News and Events - D91 Toastmasters UK South

Andy Hammond: Promises, Achievements and Way Ahead

I made it through my year as District Director! And it has gone in a flash. To quote Stephen R. Covey – “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” I hope I have invested my time wisely on your behalf this year.


You may recall the three promises that I made after I was elected as District Director at the May 2018 Council meeting:

  1. We will continue to innovate – and that means that sometimes we will make mistakes, which we will learn from.
  2. We will always make those decisions in the best interests of our members. If at any time that is not clear, please challenge us.
  3. We will have fun! We all wish to improve, and we are all volunteers. We owe it to ourselves to enjoy the experience.

Looking back over the past year, I believe I kept those promises.

We have continued to build on previous successes and to introduce new ideas. Many of these can be found in the Incentives Board brochure, which has now been developed as a board game by Florian Bay! Each initiative is designed to encourage and support members and clubs to continue on their journey of success. They include a focus on membership renewals as well as new members, recognition for progress in Pathways and for achieving three or more education awards, and expanding members’ experiences by visiting other clubs.

We haven’t made any significant mistakes, as far as I know! We have identified areas where we can learn and improve.

We held our first ever virtual District Council meeting and District Executive Committee meeting this year, and while both were relatively successful we can certainly improve attendance and make the process easier for attendees. It was also our first three-day District Conference as District 91. It was a hugely successful event in Ashford in May, and the team led by Karen Ince were magnificent. We have reflected on what worked well and where we can improve in future years. We have continued to build on the well-received weekend District Officer Training (DOT) and the Toastmasters Learning Institutes (TLI) as well as enhancing the materials available to support Club Officer Training (COT).

This year also saw each Division taking the lead in one of the monthly newsletters as well as great improvements in our social media presence. Less visible, but just as important, are the improvements in our administration, website and financial management.

Those are just some of the achievements of the fantastic District Leadership Team (DLT) that I have had supporting me this year. In addition, we have had terrific support from the seven Division Directors and 36 Area Directors who have worked so hard for our members throughout the year.


The official measure of our success is the District Recognition Program, similar to the Distinguished Club Program. Our District has already achieved Distinguished status, and is close to being Select Distinguished. What does that mean to our members? It is a reflection of all the hard work in starting new clubs so that more people have access to Toastmasters, the great efforts of clubs in both attracting new members and retaining existing members through high quality meetings, and the brilliant achievement of so many of our clubs themselves being Distinguished. You can see the details on the dashboard here

I talked earlier about building on success. Our District has now been Distinguished or better in every year since our formation in 2014. To sustain that continual growth and level of performance is testament to our commitment to excellence. I have seen that in all the clubs I have been privileged to visit, in the individual displays of integrity and service, and the outstanding examples of leadership that drive our achievements. When I have the honour of collecting the awards for our District at the International Convention in August it will only be possible because of your dedication.


I’m afraid you haven’t seen the last of me yet. I now move on to be the Immediate Past District Director – a title so long it doesn’t even fit on my new name badge! I will still be part of the DLT for 2019-2020, providing support, advice and mentorship to the new team. Having seen them in action at our planning weekend and the DOT I know we are in for another amazing year. The calibre of our leaders across the District is recognised and respected across the Toastmasters International world-wide community. I am so proud that you allowed me the opportunity to play a small part in continuing that tradition. I never imagined the possibility when I first joined Arun Speakers in 2001. You all have the potential and the opportunity to achieve whatever you aspire to, and there is all the support you need available to you.

Together we will continue to change lives – one speech at a time.

Arnaud Sartre: Achievements

We are entering the final month of the Toastmasters Program Year, and the final stretch when it comes to our Club, Area, Division and District Goals. 

I have had the pleasure to attend multiple meetings and events starting with our Ashford conference at the beginning of May, and am humbled to carry on the next Program Year as Program Quality Director. Thank You!

Talk Up Toastmasters Awards – Final results!

By popular demand, I am very pleased to release the winners of the Talk Up Toastmasters Award to an astonishing group of Clubs that have not only met the minimum requirements but most definitely smashed last year’s record number of Club winners! Congratulations to all 35 Clubs that have gained 5+ members during the February/March period! Winning Clubs would have already received a Talk Up Toastmasters! ribbon for their Club banners from Headquarters, with a pack of Pathways ribbons from the District on its way very soon!

DivisionAreaClub nameGrowth
K581st London Toastmasters 18 
L47London Business School Public Speaking Club 12 
K58City of London Toastmasters Club 11 
B06London Athenian Speakers Toastmasters Club 10 
K13Canary Wharf Communicators Club 10 
A46Newbury Speakers Club 9 
B29Trojan Speakers Club 9 
A14Farnham Speakers Club 7 
B08London Victorians 7 
B29Riverside Communicators 7 
C33Speakerforce London Toastmasters Club 7 
H15Clapham Connectors 7 
K31Ofgem Speakers Club 7 
L56Data Science Speakers Club 7 
L61HOD Speakers Club 7 
A42Ferndown Speakers 6 
C05City Limits Speakers 6 
C05Covent Garden Speakers 6 
H55Brighton & Hove Speakers Club 6 
H37Kent Speakers Club 6 
K12Barking Toastmasters 6 
K03Central London Toastmasters 6 
A46Microsoft Speakers Club 5 
A01Spinnaker Speakers 5 
A14Guildford Speakers Club 5 
C33St Pauls Speakers 5 
C02Holborn Speakers 5 
H35Connected Speakers Bromley 5 
H15Croydon Communicators Club 5 
J21Wokingham Speakers 5 
J11Cheltenham Speakers 5 
K58PMI UK Toastmasters Club 5 
K31Wharf Speakers 5 
L56Deutsche Bank Toastmasters London 5 
L47London Communicators Club 5 

Beat The Clock 

Let’s not forget Beat The Clock! With some amazing rewards to finish the year on a high note if gaining 5+ members during the May-June period.

Beat the Clock Challenge

Zeus Award

What is this? First time hearing about it? Looking forward to it? Well, this little-known District incentive will recognise Clubs that have managed to win all 3 Club Membership contests (Smedley Award, Talk Up Toastmasters! and Beat The Clock) as well as grow their net membership by 10+ members. 

With the results of Beat The Clock out, the following Clubs are still in contention for a truly special reward Zeus Reward:

City Limits Speakers
London Victorians
Barking Toastmasters
PMI UK Toastmasters Club
Covent Garden Speakers
Canary Wharf Communicators Club 
London Business School Public Speaking Club 
City of London Toastmasters Club 
Riverside Communicators
Holborn Speakers

Outreach Awards

Although many members have been involved in one of our outreach programs (Speechcraft or Youth Leadership Program), this is seldom spoken about. 

With the year coming to an end, I intend to formally recognise all these contributions once we conclude the program year on 30thJune. If you have been involved or planning such outreach, get in touch.

Club Support

We have a multitude of new Club leads at various stages, and I am actively looking for sponsors/mentors willing to support a new Club break ground and thrive. If you are a trailblazer, get in touch! Mentors need to be able to commit to 6 months supporting a new Club from Charter. 

The reward is immense, and a successful applicant will also receive Club Building credit towards the Advanced Leader Silver on the Traditional Program. 

Fancy a different challenge? Becoming a Club Coach may just be the right opportunity. Clubs at or below 12 members qualify for a Coach. Successful Coaches will transform a Club with low membership back to charter strength and for a limited period also gain both Club Building credit andDistrict Officer credit (until 30 Jun 2020 only). This is a fantastic opportunity to make a difference and gain valuable skills. Interested? get in touch!

Florian Bay: Ending the Year Strong

The 2019/20 Toastmasters Year is slowly drawing to a close, yet now more than ever it is crucial not to drop our eyes on the ball as current and future success is determined by our actions as leaders. Last week-end, the incoming District Trio held a day-long marathon planning session to discuss the key priorities for the year ahead and handover responsibilities. All of us found the exercise very useful and it is something that I am planning to introduce in my own club.

Florian Bay, District 91 Program Quality Director 2018-19

Some elements to discuss in this handover/planning meeting could include:

  • Updating your club success plan.
  • What worked well/didn’t work well in the 2018/19 Toastmasters year.
  • Identifying possible initiatives to introduce at the club level.
  • How your club can achieve our District vision of every member achieving one award each year, retaining 70% of our members every year and maintaining club membership at 20+ and ideally 30+ members throughout the year.

As the year comes to an end remember to do the following tasks as soon as you can or as soon as they arise:

  • Submitting your list of club officers for the 2019/20 Toastmasters Year.
  • Submitting educational awards on club central for any member that achieves an award or a Pathways level. Updating District guidance for Basecamp managers can be found here.
  • Celebrating your members achievement with a special meeting that will also be a great marketing opportunity.
  • Handing over login details of social media platforms, email accounts, bank details etc.

Personally, I am looking forward to see us ending the 2018/19 Toastmasters year on a higher note than last year. I’m also really looking forward to what next year will bring, more on this soon!

Andy Hammond: Success and Succession

What an amazing weekend we had in Ashford at the beginning of May! Our first three-day conference as District 91 got off to a great start on Friday with the formal District Executive Committee (DEC) meeting, wonderful workshops, the District Table Topics Contest and the Candidates’ showcase.

Distinguished Toastmasters Reception

A new event this year was the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) reception. This was an opportunity for members who have achieved their DTM award this year to be recognised in the company of our existing DTMs. It was a fitting celebration of their notable achievement and something that we hope will establish itself as a regular feature.

Ashford Rock Choir

The evening was rounded off with a delightful dinner and excellent entertainment from the Ashford Rock Choir and the improv group A Pair of Four with Chris Murphy of Tunbridge Wells Speakers Club. They played a huge part in creating a real buzz among delegates that continued into Saturday and the formal opening of the Conference.

Pair of Four

The highlights just kept on coming throughout the weekend. Every time I thought the conference was going really well, it just got even better! Magnificent keynote speakers, a plethora of professional workshops, and the District finals for the Humorous Speech, Evaluation, and of course the International Speech contest. Congratulations to all the contestants.

One of the greatest pleasures of my year as District Director was to recognise some of the outstanding achievements of our members at the Hall of Fame. It is always extremely difficult to choose which of our dedicated and hard-working members deserves these awards when there are so many worthy candidates.

Andy Hammond, District91 Director, 2018-19 with Mary Robson

The awards this year went to:

  • Area Director of the Year – Sam Warner Area J11
  • Division Director of the Year – Janet Alkema Division A
  • Toastmaster of the Year – Steve Birch of Malvern Speakers and Worcester Speakers
  • District Director’s Award – Mary Robson of North Oxford Speakers, Oxford Orators Club and Oxford Speakers Club

Saturday also saw the District Council meeting, where your leaders for the new Toastmasters year were elected. Your incoming trio are District Director Florian Bay, Program Quality Director Arnaud Sartre and Club Growth Director Helena Boden-Brewer. They will be working with your new Division Directors Mike Burrows, Rupa Datta, Ken Essien, Sandra Mighty, Nikita Parks, Liang T Li and Beauty Zindi. I know you will give them the same great support you have given me and this year’s team.

With just six weeks of the Toastmasters year left, we are in a busy transition period. While still aiming to achieve our personal, Club and District goals, the planning for the new year is well underway. I met with the incoming trio recently as part of our handover, and the new District Leadership Team (DLT) is meting over the first weekend in June to start work on our District Success Plan for 2019-2020. The District Officer Training (DOT) for the new Division and Area Directors takes place the following weekend. You will shortly be receiving details of your local Club Officer Training (COT) and I would encourage you all to attend – it is of value to all members, not just Club Officers.

It has been a year of many successes, and I will reflect further on those in my final update as District Director next month, and as we focus on handing over to our successors, we will continue to change lives – one speech at a time.

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!