I made it through my year as District Director! And it has gone in a flash. To quote Stephen R. Covey – “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” I hope I have invested my time wisely on your behalf this year.
You may recall the three promises that I made after I was elected as District Director at the May 2018 Council meeting:
- We will continue to innovate – and that means that sometimes we will make mistakes, which we will learn from.
- We will always make those decisions in the best interests of our members. If at any time that is not clear, please challenge us.
- We will have fun! We all wish to improve, and we are all volunteers. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy the experience.
Looking back over the past year, I believe I kept those promises.
We have continued to build on previous successes and to introduce new ideas. Many of these can be found in the Incentives Board brochure, which has now been developed as a board game by Florian Bay! Each initiative is designed to encourage and support members and clubs to continue on their journey of success. They include a focus on membership renewals as well as new members, recognition for progress in Pathways and for achieving three or more education awards, and expanding members’ experiences by visiting other clubs.
We haven’t made any significant mistakes, as far as I know! We have identified areas where we can learn and improve.
We held our first ever virtual District Council meeting and District Executive Committee meeting this year, and while both were relatively successful we can certainly improve attendance and make the process easier for attendees. It was also our first three-day District Conference as District 91. It was a hugely successful event in Ashford in May, and the team led by Karen Ince were magnificent. We have reflected on what worked well and where we can improve in future years. We have continued to build on the well-received weekend District Officer Training (DOT) and the Toastmasters Learning Institutes (TLI) as well as enhancing the materials available to support Club Officer Training (COT).
This year also saw each Division taking the lead in one of the monthly newsletters as well as great improvements in our social media presence. Less visible, but just as important, are the improvements in our administration, website and financial management.
Those are just some of the achievements of the fantastic District Leadership Team (DLT) that I have had supporting me this year. In addition, we have had terrific support from the seven Division Directors and 36 Area Directors who have worked so hard for our members throughout the year.
The official measure of our success is the District Recognition Program, similar to the Distinguished Club Program. Our District has already achieved Distinguished status, and is close to being Select Distinguished. What does that mean to our members? It is a reflection of all the hard work in starting new clubs so that more people have access to Toastmasters, the great efforts of clubs in both attracting new members and retaining existing members through high quality meetings, and the brilliant achievement of so many of our clubs themselves being Distinguished. You can see the details on the dashboard here
I talked earlier about building on success. Our District has now been Distinguished or better in every year since our formation in 2014. To sustain that continual growth and level of performance is testament to our commitment to excellence. I have seen that in all the clubs I have been privileged to visit, in the individual displays of integrity and service, and the outstanding examples of leadership that drive our achievements. When I have the honour of collecting the awards for our District at the International Convention in August it will only be possible because of your dedication.
I’m afraid you haven’t seen the last of me yet. I now move on to be the Immediate Past District Director – a title so long it doesn’t even fit on my new name badge! I will still be part of the DLT for 2019-2020, providing support, advice and mentorship to the new team. Having seen them in action at our planning weekend and the DOT I know we are in for another amazing year. The calibre of our leaders across the District is recognised and respected across the Toastmasters International world-wide community. I am so proud that you allowed me the opportunity to play a small part in continuing that tradition. I never imagined the possibility when I first joined Arun Speakers in 2001. You all have the potential and the opportunity to achieve whatever you aspire to, and there is all the support you need available to you.
Together we will continue to change lives – one speech at a time.