Meet a Toastmaster

Division H: Who are we?

by Stuart Field, Division H DirectorD

Since Division H was created 16 years ago, its boundaries have changed many times. New clubs have chartered, new Areas have been created, and Toastmasters International now serves over 700 members across Kent, Sussex, and parts of Surrey and the South London Boroughs.

At one time – way before Division H existed – Epsom Speakers was the only club in our current geographic area. Chartered in 1966, it would be over 20 years before it would be joined by Arun Speakers (1989), Canterbury Communicators (1991), Mole Valley Speakers (1991), and Bromley Speakers (1992). The 2000’s saw a strong period of growth, with 11 clubs chartering that are still with us today. And since 2013, a further 10 clubs have brought the total up to 26.

Three clubs joined Division H this year: In July, we welcomed Meridian Speakers and Lewisham Speakers from Division K, when Division boundaries were realigned slightly; and in August, Beckenham Communicators became our latest club to charter. 

Five prospective clubs are currently building their membership up to the 20 that will enable chartering. These are: Sutton Speakeasy, Legacy Speakers Brixton, Liberty Speakers (Norbury), The Reigate Rhetoric and Spirited Speakers (Forest Row). Each club is supported by enthusiastic and dedicated members that want to enable more people to benefit from Toastmasters.

While the majority of clubs in Division H are community-based, four corporate clubs are located at employers that recognise the value of a Toastmasters club in the workplace. These are: County Communicators (West Sussex County Council), Connected Speakers Bromley (Bank of America), TPR Speakers (The Pensions Regulator) and Clinical Communicators (Fisher Clinical Services). 

Our clubs and members are also engaged in a wide range of community activities. These include Speechcraft and the Youth Leadership Program, as well as supporting local groups. In addition to providing leadership opportunities for members, these provide non-members the opportunity to start developing their own communication skills, and raise awareness of Toastmasters International outside our organisation.

With a total of 31 chartered and prospective clubs – and over 700 members – Division H has come a long way since its creation in 2003. More people than ever are now able to benefit from Toastmasters in the South East, and we look forward to many more years of growth and success.

Meet a Toastmaster: Julie Kertesz

What has been your journey with Toastmasters?

I was a Toastmaster for 3 years at Monument TM Maryland in 1977-1980 and finished the first manual that had 15 projects at the time. That gave me courage to speak for the rest of my professional life.

I discovered Lewisham Speakers and some other clubs, 10 years ago, when I arrived to live in London from Paris.

In 2016, I created the first online Toastmaster Speciality Club Witty Storytellers Online. I was the Pathways Ambassador in 2015 and remotely joined Virginia club in District 27 to commence Pathways in March 2017.

Julie Kertesz DTM

What prompted you to set up an online club?

In London, I started sharing personal stories within Toastmasters and with Spark London. Then, as President of Lewisham Speakers, created an ongoing Storytelling workshop followed by an High Performance Leadership (HPL) project on conducting Storytelling workshops as Area Governor within all the Area 59 clubs. This resulted in 9 toastmasters sharing their personal stories and getting courage to start the online club.

Witty storytellers Online, now in its 3rd year, is an ongoing personal storytelling lab where we improve our storytelling skills in every meeting, listening and giving feedback, also inviting some specialists for Storytelling and Humor workshops. Am currently serving as the President and Pathways Guide for the club. 

What are the goals and challenges that you have set for yourself this year? How are they progressing?

For 2018, my goal was to become a Pathways Guide. In D91, I was named Pathways Ambassador with 10 clubs, and Chief Pathways Guide. I am also serving as the Pathways Guide and Ambassador in March, for Undistricted clubs mostly in Kenya.

Another challenge for me is to continue writing my Pathways Experience blog, https:pathwaysexperience.blogspot.com/(now over 100,000 hits) and also moderate daily the Pathways Discussion Forum on Facebook that was created in 2017. 

Do share something about you outside the toastmaster world.

Grandmother of five, in my 85th year 

Storytellerfrom 77 year old Standup Comedian having visited 77+ clubs

Bloggerfor 15+ years now 

Photographyis my passion with 15 million views on Flicker

How have you been able to transfer the skills acquired in Toastmasters to your personal life?

More in the other direction, using what I learned in life to Toastmasters. Now my personal life revolves around Toastmasters Online encouraging remote access in London and offering workshops for or through my Toastmaster Tribe. Through Toastmasters, I do not feel lonely as I can share what I have learnt especially in Pathways. 

Lastly, when I was feeling low, I finished Thinking Positive Project, and it helped me a lot.

Congratulations on your Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award! We would love to hear about your experience with Pathways and achieving the award. 

I started my DTM journey as an Ambassador in 2015 for REP (as Pathways was then called). Then having joined the remote club in District 27 and that put my journey on an exponential trajectory. I finished first three paths by end of 2017 and used all occasions to speak in all the clubs near me, in London while sponsoring new clubs. 

I have been asked to sponsor a new online club in summer last year and become a remote access club coach in Canada. Forming a small strong team, I launched my DTM Project, Pathway Storyswap inside clubs and districts, using the learning from my first paths. I obtained DTM within Pathways at the end of November 2018. 

Please share a takeaway message for toastmaster members who are not sure about taking up leadership roles.

I was requested to take up the role of VP of Membership almost as soon as I joined Lewisham Speakers. Being asked to contribute increased my belongingness to the club.

I hesitated a bit when it came to take on the role of the club President. Pat Johnson, the International President then, came to UK and in her speech said “I just learned how to be”. I realized that we can learn as we go!What a wonderful inspiration. Dare to do and it’s a great learning experience which brings joy when you see others growing. 

Pathways, with some of its problems and resolution of them, gave me a new passion and energy. Toastmasters is my Tribe. 

Never too late, is the motto of my life and I believe it.

How to GE at Home and Away

By Shaheen Jamshed Mufti, Immediate Past President, Early Bird SpeakersB

The following is a transcript of a workshop delivered on Thursday 23 August 2018 at my home club, Early Bird Speakers at the request of our club President, Niels Footman. The focus was on how to be a General Evaluator both within one’s home club and in the wider Toastmasters community.

On a Wednesday morning, few months ago, I was standing in front of a group of about thirty people. I was at another Toastmasters club in London and I was the General Evaluator that morning.

I was also about to do something different. Inspired by many characters in Early Bird Speakers, I went up on stage and delivered my general evaluation to the audience, presenting each of the functionaries with specific feedback…and all of that for over 7 minutes…without notes – a personal challenge after having given general evaluations in the past, with notes.

I was thanked for my general evaluation and at the end of that meeting, five guests came up and spoke to me, wanting to visit Early Bird Speakers. And in the weeks that followed, all of them did.

Now, I’ve yet to have the opportunity to one day sit in that chair and be General Evaluator here at Early Bird Speakers, but I have had my fair share of evaluating at other clubs.

So, to begin with, what exactly does the General Evaluator do?

The General Evaluator provides feedback for the functionaries, meeting quality and those things that have not been evaluated during a meeting. 

The General Evaluator provides a club with an opportunity to improve on different parts of the meeting, so that it can elevate itself in pursuit of excellence.

Now, those are the benefits for the functionaries of a meeting and for the club at large. But what are the benefits for you as General Evaluator?

Here are few of them:

  • You have the potential and the power to improve the quality of future club meetings
  • You are challenged to pay attention to and observe all parts of the meetings
  • Exercise your critical thinking skills in ways you might not have done before
Shaheen J Mufti, Immediate Past President, Early Bird Speakers

And if you are General Evaluator at another club, you can

  • Challenge yourself by speaking in front of a group of strangers in a setting away from your home club environment
  • Have the opportunity to network with other Toastmasters, invite them to visit your home club as guests, judges and GEs
  • Show them what your home club is all about!

Overall, everyone benefits from you being a General Evaluator, whether it’s here at Early Bird Speakers or at another club.

Right, so you’ve decided to be the general evaluator one morning and our VP Education or VPE at another club has slotted you into the agenda. What next?

Well, for a great general evaluation, I have a few a suggestions that you can make note of.

You can divide your General evaluation process into three parts:

  1. Preparation
  2. The Evaluation
  3. Post Evaluation

PREPARATION

Once you have been assigned the role of GE, you can, in effect, start doing your homework.

  • Easyspeak – See who is on the agenda and what roles will they be performing
  • Arrive early and meet members of your club (or members of the club you are visiting)
  • Have a notebook/paper at hand and two pens (in case one runs out!)
  • Grab a copy of the agenda and check for any changes that have been made
  • Reflect on what are the qualities of a good Toastmaster, Timekeeper, evaluator etc
  • Sit and make notes during the meeting
  • Can’t find a commendation or recommendation? Whisper and ask the person next to you. Our fellow club member, Julie did that once. Take advantage of any break some meetings might have to fish for recommendations for those who has already gone on stage. 

THE EVALUATION

  • Make use of your allotted time – Early Bird Speakers gives seven minutes to the general evaluator, many clubs have a time of 10 minutes. I operate in the Early Bird Time Zone so I end up finishing earlier when I have more time at my disposal – Use every minute you have!
  • C-R-C (Commendation, recommendation, commendation) model is good – the sandwich of truth. If there is a packed agenda and limited time, R-C is a good alternative. Whilst the latter might seem a little ‘harsh’ as you will be launching into a recommendation without starting off with ‘gentler words’, remember that what you’re sharing is coming from a place of sincere intent to provide the speaker/functionary with genuine feedback that they can benefit from. If this is presented in a tactful manner then all is well. If visiting another club, it might be a good idea to see what their usual practice is. In most cases, it is C-R-C and they might be expecting that. Perhaps you can tailor your evaluation according to the needs/expectations of that club.
  • Provide specific, individual feedback to each of the functionaries being evaluated – look out for those things that took place on stage, preparation the functionary might have done off stage as well as impact on audience.
  • Because the roles are so diverse when you’re being GE, you can look out for things specific to each role. F instance, I often commend/recommend timekeepers on whether they bring something extra to the role, like a bit of humour or personality. But you can just as easily evaluate them on whether they’re getting the basics right. Are they making the names of the Table Topics speakers clear, for instance? Are they summarising what the Table Topics speakers said?
  • As another example, is the Toastmaster doing the role properly? Are they combining personal presence with efficient running of the meeting? In the intros, are they building up each speech/speaker?
  • Avoid clichés where possible (unless severely affecting speech) i.e. hand clasping – as an alternative, provide the speaker with a challenge – E.g. I’d like to see fluid hand gestures
  • If you’re up for it, take on a personal memory and retention challenge – no notes. However, providing valuable feedback to each functionary takes priority over any personal challenge, so if you feel that someone will miss out on valuable feedback due to forgetfulness, keep your notes close by!

POST EVALUTION

  • Get feedback – How did you do? Though you are the final ‘disher-outer’ of feedback during a meeting, it doesn’t make you immune to receiving any yourself – Looking at the official TM ballot sheet, there is a section for giving feedback to a GE. Ask for feedback from the meeting attendees. Find ways to improve. One member from another club (after I was GE) said that I need to speak more about what was ‘below the surface’ – a polite way of saying my evaluation lacked depth, but that gave me the feedback to review on what I did and how I could do better.
  • If you’re at another club, network network network! Speaking to others, you might find future judges, speakers, general evaluators and guests for your club. Also, you might make friends, business partners or even lovers!

Summary, you all have the ability to be General Evaluators at your home club or at another club. Give yourself the challenge to step up onto the stage and speak in ways you’ve never done before.  If you feel you need more experience evaluating before sitting on that [gesturing to the GE seat in the Early Bird Speakers meeting room] throne or visiting other clubs, don’t worry – I only had one speech evaluation under my belt before I went on my GE tour to other clubs.

And imagine for a moment – if there are 25 members in your home club – if each one you visited one club each – 25 different clubs (can be anywhere in the world) with another 25 members each, that is theoretically 625 Toastmasters finding ways to improve as speakers and leaders and apply what they’ve learnt in their daily personal and professional lives – thanks to you!

And it all starts by you getting up on stage and being General Evaluator.

Now get out there and get GE-ing!

Have fun!

3 point Summary:

  1. Like any speech, even the role of being General Evaluator can benefit from preparation. Have your tools (pen, paper, agenda and spare pen) at hand
  2. When presenting the evaluation, provide specific feedback to each of the functionaries based on their individual roles
  3. As you would after any speech, seek out feedback on how you can improve so the next time, you can provide a better general evaluation

Have a great time providing fantastic feedback to other Toastmasters and positively affecting the wider Toastmasters community.


Experience at Speaker to Trainer workshop

By Tariq Pasha, Area Director C 34

So what were you up to on the morning of Sunday 2 December?

Having a lie-in? Planning your Christmas shopping? Getting ready to watch one of the three local derby games in the Premier League? 

None of the above for three Division C Area Directors! No, we had signed up for the “Speaker to Trainer“ course designed and led by the inimitable Pedro Casillas.

Tariq Pasha, AD C34

The aim of the course was to give Area Directors (AD) the skills and tools to improve the winter round of Club Officer Training (CoT) about to get under way.

The selected topics neatly dovetailed with the results of Club Leadership survey conducted in November: demystifying and deconstructing Pathways and a session on how to create and run successful clubs that cater for the needs of their members (a.k.a. Moments of Truth). There was also a module on preparing for Divisional and District Leadership for those ADs who may be looking to step up a level next toastmaster year. 

Ken (Area Director C5) particularly enjoyed the practical sessions of brainstorming and presentations, to capture the three pillars of the event; MOT, Pathways and Leadership vision

As you would expect from a course led by Pedro all the session were very hands on and interactive with the delegates presenting their ideas and visions in a series of break-out groups after introductory and priming comments from Mr. Casillas.

Pedro had promised us an intensive day. There was a mountain of pre-course documentation to navigate through before arrival. He had also impressed upon us to bring a packed lunch as there would be no time to leave the building during the day! 

And boy, he was not kidding!

The morning flew by in a whirl and after a short break for lunch we dived straight into the afternoon agenda which also raced by in a flash.  It was a great learning experience for all who took part and I am sure will be invaluable preparation for the next round of COT. 

I would encourage the District to adopt this type of immersive course as a regular feature of the toastmaster year to provide a refresher for ADs as they prepare for the second round of COTs. 

A special thanks to Pedro for his hard work in designing and delivering the modules and to Brad Revell for hosting the event at his offices.

“Help! my subject is boring…”

By Beauty Zindi, Immediate Past Finance Manager District91

If you are one of the 64 percent of UK employees who says your work bores you, and you have to do presentations about your work, you may find it really hard going. According to a survey carried out by Emolument.com (https://www.emolument.com/career_advice/most_boring_jobs), the top five boring professions are law, project management, customer support, financial management and consulting/accounting. Ouch! I am an accountant. 

When I ran my own accountancy business I attended many networking events. When people asked me what I did, my answer “accountant” was usually met with a response which sounded like a grunt. Basically it meant, “oh one of those” and the conversation would immediately become awkward.

Beauty Zindi (VPMembership, Watford Speakers)

This, as you can imagine, was very disheartening and I realised I had to find ways of being engaging and interesting. Even though I had been a Toastmaster for a while, I found this challenging. Years of grappling with this issue and much trial and error led me to finding my “funny side”. An example of how I used this approach is the finance report I delivered at the District 91 Council meeting in May 2018. Many people came to me afterwards and said how refreshing, funny and engaging they had found my presentation. At last!

So what are the lessons I applied?

  • Start by acknowledging that the subject is considered boring.

Right at the start, I referred to a survey that had been carried out by the District’s PR Manager which found that Finance Updates were the least favourite topic for the newsletter – bottom out of 12! I then followed this observation by saying with slightly exaggerated glee: “It gives me great pleasure to have you as my captive audience”. This was entirely unexpected and raised a laugh at once. The atmosphere in the room changed. I wanted my audience to believe that this was going to be a finance presentation like they had never experienced before; they could see that this was going to be different and they wanted to hear what I’d say next.

  • Find meaning in your profession, and share it from your heart.

I find it very sad that so many people find the work they do day in and day out, sometimes for years, boring. Every job fulfils a purpose, and it is up to you to find it, believe it and communicate it. For my report, I used the fact that money is at the core of everything we do – whether we like it or not. And yet, many people fear to engage with finance. I quoted statistics about debt and financial illiteracy and declared that my audience owed it to themselves to listen to what I had to say. G.K Chesterton, the English philosopher, is quoted as saying, “There are no boring subjects, only disinterested minds.”

  • Evoke the audiences’ sympathy.

They should feel sorry for you because you do such a thankless but important job which if you stopped doing the whole world would come crashing down. I exaggerate for effect, but Do You See What I Mean (DYSWIM – I thought I would throw this in for my Gen-Z readers)? What does it take for you to do the job? In my case I was presenting a one-page Finance Report but I explained to my audience how much time and effort it had taken me to produce it. I had their sympathy, their hearts and their ears.

  • Interspace boring facts (necessary when presenting a Finance Report) with interesting explanations.

I could have just read out the numbers. For example, actual income was £x, budgeted income was £Y, giving us a difference of £Z. If I had done this for all the lines on my Profit & Loss account, I would not have blamed my audience if they had started taking bathroom breaks. Instead I came up with a story behind each line: for example, “You may think that because we spent less money on Education & Training than we budgeted this is a good thing. In my view this represents an under-investment in our members.” In other words, what the numbers really meant and why they should care.

  • Avoid jargon

No matter how many times this advice is offered, many presenters use jargon. This is a bullet-proof way of losing your audience. Take doctors for example, and how they communicate with patients. They may think renal (huh) when they could easily say kidney or they may say chronic to mean persistent but the word chronic is usually understood to mean severe. These were observations made by the Royal College of General Practitioners. Recently a member at our club delivered a speech on UX (who knew that this was User Experience?) and he talked about “cookies” – I still don’t know what they are and I am fed up with them popping on my screens! All I know is that I have to accept them or else! But why or why are they called cookies and can someone tell me why my life depends on them? Using jargon, even a little of it, means that your audience may be busy working out what you meant and not hear the rest of what you say.

  • Be willing to fail.

I took some risks, and fortunately they worked, but they were building on earlier presentations when I improved my ability to inject humour in my speeches. In psychology they talk about the humour effect. People pay more attention to humorous information and this in turn helps them remember it. It takes some practice but it is worth it. You may try my tips and find that your presentations are still a bit dry and yawn worthy, but do explore different angles and tactics until you too find your funny side. This will bring you much joy and fulfilment. What’s more, your audience will “get it”, love you and thank you for it!