to engage their audience.  But what if your audience is behind a screen?  Can you engage a virtual audience?  The answer is a firm YES!

In a live audience, distractions occur, but perhaps different ones than speaking virtually. In our new normal of speaking online to people, many distractions can come into play such as kids running in the background, the coffee maker brewing or the doorbell ringing. As trained speakers, we can either ignore the distraction and hope that no one noticed or make a joke out of it. For example, if you are Roger Caesar and your doorbell rang, you could say, “That was my doorbell ringing, my new shoes must have arrived!” For those that do not know Roger well, you can probably guess that he has a fondness for unique and shiny shoes. We can thank Table Topics for preparing us for impromptu ways of addressing distractions!

Studies show that your words account for only 7% of your message. The remaining 93% is non-verbal. As speakers, when we are on a stage, we use eye contact to connect with our audience. When speaking to a screen, it is imperative to use the same rules as television…look at the camera, not the surroundings. Many of us tend to look at ourselves on the screen. While that seems most natural for the speaker, the audience will not be looking in your eyes directly.

Be also aware of your background and lighting. Be wary if the sun shining right on your face during a presentation as it is a distraction to the viewer. Be sure to test your technology first to ensure any mishaps during your presentation. The audience notices the speaker's attire so looking your best during all sessions is important (not just from the waist up!)

If you deliver your message from the heart, your audience will remember it. Sending positive energy to your audiences helps to connect with the audience.

Jim Rohn says, "Effective communication is 20% of what you know and 80% of how you feel about what you know."  Your confidence will be evident when you can effectively address distractions, focus on your body language, and utilize eye contact effectively. Happy presenting to your virtual audience!

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Photo credits: Unsplash

Blog Author: Gaby Mammone
Gaby is an award-winning business executive recognized as an advocacy leader in the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. She writes blogs for many publications in the topics of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. As the founder of the kindness movement, #BeAwareBeKind Gaby is on a mission to cultivate kindness globally. Gaby is the Past President at City Centre Toastmasters, and current Treasurer of Club 6288.

Gaby can be reached at:

Smiling Behind a Mask

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Do you smile behind your mask?

As I walked down each aisle in the grocery store, I noticed how COVID-19 had transformed our lives. Each person was wearing a mask. Some would lock eyes with people as they passed. Others would just keep walking without acknowledging others around them.

I couldn’t help but notice the unwavering silence that was in the grocery store. I watched people scurry past each other with a sense of uneasiness and fear.

I reminisced about what it was like to go grocery shopping before the pandemic. People used to smile and say hello to each other. Even when my daughter was a baby and her mouth was covered with a pacifier, we still knew when she smiled.

But as I placed apples in my shopping cart, I noticed that people were picking their groceries without the cordial “small talk” or smiles I once experienced.

I decided to try an experiment. As I sauntered down the aisles, I made a point of smiling behind my mask to each person I passed. I nodded, I excitedly said hello, I waved, and I also placed my hands together in a namaste pose.

People reciprocated! I learned that we should always smile when wearing masks and facial coverings. As I smiled with each hand wave or a friendly namaste pose, they returned the smile. I could tell they were smiling behind their masks.

People have struggled with isolation and anxiety during the pandemic. Many of us are missing the warmth of a handshake, or the connection in a hug. Common bonds bring us together, so it is important to make that extra effort when wearing a mask to say hello and greet people with an obvious smile behind our masks.
In this world of COVID-19, even though our nose, mouth and chin are hidden behind our masks, we can still feel people smiling. Our eyes, eyebrows, and body gestures communicate friendly messages to those around us. And if you get someone showing wrinkles at the corner of their eyes, that person is super ecstatic. So, smile behind your mask. And be proud to show your eye wrinkles too!

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Photocredis: Gaby Mammone | Treasurer (2020/21) | Past President (2019/20) | City Centre Toastmasters Club 6288

Blog Author: Gaby Mammone

Gaby is an award-winning business executive recognized as an advocacy leader in the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. She writes blogs for many publications in the topics of adversity, communication, diversity and inclusion. As the founder of the kindness movement, #BeAwareBeKind Gaby is on a mission to cultivate kindness globally. Gaby is the Past President at City Centre Toastmasters, and current Treasurer of Club 6288.

Gaby can be reached at:

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

That’s Magical!

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 There’s something magical about the start of a new year that brings excitement and fresh hopes. We make new year resolutions, create plans and aim to improve ourselves in all sorts of wholesome ways. But do we always take the time to reflect on what’s already inside us - what we’ve learned, how we’ve grown, people we’ve met on our journey and the experiences we’ve had? This year, for the first time in my life, I did. And its been one of the most rewarding exercises I’ve had. I sat down one Saturday morning in December with my coffee and journal and started writing.

I had an incredible year with travel, my son got married in June, and I started an amazing course that I’m absolutely loving. I’m learning to grow vegetables in my garden and deepening my meditation practice, so many things to be grateful for including my toastmaster journey!

There were so many firsts for me – I attended the 3-day District 86 conference and was inspired by the dedication, commitment, quality and courage of the speakers and evaluators, the powerful energy from the audience, the networking and the workshops.

I was honoured to accept the role of Area Director, albeit a little hesitantly, to be honest I wasn’t sure I had the skills, but so thankful I accepted! It’s given me the opportunity to witness incredible leadership, teamwork, courage, perseverance and hope from members to support a club that was struggling.

My biggest fear this year was chairing the Division T Open House, delegating, marketing, media and so much more! But I survived and learned new skills!

Go ahead, make plans for the coming year, seek out new opportunities for growth, but also take a moment to acknowledge and feel gratitude for all you’ve already done! That’s Magical!

Parveen Johal
Grand River Toastmasters (Cambridge)
Club 1908

What I Learned from a Social Media Detox

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Photo Credits to Pixabay for social media image

I went on a social media detox. Initially my detox was intended for 30 days. But when I dropped my phone (again), this time I really damaged it and needed a new one. When the data transferred over, my social media apps didn’t. 3 weeks went to 4. 5 weeks went to 6, then 7, then 8. This is what I learned in the 60 days.
Weeks 1 & 2:
The beginning was bizarre. I found myself picking up my phone for no apparent reason. Initially I felt like I was punishing myself. I wondered what my friends were doing and what my colleagues were posting. I experienced guilt that I was not commenting or sharing posts from people in my circle. From a business perspective, I felt irresponsible that I was not responding to comments on my posts that were prescheduled with a social media management tool. My posts were still going up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, and my anxiety increased that the algorithms were being affected by inactivity. I admit that I found myself taking a quick sneak peak at my notifications and scrolling through pictures, but I quickly closed the window when I felt like I was somehow cheating.
Weeks 3 & 4:
My morning ritual used to be that I would scroll through feeds and click on notifications. Once I went through the initial stage of withdrawl, I found myself using that time to meditate and visualize what I wanted my day to look like. When the kids woke up, I was in a better mental state, ready to tackle my day. My absence from social media became easier. This is when I dropped my phone and didn’t bother putting the apps back on. I admit that there were times where I enjoyed social times with friends, but taking our pictures and posting them was no longer a priority. I valued the time with them and didn’t need to post about it.
Week 5 & 6:
People reached out saying, “Gaby, why have you been so quiet?” I had many reasons, too many to list. Ultimately, I needed to focus on my family, my health and unfinished projects. I felt that social media was taking away precious time that I needed to complete my objectives. I made the decision to take the hiatus for my well being and I was finally gaining momentum in my life. I was starting to make progress and my attention span was increasing. Living with a disability can be very challenging at times, but I finally felt like I could focus.
Week 7:
By now, I was able to regain my positive mental state. I completed projects that were lingering and planned for new ones. I was able to keep a clear head and operate at full capacity for my children. I didn’t miss the spammers, complainers or inappropriate posts. I did however miss the community and connection. Being part of a social connection can lower anxiety and help us regulate our emotions and improve psychological well-being.

I apologize to my friends and network for being absent in your exciting posts. I have recalibrated and am slowly making time to be online again. I admit that I couldn’t help to enjoy how much more productive I was.
There was a time where I went through an overwhelming feeling of needing to post pictures within a day of the event and causing myself to be stressed. I ask myself now, but why? I can still post the pictures, but on my schedule. So, if you see images from an event you joined me in several months ago, you will be reminded of how much fun we had. (and thank you for understanding on the late post!)
I no longer feel the urge to be constantly tapped in. I have turned off my notifications and ensure that I hop on social media when time permits, and my daily objectives have been achieved. If you decide to take your own social media detox, I am optimistic that you will experience a greater outlook on how you will manage your time and declutter your mind. I feel grateful that I was able to take this break as it gave me extreme clarity and the ability to manage my time better.
What made me return to social media? I actually think that social media is a good thing. In my case, in moderation. I want to log on when I want to, on my own time, on my own schedule. Control your social media efforts, not the other way around.

Blog submitted by: Gaby Mammone
Gaby is an award-winning business executive recognized as an advocacy leader in the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. She writes blogs and hosts workshops in the topics of inclusion, acceptance and communication. Gaby is the Past President at City Centre Toastmasters, Club 6288.
Gaby can be reached at:

Letting Your Voice Be Heard by Bob Turel, DTM

I am in a situation that allows me to be a different kind of Toastmaster. One that participates silently through serving other TMs remotely, which is necessitated by my medical condition. I was diagnosed with ALS, which has curtailed my ability to speak. However, it has not hampered my competency to see, hear, feel, and type. These capabilities allow me to participate as a Toastmaster in a different manner. Specifically, it enables me to view videoed speeches with the intent to provide supplemental feedback to the presenter. Essentially, I'm advocating the importance of seeing what one's feedback is referring to so adjustments can be meaningful. I am asking Toastmasters to consider videoing speeches, for remote evaluations offered by a slightly hobbled Toastmaster who can still deliver constructive feedback.

For as long as I am physically able, I would love to participate in my fellow Toastmasters' growth & development as communicators and leaders. Videoing speeches can be a brave new world for many, but, as we know from being Toastmasters, trying something new, that makes sense, can only offer enhanced learning and progress. If you are interested in how the process works, please send an email to

Bob Turel, DTM - District 48

High Performance Leadership

The High Performance Leadership Project continues to take our Toastmasters program to new levels by expanding our leadership skills into the public eye. David Lozowsky did just that by embarking on spreading the news about Toastmasters to the public.

14 members from 7 different clubs pitched in to help publicize Toastmasters in Brampton at the Downtown Farmers market on September 14th 2019. We distributed 500 color trifold pamphlets. This was a great opportunity for clubs to talk about their clubs and draw in new members. The lovely collage below has glimpses of this event.


Top Left to Right: David and Mayor Patrick Brown | Pam from Hershaw accepting the flyers to distribute | Michael from Brampton and Dharmesh from Brampton Talks ready to promote their clubs 
Bottom Left to Right: Felicia from Speak to Inspire excited to be speaking with someone | Matthew from Rogers Park listening to a prospect

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