Published in Toastmasters International Alumni newsletter

In response to a request from Toastmasters back in August, I wrote a 250 word story about how my Toastmasters experience has helped me after I decided not to renew my membership, but to move on to other endeavors. I dashed off the story and then promptly forgot about it. then I received a message last week saying they were going to use my story. “What story? For What magazine?” I was having a real senior moment. The senior copywriter sent me the story I had sent in, and oh yes, then I remembered writing it. I didn’t realize it was going to be a separate newsletter, devoted to stories from alumni of Toastmasters International. Instead of just taking my story as I had written it, they wrote one about me, with lots of quotes from what I had written. It’s still mostly mine, and I wanted to share it with you. the name of the publication is “Toastmasters Alumni, Learn the Latest.” You can probably find it at

Portrait of Success

Book-Signing Smarts

How do you extinguish monotony at your book reading? If you’re Mary Hiland, an author and blogger who happens to be blind, you call upon lessons previously learned at Toastmasters, including that of vocal and visual variety.

“A book-signing can be as boring as a literature lecture, but as a former Toastmaster, I first took vocal variety to the highest level, by asking my friends to read sections of the book for me,” she says. “I couldn’t read it myself, because I’m blind, but I introduced each person before they read.”

Hiland also incorporated visual variety by having each of her readers stand when they spoke. “I stood whenever I spoke, but when my readers would stand to read, I would sit down,” she recalls.

Hiland brought plenty of copies of her book, “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: A Daughter’s Memoir,” to the book signing and held it up for people to see. She encouraged questions and comments; she incorporated humor and seemingly made eye contact, “as I am pretty good at faking it,” she relays.

She knew her audience—one of the “cardinal rules of Toastmasters,” she states. In this case, it was a group of seniors who either had just gone through the process of moving a parent into assisted living or knew it was coming soon.

Hiland made sure she practiced her opening monologue, the segues into each reading and her ending, just as she would when delivering a speech at her former Toastmasters club.

The one mistake she made? “Not bringing enough books to sign—a sign of success!” Hiland exclaims. She credits Toastmasters for her book-signing smarts.

Mary Hiland

Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”

Available at, dldbooks, and NLS Talking Books DB 91261


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