Toastmasters Contests: Training for Challenge

Vancore is an amazing club. It’s a wonderful warm public bath, full of cheerful and highly supportive fellow Toastmasters who’ll serve you delicious compliment sandwiches once a week.

But, strangely, that can also be a problem.

To really speed your development as a speaker, you need to put yourself, from time to time, in environments that are a little … less comfortable.

Have you been in situations where you’re staring out, not at familiar faces, but at strangers? Then try to come up with something intelligent to say?

Whether it’s a job interview or presenting your ideas to a workgroup, this is a common scenario we all face at some point.

What’s a good way to train yourself for these challenging and uncomfortable situations? This is where contests come in.

Contests impose more formal rules on what we’re already doing every week.

The first level of competition is within your own club. If you win a speech contest at the club level, you move on to the Area level, and then the District level.

With the International Speech contest, there are a few more stops – regional quarterfinals, regional semifinals – en route to the final test, the World Championship of Public Speaking. (Cue the quaking knees.)

On Feb 1, Vancore will hold its first such test of the year: a Table Topics contest.

Think of it as a gateway test: fun and relatively low-stakes. There are no barriers to entry. Unlike the International Speech contest, which requires all contestants to have completed levels One and Two of Pathways, the Table Topics contest is open to anyone. If you’re a member who can fog a mirror and have paid your dues, you’re eligible!

It’ll require your speaking off-the-cuff for up to two minutes. All contestants will be assigned the same topic, but they won’t learn what that topic is till the last minute, and they won’t get to hear their fellow contestants speak. Now that’s the kind of challenge we need to push us to grow, build skills and character!

All are invited to check out the Vancore Toastmasters Club contest on February 1st at 3:30 PM.

** Hybrid Meetings are back…Join us! **

Your choice to attend either in-person or online.

Guests are always welcome! Sign up here for details and weekly notifications.

Upgrade your communication skills, elevate your career and life!

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This is Us: Becoming Confident Speakers

After our Open House Meeting last week, we gathered at the Lion’s Head pub for the annual VanCore Open House / holiday party. And raised a glass to a stellar year.

Just look at those faces. Those are the expressions of people who have found their tribe. This is us. This is Vancore, circa 2022.

Looking around the table, we reflected on who we are to each other.

We are the ones…

Who keep track of each other’s filler words and time each other’s speeches.

Who laugh in all the right places and give compliment sandwiches full of constructive criticism that actually helps us all get better at this public speaking thing.

Who inspire one another to creep out of our comfort zones.

We are ghostbusters: collectively we exorcise the demon Stage Fright — just banish that bugger to the land of malevolent spirits where he can do no further harm. Overcoming the fear of public speaking is our mission.

We’ve always maintained that Toastmasters is, dollar for dollar, THE best investment you can ever make in yourself. Every passing year makes us more convinced that that’s true.

This is what you get with membership: a community of fellow mentors and supporters who have an interest in your development.

Think of it as a twelve-step group, with occasional nachos!

A professional-development circle, with chicken wings!

A family, without all the baggage!

Wishing you a great holiday season!!

** We invite you to join us in 2023! **

We resume Hybrid Meetings on January 4, 2023 at 3:30 PM PDT

Your choice to attend either in-person or online.

Guests are always welcome! Sign up here for details and weekly notifications.

Upgrade your communication skills, elevate your career and life!

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Building Your Speaking Skills as You Move Through Life

At some level, we all knew Louis who joined Vancore this year, was only lent to us.

Today we learned that today’s speech would be his last. He is leaving the club. Because he is leaving the country, to punch his ticket for the next leg of his journey.

There is no official “exit” speech in Toastmasters, so Louis got to set his own parameters: tell your truth, give it everything you’ve got, and beat a quick retreat stage left before everyone dissolves into tears.

Louis’s departure is unsatisfying but his speech was satisfying, in the following way: it resolved the mystery that had been hanging over his time at Vancore.

In his icebreaker, delivered in the spring, Louis revealed himself as a kind of spiritual Argonaut, a man writing his own story of continual self-reinvention.

Think of it as a tale in three frames. This is where he’d come from. This was where he was now. The third frame, the future frame, was left blank.

We now know what that Louis has landed a cool job in Luxembourg that will both stretch him and improve the world a little bit. So it goes. And so he goes.

One of the great things about Toastmasters is that it captures people in dynamic transition. Nobody comes to Toastmasters for no reason. Usually they are at some kind of inflection point.

Maybe they landed a new sales job that demands they sharpen their improvisatory speaking skills.

Or maybe they’ve sold their book and must now promote it – which means cultivating a public persona.

Or maybe they’re getting married, or someone close to them has died, and there is a difficult speech in their near future.

It’s the great privilege of the rest of us, who were here when they arrived and may still be here when they go, to cheer them on.

Vancore Toastmasters is a great place to hone your public speaking skills as you move through your life stages and transitions or you are wanting to inject some momentum into your job or career.


You are invited to join our friendly group EVERY WEDNESDAY at 3:30 PM PDT

Your choice to attend either ONLINE OR IN-PERSON!

Guests are always welcome! Sign up here for details and weekly notifications.

Upgrade your communication skills, elevate your career and life

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What’s The Most Valuable Commodity? Stage Time!

What’s the most valuable commodity in the world?

Diamond? Gold? Palladium?

A Toastmaster might answer: None of the above.

The most valuable commodity in the world is … stage time. When you get it, you jump. Whether your presentation is quite ready or not.

At last week’s meeting, a spot opened up on the speaker’s roster and Vanessa seized it. She works in the mining industry and has an upcoming, high-stakes pitch she really needs to knock out of the park.

She used her seven minutes to practice, with her Vancore colleagues standing in for the would-be investors she’ll be encountering in New Orleans. The constructive feedback she received – what went well and what could be improved – helped her hone her presentation. Now she feels confident with her content and delivery, and answering questions from the audience.

That is what will make a difference in how you present your ideas and expertise so that your audience aligns with your position and takes inspired action.

Vancore, like all Toastmaster clubs, is a great place to give speeches you have to give for work or school a trial spin.

If this sounds like something you’d benefit from, please join us.


You are invited to join our friendly community EVERY WEDNESDAY at 3:30 PM PDT

Your choice to attend either ONLINE OR IN-PERSON! Guests are always welcome!

Sign up here for details and weekly notifications.

Upgrade your communication skills, elevate your career and life

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Community Connection with Public Speaking

Public speaking is all about connection, and that’s hard enough when your audience is right there in front of you. It’s crazily more difficult when they’re also online, as the pandemic taught us all.

Vancore Toastmasters — and many other clubs — are now experimenting with hybrid meetings. This means you can attend in person and you can attend virtually.

The extra convenience for members amounts to a big challenge for presenters.

Club president, Jonathan Buchanan, faced the conundrum head-on.

Jonathan made “connection,” with each and every listener, both in the room and “out there in vacuum-land” (as the late-night deejays used to say) his primary goal. He was going to try like heck to make every single attendee feel he was talking to them alone.

Making up the Vancore Community were twelve members and guests, six live in the Van Cave and six scrubbing in from cyberspace (including a couple from out-of-country: California and Texas). 

As Jonathan spoke, he made eye contact with everyone in the room. He glanced at his notes. He looked deep into the eyes of the Owl, which stared unblinking back at him from the middle of the table. The Owl (a camera/microphone thingee) transmitted him into the craniums of the folks in the metaverse. Somehow, he pulled it off. That’s why he’s the club prez.

Folks, this is the future. Hybrid meetings are what we’re increasingly going to be dealing with as more and more people work from home.

Would we all prefer to speak in front of live humanoids? Absolutely.

But will the challenge of having to try to dial in to everyone, live and online, make us better presenters?

Absolutely. It’s the future of what Community Connection will look like.


You are invited to join our friendly community EVERY WEDNESDAY at 3:30 PM PDT

Your choice to attend either ONLINE OR IN-PERSON! Guests are always welcome!

Sign up here for details and weekly notifications.

Upgrade your communication skills, elevate your career and life! Will you join us?

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Should You Attend Hybrid Meeting Virtually or In-Person?

Hybrid meetings are a post-Covid innovation that’s clearly here to stay. Show up in person or tune in from home in your pajamas. Always good to have options!

Vancore has been experimenting with hybrid meetings for a few weeks now, so it’s time for a comparison.

The virtual experience is pretty solid. It’s certainly convenient. For some it’s the only choice —we have Vancore members scrubbing in from as far afield as California and Mexico.

The Van Cave has a pretty sweet AV setup: movie-quality sound and a great big screen on the wall beaming in members’ smiling faces. So it definitely feels like the Zoom folk are part of the meeting.

In the live room there’s a smart camera called The Owl that sits in the centre of the table and follows speakers, a little unnervingly, when they speak.

Unique to Vancore – Meet Owl!

Hoo are you? At Vancore, we know! Vancore Toastmasters is the only we club we know of that uses Owl, a conference video camera that zooms in (yes, pun intended) on whoever is speaking, regardless of where they’re sitting.

With Owl, we can see whomever is in person and online. And when attending a Vancore meeting in person, you’ll get valuable experience on how to conduct hybrid meetings!

The online “remote” experience gives you a good taste of what’s happening in the live room — the Van Cave, our lair at 889 Pender Street in downtown Vancouver.

That said, there’s nothing like attending a Toastmasters meeting live. Seeing the “whites of their eyes” across the room. The projecting your voice to the back of the room. The wondering what to do with your hands. These are valuable communication skills we get comfortable with practice over time.

I choose to attend in person meetings as it simply cannot be replicated on a Zoom call. Gestures, energy, tone and more get lost online. Some people turn their cameras off, which is akin to hiding, in my opinion.

Vanessa, Vancore Member

The verdict? Both live and remote attendance work. But please come in the flesh if you can. Human communication works best when we’re staring at each other across the primitive fire — or at least the boardroom table.

Will you join us?

Elevate your communication skills; upgrade your relationships and career!

Only 2 Summer In-Person Meeting Dates: JULY 6TH AND AUGUST 10TH.

We hope to resume weekly in-person meetings in September.

The rest of the summer, join our friendly group EVERY WEDNESDAY ONLINE at 3:30 PM PDT!

Guests are always welcome!

Be sure to Sign up here for access and notifications.

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How We Grow and Expand With The Seasons

Spring is a time for renewal, growth, and expansion.  We have that extra energy and focus to get active, take action, and create change.  

We are fortunate to lean on the Toastmasters platform of support and education system to help us grow and expand into the next level of our personal and professional lives.

Vancore’s final meeting of this Spring season was – to borrow the word of the day – congruent with that theme.

This was the first Vancore meeting hosted from what is called the Inland Empire – as Nidia as chair welcomed us warmly out of “Raincouver” into the California sun.

Deb gave an eye-opening presentation, part 2 of her emotional eating series, on why we get food cravings and how to get beyond it.

Quentin led us down a path of consultation hearings for Table Topics where each participant was given a Yes or No side to argue the merits of dockside sulfur pyramids, drinking in parks and standardized entrance tests for university.

Speeches were passionate, and at the end of the day, everyone felt good about their moment in the sun.

As we enter Summer next week at our June 22nd meeting, we will be welcoming the season and guests with our usual warm, easy, laid-back vibes.

Vancore is always active and evolving with the seasons. It is time to announce the new executive, continue our journeys on Pathways and connect every Wednesday afternoon.

This is a great time to envision possibilities for ourselves, and to use our skills and talents to reach new levels of achievement, success and happiness.

Will you join us?

Elevate your communication skills and upgrade your relationships and career!


Join our friendly group EVERY WEDNESDAY at 3:30 PM PDT!

Your choice to attend online or in-person! Guests are always welcome!

Be sure to Sign up here for access and notifications.

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Impromptu Speaking Helps You Grow

“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”                                           

— Michael Scott, The Office.

Now you know why the head of Dunder Mifflin paper company is such a captivating public speaker. He knows the power of making it up on the fly.

There was a lot of Michael Scott-style improvising going on at last week’s meeting of Vancore.

Multiple people jumped in to fill empty roles.

Vanessa took on the role of chair.

Bruce filled the empty speaking roster with an off-the-cuff speech.

Quentin appointed himself grammarian. And chose a word of the day that perfectly fit the spirit of the meeting:


Without preparation; extemporaneous.

From the Latin in promptu, a promere,  meaning “in readiness” or “at hand.” 

Why is impromptu speaking important?

We will feel more confident at work, when put on the spot by our boss or a colleague with a difficult question. We can up your game and start inspiring the people around us. We will also feel more comfortable just having a conversation with a friend or a chat with a stranger we’ve just met. We will gain the respect of others.

Sometimes we need to do things impromptu. What we lose in polish, we often make up for in energy.

Impromptu speaking has a bit of danger to it – a swinging-vine-to-vine, live-in-the-moment quality!

And that, ultimately, is the only way we grow.

Are you ready to improve your communication skills and upgrade your relationships and career?

Join our friendly group EVERY WEDNESDAY at 3:30 PM PDT!

Weekly Hybrid Meetings! Guests are always welcome!

Be sure to Sign up here for access and notifications.

Join our WEEKLY in-person meetings starting May 18th!

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Stepping Into the Future with Hybrid

The Covid era taught us something about the future of meetings: they’re going to be hybrid — part live, part online. Some folks will be there in the flesh, and some won’t.

Last week Vancore stepped into that future, with our first hybrid meeting.

The Vibe

For the folks tuning in remotely, the vibe was like a space mission. The half-dozen members and guests gathered around the table in a downtown Vancouver boardroom were the astronauts. Deb, the meeting chair, Zooming in from home, was flight director at Mission Control.

For the folks in that room, the vibe was one of … relief. It was good to be back public speaking the old-fashioned way: eyeball to eyeball. Some members had never met each other in person. There were handshakes and a few hugs. The camaraderie was so strong even the folks at home could pick it up.

Three speeches.

A lively Table Topics session.

An evaluative shootaround.

Just Like Old Times!

The Verdict on Hybrid Meetings

This is gonna work. Even a couple of years ago the technology wouldn’t have been capable of delivering a friendly experience to both sides. But now it is.

On the live side, a robotic camera called The Owl detects who is speaking and swivels its head to focus on them. On the remote side, the Zoom interface folds in smoothly. Everyone speaking is heard, everyone watching is seen.

It’s going to take a little more rigour to run the hybrid meetings — especially as attendance climbs.

But if this week’s performance is any indication, Vancore is up to it!

Are you ready to improve your communication skills to upgrade your relationships and career?

Join our friendly group EVERY WEDNESDAY at 3:30 PM PDT!

Guests are always welcome!

Be sure to Sign up here for access and notifications.

Hybrid Meeting: April 21, 2022

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Icebreaker: What Great Stories are About

Great stories are all about the “telling detail,” a specific little observation or description or scrap of dialogue that SELLS it.

Lori gave her icebreaker speech at the last meeting. Around 20 years ago, Lori told us, she found herself financially strapped. Struggling to pay the mortgage. She needed a plan.

She decided to take in some foreign students. They could stay in the spare bedrooms. In exchange she’d cook for them and provide conversation.

And so the students started coming: from Brazil, Mexico, eastern Europe.

There was Andres from Columbia, who couldn’t get warm for two weeks. There were the Japanese teen girls who liked Lori’s cooking, except for the rice. “My mother can tell how many times the rice has been washed just by tasting it,” one said. They went out together and bought a rice cooker.

There was Joe from Bulgaria, whose English was … an adventure. “I sleep naked,” he told Lori one day. Or at least that’s what he THOUGHT he said.

What he’d actually said was, “I sleep with a snake.” Somehow, this got out. Joe sleeps with a snake. At school, other students — and even some teachers — pulled him aside. “Is it true, Joe? You sleep with a snake?”

The student boarders who passed through Lori’s life, many of them are still IN her life. They send flowers, they call, they visit.

This idea that started as a mortgage-helper ended up one of the most profoundly meaningful things Lori has ever done.

Her icebreaker was a public service message: open your doors.

And also a reminder that the best stories are all about the telling detail.

Sharing our lives with others, whether through experiences or sharing our stories, is the path to bliss in connecting with others. When we communicate effectively, we build credibility at work and trusted relationships in our families and social circles. And that’s why we think Toastmasters is the best personal development program!

Want to build your speaking and presentation skills?

Join us every Wednesday at 3:30 PM PDT!

Our Wednesday meeting is moved to Third Thursday on April 21st, You have a choice to attend online or in-person at our downtown Vancouver venue.


We welcome you to our upcoming HYBRID MEETING on April 21st!

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To attend in-person, RSVP to

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