FebFest: Next Level Toastmasters

Why did you join Toastmasters?

Our PRM, Mohan Padamati, asked this question at each of the Officer Training events this winter. It’s an important question, one we should revisit often to keep ourselves motivated and on track with our goals.

The answers were what you would expect: increase confidence presenting, networking, grow professional leadership skills, get better at public speaking, etc., etc.

What are you doing to push yourself towards your goals?

What are you doing to step outside your comfort zone?

How are you challenging yourself to grow?

This weekend I had the pleasure of participating in District 53’s FebFest Event and watching numerous brave Toastmasters take massive leaps in their journey. We all know how intimidating it can be to step up to the podium in our clubs. These speakers chose to stretch outside of their club bubble and walk onto a larger stage. And they did not disappoint.

The event consisted of three sessions:

  • 1pm Pecha-Kucha
  • 2pm Speech-a-thon
  • 3pm Table Topics Marathon
Pecha Kucha text image says 20 images by 20 seconds

The first session of the day was a Pecha-Kucha led by the wonderful Norm Thibodeau. If you’ve never seen this style of speech before, it is an amazing test of a speaker’s skills. A Pecha-Kucha consists of 20 slides set to display for 20 seconds each, resulting in a 6 minute and 40 second speech. The slides advance automatically and the speaker must time their speech to match their prepared slides. As a Toastmaster still fighting to get any speech under 7 minutes, I was quite impressed. There is little room for error and preparation is key to success.

The five Pecha-Kucha speakers were:

  • Russell Kenny
  • Vijaya Karunakar
  • Amy Chiu
  • Anthony Sariol
  • Norm Thibodeau

After the Pecha-Kucha, we moved on to the Speech-a-thon session led by yours truly. It was a privilege to take on the emcee role for this portion of the event. Each speech carried it’s own unique message, while also beautifully weaving together to offer us all motivation and powerful life lessons.

Image of a flower with the background of a blue sky and a gibbous moon

Sugan Kumar kicked things off sharing his experiences being on his death bed and fighting though a brain injury at a young age. He reminded us to face challenges with strength and practice gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives, because we never know when they will be taken away.

Ann Canfield‘s speech gave us action steps for how to show that gratitude towards others by seeking first to understand. She reminded us that curiosity and active listening moves us much faster towards solutions when there is tension and challenges.

Russell Kenny reminded us of the truth made famous by the Serenity Prayer: focus on what we can control, our own reasoned choices, and let go of that which we cannot control.

To bring the message home, Anthony Sariol inspired us to take action, to step up and do something with the opportunities we have been gifted.

Each speaker showed up for the day with their own unique speech and no collaboration. It was fascinating to watch it all come together into a beautiful message for us all.

To round out the afternoon, Thomas Farrelly led us all through a Table Topics Marathon, bringing compelling questions in a variety of areas. Everyone got a chance to participate and practice their impromptu speaking skills, including our District Director, John Hogan, and our Programs Quality Director, Patti Walters. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of the leaders in our district, as well as fellow Toastmasters.

We all have our own unique reasons for joining Toastmasters, but each of us begin with a goal in mind. We want to become better, braver, bolder. We seek to expand our skills and our network. Personal growth and development is a challenging path to walk alone. Our District 53 leaders are hard at work creating opportunities, like FebFest, to allow space for us to blossom into powerful communicators and leadership.

SpringBoard into action - logo for 2023 Annual Conference

If you missed out on this awesome event, you’re in luck! There is an even bigger opportunity on the horizon.

Come join us at the District 53 Conference in Springfield on May 6th and surround yourself with like-minded people striving to achieve goals just like yours. Get all the details and register at: d53tm.org/district-conference/

SpringBoard into action - logo for 2023 Annual Conference

Register for the D53 Spring Conference!

May 6, 2023

Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place, Springfield, MA & Online

 SPRINGBoard to Success

Conference Registration Is Live!

Get the Early Bird discounted rate for a limited time!  Rate ends April 7, 2023.

Register here.

Call For Presenters still open!

Want to get out of your comfort zone? Share your knowledge with your fellow Toastmasters!
Deadline to submit: February 15, 2023

For information, topic suggestions, directions and the online submission go to https://d53tm.org/spring-2023-conference-call-for-presenters.  

Miss the CFP Q&A Session? Check out the recording here.

Presenters must attend in person.

Stay in touch with conference happenings at the District 53 Conference Page.

Kristi Yablonski interviews John J. Hogan, D53 Distict Director, in Nashville during the International Convention, 19 August 2022

Dispatch from Nashville!

19 August 2022

As you’re no doubt aware, the Toastmasters International Convention is currently taking place in Nashville, Tennessee.  Thousands of Toastmasters members from around the world — including many of the District Trios — are participating in person and on-line.  We’re here to improve our public speaking skills, to receive training in the leadership roles we’re holding this year, to participate in workshops, to network and share ideas… and to witness the World Championships of Public Speaking, live, for the first time in two years.

Kristi Yablonski interviews John J. Hogan, D53 Distict Director, in Nashville during the International Convention, 19 August 2022
Kristi Yablonski interviews John J. Hogan, D53 Distict Director, in Nashville during the International Convention, 19 August 2022

Shortly after the opening ceremonies today, Kristi Yablonski, a member of World Headquarters staff in Colorado, interviewed me.  I spoke to her about the tremendous challenges ahead, the great occasion that surrounded us — and my faith in your ability to see those challenges as the open door of possibility. The members of District 53 are well-positioned to grow personally and to succeed as clubs, Areas and Divisions in the next years, thanks to your vision, your heart, and your willingness to work together.  I believe that our collective commitment to this great organization over the last two years will be rewarded — that guests and visitors will see our dedication, and our mutual respect, and want to take a role in this work we do together.

Here in Nashville, I continue to speak with Toastmasters from around the world who are similarly inspired, and inspiring.  I look forward to sharing their stories with you soon! 

In Toastmasters service,
John J. Hogan, DTM
District 53 Director 2022-2023

Panel: Why Be An Area Director?

Fellow Toastmasters,

District 45 is conducting a panel discussion, The Best Role Ever!, on the benefits of becoming an Area Director on Wednesday, August 10th at 7 PM EST.  Jim Kokocki, DTM, Past International President, will be moderating this discussion with their Immediate Past District Director and former Area Directors from District 53 serving on the panel.  

This is a great opportunity to have members ask questions and hear why so many leaders value their experiences as an Area Director.  

If you have members who are interested in attending, please send them here to register; they can also submit questions in advance to panel moderator Jim Kokocki, DTM. Their goal here is to create a “pathway” for leadership and leadership development and create interest in this vital role, and District 53 is delighted to assist them in calling up a great audience for their session.

Please let me know if you have any questions!


Patti Walter
District 53 Program Quality Director

Club Officer Training Elsewhere

What if you can’t attend any of District 53’s training dates this summer? You can look into attending in one of the other Districts in Region 9, thanks to the marvels of videoconferencing. Check out training dates in some of our partner districts in Region 9, covering the northeast US and maritime Canada!

District 31:

District 31 Officer Training

District 45:

District 45 Toastmasters Leadership Institutes

District 46:

DIstrict 46 Officer Training

District 61:


As well as these additional trainings…

District 65:


District 83:

District 83 Register for Training

District 119:

Register for specific events under individual calendar items.

District Officer Training Dates

July 2, 2022

Just like Club Officers, your District Officers (senior team, Division Directors and Area Directors) go to training as well! The following is the calendar and brief descriptions of each training that the District Officers are expected to participate in over the next several weeks.

You can join these Zoom meetings at this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86899388575?pwd=U9q3YxXSLszSdWOjOmbrPMo1Y3uMM6.1

Program TitleMain DateAlternate DateAudience
Area Director ExpectationsSat, 7/23/2022
9:00 – 10:30 am

Mon 9/19/2022
8:00-9:00 pm

Wed. 9/21/2022
noon-1:00 pm
Tue 7/19/2022
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Effective Area Council MeetingsSat 7/23/2022
10:30-11:30 am

Mon. 9/19/2022
noon-1:00 pm

Thur.. 9/29/2022
noon-1:00 pm
Tue 7/19/202
6:00 – 7:30 pm
Effective Division Council MeetingsSat 7/23/2022
10:30 am – 11:30 am

Mon. 9/19/2022
noon-1:00 pm

Thur.. 9/29/2022
noon-1:00 pm
Tue 7/19/2022
7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
Successful TeamsSat 7/23/2022
11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Mon 9/26/2022
8:00-9:00 pm

Tues. 9/27/2022
noon-1:00 pm
Tue 7/19/2022
8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Successful Club VisitsThur 8/25/2022
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Sun 8/27/2022
9:00 am – 10:30 am
(rec’d for DivD)
Coaching Clubs to Enhanced QualitySat 9/10/2022
9:00 am – 10:30 am
Tues 9/20/2022
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Establish and Support New ClubsSat 9/10/2022
10:30 am to 12:00 pm
Tues 9/20/202
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Organizing Speech Contests Sat 10/1/2022
9:00 am – 10:15 am
Thur. 10/6/2022
6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Thrive in the District Recognition ProgramSat 10/1/2022
10:15 am – 11:30 am
Thur. 10/6/2022
7:30 pm – 9:00 pm

What’s in these educational sessions?

Area Director Expectations: The role of Area Director is that of visitor, coach and guide to the officers of four to six clubs in a geographical area. For some Area Directors in District 53, this can be five clubs in the same city. For others, it can be widely spread clubs more than two hours apart. In this session, you’ll learn what’s expected of Area Directors in District 53, and how to create a successful experience for yourself and for the officers of the clubs in your care.

Effective Area Council Meetings: The Area Director has a team of people to help them coordinate the work of clubs when they work together — the President and the three Vice Presidents of each club are voting members of the Area Council, which decides local matters of importance to those clubs. How can you get them working together where it matters?

Effective Division Council Meetings: The Division Director is a “coach of coaches,” lending support and guidance to the Area Directors that make up their division. How can you lead effective meetings for this group, and how can you work together to bring clubs to success, together?

Building Successful Teams: If an Area Director or Division Director did everything they were supposed to by themselves… they’d be exhausted. An Area or Division Director needs a team, and as a Toastmaster you have to know how to build a successful team to achieve your objectives.

Successful Club Visits: Twice a year, a District officer is required to visit a club and to report on its conformity with the Toastmasters brand, its successes, and its opportunities for growth. This officer is usually the club’s Area Director, who files a written report on the Toastmasters.org website (under District Central) by the end of November and the end of May. We’ll talk about how to conduct yourself during this visit, and what kinds of things you should be alert to, and report on, to your District’s other officers.

Coaching Clubs to Enhanced Quality: Many clubs don’t just want to be clubs; they want to be distinguished clubs, or select distinguished clubs, or even president’s distinguished clubs. We’ll talk in this session about the strategies for achieving that goal.

Establishing and Supporting New Clubs: The District Mission is “We build new clubs and support all clubs in achieving excellence.” Creating — chartering — new clubs is the first part of our mission. We’ll learn how that goal is accomplished in this session, and what each officer can do to support this mission-critical goal.

Organizing Speech Contests: In order to be a champion, a speaker in the International Contest or one of the other Toastmasters contest cycles (Humorous, Table Topics, Tall Tales, and Evaluation) has to advance from a club contest to an Area Contest, a Division Contest, and a District Contest. In this session, we’ll learn how to create a fun and exciting Speech Contest experience for contestants and functionaries alike.

Thriving in the District Recognition Program: Just as clubs have the metrics of the Distinguished Club Program (DCP), District officers have their own metrics for success to be designated as a Distinguished, Select Distinguished, President’s Distinguished, or Smedley Distinguished Area, Division or District. We’ll talk about what those metrics are, why we’re aiming for them, and what we can do on a personal level to help the District achieve these goals locally and regionally, for our own success and the success of others.


If you’d like to be an Area Director, contact the District Director or your Division Director. If you’d like to attend one of these sessions as an observer and for your own learning, you’ll need permission from a member of the senior team (District Director, Program Quality Director, or Club Growth Director).

Club Officer Forums

Each year the District holds officer training sessions in summer and winter to better equip our club officers with the information they need to perform their positions to the best of their ability.

Wouldn’t it be nice to:

  • Build a network of others that are doing the same tasks as you?
  • Discuss what’s working and what’s not?
  • Let the district know how they can assist.

We are doing just that.

These forums are scheduled by officer position to be held quarterly from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  Their goals are to allow you to build connections within the organization to help you and your clubs grow.  You set the agenda.  Want to learn more about Pathways? We will get someone in there to do a training.  Having trouble with the Moments of Truth?  Don’t worry we got you covered.  You decide what to talk about.  

See the dates below for your scheduled sessions.  

These forums are open to all members. This is a great way to introduce others to leadership positions and build strength within our clubs.


N.B., the VPE forum on 7/26 will have a guest speaker to assist first time VPE with navigation Base Camp and approving levels and paths.

Open Houses in June – July – August

The following clubs are hosting Open Houses in June, July and August 2022. Visit if you can!

July 18, 2022 — 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM (2 hours)

Capital Advanced Toastmasters – Open House

Join the members and guests of Capital Advanced Toastmasters for an Open House on July 18, 2022 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. Refreshments provided at an in-person event!

Cathy Kittle, winner of the 2022 District Table Topics Contest

• Wildwood Program, Inc,
1190 Troy Schenectady Road (Route 7)
Latham, NY 12110. 

Keynote by Cathy Kittle, DTM — 2022 Winner of the District 53 Table Topics Contest.

Learn to be a better public speaker, evaluator, and leader in the Toastmasters world — grow your skills in an advanced club — build your skills in the context of a wider community!

More information can be had at the club’s website: 1360121.toastmastersclubs.org

RSVP to Jim Parsons, DTM

Winners of the District International Speech Contest

District 53 held its International Speech contest on the morning of May 7, 2022 from 9:30 am to 11:30 am. 

Contest Winner Amrita Bannerjee with the District Executive Leadership Team — 
Club Growth Director Patti Walter, Program Quality Director John J. Hogan, and District Director Akihiro Ishii
Contest Winner Amrita Banerjee with the District Executive Leadership Team —
Club Growth Director Patti Walter, Program Quality Director John J. Hogan, and District Director Akihiro Ishii
, photographed on Zoom.

In the District International Speech contest, one contestant from each of our five Divisions in the District have a speaking period of five to seven minutes to deliver a speech on a topic of their choosing. Each contestant has advanced from a specific club in District 53, and arrives at the stage after competing at the Area level against 3-4 other clubs, and the Division level competing against contestants from four other Areas. The winner of the District International Speech contest then advances to the Region Quarterfinals, and possibly to the International Semifinals and the World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS).

District 53 2021-22 International Speech Contest Winners: Third Place Kevin M. Finn, Second Place Brian David Crawford, and First Place Winner Amrita Bannerjee
District 53 2021-22 International Speech Contest Winners: Third Place Kevin M. Finn, Second Place Brian David Crawford, and First Place Winner Amrita Bannerjee, photographed on Zoom

The winners of the contest were:

  • First Place: Amrita Banerjee
  • Second Place: Brian David Crawford
  • Third Place: Kevin M. Finn

In the interviews following the contest, both the winners and other contestants thanked the judges, audience members and others for the opportunities to grow and learn as speakers and presenters. They reminded the audience that new Toastmasters should take every opportunity that they can get to speak, and that, under the pressure of preparing to speak for an audience, practice brings improvement and gracefulness.

Many thanks to all the contestants, representing the five divisions of District 53:

  • Division A: Sandra Weiner, representing Greater Stamford Toastmasters, with a speech titled, “What Next?”
  • Division B: Donna Peterson, representing New Dawn Toastmasters, with a speech titled “Lead With Your Heart.”
  • Division C: Kevin M. Finn, representing Cedar Hill Toastmasters, with a speech titled, “M-O-M.”
  • Division D: Brian David Crawford, representing Speechweavers, with a speech titled, “42.”
  • Division E: Amrita Banerjee, representing Bethlehem Club, with a speech titled, “The Choice.”
District 53 2021-22 International Speech Contest, Division Contest Winners: Division A Sandra Weiner, Division B Donna Peterson, Division C Kevin M. Finn, Division D Brian David Crawford, Division E Amrita Bannerjee
District 53 2021-22 International Speech Contest, Division Contest Winners: Division A Sandra Weiner, Division B Donna Peterson, Division C Kevin M. Finn, Division D Brian David Crawford, Division E Amrita Bannerjee, photographed on Zoom.

Our Thanks also go out to our senior functionaries, the Program Quality Director John J. Hogan, and the Contest Chair, Contest Master and Chief Judge, who together assembled the team of more than fourteen functionaries, judges, and back-up leaders who managed the contest behind the scenes.

Contest functionary team John J. Hogan, Jennifer Cimilluca, Dave Pelland, and Elizabeth Keeling
Contest functionary team John J. Hogan, Jennifer Cimilluca, Dave Pelland, and Elizabeth Keeling, photographed on Zoom.
  • Program Quality Director John J. Hogan
  • Contest Chair Jennifer Cimilluca
  • Contest Master Dave Pelland
  • Chief Judge Elizabeth Keeling

and thanks again to all our contest functionaries, judges, and audience members.