Press Release: South Florida Toastmaster Errol Leandre Headed to World Championship Semifinals

Press Release

South Florida Toastmaster Errol Leandre Headed to World Championship Semifinals

July 3, 2020 – The Toastmasters public speaking champion for South Florida and The Bahamas learned this week that he will compete in the semifinals of the World Championship of Public Speaking.

Errol Leandre of Homestead won the Toastmasters District 47 contest in May and has now cleared a quarterfinal round of elimination. With 16,800 local clubs in 143 countries, Toastmasters International is a global non-profit public speaking and leadership development organization with more than 358,000 members. Leandre has earned a chance to compete with the best among them.

Caption: Errol Leandre

[ download from ]

“This is surreal,” said Leandre, an IT Project Manager for the Miami Dade Public Schools. “I didn’t expect any of this. When I joined Toastmasters a year ago, I just wanted to learn to speak comfortably in front of people.” When he gave the first version of what became his district winning speech at Cutler Bay Toastmasters in Homestead, suddenly other members began saying, “We’ve got to get you ready for competition.”

“I had no idea how much that speech affected others,” he says.

After getting over his initial reluctance, he found himself a few months later telling his mentors, “I can’t do this on Zoom” after the latest rounds of competition were moved online. “I like it better when I can look into the eyes of the people I’m speaking to,” he explains.

Still, other speakers were facing the same challenge, and Leandre wound up being crowned the best International Speech Contest speaker in the district, stretches from Port St. Lucie to the Key West in Florida and also encompasses the Bahamas.

Based on the video of his winning district speech, judges from the Southeastern United States, the Caribbean, and South America picked him to represent their region in the worldwide competition. At an annual convention in August, a semifinal round will narrow the contenders to eight speakers who will compete in the World Championship finals.

Leandre’s inspirational speech, “Accept What I Allow,” recalls the stuttering issue he suffered as a young man, which got in the way not just of “public speaking” but other ambitions. For example, there was a time when, as a high school football player, he got moved from defensive tackle to the position he really wanted, middle linebacker, but found himself unable to call plays. The more he let his frustration show, the worse the problem was. Yet when he learned to accept who he was and build more confidence, the issue melted away.

Prior to the district contest, Leandre had won competitions at multiple levels — club, area, and division — sharpening his speech each time.

In any other year, getting this far in the competition would have meant travel — the annual convention was originally scheduled to be held in Paris. Instead, a virtual convention has been scheduled for August 24-29.


Note to editors: We have been directed not to share Errol’s speech video while he is in contention for the World Championship, but we can make it available for your reporter to view.


David F. Carr for District 47

Errol Leandre

District 47 Speech Contest Winners in the News

District 47 members are winning recognition in the local media, which with luck will translate into more interest in Toastmasters and their clubs.

The Sun-Sentinel newspaper of Fort Lauderdale published a story on Justin Marguriet and his district winning humorous speech.

The SouthDade Newsleader also published our press release about our district’s International Speech Contest winner Errol Leandre. 

Video of the humorous speech contest winning speeches are available online here, with the winning international speech coming soon.

Table Topics Impromptu Speaking Contest Winners for 2020

Toastmasters District 47 congratulates Carla Montenegro, winner of our Table Topics contest for 2020, along with contestants Sarah Hoit, 2nd place, Paul Taylor, 3rd place, Leah Von Salvo, Paul Taylor, Curtis Rapp, and Jorge Maspons.

District stretches from Port St. Lucie to the Key West in Florida and also includes the Bahamas. Each of the speakers had already won contests at their club, area, and division to get to this level.

Each of the contestants was challenged to deliver an impromptu speaking response to the question, “How are you making a difference in the world?”

Humorous Speech Contest Winners 2020, Video of All Contestants

District 47 congratulates Justin Marguriet, Winner of the Humorous Speech Contest for 2020 with his speech “Mi Hungry,” which you can see below.

Marguriet, a resident of Dania Beach, is a member of Sawgrass Toastmasters in Plantation. The contest, normally held at the annual conference for the district, was conducted over Zoom Saturday night.

Seven of the best speakers from our district, which stretches from Port St. Lucie to the Key West in Florida and also includes the Bahamas, faced off in the district finals. The other competitors were Leah Von Salvo, 2nd Place, Johnathan Dunn, 3rd Place, Rowshan Jones, O’Kffen Cooper, Dave Bricker, and Shawn Bhakta.

Videos from the district’s International Speech Contest for 2020 will be published following the quarter-final round of judging for eligibility to compete in the Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. The district winner in that contest was Errol Leandre of Homestead, a member of Cutler Bay Toastmasters. The other competitors were Michelle LeWay, 2nd Place, Hubert Edwards, 3rd Place, Tom Scharstein, Tyler Storer, Trevor Lockhart, and Terry Spencer.

Videos from the contests for Table Topics (impromptu speaking) and Evaluations will be published in the coming days.

Justin Marguriet, Winner of the Humorous Speech Contest for 2020, “Mi Ungry”

Leah Von Salvo, 2nd Place, Humorous Speech Contest for 2020, “Just One Question”

Johnathan Dunn, 3rd Place, Humorous Speech 2020, “If a Little Bit is Good, It Doesn’t Mean a Lot is Better”

Rowshan Jones, “I Didn’t Write a Speech”

O’Kffen Cooper, “Dating Struggles”

David Bricker, Humorous Speech Contest 2020, “The Speaker’s Journey”

Shawn Bhakta, “They Push, They Pull and They Are Really Cool”

Replay: Using a WordPress-Powered Website to Promote Your Club, Your Business or Yourself (webinar)

WordPress is the world’s most popular system for publishing and organizing websites, used by major publications and marketing organizations as well as bloggers, small businesses, professional speakers, and individuals. Unlike some of the other presentations I’ve delivered on WordPress, this one is not solely focused on the use of the software for club marketing.

This is a replay of a workshop webinar held on May 9, 2020.

In the context of Toastmasters, the simplest way to get a WordPress website for your club is to sign up at the service I run. However, you can also install the same software on any WordPress-powered website (details at

If you decide you would like to host a business, personal, or club website at your own domain on website on Siteground (the web host I recommend), please use this referral link (I’ll get a little bonus web hosting, and you’ll get a pretty good deal, too).

District 47 members are also encouraged to share any item of interest to other Toastmasters on the district website.

Write to if you’d like to do that. You can get Toastmasters credit through the Pathways project on blogging.

Using the Zoom Polling Feature for Officer Elections

One way clubs can conduct elections online is by using the Zoom polling feature. This is not the only option, but it’s one feature of Zoom that could be useful for clubs meeting online. Here are some notes about the process.

IMPORTANT NOTE ON ZOOM:  the Zoom Host is the only one who can create/edit polls.  Also, the Zoom Host doesn’t get to vote.  Therefore, it is important to invite someone (i.e. Area/Division/District Director) to administer the election as the Zoom Host.

  1. at least 2 weeks prior to election, appoint nominating committee
  2. at least 1 week prior to election, committee presents nominated candidates to club members
  3. at the election meeting, the first thing to do is determine if a quorum has been met.  If not, election has to be rescheduled.  Assuming a quorum is present:
    1. briefly explain the 7 offices (if not enough candidates, a minimum of 3 offices: president, a vice president and the secretary.  While the Vice President can be any of the three (VPE, VPM, or VPPR), I suggest VPE due to access to Pathways/Basecamp.
    2. the nominating committee chair makes a motion to accept the slate of candidates for election (if you’ve multiple candidates for multiple office, then motion to accept each office one at a time.)
    3. asking for second
    4. confirm with candidates if they would accept the position if elected
    5. ask if there is any nomination from the floor (for any office)
    6. if no nomination from the floor
      1. call for motion to close the nomination; requires a second to this motion; and a vote to close the nomination (simple majority)
      2. Zoom Host launches the poll, and members vote. After a reasonable time, end the poll.
      3. Zoom Host shares the result with the club.  Winners are announced.
    7. if there is nomination from the floor (ex: VPE)
      1. confirm with floor nominee if he/she would accept the position if elected.  if yes…
      2. allow floor nominee 2 minutes to speak; allow all other nominee(s) for the office of vpe to speak.
      3. ask one more time if there is any more floor nominee.  hearing none…
      4. motion to close the nomination for the office of vpe; requires a second; and a vote to close this nomination
      5. Zoom Host to launch a newly created poll for the office of vpe only. members vote. after reasonable time, end the poll.
      6. Zoom Host shares the result with the club. Winner for the office of VPE announced.
    8. Repeat the process for the rest of the offices.

Profiles and Video Interviews for Division Director Candidates

We present this material on nominated candidates for Division Director to help our voting members make an informed decision. For the video interviews, each candidate was given 10 questions and allowed 10 minutes in which to answer.

See also: Profiles and Video Interviews for District Leader (Trio) Candidates

Continue reading “Profiles and Video Interviews for Division Director Candidates”

Profiles and Video Interviews for District Leader (Trio) Candidates

To help voting members prepare for the upcoming district leadership elections, we present the following candidate profiles and video interviews. For the video interviews, each candidate was given 10 questions and 10 minutes within which to answer them.

District Director Candidates

Program Quality Director Candidates

Club Growth Director Candidates

Candidate Profiles and Interviews

Barbara Strasdas – District Director – Candidate

Our current challenges give us the opportunity to grow as a District and as members of this visionary organization founded 95 years ago.

The position of District Director calls for a Chief Operations Officer, an  experienced financial manager, and a strong communicator.

Barbara brings a long list of valuable business and Toastmasters experience to this crucial role.

37 years State Licensed Certified Public Accountant

33 years Industry Career as Controller/Administrator in the private sector

20 years Active Toastmasters service

Current District 47 Finance Manager


Analyzer of organization strengths and shortcomings

Developer of Policy and Procedures

Strategic Planner for achievement of organization goals

Positive Leadership of Teams 

Offices Served:

FICPA Women’s Leadership Chair (2)

Palm Beach County FICPA Chapter Chair & Treasurer

District Finance Manager

President’s Distinguished Division Director

District FL Club Coach Chair

District Audit Chairperson

District Contest Advisor

Area Governor (2)

Club Officer (24)

Ivan Thompson – District Director – Nominated Candidate

“Every test successfully met is rewarded by some growth in intuitive knowledge, strengthening of character, or initiation into a higher consciousness.” – Paul Brunton

In April 1998 when I joined this organization as a member of The Healing Communicators Club 7178, I never dreamt that my life would drastically change for the better.  These changes have assisted in moulding me to become the leader I am today.  Just one month later, I was elected to serve as Sargent-at-Arms for the club; this was the genesis of my leadership experience.  This decision, coupled with the unwavering support of Club and District members alike has caused me to serve at basically every Club and District level.

Today we find ourselves experiencing a global pandemic, one that has caused us to change our modus operandi personally, in business, and in Toastmasters.  In the midst of this pandemic, on Saturday 2nd May 2020 during our Annual District Executive Meeting, you will be charged with selecting the next leadership team that will chart the way forward for District 47.  It is in times such as these that experienced and steady leadership is a necessity.

As your nominated candidate for District Director and with the assistance of my team, our mandate for 2020-2021 is “Blaze Your Trail” our centralized focus will be on members as we:

  • Facilitate a smooth transition into the Pathways Program, working with each one of you to help you pinpoint and visualize your short-term and long-term goals as Toastmasters. We will gauge your progress and guide you to effectively achieve your goals.
  • Implement a process which formalizes the mentoring program that is followed today. During my term, there will be an increased focus on the mentoring process with constant review of progress with both mentors and mentees.
  • Building and establishing sustainable clubs will also be a core focus as we augment our District and catapult to a President’s Distinguished District.
  • Lastly, we will continue promoting unity and harmony as a District Family, as we learn and grow together.

Andrew I. Bern – Program Quality Director – Nominated Candidate

Club Growth Director 2019-2020

I would sum it up with C.E.R. Compassionate Leadership, Experienced, Leadership, and Results focused Leadership.

All the members of the District are enduring a trauma of the unknown or uncertain future.  Many have this trauma compounded by financial, health, job, family insecurity, or loss.

Through past performance and training by Toastmasters International at the annual and mid-year trainings, I present myself to the District following the prescribed journey for successful leadership.  I am a member of three (3) physical and a charter member of a virtual club.  I have served as a club officer, a mentor, a club coach (x2), an Area and Division Director before being elected as your Club Growth Director 2019-2020.  I have been nominated by the District Leadership Committee.  On my journey, I also served the District as the Parliamentarian, and DTM manager. I have been a Pathways Ambassador of 8 clubs.  This year, as your Club Growth Director, I participated in the establishment of new clubs.  As of yesterday, 16 clubs have been established and two additional clubs are in process of chartering.  Training in the form of the annual, mid-year training by Toastmasters International, participation in TLI training, development, booking of space (contracting).  I have participated in the DEC trainings and provided reports to all DEC members.

I have participated in the marketing and incentive program for Club Growth.  Program Quality Director is my next step in my leadership journey.  With the knowledge of the past, the commitment to the future, and the compassion to know that many of our clubs and members are hurting from this pandemic and we have the ability to help them.

I am ready and willing to serve ….

Brandon Kinsey – Program Quality Director – Nominated Candidate

Every year in South Florida, there is a Boy Scout event known as the Barefoot Mailman Hike. 37 miles on foot, over 2 days, from Pompano Pier to South Beach, carrying everything you’ll need for the weekend. My name is Brandon Kinsey, and I’ve completed this ordeal 13 times. The first year, I dragged myself across the finish line. The second year I made it across the finish line still standing, if only barely. And by the third year, it was only a brutal hike, instead of a treacherous ordeal. As my experience grew, completing the journey was no longer enough. Focusing only on my destination, was no longer enough. On the fourth year, I tried something new.

As that morning began, the sun just beginning to peek over the horizon, I turned to my fellow Boy Scouts and asked one simple question “How Can I Help?” No, I couldn’t carry their burden for them, and I couldn’t make the journey shorter. But I could offer advice, and experience. I could offer encouragement, and even hope.

This road is long and difficult. Even as far away as it might seem, there is a finish line. And we can make it there together. No! We will make it there together. As this year’s journey approaches its conclusion, and as next year’s journey begins to peek over the horizon, I ask you one simple question. How Can I Help?

I challenge you to share your story. A time when you’ve helped someone, or even a time when someone helped you. Give a speech at your club or share it on Facebook. And as you listen to someone else’s story about how they helped, remember to ask how you can help, and vote for Brandon Kinsey for your next Program Quality Director.

Shakira Taylor – Program Quality Director – Candidate 

As your Program Quality Director my vision is to optimize our district EDUCATIONAL programs to support quality programming, ELEVATE the membership TLI’s, contests and Pathways experience and ENERGIZE all clubs within our district to deepen their COMMITMENT to community, fun, and connection, where everyone wins and succession planning is paramount.

21 years – Business Administration & Management

9 years – Personal & Professional Development Trainer

9 years – Mentorship Trainer

8 years – Educator

10 years of active Toastmaster service

Current District 47 Administration Manager

Toastmasters Involvement

  • o District 47 President Distinguished Division Director
  • o District 47 Distinguished Area Governor
  • o District 47 Conference Registration Chair Fall
  • o District 47 TLI Manager – South Florida
  • o TLI Chair (Multiple Times)
  • o TLI and District Conference Workshop Presenter (Multiple Times)
  • o Club Officer Roles (President, Vice President Education, Vice President Membership & Secretary)
  • o Chief Judge (Area & Division Speech Contests)
  • o New Club Sponsor
  • o Mentor (Club Members, Area Directors, Division Directors, Distinguished Toastmasters)

Austen Canonica – Club Growth Director – Nominated Candidate 

As Club Growth Director for District 47, I, Austen Canonica, vow to dedicate my Toastmasters year to providing excellent marketing strategy for sustained membership and club growth for all members and clubs. My approach will be three-pronged. 

First, I will work with past, present, and future district leaders to form coalitions centered in marketing strategy and membership and club growth, respectively. Our team will analyze the entire district, while each division will have support representatives on the ground that can report on clubs and disseminate information back to the District. This continual two-way flow of information will mitigate ambiguity and conflict, which has plagued many organizations. 

Second, I will maintain networking relationships between Toastmasters with integrity to maximize our collective outcomes. For those that already know me, they know I am a hard worker that gets along with everyone. I will bring members, clubs, areas, and divisions together as much as possible to support one another. 

Third, I am prepared to tackle the obvious obstacles that impede our pathways to normal operations. With an open mind and years of technological experience, I am confident that we may continue serving our members and clubs effectively, enhancing our future outcomes even more than we thought possible before.

It is incumbent upon the Club a Growth Director to ensure all clubs are given the respect they deserve for a fair chance at succeeding. Our strongest clubs will support our struggling and new clubs. No club will be void of district support under my leadership in this role. For the clubs that need additional support, we will do everything we can to ensure no club is lost without every possible avenue taken to save it. We will also grow new clubs that are vibrant and sustainable. Vote for me for CGD!

Andre Kelly – Club Growth Director – Nominated Candidate 

My vision for District 47 as Club Growth Director is one that inspires us to S.E.E

  • Support “Existing Clubs” through incentives and recognition that inspires positive growth performance.
  • Equip “Struggling Clubs” with mentorship, coaching and resources that rebuilds and stimulates improvements.
  • Engage “Corporate and Community Partners” to build a stronger and healthy District with a diversity of Clubs.

I believe as you seize the opportunity and elect me to serve as your Club Growth Director, together we can accomplish extraordinary things.

Yours In Service Andre Kelly, DTM

See also: Profiles and Video Interviews for Division Director Candidates

Call for Nominations: Appointed Leadership Positions

We are now accepting nominations for appointed District Officer positions for District 47. For role descriptions and qualifications, refer to this Call for Nominations. Note that self-nominations are accepted and encouraged.

Candidates for appointed positions – District  Public Relations Manager, Finance Manager, Administration Manager, Logistics Manager, and Area Directors – must submit their nomination form and release (see below) by May 15  2020. Please email forms and any questions to Antionette Fox DLC Chair at .

Candidates may nominate themselves or another person. Appointments will be made by the incoming District Director.

How to Keep Zoom Meetings Secure (Without Driving Your Members Crazy)

Over the weekend, Zoom implemented a security change that will effect all the club and district meetings that have moved online — and could result in participants being locked out of meetings if you’re not careful. These changes are probably a good thing in the long run, but they could be disrupt some meetings this week.

Two settings that used to be turned OFF by default are now turned ON by default for every meeting:

  • An attendee meeting password
  • A “waiting room,” where participants are held in digital limbo until the host admits them

If you had not previously turned these features on, they will be turned on now — unless you deliberately turn them off.

Important: Assuming you have not turned on the meeting password previously, this means the meeting link or meeting ID number you distributed previously won’t work for your members — unless you also supply them with the password. There is also a long, coded link you can share in the format —

— to allow people to attend your meeting without entering the password manually. I recommend also sharing the meeting ID and meeting password in something like this format.

Meeting ID: 4747471963
Password: 863458

Do not publish the link or these credentials on a public page of your website, or there is no point in having a password. Share them selectively with members and registered guests. You can have guests email the VP of Membership, or fill out a contact form on your website, or fill out a registration form, as we’re doing at Club Awesome and Online Presenters.

When this change was initially implemented, Zoom wouldn’t let you turn off the meeting password even if you wanted to (hint: you probably don’t want to). I’m sharing my recommendations for how to use these features if they make sense for you.


At the same time that its use is becoming pervasive, Zoom has come under heavy criticism for security issues and failing to prevent abuses such as Zoombombing, the phenomenon of trolls intruding on online meetings and screensharing pornography or otherwise behaving badly. Nevertheless, some cybersecurity experts say criticism of Zoom is overblown — in the sense that what really matters is how Zoom has responded to plug holes as they have been revealed. Many of the problems that have cropped up are as much a result of people using Zoom in inappropriate ways as they are with the software itself.

If the point is to tighten up security, you may wonder why Zoom still lets you share a coded link that is the equivalent of typing in the password. However, if you’re emailing people the password, the coded link is no more or less secure than that if the email should go to someone it do. However, making the link more long and complicated frustrates certain hacking techniques for guessing Zoom meeting IDs until a valid one is found, then crashing that meeting.

Also, you can change the password at any time and the coded link associated with that password will stop working. This reminds me of how my neighborhood, a gated community, periodically changes the code for the pedestrian gate used by school kids and joggers. When the code has been shared a little too widely, and problems have cropped up, it can be changed.

Recommendation: Keep Meeting Access Secure But Simple

Given that many Toastmasters are participating online meetings for the first time, we don’t want to make it any more complicated than it needs to be. I recommend:

  • Leaving the meeting password feature turned on
  • Sharing the coded link discreetly
  • Using the “Personal meeting room” associated with the account, rather than creating a separate Zoom meeting with its own link for every club meeting. This allows members to use the same meeting link every time. Keep it simple for them, as much as possible.
  • Only changing the password / link combination if you have actual (rather than theoretical) problems with unwanted meeting participants.
Zoom meeting password for “personal” meeting room

Waiting Room: Optional

Like the meeting password, the waiting room feature is enabled by default. This can give meeting hosts more control over who is admitted (only people whose names you recognize), but so far I’m not recommending using it for my clubs. I think it’s one too many complexity to add to the meeting host’s responsibilities.

Two things I don’t like about the feature:

  • It means the meeting can’t start until someone with the account password signs in.
  • It prevents the use of the Claim Host feature described below.

Make Sure Someone Has Administrative Control of Every Meeting

I explain these considerations in more detail in an article I wrote for an audience of IT and business leaders, Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. Short version: every meeting should have someone who is empowered to mute microphones, turn off video, or expel participants who behave inappropriately.

Claim Host, then add a Co-Host

Rather than sharing the account password with everyone who needs that control, I recommend sharing the “Claim Host” code with officers and perhaps the Toastmaster of the Day or other meeting leader. The first person who checks in and sees that there is no meeting host can click the “Claim Host” button and enter that code. The newly empowered meeting host can then share meeting administration rights with others who will need it.

Limit Access to Screen Sharing

Screen sharing settings

Limit the ability to share slides or other onscreen imagery to meeting hosts. When a trusted member who is giving a presentation or needs to share their screen for some other purpose lets you know they need access, make them a co-host. You can have many co-hosts. The point is to prevent untrusted users from being able to share offensive imagery — or, at least, from taking over the whole screen with it. (They could still moon their webcam, but any such mischief would be confined to a thumbnail image — and such abuse is unlikely anyway if you’ve taken the other precautions described here).