Spring TLI – Unmatched in Attendance and Content!

Summer 2018 TLI Trains Record Number of Leaders

On a warm summer morning, Toastmasters from all over District 57 were assembling for an exciting day at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. July 7 was a typical summer morning, already warm at 7 am, promising to get hot through the day—mirroring the warm introductions among the throngs of newly minted leaders and the hot sessions waiting to follow. The Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) was getting ready to train these leaders.










Latecomers could not make it to seats in the packed auditorium

The first hour of assembly, 7-8 am, took care of registration of the attendees, provision of yummy continental breakfast with bagels, pastry, and coffee to make sure everyone is fully prepared to focus on the training in the hours to follow. Repeat attendees had the chance to greet familiar faces from distant divisions and clubs and get updated on news.

A notable improvement in this TLI was the organization and staffing of the registration area. The process was smooth and without delays even up to the start time. Considering we had a packed auditorium that had maxed out attendance and had the largest crowd ever, this was a significant feat!

After everyone got settled into their seats in the auditorium in the Performing Arts Center, TLI Dean Dennis Neary, DTM, started the day’s business promptly. Right away, we knew there was a problem—no microphone! Undaunted and in typical Toastmasters style, all of us fell into Plan B mode. Presenters projected and the audience trained their ears more. We got going without missing a beat.

Following Dennis’s short opening comments and her introduction, our new district director, Diane Pleuss, took the stage. And what a reciprocal introduction she gave of Dennis Neary, making us understand how accomplished he is! A significant feat he had pulled off is the discharge of the duties of a TLI Dean, having taken it up mere weeks before the event! We will see later how he was able to accomplish it.

We heard from the Trio—Diane Pleuss, ACG, ALB, District Director, Kevin Markl, ACG, ALB, IP4, MS4, Program Quality Director, and Bett Bollhoefer, DTM, Club Growth Director—and got a glimpse of their perspectives on leadership opportunities available from the Toastmasters program. You may recall that all three positions were contested and Diane, Kevin, and Bett are all winners in the elections held in May during the District Spring Conference.

Kevin Markl engages the packed auditorium


Diane’s message was to recognize and seize opportunity. Her story of how her club, at one time, got decimated to five members and how those five built the club back up was downright inspirational. She credited her club with running an extraordinarily successful Speechcraft program that got them back on track. Diane even seized the opportunity to give a keynote address at her Alma Mater. Kevin stressed shared value for officers and members. Bett asked us to visualize success and spelled out the steps involved: plan, execute, communicate, support, and recognize—all part of service leadership. You can view a video of her speech here.

This was followed by a quick intro to Pathways by George Marshall, DTM. Who hasn’t been ruffled by supermarkets switching around merchandising! George took that example to the extreme and compared it to the development of Pathways. The quick message: it’s a highly unsettling change of the status quo, but instead of fighting it, if you embrace it you will start seeing its wisdom. Give it a chance. George also brought to our attention a statistic that makes us all proud to be members of District 57: We are home to two of only 12 clubs in the world to complete all six of the Pathways goals last year! Warehouse Toastmasters and Watergate Toastmasters helped us shine in the playing field that has over 100 districts and 17,000 clubs world-wide.

After a quick break, it was time to branch out into break-out sessions of our choice. There were two sessions in tandem and eight parallel sessions in each of these, giving the attendees the choice to get trained in their club officer role and also gain some leadership skill that transcends specific officer roles. The table below illustrates the choices available to attendees and all the sessions were well attended.

Following the breakout sessions, all of us assembled back in the auditorium for a session on how club officers could work together. The Trio—Diane, Kevin, and Bett—handled the session and when the topic of membership growth came up, Venkat Raman, ACB, ALB, took the stage to describe the successful experiment that his home club, City Speech Toastmasters, had tried in January to grow membership.

Speakers on the big stage, in order of appearance. (L-to-R) Top Row: Dennis Neary, Diane Pleuss, Kevin Markl. Bottom Row: Bett Bollhoefer, George Marshall, Venkat Raman

Remember the success of Dennis Neary we talked about earlier? Everyone knows that nothing of the scope of TLI can be done well by a single person. Not even by just a few people. It really takes an army of volunteers to pull this off. In the closing segment of the event, after the Trio was done with the session, Dennis came back on stage and recognized and thanked all the volunteers that made it possible for him to shine.

We can sing the praise of each of these volunteers in detail, but we’ll take, for want of time and space, the next best approach. Listed at the end are the men and women who made it all come together. A hat tip to each and every volunteer that contributed to the success of this TLI.

Diane Pleuss closed the meeting by saying, “With your help, this will be an epic year!” She encouraged everyone to implement all this new learning back into their home club.

In addition to training club officers to work towards the success of their clubs, an important part of TLI is to introduce district officers to their roles and responsibilities to help the district maintain its commitment to serve all its members. Specifically, this refers to the Area and Division Director training that is part of the parallel breakout sessions. The structure of the breakout sessions allowed the new district officers to get their training and also benefit from the special skill building sessions. This is a welcome change from last year when Area and Division Director training precluded other presentations designed for club officers.

All in all, the TLI this summer was a great success. Just look at what some of the attendees are saying:

“I loved the structure of TLI this year: Gather everyone together – distribute to different workshops – gather everyone once again.” – Hattie Huang

“I liked that there were break-out sessions other than our role training. Also, putting myself out to meet new people has always been challenging. I met three new people and had meaningful conversations.” – Sara Bousfield

“I stepped out of the Effective Evaluation session and went, ‘Wow, Dennis Dawson and Mike Daley really nailed it!’ Before the training, I was evaluating, but blindly; after the training, I am sure I will do it better and more effectively.” – Qun Tang

“Today’s TLI was by far the best one I have ever attended and I believe it was the largest turnout I have experienced. The Trio is fabulous.” – Suzanne Yorkunas, DTM

The next TLI will be offered in January 2019. Plan on attending it. It is sure to be educational and fun!

Finally, here’s the list of people who made it all possible.

People who made this TLI a success:



Diane Pleuss – District Director

Kevin Markl – Program Quality Director

Bett Bollhoefer – Club Growth Director

TLI Dean – Dennis Neary; Mentor – Ed Cullen

Committee Chairs

Education Chair – Tyree Johnson

Evaluation Chair – Jean Cunningham

Facilities Chair – Rosaymar Garcia;  Mentor – Kevin Powell

Hospitality Co-Chairs – Paula Foster & Lindy Sinclair

Room Monitor Chair – Julie Garrett;  Mentor – Sharon Brown

Registration Chair – Shelby Chamberlain;  Mentor – William Wilson

Publicity Co-Chairs – Greg Kaufman & Kevin Markl

Volunteer Chair – David Dai


Alex Aruj, Ashley Harkness, Brendan James Murphy, Dennis Dawson, Dennis Furby, Ed Cullen, George Marshall, Jean Cunningham, Kimberly Whitaker, Manoj Ramanan, Maureen Filler, Michelle Peticolas, Mike Daley, Nicole du Puis, and Venkat Raman.



Some of the volunteers, listed alphabetically below, helped in multiple capacities.

Alli Mueller, Andre Matthews, Andrea Mueller, Bernard (Zeke) Correa, Carolyn Douglas, David Dai, Donna Loo, Ed Cullen, Emil Yanos, Greg Kaufman, Ian McDonald, Linda Stewart, Mathew Fraysse, Max O’Neil, Merci Del Rosario, Miko Ikeda, Pierre Costa, Salar Afshar, Shawn Dunning, Sherry Hsu, Stephanie Butler, Tiffany Mix, Victor Sanchez, Vivian Prater, William Wilson, Wing Lok, and Winnie Ma.

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