This Week in Toastmasters: Mistakes

Look at the clock and scream out loud, “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S ALREADY 4:30! I HAVE TOO MUCH WORK TO GET DONE! AHHHHH!” It’s …


Laura McCaffrey competed in the District 40 Speech Evaluation contest over the weekend and did a fabulous job. I would like to commend Laura on making it to the District competition. District 40 has around 200 clubs, most of which compete in these competitions each year. That’s close to 4000 potential competitors, and Laura was one of the final 9. Congratulations, Laura! Great job!

brennanOne of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, died last week. He was an interesting guy. He enlisted as a Marine and then served overseas as an Armed Forces sports reporter (I like to picture him as a cross between Hunter S Thompson and Private Joker from “Full Metal Jacket,” but I have no idea if that was actually the case). He returned home and joined the priesthood, studying Catholic theology at St Francis Catholic seminary and creative writing at Columbia University. Somewhere in there he got married, which caused quite a stir since Catholic priests aren’t supposed to do that. He wrote lots of books, one of which, “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” became somewhat popular.

Through it all, Brennan Manning was a raging alcoholic. In his autobiography, he talks about taking the stage at churches across the country to tell people about God’s love, blitzed out of his mind. More often than not, he woke up the following morning, barely able to remember what he had said the previous night.

The thing I liked about Brennan was not his great heights or low lows, but rather his honest. He was open about his struggles with alcohol and how it wrecked his marriage and, most likely, his life. He was open about his doubts about his faith. He was open about all his mistakes. I like it when people do that. Leaders, especially.

I don’t talk about Leadership much in Toastmasters, mostly because I’ve looked at the Phonebook hierarchy and I know that most of you outrank most of me, and I don’t believe in lecturing people on subjects about which I know little by comparison. But, since I am still the president of our little club, I thought I’d take a moment to take a cue from one of my favorite authors and talk about some of the mistakes I’ve made this year.

Mistake #1: Missed Communications
We had a lot of new people join last summer and, while I tried to make room to encourage them to grow as Toastmasters, sending an encouraging e-mail to ask how things were going was always on my “I’ll get to it tomorrow” list. As a result, we lost a few good Toastmasters who reportedly felt like there was no place for them here. As President, I should have coordinated better communication with new and existing members, making sure no one fell through the cracks.

Mistake #2: Organization
I suck at organization. I can keep a high-level view of things, but once I get a few layers down into the nitty-gritty of something, I tend to lose focus and forget which tasks go where. We had a few cool projects planned this year – a Halloween-themed spooky story speech contest, a virtual get-together with multiple (our company) clubs from around the world, cool and creative approaches to meetings – that never got off the ground because the specifics of how to accomplish these things never got beyond the idea stage. As President, I should have motivated others to take part in these projects and get them off the ground.

Mistake #3: Too Much ME. Not enough YOU.
I spoke too many times, took too many roles, filled in as Toastmaster too often and picked up the slack too much. Nearly every week I kept saying things like “sign up and you won’t have to hear me talk so much,” but I kept filling roles because I like being involved. As President, I should have encouraged others to step up.

This isn’t to say I think the year as been a failure. It hasn’t! We’re still one of a very small group of clubs in the district to achieve all 10 DCP points, Shirley McPherson made it to the Division contest for the Humorous Speech contest in the fall, our very own Laura McCaffrey competed at the District contest for Evaluations just last weekend, and I’ve seen each and every one of you take some amazing steps both as speakers and as Leaders.

We’ve all come a long way and we all have opportunities to improve. It’s been a pleasure. With that being said, it’s time to talk about …

We came up with a slate of new officers for next year. Take a look at the proposed leadership team:

  • President: Laura McCaffrey
  • VP Education: Liz Foster and Crystal Dong *
  • VP Membership: Shirley McPherson
  • VP Public Relations: Brian Dietz
  • Secretary: Sonja Thornbloom
  • Treasurer: Jonathan Frisbey
  • Sergeants-At-Arms: Mary Ellen Reser, Kalyan Ilipilla, Marion Nicolet **
  • Immediate Past President: Joe Shaw

* The VP Ed role is one of the most time-consuming roles in Toastmasters. Crystal will work with Liz the first half of the year as she has time. She may take a more prominent role as the year progresses and is looking to move into an officer position in 2014-2015, time and life events permitting. Currently you are voting for Liz Foster as the official VP-Ed.

** The Sergeant-At-Arms role requires that someone be in attendance for each meeting. This isn’t always possible, given our hectic schedules. So we’ve slotted a few people down to work on the role together. They will decide who gets official credit.

We will hold elections Thursday, May 16. If the slate is elected, we will immediately begin transitioning new officers into their roles. You may have noticed some of this happening already. Truth be told, I wanted to get the new officers up and running as soon as possible so our transition as seamless in July.

IF YOU WANT TO BE AN OFFICER NEXT YEAR, all you have to do is either let me and Laura McCaffrey know prior to the election on the 16th or show up to the meeting and toss your hat in the ring. We will hold specific elections for each office if elections are needed. Otherwise, we will elect the slate as a whole.


I would like to recognize the officers who have served this year:

President: Joe Shaw
VP Education: Yingbi Zheng
VP Membership: Yanling Yin
VP Public Relations: Brian Dietz, Crystal Dong, and Terri Williams
Secretary: Sonja Thornbloom and Niranjandas Mettu
Treasurer: Liz Foster
Sergeants-At-Arms: Kalyan Ilipilla and Daniel Martinsen

Thank you for your service


Last week was a fun week. Two of our newer Toastmasters, Phil Tassi and Mary Ellen Reser, gave their second speeches from the Competent Communicator Manual. Phil spoke about The NFL Draft and Mary Ellen spoke about Communication. Liz ran a great table topics as well.

Great job, everyone!


This week, Danae Wassinger is the Toastmaster. Laura McCaffrey will present some info about the roles of a Toastmasters meeting, and Jonathan Frisbey and Amresh Sathe are on the docket to speak as well. We still need some evaluators and a General Evaluator, so go to the website and sign up!


We would like to recognize the anniversaries of our members who joined in April or May:

Robert Bond: 5 years
Liz Foster: 3 years
George Hernandez: 1 year
Kalyan Ilipilla: 1 year
Heidi Madsen: 3 years
Chandrasekhara Rayala: 3 years
Danae Wassinger: 4 years
Yanling Yin: 3 years
Yingbi Zhen: 2 years
Laura McCaffrey: 5 years

Alright, everyone. That’s enough for now. We’ll see you Thursday. Don’t Break Anything,

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