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Thanks to everyone that contributed to our interactive meeting on May 10th. The theme of the day was “Holidays,” and we all learned quite a bit about international celebrations. Brenda served as our Toastmaster and Lorri delivered an educational prepared speech that covered various types of leadership. Rehana stumped us with Table Topics questions that guided us around the world. We heard about Cinco de Mayo, Diwali, Eid, and Oktoberfest.

Rehana also brought up some more obscure festivities. Did you know that in the Philippines, New Year’s is celebrated with polka dots, circles, and coins, all of which represent good luck and riches? In Finland, there is a fortune-telling holiday where metal is melted and subsequently poured into a bucket of snow or ice-cold water. After the metal solidifies, the shape is held up to a light. The shadow cast by the metal chunk is representative of one’s fortune. Fascinating! Thanks to Rehana for the thought-provoking questions, and thanks to everyone that participated in answering!


While Saturday’s Table Topics answers were well-crafted and humorous, many Toastmasters fear this section of the meeting even more than the prepared speeches. At least with the speeches, we can think of something to say in advance and bring our notes! But with the Table Topics, we are asked to think on our feet, be organized, funny, and entertaining – all with just seconds’ notice!

So how can we feel better prepared to conquer the dreaded impromptu speech? Here are some tips:

– We can always buy time by pausing, taking a breath, and then thanking the Table Topics Master and audience. After this, we can simply begin by restating the question as a statement. This serves as a good introduction to the mini-speech.

– We can buy ourselves even more time by discussing what makes answering the question difficult. We can describe the delicacy of the hypothetical situation, or talk about how we imagine the scene would look.

– We can talk about what we know. If the question posed is about an unfamiliar topic, we can transition into something we are more comfortable with.

– We can make the answer up. If someone is asked about his children and he does not have any kids, he can use his imagination and describe his fictional children. He can be completely outrageous and unrealistic! Sometimes these crazy answers are the most humorous.

– We can remember our organizational skills learned from the prepared speeches. Table Topics answers, though impromptu, should still have an introduction, body, and conclusion. At the end, reiterate the question and main idea.

– We can be enthusiastic! Even the most boring and trite questions can be answered creatively and with emotion. Adding passion and feeling to Table Topics answers brings the audience in.

– Most importantly:

have fun

Thank you to all of the members and distinguished guests that took time out of their Saturdays to attend the Embracing Cultures Toastmasters Club’s Spring Open House on May 3rd! The event was a huge success, and it’s all thanks to your attendance and participation. We believe many visitors will be returning to future meetings.

thank you

“Hospitality Around the World” was the theme of the meeting. Rehana served as our Toastmaster for the day, and did a fabulous job introducing the club, the speakers, and the roles. She was welcoming and warm, yet informative and professional. Liana delivered her humorous speech about an important kitchen staple. Guest Speaker Syrena gave an honest, candid account of how Toastmasters helped her in her career and personal development. Brenda led an informative and engaging round of Table Topics by giving us an insight into the rituals of Egypt, Ancient Rome, Arabia, and Europe. Brenda encouraged several guests to contribute. The visitors impressed the audience with their abilities to think on their feet with grace and humor.

Perhaps my favorite part of the meeting was the exotic feast we all enjoyed following the meeting. Every member brought a dish or two that represented their culture or home country. It was a gastronomic adventure!

If you missed out on the Open House, we invite you to visit our club on Saturday mornings at 10.30am. This coming Saturday (5/10), our theme will be “Holidays.” Be prepared to learn, participate, and have a lot of fun! We look forward to “Embracing Cultures” with you!

We had a lively and inspiring meeting on Saturday! Members in attendance included Ayesha, Brenda, Stephanie, Samreen, and Liana. We had one guest, Sahar, a devoted ESL student! Ayesha skillfully directed the meeting as Toastmaster and Brenda delivered a gut-wrenchingly emotional and inspiring prepared speech that gave us all chills. Many of us went home and said “I love you” to the ones we hold dear following the meeting. Liana led the group in a round of Table Topics about Spring Cleaning, and even our guest Sahar courageously stood up to give a mini-speech! Thanks to Samreen and Stephanie for serving as General Evaluator and Timer respectively.


We’re all gearing up for the big Open House event on Saturday at 10:30 am. We hope to have a full house! We’ll have handcrafted foods representative of our home countries and decorations to remind us of our ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Many of us have been spreading the word at our local grocery stores, our community gathering centers, schools, and places of worship. We hope you will join us in the festivities! Come to share in the food and drinks while getting a taste of a typical Toastmasters meeting. It is sure to be a fun, interactive, and lively time.

open house 2



Saturday we had another interactive and fun meeting. All of our members were in attendance, plus three honored guests! Liana was our Toastmaster of the Day and she set the theme for the meeting as “Mindfulness.” We all did our best to remain focused and free from distractions through the duration of the hour.

Samreen delivered a heartwarming speech about her grandmother, and Ayesha provided us with some concerning statistics and information about the reading abilities of American children and teenagers. Both speeches were well-delivered and well-rehearsed. You ladies were so poised! Thank you both, Samreeen and Ayesha.

Our guests joined in on Table Topics and it was inspiring to see their confidence!

Their confidence reminded me of the following quote, “If you are peaceful and happy, know that you are very close to yourself. If you are sad and stressed, know that you are close to your ego.”

Many of us try to be perfect and desire to impress others with our skill and ability. We want to know exactly what to say to a struggling friend, strive to be completely prepared at school or work, and eliminate errors and mistakes completely.

These high expectations come directly from our egos. Our egos recite all of the “shoulds” and “musts.” Our egos tell us to be perfect and inform us of what to strive for. When we inevitably fall short of meeting our lofty goals, we become depressed for letting ourselves and others down. It follows that our own egos can be blamed for low self-esteem and decreased confidence.

The solution is to be accepting of ourselves and to be realistic about our abilities. The more we banish judgement, accept ourselves as we are now, flaws and all, the sooner we will know happiness. And with happiness comes confidence.

You may be thinking that this theory directly contradicts the purpose of Toastmasters clubs. In Toastmasters we are encouraged to push outside of our comfort zones, set high-reaching goals, and to make progress toward achieving them.

But upon further inspection you’ll note that theory works perfectly with the Toastmasters purpose. One of the cornerstones of Toastmaster growth is to be able to give and receive constructive criticism with grace. To be able to receive such comments without feeling absolutely crushed or discouraged, we require stable and sound self-esteem. We need the confidence to acknowledge that we are not perfect and likely never will be. We must instead accept our flaws and be willing to work towards improvement. To accept advice, we must be far from our egos and close to ourselves.

As the quote implies, when we are close to ourselves we know true contentment.


We had 100% attendance for our April 12 meeting, and even welcomed one new member and one guest speaker!

Liana gave a humorous speech, followed by Brenda, who provided us with a comprehensive discussion and training on Easy Speak. Following this helpful demonstration, we listened to an educational speech entitled “Evaluate to Motivate” from guest speaker Syrena Glade. She gave us some inspirational guidance regarding how to improve our speech evaluations.

Our group is growing and we would like to invite anyone interested in learning about other cultures, making new friends, or improving their speaking and listening skills. Come sit in on a meeting! There is never any pressure for guests to speak. Just come to get a feel for the club.

Of course, we also have the upcoming Open House on May 3rd at 10:30. We are very excited about this event and are currently busy planning and spreading the word. I’m most looking forward to the food. We will all be bringing dishes that remind us of our cultural background. It should be a comforting, homey feast. We’ll also have fun decorations that are sure to be conversation starters.

In other news, today (April 16th) is National Stress Awareness Day. It’s the day after our taxes are due here in the US, so today should be a relief for many of us. We’ve crunched the numbers and are hopefully anticipating a large return! Stress Awareness Day was started by the Health Resource Network in 1992 to increase public awareness of the causes and cures of stress.


So how do you mitigate stress? Exercise? Talking about your struggles with a trusted friend? Listening to music? Taking a bath? Chocolate? On Saturday, our meeting theme will be Mindfulness. Many believe that by focusing on the present and approaching life mindfully, we can reduce the stress in our lives because we let worries about the past and future go. Come join us at our meeting to be a part of the discussion!

Everyone has that one Toastmasters role that they simply dread. For some, it’s the prepared speeches that immediately make their stomachs drop. For others, the responsibility of leading the meeting as Toastmaster is cause for panic sweats. Perhaps it’s the Grammarian role that strikes terror in the heart – having to listen so closely to individual words as well as overall content is a big ask.

For me, it’s the Evaluator role that brings on the palpitations. How can I offer constructive criticism without sounding harsh? I’m such a beginner myself, what do I know about properly delivering a speech? I’m being asked to evaluate some very seasoned speakers, what do I have to offer? That speech was perfect! I have nothing substantive to say!


To help those of you floating along in the same boat, here are just a few tips and tricks to give your evaluations a little boost. Try implementing one or a few of these suggestions during your next report as Evaluator. Or, if you prefer a more concrete and straightforward method, print and bring this speech evaluation form to your next meeting and see how it might improve your report.

“COD” Style of Evaluation


Clear? Interesting? Thought-provoking?
Did the speaker establish credibility?
Did you gain new knowledge?
Were the facts well illustrated (sources cited, facts researched)?
Were the key terms well defined (no jargon, obscure vocabulary)?


Clear introduction (clear statement), body (flesh out argument, evidence), conclusion (did speaker make his argument)?
Did the speaker capture audience’s attention immediately?
Did the body of the speech accurately reflect what was stated in the introduction?
Did the conclusion summarize what was said in the introduction and body?
Was there a logical flow and were all points supported by examples?
Were transitions smooth and easy to follow?


Is the speaker calm, poised, and in control?
Is the complete stage area used to embrace the entire audience?
Is there a bond with the audience?
Is the speaker passionate and energetic?
Are there any distracting mannerisms?

General Tips for Evaluation

Know your speaker. What are her capabilities? Improvements?
Listen with your eyes.
Jot down a quote from a speech that is particularly compelling.
State your point in an orderly fashion: introduction, body, conclusion.
Summarize the highs and lows. Do not try to say everything in your evaluation.

As I Saw You

Approach, position, personal appearance.
Gestures, facial expression, distracting mannerisms.

As I Heard You

Content (information)
Voice (vocal variety, pitch, intonation, volume, enthusiasm)

As I Reacted to You

What specifically did your speech mean to me? What touched me and why?
Did you achieve your overall purpose? What was missing?
What can you do specifically to make your next speech a better one?

Evaluator Language

Use personal statements. Use speaker’s name and look her in the eye.
“I felt…”
“It seemed to me…”
“My reaction was…”
“My impression was…”
“I believe…”
“In my opinion…”

Avoid impersonal statements.
“They say…”
“People believe…”
“One must…”

4 B’s of Speech Evaluation

Be clear and focused.
Be positive, specific, and honest. If you liked the speech, explain why.
Be motivational and sensitive. Talk about your desire to hear more from the speaker.
Be concise.

Well, it’s mid-April and Easter and Passover are just around the corner. Here in the Portland area, we’re finally getting into short-sleeve temperatures, the sun is shining brightly in the clear, blue sky, and the flowers are in colorful bloom. We’re all starting to get our groceries at the farmer’s markets again, rather than hitting the closest Fred Meyer. The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn is in full swing, which means there are acres of gorgeous varieties of tulips just a short drive away. (It’s the perfect background for that new selfie!) And at this moment, I’m staring out my window to take a look at the planter on my balcony. The flowers that I was sure had frozen to death in our uncharacteristic winter have grown back with purple and yellow gusto.

What does this have to do with Toastmasters? Well, it’ll take a couple of steps, but I’ll get you there. What I described in the prior paragraph are events symptomatic of many folks’ favorite season: Spring. Everyone starts thinking about cleaning and organizing, children get a well-deserved week off from school to refresh, people begin thawing out and revisiting nature. It is metaphorically and literally a time of rebirth.


We at Embracing Cultures are simultaneously going through a “rebirth” of sorts. A new Toastmasters term began on April 1st. Our membership and Officer assignments have shifted slightly. The website has been updated to include our current meeting time and location: Saturdays at 10:30 in the white house to the left of the parking lot at 4115 SW 160th Ave, Beaverton, OR 97007.

In addition, we came together last Saturday and recommitted ourselves to the group. We began a Membership Drive in an effort to get some new guests and potentially new members. The Drive will culminate on May 3rd, when we will be holding our Spring Open House! We are very excited for this event, which promises to be a lot of fun. We’ll have some entertaining and informative prepared speeches, as well as a dynamic round of Table Topics. We’ll also be listening to a couple of member testimonials. Here, we’ll learn first-hand what our members have gained through their participation in the club. It should be an impactful and engaging morning. Be sure to arrive hungry, because we will all be bringing dishes representative of our cultural backgrounds. It will be an exotic feast, so bring those adventurous appetites!

We hope to see you in a meeting soon. Feel free to show up any Saturday, or if you have further questions, just shoot us a message.

Our first meeting in our new home at Hillsdale Library, turned out to be a great success!

Our guest speaker of the evening, Steve Asson, from Creekside Toastmasters spoke to us about his Italian family.
We experienced first hand, just how important family is within the Italian Culture.  Steve’s wife came to support him and then as very much of a surprise to Steve, his Mom & Dad and Sister arrived to support Steve.  They had driven for three hours to get to the meeting.  Now that is support!

We had a lively table topics with everyone participating.  Penny dropped in as a guest again, and we called on Penny to help out with the Grammarian role for the evening.

We look forward to many more exciting meetings at our new location!

NOTE — NO MEETING next week — Enjoy your Thanksgiving!



Effective November 15th, 2012 …

Embracing Cultures Toastmasters meet Thursdays at 6:30 PM

Hillsdale Public Library – Meeting Room #1

1525 SW Sunset Blvd
Portland OR 97239
Conveniently located on  Bus Routes  from Downtown Portland : #44, #45, #54 and #56 – Get off at Stop #955
Conveniently located on common SW Bike Route from Downtown Portland.

View Larger Map

Travelling north of the border, Brenda took us on a journey giving us some excellent background into the Canadian electoral system, their cultural salad bowl and their bilingual heritage.  Without Canadians we would be zipperless and we would have a difficult time carrying our cases of beer.  It seems that a large number of the top comedic actors of the last number of decades have all been Canadian.  We have a great deal to thank our northern neighbors for.

Our guests for the evening helped out in by participating fully.

Next week — we are in our new home — Hillsdale Public Library.