July 2019 Exec Meeting Minutes

Y19M07 ECNTM Minutes

June 18, 2019 Meeting Minutes




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:11 pm


11 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, VP PR Holly Young, Sergeant at Arms Kelly Cunneen, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, Dan Schell, Gabriel Cox, Harry Holland, and Steve Domkowski.

1 Guest: Matt.


  • President: MeL Konrad
  • Toastmaster: Frank Moraes
  • Table Topics: Bert Rangel
  • Grammarian: Kelly Cunneen
  • Timer/Ah Counter: Dan Schell


Brian Buckman: “The Rest of the Story” — Dynamic Leadership Path — Level 2
      Evaluated by MeL Konrad.

Mark Burchill: “Roasting Frank” — Advanced Communication Manual: Roast Speaking
      Evaluated by Gabriel Cox.

New Business

The group is moving its meetings to Sonoma County Tourism:

Sonoma County Tourism
400 Aviation Blvd #500
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-1182

Next Meeting

2 July 2019


Mark motioned that we accept the new meeting location. Gabriel seconded.


The group voted on the new meeting location. It was unanimous in favor.


Kelly banged the gavel. Sounds like a folk song, doesn’t it? You know, like John Henry. Maybe I’ll write something since this is my last set of minutes for Noon Toastmasters.

And while I’m on the subject, I really appreciate all the cards and letters you all have sent me. It is a great hardship to give up this rewarding position. But the truth is that I can’t deprive MeL of this great opportunity to do the minutes. She beat out 15 other people who wanted to bask in the glow of being Noon Toastmasters secretary. I just hope she realizes that the groupies can be overwhelming at times.

President’s Remarks

Currently, MeL is president of the club. And we had some real business at this meeting: we’re moving.

And the new location is great! You can find out more on the blog. The club voted on the change. It was unanimous. It’s always unanimous! I thought about arguing for holding future meetings in Holly’s car, but I held my tongue.

Toastmaster: Frank

MeL introduced yours truly as Toastmaster. I talked about how the new drugs my doctor has me on were making me feel foggy. But as the meeting progressed, that went away. I have a theory about this. I’ve felt that same way in the past and my doctor told me it was stress. So I think I was stressed because I hadn’t prepared as much as I really should have.

Word of the Day: Bombastic

You all may know how much I hate the use of foreign words and phrases for the Word of the Day. I know: I seem like a cosmopolitan guy. And I am! If I could afford it, I’d live in Paris. But I have a hard enough time pronouncing English!

So I playfully introduced χαρούμενα Χριστούγεννα as the word of the day. Yes, there were gasps. But then I changed it to “bombastic.” Here are some of the responses:

  • MeL: Shaggy has a song where he rhymes “bombastic” with “fantastic.”
  • Holly: I make it a point to avoid working with bombastic clients.
  • Mark: The first bombastic politician I remember was the guy who banged his shoe on the table, Nikita Khrushchev.
  • Kelly: “Bombastic” is a word I use all the time but don’t really know what it means.
  • Matt: There is more chance of me being Shaggy than bombastic.
  • Harry: I’m feeling less hip-hoppy after that. Bombastic? I don’t know.
  • Gabriel: Our new meeting place is bombastic.
  • Steve: Bombastic: Trump.
  • Bert: I’m going to give a bombastic speech at our new location at Sonoma County Tourism.

Thought of the Day

Holly gave the thought of the day: “Never turn down your ambition because someone else doesn’t like the volume.” But it made me wonder: what if the ambition of someone else is to lead a nice quiet life?!

Village People

Speaker: Brian

Brian spoke about the founding of the YMCA as a way to keep baseball players in shape during the off-season. He even did the hand signals. It was a good speech following off the Paul Harvey formula, “The rest of the story…”

But… Brian, there’s no need to feel down. I said, Brian, pick yourself off the ground. I said, Brian, ’cause you’re in a new town. There’s no need. To. Be. Unhappy.

Speaker: Mark

Mark is finishing his Advanced Communication Silver, which means that he has given a number of specialized speeches. And today was perhaps the most unusual: a roast of me.

I was slightly fearful because I embarrass very easily and obviously and I feared I would change the room color like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I don’t know if I did.

It was a very funny but ultimately sweet speech. It’s interesting to see how other people perceive you. Based on Mark’s roast: bizarre but friendly and mostly harmless. Thanks, Mark!

Table Topics: Bert

Bert was in charge of Table Topics.

What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for somebody?

Gabriel: Duty is where you are on guard for 24 hours. I guess when I helped out by doing someone else’s duty.

What is your best vacation memory?

Kelly: I’ve been on so many vacations. I feel like I’m on vacation now. It never ends.

What book has had a big impact on you?

Dan: It’s a book I just recently read, I think it’s called Winterdance and it’s about the Iditarod.

Who do you look up to?

MeL: My father who I thought of last Sunday.

Speaker #1 Evaluation: MeL

MeL said she didn’t like sports so when Brian started his speech she cringed. But as he spoke, that all went away. She said she liked the opening and Brian’s casual style. The transition into the main part of the speech could be more direct.

Speaker #2 Evaluation: Gabriel

Gabriel loved Mark’s speech. He said the jokes were good, it was well organized, and he liked the props Mark used. He also said that even though it was a roast, it didn’t feel like an attack.

Grammarian: Kelly

Kelly pointed out some phrases she liked:

  • Brian: “Started in 1890 and it remains unchanged today.”
  • Mark: “facetious.”
  • Frank: “Mark was nicer than he should have been.”
  • Gabriel: “I like to be victim.”

Timer/Ah Counter: Dan

  • Matt: 3 but/ands
  • MeL: 3 ahs, 2 ums, 2 sos, 5 but/ands
  • Frank: 1 ah (Dan was clearly grading me on a curve.)
  • Gabriel: 3 ahs, 2 ums, 3 ya-knows, 1 so
  • Steve: nothing (Steve replied: “I didn’t say anything!”)
  • Holly: 1 ah
  • Brian: 3 ahs, 1 um, 6 sos, 4 but/ands
  • Mark: 1 ah
  • Bert: nothing
  • Kelly: 1 ah, 1 um, 1 ya-know, 1 well, 2 but/ands, 2 “other.”

We didn’t do timing. As Robert Marley said, “Time is an ocean, not a garden hose. Space is a puff of smoke, a wisp of cloud. Your mind is a flying corn snake hovering through all the possibilities.”

And I handed the meeting back over to MeL.

Wrap Up

MeL wrapped up her final meeting as the president of Noon Toastmasters. At least this particular tenure. She really has been a great president — organized, encouraging, and effective.

Mark was brought before the group because he just completed his Advanced Communicator Silver.

And with that, we start a new year of Toastmasters!


Noon Toastmasters New Meeting Location!

Sonoma County Tourism Meeting Room - View 1
Sonoma County Tourism Meeting Room

Starting at our next meeting on July 2, 2019, Noon Toastmasters will be meeting in our new location at Sonoma County Tourism. When we were considering new meeting locations, we wrote down all the things we would want in our dream meeting location:

  • 25 chairs
  • Storage
  • Quiet
  • Good location
  • Easy parking
  • Wifi
  • Computer Monitor
  • Free

None of us imagined that we would be able to get all these things. Yet we did. So here is the address:

Sonoma County Tourism
400 Aviation Blvd #500
Santa Rosa, CA 95403-1182

Sonoma County Tourism Meeting Room - View 2
Sonoma County Tourism Meeting Room Amenities

New Meeting Time

We are also going to be meeting at a different time. The days are the same: the first and third Tuesdays of the month. But instead of starting at 12:12 pm, we are going respectable and starting our meetings at 12:00.


We will assume you are coming from downtown Santa Rosa:

  1. Take 101 N
  2. Take exit 495B for Airport Blvd
  3. Turn left on Airport Blvd
  4. Turn right on Aviation Blvd
  5. Turn left into Sonoma County Tourism.

You can also use Google Maps to get directions for your particular location.

If you have any problems, give us a call at 707-584-6997.

June 04, 2019 Meeting Minutes




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:13 pm


13 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, VP PR Holly Young, Sergeant at Arms Kelly Cunneen, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, Christy Helvajian, Dan Schell, Gabriel Cox, Harry Holland, Stephanie K Thatcher, and Steve Domkowski.

3 Guests: Gayle, Teresa, and Vera.


  • President: MeL Konrad
  • Toastmaster: MeL Konrad
  • Table Topics: Frank Moraes
  • Grammarian: Christy Helvajian
  • Timer/Ah Counter: Brian Buckman


Mark Burchill: “The Winning Proposal” — Advanced Communication: Persuasive Speaking
      Evaluated by Holly Young.

New Business

Officer elections were held. New officers:

  • President: Bert Rangel
  • VP PR: Holly Young
  • VP Membership: Gabriel Cox
  • VP Education: Frank Moraes
  • Sergeant at Arms: Kelly Cunneen
  • Treasurer: Mark Burchill
  • Secretary: MeL Konrad

Next Meeting

4 June 2019



Committee Reports



I’ll admit it: I wasn’t paying attention. When Kelly banged the gavel, I remembered that I hadn’t started my audio recording of the meeting. (What?! You think I remember all this stuff?) So as she recited the club mission, I was in motion. When the recording started, she paused and there was laughter. I was wondering if she had decided to recite it from memory as she recently showed she could. But I don’t know.

I was never a Boy Scout. I’m often not prepared.

President’s Remarks

MeL deigned to join us for the meeting. Her absence from the last meeting was sorely felt. On the other hand, no one missed Mark. We just keep him around to get DCP.

You know, I love Mark. Really! But jokes like that make me very afraid for the next meeting when Mark will be roasting me. Here I am just trying to make the minutes a little bit more fun and what do I get for it? Attention. Sure. And you all know how much I hate that! But for the record, I will be red as a raspberry next week. If I am, Mark will have done his job.

I hope Mark doesn’t take this as a threat, but I have several one-liners ready about his unnatural love of spreadsheets…

Guest Introductions

MeL took the stage and dealt with some meeting minutia. Then she welcomed our guests. Gayle and Teresa had been to the open-house last time. Vera lives at Brookdale. She could only stay for part of the meeting.

Gabriel was a GINO. If you don’t get that reference, look at the last set of minutes!

Also at the meeting was Toastmaster elder Harry who used to do this job. So you know he must be brilliant. (Because I’m so brilliant. You got that, right?)


Gabriel was voted on as a member of Noon Toastmasters. He just squeaked by with a unanimous vote. I know I had my concerns because of his positive attitude, friendly demeanor, and dedication to the group. Who needs that? Am I right?!

MeL brought up the current officers up to the front of the room to thank them. (Us.) They would be: Holly, Bert, Brian, Kelly, Mark, and me. She gave us all Starbucks cards because she knows we are all Coffee Achievers. Except for me: I’m a Coffee Status Quo-er. But that’s being picked.

Then someone had the brilliant idea of photographing us. Generally, I’m fine going through my life believing that I’m skinnier than I am. But every picture brings the cold, hard truth to me. I’m not fond of any cold, hard truths.

Given that all 7 positions were unopposed, Harry leaned over to me and said, “By the rules, the vote can just go to the secretary.” I thought he was joking. You know, “Wouldn’t it be funny if they just left it to you!”

But then Christy was given the floor and she said, “By the rules, the vote can just go to the secretary.”

MeL didn’t want to do that. (People who aren’t at the executive committee meetings have no idea just what an authoritarian she is!) But I was very impressed. Harry and Christy really know their stuff!

The new officers are:

  • President: Bert Rangel
  • VP PR: Holly Young
  • VP Membership: Gabriel Cox
  • VP Education: Frank Moraes
  • Sergeant at Arms: Kelly Cunneen
  • Treasurer: Mark Burchill
  • Secretary: MeL Konrad

And then more pictures were taken!

Toastmaster: MeL

MeL was also Toastmaster for the day. So she got right to it.

Word of the Day: Segue

She put up a picture like the following:

People on Segways

“Do you know what these are?”

The consensus of the group was that it was clearly a picture taken in San Francisco and no one at Noon Toastmasters knows anything that isn’t in a foreign language.

No, people said, “Segways?”

And so the word of the day was “segue.”

This brings up a sore point for any editor. Homophones are our great curse. Seriously: humans think verbally. So we really have to train ourselves to notice the difference between “throne” and “thrown.” But, hey, I guess it is job security.

Some of the answers:

  • Gabriel: “From here I will have to segue into training mode.”
  • Steve: “I segue from my house to hear because 90% of life is showing up.”
  • Christy: “I just realized that this is the segue to the rest of my life.”
  • Vera: “I’m looking at my watch because I’m afraid I have to segue from this meeting to the picnic.”
  • Brian: “My daughter was promoted to 8th grade and she segued right into, ‘Dad, I’m bored; when are we going on vacation?'”
  • Teresa: “This group is a segue into learning because I learned how to spell ‘segue.'”
  • Gayle: “I will be segueing from being a non-speaker to a public speaker.”

Speaker: Mark

Mark gave a persuasive speech with PowerPoint slides to convince us to buy furniture and project management services for the cardiac and catheterization lab at the San Francisco VA. I was persuaded, but then I always am. It’s easy to sell to me. This is why I make it a point to always be poor.

Mark gives unique speeches because of the path that he’s following. Did I mention that he is going to roast me at the next meeting? I’ve figured out what I should do: burst out crying. I probably would if he knew me better. But all he has to go on is my public persona. He knows nothing of my checkered past. Unless he’s contacted my ex-wives…

None of this has anything to do with the excellent evaluation I wrote for his speech. I mention this only because — for the second straight meeting — I managed to lose it before I could give it to him. What’s up with that? Perhaps Mark will discuss it at the roast!

Chickens Gathering Before the Elephant HuntChickens gathering before the elephant hunt.

Table Topics

I was in charge of the Table Topics, which were, in all the humility I can muster, fantastic:

If animals could talk, which would be the rudest?

Bert: Cats are so rude. You talk to them and they don’t even look your way.

Is cereal soup? Why or why not?

Gabriel: If gazpacho can be a soup, cereal can be a soup.

How many chickens would it take to kill an elephant?

Steve: They would all have to surround the elephant when it is sleeping, under its blanket… I’d say we send a thousand.

Toilet paper, over or under? And explain your answer!

Gayle: Over. It just keeps rolling if you put it under. If it is over, you can hold it at the top.

Speaker Evaluation: Holly

Holly said she was a bit confused about the topic and would have liked more background. She asked for more entertainment. And I happen to know that Mark is an excellent tap dancer. So I expect to see that at a meeting soon.

She also emphasized Mark’s many qualities: organization and good delivery.

Grammarian: Christy

Christy pointed out some phrases she liked:

  • Holly: “If I were invisible, I would take a day off.”
  • Gabriel: “Connection is number one.”
  • Gayle: “When Trump had toilet paper on his shoe, no one stopped him.”

Timer/Ah Counter: Brian

  • Mark (5-7): 7:30
  • Table Topics (1-2)
    • Bert: 0:43
    • Gabriel: 0:48
    • Steve: 1:12
    • Gayle: 1:10
    • Teresa: 0:40
    • Holly: 1:03
  • Holly (2-3): 2:43
  • Christy (1-2): 0:42

There were no ahs! Maaayyybbeee.

Wrap Up

MeL checked in with the guests. Gayle said she would be back despite the fact that there is a notable cat hater in the group. Teresa asked about what she could do in the Toastmasters program. And got lots of input. TL;DR: you can do anything you want!

Dan said he would have liked to have Gabriel’s question during Table Topics, “Is cereal a soup?” He continued, “Who shoots the holes in the Cheerios? The cereal killer.”

And since we couldn’t top that, the meeting was ended.

Our next meeting is June 18th.

Segway Tours by Tony Hisgett, licensed under CC BY 2.0. Chickens via PICRYL and in the public domain.

May 21, 2019 Meeting Minutes




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 12:50 pm


10 Members: VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, VP PR Holly Young, Sergeant at Arms Kelly Cunneen, Secretary Frank Moraes, Christy Helvajian, Dan Schell, Harry Holland, Stephanie K Thatcher, and Steve Domkowski.

7 Gusts: Gabriel, Gayle, Lou-Jean, Matt, Merideth, Stephanie, and Teresa.


  • President: Brian Buckman
  • Toastmaster: Bert Rangel
  • Table Topics: Holly Young


Gabriel: “Knowing Your Values: Mission and Vision” — Ice Breaker
      Evaluated by Brian Buckman.

New Business

Officer elections coming up next month, June 4th.

Next Meeting

June 4, 2019



Committee Reports



After banging the gavel and making me jump, Kelly read our club mission.

President’s Remarks

Brian took the place of MeL who was on vacation. We all discussed how this shouldn’t be allowed in the future.

He mentioned that this was our sorta-annual open house and we welcomed five new guests. In addition, Gabriel was at the meeting. He has not yet been voted in but is otherwise a GINA (guest in name only). And former Noon Toastmaster and officer Harry Holland showed up.

Officer elections are coming up. Stop me before I secretary again!

I never got to make a pitch for my office, so let me explain a little. The main thing that the secretary has to do is create minutes for the executive committee meetings that happen once a month. And it is good if you create minutes for the regular meetings. But you absolutely do not have to do a narrative for each meeting. That’s something that Harry started and I continued.

As Brian pointed out, being an officer is a great opportunity to lead. Why he is stepping down thus remains one of the great mysteries like who built the pyramids. In fact, History Channel has a documentary coming out, “Did Ancient Aliens Make Brian Step Down?” It turns out there is no proof, but some ancient alien scientists say it could be so.

Space Alien

Toastmaster Bert

Bert started by talking about how scary public speaking is and how it gets easier with every time he does it.

Lots of people feel this way. I’m never really frightened. I’m like a musician who loves to play but sucks. Now that I think about it, I am a musician who loves to play but sucks. I’m also a public speaker who loves it but sucks. However, Toastmasters really has made me better than I was. Long way to go, though!

Bert then told us a parable:

There is a young lumberjack attempting to cut down a tree with a dull blade. He labored for hours and hours with little to no progress. A wise man walked up and said, “Stop and go sharpen your saw. Then you will be able to cut through that tree like butter.” The young lumberjack said, “No. I’m too busy.” And he continued to struggle and struggle with little success.

This parable is the basis for the Netflix original film A Young Lumberjack’s Vengence: Not So Wise Now, Old Man! But I think Bert was making a different point.

Bert went on to discuss his history with Toastmasters. Decades ago, he joined Toastmasters with a girlfriend who needed to prepare for a speech. But after that, he stopped going. However, last year, he joined for himself and it has been a more enriching experience.

Word of the Day: Epiphany

Bert broke with custom by picking a very English word. But it was originally coined to describe the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, January 6th is Epiphany, the day celebrating the three kings coming to pay respects to Jesus.

Some of our club’s use of this word:

  • Brian: “This past weekend we picked up my daughter from San Jose State. And I noticed there was an epiphany on her face, ‘I’m going to have to live with mom and dad for two months.'”
  • Christy: “I’ve been out of work for about a month and I had an epiphany that I’m not going to go back to work for a while.”
  • Holly: “As you go through life you continue to have these epiphanies that change your whole perspective.”
  • Stephanie: “My epiphany was to join Toastmasters when I was inspired by this guy over there [Bert].”
  • Harry: “I remember last year the chairs were arranged in a circle. I wonder what the epiphany was to change it?”
  • Teresa (Guest): “My epiphany is just being here today… And I like being an honored guest.”
  • Gayle (Guest): “I want to get involved in climate change advocacy and speak at city council meetings. I was so bad when I last spoke and I guess my epiphany was that I need to come here.”
  • Gabriel (GINO): “I had an epiphany about an hour ago when Bert called me and I did not know what I was going to record a podcast on.”
  • Stephanie (Guest): “My new epiphany is that I’m bad talking on the spot.”

Alice Through the Looking Glass

I need to highlight Dan who quoted Jabberwocky from memory:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
    Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
    And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
    He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

Speaker: Gabriel

Gabriel’s speech was “Knowing Your Values: Mission and Vision.” He asked the audience these questions:

  1. What are my core values
  2. Do I know what my mission is?
  3. What is my vision for the future?

Most people don’t have explicit answers to these questions. He discussed how he has answered these questions in his own life.


Table Topics

Holly was in charge of Table Topics and she had some difficult questions for everyone:

Why must you love someone enough to let them go?

Gabriel: If you get to that point, then you accept that they know what is in their best interests.

To what degree have you controlled the course your life has taken?

Stephanie: When I was getting out of college, my father offered for me to help him start the business that we have today. But when he died shortly afterward, it became necessary for me to take it on by myself. So I had very little control of my professional pathway.

If you had an opportunity to get your message out to a large group, what would it be?

Gayle (Guest): I want to speak to the Board of Supervisors and City Council to get Santa Rosa onboard with the Green New Deal.

What impact would you like to leave on the world?

Merideth (Guest): My biggest impact personally would be raising my children with morals and goodness.

What is the most desirable trait a person can possess?

Steve: The most desirable trait is kindness. I think of that every day. Just be kind to one another. It doesn’t cost anything.

If you looked into the heart of your enemy, what do you think you would find?

Stephanie (Guest): I don’t think people make decisions based on their own but rather based on what they think other people want them to do.

Speaker Evaluation: Brian

Brian noted that giving evaluations is critically important — and hard to do.

He liked that Gabriel was relaxed with good pacing and projection. He also liked that Gabriel started his speech with questions.

In terms of improvement, he felt that the speech could have concluded less abruptly and that Gabriel should make more eye contact.

Wrap Up

Bert said he thought the meeting was great. And it was. He then turned the meeting back over to Brian.

Brian polled the guests who seemed to enjoy the meeting. We discussed how this meeting was different from other meetings — in particular, there was no timer, ah counter, or grammarian.

Then he turned the meeting over to Bert.

Then he turned the meeting over to Brian.

Then he turned the meeting over to Bert.

Then there was a rip in the fabric of time.

And with that, the meeting was adjourned — as it always is after major cosmological events.

Our next meeting is June 4th.

Space Alien by The Digital Artist. It is in the public domain. Image from 1897 edition of Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel. It is in the public domain. Puzzle by Annca under the Pixabay license.

May 7, 2019 Meeting Minutes




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:12 pm


10 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, VP PR pro tem Holly Young, Sergeant at Arms Kelly Cunneen, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, Christy Helvajian, Stephanie K Thatcher, Steve Domkowski.

3 Gusts: Bosten, Gabriel, and Gabriella.


  • President: MeL Konrad
  • Toastmaster: Steve Domkowski
  • Educational Minute: Bert Rangel
  • Table Topics: Orlando Kai O’Shea
  • Grammarian: Frank Moraes
  • Ah Counter / Timer: Stephanie K Thatcher.


MeL Konrad: “Speech Organization and All That Jazz”
      Evaluated by Frank Moraes.

Stephanie K Thatcher: “Adventure” — Ice Breaker for Dynamic Leadership
      Evaluated by the club.

New Buisness

Officer elections coming up next month, June 4th.

Next Meeting

21 May 2019



Committee Reports



Last meeting, Kelly was gone so I read the club mission. But before this meeting, we couldn’t find the sheet with the mission on it. As a result, I learned something interesting: Kelly’s been holding out on us. It turns out she has it memorized. Not that she knew that!

So it was actually good that I lost it — even though we found it before the meeting.

President’s Remarks

MeL announced that we were having an election. Holly has stepped up and taken over the position of VP PR that Anna left vacant. Having a physics background, I can’t help but see some general law in the fact that Anna and Holly are both in real estate. Conservation of real estate professionals, perhaps?

Everyone was to mark their choice for either Holly or Not Holly. Given that Hot Holly hasn’t shown up for a single meeting, Holly is a shoo-in.

Speaking of “shoo-in,” did you know this is widely spelled “shoe-in”? In fact, it is so commonly misspelled that an apocryphal original story has risen up. According to it, once upon a time, there were corrupt jockeys who sold out to bettors. Thus a particular horse would be a “shoe-in.” Of course, if you think about it for a moment, you will see that this makes no sense. Jockeys ride horses and horses have shoes. That’s like saying movie stars make lots of money and that’s why “greenback” means attractive.


MeL introduced our guests: Bosten, Gabriel, and Gabriella. Gabriel announced that he was joining that day.

She also highlighted our club’s Area Director review which was very positive.

Toastmaster Steve

It’s Steve Domkowski’s world; the rest of us just live in it. At least, that’s my philosophy. So I was keen to see what our club’s most colorful character would do as Toastmaster. In the year I’ve been in the club, Steve has never been Toastmaster even though he is an experienced member of the club.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that Steve performed a bit of a bait and switch by claiming that the theme of the day would be “air.” I mistook this for the word of the day and got prepared to wax poetic about Talking Heads. But it was not to be.

Educational Minute: Bert

Instead, he introduced Bert with the Educational Minute. Bert discussed his position as an officer and encouraged other people to take on the role.

I could make a joke here. I could talk about how he was just trying to trick new members into ruining their lives. Or that he forgot to mention that there is an open bar at the executive committee meetings

But the truth is that it’s fun to be an officer. I don’t think Bert was lying when he said that his work as an officer is something he looks forward to. I feel the same way. Of course, for me, it’s been tough going, but I feel like I’ve grown into my role. So it really is a good thing to be an officer. And in a fundamental way, it is an important part of the educational program.

So I would be thrilled for other members if there is no room for me as an officer this next year — just as I will be thrilled to serve for another year. I really do hope everyone gives serious thought to being an officer. And remember: I became an officer after my second meeting!

And now I return you to my usual snarky tone.

Word of the Day: Insouciant

When Steve announced that “insouciant” would be the word of the day, everyone laughed in my direction because it sounds foreign and I have been on a campaign to shame all Toastmasters who use foreign words.

Insouciant isn’t really a foreign word. But it is a recent one. And I doubt it will surprise anyone we ripped it off from the French. It came to England in the 18th century from soucier, which means “worry.”

The whole thing got me thinking about the purpose of the Word of the Day. I’ve tried to use simple words because of my still active trauma of trying to use poetry for Table Topics. But really, what kind of a society do we have where no one knows this:

Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me

But fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m just going to move into a cave until the rest of our civilization decays and I don’t have to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous comments like, “Romeo and who?!” Not that I’m that into Shakespeare; I’m just saying I’m not … about it.

Some of our club’s use of this very French word:

  • Gabriella: “People with frontotemporal dementia seem to be insouciant.”
  • Mel: “Cats are the epitome of insouciance.”
  • Stephanie: “My family is very insouciant about what they are going to eat for dinner.”
  • Mark: “I’m a little OCD, which means I am insouciant about nothing.”
  • Holly: “After days of door-knocking, I find that I am insouciant.”
  • Christy: “I’m quite insouciant about looking for a job.”
  • Kelly: “My brother is not insouciant but rather light-hearted.”
  • Brian: “My wife was insouciant about my agony about the Warriors consecutive losses.”
  • Bosten: “I hope to become more insouciant about public speaking.”
  • Gabriel: “Before going to see Endgame I was insouciant about it.”

Speaker One: MeL

MeL spoke about “Speech Organization and All That Jazz.” In it, she talked about using a mind map. She related it to a recent jazz cruise that she had gone on. How do you approach that? Well, not from the core but rather from one of its branches.

It’s a little hard to explain here. But luckily, MeL is going to write a blog post about this.

This is an example of my using guilt to get my way. Even though I’m going meta here, I’m sure that it will still work. And if it doesn’t, I will still manage to bring it up every time I see MeL over the next two months. Then I’ll just look dejected until she finally writes it.

Speaker Two: Stephanie

This was Stephanie’s ice breaker, but it was not her first speech. Back on Feb 5th, before she was a member, Stephanie gave a speech to us in preparation for a speech she was going to give to a group of pharmaceutical companies.

This speech was called “Adventure.” She talked about how she got her sense of adventure from her father every bit as much as she got his DNA. And she went on to discuss how this has been a driving force in her life.

Buhatan River Adventure

Table Topics

We were running long on time for reasons that are not quite clear to me. But if history is any indication, it was Mark’s fault. And by that, I mean that I have a history of blaming everything on Mark. It just so happened that Mark ran Table Topics.

Tell me about your experience when you met a celebrity.
Gabriel: I met Robin Williams in 1998 when he was filming Bicentennial Man. He was just as you would expect: funny and polite.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice, what advice would you give?
Gabriella: I gave my very first speech at age 20. I would tell myself, “Relax!”
Describe your life as if it were an object somewhere in this room.
Bert: I like to think of myself as the air conditioning system. Always being interrupted.

Speaker One Evaluation: Frank

This was the first time I’ve done a speech evaluation in which I felt like I knew what I was doing. That doesn’t mean it was a good evaluation. But those Toastmaster documents for doing evaluations are really helpful.

We have such documents for just about everything. They are available on the website. But they are all in ZIP files. I’ll try to remember to make them more easily available. If I forget, bug me. As good as I am at pushing guilt into the world, I’m even better at absorbing it.

Speaker Two Round Robin

Everyone was really impressed with Stephanie’s ice breaker — both its writing and its performance. I don’t recall anyone having much to say about things she could have improved.

Grammarian: Bert

Bert mentioned a few things that stood out to him:

  • “Air — Can’t live without it.”
  • Jazz cruise is better than a blue cruise.
  • “Adventure flows in my DNA.”
  • “Don’t worry; there’s always Toastmasters.”
  • “Give the audience a present — wrap it up.”

Timer/Ah Counter: Holly

The times were:

  • MeL (5-7): 8:10
  • Stephanie (4-6): 6:54
  • Table Topics (1-2)
    • Gabriel: 0:32
    • Gabriella: 0:13
    • Bert: 0:27
  • Frank (2-3): 1:15.

The Ahs:

  • MeL: 1 ah, 2 oks,
  • Frank: 1 um, 3 ahs
  • Stephanie: 0
  • Bert: 1 well.

Wrap Up

Steve wrapped up with, “Peace brothers and sisters.”

MeL took the meeting back over. If anyone is going to District Conference, let us know. We are going to have an Open House at the next meeting so please spread the word.

Mark came up and encouraged everyone to become an officer. The elections will be during the first meeting of June (4th).

Brian came up and mentioned the open roles for the next meeting.

MeL polled our guests. Gabriella said she was very happy to be back. Bosten said he was impressed with the group and hoping to become better at speaking.

She also welcomed back Christy who we haven’t seen for a while.

And the meeting was adjourned.

Our next meeting is May 21th.

Jockeys Racing! On Horses! by Colin Knowles. Licensed under CC BY 2.0. Buhatan River Eco-Adventure by Norfolk18 and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Connecting With Your Audience

Holly YoungI believe that the art of giving a good speech is really being able to engage and make an impact on your audience with the content you have chosen to talk about.

It’s about connection.

I can remember a time, which seems not so long ago, when I was absolutely terrified of public speaking or for that matter, giving a speech in school. There was this panic and a tremendous amount of nerves right before having to talk to an audience only to be offset by the relief of having it finally behind me.

As I got older and gained more life experience, I started to develop an attraction to individuals who could speak so eloquently in front of a large audience. It fascinated me that these people spoke authentically and with such comfort while being able to convey a powerful message that engaged their audience.

The one thing I started to realize about these speakers was one major commonality. They were talking about something they truly believed in and were absolutely passionate about. They had a powerful message they wanted out to others, which I feel made their ability to speak with such ease and grace, much more fluid. They had something important to share with others and it came from their heart.

At this stage in my life, I am no longer afraid of giving a speech. It is no longer something that terrifies me but challenges me to become a better person.

I now know that when you talk about something you are not passionate about, it can be difficult to deliver a good speech that engages your audience. Your heart simply isn’t in it.

But on the flip side, if you engage your heart in what you want to talk about, something magical happens. Your passion and love for your collection of words will come through to others. They will see you and hear your message. Your authenticity will shine and you will make an impact!

Using Free Writing for Speech Ideas

Fountain PenA lot of people say they have difficulty coming up with ideas for speeches. They are wrong, of course. Get someone talking about their lives and within 5 minutes, they will probably provide ideas for a dozen speeches.

When I was a kid, I read a biography of Charles M Schulz. In it, he was quoted as saying that if you were going to be a cartoonist, you had to be able to sit down and think of something funny. That amazed me at the time. But it really isn’t that hard. There’s a trick to it.

I never lack for ideas. If I did, I’d be out of business. Just the same, if you asked me to come up with a speech idea on the spot, I’d be flummoxed. I need to go through my process.

The Process

My process is to release my mind from the restrictions of logic or narrative. And even though I can do this in my mind, it’s still easier to do on paper. Just let your mind run wild. And trust me: it will run very wild.

When done on paper, this is called free writing, which Wikipedia says is “a prewriting technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic.”

It’s simple:

  1. Set a time limit — like 15 minutes
  2. Go some place where there will be no distractions (including music[1])
  3. Write (or type) nonstop — without regard to spelling, grammar, content
  4. When done, read through what you wrote and make notes of what is useful.

You will probably find that there are times your brain gets stuck. It’s perfectly fine to write the same word over and over. Just keep working through it.

My free writes are filled with profanity and non-words like “sliggulable.” It’s fine. Just write.

One final thought on this: destroy your free writes after you’ve read them. As you get better at doing them, you will be surprised what kinds of things bubble up from your subconscious. You don’t want other people seeing them. And if you are like me, you won’t like seeing them.

Starting With a Topic

With Toastmasters, you have an advantage because your path will indicate what you should talk about. For example, the next speech in my path is on mentorship. If I were doing a free write, I would think about mentorships in my own life. Right now I can think of a few things:

  1. People who use mentorships to yield power of you
  2. Trying to mentor young people without being a know-it-all
  3. Advisor guiding me throw the treachery of academia
  4. Having a much younger mentor.

But I don’t know what would come out when I started writing. One thing is for certain: after a half hour, I’d have enough material for several speeches about mentorship.


Instead of writing, you could also just talk. Most people have audio recorders on their phones. I use a system that converts my voice into text notes that I can email to myself.

It doesn’t matter how you do it. What matters is that you do it long enough to get past censoring yourself. And the more often you do it, the less time you will need.

If All Else Fails

But maybe free writing isn’t for you. It’s just a tool and not all tools work for all people.

There are websites that have lots of ideas for speeches. Reading through them will doubtless give you some ideas. Here are some of the better lists:


The best way to get ideas for speeches is to give speeches. It’s not just that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s also that the more speeches you give the more ideas will come to you naturally. Giving speeches really does reorient your brain.

So go forth and speak!

[1] Listening to music is a creative activity. Having music on while free writing will deprive you of some part of your creativity.

Ice Breakers for Public Speakers

Ice BreakingAt Toastmasters, we think of an “ice breaker” as the first speech that we give in the program. Of course, “ice breaker” has a more general meaning. Most people think of it as some kind of device used by a speaker to capture the audience’s attention. And it is in this regard that I want to talk about it.

At our last meeting, Holly Young gave her first speech to our group. It was excellent. My only suggestion was that she start with some kind of story that she could come back to at the end. This is one approach to an ice breaker.

Last year, Tony Navarra gave a speech in which he started with a story about his mother arguing with his father’s mistress. Young Tony noticed a hatchet and thought about using it to end the confrontation. Did he pick it up and hack the mistress to death? We didn’t find out until the end of the speech. But the main thing was that I don’t think I’ve ever been so engaged with a speech because of that.

Ideas for Ice Breakers

Today, I came upon a video by Ryan McLean, “Public Speaking Ice Breakers.” In it, he goes over 10 ideas for ice breaker — 7 when speaking to a large audience and 3 when speaking to a small audience. As he notes, there are things you can do with a small group that you can’t with a large group. In my experience, the opposite is also true. For example, it’s much easier to do comedy for a large audience.

Here are the ideas for large crowds:

  1. Make a joke at your own expense
  2. Ask a “raise your hands” question
  3. Start with an unfinished story
  4. Have someone introduce you
  5. Bring up some recent news
  6. Have audience members complete a task
  7. Read a quote.

And here are the ideas for smaller groups:

  1. Get everyone to introduce themselves in an unusual way
  2. Get everyone to make up a story about the person next to them
  3. Perform a quiz.

I don’t want to go into the details here. Watch the video; it’s good.

Everyone Is Different

Different people will take different things from this. Personally, I don’t like people starting with things like, “Raise your hand: how many of you love your mother?” It strikes me as too much like a TED Talk. I’d prefer, “We all love our mothers. Even people who hate their mothers love their mothers…”

But that’s just me. At the last meeting, Jennifer Shannon started with a “raise your hands” question and I thought it was very effective. And most people like TED Talks — it’s just miserable old iconoclasts like me who don’t.

And even I like some of them:

Go Forth and Speak!

Check out the ice breaker video above. I think it will give you ideas as you work on your next speech.

April 18th 2019 Noon Toastmasters Meeting




Brookdale Paulin Creek


Start Time: 12:12 pm

End Time: 1:12 pm


9 Members: President MeL Konrad, VP Education Brian Buckman, VP Membership Bert Rangel, Treasurer Mark Burchill, Secretary Frank Moraes, Holly Young, Orlando Kai O’Shea, Stephanie K Thatcher, Steve Domkowski.

3 Gusts: Area 25 Director Donica Hopkins, Jennifer Shannon, and Gabriel.


President: MeL Konrad

Toastmaster: Mark Burchill

Educational Minute: MeL Konrad

Table Topics: Orlando Kai O’Shea

Grammarian: Frank Moraes

Ah Counter / Timer: Stephanie K Thatcher.


Holly Young: “All About Holly” — Dynamic Leadership (Ice Breaker)
      Evaluated by Frank Moraes.

Jennifer Shannon: “Just Checking” — Area 25 Speech Contest Winner
      Evaluated by the club.

New Buisness

District conference is coming up on 11 May 2019.

Next Meeting

7 May 2019



Committee Reports



I started by reading the club mission and still managed to say “um” a lot.

President’s Remarks

MeL started by introducing our members. Gabriel attended his second meeting with us and I noticed that he signed up to do a speech in a few meetings. So I think we have a new member!

Also at the meeting was Area Director Donica Hopkins and Jennifer Shannon, who came to give her Area-winning speech “Just Checking” — which I assumed was about ethical approaches to banking.

District Conference

The District Conference is coming up on 11 May in San Ramon. I suspect a lot of people will go to it just for the chance to experience the wonder that is San Ramon. There’s a reason why everyone calls it “the 4th largest city in Contra Costa County”: because it’s population is below that of Richmond, Antioch, and Concord. How many other cities in Contra Costa County can say that?

In addition to San Ramon, there will be a lot of great speeches (if you’re into that kind of thing). The conference costs $99 and — like most Toastmasters events — should be fun. MeL will send out information about it this next week.

Our next meeting will be 07 May 2019. We were going to have an open house on 30 Apr 2019, but it turns out that the District will be supporting open houses in May, so we are probably going to do it then.

Orlando Gives Big Speech

MeL introduced Orlando who recently spoke in front of a large group.

He said that he was on the organizing committee for the Santa Rosa Trans Rights March — which took 8 weeks. There were about 400 people at the event and all the organizers gave speeches.

Orlando said that he had prepared remarks but that he found he was much better talking off the cuff.

His speech was simultaneously translated into Spanish and American Sign Language — something that none of the organizers had planned their speeches to allow for.

Congratulations, Orlando!

Upcoming Elections

The Toastmaster year runs from July through June. And that means we need to elect new officers. It’s a good thing because we really need to get rid of the current set of losers. (Like me.)

MeL went over the role of the Vice-President of Public Relations. Our current VP-PR, Anna Wong, has abandoned us to live in San Francisco. This makes no sense! Now I could understand if she had moved to San Ramon. I mean, who wouldn’t give up their last remaining molars to live in the 4th largest city in Contra Costa County? But San Francisco? Why?!

Anna will be sorely missed. So will her partner Marlee.

The VP-PR is the person responsible for reaching out to people and letting them know about the club. They do things like social media where they get into arguments about how Tony Robbins really isn’t that good a speaker and which toothpaste is best for public speaking. They might also reach out to local businesses and give speeches. Or anything else that might help promote the club. It’s a great opportunity to use your creativity.

Nominations will be in May and voting in June. After elected, all officers will have an electronic monitoring device placed on their ankles so they can’t escape.

Uriah Heep
Roland Young as Uriah Heep

Toastmaster Mark

My wishes have been fulfilled. Somehow, the word got out that I wasn’t too happy about all these foreign phrases people were using. So Mark picked:

Dulce et decorum est


This was one of my favorite words as a child because of Lord of the Rings. After out of the influence of the ring, Tolkien describes Gollum thus:

For that moment a change, which lasted for some time, came over him. He spoke with less hissing and whining, and he spoke to his companions direct, not to his precious self. He would cringe and flinch, if they stepped near him or made any sudden movement, and he avoided the touch of their elven-cloaks; but he was friendly, and indeed pitifully anxious to please. He would cackle with laughter and caper if any jest was made, or even if Frodo spoke kindly to him, and weep if Frodo rebuked him.

Sounds kind of like me. Did Tolkien make me the way I am?!

We discussed Uriah Heep, the character in David Copperfield. I have a confession to make: I’ve never heard the band. I was surprised to hear that they were a heavy metal band. I think I had always assumed they were a folk band. I listened to a little bit of them. They’re pretty good: great vocal harmonies and a rockin’ rhythm section!

Video: Uriah Heep performing “Easy Livin’

Well, here’s what the group had to say:

  • MeL: “I’m going to go the opposite of obsequious because that’s my cat, Sally.”
  • Brian: “Last night, my dog Brody was very obsequious behind me as I cooked bacon.
  • Holly: “Obsequious makes me think of The Stepford Wives and the creepy spell all those women were under.”
  • Stephanie: “Growing up my mother was quite obsequious about doing a complete body-scan at the doorway before she would allow me to go to school.”
  • Donica: “It’s very important at work that I am very obsequious to make sure that my boss is not trapped somewhere without a flight or hotel.”
  • Jennifer: “There’s a word for when the thing sounds like what it is.”
  • Orlando: “I’ve never met a cat in my life that was obsequious.”
  • Steve: “Donald Trump is not obsequious to anyone, but being a politician, he is full of Uriah Heep.”
  • Gabriel: “My wife is pregnant and last night I was not willing to be obsequious and go downstairs to get her lotion.”
  • Bert: “I am an obsequious monk of the hospitality industry.”

Speaker One: Holly

Holly gave her speech “All About Holly.” She talked about her life starting in Los Angeles and moving to the Bay Area when she was 12. Then she moved back south. Probably because her family didn’t settle in San Ramon — known throughout California as the 4th largest city in Contra Costa County. Finally, three years ago, she moved back to the Bay Area.

She spoke about her personal (marriage, children) and working (30 years in the real estate industry) life.

Her goal with Toastmasters is to consolidate her experiences and learn to coach and help others.

Anxiety: more than a 17-point word
Anxiety: more than a 17-point word

Speaker Two: Jennifer Shannon

Jennifer gave her Area 25 Speech Contest winning “Just Checking.” In it, she talked about her theory (from her psychological practice) that anxiety came from people focusing on things that are uncertain. “Is that pain in my arm cancer?” Or, “Am I going to lose my job?”

People can overcome this by assuming what they do about most things: that all is fine unless they have evidence otherwise.

It was clear why Jennifer won the Area contest!

Table Topics

Orlando was in charge of Table Topics where he gave money-related topics in celebration of tax time.

  • How much do you like to pay for a meal out?
    Holly: I like a good meal so I’ll pay a lot of money. Not a lot. Sixty dollars?
  • If you had to spend $150 on something non-practical in the next 24 hours, what would it be?
    Mark: A nice meal and a night at River’s End with my sweety.
  • What do you like to spend frivolous amounts of money on?
    Gabriel: I like to spend frivolous amounts of money on my motorcycle.
  • If you were guaranteed a good salary to do anything, what would you do?
    Bert: I enjoy what I do so much that I don’t even look outside of that.
  • What were you spending money on when you were 16?
    MeL: Ripple. [Now I know why I get along so well with MeL! -FM]
  • When was the last time that you wasted money?
    Steve: Ryan has no money at all. So when we go to Karaoke, the DJ always says, “Girls, if you like to go to McDonald’s, Ryan’s your man.”
  • Does money buy happiness?
    Stephanie: Money itself doesn’t buy happiness but what you do with it can add to your happiness.
  • What would you do with a sudden windfall?
    Bill Clarkson: Pay people to move to San Ramon so that it would be the 3rd largest city in Contra Costa County.

Speaker One Evaluation: Frank

I evaluated Holly’s Ice Breaker. It was really good — especially for a first speech. She speaks very clearly with few ums, ah, or other filler words.

She had a few pacing problems because she refused to wear her glasses and have access to her notes. I wouldn’t even know where to start if I did that.

I also recommended (I got this from MeL) to start and end the speech at the same place. That is: circle back to where you start.

It was great to see a new member speaking. Next time, Orlando will give his first speech.

Grammarian: Frank

I flailed around for a bit. Normally, I focus on what I like, but I forgot to take notes. So I babbled a bit about unusual word choices like “frivolous amounts.” But the difficult thing about being grammarian is that everyone in the group speaks rather well. We really need some ESL people so I can get out my red pen. (Just kidding. I’d be even nicer to them. You wouldn’t believe how bad my 5 words of Spanish are!)

Timer/Ah Counter: Stephanie

The times were:

  • Holly (4-6): 5:39
  • Jennifer (5-7): 6:45
  • Table Topics (1-2)
    • Holly: 0:27
    • Mark: 0:27
    • Gabriel: 0:10
    • Bert: 0:30
    • MeL: 1:04
    • Steve: 1:58
  • Frank (2-3): 2:48.

The Ahs:

  • Jennifer: 0
  • Gabriel: 0
  • Mark: 1
  • Holly: 2
  • Orlando: 4
  • MeL: 5
  • Frank: [redacted].

Wrap Up

MeL polled our guests:

  • Gabriel: I loved it. It’s my second time coming. I thought it was great. It’s exactly what I’m looking for.
  • Jennifer: I’ve been meaning to visit and the contest is a great excuse to do so… There is a huge benefit in doing a speech over and over again. I didn’t realize that before.
  • Donica: I really like this layout. It focuses attention.
  • Bill Clarkson: It’s amazing how unimpressive the largest city in Sonoma County is.

Our next meeting is May 7th.

And the meeting was adjourned.

Still from David Copperfield (1935) taken under Fair Use. Anxiety taken from Pixabay and licensed under Pixabay License.