News and Events - D91 Toastmasters UK South

We’re deep into membership renewals season

We’re deep into membership renewals season and with online meetings looking like they’ll be our only option for a little while yet, many club committees are wondering how they can use the platform and harness the technology to find new members and continue to grow their clubs.

The good news is that many of our District 91 clubs are growing.

Since online meetings began, Society Speakers Club in London have increased their membership by 50%. Seven new members have joined since the start of the new Toastmaster year and the club have bagged themselves The Smedley Award, which is given to all clubs who sign-up at least 5 new members between August 01 and September 30.

We caught up with Society Speakers’ Club President, Dan Magill to get some hints and tips around what we can be doing to grow our club membership during these challenging times.

Dan, congratulations to Society Speakers for winning The Smedley Award. What’s the secret to your success? 

Thanks. I think first and foremost, for us as a club committee, it has been about not chasing membership goals and recognition to the point where it maybe starts to become a self-defeating policy. It can be tempting in these strange times for clubs to become a little obsessive over attracting and signing up new members, but when that over eagerness starts to come across in club meetings and engagements with potential new members, it can become a little off-putting.

Some clubs say they are having trouble attracting new guests into the online environment. How has that worked out for Society Speakers?

We have been very lucky with regard to first-time guests coming along to online meetings. Although, in truth, it has probably been less about luck and more about the outstanding work both the current club committee and the previous committees have done in promoting the club.

Since I’ve been a member, we’ve always had a fantastic Meetup page and club website, which emphasises how Society Speakers is more than just a place to develop public speaking and leadership skills.

We have a real fun, friendly atmosphere at the club and we use pre-lockdown phots of us enjoying club meetings and having club socials together.

I think, especially at the moment when people can’t socialise as much as they may like, it makes a real difference for new visitors to our Meetup and website pages to see what a friendly bunch we are. Toastmasters is all about having a friendly, supportive and safe space in which to learn and grow. Nothing can convey that to your prospective new members as much as pictures of existing members thriving in the club environment.

Have you done anything new to attract new visitors since we moved online?

Yes, as a club we held a summer series of workshops, which were aimed at new and existing Toastmasters. We had three workshop presenters on each evening, and they covered a range of really useful topics from, building rapport and adding humour, to the art of storytelling and improving your table topics.

By covering so many different topics in each session, it meant there was something for everyone and we really did see an increase in first-time guests.

I think that by occasionally positioning our clubs as outlets for public speaking education, we can attract a certain demographic that maybe we don’t quite attract when we only talk about practicing our public speaking skills. Obviously, Toastmasters is all about the practice and the experience, but from time to time, let’s step forward and promote ourselves as the experts in our field.

Would you say it’s the speaking skills of your experienced members that attract new members to your club?

Strangely, no. I think new members are most attracted by other new members. It’s always great to see an experienced speaker with lots of outstanding speaking skills on display and think that maybe one day you’ll be able to speak as well as they can. But, in truth, new members take most encouragement from those who are also just starting their journey.

If a nervous guest turns up to your club and sees three DTMs strutting their stuff, I wouldn’t expect they’d go away thinking, “Yes, I can do that too.” They’re far more likely to find the courage to come back and give it a go themselves if they see other ‘newbies’ nervously finding their way through their first speeches.

In that respect, I think it’s always more important to have as many new speakers on your meeting agenda as you can. I don’t subscribe to a club deciding that somebody isn’t ready to be Toastmaster or couldn’t possibly evaluate yet, or anything like that. I think we should encourage (not pressure) new members to take on as many of the roles as possible, as early as possible.

So, let’s say you’ve got the interested first-time guests into your meeting and you’ve got a nice mix of experience and inexperience on the agenda; what tips can you give us for converting those guests into new club members?

Every member is different and will join for their own personal reasons, so the best you can do is simply your best.

Make club meetings fun and try to involve everyone. We try to make the warmup session at the start of each meeting more of a game than a simple speaking exercise. We acknowledge and speak to guests at the start of the meeting and try to involve as many of them as possible in the Table Topics session. We’ve tweaked the way we run Table Topics since moving online. We now have ‘on the spot’ evaluations directly after each speech, which gives so many more people that chance to be involved and keeps things fresh and engaging at a point in the meeting where people can be starting to become a little less focussed.

Most importantly of all though, is to respond to your prospective members questions and enquiries as soon as possible.

If you see a new club contact request, respond to it right away. If a guest at your meeting says they’d be interested in finding out more, take their details and send them more information that day. It’s so easy for prospective new members to visit lots and lots of online clubs before they make their final decision and if your club is taking too long to respond to them, they’ll more than likely move on and try somewhere else.

Thanks Dan! There’s lots there for our clubs to think about.

Do you have any tips and tricks you could pass on to our clubs?

Get in touch

Do you remember David and Carmen?

Let’s see how they are getting on. Carmen thoroughly enjoyed her first meeting at Club X. She did a table topic and signed up that day! David did almost slip through the cracks, however as the committee of the club did a full audit of the club tools, his email was found and the VP Public Relations of that club followed up with him and invited him as a guest to their next meeting. Because their VP Membership followed up appropriately with him thereafter, he too has since signed up.

When times are tough or disruption occurs, it helps to be reminded about our ‘WHY’ and core reason for being. Sometimes all it takes it a return to some fundamental, often basic processes to get things back on track again. District 91 now launches the ‘Lead to Achieve’ initiative -mainly focusing on those who are trying to contact us via toastmasters.org but giving us all the opportunity to review and ensure that we are doing the ‘hygiene’ things that make our club successful.

The way we do things may be reviewed and changed and some clubs have adapted very to being able to bring members on board in this new environment. At the time of writing, 6 clubs have achieved the covered Smedley Award.

You can hear from the President of one of those clubs, Dan Magill – Society Speakers about their ‘how’.

Our 80/20 challenge for the October 2020 renewal period is on. At the time of writing, 16 clubs have so far retained 20+ members and I’ll be calculating those with 80%+ at the end of the period. We recognise that some of our members may move on at this time for a host of reasons. It’s important for us to understand why and that our doors or virtual platforms remain open to those that want to return when they are ready.

I’d like to conclude this month by remembering our organisational mission:

‘We empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.’

We’ll explore leadership a little more next month along with seeing how a returner to toastmasters is getting on after a breakaway as well as David and Carmen.

The types of communication channels we have are numerous and ever-changing and every now and again it doesn’t hurt to take stock of what they are. I hope you’ll continue to utilise your Toastmasters journey to flex and refine your communication skills.

Rupa Datta – District 91 Club Growth Director 2020-2021

Contest season is upon us

This year, it is all online. Time to keep calm and compete!

To assist with your preparations, our District Chief Judge, Neil Coleman delivered a fantastic webinar on the rules and regulations and shared tips to help you all. The webinar is available on the District 91 website for you all to review, along with support documentation. There are complimentary Zoom training sessions which Divisions have created to support you to, do seek these out. Good luck to all.

The District Conference in May 2021 will now be a virtual event, in line with Toastmasters International guidance, that all contests at Area, Division and District level, have to be online in this Toastmasters year. As a District, we have the experience of delivering a fantastic virtual conference, so let’s build on this. To head up the conference team, we require a Conference Director. In performing this role myself in 2018, this served as my HPL project and was one of the most stretching, rewarding and fun roles I had undertaken within Toastmasters. This opportunity would definitely fit someone with great organisational skills, that can build a team to support them, combat challenges and be a Zoomin human. If you are interested in becoming our next Conference Director, or simply looking to volunteer to be part of the May 2021 conference team, contact me

Education and Training

The education achievements are flowing in thick and fast with close to 350 awards so far.  Over 140 members have received their Level 1 award, through to 16 members completing their chosen path, 3 members completing the Pathway Mentoring Program and 11 members attaining Distinguished Toastmaster. Congratulations to you all.

The District webinar series is now well underway, with a full programme scheduled for your all on Sunday’s evenings, through to the end of November. There’s a blend of personal development and Toastmasters specific webinar opportunities for you to join. The details are also linked through the District Calendar.

To support the webinar series, the planned relaunch of the Trainers Bureau is now scheduled for the autumn. This will provide those members seeking to step away from purely delivering speeches to develop and enhance their training skills.

A date for your diary!

Save the date for a quiz evening on Friday 4 December from the Program Quality Team.  

Back to school for Toastmasters

Back to school is a usual September activity for many whether a parent, student or a Club member! September is a time for new challenges and opportunities.

When was the last time you brought a friend to a meeting? When was the last time you entered a Speech Contest? When was the last time you took on a Club project?

As a Club officer myself (Sergeant At Arms) I had a busy summer, from running a Zoom course for my members who were tempted to take the leap and be the Zoom Master of a meeting, to proposing a fully costed plan for running a hybrid meeting when it becomes possible.

Witnessing the start of our Club Contest is always inspiring and an experience one will never forget. If your Club still needs to run its Autumn contest, jump in and experience it, you will not regret it!

I remember fondly when at school, university or starting a new job, the exhilaration of doing something new, meeting new people, creating new friendships. As a Club member, we get to do all of this, at every meeting! So why not invite a friend, colleague or other-half to the next meeting and share with them why you are a member!

Now that we are primarily meeting online, being local is no longer a restriction, and I took advantage of visiting other Clubs around the globe from the Middle East to the Americas. And every time, I gained a new idea, better understood cultural identities, and got energised from the experience.

As a member, I love that we have been able to recruit members in my Clubs from other continents and bring this once in a lifetime opportunity to all my Club members, this is enriching and this is what brings us all together. 

Set your voice free with Beyond Toast

Ever listened to a podcast or the radio and thought I could do that? Now’s your chance as the Beyond Toast podcast is looking for guests. Set your voice free.

Beyond Toast is a podcast where Toastmasters/Public Speakers/Lovers of language are invited to discuss food in an engaging and light-hearted way. It is inspired by the challenge of adequately conveying the strong emotions typically evoked by the senses, particularly taste, through speech.

The discussion is wide-ranging but framed around food and the central role it plays in our lives, family and relationships. If you have ever eaten, you have all the expertise you need. If you enjoyed the experience enough to talk about it to friends, then you have the makings of a perfect guest.

To listen to all the interviews just visit www.beyondtoast.uk

Each episode fuses a discussion with a guest with selected examples of poetry and prose and typically lasts for ~25 minutes (perfect for the short commute). It is distributed weekly via popular podcast platforms.

It is a great opportunity to stretch yourself, develop your skills and take your Toastmasters journey in a fun and interesting new direction. If you are interested check-out an episode and if you are keen to take part contact the show at info@beyondtoast.uk

Celebrating success

We have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for in District 91 during these challenging times. First of all, thanks to all of your efforts, almost all of our clubs moved their meetings online and we even have guests and new members joining our clubs in the virtual world. The standard of most of our online events has been superb and I expect our upcoming District 91 Conference with its amazing line-up of speakers to be one of the best Toastmasters online conference in the world!

Would you like to end your year on a high note? Why don’t you become a Triple Crown and complete a third educational award this year?

So far nearly 100 members have won this award over the course of the Toastmasters year. Could you be next? Find out how Mel of Didcot Speakers won her Triple Crown in the video below.

Don’t forget about the Pathfinders Award too that you can win for completing a path of Pathways. Many of these awards were given at the recent Division Hall of Fame and you still have two months to finish a path and become a Pathfinder too!

I am also keen to hear more stories of success and achievement from you. During our District Conference Hall of Fame, we will be rewarding a number of clubs and individuals. I am looking for nominations for the Toastmaster of the Year and the Club of the Year.

The Toastmaster of the year will be an individual whose actions were of the highest standard in supporting our members and clubs. Perhaps he or she inspired you and did something amazing. If you would like to nominate someone, please use this link.

The Club of the year will be a club who achieved excellence throughout the year. While excellence metrics are important, we are also looking for stories and how a club and its leaders supported its members. Can you think of a club that laid out amazing events? Is your club perhaps the best club if the world? If so, use this link to tell us more.