Education Blog

Blog for District 27

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

Carlos V


Carlos Velazquez

Change is not easy.  Change can be confronted with resistance or uncertainty.  Nonetheless change is inevitable.  I went through a change when I switched to a new car that had many features, accessories, and innovations.  I was told that I was “not driving, but hosting an experience.”  The same can be espoused for the change I experienced in becoming a Pathways Guide. 

I became a host of a new kind of ride.   

I was asked in a very sweet and persuasive manner that I should assume the responsibility of becoming a Pathways Guide.  At first, I was resistant and I turned down the offer.  Finally I received enough pleas for help that I accepted the challenge as my guilt got the best of me.

I soon discovered that driving a new car is very much like learning the Pathways program.  I learned that the ignition switch which is now a button on my dashboard is like the website for Toastmasters International.  I learned that 70% of Toastmasters never visit the website and establish a profile for themselves.  That was a key message during my site visits as a Pathways Guide.  Turn on the engine.  Visit the Toastmasters website.

Secondly, at the car dealership I was introduced to the owner’s manual, control panel and touch screen that have many features that support the comfort of my ride.  Similarly, I was introduced to the Navigator, a digital orientation, and Base Camp which is the online gateway to the Pathways experience.  Base Camp supports a member’s educational and leadership journey as they work on projects, track progress, connect with members from their club, view badges and certificates and access several resources that will ultimately make their ride smoother and innovative.

My car came with a service team dedicated to keeping my vehicle’s performance maintained.  Every 3,000 miles I get a text, call, and e-mail reminding me that it is time to visit the service team.  As a Pathways Guide I was part of a larger support team that included Ambassadors, World Headquarters (WHQ) staff, fellow Guides and some District team members who came together to support members into a change that allowed for customized learning and professional growth.

Change is not easy. 

I did face some resistance.  I did encounter some hesitancy and doubt from other members.  I had one hostile confrontation.  Nonetheless, I stayed focused on the destination and I found comfort in the encouragement from WHQ staff rewarding as I moved forward with my “change plan” or road map.

At the core of my plan was communication.  How I framed the change was well received.  The metaphor to a car-buying experience made the narrative relatable—less threatening.  I emphasized the metaphor in the way I set up the Virtual Support Sessions (VSS) and the manner in which I sought out the support of fellow Guides to co-moderate several sessions.  Several Guides became a part of the Pathways service team.   

It was important to set up for transitions as part of my change plan so I encouraged the clubs I visited that they should select a VP for Pathways to plan for a smooth transition of a new VPE for the new program year.  I assumed the role of VPE for Crystal City Evening Toastmasters and I have been mentoring a new VPE for Old Town Toastmasters which has boosted opportunities for early adoption of Pathways.  The new VPEs have become the navigators for change. 

Lastly, I decided to map out three virtual support sessions to allow newly elected officers in July to be exposed to the Pathways experience in collaboration with the outgoing VPEs and Presidents.  The level of interest and motivation is rewarding and I think in the long run we will witness a shift in the uptake for Pathways at the District level especially as TLIs have included three separate training electives from some of the Guides and Ambassadors.

I am truly hosting a new kind of ride and I am glad to be a part of a service team that is making change a smoother and innovative experience.

Crystal City Evening Toastmasters Ends Program Year with Honors

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

Carlos V

We are ending the 2016-2017 program year for Crystal City Evening Toastmasters with many accomplishments.  This includes earning the President’s Distinguished Award for the third time in four years.  The club has been a distinguished club for four years in a row.  Before this level of success Crystal City Evening Toastmasters had not received the President’s Distinguished Award since 2006.

We are also proud of the fact that our club received the Golden Toaster Award for having all seven of our officers trained for the winter of 2017.  Our website took second place for the District 27 website contest.  We also received the Beat the Clock Membership Drive Award for recruiting five new members.

Our club has been able to produce some highly competent speakers as growth in speaking skills has been a hallmark of our group for many years.  We also have some very competitive speakers as we have produced some speech champions over the course of the last few years as demonstrated by Dan Roth being named Evaluation Speech Contest Champion two years in a row.  David Dante won the Table Topics championship last fall and Carlos Velázquez was awarded the Humorous Speech Championship for 2016 and he placed third in the Evaluation Contest for spring of 2017.  Krasimir Kashinov competed in the Spring Evaluation Contest in the finals which was his first time ever as a contestant. His growth as a speaker has been remarkable and under his leadership our club has thrived. Several of the members earned their CC including Kristin Allen and Haley Traeger.  Carlos Velázquez earned his DTM and his third triple crown. The move from our original meeting space had an impact on our membership but we were relentless in promoting the club and our migration back to Aurora Hills Community Center is a welcome homecoming. We look forward to our members advancing their skills through the newly launched Pathways program.  About 35% of our members have enrolled into the program and Chris McAllister, Haley Traeger and David Pelgrim were early adopters.  Carlos Velázquez served as a Pathways Guide for the District. 

This coming year will mark our 25th anniversary.  We are making plans for a special event in May.  Our anniversary marks a significant step in our history within Toastmasters.  The incoming officers will provide the type of leadership that will guarantee that we recognize our anniversary with honor and that we end 2018 with additional achievements.

All the members of Crystal City Evening Toastmasters will support that goal! 

Impromptu Speaking – What Is It and What Can You Do To Overcome Your Fear of It?

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

dsc05799By David Dante CC, 2016 District 27 Table Topics Champion

Why are so many people tremendously terrified of impromptu speaking? This form of speaking is a subset of public speaking and as many as 75% of people are afraid of public speaking. I imagine this number is higher when it comes to improvised speaking.

Generally, individuals feel public speaking is giving a prepared speech, such as a keynote address (Toastmasters is a good place to work on this skill). Impromptu speaking is speaking off the cuff, whether it will be delivering a speech or simply answering a question (Toastmasters is a good place to work on this skill too). In either case “off the cuff” refers to the speaker having very little or no time to prepare. For example, I have observed fellow Toastmasters stumble and fumble their way through answering a spontaneous interview question after presenting amazing prepared speeches at competitions. I have even heard some interviewees start answering the question with a statement like “I hate Table Topics [a short improvised speech]; I am really bad at them.” I can empathize where these speakers are coming from.

When I first joined Toastmasters, I was keenly aware of my fear of public speaking, glossophobia. The first time I did a Table Topic I felt like I wanted to heave my cookies, my hands were wringing wet, my legs and arms were shaking, and thoughts were racing through my head so fast I could not comprehend them. Talk about fight, flight, or freeze. I was experiencing flight or freeze. I imagine this is how many people feel when doing table topics for the first time and possibly in many unplanned speaking situations. There is a psychological theory behind this and if you are interested, check out Glenn Croston’s Ph.D. blog.

I want to touch upon what I do to overcome this phobia and how my experience may be helpful for you. For me, one of the important actions I take pertaining to impromptu speaking is to implement the Nike slogan “Just do it”. Toastmasters is a fantastic environment to apply this slogan because it is a safe place to experiment pushing our boundaries beyond our speaking comfort zones. Fellow Toastmasters are nurturing by providing helpful feedback to encourage our improvement. In addition to just doing it, I do it often! Repetition is a tool that will assist us to grow in our spontaneous speaking. You will be developing the skill of impromptu speaking by exercising the muscles needed for it.

Improvised speaking can be performed in any meeting role at a Toastmasters meeting, for instance the timer may define the timing lights descriptively (for example the bright shamrock green light) or tell a brief story about what the role of the timer is (for example I’m the meter-maid of time and I provide the speaker with warning signs).

As we move on, I like to have fun, do you? I am going out on a limb here and assuming your answer is “YES!” I imagine when an activity is fun you cannot wait to do it again. It is as if there is a yearning from your entire being to engage and connect with that activity. You may experience goose bumps on your arms or a warmth expanding in your chest, or any other multitude of physical sensations in your body when thinking about that activity. As such, another important aspect to impromptu speaking for me is to have fun with it while participating in the Toastmasters meetings and in life! If you consider unplanned speaking drudgery or insanely hard work or tell yourself you are just bad at it, I imagine the experiences you have may feel painful in some way, shape, or form rather than fun. When I am feeling that sense of joy while engaged in unrehearsed speaking, it helps me want to do it again, and again, and again.

Mental preparation is another aspect of impromptu speaking that is important me wherever I am. Being able to keep a clear mind or have the ability to clear your mind quickly is a great skill to have for impromptu speaking. It is a great skill to have anywhere for anything for that matter. One way I do this mental preparation is to take a deep breath before responding. The breath is not one as in exacerbation or frustration rather it is a quiet slow belly breath. It only needs to last about three to five seconds. I accomplish this without exhibiting it. This deep belly breath creates just enough space for your brain to clear and begin to find a response to the question.

Impromptu speaking is a useful life skill to hone. Breathe, have fun, and “Just do it!”