The week after coming back from an International Convention
is always a bit of a strange one. Between readjusting to normal routines,
following-up with the dozens of people met overseas and tying-up loose ends. A
mélange of emotions always goes through my mind in these moments. Every single
one of the International Convention I’ve attended so far has been unique in its
own ways. Denver was, as the responsibility of casting 269 votes on behalf of
your club was mine to fulfil.
On Sunday 18th August we interviewed all
candidates standing for International Directors or Officers roles. Later
during, the week, we also had the opportunity to see them answering questions
from members at the Candidates showcase. These two events formed our decisions
on how to cast our votes on your behalf.
Some exciting news were announced by Toastmasters
International CEO Dan Rex. Very soon, all projects within a Pathways path will
be visible ahead, just like in the old manuals. A simplification of the
interface is on the cards and judging from what I saw, it’s a very positive
step forward. A visit of Toastmasters WHQ last Monday also provided me with
more insights on what the staff works on. They are taking feedback onboard and
are acting upon it. What’s more, many staff members in the IT department are members
of a club hosted in WHQ offices.
As renewals season is upon us and I have a mission for you
all. Win some free pizza or supplies from the District by renewing 20 members
and retaining 80% of your members by September 30th. Renew, Retain,
Our District 91 pizza is famous worldwide as evidence by
some comments in Denver. Even the Italians of District 109 copied it!
Want to inspire some members with Toastmasters magic? Share
your stories of why you’ve joined Toastmasters and what you’ve gained as a
member. Here’s my own story below.
Dan Macgill – 2019 District 91 Humorous Contest Winner
In August 2017 I signed the forms to become a member of Croydon
Communicators and informed the Club President, Mike Majuru, that I wanted to
give my first speech at the next meeting.
I’d never spoken in public before and was terrified beyond
“Ah, that’s our Humorous Speech Contest night.” Mike said.
“Not to worry, I’ll wait until the meeting after that.”
“Unless, you’d like to take part?”
Well, it didn’t really make much difference to me whether I
gave my first speech in a contest or on a regular club night. Either way I was
going to spend every waking (and sleeping) moment, dreading it.
So I agreed.
I wrote a speech and delivered it at the contest.
Looking back, it wasn’t all that funny, and my delivery
wasn’t good at all, but somehow or other, I won.
In fairness, there were only three contestants that night.
One went over time and was disqualified and the other was called Dan too, so I
think there may have been some confusion with the judges’ voting.
I came back down to earth with a bump at the Area Contest
though. We only had five contestants but I think I managed to finish around 8th.
The other speakers seemed so funny and confident.
A few weeks later, I went to the Autumn Conference at
Gatwick to watch the District Final of the Humorous Speaking Contest.
The standard was immense, but the eventual and fully-deserved winner, of the 2017 Humourous Speech contests really captured my attention. He was so funny and had put together such a clever speech.
I realised just how far away I was from the standard
required to win one of these contests, but I resolved to spend the next year
working as hard as I could on my speaking skills and then come back for another
crack at the contest.
The following summer, a few weeks before contest season was
due to start, I was at a loss for what I could speak about.
I had no material at all. Let alone funny material.
Then a message popped up in my Whatsapp feed…
…It was an invitation from the winner of the 2017 Humourous Speech contest winner – to join his humorous speaking workshop.
I didn’t think there was much point in me attending. I had no ideas. I wasn’t funny. And the guy was so funny. What chance did I ever have of beating him if he decided to compete again?
“Maybe if he has some sort of accident and can’t compete.” I
“That’s my only chance.”
I laughed to myself at the thought of me trying to sabotage him so I could win.
And that’s when the idea came.
Two hours later I’d written a ridiculous speech which involved me undertaking a madcap caper across London, where I’d create an alibi by giving a general evaluation at another club, then sneak away and sabotage his workshop.
I wasn’t sure others would find it amusing – but every time
I read it, it made me laugh.
So, I went with it.
8 months later, after winning at Club, Area, and Division levels, I found myself in the District Final with my speech … and I won. I couldn’t believe it.
It’s a cliché, but ahead of this year’s Autumn contests, my
advice to everybody would be to just go for it.
Personally, I’ve found contests to be the place I have
learnt and grown the most.
And, as lovely as it is to win, we always learn far more when we don’t win.
The biggest factor in me winning the 2019 Humorous Speech
Contest was me comfortably losing at the previous year’s Area contest.
If you don’t think you have something funny to speak about,
or you’re not a funny person, or you’re not competitive enough, or contests
aren’t for you, then great – you’re the same as almost everybody competing –
definitely including myself.
So, as September rolls around and contest season gets
underway again, I am getting ready to have another crack at the Humorous Speech
Contest and it tickles me to think there might be somebody out there planning
on sabotaging me so that they can win.
I should be so lucky!
Good luck to everyone competing and let’s remember to thank all the contest functionaries and judges who give so much to help run the contests at this time of year.
The last few weeks as your new Program Quality Director
2019-20 has been exciting, starting in June with the training of a great group
of Area and Division Directors. Do you know your leader? Find out who they are here!
If you are a Club Officer, many of you will have already
attended either a Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) or your local Club Officer
But remember, although the training is primarily targeted to
all 7 of your Club Officers, all members are welcome to attend; especially if
finding out what Club Leadership is all about!
Although we are in the middle of summer, it is time to think
about our Autumn Contests (Humorous and Table Topics). As is the case every
year, the rules
have been updated, please take
a read if you are thinking of entering a contest or holding a functionary
Many of you have already attended one of our District
Webinars, look out for more information as I will be releasing a Webinar
schedule towards the time of our next newsletter. If you are interesting to
hear about particular topics or want to get involved, drop me a
Last but not least, I am looking to streamline the purchase and
availability of Toastmasters branded materials from the Toastmasters store and find a way
to bring a District 91 Marketplace to life for the benefits of all of you, our
members. Interested? Drop me
The new Toastmasters year provides all members with the
opportunity to review their personal goals for the year ahead. Already there is
interest in establishing new Toastmasters clubs across the District. With many
members seeking to complete their Distinguished Toastmasters Award by June 2020,
there is support for club sponsors, mentors and coaches and running speech
craft, speaker to trainer and youth leadership workshops for High Performance
Leadership (HPL) awards.
A busy year ahead beckons.
To support all the activity, it’s all about teamwork. With
the backing of the District Director, Florian Bay and Program Quality Director,
Arnaud Sartre, this year, I will be assisted by Club Extension Chair, Bob Bowes
and Member Retention Chair, Seema Menon. With the addition of each Division
providing a nominated representative to service on the Club Extension
With this experienced team, members wishing to set up
demonstration meeting to set up new clubs, help is available. Each division has
expressed a projected level of new club activity, there may well be an
opportunity to be involved, right on your doorstep. There are plenty of
occasions for members to volunteer to serve to support and learn more about
themselves along the way. Help is at hand. The District will provide you with a
demonstration box to assist you in running the meeting. Along with volunteers
to assist with the running of the meeting too.
Many clubs organise membership drives, during the year.
Interest in hosting an Open House Meeting for this year has already began. You
may find members wishing to manage this event as their HPL project. The
District will support your club when you undertake this activity. There is an
open house box of goodies too.
For your events, you are not alone. Established members are
often seeking openings both inside and outside their own clubs. Their
experience is invaluable; from running advanced club meetings, organising club,
area and division events, Toastmaster specific training sessions and to
cutting-edge and forward-thinking workshops on speech and leadership. The great
gift of being a member of Toastmasters, is when you ask for help, it will be
there. If you are hosting an event and seeking support, ask for help.
Member retention will be a key focus this year. Our District
is ahead of the curve in putting in place provision for membership numbers,
before this becomes an aspect of the Distinguished Club Program. To encourage
our clubs this year, there is a new incentive is year of 10+. This award will
be given to clubs that grow from their membership base number as of 1 July 2019,
to 10+ members by 30 June 2020. The 10+ is in addition to the member retention
element to the pizza challenge.
I am looking forward to serving all our members and driving
the Club Extension Committee. It’s going to be a fantastic year ahead.
I am genuinely excited to see what the 2019/20 Toastmasters will bring to all of you in District 91. So far, the year started with a bang with numerous excellent Club Officer Training (COT) sessions and our first-ever District 91 filming day. The videos you’ve seen in our latest newsletter are some of the many that were filmed that day. All of this is part of our ambitious plans to inspire more members like yourself, with the possibilities that Toastmasters has to offer.
A lot of you know my passion for achieving excellence at all
levels of our organisation. But excellence doesn’t mean achieving goals and
milestones. Excellence is far more than that!
Excellence is when you’re encouraging a new member to
step-up and do a role for the first time.
Excellence is when you’re pushing your club to do better
than last year on any metric or aspect.
Excellence is when somebody delivers a quality evaluation that builds members up, and inspires to come back for more!
If you are a club leader this year, I would like to invite
you to plan ahead to make your club the best it can be. Make full use of the Club
Success Plan template that Toastmasters provides. Note that you can
also create your own document like Canary
Wharf Communicators or London
Victorians did. The only limits on what you can include in this
document are those of your imagination.
Excellence is also about stretching your comfort zone. What
inspires me so much about Toastmasters, is that it’s a never-ending learning
journey of personal growth. Whether you joined Toastmasters last month or 20
years ago, there’s still something new to learn and more confidence to be
gained. Personally, the confidence I gained at Toastmasters carried through in
all areas for my life. Whether you joined Toastmasters recently or a while ago,
don’t hesitate to push yourself and to expand your boundaries. A good way to do
so is by visiting clubs through our Club
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