Member of the Month

In District 30, there are many members who we feel should be recognized for their passion, dedication and commitment to both Toastmasters International and the educational program. To honor and appreciate them, we have created this page to  acknowledge them.

Every month, we will highlight one dynamic member who has added value to the fabric of District 30 through participation, promotion and/ or positive spirit.


August 2017 – Azella Collins CC


Calvin Gibbs: Welcome Azella and congratulations on being selected as our August 2017 “Member of the Month” for District 30

Azella Collins: Good evening Calvin and thank you. This is quite an honor.


Q: How long have you been in Toastmasters? What clubs do you belong to currently and what is your educational level in Toastmasters?

A: I joined Toastmasters in July of 2014.  My home club is Windy City Professional Speakers and I have obtained the level of Competent Communicator (CC).


Q: What is the single reason, the main reason, that you joined Toastmasters in July 2014?

A: Calvin, my primary reason for joining Toastmasters was to increase my speaking dynamics.  I teach what is considered a very boring subject. I wanted to become the kind of instructor that engages people in my audience and keep them interested in my subject matter. Toastmasters has helped me achieve that goal.


Q:  May I ask what subject you teach?

A: I teach Parliamentary Procedure Board Development and Strategic Planning


Q: Okay. Now I understand why you want to keep the class upbeat (chuckling). Well, that’s great.  Do you teach at a school; or is it a public place?

A: I teach Non profits/Organizations when they hire me.


Q: What is one of the most impressive things that you’ve seen or learned in Toastmasters in the time that you have been involved?

A: First, it is not to go back and repeat something when you’ve made a mistake. I can see that was my modus operandi.  If I thought I misspoke; I would say, “Oh, I don’t want to give you the wrong information, let me…yada yada.” But I have learned to keep going in my presentation.  To correct the mistake in a way that the audience doesn’t  know I’m correcting it.  Second, if I know that I have misspoken or if I have gone so fast that people have not grasped the foundation that they need, I go back and I slow down.  I review the objectives.  I summarize and now, since I’ve learned how to be a dynamic speaker, I throw in a little story and some jokes. That’s what Toastmasters has taught has taught me.


Q: Okay, great. As a speaker, presenter or even teacher do you feel that you, as the presenter, the teacher, or trainer should be right all the time?

A: I feel that you should master your subject matter and you should most definitely be the expert in the room. Because education is evolving through the use of technology, I would say it is impossible to be an expert on all subjects. When I plan my presentations I make sure that I have the most recent authors and the most recent articles. Most not-for-profit board chairs have their favorite authors and it might not be the author that I’m utilizing.  Therefore, when I’m doing strategic planning I know the players and I know what their key points are. I’m able to summarize and do a comparison and a contrast against what I’m saying and what they know.


Q: Thank you for that insight. Parliamentary rules can be a bit difficult to understand. Some people might say it’s boring.  How do you bring it to life and make it relevant and make people want to learn it?

A: You’re absolutely right in your assessment. When I teach, first I do a little synopsis of what the group wants to learn.  I find out where they are in terms of learning parliamentary procedure and I generally teach from their reality. But I make sure that it’s tempered with what Roberts Rules of Order says.  I teach on three different levels:  Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. I also make sure (again) that I am teaching from learning objectives and that the participants are clear at the beginning as to what those objectives are so they can verbalize those objectives before they leave that training. I keep it light by telling jokes; I make puns of my mistakes that I’ve made over the years.  I share other people’s mistakes, and of course, I don’t tell who they are. I add humor to it because I don’t want anybody falling asleep. (chuckle)


Q: I definitely understand that! As a member of Windy City Professionals, what does your club do to invite a visitor and make them feel welcome?

A: We start off all meetings by telling our visitors that our evaluation process is very different.  Because most of us have been in that club 2 – 3 years, we tell them to speak up because they bring fresh eyes. They bring a different focus and we strongly encourage them to participate in the evaluation process. At the end of each meeting we have each guest stand up and tell us what they learned.  We ask what areas they feel that we can do better. We ask of their overall impression of us.


Q: We’re getting close to the end of our interview. Through your teaching, what is the most significant change that you have brought to an organization?

A: I’ve been a member of three clubs and I’m gone probably 5 months out of every year. So, I tend to volunteer for a functionary role each time I attend a meeting. In my role, I always find a way to interject some parliamentary procedure. When I’m the General Evaluator I can really do that but as a parliamentarian, I like to follow the rules and make sure the agenda is followed. Be cognizant that we start and end on time. Just make sure that speakers adhere to those guidelines.  That’s how I  bring my professional background into Toastmasters.


Q: Azella, thank you very much again for sharing some time with us today.

A: You are welcome; thank you for this opportunity.



Calvin Gibbs DTM is District 30’s Public Relations Manager for 2017-2018. He joined Toastmasters in April 2013 and has served in various Club and District Officer roles. He is a member of Beyond the C’s. You can reach Calvin at at 



For a list all Archived 2017 Members of the Month, click here