Division C

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.

Relaunched and Chartered

By Ken Essien, Area C5 Director

Area 5 in Division C had the pleasure of two fresh clubs during the first half of the year.

First, JPMorgan 1st Class club, another corporate baby was relaunched on 18thJanuary 2019 at their impressive office.   The meeting was well attended by members and guests, some attending a Toastmasters meeting for the first time.  Elizabeth Nostedt, Region 10 Advisor was on hand to lead the relaunch as Toastmaster of the day.  A prepared speech, evaluation (and open feedback), and generous table topics gave the falour of a well planned meeting to savour.

Big kudos to the leadership team at the club for making this happen.  We wish them a an enjoyable Toastmasters journey, with plenty fun, learning and growth.  Thank you to all the District Leaders and guest Toastmasters who supported the event

Next, Gartmore London Toastmasterschartered in record time on 5thApril 2019.  The District noted this was a record charter for a club in recent times.   From the cosy office location in the Holborn area in London, the club brings some swag to the Toastmasters ‘corporate’ family.

Five star salute to the hard working leadership team for their attention to details, hard work and dedication to launch a special club.

Again, special thanks to the District leaders and guest Toastmasters for the tireless support accorded JP Morgan and Gartmore clubs.

The club welcomes all guest Toastmasters to their meetings as Club Ambassadors fulfilling speech, Evaluation and Generator Evaluator roles…..

My First Division Contest

By Kash Hussain, St Pauls Speakers, Division C

On Saturday 13th April, I found myself waking up earlier than usual, catching the same train I get into the city every day for work. However, instead of going into the office, I walked into the familiar grounds of St Botolph’s for the Toastmasters Division C International Speech and Evaluation Contest!  I was attending as an observer (although I took on a couple of functionary roles to support my home club). I took along a special guest – someone who had never before been to a Toastmasters event – my wife. This was primarily to prove to my wife that Toastmasters was indeed a real club, and not something I’d made up to get away from household chores for a few hours every couple of weeks!  I also felt that my wife would benefit and be inspired by the workshops and quality of speakers on the programme.

My wife made two main observations based on first impressions. Firstly, how formal and organised the event was. Despite being a voluntary organisation it was clear this was a group of people brought together by a strong purpose. From the introduction at the beginning, to a clear agenda, to clear instructions and explanations of the day’s programme, to a timekeeper ensuring everything ran smoothly and to time, there was a shared enthusiasm and drive throughout the day to run it as efficiently as possible. Secondly, my wife was impressed with how warm, friendly and encouraging everyone at the club was. From the meet and greet on entrance, to meeting numerous friendly people throughout the day and to seeing how every Toastmasters member encouraged others during the speeches, my wife felt there was a raw warmth and sense of community. 

My own reason for attendance at the Contest was to learn and be inspired. Having been a member of Toastmasters for a few years now, partaking in a couple of club level speaking contests myself, I was interested to see how speech contests developed – from club to area to division – and to observe contest winning speeches. And it was indeed inspirational! The workshops gave great tips on how to structure and tell stories, and the speeches were fantastic illustrations of how to bring it all together and deliver a great speech in practice. There was one key feature that made each of these speeches stand out for me, and this was – the message. Not just the inclusion of a strong message in the speech. But the intertwining of every element of the speech, from structure, content, delivery, examples and conclusion, in a cohesive package, to reinforce that key message and make as big an impact as possible. This is certainly something I shall be thinking about when drafting my next speech.

Overall, a wonderful day. So much to learn and draw inspiration from, whether you’ve never attended a Toastmasters event before or have been a member for years. I shall definitely be going again and would encourage anyone – who is either interested to gain a better understanding of how their club operates in the wider area and division, or to simply draw inspiration from great speakers, to go along.

Compete!

By Mark Hanly, Finalist D91 Table Topics Contest 3rd May 2019, District Table Topics Winner 2017, member of Early Bid Speakers Club

It was a thrill and an honour to participate in the D91 District Final in Table Topics for the second year running.

It was the culmination of a very enjoyable series of contests and events starting at Club level at my own club Early Bird Speakers. Club contests are great. In our club, there is great anticipation and buzz around contests. Participation is high, the audience supportively noisy and and everyone brings their A-game. Thus, while you may think you know a lot about your mates in the club, you learn a surprising amount more at the Contest. It should be illegal to unleash that amount of energy in a room before most people start work! Seriously though, whatever your level of experience in Toastmasters, I would encourage everyone to take part in their club contests. It’s a real fast track to improving your skills and fantastic fun.

Mark Hanly

Moving onto the area and division contests bring new challenges and fun. It’s delightful to get a chance to play with members from other clubs and to see what new perspectives and approaches they bring. Being less familiar with the participants in these contests than those in your own club keeps the adrenaline and the keenness flowing. It is competitive, good-natured, supportive, and again enormously enjoyable.

This was the first year in which, for totally reasonable and understandable reasons, the Table Topics District Final was held in May rather than being the culmination of a rapid series of Club through Division contests which were still held in autumn. I think for me this presented perhaps the greatest challenge adapting to the lull between the Division and District finals. I’m a great fan of go-go-go! But hey, challenges only make us grow and learn, the very ethos of Toastmasters.

Overall, the entire series of contests is a great experience. If you have never entered a contest, dive on in. The water’s warm, as the old saying goes. See y’all in September for the next round!