The Faces of Four interview series showcases the stories and journeys of District 4 Toastmasters. Do you know a fellow member who should be featured? If so, e-mail with the details.

Noemi GonzalezJuly 14, 2016 Noemi Gonzalez

Continuing our series, we’re featuring our Program Quality Director, Noemi Gonzalez. Let’s find out more about Noemi’s journey.

AN: Tell us a little about your Toastmasters career (e.g. How long have you been with the organization, what clubs do you belong to, what made you join, etc.).

I joined Toastmasters four years ago. A friend and I agreed to meet for happy hour, but first, she insisted we attend “a meeting.” She said it with such earnestness that I thought, “Yikes! If it’s what I’m thinking, should we be going to happy hour?” But I resolved to be supportive and I attended “the meeting.” It was my first of what would become my original home club, Global SF Toastmasters – the warmth of that group made me feel at home. I remember being impressed by the follow up email I received from the VP of Membership the next day; it made me feel welcome and that they had things together!

I didn’t know, before I attended that first meeting, that in it I’d find a way to achieve two very essential goals. As a newly independent Translation and Interpretation Services professional, recently arrived in the Bay Area, I NEEDED: 1.To communicate and work effectively with new and prospective clients, regardless of their field (I work regularly with professionals and their clients in the medical, legal, business, government and education sectors, among other industries); 2. To create a community of supportive and focused individuals, a sort of unofficial group of surrogate colleagues, along whom I could continue to grow. Currently, I am also a member of Spanish Bilingual SF Toastmasters, which I have sponsored, and Point of Order Toastmasters.

AN: How has Toastmasters helped you in your professional career?

I’ve definitely become a more effective communicator; I am more concise and clear. I also feel that due to the fact that within the club, area, division and district environments we form and work within, I’ve learned valuable skills that have made me a more thoughtful leader and team member. This flows into my interactions with my clients and with the members of other communities of which I am a member

AN: What is the best public speaking advice you’ve ever received?

This is a tough one! I’ve received a lot of great advice. I’ll focus on the most relevant to my growth: slow down, breathe, take pauses and enjoy the moment; be kind to yourself if you forget or overlook something. Probably at the top of my list: the audience will enjoy you if you enjoy yourself!

AN: What has surprised you the most about yourself since you joined Toastmasters?

How much I enjoy sharing ideas, knowledge and information with large audiences! I used to get physically sick when I had to speak in front of groups. But something shifted when I started to talk to the audience as a friend. I enjoy sharing something relevant or fun.

AN: What are your interests and hobbies outside of Toastmasters?

What, this isn’t a hobby?! When I am not enjoying a club meeting or district event, I like to draw – I love drawing people’s faces the most; capturing an expression or feeling. I need to do that more often, so don’t be surprised if the next time you give a speech, you see me with my sketching pad out!

AN: How would you describe the perfect meal?

A bowl of creamy bean soup made from scratch with butter, cheese and a few other secret family ingredients, with fragrant homemade flour tortillas (you don’t know how wonderful these are until you have them homemade) and a chunk of queso fresco. It’s a simple meal made with simple ingredients that just takes me back to childhood the way few other things can.

AN: What is a fun fact most people don’t know about you?

Back when I was in my twenties, in college, I was a Shoplift Agent for a couple of years. This is a job that requires attention to detail, a responsible attitude, knowledge of criminal and civil law, good writing and verbal skills, common sense, etc. (I think this description fits me to a T, right?). However, most people don’t reconcile my personality with this type of job. It’s a great lesson on not judging a book by its cover!

-- Interviewed by Alyssa Ng (PR team, District 4 Toastmasters)


Aubrey CarrierJuly 7, 2016 Aubrey Carrier

The first spotlight of the 2016-2017 term is none other than our new District 4 Director, Aubrey Carrier. Let’s take a moment to get to know Aubrey.

AN: Tell us a little about your Toastmasters career (e.g. How long have you been with the organization, what clubs do you belong to, what made you join, etc.).

I knew that my employer sponsored multiple Toastmasters clubs. Occasionally, I would see an internal bulletin promoting the program. The thought would cross my mind that maybe I should go check it out, but I always found a reason to put it off. In summer 2010, two colleagues dared me to speak at a professional conference the following year. I knew I needed practice speaking in front of an audience!

Even with a looming deadline as motivation, it still took me a few months to seek out Toastmasters. I finally worked up the courage to visit that December and officially became a member in January 2011. If I could do it all over again… I would have joined a few years earlier!

I still belong to my home club, Stagecoach Speakers-525 Market. But after realizing what a thriving Toastmasters community we have in District 4, it’s hard to stop at just one club! I’ve been a member of the advanced club Evening Stars since 2013, and earlier this year I joined the specialty club Point of Order.

AN: How has Toastmasters helped you in your professional career?

Several months after joining, a coworker observed that I was speaking up more in meetings. I started to realize that Toastmasters had unexpected benefits beyond delivering prepared speeches. Active participation offers us countless opportunities to compose mini-speeches and presentations on the fly, whether they are Table Topics responses, evaluations or functionary reports. Now I find that I’m able to present my ideas with better confidence and fluidity in conversations, meetings and other “off the cuff” situations.

AN: What is the best public speaking advice you’ve ever received?

Make sure your message is relevant and meaningful to your audience.

AN: What has surprised you the most about yourself since you joined Toastmasters?

The earliest surprise was learning that I actually DID have the capacity to improve as a speaker! Beyond that, the biggest surprise was getting involved with District leadership. Of course I was NEVER going to do that…

AN: What are your interests and hobbies outside of Toastmasters?

I’m a big fan of live performance, from blockbuster musicals to experimental plays in tiny shoebox theaters – the Bay Area has it all and everything in-between. I’m also a proud member of PFLAG-San Francisco and served on the board for two years.

AN: How would you describe the perfect meal?

One that starts with dessert, preferably involving ice cream of some kind.

AN: What is a fun fact most people don’t know about you?

I have a hidden, or sometimes not-so-hidden, theatrical streak (see answer to #5!). As a teenager I was involved in community theater. Now I find opportunities in Toastmasters to express that side of myself!

-- Interviewed by Alyssa Ng (PR team, District 4 Toastmasters)


Cody CotullaNovember 2015 Cody Cotulla

Featured in this month's Faces of Four is the reigning District Humorous Speech Contest Champion Cody Cotulla and his inspiration for the winning speech - his cat.

VP: Cody tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into Toastmasters?

I joined TM about 4 years ago, and I came into TM with an interest in storytelling. I had done some performing in the past. I looked online for storytelling. I was interested in performing as I was a stand up comic in my early 20s. I saw someone that I used to know, who was a stand-up comic as well, and had been storytelling. I saw from his bio that he was doing storytelling at Toastmasters in the North Bay. I went to Golden Gate Toastmasters; it is one of the oldest Toastmasters Club in the North Bay and it worked out for me.

When I went to my first meeting I did not know what to expect. I did not even know what Table Topics meant. I thought Table Topics meant sitting around a table. I found that it was a safe and supportive environment and I really needed that in my life, at that point in time. When I was asked in my table topics about what my best kept secret was, I chose that to be my first Icebreaker speech. This is how I got on board into Toastmasters as a member. It took me 6 visits as a guest to the club to watch the environment, watch people play different roles and observe, before I became a member. Every week we had to come up with a fun fact about ourselves and I started learning how to face that challenge every week. It was fun question, but it also taught me how to get something out of every interaction in Toastmasters. I am very fortunate to be at Golden Gate Toastmasters, and find such supportive people.

VP: How did Toastmasters influence you in your speeches, even though you had done stand-up comedy before?

Toastmasters is very different from stand-up comedy. Even though I have done a lot of stand-up comedy before, I still get nervous before I speak. Most of my speeches have not been really prepared. I know what it feels like to be really prepared. Whether it is a humorous speech or any other kind of speech, I get to know the feeling of being very prepared, and it is something that I shoot for, during every speech. At Toastmasters, it was not really about perfection in speech, it was more about knowing what you are going to say. It is not just memorizing the speech. It is about knowing how I am going to convey the message and what I am going to say. Knowing this helps me deliver in the moment. This helps me connect with the audience better, in the dynamics of the moment. Toastmasters gave me a platform to do so.

As a comic, Toastmasters helped me to get comfortable with those moments where the audience is not laughing, but just looking at you and listening without showing expressions. It was very liberating for me and helped me experiment more with my techniques in stand-up comedy and stretch myself. I enjoy making people laugh, but if I said something and people did not laugh, it felt okay; I can now do a wider range of things. My talk can be more serious, it can be more informative and I can better express myself as who I am. I am able to expand my skillset as a humorist, and a communicator because of the supportive and safe environment at Toastmasters.

From what I have gotten out of Toastmasters, the speaking is definitely a great component. But the leadership part of Toastmasters is equally important. It has helped me in my personal development and growth. In Toastmasters you learn about leading by example. I learned to ask people to do something e.g., I need you to do table topics or be a speaker, I learned how to ask without demanding. I was able to extend this ability to work. It also means getting people to do things which they may not be up to. You need to meet people where they are. At Toastmasters, I learned to communicate to people to do things, and let people know that I am there to support them as well.

VP: You mentioned that Toastmasters taught you to meet people where they are. What did you mean when you say that?

People come to Toastmasters with different sets of goals. So they may not be aligned with the roles and responsibilities assigned to them. The first order of business is to learn why they are in Toastmasters and how far they have gotten in meeting their personal goals. You need to help them with their personal goals as you ask them to meet the goals of the club. It is a constant juggle of priorities and a lot of thinking about what I can do to help improve the club or club members. It can get frustrating at times, but there is incredible pleasure in meeting small goals and seeing improvements in the club.

VP: What is your message to the audience?

I believe that we have to take risks, in order to grow, period! What I try to do as a person, and what I love about Toastmasters, is that it creates a safe and supportive environment where people feel valued, regardless of their success or failures. It is in such an environment that people who are willing to take risks and grow. It is hard to take risks. Personally, I strive to create such a supportive environment for others to grow, in my role as a leader at Toastmasters and at my workplace or outside of it.

-- Interviewed on 17th November 2015, by Vidyangi S. Patil (PR team, District 4 Toastmasters)


KK faces aug15August 2015 Karthik Kalpat, DTM
D4TM Division-G Director, 2015-2016
Area Governor of the Year, 2014-2015

Here is one interview you don't want to miss if building powerful teams, true leadership and effective communication matters to you. In the interview Karthik Kalpat redefines communication by helping you think of yourself as a leader.

VP: Karthik, please tell me a little bit about your journey at Toastmasters
KK: I have been a Toastmaster since Feb 2013 (about two and half years). I received my DTM recognition on July 1st 2015. In this time, I have served as VPE (twice), President, VPM and SAA in my club(s). I also served as an Area Governor, Sponsored a club, run a Youth Leadership Program, contributed to the District realignment committee and hosted COTs.

I joined Toastmasters like most other people to improve my communication skills and to learn to speak in front of an audience without hesitation. What I did not anticipate was how many opportunities I got to perform a leadership role.

VP: Where do you think Toastmasters made a difference in bringing you out of your shell?
KK: My reluctance to talk to a stranger has vanished. I have learned to strike up many an interesting conversation and am comfortable sharing words or appreciation with them. In return, I get smiles, compliments and friends. This has improved the quality of my interactions and made a positive impact on my life itself!

VP: Have you discovered positivity in leadership with the help of Toastmasters?
KK: One of the things I learned from TM communication stream is that the nervousness in speaking goes away when you concentrate on the message rather than how the audience is responding to you. It is different when you are working on your leadership track. You focus on what you are doing for others rather than what you derive from an action, i.e., focusing on doing the right thing, sensing everybody's needs and acting accordingly.

VP: Communication is the cornerstone of leadership. Do you agree with that? If so, how do you think it happened in your experience as a leader?
KK: For me personally, at work and at the club level, I did not get off to a very good start. I had been a manager for a few years before I joined TM. What I realized was that I had not been a leader in that role. There is a very big difference in being a manager and a leader. As a manager I was telling people what to do, how to do it and what exactly I needed down to the last detail. I was a good manager. But serving as a Director at work and the Club President at TM, I started to work with a very good team of people and learned to delegate work and trust them to do their best.

VP: What is your secret wish list for Toastmasters and how would you tie up your vision for Toastmasters in that list? What is your tagline for Toastmasters?
KK: Many members still don't get the tangible benefit of being a leader. I think there should be a better way to encourage people to understand these benefits and reiterate to them that everyone is a leader here at Toastmasters.

My tagline for TM is "Leaders create more leaders". Three months into TM the VP Education of the club left us. I wanted to take up that role and my mentor said, "I think he can do it. I want to let him do it". This kind of support and encouragement has given me the confidence time and again.

Also a good leader should not be threatened by talent perceived to be better than him/her, a leader should not be afraid of that. They should think that they can spread their wings and perform better with more talent on the team. If nobody can do what you are doing today, then you can never do more tomorrow. So good leaders train other people to do what they are doing and in that process become better themselves.

- Interviewed by Vidyangi S. Patil (PR Team District 4 - Toastmasters)
- Edited by Kavitha BM, Katherine Pratt

PK July 2015July 2015 Kirubakaran Periyannan (better known as "PK")

Here is a very unassuming, quiet person who you may not notice in a room. But when it's his turn to speek, he is guaranteed to make heads turn. That’s exactly what happened when Kirubakaran Periyannan (a.k.a. PK) took part in the District International Speech Contest in May 2015.  He wowed the audience and judges with his booming voice, well thought out material and excellent delivery.

When PK's co-worker introduced him to Toastmasters 7 years ago, little did he know that he would be a Distinguished Toastmaster in a matter of 5 years and then go on to win a District Level contest. PK is currently preparing to compete in the Semi-Final round of the International Speech contest in Las Vegas.

You say you don't speak a whole lot in a one on one conversation. My question is, is it difficult to go on stage and speak in that case?

In my personal opinion I think that one-on-one conversation is very different from speaking on stage. I like to entertain people and that is my motivation to speak on stage. I am not a theater person either. I have never been on stage before. I play the Violin but again I have never played on a stage.

What does it take to win a speech contest?

You need a good written script with nuanced writing for a good speech. As is common knowledge among Toastmasters, it is not only what you say, but how you say it. I always video my speeches and critique myself on delivery and confidence. I also believe that practice makes perfect. I practiced my speech at different clubs and fine-tuned it based on the feedback. People may laugh at a joke in one club and the same would not work at another. I tried to go to as many clubs as I could to gauge audience reaction. I think It is very important to work on audience feedback for improvising as some audiences may not respond to your material the way you expect them to.

 When you did your first speech did you know you would be a contest winning speaker some day?

When I attended speech contests I felt inspired to write great speeches and participate. That’s what motivated me to work on bettering my speeches and keep trying.

What is your advice to people having issues with confidence?

Confidence is a matter of practice. I continue to have issues with nervousness. So, I practice 10-15 times before I deliver a crucial speech. When I am delivering the speech, I try not to focus on what the audience thinks about me. I give my best shot to prepare and deliver. I ask for comments on what worked well and I could have improved after the actual speech.

Have you been a test speaker before? What are some of the ways to get one's speech evaluated in Toastmasters when you are contending for District/Area speech contests?

Yes, I have been a test speaker for evaluation contests. I have also volunteered myself to get my speech evaluated in TLI Leadership workshops. TLI workshops tend to bigger and can be very useful as a platform to prepare for speaking in front of a crowd of 200+ people.

Since you are winning speech contests at multiple levels, do you aspire to be a professional speaker? Is it helping you in your current job? Why are you investing so much time with Toastmasters and contests?

I have no intention of pursuing a career in public speaking. I have a desk job in a semi-conductor R&D company. My intention of investing so much time in this is purely for self-improvement. It helps me communicate better with people. The techniques for better speech are the same whether it is with one person or with a group of 100 people. It helps me more in one-on-one conversations to have more control over the conversation. If I can drive my message to a 100 people I can muster the confidence to drive my message to one person.

Where does Toastmaster actually show its magic in communication? In real life, we have to deal with a variety of challenges in communication i.e., dealing with a cranky 2 year old to dealing with a stubborn 80 year old, all under different circumstances.

I guess Toastmasters provides the ability to connect with different people. I feel that's where the magic of Toastmasters lies. Once you start connecting with the people around you, you become a happier person.

What is your tagline? What is your message to the Toastmasters reading this?

Don't overthink your speech. The main reason people mess up is by losing confidence. You are guaranteed that path if you start thinking about others’ perception or opinions as you are giving it. It is important to keep the mind devoid of unnecessary thoughts and focus on delivering the speech to your satisfaction.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil and edited by the PR Team


david singer

June 2015 David Singer

If there is a way to learn deeper truths of life by way of Toastmasters, David Singer is the man who leads the way. He slowly spills his gems of wisdom as he draws deeply from every major experience he has had at Toastmasters. David Singer has been an Area Governor, Division Governor and our District Toastmaster of the Year for 2014-15. He is also a District 4 Webmaster and enjoys applying his experience from IBM Research to auto-run statistics and figure out the best way to optimize his work.

How does Toastmaster make a difference to people?
Toastmasters is a great place if you can work with people and learn by trying out new things. The best part of Toastmasters is that you are allowed to try out something new, make mistakes. Peers help you out and it is a non-competitive environment where all of us together are better than any one of us.

One of the clubs I am a part of is Silicon Valley Storytellers. Almost every exercise in the club is intended to bring out a story. In a tech talk it may be a great idea to use a story to drive a point home. Steve Jobs did it very well. He built a story about what an iPad could do for "you".

What is your take on different Toastmaster clubs?
I visit a number of Toastmasters clubs regularly. I know the people very well. As an Area Governor I visited all my clubs and certain clubs occasionally. My take on different clubs is that every club is different, but the ultimate goal is the same. In a smaller club everyone gets a chance to participate and you cannot hide. In a larger club, sometimes people get lesser chance to express themselves. Every club has its unique selling point. Some clubs are preferred because they start early for example at 7:45 AM.

There are some clubs that are more scheduled and systematic, other clubs could be more informal or even quite flexible. At the end of the day, not every club could turn out the way you like. So you should visit many clubs to find the right fit.

What did you learn about yourself by visiting different clubs?
A visitor is always welcomed in a club. I understood that every club is not the way I like it. It does not mean that any club is right or wrong. It means that everyone gets to the same goal in different ways. It is very similar to the variety we come across in life.

David, you also train people in improv and you have also been trained in theater. How did your training in improv help people get better in Toastmasters?
I used the "Yes and" approach. "Yes", this is what is given to me. "And "this is what I can offer in response. This approach help people communicate better during Table topics, evaluations for e.g., Take a question, accept the question, and add and respond with an answer. There is no expertise needed really to answer Table Topics questions.

In a speaker evaluation section, take what the speaker has given you: "Yes" this is what your speech was like "and" this is where you can improve. It is a good practice to provide accurate evaluation to help a person improve.

What is your take on being successful at improv and theater in specific, and communication in general?
To be successful at improv and theater, you need to be able to understand the needs of other people, what they are trying to accomplish, know yourself and what you can offer and then initiate communication. The characters in improv can be extended to characters in real life. In a way, Toastmasters is a rehearsal for dealing with situations in real life. There are no high stakes or billions of dollars at risk in Toastmasters. It is only about dealing with people and people matter.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

May 2015 Vicky Yu Iu

When you look at the overwhelming landscape of Grand Canyon, wouldn't it be hard to believe that it was formed by a flowing river? Water is gentle and fluid in its natural form, but has the power to mould a daunting landscape. Interviewing Vicky Iu had a similar impact on me. Gentle and soft spoken, Vicky slowly but effectively induced me with her formulae for success at Toastmasters. She has recently sponsored a Toastmaster Club and her philosophy behind it is to giving back because Toastmasters experiences have empowered her into better communication and leadership. Vicky believes in leading by example. During the course of her interview Vicky displayed all requisite traits of a good leader and a team builder. Like a master craftsman, she has the ability to empower almost anyone into building good communication and leadership skills; you will know why as you read through her interview:

Vicky, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a part of Toastmasters?
I came from Guangdong Province, China. When I first arrived U.S., I spoke very little English. Before joining Toastmasters, I had been a shy software engineer mostly focusing on developing technical skills. While working for Cisco, one of my trusted mentors David Dai advised me that after I passed the notoriously difficult networking exam - Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) exam I should join Toastmasters. Toastmasters has helped me overcome the communication barrier. I am currently working as a network engineer delivering Proof-Of-Concept demos to customers for Arista.

What are your notable accomplishments as a Toastmaster?
I am an ACS and ALB and also planning to complete DTM by this year. I joined Toastmaster on April 1, 2010. I am a members of three clubs: Great America Speakers, ToastTwisters and Next Step. In February this year, I co-sponsored a new club - Great America Speakers, for employees working at Santa Clara Gateway campus. I am very proud of it and the club is doing great with close to 30 active members. In fact some managers at work have recommended other employees to join the club.

Since your club is doing very well, people must be getting effective results/coaching from the club. What do you find most effective in coaching people?
I found out what people are comfortable with and took a step from there. For example, one of my members didn't know what to talk about herself for the ice-breaker speech. She has three cats which she loves dearly and I encouraged her to speak about her cats during ice-breaker. We got to know her a lot through stories of how she takes care of the cats. As a side benefit, the icebreaker speech is especially effective in getting employees familiar with new friends in a new workplace. Positive feedback is also an effective tool. We give standing ovation to the first time speakers on their icebreaker speech, give generous applauses for noticeable improvement, such as better timing or fewer usage of filler words, also advise evaluators to focus on discovering the strength speakers already have and minimize criticism in the initial speeches.

How do you make Toastmaster meetings fun and effective?
Table topics are the most fun and creative aspects of our Toastmaster meetings. We have an average of 5 speakers each time and it is a fun way for people to open up for public speaking. Also, we are well prepared for every meeting with an agenda and to start and end meeting on time. I try to ping people and remind them to come to meetings personally and encourage building buddy system to have buddies remind each others as well. Personally, I make it a point to attend every meeting on time since the new club chartered. It happens on Thursdays lunch hour 12:30 1:30 pm.

What is your vision for your Toastmasters club?
My vision for the club is that it should be a strong long lasting club where team members help each other grow in communication and leadership skills.

What other aspects of Toastmaster speaking club help improve communication skills in people?
As a shy and rigid person, the humor and entertainment speaking manuals in Toastmasters helped me open up i.e., the use of humor built my self-confidence by laughing at my embarrassing moments in public. Accepting myself has helped me become a happier person and a better communicator. I am also better able to guide people on better communication and leadership skills now. It is important to know that people take their time to open up and we need to give them time according to their individual personality. Entertainment and humor speeches definitely help people open up. Humor is a great tool that enables people to connect and communicate.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

Michael Chojnacki

April 2015 Michael Chojnacki

Interviewing Michael Chojnacki was a powerful experience. When I first met him at a TLI Leadership workshop last year, Michael was elegantly clad in a suit about to present at the workshop. His towering personality coupled with a reassuring, magnetic and confident stature could hardly be missed. Throughout his talk on powerful tools for presentation at the TLI workshop, he used his body language and expressions effectively, very true to the underlying message of his talk. Here is what Michael had to say-

How did you come to hear about Toastmasters?
In 1998 I was reading almost one book every week. It was a coincidence that I came across 3 different books (one of the books by Golden Gavel award winning speaker Wayne Dyer) and each book mentioned the importance of Toastmasters. Though, I didn’t intend to be a professional speaker, my students in Aikido encouraged me to share my message with a larger audience. I base my teachings on Aikido, a Japanese martial art, which is about blending with the energy of a conflict and redirecting that energy into a peaceful resolution.

What kind of specific advantage does Toastmasters provide?
I feel that Toastmasters helps in our professional and personal development and provides an opportunity for human interaction which leads to personal development. Toastmasters helps in playing different roles in life, very similar to assuming different roles in our personal and professional relationships.

How do you help people in dealing with difficult people as a speaker, coach and at Toastmasters?
People become difficult to handle when we get locked in our way of thinking about them. We have to change the way we relate to people and look at them differently to help improve our communication and overcome our differences. Think about it this way, everyone is in a transition in life. It is important to ask "What am I learning from this relationship?” Or “What am I learning from this annoying colleague?” By learning to be patient, practicing empathy and compassion, we find much of the tension goes away. When we begin to think and act differently, people respond to us more positively.

Another way to overcome stress in difficult relationships is to acknowledge the importance of the other person’s point of view. Once people feel we understand them, they are more likely to communicate with a positive attitude and become open to a win-win solution.

How did Toastmasters help in transitioning you as a professional speaker, as you say that you were very shy by nature when you started off at Toastmasters?
I was first a member of Pajaro Valley Toastmasters in Watsonville, and now Surf City Toastmasters in Santa Cruz. They are both heart-centered clubs with incredible people. Whenever I spoke at the club, the members made me feel that what I was saying was important. The transition from being a shy person to being a speaker was directly from the encouragement, evaluations, and coaching which I received from my club. It helped just being receptive to all the changes and coincidences in life, and here I am as a speaker and professional coach.

What can you tell our readers about dealing with the challenge of working in a multi-cultural environment?
In a multi-cultural environment, we need to display impeccable manners. When we raise expectations about ourselves, people respond with greater courtesy, though sometimes it takes longer for people to reciprocate the courtesies. When we are dealing with an analytical or a heart-centered culture, it is important to reflect their language and mannerisms which help creates better understanding. For example, a gentleman I once worked with used the word "apparently" as a precursor to a problem. I picked up on that cue and improvised the way I communicated with him by using that word in the same context.

What else would you like to share about communication when it comes to Toastmasters?
Intuition is very important in communication. Everyone has intuition, but most people don't even realize it. For instance, in Toastmasters there is an intuitive message in every speech. Toastmasters gives us an opportunity to express that deeper message.

Any other particular added value by Toastmasters which you would like to mention?
Friendship and relationships are the biggest added benefits from Toastmasters, which keeps me coming back to every meeting. I am grateful for all the help I've received and express my gratitude by helping out at every meeting. After all, the greater we become at improving our relationships, the greater our success and happiness in life.

Toastmasters helps us to understand the changing emotions of the other person. By understanding the emotional changes of others, we are able to adjust the way we are communicating and express ourselves with greater clarity and meaning.

When I was speaking at a semiconductor company, a woman came up to me and said, "Everything I did on my project was right, but my manager still yelled at me.” I asked her, "Where was your manager before he spoke to you?” She told me he was at a stressful meeting and that she was the next person he met and yelled at her. We often take every communication personally, yet seldom understand all of the subtleties when people speak. To be successful and happy at work, technical skills are important, but being able to adjust to the changing needs and emotions of others is vital to our success.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

March 2015 Anthony Hogan


When you listen to a good speaker, you feel an instant connection with the speaker. When you speak to a professional speech coach, you instantly start observing and improving your own communication instantly. That is the power and impact an interview with Anthony Hogan, an international speaker and a speech coach had on me. The interview not only uncovered a very deep understanding about good communication but also transformed my approach to communication as a whole. Communication runs deep in his buoyant and effervescent personality. Without further adieu let me introduce Anthony Hogan to our beloved readers.

In the past, he has been the President of both San Francisco Toastmasters and Rhino Business Club Toastmasters and served as an Area Governor twice. He has also conducted training sessions at our District as well as District 39 Conferences. He has to his credit a myriad of training and educational sessions at TLI's and at individual clubs in our District. He is a 2011 District 4 Table Topics champion as well (

Here is what Anthony had to say -

What does Toastmasters mean to you?
As I am a professional speech coach, Toastmasters is a means to create and grow professional association. My mom was a Toastmistress in the 70s and this had a great influence on me. When we moved to SF, I knew only two people here. Toastmaster was an effective channel to create a great group of friends.

What drives you to speak?
I am a motor mouth. I am born with a gift of the gab. Toastmasters helped me figure out how to use that gift.

How does Toastmasters help people who cannot speak well naturally or have the gift of the gab?
Toastmasters has 3 ways of helping people to improve their communication skills:

    1. It provides a fun and supportive environment for people to learn and experiment about communication
    2. It also provides me a platform for trying out something which I cannot try out directly with my client. As a speech coach I tell my clients what they can get from me for one hour, they can get it in Toastmasters for one month.
    3. It also provides you a chance to practice various speaking techniques and watch others practice

I am not a member of National Speaker's Association which is the institution meant to share professional speaking techniques. I have stayed with Toastmasters as it helps me use my skills all the time and help others with these skills in a fun and learning environment.

If someone is not attending a Toastmasters session, what would they be missing?
People refer to communication as a soft skill, but actually it is more. Communication according to me is the foundation skill for everything else. If you do not know how to communicate, you cannot get ahead in any field. Even a trashman cannot negotiate a good wage if he does not have good communication skills. Not attending Toastmasters is like missing out on a chance to improve on this core skill in life. Communication is a core skill which is the basis of all other skills in life.

Does Toastmasters help people shape their personality, by help shaping their thinking?
Toastmasters techniques are different from other training centers. Unlike a graduate school course, Toastmasters supports the concept of learning as an adult. It helps an adult shape their thinking by providing them a fun and supportive environment to experiment and learn about communication. It does not feel like a structured class room environment, but it is still very powerful in helping adults shape their communication and personality by providing a good learning environment.

What does it take to be a good speaker?
It matters how you connect with the audience, to be a good speaker. The type of connection differentiates a good speech from a bad one. You could connect with your audience as a software coder or as a southern baptist depending on the nature of audience. Your presentation has to be "you" focused; you as in "audience". The speech has to be in terms of the audience.

A speech should be like storytelling. As a speaker, the point of telling a story, is to give audience something to learn from. Since it is your story they believe you. When you speak you need to be remembered, repeated, re-tweeted. The least important thing is the "I"; "I" as in the speaker.

As a professional speech coach, how do you formulate ideas and thumb rules about good speech and communication?
As far my thumb rules go, I learn from all different kinds of sources. I refer to a library of books and mentors. One of my favorite mentors is Patricia Fripp and I learned from her that a speech should be such that it should be repeatable, re-tweetable and remembered.You can learn from any speaker, no matter what level or how good or bad they are.

A good quality speech can come from any speaker irrespective of whether the speaker is new or at an advanced level in Toastmasters. I learned how to summarize a speech better from a speaker doing an icebreaker. I liked the way she concluded her speech e.g., her speech was about her experiences while she was visiting France, Scotland and England. She summarized her experiences as follows: "The most important thing I learned from my stay in France is ...; the most important thing I learned from my stay in Scotland is...; the most important thing I learned from my stay in England is ....; don't worry mom I will still come home to Mexico where I learned that family comes first."

How do you help people with a speech/pronunciation defect?
I don't see any defects in speech. I see only challenges to overcome in speaking. As a speech coach, I will try my best to help with the techniques I know. If I cannot find help, then I will try to find help from outside.

Some of the greatest celebrities have not been extroverts i.e., highly communicative or energetic in expressing ideas. For ex: Rabindranath Tagore a Nobel laureate, Indian poet and a polymath was very choosy about the occasions where he spoke. How should people for whom speaking is not a natural ability, approach communication skills in general?
People come with different natural abilities for ex: may be 3 in analysis, 10 in communication, in a scale of 1 to 10, To be competent in your communication skills learn how to harness your strength. If you are good with analytical skills over fluent speaking, use analytical skills as a tool for effective communication. Ensure that you develop competency in all other skills where the skill is not your strength. Lets say, you are an 8 on 10 in speaking, but your written skills are like a 3 on 10. Try to work on your written skills to get to a 5 on 10, so that people don't complain about your written skills, as written skills are important too.

A few examples of different types of speakers: Wayne Dier on of our senior speakers and uses lesser energy in verbal communication but is very wise, intelligent. He usually (sitting on chair) uses less energy for body movements. Another speaker called Les Brown is a motivational speaker and exudes a lot more energy and a lot of body movement. They are opposites in terms of their speaking styles, but I admire both these speakers and they have inspired me to be a speaker.

What is your message or a personal motto you would like to share with your readers?
I am in Toastmasters because I am a professional speaker and coach, I get better by my own will. My philosophy is iVolution. Do not let environment decide how you would like to grow and evolve, but you make the choice as to how you would like to grow and evolve. Hence I chose the name iVolution for my company.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

February 2015 Joseph Fernandez

Joseph Fernandez

When I interviewed Joseph for Faces of Four, his voice rung clear with conviction for a vision, and passion for Toastmasters. A quote close to Joseph's heart "You Are Your Own Limitation" i.e., there are no limitations to the limits one can set for oneself, reflect his vision for fellow Toastmasters. He has only been with Toastmasters since Feb 2013 and the array of notable accomplishments he is associated with is jaw dropping. I am certainly honored and most ecstatic to stream his ideas through the interview.

Within the very first year of his tenure with Toastmasters he completed CC, CL, ALB and ACB to achieve the Triple Crown (4 awards). Not only did he serve as the VP of Education and VP of Membership for Foster City Toastmasters Club, he also achieved President's Distinguished (9/10 DCP Points) for this club and increased its membership from 24 to 32. He is also a part of San Mateo Storytellers Advanced Club which is focuses on storytelling an important tool for communication. Joseph also served was the VP of Education for the Charter Club and garnered 10 DCP in the Charter year (Feb 2014 - Jun 2014).

2014-15 was again another year of Triple Crown for Joseph after completing his second CL and CC and third CL alongside completing ACS. In a record time of 4 months and 19 days he was able to increase the Foster City's Toastmasters Club points from 9 DCP (Distinguished Club program) points to 10 points for Foster City Toastmasters Club for this year 2014-15. He plans to make San Mateo Storytellers Club a President's Distinguished Club.

When I asked him what is the secret recipe for him being able to constantly meet club milestones and retain membership, he came up with the following ingredients. A good mix of individual development plans focused on members’ personal growth and SMART goals for each club officer i.e., one that can be measured, clearly articulated, and connected with. He did not hesitate in sharing his own time-bound, clearly bullet pointed, time lined road map for his path to becoming a DTM. He has been in the vicinity of great veteran Toastmasters like Katherine Pratt and will chair the upcoming TLI.

His roles in Toastmasters so far include President of Foster City Toastmasters Club, VP Education for San Mateo Storytellers Club, Club Coach for Brisbane Toastmasters Club and Club Mentor for Pacific Rim Toastmasters Club. Each club is varying in its challenges toward becoming a better club and his degree of involvement is quite dynamic with the needs of each club.

He has given a talk on How to Build a Rock Star Club at a recent Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) meet up (1/24). His message clearly resonates that a club can grow and flourish only if the individuals comprising the club have clear, well defined goals and so are more than inspired to come to every club meeting. In the absence of motivation of the individual club member, the club membership is bound to dwindle. When the individual grows in his/her personal goals, the club meets higher goals, as Joseph puts it.

Joseph Fernandez is a standing example of the fact that anyone with clear, objective and well defined goals, effective communication skills leading to effective leadership skills can achieve seemingly tall orders in a short span of time. His focus and passion are not only well channelized but also well-defined and time bound. He is a leader in his own right and a beacon of light for fellow Toastmasters.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

December 2014 Member 1- Carlos Puig Winner of District 4 Evaluation Contest, 2014-15


When did you first hear about Toastmasters? What clubs do you belong to?
I had an uncle who spoke very lovingly about Toastmasters. When he passed away, in his memory I thought I should go sometime to a Toastmasters meeting. I walked in to a club meeting, attended a few times, and I was hooked. I am currently part of NEXT Step Toastmasters and SCUMBAT.

How has your experience with mentorships been?
Ken Braly, one of the most experienced Toastmasters in my first club, became a mentor and a model. It wasn’t a formally scheduled mentorship, but he always answered my questions. I learned a lot watching him speak. After I became a better speaker, I turned around and started helping out others. I am currently a formal mentor to several members.

What excites you about Toastmasters?
I would go in to a club meeting feeling wiped out but walk out feeling better, happier, more connected with people, and generally more alive. I have experienced this transformation over and over with Toastmasters. The energy, the fellowship, the fun, and the laughter stand out.

I really love Table Topics and ham it up quite a bit. That's part of my inspiration to people – to be emotionally free. They look at me as a rational, cerebral person, but I can walk up to the stage and become the silliest person in the room. It's a way of sending the message that it is perfectly OK not to be serious and to be free, if it supports your message. People live under unnecessary, self-imposed constraints. We don’t have to be limited in Toastmasters.

How was experience competing in the evaluation contest?
Last year I placed third in the DIvision G evaluation contest. Henry Miller saw me evaluate and told me why I missed winning that time. I agreed with him and paid more attention. Every time he saw me compete in an evaluation contest, he emailed me a short list of powerful pointers.

In Monterey, as I was preparing and organizing the delivery of my evaluation speech, I mentally went over the points Henry made. He told me to pay attention to my final words as they would be remembered. I broke the pattern of my evaluation and chose to say something different. That was my take on what Henry had inspired.

What would you tell a prospective member?
Recently, I told a co-worker, who does well on one on one conversations but clams up in a group, that in order to get ahead in his career, he will have to learn to speak more freely in groups. The best way to learn while having fun is by joining Toastmasters. I’d say anybody who has trouble expressing themselves in group discussions should try Toastmasters.

What other aspects of communication are you working on?
Other than doing some silly table topics, I have trouble doing humorous prepared speeches. I can be dramatic, emotional, light, inspirational, but less often funny. Injecting humor is something I need to do to move to the next level.

December 2014 Member 2- Manuel Cherchi
Winner of District 4 Humorous Speech Contest, 2014-15. His speech was titled "A Family Tradition"


When and how did you join Toastmasters?
I went for a coffee in the break room of Cisco Building 14 and they were advertising the Cisco Speaks Toastmasters Club: “Are you looking to improve your communication and leadership skills?”

I am always looking to do something new in my life, so I thought “Let’s give it a try!”. I joined the Cisco Speaks TM Club last January and I am working on my advanced speech manuals now.

Has Toastmasters made a difference in your life?
Big difference! You start to see yourself as a speaker. You also start noticing how other people are communicating during the company meetings, things they are doing well and opportunities to improve. People notice the change in you immediately! I was told there was a lot more clarity in my communication after joining Toastmasters.

I travel all over the world, meet a lot of people and am able to leverage everything learned in TM and I do my best to inspire others. Recently I went to Bulgaria and since I’m a Toastmaster, I wanted to give a speech. I wanted to inspire them. I started off 10 years ago in a call center and wanted to show them they can make a difference in their professional and personal life.

How did you come up with the idea for your winning speech?
When they asked me to put down my hobbies, I chose soccer, reading and - as a joke - "complaining". The ex-President of the club was laughing about it and said I should use this for a speech. It started as a joke but I realized it was a family tradition and used it.

How was the experience competing for the humorous speech contest?
At the club, I was nervous but didn’t know where it was going. When I went to Monterey, I didn’t think I was going to win. I just wanted to go there to meet new people. On stage, I felt really connected with the audience, felt their energy. It was an amazing experience, one of the best days of my life.

How was the experience competing for the humorous speech contest?
When they asked me to put down my hobbies, I chose soccer, reading and - as a joke - "complaining". The ex-President of the club was laughing about it and said I should use this for a speech. It started as a joke but I realized it was a family tradition and used it.

What would you tell new prospective members and new members?
Come as a guest, check out the meetings and see if you like it. I don’t usually advertise TM because I like it. I ask them: "what do you want to achieve by joining TM?" Whatever it is, I tell them it is a low stress environment where nobody’s judging you.

Everybody comes with different goals. Some join to improve basic communication skills, others are not afraid to speak but want to specialize in some areas.

I encourage new members to get uncomfortable. People are excited in the beginning and then they forget why they joined. I tell them not to just come for an hour, but come because you really like what you are doing and you are having fun. That’s what I experience every time I attend a TM meeting: I love it, I have fun and I want the members to have fun as well.

What’s next for you? What aspects of speaking do you want to work on?
I meet lots of people demotivated about their jobs and lives in general. I would love to work on giving inspirational speeches. I want to motivate people, share something that can help others to overcome their challenges.

October 2014 - Mythili Prabhu

Mythili Prabhu

Have you heard a great musician play his or her musical instrument? The musician is completely in tune with his or her instrument and feels its pulse in depth. The musician knows his or her instrument very well and when he or she plays it, it simply touches your heart. This is exactly how I felt when I interviewed Mythili Prabhu, our Faces of Four pick of the month.

During her journey of over 3.5 years since February 2011, she has been completely in tune with all that Toastmasters had to offer in terms of competent leadership skills, district conferences, training officers, assuming roles at Division contests, and as the crown jewel, she was awarded the Toastmaster of the Year 2013-14. When I listened to her, I was touched with what she had to say about Toastmasters: "T.S Eliot said ‘If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?’. These words are inspirational and something I live by. I have mentored club members, a new club, served as an Area Governor and in many other voluntary roles in organizing and leading different efforts in our District. Every single time, I stretched myself, stepped out of my comfort zone. It has been so rewarding as I have walked away every time learning more, appreciating more. Toastmasters is a learning tool and learning is possible only by doing."

Some of her other achievements: she is an Advanced Communicator Bronze and has achieved Advanced Leader Silver awards. She has led 2 district conferences as the Conference Chair and chaired other committees in 4 conferences!! She has trained treasurers and VPs of Education for their terms as Club Officers. In the past she has been involved in organizing TLIs and Officer Trainings as well. She has chaired and taken up various roles at Area and Division contests.

Mythili considers her involvement in the semi-annual district conferences at District 4, very close to her heart. After attending her first conference she has never looked back and participated in every single conference. She chaired 2 conferences and it brought out the hidden potential in her. It gave her a great opportunity to meet tons of toastmasters from different walks of life and some lasting friendships. These events and experiences have become an integral part of her daily life. Not to forget, the highlight of one conference was being evaluated and coached by none other than a World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine!!

When I met her at one of the TLI training sessions, she simply exuded the aura and confidence of a leader. When I learned about her accomplishments, I had to ask what keeps her successful and going. Mythili attributes a lot of her success as a Toastmaster to staying in touch with people and staying involved in helping them through hurdles in meeting their targets at club proceedings. She said that being a part of so many events at Toastmasters has changed her intrinsically as a person and also the way people view her. She has made her interest in Toastmasters a part of her conversations on relevant occasions at work and elsewhere. She is perceived as a competent communicator and has been offered suitable speaking opportunities at work.

Thank you, Mythili, for sharing your valuable guidelines and ideas. I am sure they will help current and potential Toastmasters in meeting higher goals and challenges.

Interviewed by Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

August 2014 Faye Yang


What more can you say about someone who has been acknowledged as a dynamo by her fellow Toastmasters. As a veteran Toastmaster she has been a stellar district leader in the past. She is also known for her astounding sense of creativity, designing decorations for two conferences last year, and programs for July 2014’s TLI/Leadership Luncheon! Let me tell you a thing or two about Faye Yang, our 'Faces of Four' featured candidate of the month!

Faye is known to continuously raise the bar for herself by training an office she has not trained before (VPM, Sec), and continues to compete and take on club officer roles even today.

Hailing from the Xilinx Xpressionists corporate home club, she is also the head and heart behind the advanced Silicon Valley Storytellers Toastmasters Club (SiVS). Faye emphasizes that even technical information can be enhanced by a story to capture the audience's attention and understanding.

Faye tries to do her best and give all she can, when she commits to a role. As a District Leader, she helped introduce the concept of “Trainer’s Assistant” at training events to provide additional leadership opportunities to Toastmasters, as well as needed assistants to the Trainers.

Her motto is "Stay involved and keep going". She says every speech may not be perfect, but we still need to keep going. With ample support from members and leaders, she has developed communication skills to interface between different tiers of management at work, which has helped her grow in her career. She summarizes that career growth boils down to effective communication skills, knowing what to communicate, where, when and how, and this is exactly what Toastmasters is all about!

Good luck to Faye with her pregnancy and motherhood! I am proud and fortunate to collect thoughts and ideas from one of the most wonderful and accomplished Toastmaster ladies in District 4!

Compiled by: Vidyangi S Patil, PRO Representative

July 2014 - Dilip Kikla

Dilip Kikla July-2 

When it comes to taking chances, Dilip Kikla is not one to stay behind. Be it at work or at Toastmasters. Having been introduced to Toastmasters by his father while still in high school, Dilip quickly realized the power of the program. With these skills evident as his core strengths, he received his first appointment letter for a marketing position when he had actually applied for a software engineering position.

Having realized the value of these communication tools in the corporate world, Dilip was determined to further develop his communication skills. Dilip continued to stay involved with Toastmasters on and off as he was changing jobs and traveling between countries. His current club is Vox Toastmasters at IBM. This is where Dilip brought in, all his experience to continue his journey.

Dilip has been with Vox for eight years (as of July 2014), through the thick and thin of the club. During this time he honed his communication skills and evolved as a leader. After trying out his hand as VP Membership he was offered an opportunity to lead the club as President. Taking a chance Dilip accepted the position and brought the club to be a President’s Distinguished Club. But, after a few terms the club membership declined to single digits owing to several reasons. Looking for help, Dilip reached out to the Area and District Leaders while taking bold steps to make effective changes; he started with the changing the club meeting timing to attract employees as well as guests from the nearby areas. This yielded in some results, but Vox Toastmasters needed an out-of-the-box leader.

With the support of the then Area Governor Deep Kakkar and Toastmaster Kavitha Badhri and the entire Vox Team, Dilip tried out multiple initiatives to attract new members. He organized informational booths once a month at his company. New flyers were put up in common meeting areas and mail rooms, and the new club timing was highlighted in the company newsletter as well. To attract visitors from outside the company, the club developed a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Demo meetings were organized at nearby apartment complexes too. Members from other Toastmaster clubs were invited to take on leadership roles, and share their experiences that could benefit Vox.

To motivate the new members who joined as a result of these efforts, guest speakers and evaluators where invited to demonstrate what could be possible. Dilip also encouraged all the club members to be part of the new initiatives without being afraid of failure. The result? An astounding success with membership growth and Vox Toastmasters back to being a Distinguished Club.

Dilip still remembers the first individual evaluation he delivered. He was concerned of hurting his fellow member’s feelings; so, he stayed away from evaluations. However when put on the spot to fill a last minute open slot, he took a chance. He won the best individual evaluator award that day and still cherishes that moment. Dilip has participated in Area and Division contests representing his club and area and has won a few awards along the way. To keep his members motivated he extemporaneously organized a reverse speech session along with Kavitha and as first timers at it, both outdid themselves.

Dilip has successfully transferred his Toastmasters skills to his job. His management team noticed the transformation in him and provided him an opportunity to lead a worldwide team. Dilip credits this achievement to the support and encouragement he has received from his fellow members, mentors and leaders throughout his Toastmaster journey.

Dilip says, “Coming to Vox Toastmaster meetings after a long day at work is a stress buster. Learning in a fun and relaxed environment by hearing other members share their thoughts through speeches and table topics gives me new ideas to apply at my work. But most importantly I remember to have a good time, and encourage others to do the same.”



SusmitaApril 2014 -Susmita Bhatacharya

Stage fright was not the reason Susmita Bhatacharya joined Toastmasters.  On the contrary, she had been dancing and speaking in front of thousands since she was 10 years old.  A nationally ranked classical dancer in India from her teens, Susmita now concentrates on her career and life in America.

She joined Toastmasters when a friend at work invited her to hear another coworker give a speech at the nearby Toastmasters Club, Dedupe This!  Dedupe This! is a community club that meets at and is supported by their place of work, EMC in Santa Clara. It looked like fun, so she joined. Given her background, the leadership and public speaking tracks of Toastmasters “are a natural blending process for me,” she says. However, it is the evaluation process and skills that have so impressed her. “It’s the listening skills, the attitude of learning, the ability to work with others to help them grow too.”

In Spring 2014, Susmita went far “beyond the pocket speech and table topics.” When a speaker cancelled last minute at 5th Annual Silicon Valley Women in Leadership Symposium, one of the organizers and fellow-toastmaster, Donata Mukata thought of Ms. Bhatacharya. She was an engineer with leadership skills, had something to say, and was just a few yards away!

With five minutes to prepare, donned in her favorite college t-shirt and a pair of jeans, Susmita put together a 15 minute talk, “Career Rules and the Power of Communication.”

Dressed as she was, she knew she had to address the issue. She did so with humor, because connecting with the audience is first and foremost to successful communication.  The facts and data will follow and then can be received. Humor, she believes, must still have weight and purpose, be non-hurtful, and convey information related to the topic. Since her work clothes are part of how she works, it was the right thing to joke about. The body of her talk drew on stories from her own life experience – advice from her father, the culture shock of moving to the US – events that helped her to formulate her 5D mantras for success (desire, dream, dedication, devotion, and discipline). A few parts of the speech were already fleshed out from speeches she had prepared for Toastmasters; however, the overarching structure organized on the spot.

The crowd went wild. The organizers on her behalf received high praises from several attendees. Susmita credits the success of her speech to her Toastmasters and – she laughingly admitted –imagining what would Past District 4 Governor Rita Barber do?

AubreyCarrierOctober 2013 - Aubrey Carrier

“Energetic” and “supportive” are two words that describe 2012-2013 Area E2 Governor, Aubrey Carrier. Ask anyone who has met her. Within her first days as Area Governor, Aubrey encouraged her clubs’ officers to get trained, so much so that 4 of her 6 clubs gained “Lucky Seven” recognition, a recognition program to get all 7 officers trained in a club. She enjoys how each of her area's clubs has its own unique personality, and is excited to help them each find what suits their membership most.

She attributes her success with getting her club officers so well trained by sending out “tons of emails with all the training options in them, and promoting the benefits of training.” She appealed to credit and status, but ultimately it was the club leaders' own passionate commitment that motivated them to get it done.

Aubrey joined Toastmasters in January of 2011 at one of the multiple TM clubs associated with Wells Fargo, each named ‘Stagecoach Speakers.’ Her home club is the six-year-old ‘Stagecoach Speakers -- 525 Market.’ It is a club exclusively for employees of the bank. Aubrey hadn't planned to stay with the group for long, but found herself drawn in primarily by the warmth and welcome of its members.

Originally, she joined to build her professional confidence. Aubrey, an archivist of historical records for Wells Fargo, was to speak at a Society of American Archivists conference that August 2011 and wanted to build the skills she would need to present her talk there. Her plan paid off. She received “rave reviews” for the quality of her presentation. “As a profession, archivists really need public speaking skills. It is not part of their day-to-day work,” she chuckled.

It has paid off in other ways as well. Coworkers have noticed that her participation in meetings has increased. She has the confidence and skills to take on leadership roles at work. Such strides allowed her the opportunity to give a presentation on Toastmasters at a staff meeting!

Aubrey admits that she is a fan of informational speeches, particularly “the new and the now” as she puts it, “I like when a TM meeting really feels like time well spent.”

Her vision for her Area revolves around engagement, to build a desire to be involved. She believes that clear leadership and communication goals contribute to that. Aubrey added, “Whatever you put into this, that's how much you will get out of it. Get engaged and you will achieve more than you ever imagine. DON'T put any mental limits around it.”

RaviGanesanJuly 2013 -Ravi Ganesan

Not many people can lay claim to the title District 4 Toastmaster of the Year. Ravi Ganesan can. This "pleasant surprise" as he called it was bestowed on him at the Spring Conference. "I just like to serve," he said, adding that the biggest surprise is how much it has encouraged others in his TM circle to engage in district activities.

Among the acts of service that have distinguished Ravi are club mentoring, his time on his club's executive board, his service to D4's "Million Dollar Marketing Team," his auction prowess at the 2012 Fall Conference, and fundraising at the following Spring Conference. MDMT, Ravi explained, coordinates Club Coaching, the Club Fitness Program, the Club Ambassador Program, and New Club Chartering and Mentoring.

Ravi joined Toastmasters in November of 2011 after observing his wife's participation in it since 1997. Jayashree Rangarajan was a chartering member of the Xilinx Xpressionists Club. Her example, enthusiasm, and ability to win every debate at home convinced him of the benefits of Toastmasters.

His home club is Wharton Quakemasters in Palo Alto. It was convenient to his home and for his schedule. He was immediately invited to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms and has served on its executive board ever since. However, it was the warm welcome and the friendships he has found there that really make the WQM club special for him.

Thanks to Ravi's mentoring support, three new clubs have chartered: the TIB Toasters (a corporate club), the Toastmasters club at and the first Tamil-English bilingual club. The bilingual club took months to gather enough committed members to charter, but when they did, they found their name: Appadaa, a Tamil expression conveying "a sigh of relief and joy"

Regarding Ravi's personal growth in Toastmasters, he has found that presenting information "crisply and precisely" has proven to be advantageous in his professional life in the software industry. Now, he concentrates on infusing humor and just the right anecdote to illustrate his message. "The message is most important, but the right story can bring the message home faster and better than anything else."

He has observed time and time again how much Toastmasters has honed his abilities to discern and evaluate what is really being communicated. "A CC will be give you all the tools, then the advanced manuals refine specific skills. It is a peer-to-peer network of learning."

Ravi served as 2013-2014 Area C4 Governor and as the Director of Club Mentors. He would like to complete his DTM someday and still holds out a slim hope to win a debate with Jayashree one day. Appadaa.

DianeBair May 2013 - Diane Bair
Meet Diane Bair! She was the 2012-13 Area A1 Governor in and around Monterey. Diane's Toastmasters journey officially began in 2005. “I’ve been shy and introverted all of my life. But not anymore!” While she had first heard of Toastmasters from a friend in college, Diane was petrified at the thought of it even with her friend’s clear enthusiasm for it. Over the years, she’d look into it occasionally, but only from a distance.

Then, BLT Toastmasters (in Salinas) started to meet in the same building as her office. Diane’s first time being invited to speak during Table Topics simply drew a blank. “I just froze. I could barely think much less speak!” She was a guest 5 times before she committed to joining. Diane believes that it was the sweet, gentle support of the members, Pat Eby in particular, that did the trick. Even handing in the application, Diane’s heart pounded in her chest, “I couldn't believe I did it.”

With a building shake-up, Diane moved offices and joined Speakeasy in 2006. Speakeasy – established in 1981 -- is both a corporate and a public club sponsored by McGraw-Hill in Monterey. McGraw-Hill was the first company to offer a $1000 bonus to employees who complete their Competent Communicators award. That was just the kind of carrot that Diane needed to make it happen even though she was still terrified of speaking.

Speakeasy is a growing club for many reasons. (1) McGraw-Hill now offers a one-time Advanced Communicator award bonus for its employee as well as the CC. (2) It welcomes people from outside McGraw-Hill. It is convenient for other occupants in the same building, like the Defense Language Institute. (3) Speakeasy’s website brings in more interested guests from the neighborhood.

What has Toastmasters done for the once petrified Diane? In her own words, “I’m a lot more confident speaking up at work. I never had a problem writing, but now I can express myself at meetings. Even now, in groups of three or more, I might clam up. I’m still growing and learning.”

She added, “The biggest change is that I’ve developed leadership skills that I didn't even know I had. If you don’t speak up, you certainly don’t volunteer for anything. Becoming a club officer was a big deal.”

Being asked to be Area Governor was an honor. Diane knew that to complete her DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster), she would have to do it sooner or later. “I just thought it would be later.”

As a member of Peninsula Pros, an advanced club, Diane knew all sorts of people who were already experienced at the Area, District and the Division levels. She recognized the great group of mentors they would be, so she “ended up jumping in. They are so supportive and immensely helpful.”

Diane's favorite part of being an Area Governor is getting to meet so many wonderful people.

Diane’s generous spirit with everyone she meets may come from the fact that she can laugh about her own journey. “My first ice-breaker was very long. My first NINE speeches went over time. When I got to my tenth, I said, ‘Enough of this! You will pay attention to the time constraints!’” She laughed and added, “I learned to practice and keep an eye on the clock. I still slip up.” Finally, she sighed, “For a person who doesn't like to talk, I sure seem to talk too much.”

“Toastmasters’ has taught me to be more flexible and spontaneous. When you’re a shy person, you’re in your head too much. Toastmasters has taught me to JUST RUN WITH IT!”

April 2013 - Wil Lin
Meet Wil Lin the past Area B5 Governor for B.  While Area B5 Governor, he helped to charter and nurture 3 bilingual clubs. Two of them are conducted in Mandarin and English. The other is a Vietnamese and English bilingual club, the first of its kind!

His current home club (as of April 2013) is the Silicon Valley Mandarin/English club. Until recently, he was an active member in all three of the bilingual clubs, even after his tenure as Area Governor was over. It was time to cut back a little, he decided.

Wil's first official club visit as Area Governor was to the Applied Materials Toastmasters Club. A member suggested to him the need for a Mandarin/English bilingual club.

Wil ran with the idea. In B5, there had already been a longstanding Japanese/English bilingual club. At first, the new club used their model of conducting the first hour in one language with the second hour in the other. After a short time, the members of the new club decided to play with a more integrated format.

Now, their meetings are 90 minutes with two coordinating Toastmasters, 2 coordinating General Evaluators, and 2 coordinating Table Topics Masters. He chuckled, "If someone comes unprepared, they practice their translation skills." At first, there was more interest in speaking English, so each meeting has 2 English speeches and 1 Mandarin speech. Now, the tide is turning and it is much easier to fill the Mandarin speech slot.

With Wil's initial guidance and participation, all three clubs are healthy. He is particularly happy with just how much the members help and support each other. That's not to say it's easy. "Ideas are great, but they are a dime a dozen (especially in the Silicon Valley)," said Will. "The idea for a club is really meaningless until twenty people get together and charter the club. Chartering the club, while great, would be forgotten unless current members can keep the club growing and thriving. It is a big team effort I'm glad to be a part of."

The Vietnamese and English club was set up with online announcements and emails to every Vietnamese community resources they could think of. It took a great deal of dedication to build the now healthy club. The early members felt that developing leadership and public speaking skills could make a big difference in the Vietnamese community of the Silicon Valley. There are many social charitable activities associated the club for just that reason. For example, Wil explained that one member Thi Ly works with the Asian/American Donor Program, an organization that helps match bone marrow donors. When they need help, Thi Ly organizers her clubmates to join in. That's just how they are. Wil then politely asked during the writing of this article, "Can I also give a shout out to those early contributors? Faye, Minh, Gai, Alan, Vy, Cat-tuong, Nicole, Loan, Duke ... I know I've forgotten some people."

Wil's personal journey to Toastmasters was a long one. There was a Toastmasters club at LSI Logic, Wil's first job out of college almost 20 years ago. A coworker who was president of that club encouraged him to join. However, Wil was just too shy. Still, he kept it in mind. He visited different clubs over the years looking for the right fit.

"I'm really, really shy. Speaking to groups of people was too much for me. It was the birth of my son 4 years ago, finally got me going. I needed to get better at it as an example to him." In 2009, he found the right fit in the Santa Clara University MBA Toastmasters club. "I found them through the Toastmasters website. They met on Friday evenings which was good for me because it's halfway between work and home." The combination of convenience and personality worked.

His son is like him, a little shy. Now he has some tools to help his son along the way.

"I started off really, really way behind in these skills and have a long way to go with public speaking. I didn't think it was possible to make such a big difference, but I've seen it for many people. Different people get results at different rates." This Taiwanese immigrant is still self-effacing. "I can still use a lot of improvement. TM keeps me trying."

January 2013 - Mark Cordeirol
This featured “Face of Four” face is Mark Cordeiro. A self-professed “retail nerd,” Mark loves to learn about what goes on behind the scenes in shops and other sales venues. As a certified “road geek,” he can tell you all about how the foundational work of building a national infrastructure makes everything else happen. With Toastmasters, it’s no different. Mark's leadership skills are getting graded, tamped and paved. Here’s how: This almost-CC has already successfully chaired multiple Toastmasters events.

Mark explained how he first found Toastmasters, “I had heard about Toastmasters at my previous job. When I started working for in San Bruno, I heard that they had a Toastmasters Club: the Dotcommunicators. I knew I was not very good at public speaking, and that I wanted to become a better leader. I almost didn’t join TM because I was too afraid.” He has been in Toastmasters less than two years.

After the great job he did organizing and running a Training and Leadership Institute at summer 2012, he was asked to chair the District 4 Fall Conference in Burlingame in November of that year. What most surprised him about chairing such a big TM opportunity was “how well it all went. Committee members just up and ran with their duties. They made the conference go so much more smoothly than I had expected. They were all amazing!”

After chairing these events, he made a big discovery about himself. “I have the ability to do all of this. I’m usually the person who sits back and watches. That was a big surprise -- I can do it!”

Coworkers and friends have both mentioned to him that they’ve noticed that Mark speaks a lot more. It has translated into his daily work. “Right after I finished the fall conference, I had to be the moderator of a large operations meeting at work. I went in fully confident that I could do it. By the end of the week, I wanted to do more of it. Before the conference planning, I was really nervous -- but after? I knew I could do it.”

All this and he is still working to finish up his Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership awards. They are “almost done” and are his most immediate goals. Just beyond that though is his goal of service. He hopes “to help expand the Dotcommunicators group. I’m working closely with Tasha Ford, the club president and Michael Cox, the Vice President of Human Resources at They both have been invaluable to both my personal and our TM club's growth.” He laughed and added, “I don’t where this TM road will take me but I know it’s a good road.”

September 2012 - Rodney Paul
You'll have to be quick to catch this newsletter's featured "Face of Four" because he's a busy guy. Whether speaking and serving as an officer at Advent Toastmasters in San Francisco or in his work as a Senior Support Representative or while encouraging others involved in charitable work with the American Diabetes Association, he puts his heart into everything he does. Meet Rodney Paul, a Toastmaster for over eight years.

How did you first learn about Toastmasters?
I had worked for Charles Schwab, and they had an employee development program. In the course of the program, I discovered the Toastmasters Club there. It took me about six months between hearing about it and going to a meeting. After the first meeting, I was hooked! I became a regular, consistent attendee after that. That was eight years ago. I immediately saw the value in Toastmasters. I had been doing some public speaking, but always knew I could be doing better at encouraging and inspiring my audience. Participating in Toastmasters allowed me to polish my presentations and deliver a stronger message.

How have you used your speaking skills outside of Toastmasters?
I have been a volunteer with the American Diabetes Association since 1994, shortly after I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My involvement includes organizing the annual Napa Tour De Cure fundraising event, which most recently raised over 1.5 million dollars. Much of what I do involves inspiring others to volunteer.

It's very important when you do non-profit work to help people connect with the mission of the organization and to share a vision. Public speaking skills are a way to reach prospective volunteers at an emotional level. Unlike the business world, the compensation we receive as volunteers is emotional, not financial. So one's success depends the ability to inspire people.

What TM skill have you been most surprised to discover uses for outside of Toastmasters?
The importance of practicing speeches aloud, by myself. This allows you to deliver a speech without notes, organize a stronger speech, find the right gestures and make better eye contact with the audience. It's something I always do now.

For example, several years ago, I went to the funeral of my uncle. I was asked shortly before the service to deliver a eulogy. I was staying at a hotel so I asked if I could use a room to prepare, a private space to practice. It made all the difference in the world. I was able to deliver an appropriate tribute quickly, and it seemed to strike the right note with my family. Most importantly, it enabled me to pay tribute to someone who had been an important influence in my life.

What else would you like to let our readers know about you?
Just this: I started out at the TechMasters club when I was at Schwab. I left there and took a position at Advent Software over four years ago. I started a club there, and we currently have 23 members and are an excellent club. In 2012, our club earned the "Select Distinguished Award." We've been "President's Distinguished" twice in the past.

Starting a club is a great experience. I encourage people to start new clubs, especially when there's a need and there's no club otherwise available.

June 2012 - Mehrnaz Mehr
Mehrnaz Mehr was the District 4 2011-12 Toastmaster of the Year! We sat down to talk with Mehrnaz after her big win.

How does it feel to be the Toastmaster of the Year?
It feels great. To know that I was able to make a difference is very rewarding. I believe a true Toastmaster sets an example as a great leader who does not strive for earning a title or an award. A true Toastmaster is a catalyst who helps other Toastmasters achieve their dreams.

When I joined Toastmasters in 2009, my goal was to strengthen my presentation skills. Little did I know then that through this journey I’ll find my voice. It is my passion to help a club grow and watch members build up confidence and strive for excellence. I was fortunate to know many Toastmasters who were dedicated and passionate in the same way. Every one of them is my mentor and a role model in a very special way. I always say to new members that Toastmasters is NOT a place for a quick fix. It takes time and effort to get yourself to where you want to be. Just joining a Toastmasters club and going to the meetings is not enough - you must be actively engaged and enthusiastic in your Toastmasters club. This is hard to do when we need to juggle between professional, personal and family lives. But again that is another skill you learn in Toastmasters where we strengthen our time management skill and improve our organizational skills.

Tell us about your current Toastmasters projects.
Currently (June 2012) I am the President at MCA Toastmasters and the mentor for Spartans TMs club at SJSU. I completed my assignments as VP E at Saratoga Toastmasters and Mentor for ESL Toastmasters few months ago.

What do you do when you aren't working on a Toastmasters project?
My two children and my husband are everything to me. We use the weekends as an opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities and connect. Cycling and hiking have been our favorite sports for many years. We participated in the fundraising annual ride event for a non profit organization called Breathe California for the past 4 years with our children. It a wonderful experience to ride with 500 other participants who ride for the same purpose, advocating lung health and clean air policy.

What is your next goal as a leader?
I hope to be appointed in a District leadership position as Area Governor and looking forward to new challenges as a leader.. A true leader’s courage to fulfill her vision comes from PASSION and not POSITION. Let’s all be passionate leaders in any roles that we serve and as Hebbel once said: 'Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without PASSION'.

May 2012 - Elaine Lung
Elaine Lung iwas the 2011-2012 District 4 Conference Chair. Get to know her better and see what she has to say about the 'Take the E Train' Spring 2012 Conference!

We heard you are very close to completing requirements for your DTM! What are you waiting for?
The last piece is finished: my HPL in April 2012, and my ALS and DTM appeared on the TM reports on 4/25/12. When I joined TM in 9/99, I never dreamed I'd achieve the lofty DTM status or take 12 years 7 months to get there. If you've lost your momentum working on your DTM, don't quit. Set your next goal and take a first step toward it.

Tell us about your experiences organizing two District Conferences. What leadership lessons did you learn?
First, put together a great team and let them do their jobs. District 4 Toastmasters is full of amazing, gifted people who work together as a fantastic team. Don't overlook the value of setting a vision first. Most surprising: how much fun it was to chair the conference. My advice: if you want to enjoy a District conference the most, get involved with the planning team.

What do you have in store for us at the Spring Conference 2012?
ED-ucation: We are fortunate to have 2000 World Champion, Ed Tate, a top-notch trainer, coach and speaker. He has made himself available in 3 separate sessions to transfer his knowledge. Truly a don't -miss opportunity to learn from one of the best. Followed by 3 outstanding D4TM speakers: Anthony Hogan, Rita Barber & Paul Hebert. Entertainment: speech contests, Hall of Fame recognition, *the Business Meeting* all with the "E-Train" theme. Energize: be advised that exposure to 200 enthusiastic Toastmasters may change you . Be prepared.

After the conference, what next?
More speeches - working toward a second DTM. And not taking as long to get there! Join an advanced club to challenge myself and learn more. Continuing to contribute at my home club, the Xilinx Xpressionists, and at the District level too.

April 2012 - Elliotte Mao
Elliotte Mao was the 2011-2012 VP Education at High Spirits of Toastmasters, mentor to the new club San Francisco Mandarin English Toastmasters and a sponsor of a prospective club called Wellness Toastmasters! Get to know this dynamic Toastmaster who keeps it fresh even after being a member for 13 years (as of April 2012)!

What are your current Toastmasters projects?

  • Sponsoring and mentoring a club at a bio-engineering firm called Genencor/Dupont in Palo Alto. They call themselves the Toasty Genes. Incredible scientists, they have become gifted speakers as well. The goal is to get them chartered soon, then watch out for them in the speech contests!
  • Mentoring the SF-MET bilingual club in San Francisco. The bilingual nature of the meeting makes this new club quite a challenge since all roles and speeches have to be DOUBLED. The members and guests come to polish their English or their Mandarin or public speaking in both languages! Weaving two languages throughout the meeting makes for interesting attendance and participation.
  • Creating a specialty club called Wellness Toastmasters to provide a forum for medical professionals, holistic practitioners, and other health advocates to improve their communication and leadership skills. This will be of great benefit to the community as members with a background in wellness, learn to exchange ideas more effectively and provide empowering information.
  • Getting my DTM. Finally! I'm just one project away– long delayed because I never bothered to get credit for many CC and CL projects. Don't do this, folks!

Tell us about a time you felt like your Toastmasters training came to your rescue.
When I decided to switch from my prestigious job as an art director to an unpredictable and less profitable work in wellness education and Tai Chi Chuan instruction, I had to leverage all my Toastmasters skills to promote this strange Asian exercise called Tai Chi Chuan. I found myself using persuasion, body language, visual aids, humor, organization .... every class was a speech project. Pretty soon my two classes grew into a dozen, and the number of classes is still growing.

What do you do for a living?
Formerly a full time graphic art director, teaching Tai Chi Chuan part time. Now a full time Tai Chi instructor, doing part time graphic arts direction.

What would you like to say to someone who is still deciding about joining Toastmasters?
Jump in! It's experiential. You will experience the improvement in your speaking skills. You will feel the confidence in your leadership skills. Everything that happens to you in life will be a speech worth telling.

March 2012 - Pieter Kark
Get to know Pieter Kark better! Pieter was the 2011-2012 President of Toasters-R-Us, Synopsis. Pieter hosted a Division Open House - an excellent example of a Toastmasters event.

Please introduce yourself.
I'm Pieter Kark, currently (as of March 2012) President of Toasters-R-Us (TRUS), a club open to all that is hosted by Synopsys in Sunnyvale/Mountain View. TRUS has taught me and amused me for 6 years now. I've held a number of offices, have been an Area Governor, coached a club to Distinguished, and have participated in contests. Outside Toastmasters, I teach courses in mental tools to live deliberately and am an executive coach and teach to top management how to turn internal conflicts into opportunities to succeed and how to align groups into high-performance teams. This comes from my work in an earlier career as a physician.

Tell us about the Open House you organized for Division C.
The club needed an open house to increase membership. In thinking about an inspiring speaker for a mock meeting, TI President Michael Notaro's name came up. In inviting him, I asked the District if others would like to come. They suggested making this a Division C open house. The real work and organization came from the officers and members of Toasters-R-US. Everyone pulled together, was creative, and worked to overcome problems.
Despite terrible traffic in the South Peninsula that evening, there was an excellent turnout of Toastmasters and members of the public who wanted to explore Toastmasters. There were extensive, focused conversations before and after the formal meeting. Everyone who took a role did a superb job in a way that illustrated Toastmasters at its best and inspired the audience to explore. Michael Notaro gave a most amazing, warm, speech in full connection with everyone in the audience and that inspired on many levels.

What valuable leadership lesson did you learn from your Toastmasters club?
Dream and dare - if you persevere and inspire a team to align with you, you'll succeed.

How did you get introduced to Toastmasters?
My wife had been a Toastmaster in the Capital District of New York some years before. When we moved out here, she wanted me to explore it and we joined Adlibmasters in Santa Theresa neighborhood of San Jose. I got hooked at the first meeting. We switched to TRUS when we moved to Mountain View.

What would you like to say to say to someone who is hesitant to join Toastmasters?
Try it. Explore a few clubs. Find one whose culture attracts you. Join. Work on the manuals. If after 6 months you don't like it, you can always leave, but I'll bet you won't.

January 2012 - Mike McCreavy
Curious about what it means to be an Area Governor? Get to know 2011-2012 Area G4 Governor Mike McCreavy better. Mike's leadership is helping Area G4 towards its goals to become Distinguished Area (as reported by as of Jan 8 2012). Let your Area Governor know if you want to be the next Area Governor. Serving as an Area Governor also meets the requirements for the Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) award.

What do you do as an Area Governor?
As the Area G4 Governor, I visit the five clubs of my area and help them with anything they need to meet the Distinguished Club Program requirements. I report the status of these clubs to my Division Governor during monthly meetings. At these meetings I get to bounce ideas off of other Area Governors on how to help all our clubs improve. Sometimes I get the officers in the clubs of my area to meet and we plan cross-club events.

Aside from these club-related duties, I get to attend several District meetings and see a lot of well-trained speakers in action. The biggest responsibility (also the most fun) is building a team to successfully run our Area Speech Contests.

How did you decide to be an Area Governor?
I first met Dorothy Liu (former Area Governor) when she visited my club to do our officer installations. I subsequently got to see her in action as Area Governor several times: at Officer Trainings and at our Area Contests. When her term was ending, she asked if I was up for the challenge of additional leadership responsibilities and I went for it!

It has been very enlightening and valuable experience getting a "bigger picture" of the Toastmasters organization.

Tell us how you got introduced to Toastmasters.
A former employer paid for me to spend a day taking a public speaking course -- the course wasn't very effective because you can't learn everything you need to be a good speaker in 8 hours.

Sam Chow, a coworker and Toastmaster, told me there was "a better way" to get comfortable with speaking. He invited me to Macintalkers and I've been a practicing Toastmaster ever since.

Is there a Toastmasters related achievement you are proud of?
I'm most proud of putting the power-of-persuasion skills I developed while getting my CC and CL.

As Area Governor: I've convinced a few people to join Toastmasters, and I've gotten lots of restaurants to donate food and gift certificates for contest prizes.

In my job: I'm an engineer, but since we're a startup I find myself doing New Business Development at times. Being a Toastmaster makes cold calls easy: I treat them like Table Topics!

What do you do for a living?
I work at Luminate, Inc , a startup in Mountain View committed to making the static images of the web more interactive.

I focus on helping website owners monetize their images with engaging, context-aware advertising.

December 2011 - Jenny Cai
Get to know Jenny Cai better. Jenny was the 2011-2012 President of the then new Silicon Valley Mandarin English Toastmasters and is helping start two more as the D4 Bilingual Club Specialist!

How did you happen to join Toastmasters?
Nine years ago (as of December 2011), my English teacher recommended that I join Toastmasters. What a fun journey it has been! Today after watching me being adventurous with my speech content and delivery in front of an audience, people can't believe that I used to be very shy. I was nervous when I met people I didn't know. In fact in college, in trying to avoid speaking with a good-looking classmate (who I really wanted to talk to actually) I frantically looked for a place to hide and ended up bumping myself against a tree. I have built a lot of self-confidence after finding Toastmasters. The Toastmasters experience is "addictive" - one is not enough! I am a member of three great clubs: Mandarin English Toastmasters, Cisco Speaks, and Next Step.

Tell us about the Mandarin-English Toastmasters (MET) club. What challenges did you face in starting a new club?
MET is a bilingual club - our meeting is conducted in both English and Mandarin. Most of our members speak both languages and we also have members who do not speak any Mandarin right now, but hope to pick it up. This is a very energetic club. We have about 30 attendees at every meeting. During the English and Mandarin table topics at one meeting, the audience laughed 50 times! Many members go to dinner together afterwards. We also offer free Mandarin classes and English classes to our members. Starting a new club has challenges similar to reviving a club with low membership. We needed 20-30 members to charter the club. We relied on members to spread the word and invited distinguished speakers to attract guests. During the first seven club meetings, we got generous support from District 4 leaders, officers from other District 4 clubs and Area, Division and District contest winners. Starting a club or reviving a club is a wonderful opportunity to practice the leadership skills of collaboration and motivation.

And now your club is helping start a new Mandarin English Toastmasters club in San Francisco?
Yes, we're helping Tiffany Fung to start a new MET club in downtown San Francisco. We would appreciate help in finding a meeting room near a BART station. We are also starting Sign Language English Toastmasters (SLET) and would appreciate help in spreading the word:

How has being a Toastmaster helped you in your work?
It has helped me a lot. It also helped my manager to write cool performance reviews. For example - "great hosting of technical discussions"; "I especially like your presentation style - both written and verbal which are always extremely clear and well thought out"; "superior collaboration skills." The above are my comments my manager made after my first, fourth and fifth year of joining Toastmasters respectively.

You helped at the District 4 Fall Conference in November 201What did you gain from the experience of volunteering at the conference?
The 2011 Fall Conference was shining bright with so many stars - Distinguished Toastmasters, past, current and future district leaders. I was dazzled! I was so excited about the conference that I barely slept the night before. By volunteering at contests and the conference gave us a chance to invite distinguished speakers to our club as well as recruiting members who were interested in the Mandarin-English Toastmasters club idea.

What is your Toastmasters goal for 2012?
Collaborate and have fun. I'd like to build collaboration among current and new Toastmasters clubs. During this fun journey I hope to help others and make great friends!

- Jenny Cai, ATMS

November 2011 - Soloman Salimi
Get to know Soloman Salimi! Soloman is a member of San Jose True Talking Toastmasters club and has been a Toastmaster for 5 months (as of November 2011). Soloman is the Director, Fundraising & Opportunity Drawings for the District 4 Fall Conference 2011 and one of the first District 4 Club Ambassadors.

How did you get introduced to Toastmasters?
Toastmasters had been on my mind for a while. It was like splinter in my brain... unavoidable and needed attention! My family is very important to me. I go for lunch with my father and my uncles once a week and it is fun and relaxing for me. Toastmasters looked like an activity that my father and I could do together. We found a club within three blocks of my father's house and we both joined the club!

Tell us about the bathrobe and the sock at your club contest.
Hahaha!! You must be talking about the very first Club Humorous Speech Contest this Fall. In the break I went into my Yukon, slipped into my robe, took off my shoes and put on some comfortable socks. However, I was running late for the contest and I was the Toastmaster. So I was only able to put on one sock with my house slippers. The audience broke into laughter when I was introduced as the Toastmaster. I began to apologize for not having both socks on and an audience member discovered the missing sock behind my bathrobe stuck on the belt loop. I enjoyed taking this chance and I am glad it worked out. The tone was set for the rest of the Humorous Speech contest!

What does T.T.T. stand for? What do you especially enjoy about your club meetings?
T.T.T. stands for True Talking Toastmasters. San Jose True Talking Toastmasters has given me great friends. We go hiking, have lunch or dinner at a restaurant or even gather for chai at a member's home. It has become an extended family and one that I really appreciate and need in my life. I love that Toastmasters has given me great mentors who are kind and understanding. They are also not afraid to tell and share with me what I need to hear and where I need to improve. Each member has helped me grow in so many ways. I've connected with each and every one of them on so many levels. Toastmasters is more than learning how to become a better speaker and building leadership skills for me. It has become a vital part of my life and a constant source of therapy and recharge.

What do you do for a living? Has Toastmasters helped you in your profession?
They call me "Idea Man". I am a serial entrepreneur. In fact, a member at our club and I are working on a business project as we speak. We complement each other's skills very well and I appreciate how detail oriented, organized and humble she is. At this stage in my life it is important for me to combine my passion for business and health. Our business concept, which we are not yet ready to unveil is in the nutrition market and will be coming to a farmer's market near you. Before the New Year of 2012 we will be live.

Have you set a Toastmasters goal for yourself this year?
I plan to deliver my tenth speech before the District Conference on Nov. 12th*. Before the District Conference I plan to complete my CL as well. I need to completed the final leadership project by being a a Toastmaster and General Evaluator Role to Complete all ten projects. Today I just received my HPL packet and I am in the process of organizing a team for the District Conference Fundraising Team. (* And Soloman achieved his goal! Soloman received the Competent Communicator award on October 21 2011.)

At one point you wanted to start a Toastmasters club in Afghanistan. Still want to do that?
Toastmasters has given me a lot in such a short amount of time. I met District 4 Leaders at the 2011 Spring Conference in Milpitas. I was inspired to attend the 2011 International Convention in Las Vegas with my father. Together with our District I was able to meet and make friends with so many great Toastmasters from around the world. I even got to joke and dance with Immediate Past International President Pat Johnson.
At the Opening Ceremonies of the Toastmasters International Convention I noticed that the Afghanistan flag was not present. During dinner Past International President Chris Ford shared with me he has been in Afghanistan and together we could make it happen.

October 2011 - Cole Fox
Get to know Cole Fox - 2011-2012 Vice President, Public Relations of Toast[in], the Toastmasters club at LinkedIN. Cole placed third at the 2011 Area Speech Evaluation Contest - excellent for a club that chartered just a few months ago in June 2011.

Congratulations Cole! You are also our first Face of Four!

Why did you join Toastmasters?
I joined Toastmasters to share my thoughts clearly. Stage fright undermines communication!

What do you do for a living?
Sales at LinkedIn, and being intellectually curious.

What did you discover about yourself because of Toastmasters?
I like mastering things.

Do you have a goal as a Toastmaster?
Several, actually! 1) Get through my CC manual (10 speeches) by December 31, 2012) Be a great VP of PR 3) Pass on my newfound skills and inspire others ...I just joined in August!

Met any cute girls because of Toastmasters?
I did, actually at a regional leadership event. Turns out her interest in speaking afterward was merely to use me for operating LinkedIn more effectively; nonetheless, I should still be grateful for this and future networking opportunities!

What would you say to someone who is undecided about joining Toastmasters?
You need it, unless you're Mark Zuckerberg.