Toronto, a vibrant city

Toronto is empowering youth with a special edition Startup Weekend in May 2015 #SWTOYouth

The Back Story
On a crisp Canadian morning in January 2015, two siblings sat down to a refreshing breakfast of cornetto with jam and cappuccino. As the aroma of freshly ground beans wafted through the air, the sister leaned into the mahogany table and excitedly explained her life-changing experience as a volunteer and participant during Startup Weekend the prior year.

“It was such an empowering experience to bond and network with talented people from across Toronto. With only 52 hours to share ideas, form a group, and launch a lean startup, it was as if every team member knew their purpose and was committed to delivering the minimum viable product by Sunday. We pivoted five times, used more sticky notes than I’ve ever used in my entire life, and delivered an awesome presentation to the judges. I want to give back to this community. Are you in?,” said the sister, a digital marketer in the online higher education space.

Her brother, a talented educator, eagerly nodded his head and replied: “That’s awesome! You know, my students always have a difficult time learning about high-level business concepts. This sounds like an excellent way for people to learn more about starting their own business and what it takes to be an entrepreneur while working in a team-based environment. Do you think that this group might be willing to host an event for youth?” And so began the journey of two Canadian siblings to introduce the concept of Startup Weekend to the youth of Toronto.

The Issue: Retiring Boomers & Competitive 21st Century Job Market
With over 5 million residents, Toronto is a booming, multicultural city with over 140 languages and dialects spoken. Half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Canada, with 22 percent of the population aged 15 to 24. With an alarmingly high number of boomer business owners reaching retirement age, only a few have developed successions plan for their businesses.

While the Canadian curriculum provides students with a basic theoretical framework of business, it does not provide youth with sufficient transferable skills to succeed in the 21st century job market where innovation, teamwork, flexibility and communication are valued. Many parents are looking outside the classroom to ensure their children are ready to thrive in the future where many careers do not yet exist.

The Solution: Inspiring Entrepreneurial Greatness in Youth
This May, the two siblings and their inspired organizing committee will lead Startup Weekend Toronto – Youth Edition. This event aims to empower Grade 7 to 12 students to learn transferable business skills through Startup Weekend’s proven experiential, hands-on learning model.

By providing youth with the lessons of entrepreneurship, we can set them up with a competitive advantage later on in life. This special edition will focus on raising enough sponsorship to keep event ticket costs affordable and the event venue centrally located within the city to encourage maximum accessibility for everyone.

Our local community and youth will also benefit by:

● Fostering entrepreneurial skills such as innovative thinking, effective communication, and teamwork
● Building strong community and peer connections through networking and event participation
● Developing transferable skills with a strong emphasis on experiential education
● Understanding business concepts such as ideation, lean launch, pivoting, product development, minimum viable products, presentations, customer validation, and more
● Enhancing students resumes for future educational (i.e. post-secondary applications) and professional endeavors
● Celebrating Toronto’s diverse pool of talent and future entrepreneurs

Your Awesome Contribution: Every Small Action Helps
While sipping their cappuccinos that crisp January morning, the two siblings formed Startup Weekend Toronto – Youth Edition. With a simple action, you can join us in changing the lives of Canadian youth by:

● Spreading the news about our special edition event using the hashtag: #SWTOYouth
● Connecting with us on Facebook or Twitter
● Emailing us at torontoyouth@startupweekend.org

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What To Do When Things Go Wrong

What To Do When Things Go Wrong

Dear L Think Crew:

You’ve put a lot of hard work and planning into preparing for today. You are excited about the opportunities that this will bring your career or personal life. Everything has to go just as planned or scheduled to ensure you don’t lose focus. And then disaster strikes! You forgot a key document, a family member says something terrible, or you have toilet paper dangling from your pants in front of an important group at work. Now what?

As Murphy’s Law states: ‘If it can go wrong, it will!’ But there are some techniques you can use to help you cope when things don’t go as planned.

Pain Is Part of Growth
When we are being pushed by external factors in new directions, it can be incredibly painful. In the moment, we may not realize that we are being forced to re-evaluate our perspective, expand our viewpoint, or just grow in an area that we may not be comfortable with. Embrace this struggle, be patient, and learn from this experience.

This Too Shall Pass
Remember that we all pass through each moment in life with the ability to embrace the opportunity to make a difference. If things are going well, enjoy it. If they are not going so well, learn what you can, but realize that this moment too shall pass. Remember to smile and laugh through the journey.

Your Scars Are An Achievement
When you go through a painful process or learn a difficult lesson, there may be emotional scars left over from this experience. Many times it can be easy to worry or be fearful about this scarring. Instead, embrace it as an achievement or milestone that you have passed. You will be sure not to repeat it.

Be Happy, Be Yourself
It is easy to forget that we only have one opportunity to live our lives. Others may be having a bad day, feeling under the weather or just like to drag other people down into their negativity, but don’t give into this. Be happy, be yourself, focus on your goals. Be enthusiastic about the moment and smile, while others worry and frown. You can’t control other people’s feelings, but you can control your own.

Repeat A Mantra
To stay centered and focused when things are not going well, repeat one of these four mantras inspired by the Tiny Buddha blog:

*Keep your head up and your heart open
*Go slowly
*Don’t sweat the small stuff

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What I Learned As A Contestant In Toastmasters Public Speaking and Evaluation Contest

What I Learned As A Contestant In Toastmasters Public Speaking and Evaluation Contest

Dear Readers,

Recently, I decided to enter a speaking and evaluation contest at my District 60 Toastmasters club. I was curious to learn more about the world of public speaking and how it would feel to be in friendly competition with my fellow club members. I am proud to announce that I placed first in the Evaluation portion and second in the Speech portion of the contest for my area. To help others, I’ve decided to post some of my insights and key learnings from my experience.

Give Your Best Possible Evaluation
The speaker in the contest has spent a long time preparing their speech and may be nervous during the delivery. It is important to give your best possible evaluation by thoughtfully preparing your statements, understanding the criteria for evaluation, and being respectful during delivery. During this contest, the evaluators were being judged in four areas: analytical quality (clear, focused), recommendations (positive, specific, helpful), technique (sympathetic, sensitive, motivational), and summation (concise, encouraging).

Focus On Your Opinion
The evaluation of another speakers performance should reflect your own personal reaction and opinion. When evaluating, I like to focus on how effective that person’s delivery and content was, how they made me feel during the speech, and where I thought they might be able to improve during future speeches.

Use The Sandwich Technique
When evaluating a speaker, I always strive to find a middle ground between commenting on effective areas of the speech and suggestions for improvement. I want to encourage the speaker to continue their journey in improving their public speaking skills and this requires balance in feedback. The ‘sandwich technique’ allows you to provide feedback on an effective area of the speech, then focus on an area of improvement, followed by another positive statement.

Provide Specific Suggestions
When focusing on the areas of improvement, I have found it helpful to provide specific examples of where the speech can be tweaked, along with recommendations on how this can be done. For example, if a speaker was talking about drinking water but was monotone in delivery and used no hand gestures, you may be able to recommend a few hand gestures to compliment a strong delivery of the phrase or the emphasize a point.

Want To Attend A Toastmasters Contest?
Check out the upcoming Division H International Speech and Evaluation Contest on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 7 pm. Registration is FREE, but seats are limited. Register by clicking here.

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Networking

Networking – Tips To Overcome That Awkward First-Time, In-Person Experience

Dear L Think Crew:

Imagine walking into a room full of people. As you look around, you realize to your dismay that you don’t recognize anyone. Oh no! Now, you will need to introduce yourself, make a good impression, find something interesting and memorable to talk about, all by yourself.

Networking: What Would You Do?
Some people would walk out. Others would stumble through the next hour by walking around either looking lost or making awkward conversation in smaller groups. But, there are a few that would effectively and successfully work the room to their advantage. How can you replicate their success? Let’s find out!

Come With A Purpose
Many people find it helpful to research the event that they will be attending in advance to research the venue, people attending, dress code and expectations. While conducting this research, you might as well think about your purpose and objectives for attending the event.

For example, you may want to attend a business networking function to build your contact base within your industry. Your two objectives are to make three new contacts so you can exchange and learn from each other, and further develop your networking skills.

Start The Conversation
Not sure what to say to make a fantastic first impression? Look for someone who is solo or in a small group, approach them and introduce yourself. Use your fantastic memory of current events or relevant industry topics and ask for their insight and opinions.

Focus On The Other Person

When you run out of topics of conversation, try to recall an interesting point that other person made and then elaborate on it. By turning the focus on the other person, you will be seen as thoughtful and you may find new insightful topics to engage it. For example, if the other person had mentioned a new trend they’ve witnessed in their project, ask them to elaborate: “Tell me more about this.” or “Why do you think this is happening?”

End Your Conversation On A Positive Note
Do you run into situations where the conversation seems to drag on and you’re not sure how to gracefully exit? Well, you can wait for the other person to stop talking, make a positive final statement that shows engagement and your interest in networking, and then move onto the next group. For example, you can say “I would like to hear from you on how XYZ project goes. Have you seen David? I’m interested in speaking with him before I go this evening?”

What do you do to make your networking effective?
Leave your comments below on any of our channels – YouTube Channel, FacebookTwitter, or Google+.

Valentine's Day in the Digital Space

Valentine’s Day in the Digital Marketing Space

Dear L Think Crew:

Are you ready for the most lovely (or heart-wrenching) day of the year? Well, no matter how you look at it, Valentine’s Day marks a significant moment to celebrate (or anti-celebrate) love. Retailers and digital marketers love this time of year because of increased spending on luxury items, YouTube anniversary celebrations, and revised strategies to reach customers.

Mobile devices are leading Valentine’s Day purchases
With the prevalence of mobile devices, a new survey has shown that one-third are now purchasing their Valentine’s Day gifts for their loved ones on smartphones or tablets. The age group leading this trend is 18 to 34 year olds that are looking for last-minute, on-demand gifts up to one week before the big day.

YouTube turns 10 on February 14
The video platform services started as a simple space to upload and share videos, was then purchased by Google, and now enjoys 1 billion unique monthly users and a 14% home Internet traffic dominance in late 2014. It just so-happened that YouTube registered its domain name 10 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Share your love for YouTube this year.

Be where your customers are
As a business owner, this trend means that you need to focus on placing your business where your customers are. Create unique and compelling digital experiences with well-placed social media accounts, e-commerce sites or company websites, and optimize for mobile. In addition, be sure to spend the time to understand how your customers find you and optimize that experience.

How will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year?
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