Toastmasters Need to “RESET”

As part of Awesome April, on Thursday evening April 21st Dr. Fred L. Johnson III gave an inspiring presentation to District 62. With the theme, “It’s Time for a RESET”, Dr. Johnson recounted how the Covid-19 global pandemic caused people and organization to re-imagine concepts like family, friendship, work and public speaking.

Rising to the Challenge

Fred noted that many Toastmasters rose to the challenge. Clubs inspired audiences through creative uses of technology. Speakers learned techniques for delivering powerful messages through the camera. Many created video content through discovery of talents that might have gone unnoticed.

There were many lessons learned during the pandemic; however, Dr. Johnson noted that some of the “magic” that made Toastmasters gatherings so special was diminished or disappeared.


As part of his proposed RESET, Dr. Johnson noted that we as Toastmasters need to pay attention to four things:

1. We need each other; relationally, socially, spiritually

2. We need to actively listen; “Not just listen so we can reply, but listen so we can understand”

3. We need to meet in-person, to acquire and retain social connection

4. We need to build bridges so that more can understand, contribute and participate

For example, “What if we actually invested time, energy and resources in failed clubs,” he suggested. “If you hang around folks that are going someplace, you will either go with them or get there faster on your own.”


Fred noted several inspiring stories in his presentation, including the following:

Diana Nyad and her swim from Cuba to Key West

Elie Weisel’s “Night” Memoir

Dananjaya Hettiarachi – World Champion of Public Speaking 2014

Finally, to assist Toastmasters with “upping their on-line game”, Dr. Johnson recommended reviewing and upgrading our Zoom backgrounds. He cited the book, “How to Zoom Your Room” as well as the Room Rater blog.

Visit Dr. Fred Johnson’s web site for more information.

Toastmasters Need to “RESET”

Dr. Fred L. Johnson III is an award-winning public speaker. He delivers inspirational and educational talks to audiences of all backgrounds and sizes. His topics focus on military history, leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As he notes on his website, “Across functional fields, one thing is certain: success is determined by leadership.” He became a Toastmaster, and advanced to the semifinals of the  Toastmasters World Series of Public Speaking eight times. In both 2017 and 2018 he took second place.

Awards and Honors

While teaching at hope College in Michigan, Dr. Fred L. Johnson III earned various awards, including Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award (2013). In November 2019, the Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) awarded Dr. Johnson with the Medal of Honor. This is the most prestigious award that the DAR presents.

The Hope College campus news noted that the DAR Medal of Honor “is given to an adult man or woman who is a United States citizen by birth and has shown extraordinary qualities of leadership, trustworthiness, service, and patriotism. The recipient must have made unusual and lasting contributions to our American Heritage by giving of himself or herself to his or her community, state, country, and fellowman.”

Toastmasters During COVID

For the past several years, Toastmasters across the world have been recovering from the challenge of COVID-19. Clubs inspired audiences through creative uses of technology. Speakers learned techniques for delivering powerful messages through a camera. Many people created video content through discovery of talents which might have gone unnoticed.

Attend His Presentation on April 20th

Dr. Johnson feels that some of the “magic” that made Toastmasters’ gatherings so special has diminished or disappeared. It’s time for a RESET.

Join Dr.Johnson as he discusses the benefits of combining lessons learned during the pandemic with the fundamentals of Toastmasters organic strengths and leveraging them to sustain the “magic” that has been so essential in making Toastmasters a premier organization for public speaking and leadership development excellence in the 21st Century.

Avoid Speech Evaluation Errors

Speech evaluation is one of the most valuable benefits of Toastmasters. Not only do speakers get 2-3 minutes of immediate feedback, they get a written form of glows and grows. In this article, we concentrate on the ratings form from the physical evaluation document. Below is a portion of a standard speech evaluation form.

Many times a speaker will go right to the ratings to see what they did best and what they can improve. In particular, the numerical ratings draw the eye, especially if the rating for that category is low.

Raters should avoid some common issues when rating speakers. Some of these are as follows.

Central Tendency

This is the tendency of an evaluator to rate a speech as average, near average, or close to the midpoint of the numerical scale. This is probably the most common evaluation error and possibly the most serious. It allows the evaluator an easy way to evade responsibility in giving the speaker a fair and valid evaluation. Another version of this bias is to rate a speech low in one category if they have scored high in another, thus leading to a combined score of “average”.

To avoid this error, evaluators should approach each rating category as if it were independent of the others. In general, evaluators who remember that this portion of the evaluation is one of simple measurement should have few problems.

The Compensation Effect

Somewhat akin to the central tendency problem mentioned above, this problem refers to the inclination of a rater to rate a speech low in one category if they have already scored high in another category. Conversely, it includes rating a speaker high in one category if they have already scored low in another. The overall effect is to end up with an average or near average score.

In general, this rater has already judged the speaker’s performance and is fooling with the scores to get to total to “come out” right. This is a serious problem, but it can be easily addressed. Concentrate on the measurements documented in the text part of the evaluation. These data are the facts that will make up the final appraisal.

The First Impression

Here, raters score a speech based on their first impression, ignoring behaviors or results occurring later in the speech. This happens most often when an evaluator is unfamiliar with the speaker’s prior speeches. It is said that one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Raters should realize that everyone uses first impressions as guides in determining how to interact with others, and act accordingly.

This type of error can be minimized if the rater confirms to the letter of the evaluation form and process.


Speech evaluators can avoid these common errors by considering their efforts as “measurement” rather than “judgement”. For more information on speech evaluation, see this video tutorial (How to Evaluate)  at Toastmasters International.

District 62 Club President of the Year

Introducing Dennis Jacobs

In 2010, Dennis Jacobs was doing safety and health seminars. He  wanted to improve his speaking skills. A friend recommended Toastmasters. Dennis attended several meetings and felt that the concepts Toastmasters taught of better speaking and leadership skills was right for him.

Fast-forward to today. Dennis is a member of Southwest Michigan Advanced Toastmasters (SWAT) and has held every officer position except for Sergeant-at-Arms. He received mentoring from such Toastmasters as Avar Laws-Wright and Laura St. Louis, and is currently the club President.

“As President, I like to give club officers the room to do things on their own,” Dennis remarked in a recent interview. He feels that as President his job is not so much to lead as to help the officers to lead by themselves.

The Toastmasters Experience

As for the Toastmasters experience, Dennis noted that the most valuable part of a club meeting agenda is Table Topics. “How to present is probably the single most important skill you can have,” he said. “It’s as simple as how to talk to people when you meet them either for the first time or in the grocery store.” He also remarked that Roberts Rules of Order is more than just a few simple rules to run meetings. “It forces people to be polite.”

How Guests See Value in a Meeting

Dennis said that Guests and prospective Members should realize that creating a presentation should be “unfearful”, and that attendees will see the value of Toastmasters in terms of learning how to communicate and perceive the need to structure their presentations. “Toastmasters are family, and I’m here to help our family.”

Dennis recommends that Toastmasters research inspirational or motivational quotes and incorporate these into meetings. He also recommends that officers create a five-year plan for their Club. “Officer elections can cause a break in continuity,” he said. “Creating a five-year plan makes it easier to transition from one year to the next.”

Dennis is also a member of Greater Davison Area Toastmasters club serving as Club Website Administrator and Club Officer. He is a club coach,  and is currently semi-retired, doing various types of consulting work.

How to Speak

Patrick Winston’s How to Speak presentation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been an MIT tradition for over 40 years. Offered every January during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), usually to overflow crowds, the talk is intended to improve your speaking ability in critical situations by teaching you a few heuristic rules. Professor Winston’s collection of rules is presented along with examples of their application in job-interview talks, thesis defenses, oral examinations, and lectures.

Toastmasters can learn a lot about how to start a speech, how to use props and slides, tips on giving informational and persuasive speeches, the best ways to end a speech and tips and tricks for job interviews.

Professor Winston’s presentation is available on YouTube at this link.

District 62 TM Spotlight: RJ Chulski

RJ Chulski

Richard “RJ” Chulski began his Toastmasters journey in 2011. “Toastmasters is part of my emotional health program,” says RJ. “I’m currently a member of Yawn Patrol, and they’ve got a great reputation.”

RJ has done speeches on diverse topics, including public speaking in a project management context. He finds it most interesting that with the Pathways program, Toastmasters get the chance to give the same speech more than once. “Giving a speech a second time helps with smoothing out nerves,” he said. “I recommend that new Toastmasters speak as often as possible. The more often you do it, the easier it is.”

Applying Speaking Skills with Local Youth

RJ found several interesting situations in which to use his enhanced speaking skills from Toastmasters. “I volunteer for Cub Scouts. Toastmasters helped sharpen my storytelling skills. You need to keep young Scouts in their seats, or you lose their attention! Stories do this well.”

Another area is storybook writing. “I’m writing a book of juvenile fiction aimed at a typical 8th grader. The main character is Mitch Eagan, a very tall young fellow. Each section details a Paul Bunyan-like story of Mitch and his adventures throughout Michigan.”  RJ’s book is titled, “Tall Tales of Michigan – Mitch Egan”.

Toastmasters Evaluations and the Meeting Experience

Interestingly, RJ says that the most valuable part of a Toastmasters meeting for him is the evaluations. They force the evaluator to listen carefully. “The evaluator must think deeply and objectively about a speech. Good feedback is essential if you want to improve your speaking and leadership skills.”

RJ believes that the Toastmasters meeting experience can give you more than just skill building. “You make new friends that you wouldn’t otherwise make. And with a corporate club, you have the chance to make allies all around the building.”

Face-to-Face Meetings are Important

In the current hybrid meeting climate, RJ thinks that face-to-face meetings are essential, especially for potential members. “It took a friend of mine several times to get me to my first meeting.” As we know, Toastmasters International has noted that current member referrals are the most popular way to get new members. “Personal contact is an essential part of speaking and leadership,” says RJ.

RJ is currently a member of Lansing Yawn Patrol Toastmasters. “The things we learn and do in Yawn Patrol are good for our members, our members’ work teams, departments and their whole organizations. And our families, too.”

Speech Evaluation Seminar Dec 12th

Are your speech evaluations needing a little tune-up or polishing?  Do the evaluations you receive seem to be less beneficial than they use to be?  Have you wondered if there is some easy-to-use tool to help in the process?  If so, then it’s probably a good time to review your entire evaluation process and to see how and what tools a seasoned Evaluator uses.

Ron Musich, DTM

Ron Musich, DTM will be presenting an Educational Seminar on effective speech evaluations on Monday December 12th during the regular West Michigan Advanced Toastmasters meeting. 

During this session Ron will share the following:

  1. Original Speech Evaluation Outline sheet and his accompanying Detailed Speech Evaluation Guide. 
  2. Components of an Effective and Beneficial Speech Evaluation sheet
  3. Summary of Evaluation Elements
  4. To help you put the evaluation together quickly and effectively Ron will also share his Putting the Evaluation Presentation Together instruction sheet which explains in simple steps how to do it. 
  5. You’ll also discover the differences between a Pathway evaluation, a competition evaluation, and a Special Purpose evaluation. 

Put December 12th at 7 pm on your calendar and prepare to learn new ways to put together and present effective and beneficial evaluations.  Improved evaluations will benefit you, your club members, and potential members.

The WMAT meetings are hybrid so you can Zoom in or attend in person. 

Below is the zoom link and physical meeting location.

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 843 4224 0389   Passcode: 691747

The Heather Hills Village,  1055 Forest Hills Ave. Grand Rapids MI 49546

The meeting is from 7 to 9pm.  See you there! 

Spotlight on Owen Monday, District 62 Club Growth Director (CGD)

About six years ago, Owen Monday’s supervisor met with him to discuss his professional development. She was a Toastmaster, and recommended that Owen join Toastmasters as well. Owen joined Secondary to None, and at his first meeting sat well in the rear of the room. He was approached by none other than Jack Pyle, who said, “You can’t just sit in the back!”

Fast forward to last year. Owen was President of Secondary to None when they reached President’s Distinguished. He was also awarded the Spirit of Success Award by Toastmasters District 62. That’s quite a journey!

Toastmasters Adds Value

Owen credits Toastmasters for helping him with his consulting work. “With my work I have the opportunity to speak with many people. Thanks to Toastmasters I speak more accurately and eliminate vocalized pauses like “um” and “er”.

Owen considers the agenda to be the most important part of the meeting. “The Agenda sets the tone of the meeting. Having an agenda and sticking to it makes the meeting more professional. This is particularly important when converting guests into members.” As for specific topics, Owen sees great value in Table Topics. “When giving an elevator speech, or when speaking off-the-cuff, people get nervous. Table Topics helps you grow in that area.”

According to Owen, a role that is often overlooked is the Ah-Er Counter. “Instead of ahs and ers, you’ll find that if you pause, people will pay more attention. Thus, learning to pause at the right time can lead to enhancing your speaking skills.

Building Quality Clubs

Looking to the future, Owen recommends that Toastmasters pay more attention to having high-quality meetings. “I’ve discussed this a lot. You want people to stay. Instead of having the same people doing the same roles every meeting, we need to get back to the beginning: Why did we join Toastmasters?” To set the stage for club growth, Owen says, “Have an Open House meeting every month. Invite people! Show off your Quality Club. Only then will people stay.”

Owen Monday is a legal affairs consultant at Monday and Associates, LLC, and is Immediate Past President of the Secondary to None Toastmasters Club. He is also one of the Trio, the top three elected office holders for Toastmasters District 62.

District 62 Toastmaster Spotlight: Tara McCoy-Jones

Improving Her Work-Related Communication Skills

An employer told Tara McCoy-Jones that she had some “bad speaking habits.” Fortunately, she already knew about Toastmasters from posted signs at one of her clients. She googled “Toastmasters”, found the Trail Blazers club in Jackson, Michigan, attended a meeting and became a Toastmaster on April 1, 2014.

As she advanced in Toastmasters, Tara discovered the leadership component of the program.  Its attributes caused her to expand her “why” for attending meetings. “I believe long-term, as I saw my communications skills improve, I stayed because of the camaraderie and leadership skills. I loved it when Pathways came in, because it’s instructional design, and that’s what I do.”

Problems with Pathways

Tara is a strong advocate of Pathways. However, with many other Toastmasters she felt that the original Pathways rollout was somewhat problematic. Moving through Pathways and getting levels approved seemed to be unduly difficult.

The biggest challenge from her perspective was to get late adopters to finally join Pathways. Tara now thinks that most of the original issues have been properly addressed, and that the current Pathways “experience” is much more straightforward.  “My experience in instructional design made me a believer in what Pathways was supposed to be. Still, I realized early on that it was a bit cumbersome. Now it’s not. I believe everyone who didn’t give it a chance before should challenge themselves to stretch and learn something new in their Toastmaster journey – why not Pathways?” 

Opinions on the Club Experience

Tara, now a District Director, thinks that afternoon clubs with virtual or hybrid meetings seem to be having success; however, potential members in academia or education may have difficulty attending due to their packed schedules. Clubs considering expanding membership should keep their potential audiences in mind, perhaps considering changing or expanding their planned meeting dates and times.

Suggestions for Managing Guests

Tara thinks that personal contact with guests is important. “What are they looking for in Toastmasters? Have you clarified meeting roles and expectations? Are guests given web links and references so they can investigate on their own?”  She points out that the C Division Advanced Speakers and Power Toastmasters club web sites have these features.

The Future

Tara doesn’t see herself leaving Toastmasters for quite a while. “I’m too Toastmaster-y ,” she notes. “The leadership roles and social interactions keep me coming back.”

Tactics for Improving Your Speaking

Most Toastmasters know that “public speaking” is much more than standing behind a lectern in front of an audience. Public speaking encompasses much more: from podcasts to casual conversations with friends, from Zoom meetings to reporting on a team project. You can attain the best results by understanding your audience, crafting a customized presentation and setting the correct goals. Read on for more!

The Audience

Connect with your audience through personal stories. What do you want your audience to feel or know? Choose stories that evoke those memories and highlight specific facts. Is the purpose of your speech informational? Tell a story where you first learned the facts you are presenting. For inspirational speeches you can tell about the lifetime of a historical figure or an important speech they gave. Entertaining speeches can be somewhat tricky in that some audiences may not respond well to particular stories. In this case, consider stories about yourself and how you reacted to events.

A Customized Presentation

The structure or form of your speech can take many forms.  One popular arrangement is introduction, points A, B, and C, and a conclusion.  Some other arrangements are chronological order, pain-problem-solution and issue, opinion and call-to-action. However you structure your speech, be prepared to make small changes to it based upon the specific audience or venue. For example, if your audience consists of technical professionals they will connect better to your speech if it is laid out logically with facts. Similarly, of your audience is a combination of adults and children a story-based structure is better.

Another customization you can make is to lengthen or shorten your speech depend upon circumstances.  If your structure contains three points (A, B and C), consider adding a fourth point (D) to be used only if there is sufficient time. Likewise, construct your conclusion to include several points in summation, again with the idea of eliminating one of them if time does not permit.

Set Goals for Yourself

Consider why you want to improve your public speaking skills. Are you thinking of paid public speaking engagements, networking with like-minded speaking professionals or marketing your products and services? Perhaps you would like to create a podcast or video channel. Understanding your goals will help you determine which talents to work on and how they will be used in your work, home and social environments.


Make certain that you understand and document your personal goals for improving your speaking skills. These goals in turn will help you decide on speech content and structure. Finally, understand your audience and how your speech will affect them. In this way you will get better at customizing your presentation for specific audiences.


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