February 17 – An Open Mic Meeting?

Picture this: You’re Jerry Bailey. It’s Wednesday night, and you think, “I haven’t seen any information about tomorrow’s meeting, and I wonder if I have a role.”

He checks our webpage and discovers, “YOU, Jerry, are the Toastmaster.” His mind races into overdrive. “I have to contact the speakers and functionaries and put this meeting together.”

Fortunately, most of the functionaries were available. Unfortunately, the speakers were not. Yikes! What’s a guy going to do?

Jerry figured it was unfair to pass on the vacant speaker slot and decided to present a speech about living on a plant-based diet. His Pathways Project was about dealing with a difficult audience. He opened his speech inviting the audience to jump in with questions and comments regardless of whether they agreed with his views.

Jerry explained he has lived for years on a plant-based diet…and that’s when it happened. Enter, “Howard the Heckler.” Suddenly, we heard Howard speaking with someone on the phone about generators. The audience was confused and tried to get Howard’s attention. “You have to mute yourself.”    

Jerry continued with how he first started eliminating red meat from his diet. After a year of eating chicken, he decided to eliminate that. At which point, Howard responded with, “Hey, you know chicken is meat too…why don’t you ask a chicken if they’re meat. I mean, chickens have faces – right?”

Jerry dodged the question, moving on to the effects on the environment. He pointed out that waste passing gasses from cattle put more methane into the air. Our “Green Queen,” Leisha pointed out that the methane is caused by burping, not passing gas from the other end.

Jerry’s speech produced quite a few giggles and engaging questions about reducing the amount of meat in the diet and responsibly sourcing other foods. Wanda stated it takes 600 gallons of water to produce one pound of almonds; consider they are being harvested in a drought-affected area of the United States.   Susan Racher suggested watching a documentary titled “What the Health,” examining what non-plant-based foods do to our bodies.  

And it was finally time for Jerry to drop the mic!

Our Table Topics Master, Phil Hayden, is planning a vacation, and he needs some help. He asked our members several questions about favorite and worst vacations, best location vacations, relaxing or active vacations, and even best vacation memory. Our audience provided Phil with several ideas.

Our winners were: 3rd place, Heloisa, who told us about the most harrowing vacation she ever had; 2nd place, Leisha, who is planning a trip to Italy and hopes to incorporate an archaeological dig in Tuscany while there; and, our winner, Susan Racher, who along with her husband has taken up camping during the last 12 months. Hopefully, Phil got some awesome ideas for his vacation this year.

We always learn something at our meetings – and here is what we learned today.  

Use visuals when you can.  

We try to make eye contact with the audience when appearing in person. To achieve the same effect using Zoom, look directly at the camera.

Don’t be afraid to try something new — like an open mic meeting!

While we may not have joined Toastmasters to learn how to be comfortable, relaxed, and poised in front of an audience, coming to meetings and trying something new can get us there.


We jumped from “TRAINS, PLANES AND, AUTOMOBILES” to the importance of learning from Lola!

Our first speaker, Jerry Bailey, gave us a gentleman’s sartorial view of travel in his speech, “Five Degrees of Post Covid Travel.” His first point applies to any travel: don’t take things you will miss if lost — an homage to his favorite hat almost lost on a train in Germany. 

The second point is to understand that travel classes (i.e., coach, first-class) are not the same from country to country. In retrieving his favorite hat from the train in Germany, he discovered his first-class accommodations were not as comfortable as second class. 

Moving on to men’s attire, Jerry noted that many guys lean toward comfort — baggy pants and much-used running shoes. Running shoes are out, and stylish shoes (he mentioned Cole Hahn) are in. Pants with pleats are entirely out of fashion; however, nice non-pleated slacks or jeans with appropriate shoes are in style.

Whether a man or a woman, FANNY PACKS ARE OUT! Backpacks are clumsy, and it’s easy to bump into people in a crowd. Jerry recommends a small bag, which you can wear with a strap over your shoulder or across the front of your body. 

Even post-covid, Jerry recommends wearing a mask, particularly when flying. And finally, Jerry takes a tiny can of non-aerosol Lysol spray. If someone is sneezing, you can spray it in the air to take care of circulating germs. He admonished, “Do not spray it AT someone — just in the air.”

Our second speaker, Howard Barouxis, told us he’d learned a lot from his little dog. Lola is a small Bichon puppy, and she lights up Howard’s life. She’s taught him many lessons — like “being in the now.” She seems to know what happened yesterday is over, and there is no guarantee of tomorrow. So Lola loves today! 

There are three languages spoken in Howard’s world — English, French, and Spanish. Little Lola loves attention in any language — perhaps she’s multi-lingual. 

If Lola could show displeasure, she doesn’t. All she wants to do is make everyone happy. Lola loves without expectation, and she shows her gratitude. 

Howard admits that he is not the most patient person in the world, but Lola constantly demonstrates that patience is a virtue. 

While cheese is one of her favorite foods, little Lola isn’t a picky eater, and she’ll even eat lettuce on occasion. 

“Begging gets you anywhere,” is her mantra. It’s worked in getting Howard to look forward to their walks, and Howard has even joined the 10,000 step club. 

Little Lola is Howard’s superhero. She’s demonstrated to him he should live in the now and while walking, to take time to smell the roses. What an education! World leaders could learn from Lola.

Alberto Gonzalez, our Table Topics Master, presented the questions. How would you answer the following:

1, What’s a downside of the modern world?

2. What simple fact do you think most people don’t understand?

3. If you could do it all over again, what would your do-over be?

4. Describe your future in three words?

5. What do you think about when your drive home?

6. What can someone do to grab your attention?

7. What is the most insensitive thing a person could do?

The winners of Table Topics were: 3rd place, Jerry Bailey, 2nd place, Howard Barouxis, and the winner was: Wanda Bee!

Our Master Evaluator, Sharon Patish, and her team, Wanda Bee and Alex Vorbe gave everyone some things to think about before presenting another speech. Here are some things we learned:

  1. Use props when appropriate — they add to your story.
  2. In addition to tempo, a pause adds emphasis to a statement.

A Meeting filled with information and laughter!

As you know our incredibly cerebral toastmasters cerebrate often.  Today, they demonstrated just how marvelous their cerebrating skills are when answering Table Topics questions, presenting beautiful speeches and particularly when evaluating the meeting

Our first speaker, Daniel Frasson, gave an engaging speech comparing the use of porcelain tiles and hardwood flooring.  Dan explained there are three factors to consider:

  • Design and flexibility
  • The Cost of Ownership
  • Durability

Wood plank tiles have the look and feel of hardwood.  They can be made in a variety of colors, moving more to the grey that is fashionable now.  The cost of hardwood runs about $125 per square foot.  Wood plank tiles, on the other hand, cost about $7.00 per square foot.  Wood looks great, but pets and children can stain and scratch the material.

Be armed with this information if you are planning to redecorate your home.

If you’ve been in the club for any length of time, you know Paula Hesch.  Today we had a re-introduction to Paula, with an Icebreaker.  She asked us if we had ever been advice from our parents that impacted our lives.  Her mother’s counsel was, “to always be independent and be able to support yourself.”

Her parents separated while she was in college.  Her mother went back to school and prepared to pursue better employment.  After college, Paula traveled throughout the world.  She married and moved with her husband to Albany New York.  The big city girl wondered what she was going to do in Albany, a small city, during a recession.  A job and career opportunity,  in her field of interior design, presented itself.  She preferred working in commercial design — not retail, so she entered a 2-year masters program in New York City.  Once a week she’d travel to school in the “Big Apple,” the remainder of the week, she continued to work in Albany.

Paula’s husband’s job took him to the University of Miami School Of Law.   Having a family was also important to Paula, and the couple had two children, Jason and Dana.  She taught at Bauder Fashion, Miami-Dade College and FIU as well as working at some notable interior design firms.  But Paula was looking to move forward.  With her 20-year marriage coming to an end, her children young teenagers, the thought of starting a business seemed a new and exciting challenge with more flexibility in her life.

Today, Paula counts herself as lucky getting her mother’s advice.  She is undoubtedly independent and able to support herself.  She claims her daughter is also an even more independent woman.

Dan Sanchez-Galarraga presented some questions that certainly pushed our contestants to cerebrate during Table Topics.  Our Blue Ribbon Winner was Dwayne Robinson, who when asked, “Who was the biggest influence in your life?” responded that it was his mother.

Our evaluation team led by Cris Stenstrom, along with Felix Lorenzo and Jim Hartnett, gave us all some thoughtful ideas for our future presentations.  Here are a few you may find helpful:

  • To add emphasis, repeat main points.
  • Using pauses will break up multiple facts.
  • When giving an informative speech, try not to pause and look upward.  It appears that you may not have all of the answers.
  • Begin the speech with what you want everyone to hear.  Do not start with something extraneous or immaterial to your talk.

Wonderful meeting.  Hope to see you next week…..

Here’s what you missed July 5, 2018

Seldom have I attended a Toastmasters meeting that was as thoughtful and profound as this meeting.  Our first speaker, Jason Hesch, gave a speech titled, “Is love a right?”  He brought the audience into his speech by requesting we imagine a romantic situation in which we are rebuffed.  Then he asked, “What if this rejection happens over and over again?”  This is an on-going reality for many disabled persons.  Jason’s 9th speech from the manual was provocative, challenging and insightful.

Our second speaker, Felix Lorenzo, began his talk with an admonition,  “Perhaps what I’m about to say is for a different audience.”  Is there Ageism in Miami?  Miami appeals to the young, with its sports facilities, places of entertainment, tourist attractions and beaches.  So much of what is Miami’s allure is paid for in part by taxes.

As his speech progressed, we found ourselves once again, considering life from a different point of view.  Few in the audience are of retirement age.  Yet Felix was speaking of the desperation some older residences contemplate.  Thoughts such as, “shall I pay for medication or food,” or “do I have enough income to sustain me?”  Real estate taxes continue to rise and are more than what some elderly can afford.  The economy and retirement are things we must all consider…regardless of where we are in life.

Our Table Topics master, Sharon Patish brought a lighter side to the meeting.  Our contestants had time to weigh in on their best, and worst vacations, as well as letting us know their preferences on the length of time away, and even where to go on a destination wedding vacation.  Of course, there can only be one Table Topics Winner, and this week, Tara Christou told us about her best vacation, where she and her family were able to view the aurora borealis and even play with reindeer (Santa Claus was not included).

Tu Duong, our Master Evaluator, along with his able team, Dan Sanchez-Galarraga and, Paula Hesch added to our knowledge with some evaluation tips.  Two suggestions are:

  1. Don’t use lengthy notes — outlines are easier to handle.
  2. Particularly, when stating a problem, leave the audience with a call to action.