District Leadership 2019-20

The lockdown hasn’t slowed us down!

With four clubs chartering during this time and new members streaming in, it’s been busier than ever. It’s great to find our members now coming back to rejoin their clubs. After the initial panic, let’s face it, we all did in one way or another, after weeks of being at home, our online windows on the world have provided opportunities for us to stay connected and let’s be honest, sane. At the beginning when the switch to meeting online was mooted, many members were not happy. Now in May, we reflect on our club, contests and conference sessions; they were all able to perform well and adapt seamlessly to the online format. This is itself a success. 

“United We Speak” is the Region wide initiative to run Open House meetings, which you can invite friends, colleagues and family to join. There’s a Facebook page – United We Speak – as well as details appearing on LinkedIN. District 91 is hosting an event on 21 May.

The mantra “30 is the new 20” for club membership has been embraced. By increasing their base membership, some clubs are weathering this storm. What has been great to hear from you is that even if members didn’t renew, that clubs are still involving them to encourage them to join and experience an online meeting. Others are now actively seeking guests to join their meetings and to engage in the “+3 Challenge” to recruit three members (1st April to 31 May) to be gifted £30 from the District. As we are in May, running through to 30 June, it is of course Beat the Clock – time to increase your membership by 5.

During these challenging times members have stepped forward to offer support to members of their clubs in so many ways. I have heard stories of bread and milk drop offs; writing letters and posting them; and a tutorial on mastering online shopping. The latter was needed to avoid the 10 carrots, being 10 bags of carrots.

The continued support our Toastmasters community is providing is shining through right now. Let us pause for a moment, to thank all that have worked hard to support members, phoned those living alone or self-isolating, provided an escape for health care workers to do something ‘normal’ by joining their club meetings and to see familiar smiling faces at online club meetings. It may seem small, but right now, it is priceless.

Quoting Past Toastmasters International President, Mike Storkey remember the member. You are the most important part of this organisation. We are here to serve and support you.

What an event!

On the first week end of May, we held our annual conference and what an event! We brought to you the most successful District conference ever to be organised in District 91, with over 800 participants over the week end. I hope you had a fantastic time and learnt a lot over the 2 days. Missed out on the action, you may still access all sessions.

On 2nd May, you once again put the District trust in my hands as District Director elect. This is a humbling moment and an exciting time to take the helm of District 91. At the time of writing this note, we have already started planning for the 2020/21 programme year and look forward to sharing some details with you soon.

In the meantime, I am looking for Digital professionals to join our Digital team (data scientists, web designers, cloud solution specialists), interested? Let me know …

Last week, I attended one of my Clubs, The Toasted Sandwich, where President Fatma Salahioglu delivered the Pathways Project Reaching Consensus.

The topic for the 20 min project was “To go virtual or to remain physical” with a purpose to better understand and lay the foundation for what post-Covid-19 meetings should look like for the Club. It was fascinating to witness the discussions and how a complete agreement was reached to retain an element of online meetings.

Even more interesting were the reasons brought forward: greater flexibility and greater retention were two I picked up with great interest.

I will encourage all Clubs to engage in such an exercise and start looking at what the post-Covid-19 experience should look like for our members.

Together, we are shaping our District, and refreshing how and what we do within the Toastmasters framework, this is an exciting time!

See you all very soon!


Yes You Can

One of my favourite quotes is “They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it!” and this quote summarises a lot of what we’ve achieved together in District 91. Back in March, a lot of major businesses and well known-brands stopped their operations. Just think about it but something as simple as buying a cup of Costa coffee became impossible!

We, however, carried on meeting online and moved our operations over in just a fortnight! Since then we’ve collectively recruited almost 300 new members across our District and achieved close to 500 educational awards. What’s more, over 800 people attended our District Conference online at the start of the month. The quality of the event from the speakers, to the organisation to the delivery itself was superb. I know that some members sat down and watched the event from their TVs and why not as it felt like watching a TV show! Who would have known that in the midst of the challenges affecting us all, we would together organise and run the most attended conference in the history of our District!

Together in District 91, we achieved the impossible in the last few weeks. Why? Because we can! Because you can!

Amazingly 99% of the clubs in District 91 are now meeting online and many clubs are even organising extra meetings and events to support their members online. When buying a cup of Costa coffee became impossible, visiting Toastmasters clubs all over the world became possible and so did countless other opportunities. Soon, I will give a short keynote speech in Texas, evaluate a speech in Moscow and deliver a workshop in Budapest. Why? Because I can and so can you!

Go back to your members who haven’t renewed their membership and tell them the story of a group of people that said “yes we can”. Tell them … your story!

It’s nearly time

Good day!

At the time of writing this, we are a week away from our annual District Conference. As I am sure you have spotted on the Team’s PR activities, we have a huge line up of speakers as well as our 4 District Finals. I look forward to seeing you there, virtually. There is still time to book your ticket.

Conference is also a time for recognising all the achievements of our members and Clubs, don’t miss out on the Hall of Fame, we have a ton to share!

Over the past month, you have embraced online Club meetings, online contests, invited guests from all corners of the Globe to attend your meeting. Despite challenging times, many Clubs are continuing to retain, attract and convert new guests into members, this is testament to the strong culture we have among all our Clubs. And for all these efforts, I thank you. There are lots of new opportunities to learn and grow in this new environment. When did you last deliver a Pathways project? Give it a go, online is your window to the World.

The World is watching, I have received so much positive feedback from members and District leaders from around the World that have attended many of our online meetings. The underlying trend is simply amazing, we are a strong District, we have strong Clubs and because of all these efforts, the World is now looking at us as leader in online meetings. Keep it up!

See you all at Conference!

Be safe


Our new windows to the world

The online events and club meeting experiences are proving to be a winner. In the last few weeks, all seven of our Division Contests events were held. All had over 100 attendees at some point during the event, with one reaching the 200-attendee mark. Absolutely fantastic showcases for what Toastmasters offers.

The small thumbnails on a screen are now our windows to the world. Visiting clubs has never been easier. We are a global organisation and from the comfort of our own homes, we are travelling the world. Our members have shared their experiences of joining meetings around the world, from Vancouver to Lisbon, Lille to Qatar. Each member is hearing new stories, picking up tips on how other clubs run meetings and strengthening the Toastmasters community bond. And in turn, we have been joined at our events by guests from at least four other continents!

Back in September when I mooted the “30 is the new 20” about club membership, some clubs embraced the challenge. One of our newly chartered clubs, Didcot Speakers, which chartered during this period, has reached that target. At the time of writing, Burnham Speakers, with 23 members has just voted to charter, at this rate they will have 30 members by the end of this Toastmasters year.

Toastmasters International, I have heard it said, is the best kept secret for learning. Let’s share this secret and shout it from the roof tops. Now is the time to step up and seize the opportunity to embrace online webinars, demonstration meetings and open house meetings. As a District we have held a pilot demonstration meeting to test the format – it works! More of these events will be set up through May and June. If you are struggling for guests, hold an online open house meeting and invite all those people you know would benefit from the Toastmasters learning experience. It’s great when I hear the success stories from clubs, particularly during this difficult time, when they have guests becoming members.

To support membership growth, the +3 Challenge running from 1 April to 31 May, is simple. Sign up three new members and ensure they are registered, and the District will gift you £30. As we head into May and June the Toastmasters International membership campaign, Beat the Clock commences. Make sure you update your websites, social media and Easyspeak (if your club uses it), to let everyone know you’re meeting online.

Buddy up members to regularly contact each other and help each other out. If you haven’t heard from one of your members for a while during this period, pick up the phone, check in with them. A note of thanks for all those that joined and engaged so openly in the Survival to Online Interviews webinar, good luck with your interviews.

We are a community and we are supporting each other right now.