Updates & Posts

Arnaud Sartre: Achievements

We are entering the final month of the Toastmasters Program Year, and the final stretch when it comes to our Club, Area, Division and District Goals. 

I have had the pleasure to attend multiple meetings and events starting with our Ashford conference at the beginning of May, and am humbled to carry on the next Program Year as Program Quality Director. Thank You!

Talk Up Toastmasters Awards – Final results!

By popular demand, I am very pleased to release the winners of the Talk Up Toastmasters Award to an astonishing group of Clubs that have not only met the minimum requirements but most definitely smashed last year’s record number of Club winners! Congratulations to all 35 Clubs that have gained 5+ members during the February/March period! Winning Clubs would have already received a Talk Up Toastmasters! ribbon for their Club banners from Headquarters, with a pack of Pathways ribbons from the District on its way very soon!

DivisionAreaClub nameGrowth
K581st London Toastmasters 18 
L47London Business School Public Speaking Club 12 
K58City of London Toastmasters Club 11 
B06London Athenian Speakers Toastmasters Club 10 
K13Canary Wharf Communicators Club 10 
A46Newbury Speakers Club 9 
B29Trojan Speakers Club 9 
A14Farnham Speakers Club 7 
B08London Victorians 7 
B29Riverside Communicators 7 
C33Speakerforce London Toastmasters Club 7 
H15Clapham Connectors 7 
K31Ofgem Speakers Club 7 
L56Data Science Speakers Club 7 
L61HOD Speakers Club 7 
A42Ferndown Speakers 6 
C05City Limits Speakers 6 
C05Covent Garden Speakers 6 
H55Brighton & Hove Speakers Club 6 
H37Kent Speakers Club 6 
K12Barking Toastmasters 6 
K03Central London Toastmasters 6 
A46Microsoft Speakers Club 5 
A01Spinnaker Speakers 5 
A14Guildford Speakers Club 5 
C33St Pauls Speakers 5 
C02Holborn Speakers 5 
H35Connected Speakers Bromley 5 
H15Croydon Communicators Club 5 
J21Wokingham Speakers 5 
J11Cheltenham Speakers 5 
K58PMI UK Toastmasters Club 5 
K31Wharf Speakers 5 
L56Deutsche Bank Toastmasters London 5 
L47London Communicators Club 5 

Beat The Clock 

Let’s not forget Beat The Clock! With some amazing rewards to finish the year on a high note if gaining 5+ members during the May-June period.

Beat the Clock Challenge

Zeus Award

What is this? First time hearing about it? Looking forward to it? Well, this little-known District incentive will recognise Clubs that have managed to win all 3 Club Membership contests (Smedley Award, Talk Up Toastmasters! and Beat The Clock) as well as grow their net membership by 10+ members. 

With the results of Beat The Clock out, the following Clubs are still in contention for a truly special reward Zeus Reward:

City Limits Speakers
London Victorians
Barking Toastmasters
PMI UK Toastmasters Club
Covent Garden Speakers
Canary Wharf Communicators Club 
London Business School Public Speaking Club 
City of London Toastmasters Club 
Riverside Communicators
Holborn Speakers

Outreach Awards

Although many members have been involved in one of our outreach programs (Speechcraft or Youth Leadership Program), this is seldom spoken about. 

With the year coming to an end, I intend to formally recognise all these contributions once we conclude the program year on 30thJune. If you have been involved or planning such outreach, get in touch.

Club Support

We have a multitude of new Club leads at various stages, and I am actively looking for sponsors/mentors willing to support a new Club break ground and thrive. If you are a trailblazer, get in touch! Mentors need to be able to commit to 6 months supporting a new Club from Charter. 

The reward is immense, and a successful applicant will also receive Club Building credit towards the Advanced Leader Silver on the Traditional Program. 

Fancy a different challenge? Becoming a Club Coach may just be the right opportunity. Clubs at or below 12 members qualify for a Coach. Successful Coaches will transform a Club with low membership back to charter strength and for a limited period also gain both Club Building credit andDistrict Officer credit (until 30 Jun 2020 only). This is a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and gain valuable skills. Interested? get in touch!

Florian Bay: Ending the Year Strong

The 2019/20 Toastmasters Year is slowly drawing to a close, yet now more than ever it is crucial not to drop our eyes on the ball as current and future success is determined by our actions as leaders. Last week-end, the incoming District Trio held a day-long marathon planning session to discuss the key priorities for the year ahead and handover responsibilities. All of us found the exercise very useful and it is something that I am planning to introduce in my own club.

Florian Bay, District 91 Program Quality Director 2018-19

Some elements to discuss in this handover/planning meeting could include:

  • Updating your club success plan.
  • What worked well/didn’t work well in the 2018/19 Toastmasters year.
  • Identifying possible initiatives to introduce at the club level.
  • How your club can achieve our District vision of every member achieving one award each year, retaining 70% of our members every year and maintaining club membership at 20+ and ideally 30+ members throughout the year.

As the year comes to an end remember to do the following tasks as soon as you can or as soon as they arise:

  • Submitting your list of club officers for the 2019/20 Toastmasters Year.
  • Submitting educational awards on club central for any member that achieves an award or a Pathways level. Updating District guidance for Basecamp managers can be found here.
  • Celebrating your members achievement with a special meeting that will also be a great marketing opportunity.
  • Handing over login details of social media platforms, email accounts, bank details etc.

Personally, I am looking forward to see us ending the 2018/19 Toastmasters year on a higher note than last year. I’m also really looking forward to what next year will bring, more on this soon!

Andy Hammond: Success and Succession

What an amazing weekend we had in Ashford at the beginning of May! Our first three-day conference as District 91 got off to a great start on Friday with the formal District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting, wonderful workshops, the District Table Topics Contest and the Candidates’ showcase.

Distinguished Toastmasters Reception

A new event this year was the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) reception. This was an opportunity for members who have achieved their DTM award this year to be recognised in the company of our existing DTMs. It was a fitting celebration of their notable achievement and something that we hope will establish itself as a regular feature.

Ashford Rock Choir

The evening was rounded off with a delightful dinner and excellent entertainment from the Ashford Rock Choir and the improv group A Pair of Four with Chris Murphy of Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club. They played a huge part in creating a real buzz among delegates that continued into Saturday and the formal opening of the Conference.

Pair of Four

The highlights just kept on coming throughout the weekend. Every time I thought the conference was going really well, it just got even better! Magnificent keynote speakers, a plethora of professional workshops, and the District finals for the Humorous Speech, Evaluation, and of course the International Speech contest. Congratulations to all the contestants.

One of the greatest pleasures of my year as District Director was to recognise some of the outstanding achievements of our members at the Hall of Fame. It is always extremely difficult to choose which of our dedicated and hard-working members deserves these awards when there are so many worthy candidates.

Andy Hammond, District91 Director, 2018-19 with Mary Robson

The awards this year went to:

  • Area Director of the Year – Sam Warner Area J11
  • Division Director of the Year – Janet Alkema Division A
  • Toastmaster of the Year – Steve Birch of Malvern Speakers and Worcester Speakers
  • District Director’s Award – Mary Robson of North Oxford Speakers, Oxford Orators Club and Oxford Speakers Club

Saturday also saw the District Council meeting, where your leaders for the new Toastmasters year were elected. Your incoming trio are District Director Florian Bay, Program Quality Director Arnaud Sartre and Club Growth Director Helena Boden-Brewer. They will be working with your new Division Directors Mike Burrows, Rupa Datta, Ken Essien, Sandra Mighty, Nikita Parks, Liang T Li and Beauty Zindi. I know you will give them the same great support you have given me and this year’s team.

With just six weeks of the Toastmasters year left, we are in a busy transition period. While still aiming to achieve our personal, Club and District goals, the planning for the new year is well underway. I met with the incoming trio recently as part of our handover, and the new District Leadership Team (DLT) is meting over the first weekend in June to start work on our District Success Plan for 2019-2020. The District Officer Training (DOT) for the new Division and Area Directors takes place the following weekend. You will shortly be receiving details of your local Club Officer Training (COT) and I would encourage you all to attend – it is of value to all members, not just Club Officers.

It has been a year of many successes, and I will reflect further on those in my final update as District Director next month, and as we focus on handing over to our successors, we will continue to change lives – one speech at a time.

Contestant to Chief Judge

By Tazud Miah, Division C Director 2018-19

I’ve been fortunate enough to compete at the District Finals three times over my years as a Toastmaster, how does being a Finalist compare to being a Chief Judge?

As a contestant, you are there to simply enjoy the moment; having worked hard to get to the finals, you know it is a special occasion where you will have the chance to speak in front of your biggest Toastmaster audience to date. 

There is a nervous energy present within you, giddy at the thought of winning it all, the next name added to the illustrious hall of fame. There is only one person you need to worry about, you! The Contest Chair will get in touch and ask you for a favourite quote or hobby. You can sleep well knowing that things are in order and you just need to turn up…

As a Chief Judge, things are somewhat more demanding. You may have a team of 18 people to co-co-ordinate on the day. You hope that they turn up as expected, but if they do not, there is an almighty dash to find an appropriate set of replacements. 

As it is the District Finals, there is an elevated desire to make sure that everything possible is done to ensure our Contestants get the best service and that District delivers the right result. If a process is enacted wrongly, you could be impacting the experience of 7 contestants, who have waited 6 months for this opportunity. 

The intensity of getting the performance right was not something that I had expected to feel. I’d thought having been a finalist and dealt with contest pressure, this facilitation task would be relatively straightforward!

In the 6-hour window of service, you learn to refine leadership skills in ways you hadn’t envisaged. The ability to inspire and define an assessment role as central to our value of integrity. The need to shore up the mental strength needed to be firm and fair for a protest that might occur. The ability to keep an air of effortless grace whilst meeting friends and guests – somewhat difficult for me as my face – according to well-wishers – appears to telegraph emotions very vividly!

You sit through the speeches not in a state of calm but of active duty. Are the timing lights still working, has the speaking area been breached? Did the speaker just swear, what might that mean? Is there something that might be considered as contravening the speech guidelines? Where did that Tie Breaking Judge sit!?

A sense of relief starts to descend when you make it to the counting room. The ballots are reviewed and announced to the counters in a monotone-non-triumphant-pools-announcer voice. Judge Smedley, 3 points for Speaker1, 2 points for Speaker 2, 1 point for Speaker 5.

The high of being able to return and announce the Winners, without getting the order wrong, or showing everyone the names on the certificates as you walk on the stage, is a delight. A rapturous applause welcomes the winners and they get their reward for their dedication, discipline and brilliance for what would have been an intense 3 months.

You leave the stage basking in the glow of a job well done, the human hive has done its job! To me, the most endearing realisation is recognising the contributions of our Toastmaster Community. So many come together at our District Conferences to make it run smoothly, unpaid, except in gratitude and smiles, leading to my meme that I share with others. Toastmasters: Where stories are made.

If you are looking for your next challenge, put yourself forward to be Chief Judge at a District Conference!

Road to Final

By James Cross, District 91 Evaluation Champion 2019

Pacing up and down outside a hall filled with a 150-strong, expectant audience, heart thumping, knees shaking, repeating a 3-minute mantra over and over again, breathing deeply… It’s safe to say there aren’t too many moments like the one just before you deliver an evaluation. 

My Journey to becoming the District 91 Evaluation Competition Champion has been an incredible ride. All-consuming, intense and, at times, overwhelming (especially having only delivered my Icebreaker in November 2018!)

James Cross with Tazud Miah (Div C Director)

 Learning to deliver an effective, award-winning evaluation in such a short space of time hasn’t always been pretty, but thanks to the need to learn so quickly, it has meant I have gained experiences and learnt lessons which will stay with me for a long time to come. Here are three of those things.

Lesson 1 – structure is key. 

After delivering my very first evaluation in January 2019 I thought it was ok but I knew something was missing. Over the coming weeks, ahead of my club competition, I continued delivering evaluations and improving, but found myself struggling to find the right words to articulate effectively what I had just seen. 

When I discovered I was going to be representing Kings Cross Speakers at the Area 34 contest (despite finishing second at club level as the winner dropped out) I decided I needed to find words and phrases in order to build my vocabulary. I thought having a deeper well to draw from would allow for a richer and more plentiful evaluation. 

I picked the brains of experienced and accomplished Toastmasters, googled ‘descriptive words’, and made sure I knew what sort of things I’m looking for in a speech and the sort of things I would say about them. 

Most importantly of all, I learnt the golden structure of Toastmaster evaluations: commendation, commendation, recommendation, recommendation, commendation, summary.  

When it came to the competition, I drew the ballot and found out I would be delivering my evaluation first. I was nervous and inexperienced but knew what to say and how to say it. 

Thanks to structuring my speech clearly and having more confidence in the words and phrases I used it meant, despite having the smallest amount of time to prepare, I was able to communicate my points clearly and succinctly.

Lesson 2 – be yourself on stage.

Despite winning the Area Contest, I was enamoured by the evaluations my competitors delivered. When my name was called for first place I was genuinely shocked and surprised. Having not watched my own evaluation I couldn’t believe I’d won and not them.

In preparation for the Division Contest I was able to reflect and work out why I was the one going to the next round and not them.  

I won the competition thanks to structuring and timing my evaluation best on the night. However, I was also able to realise that what I was missing was a bit of an x-factor, the ‘something’ which made my evaluation unique.

Crucially, I worked out that the best speeches are the ones delivered by real people, not from a textbook.

The evaluations I watched had personality, humour, vulnerability and, as a result, were engaging and convincing.

If it wasn’t for one or two structural decisions they made they could (and perhaps should) have won on the night. I realised that we, the audience, look to see a real person on stage, someone who is re-living, not re-telling, someone who is truly invested in what they are saying and not just drawing on learnt phrases and words.

By allowing yourself to just be yourself it means you’re speech is inherently unique. It’s full of the words and ideas many of us have learnt and heard before but delivered in a way that’s impassioned and built on moments which resonate most with you. Crucially, delivering in this way makes you engaging, believable and credible.

Lessons 3 – practice doesn’t make perfect, but it makes you bloody hard to beat!

By combining structure with more personality I was able to navigate the Division C competition and advance to the final, the big one, the District 91 final. 

Just before writing this article I was on the phone with my Brother and he shared with me a quote which summarised perfectly the lesson, the most obvious secret, I’ve learnt from my journey.

It isn’t how to use the pace of the speech in order to allow an audience to absorb every word you say,  nor how to use body language to paint a clear picture in someone’s mind, and it certainly isn’t how to handle your nerves better (definitely still working on that one!)

Simply put, it is “good people practice until they get it right, brilliant people practice until they can’t get it wrong.”

The biggest lesson I learnt from the whole process was that commitment, passion, investment, dedication and good old fashioned, unbeatable hard-work really does pay off.

My success was my preparation. 

In the run-up to the final, I consistently practised evaluations in my flat. I was able to draw on a rich, intelligently organised, priceless archive of Toastmaster meetings  in the form of Early Bird Speakers TV (anyone looking for a wealth of speeches dating back to 2011 to learn and develop your craft from look no further!) before graduating on to Ted talks and world-renowned speeches in order to prepare, prepare and then prepare some more. 

Through sheer determination alone it meant that when I took the stage in the District Final, I had a wealth of knowledge, history and experiences I could draw from. Thanks to this, despite not delivering the perfect evaluation on the day, I was able to deliver a speech structured clearly with a considered use of language which was performed in a unique and impassioned manner in the confidence that I’d done it all before. 

I didn’t deliver perhaps the perfect evaluation, but I made sure I delivered the best one on the day.

I know you’ve most likely heard these three lessons before, and you will probably hear them again, but hopefully by reading a bit of my story and how I came to learn them will give you the opportunity to grow as much as I have and be best evaluator, speaker and communicator you can be.It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride going from icebreaker to District Award Winner (if I write it enough times I think I’ll eventually start believing it…) and absolutely none of it – including delivering my icebreaker – would have been possible without the support, guidance and mentorship of fellow Toastmasters. Amongst the many members of Kings X Speakers, I’m hugely grateful for the time, generosity and advice given by Stella Meadows and Tariq Pasha of Kings X Speakers, and Taz Miah of Early Bird Speakers. Through their combined wisdom and experience shared it meant I was truly able to stand on the shoulders of giants and achieve something I wouldn’t have ever believed possible.