Norwich Open House Success!

Maroon banner announcing an open house on 17 April 2024,  in front of a range of photos depicting guests and speakers from the event.

On Thursday, April 17th, 2024, Norwich Toastmasters club held an open house at Chelsea Groton Bank in Norwich. We had 19 attendees, including 6 guests at our club meeting. Of our six guests, we had one guest from District 38 who gave a speech and our District 53 District Director, Distinguished Toastmaster Patti Walter.

To get us started, Ed Watkins, our Toastmaster of the Day, introduced our technicians that were filled by members from both Norwich Toastmasters club and our sister club, Colonel Ledyard Toastmasters. This meeting focused on spreading the word about Toastmasters and what Toastmasters has to offer. If you are looking for somewhere to challenge yourself to grow personally and professionally, you need to check out Toastmasters, as we all know the number-one fear is public speaking. The first section of the meeting focused on prepared speeches. At this meeting, we had three electrifying speakers!

  • The first speaker this evening was Christine Gabel, her speech was titled, “Find Your Voice, What Norwich Toastmasters Can Do for You?”. Christine’s speech was a very compelling speech about Toastmasters and what it has to offer, to help you find your voice because Toastmasters is an affordable continuing education that teaches you skills and allows you to practice them in a positive and supportive environment without fear of failure. Christine is new to Toastmasters and it is very evidence she is passionate about Toastmasters.
  • Our second speaker, Dennis Stevens, gave his speech titled, “Be Brave!” Dennis joined the club this past February and is already giving his 3rd speech. Dennis was inspired to give this speech after attending several club meetings and notice people refrain from participating. He talked about what does bravery mean? in reference to public speaking. He told us about the tale of two arrows in Buddhism. The first arrow we can’t always control, but the second is our response to the first arrow. He ended by giving us suggestions on how to handle our fear of failure and challenged us to let go of our fear, be brave and start right now by volunteering for Table Topics.

Photo provided by Christine (Christine and Mary were missing from the photo)

  • Our final speaker was Frank Vowinkel from Lehigh Valley Toastmasters in Pennsylvania, a club in District 38. Frank came to practice his contest speech titled, “The Funcle”, and to receive informal feedback prior to competing at his District’s Humorous Speech Contest. It was a hilarious story on how he was the fun uncle. His niece and nephew are so lucky to have a Funcle!!! We wish him all the best at the contest and look forward to hear how he placed.

We then moved to the impromptu section of the meeting, Table Topics. This part of the meeting allows us to practice thinking on our feet. Darrell Fox, our Table Topics Master, introduced school days as the theme for this session. Darrell asked questions about favorite teachers, best school topics, favorite toys and/or activities when we were all growing up. It was a lot of fun!

The final section of the meeting was evaluations led by our General Evaluator, Nate Jaycox. In this section we received constructive feedback to help us continue to improve our skills. Toastmasters provides a positive and supportive environment to allow us to learn and practice without fear of failure.

Are you looking to improve your communication skills? Are you looking to become a more effective leader? Are you looking for somewhere to challenge yourself to grow personally and professionally? If you answer yes to any of these questions, please attend our next Toastmasters club meeting in person or online.

DATE: Wednesday, May 1st

TIME: 7-8:30 pm


  • The Congregational Church of Salem
    at the Community Building across the street from the church.
    244 Hartford Road
    Salem, Connecticut 06420


  • LINK:
  • Meeting ID: 847 3287 2267
  • Passcode: 4779255

For more information about the upcoming club meeting, contact Dennis Stevens at 760-802-4103 or Sharon Mercado at 860-367-4195.

First Summer 2024 Club Officer Trainings announced

Program Quality Directors Bettyann Peck (2023-2024), and Mohan Padamati (2024-2025) invite you to Summer Club Officer Training (COT)!

All District 53 COT events are online via Zoom!

Please see more information and register at

Summer Club Officer Training is targeted for incoming club officers for the 2024-2025 program year, but all club members are welcome to attend.

The June COT dates have been scheduled, as listed below.  July and August dates will be announced soon.

2024 Conference: Workshop Session 2

Session 1 Workshops Conference PageSession 2 WorkshopsKeynoteC&L Award

 Philip Pape, PhD, is a high-performance nutrition coach, physique engineer, and the engaging host of the popular Wits & Weights podcast, a show for skeptics of the fitness industry who want to live longer by getting stronger with evidence-based strength training and sustainable nutrition. Philip is passionate about helping listeners and clients get unstuck inside and outside the gym to discover the knowledge and confidence to reveal their ideal physique. Philip joined Toastmasters in 2011 and started podcasting in 2021 as a Toastmasters Pathways project, growing his show Wits & Weights to over 100,000 downloads and ranked in the top 2% of all shows and top 100 on the Nutrition charts, listened to in over 100 countries. He knows a thing or two about how to start and grow a successful podcast!    Philip combines his expertise and science-backed approach to health and fitness with a talent for storytelling and audience engagement, making him a unique voice in the podcasting world. He loves to share practical podcasting strategies on all things podcasting, from creation to launch to technology to discoverability so YOU can grow your dream show. 

The Passion Podcast Playbook:
How to Craft, Launch and Grow your Dream Show:

A step-by-step walkthrough designed for aspiring podcasters and seasoned creators alike, focusing on the art and science of podcasting. This presentation teaches you how to create and deliver a podcast that resonates with both the creator’s passion and the audience’s interests. It outlines practical steps for launching a podcast, from choosing the right hosting platform and crafting a unique name to designing compelling cover art and producing engaging content. The presentation also emphasizes the importance of aligning your marketing approach with the different growth phases of a podcast, focusing on the first two phases: Exploration and Engagement. Attendees will learn how to navigate the challenges of each phase to build their community, learn from feedback, and gain more exposure to expand their listener base. This playbook is not just about starting a podcast; it’s about nurturing and growing a podcast into a successful, impactful show that stands out in the ever-expanding podcast landscape!

remember to watch on ‘full screen’ setting after starting.

Mary Cheyne in a red dress against a white background

Mary Cheyne, MBA began as a socially awkward, self-conscious computer programmer. Today, as a World Champion of Public Speaking first runner-up, out of 35,000 contestants from 14 countries, she is proof that transformation is possible.  She got there by understanding that becoming GREAT at public speaking isn’t just about technique, it starts with trusting yourself. Through her training and coaching, she has taught over 30,000 people in 30 cities internationally.  Mary is a TEDx speaker. Her talk has over 539,000 views. Mary is a best-selling author of: “Tell Your Inner Critic to SHUT UP! And the Real You to SPEAK UP!”. Two fun facts about Mary are: She holds a karate second degree black belt rank and plays the ukulele.  

PLAY in Public Speaking:
How to infuse FUN into your talks

Speaking does not have to be a drag if you know how to make it fun! Turn even the driest, most bland topics into opportunities for interactive fun, whether you are presenting in person or virtually. Your audience will learn more, and you will have a blast speaking. In this fun & interactive session, you will discover a profound method used by the pros, to speak outside the box so you can PLAY with your audience AND be excited to give your talks. The attendee will also learn three well-tested techniques that ensure that their audience will have more fun & be fully engaged & entertained the entire time! Discover the most common barriers that make a speaker boring so that you will not make those mistakes.

remember to watch on ‘full screen’ setting after starting.

Donna Peterson is the CEO of World Innovators, a renowned B2B family-owned marketing agency with over four decades of experience in the industry. Her passion for fostering authentic relationships among individuals and businesses is the cornerstone of her success.  Moreover, Donna has played a pivotal role in guiding individuals to find their authentic voices and become influential leaders.  Lover of the outdoors. If she is not at her desk you will find here outside Skiing, Paddle Boarding, Swimming . . .   

The AI Advantage:
Transforming Marketing for Clubs, Personal and Corporate Brands

Marketing is evolving at warp speed, and for brands to keep up and form deep relationships, they will need the help of Generative AI tools.  This session will talk about the evolution of marketing and why you need to change your thinking to grow your brand in the future. Then, we will discuss what catapulted us into this world of Artificial Intelligence. Define what generative AI is and the strategic uses of AI to understand and know your audience. The session will explore the delicate balance of selling and educating so that prospects see you as a thought leader and start to trust the brand. With strategic messages across different channels, brands will create a personal connection with their prospects and customers.

remember to watch on ‘full screen’ setting after starting.

2024 Conference: Workshop session 1

Session 1 Workshops Conference PageSession 2 WorkshopsKeynoteC&L Award

Armelde Pitre

Armelde Pitre is a former large pharmaceutical company executive and current small business owner for pharmaceutical industry consulting services and beekeeping.  She is passionate about quality, continuous learning and development in myself as well as in others via active mentoring.  As a gardener and beekeeper, she has become more observant and aware of both the force of nature and its ability to solve most problems. She believes that the lessons she has learned from nature are applicable to the struggles we face in Toastmasters. In her session she’ll be sharing these lessons.

Club Environment Lessons from Mother Nature

In nature’s ecosystem, we can observe its harmony and perfection. Nothing in nature operates in isolation, everything is interconnected and orchestrated to create optimal conditions for survival as well as adaptation to inevitable change. What if we mimic those concepts to create solid foundations and healthy ecosystems in our clubs? Using analogies and lessons learned from nature, this session will challenge attendees to adopt a different perspective in managing their clubs.

remember to watch on ‘full screen’ setting after starting.

Chad Babcock

Chad Babcock is a training facilitator at Electric Boat in Groton, CT.  He joined his first Toastmasters club (a corporate club) in January 2014. Over the past ten years, Chad has been a member in four different clubs, served District 53 in a number of leadership roles, enjoyed competing in contests and attended many district conferences. Chad loves to meet new members and guiding them through their Toastmasters journey.

Connect to Others Through Your Journey Line

Where are you at in your Toastmasters journey and how did you get there? For most of us it has been a lot of hard work that did not occur overnight. Take a moment to reflect on all the hard work and triumphs that contributed to this journey. Learn how to create your own journey line that maps out all the milestones that have led you to where you are today. Your journey line becomes your story!

remember to watch on ‘full screen’ setting after starting.

Courtney Haedke

Courtney Haedke is from Monroe, Connecticut, and a new member of Toastmasters joining her Southbury, CT club in 2021. While working in the IT field for the last 10 years, Courtney found her needing to deliver presentations to many different audiences, and she struggled with her confidence in public speaking. Fortunately, her Dad, who is also a member of the same Toastmasters club, informed her about the benefits of the organization and she joined right away.  Initially, she expected the club to solely focus on improving her speech delivery, however she has gained much more from it.  As the Vice President Education, Courtney has honed her leadership skills, challenged herself with Pathways, and built meaningful relationships with other members. Through this journey, Courtney has come to realize that her Toastmasters club is a truly special place.  

Jacquelyn Kingsley

Jacquelyn Kingsley is from Oxford, Connecticut, and serves as the Senior Director of ESG at Rexel, embodying a steadfast commitment to environmental stewardship and acting as a force for positive change. With a robust background in engineering, Jackie holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Master’s degree from Rensselaer.  Passionate about promoting responsible custodianship of our planet, Kingsley has set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions. Since joining her Toastmasters club in Southbury, CT in 2021, Jackie has actively utilized the platform to refine her public speaking skills. Regularly participating in Toastmasters meetings, she delivers impactful environmental speeches, earning valuable feedback from her peers.  In her role as Vice President Public Relations, Jackie has showcased exceptional leadership. She has significantly boosted the club’s visibility by creating spotlight video interviews with members, shedding light on the transformative impact Toastmasters has had on their public speaking skills and personal growth. Beyond her professional achievements, Jackie, a devoted mom and recently a new dog mom, exemplifies the notion that she can conquer anything with dedication and skillful communication. Her remarkable commitment to environmental advocacy establishes her as a standout figure in both professional and Toastmasters circles.

Challenge Yourself with Pathways

As you embark on a new year, consider setting a goal. It’s common to express intentions to start something new, but often the challenge lies in completing it. What if there was a way to motivate both yourself and your fellow Toastmasters club members to achieve their Pathways goals in a brief period of time? Reflecting on our experience at New Dawn Toastmasters, at the end of 2023, our club initiated a 90-day Pathways challenge, resulting in remarkable accomplishments: 5 Paths Registered, 2 Icebreaker projects completed, 3 Levels achieved, and one path fully accomplished. In this session, we will guide you through the steps we took to design and implement the 90-day Pathways challenge, sharing insights on how we actively engaged members in participation. Additionally, we will showcase anecdotes from challenge participants who found a deeper connection with Pathways, unveiling stories of professional and personal growth. Join us to discover the strategies that made our Pathways challenge successful and learn firsthand from fellow members who have reaped significant benefits from their Pathways journey. It’s an opportunity to inspire and motivate each other as we strive for personal and professional development.

remember to watch on ‘full screen’ setting after starting.

Club Officer Training Ends 2/29/2024!

Hello Fellow Toastmasters!

Club Officer Training ends soon — 2/29/2024!

While District 53’s offerings are now over, there are upcoming COT sessions from across the world that remain in order for anyone needing this Club Officer Training before the Feb. 29th deadline. This is part of Goal #9 in the Distinguished Club Program (DCP) to recognize clubs of excellence — and we’d love to see your club achieve that distinction.

It will take communication, a little bit of time, and maybe even a telephone call or two, but if your clubs are not seven-of-seven officers trained, please encourage each untrained officer to attend one of these sessions!!    Trained officers make stronger clubs, stronger areas, stronger divisions, and a stronger district, which makes Toastmasters a better place for every member!  4/7 trained should be an absolute minimum — and you can check which officers are trained in your club!

Please remind officers that, if they are going to attend another district’s COT, to have them fill out the survey with the details of the club officer’s name, club, division, and role and date trained.

Yours in Toastmasters service,
Bettyann Peck, DTM
District 53 Program Quality Director 2023-2024

February Update from the DD

Hello District Members,

Can you believe that it is February already?  I hope that the New Year is treating you all well… but this is a busy time of year for everyone, and Toastmasters is no exception!

Our second round of Officer Training is just about to wrap up: If you haven’t attended you can join us on 19 February 2024.  If you are an officer, please make attempt to attend a training.  It is proven clubs are more successful when their officers attend training. You do not need to be an officer to join us.  These sessions are open to all.

Speaking of training… your District trio — Bettyann Peck, Mohan Padamati, and I — attended District Leaders Training the last weekend in January in Dallas, TX!  We spent all day Saturday and Sunday working together, and with others across the world, strategizing to have a successful second half of the year! We brainstormed about membership retention, new members, hybrid meetings and business meetings. We had discussions around accountability and reviewed our plans to help YOU achieve success. We even had a snowball fight!  I am including a few pictures of our weekend.  See if you can find your leaders in the group picture.

On top of coordinating training, your PQD Bettyann Peck is working with David Freedman and Richard Peck to bring you a great Annual Conference in May“Breaking Barriers”. We are fortunate to have Accredited Speaker Sheryl Roush DTM, as our keynote speaker!

All of our Club and Area Level Contests are now over. My thanks to our Area Directors who did a great job recruiting functionaries and judges; a number of people applied their participation in these events toward completion of Pathways goals, too! In all, twenty-three Areas held live, in-person contests, sometimes in conjunction with other Areas — What a great feat! This has not happened since January 2019, before COVID. You can find Area Contest results posted here.

The next step is our Division Contests.  Our Division Directors have found facilities to hold their division contests, and a schedule is available here. I hope that you will be able to attend one or two of them.  We have some great speakers in our district; I am sure they would love your support. Also, there are many judge and functionary roles that still need to be filled out. Contact your Division Director through their pages (ABCDE) for more information. 

A special thank you to our Chief Judge, Beth VanKempen who has been diligently review all material and ensuring that our Area and District Directors had the proper scripts and paperwork available.  Thanks Beth, we appreciate all the time you put into this position.

Our CGD, Mohan Padamati is also busy creating a great team of people to support him with establishing new clubs, and club coaching.  

I also would like to take a minute to thank some of your other district team on a great job that they are doing.  Eleni Solar has taken on the challenge of being Audit Committee chair. She is working with her team and our District Finance Manager Glendalys Ramos to make sure our finances are all in tack. Our Technical Team, consisting of Public Relations Manager Zachary Fisk and webmaster Andrew B. Watt DTM, work daily to make sure you as members are informed of what is going on in our district and all around us.  Thank you Zach for updating the newsletter and for keeping it and our Facebook site up-to-date.   Andrew thank you for you quick turnaround to get things posted on the website and also keeping the pages looking fresh.

My special thanks go out to to Immediate Past District Director John J. Hogan DTM for creating and leading the District Leadership Committee by looking for and interviewing candidates to serve as elected district officers for 2024-2025. for next year.  It is not to late for anyone who is thinking of taking a leadership position to apply.  Is this your next hardest thing???  Information on this can be found here, or reach out to John if you have any questions. 

I have always said it takes a village and we have a very special villager, that keeps the Sr. Team on point. He makes sure all our deadlines are met; he does all the pre-work to get our business meetings running smoothly; and he also assists with every district Zoom meeting we have:  Norm Thibodeau DTM , thank you for your countless hours you donate to help us all.

The team is looking forward to ending the season strong.  Reach out if we can assist you in  any way.

Most Sincerely,
Patti Walter DTM
District Director 2023-2024

Call for Nominations

Greetings to all of you from the District Leadership Committee!

This notice serves as the official Call for Candidates as mandated by Protocol 9 of Toastmasters International Governing Documents. District 53 seeks qualified candidates for the following offices:

  • Five Division Directors, one or more candidates for each Division: A, B, C, D, and E.
  • Club Growth Director, two or more candidates
  • Program Quality Director, one or more candidates
  • District Director, one or more candidates

Time is of the essence. Nominations are open now. Nominations shall close at 11:59 pm (EST) on February 15, 2024. Please read Form 450b, the Official Toastmasters Call for District Officer Nominations

All nominations, including incomplete nominations, received after this date and time shall be considered to have been received late and will not be evaluated nor scheduled for interview by the DLC. 

Any Toastmaster who self-nominates or is nominated by another Toastmaster after this date and time MAY have the option of running as a Floor Candidate. There are limiting criteria for running as a Floor Candidate. Don’t delay: submit your nomination today!

A complete nomination will include the following five items:

  1. Candidate Application Form
  2. District Leader Nominating Form
  3. Officer Agreement and Release Form
  4. District Leader Biographical Information
  5. Headshot image (JPG, 225 x 150 pixels)

Be sure to read the role descriptions for District Officers, and the core competencies learned in these roles, in the District Leadership Handbook.

Call for District Candidates

If you are interested in leading your District in building new clubs and supporting all clubs in achieving excellence, watch this video from 2023-2024 International President Morag Mathieson.

Please direct all questions to me at either or to

Yours in Toastmasters service,
John J. Hogan, DTM, IPDD
Chair – District Leadership Committee

Preparing for Changes to Pathways!

Pathways Changes – How to Prepare

Fellow Toastmasters,

Long requested and awaited changes to Pathways, the Toastmasters education program, are coming in 2024!  This is great news.  However, there will be a transition period where some patience will be needed.  

Per a recent advisory from the Toastmasters International Education team, Pathways BaseCamp managers (typically the club VPE) have been requested to ensure that all Pathways level completion requests and the associated award requests in Club Central be in sync and up to date by December 15, 2023.  If any level completions or awards are submitted after that or the 2 systems are not in sync, there may be impacts to the DCP credit for member level completion awards.

All members should prepare for these changes as follows.

  1. Submit completion approval requests for any Pathways levels already completed by Monday, December 11.
  2. For any paths completed after December 11, hold off on submitting the completion request until we are informed that it is OK to do so.
  3. Each member should check to make sure their Pathways completions and awards are in sync. Learn how in this short video prepared by Toastmasters International.  Inform your VPE of any discrepancies found immediately.
  4. You can continue to work on your path projects — just don’t submit any new approval requests during the transition period.

More news about the improvements to the Pathways education system will be announced as it becomes available.

Norm Thibodeau, DTM
District Administrative Manager, 2023-2024

Want to learn more?  Here are a few references:

From the District Director

September 26th, 2023

Dear District 53 Members,

As you may or may not have heard there was a phishing attempt made against me that affected the senior team.

Patti Walter, District Director 2023-2024
Patti Walter, District Director

Someone posed as me from two outside email accounts and asked the leaders to respond when it was a good time to chat. If they responded to the email they were asked to go and purchase gift cards for a secret recognition program. Once I was notified of this senior team members were notified to not respond and delete the emails.  We thought that was the end of it.

A few days later some of our clubs’ executive committee members received the same email this time with the hackers posing as the club’s president.  The emails appeared to be coming from them through Free Toast Host.  We have notified them of this. To date we are not aware of any one purchasing any tickets. We took these attempts very seriously and made attempts to contact all club presidents so that they could share with their members.  

We are not stopping there. District 53 will be holding a Cyber Security Fraud Workshop on Wed. Oct 4th from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm. The link to the meeting can be found on the district 53 Website on the front page under Recognizing Cyber Fraud Workshop.

You can never be too safe. 

Let me also remind you that the International Dues deadline is fast approaching on September 30, 2023.

Thank you for all you do. 

Patti Walter, DTM
District 53 Director 2023-2024

Recognizing Cyber Fraud (Workshop)

Wednesday October 4, 2023
6:00 pm to 7:00 pm ET
Zoom Recording
(see link below)

Join keynote speaker Joe Audet and District 53 officers for this workshop on understanding the risks and types of cyber-fraud that either you or your club may be subjected to.  An ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure!  You’ll learn about some of the major types of internet-based schemes that are used to separate you from your money, including phishing, gift-card scams, fraudulent voicemails, malware attacks, and more.  Your best protection isn’t to rely on just one method of defense on the internet — you’re better off knowing the risks yourself, and taking steps to avoid them.  Come and educate yourself to protect both yourself and your club!

Keynote Joe Audet, CC CL, has been a member of Toastmasters for ten years. He’s been an IT professional for 27 years, operating as a systems administrator, website manager, programmer, and security engineer. He resides in western Massachusetts.

The District is offering this workshop immediately after a spate of cyber-fraud efforts deliberately targeting District Officers, Club Officers and Members. Know the risks, understand how YOU can protect yourself, and teach your fellow club members and families! Put it on your calendar and plan to attend, today!