Education Blog

The Ethical Toastmaster

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Carlos V

The Ethical Toastmaster

Carlos Velazquez

Helen Keller reminds us that “the most pathetic person is someone who has sight but no vision.”  A vision that is built on ethics is of great value.  It is a position that should be adopted by all clubs as per the core values of Toastmasters.  Integrity is a core value we take to heart at Crystal City Evening Toastmasters in the manner in which we manage our meetings; support our members’ growth; and conduct our business. 

We work as a team to hold one another accountable and support each other to get things done.  This sense of support and flexibility is an important attribute to leadership. The longer we sustain our membership in Toastmasters the more such leadership skills become second nature.  Recently, I observed members quickly responding to a need to fill meeting gaps when a couple of our members were unable to fulfill their roles.  Their responsiveness was immediate and seamless so the meeting flowed beautifully.  This is great teamwork and demonstrates our capacity to get the job done beyond any challenges.

We also honor the system that was created to foster growth which means that we trust in one another and build self confidence in following the program that Toastmasters has built to master many communications and leadership skills.  Growth comes in many forms and for some members that means that they move towards becoming highly competent and professional speakers for others that may translate to organizing a special event such a club contest or summer picnic.  No matter the level of mastery, the level of effort is valued as members grow in their abilities.  Trust is an important part of that process.

At Crystal City Evening Toastmasters we demonstrate our trust in one another by being supportive in the evaluation process.  We take risks as speakers and leaders and we trust that fellow members will guide us through lessons learned and self-reflection.  Our ability to listen to feedback and to accept our room for improvement has much merit.  Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that a great person is always willing to be little.  Such a person will stand tall in our club as we foster an environment where we can serve, learn and grow together. 

The ethical Toastmaster is one who adopts the value of integrity while following the formal and informal programs and practices of our club.  Ethical Toastmasters trust themselves and the contributions of their fellow members and wear their membership with pride as they advance their club’s capacity and of their own.

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!