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April 28, 2012

Come join us at our Membership Event, dubbed “Get Toasted!”

Get your copy of the flier here:

Get Toasted Event Flier


March 8, 2012

A clown, an amateur table tennis champ, and a SpongeBob fan walked into a Toastmasters Area Contest… But this isn’t a joke!  This is a story of a talented young professional who has a natural knack for writing and has quick mastery of his speaking craft.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Jimmy Tran!

just a pic of the full moon

Full moon during the Area 62 International Speech Contest

The night had an ambiance that I couldn’t put my finger on. The moon was so beautiful and uncommonly full, it beckoned me to howl!  As I walked into the contest site, sipping casually on my mocha frappe, I was unsure of what to expect… I was greeted by familiar faces (Bern Lannan and Don Eppler, along with Area Governors Philip Williams and Ray Kinney) and as I signed in, I noticed the ever so humble Jimmy Tran walk in behind me.  Jimmy was dressed to impress – two-piece tailored black suit, gray shirt, and black tie.  We exchanged our pleasantries and headed in.  I got a sense that Jimmy was ready – he had enough nervousness to temper his confidence.  He had good balance and control of his emotions.

Jimmy checked in with the dignitaries and judges.  I went to go find a seat.  Majority of the audience was elder.  These are seasoned Toastmasters, the oldest being a woman who joined Toastmasters before they allowed women to join.  I took a mental note and thought that this could be a factor on how Jimmy scores.

We listened to well delivered speeches.  Adding to the line-up above, we heard a woman who acted out her daily interaction with a homeless man (I thought she should have been in theater – she gave a good performance), we heard a man who spoke about his life experiences and how he is happily retired, we heard another woman give a graphic description of breast examinations (ouch), we heard another man who talked about insulting people of other countries with American gestures, and to round it off, we heard a man speak about his work as a girl-scout (volunteer).

When Jimmy got up to speak, he went up there with confidence and determination (no notes) and started his speech without hesitation.  His opening intrigued the audience and captivated them.  The audience willingly went along with Jimmy on his verbal journey.  He took us with him through the trials and tribulations of his humble childhood and spun each recollection as a positive – when most people might view it as a hardship.  He had well placed pauses and did not falter or stumble on delivering his message.  He helped paint images in our heads with his gestures.  He tugged at our hearts with his sincere facial expressions.  His voice filled the large room without effort.  His talent for writing acts as fuel for his speaking abilities.  Jimmy’s creativity is so dynamic that he was able to incorporate messages from the previous speakers into his own speech…  As Jimmy closed his speech, he was received with unparalleled applause!  As he took his seat next to me in the back of room, I whispered to him, “You killed it!”

Pride is one of those feelings I usually reserve for myself and members of my family.  I remember how proud I felt when I graduated from the university, or when I first had Connie on my arm as my wife, or when my son does something really sweet and thoughtful.

Having Jimmy represent the HP Northside Club is always a moment to be proud of.

2012 Area 62 International Speech Contest Winner

Left to Right: Jimmy Tran (Area 62 International speech contest winner), Ray Kinney (Area 62 governor), and Cindy Martin (speech contest Toastmaster)

Jimmy won the Area 62 International Speech Contest.  He will move on to the Divsion F contest which will be held on Saturday, 31-Mar2012, in Auburn.

I get the sense Jimmy isn’t doing this for competition… but for something that means more…


Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story

March 6, 2012

Storytelling… it’s a art! For a Toastmaster, it’s almost a necessity to have it as one of your honed abilities.

Here is a brief video from Andrew Stanton, who is a filmmaker at Pixar and created works like “Toy Story” and “WALL-E”, speaking at TED and giving us insight into storytelling…

Andrew Stanton: The Clues to a Great Story

Language 2.0 – by Shreya Krishnan

April 20, 2011

I recently gave a speech at our Toastmasters meeting on the evolution, or rather the backward evolution of language.  It was a social commentary on the buzz words we tend to hear in the work place these days.  Here is the transcript of my speech:

You’re on a conference call at work – let’s say it is an internal call.  The conversation starts off with the niceties – hello how are you, darn its Monday again! But as the talks proceed you start hearing words and phrases that do not exactly translate literally. “We don’t have the bandwidth” someone says.  “Lets take that offline.” Comes the response.  Then we descend completely into this phenomenon known as “business speak.” Maybe we suffered a “paradigm shift” or or our solutions weren’t “scalable” or we needed to employ more “sustainable solutions”.  These abstract words and phrases have all but infiltrated our use of language.  You can probably sense my attitude towards the usuage of what is semantically defined as plastic words – it is not a positive one.  Whether they are a bane or a boon to the art of communication in the big picture, I think these plastic words have degraded our use of language and caused a break down in effective communication.

Plastic words – the phrase was coined by a German author who believed that language is changing in a unique and disturbing way.  Yes, there is actual theory behind this, not just my afternoon rant.  These words come to us in the form of top-down language  – an inorganic method where language is given to a culture and is created from some other realm that is alien to the culture’s vernacular.  Vernacular is your everyday colloquial language.  However, top down language is more scientific and it is brought to us by so called experts.  These experts are probably working professionals like you & me – business, technical, psychological and financial consultants and of course reporters and politicians.  They are the mediators – the point where knowledge is put into practice.  So what’s the problem you ask?  The expert silences critical thinking by appearing positive and enlightened.  The consequence is that it disempowers people – we are all forced to view the world through the lens of the experts. Plastic words condense a huge field of experience in one expression – the layperson lacks the power to define these words. For the first time in history there are indications of a universal language and this language is being generated in an inorganic, top-down manner. Plastic words are creating a homogenization of the English language and are reducing the diversity in our thinking.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love using plastic words.  I hear my dad using them all the time and I am familiar with the usage though not always the meaning of most. The truth is a lot of people who enter the work force are new to the terminology thus creating room for a lot of miscommunication to occur. My cousin shared an experience with me recently.  He was on a conference call with his manager and a customer apparently trying very hard to drive a point home.  His boss however felt this conversation needed to wait and cautioned that we should take this offline. My cousin – I don’t know what he thought it meant but the request was lost on him and he continued pressing his point until finally he received a text from his boss saying Ram shut up!  We had a good laugh over his story but the truth is this isn’t an isolated case – a lot of people take a while to catch on to the work place lingo.  The problem with plastic words is that they completely lack imagery.  When you think of the word modernization can you picture what it means in your mind’s eye?  What about scalability?  This lack of imagery leads to a higher chance of miscommunication. Plastic words replace precise words and blur meaning thus creating a detrimental effect on our language.

Plastic words take on a life of their own and change in meaning according to the intention of the speaker.  How are we expected to communicate consistently and clearly when the words themselves don’t stand for the same thing from one context to the next?  And can you imagine the whole world talking like this one day?  So should we just shrug this off as the natural evolution of language?  Maybe. Sure.  We don’t have “visibility” yet to the outcome of language “2.0.” But if we “drill down” to it, does it really “facilitate” effective conversation? Maybe we should “leverage” the knowledge I shared with you today and work on the quality of our communication “going forward.”  How about I “touch base” with you on your progress next week?

Love… Simply – by Jimmy Tran

March 29, 2011

Jimmy Tran did the HP Northside Toastmaster club a very honorable service by representing the club at the Area Speech Contest, held on 18-March2011.  I hope you are able to appreciate the craftsmanship he put into his speech writing…


There are literally thousands of words in the English dictionary that I don’t know the meaning of or have ever used in my daily conversations with other people. However, there exists one word that, above all others, perplexes me and yet, I use it on a day-to-day basis. In fact, the word emanates from my lips several times a day. What is this word, you ask?

Let me first give you some background information on it. For starters, almost everyone defines it in a different way. The frequency with which it is used is also dependent on the source. Even the way it’s used varies from person to person. Some choose to use it very loosely, while others reserve it for a select few in their lives. Looking at the origin of the word, we find that it stretches back thousands of years. Still, uncovering the root of it does very little in addressing the sheer complexity of the word itself.

Simply think about it though, how do YOU define the word “love”?

Arguably the most powerful emotion in the known universe, love is also the most unexplainable. It can consume us so easily. We revel in it and somehow also wallow in it. Think about that. Are other emotions such as happiness capable of that? How about anxiousness? Or anger? Probably not. Yet to classify love as just another emotion is undermining the magnitude of the word and the burden that comes along with it.

The concept of love is so abstract and intricate that some see it as language, or a skill, or even a profession rather than an emotion.

Thus, trying to encapsulate it all in this brief speech is far too daunting of a task.

In fact, it’d make little sense for me to provide my own personal thoughts on love as I’ve only been in love but once. Sure, I love my family, I love my friends, I love writing, I love sports, I love Cheddar Jack Cheez-Its, and I love a breezy summer day. But the love I speak of today is much different. It’s the type of love that is glorified and revered through Hallmark cards, sappy movies, and pop ballads, and in that poetry book you read during sophomore year in college. In short, it’s the love that we all search for every day of our lives.

Fortunately for me, my search ended when I met this girl four years ago. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but that’s the way love operates. It disregards whatever situation you find yourself in. It’s unpredictable and unexpected. It doesn’t recognize the color of people’s skins, their cultural backgrounds, their gender, their age, or even the language they speak.

In my opinion, we don’t even get to really choose who we fall in love with. Through some cosmic chain of events, we as individuals become aligned with another person.

And so, here I am, four years later. Although it’s cliché to say, I have truly experienced the power of love. The absolute elation it brings upon you when you know you feel it for someone. How it just lifts you to another altitude and rids your mind of all the pain and concerns troubling your soul.  At the same time, it’s also dragged me down to depths so low, I’m still unsure as to exactly how I ever managed to climb out.

And, I know what you might be thinking. You’re just a kid. What do you possibly know about the pain of love? Well, while I may not have felt the sting of a lost love like some in here may have, I do know that all the pain and agony felt afterward…was worthwhile. And that if any of you could go back, you’d do it again. Once again – unexplainable.

Why else would we deceive ourselves into going through this process over and over again – fully aware of how love can break our spirits?

Clearly, love goes against every single ounce of rationality we have in our bodies. Our hearts don’t function off rhyme and reason though. It’s something far more basic. Whatever it is exactly, it drives us to do reckless things. Ironically, it is love, the purest element in the universe, that is capable of extracting some truly frightening stuff from within us.

Nevertheless, there is that sense of honor and integrity that I always feel when I think about love. That sense that love is a without a shadow of a doubt, a selfless act, and that you can’t love someone else if you love yourself more. That’s love though. One paradox after another.

Although I may have trouble pin pointing how it functions and where it stems from, I do know one thing for certain.

And that is I love this girl. I KNOW I do, because when I’m with her, I feel truly happy. She takes one look at me, her eyes piercing into mine, and I become completely vulnerable. Willing to risk anything and everything for her. Willing to go through all the highs and the lows because a life filled with stability just doesn’t seem worth living.

In a way, I love her without really knowing how.

As the saying goes, love is what makes the world go round and arguably just as vital to our lives just as oxygen and blood are. Just remember though, to love is to take risks. And when we take risks, we sometimes fail.

But don’t ever let that discourage you from taking down your guard and allowing yourself to care for someone more than anything else in this world.

Allow yourself to take a leap and count on someone to be there to catch you.

Allow yourself to throw caution to the wind and listen to your heart rather than your mind.

Allow yourself to experience something that, despite my best efforts just now, cannot be defined.

Some Other Beginning’s End – by Lisa Donchak

October 22, 2010

This post is adapted from a speech Lisa gave at HP Northside Toastmasters yesterday.  The full text can be found on her blog, here.

Poi is one of the traditional performing arts of the Māori people of New Zealand.  It’s developed many forms over the years, and is used worldwide as a hobby, exercise, or performance art alongside activities like juggling.

I started a week ago.  I’m by no means very good at this particular activity.  It’s a difficult art to master.  While adding in fire makes it more exciting, it certainly doesn’t make it easier; I’ve definitely burnt off some hair in the past week. Read more.

Welcome Scott!

October 22, 2010

Please welcome our newest member Scott Leslie!
Mentor – Carrie McQueen

Job: Community Renewal Project – Director, Community Development

Education: B.A., Cal Poly SLO (San Luis Obispo, for those who are wondering); MBA, SDSU

Hobbies: Soccer, Skiing

The most exciting thing you have done
: Sitting in the in zone where Dwight Clark made “the Catch”

Fear, you want to get over: Not living a life worthy of my potential

Favorite Food
: A Big Breakfast

Favorite Holiday: Easter

Most exciting vacation
: Europe – 9 countries in two weeks!

Future goals
: Pursue a career in economic development

Being a Toastmaster
: Hope to get better at speaking on my feet