Updates & Posts

“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!

Arnaud Sartre: Explorers

December proves to be another busy month, with many Clubs and Areas hosting special celebration meetings. I had the pleasure to visit thePMI UK Toastmasters Clubto celebrate a year of achievements. I took the opportunity to award the Smedley Award District incentive to President Nadya Hamedi (President) and Luca Giaudo(VP Membership).

The next membership contest-Talk Up Toastmasters, is coming up in February/March, more information about incentives coming up in January.

Explorers Cup at PMI

During the visit, I noticed the Explorer’s Cup is still held by PMI UK, claimed back on 2nd August! PMI has been the one and only host Club of the Cup in London. Ready for a Challenge for 2019? Come and be the next Club to be home of the Explorer’s Cup. All you need to claim the trophy is three visiting club members to take on meeting roles at the host club.

And to round off this edition, welcome to our newest Club in K3, Tideway Toastmasters!

Happy holidays!

Andy Hammond: New Ideas New Connections

Thank you for all the time and energy you have contributed on behalf of or members, and for the support you have given to each other and to me.

I wish you all a healthy and happy New Year and personal success – whatever that means for you.

I know we are a richly diverse group, and have different celebrations and customs, so please accept my sincere wishes for a very Merry Christmas in the spirit they are sent, and may this time of year be a joyous one for you.

The Toastmasters year is almost half way through and the first six months have flown by!

Andy Hammond (District Director 2018-19)

So far we have welcomed nearly 1,300 new members, including those in four newly chartered clubs, taking us to nearly 4,500 active members. You have achieved 253 awards under the traditional programme, and 128 awards in Pathways.

Our Area Directors, supported by the Division Directors, have helped to train nearly 700 Club Officers and have completed over 150 club visits.

It is always worth reminding ourselves that all of that has been achieved by Toastmasters giving freely of their time and energy to help their fellow members. That commitment and enthusiasm is at the heart of our shared success, and I thank each of you for your efforts.

The Christmas and New Year period is a time of reflection and planning for many people. What are your Toastmasters goals for the coming year, and how can we best support you? Are you considering taking on a leadership role next year, and if so would you like to know more about the opportunities available to you? Do give us your thoughts and comments so we can help you.

My most recent club visit was to Chiltern Speakers in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. A great welcome and a wonderful evening as you would expect. Thanks to Area Director, Bret Freeman for the invitation, and to club President Diane Richardson. I really enjoy these opportunities to talk about what the District Leadership Team is aiming to deliver on your behalf, and I especially enjoy the question and answer sessions – I never know what I will be asked although Pathways always features heavily! In addition to the superbly organised and managed meeting, I was particularly impressed by two pieces of detail. Firstly the very clear notice regarding photos and video, and secondly the simple yet effective summary agenda on a customised whiteboard. Images of both are attached should you wish to copy the ideas! (I do have Diane’s permission to share!)

I learn something new at every club meeting I attend, and I would encourage all members to visit different clubs and pick up new ideas.

Onwards into 2019 – and more opportunities to change lives, one speech at a time.

Pedro Casillas: Call for Leadership Nominations

District Leadership Committee

Serving as a District Leader is a great responsibility, but an exciting opportunity to further develop your communication and leadership skills.  The District Leadership Committee (DLC) is seeking Nominations for the roles of Division Director, Club Growth Director, Programme Quality Director and District Director. Full details can be found on the D91 website.

Submissions should be made to Leadership Committee Chair, Pedro Casillas DTM . The deadline for candidates to declare intent to run is Friday 14 December 2018.

After this date, the DLC will contact candidates to arrange interviews and will seek out other candidates as appropriate. The final report of the DLC will be circulated to District Council members by 6 April 2019, 4 weeks prior to the District Council meeting on 4th May 2019, when voting will take place.

Executive Committee in Prague, 10 Nov 18

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the Executive Committee in Prague, 10 Nov 18. The Executive Committee, is made up of the most senior Toastmaster officers led by Lark Doley, Toastmasters International President

After a warm welcome from Lark Doley, CEO Dan Rex reviewed the 4 core values of: Integrity, Respect, Service and Excellence and said that, ‘Good things happen when we follow the core values’. Dan then challenged all Toastmasters to a 5-year challenge using the Core values: The challenge: ‘during the next 5 years, what will you have done to the benefit of yourself and other members?’ I’ll be taking up this challenge – how about you?

Then Margaret Page, 2nd Vice President, asked us all to think about ‘what is your why?’ Why are you attending Toastmasters and what are your goals? She then challenged us to share our goals within our clubs. Margaret also suggested that we might like to create a 1 min video and share, “#My Why” (https://www.toastmasters.org/MyWhy) – (tagging Toastmasters International and @ToastmastersUKI or share with us to upload to Toastmasters District 91 UK South YouTube channel).

Arnaud Sartre: Idea for a New Club?

The past period has been exceptional! 

We have seen 18 Clubs meet the criteria to win the 2018 Smedley Award with 7 Clubs gaining no less than 10+ members, thank you for such diligence in recruiting members. District rewards will be shipped to the winning Clubs in the coming week.

By the end of November, we will have completed 12 demonstrations meetings since the start of the Toastmasters year. To put it in perspective, this means we have a tremendous potential for new Clubs. Demonstration meetings can only happen with the support of our Clubs and members, and it has been a pleasure to work with you to bring the Toastmasters experience to so many communities and companies.

November alone saw 5 excellent demonstration meetings and a bumper crop for Division H with no less than 3 demonstration meeting the space of a week (Spirited Speakers, The Reigate Rhetoric and Liberty Speakers) – special mention to Spirited Speakers managing to go from idea to demonstration with 40+ in attendance in less than 2 weeks! Two corporate Clubs (HCL and Microsoft) close the list of demonstration meetings for this month.

On 1st November, I had the pleasure to visit Surbiton Speakers for their 100th meeting which saw speeches from members sharing their journey – a truly inspirational event. Thanks, Eddy Quah and the Surbiton Speakers Team for the invitation.

Got an idea for a new Club? Organising an event to grow your Club membership? Let me know and I will be delighted to see how the District can help.