District Leadership 2019-20

Ending an extraordinary year

Time flies and it’s hard to believe that we’re already in the middle of June with the end of the 2019-20 Toastmasters year just a fortnight away. The least I can say is that this year was a very interesting year for the District and a very successful one on so many levels.

We started very strong with brand new initiatives like our District 91 boardgame and shooting the first round of incentives and #MyWhy videos with a professional camera crew. Thanks to your efforts we quickly became the best District in Europe and soared to become the best District in the world for clubs with 20+ members. Not a small achievement for a small District that only represents 1% of Toastmasters worldwide!

The 2019-20 Toastmasters year will always be remembered as the year when COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic. I never knew that I would be District Director during a pandemic and the challenge certainly provided me with a lot of development opportunities. I have said a few times already and I’ll say it again. When national chains and brands like McDonald’s shut down their operations. Our Toastmasters clubs, your Toastmasters club continued to meet online during these challenging times. I’ll never forget the enthusiasm of club leaders during the initial heady days during which we moved online. COVID-19 was the greatest challenge that we ever faced in our history, yet we rose to it.

Thank you for going the extra mile and moving online.

Thank you for attending our largest ever Conference with 800 attendees.

Thank you for continuing to grow our organisation in exceptional circumstances.

In the final two weeks of the year let’s finish the year with a bang and continue to grow our clubs. Now is the time to reach out to past members and invite them back. Why? Because we are Toastmasters, a brilliant bunch of people that can achieve extraordinary things!

It’s a great time to finalise

Dear members,

In just two weeks, the Toastmasters year will be over; now is a great time to finalise and deliver that last speech to get this elusive educational award or get that coveted Triple Crown (3+ educational award in a year).

Reach out to your VP Education to confirm all your awards have been registered on Club Central this side of the Toastmasters year.

Did you know that at the time of writing this note, 149 of you have already achieved a Triple Crown? Join this exclusive group and receive a pin recognising this achievement.

Despite the last 3 months of challenges, opportunities and new practices, we have over 100 Clubs that have already achieved the Distinguished status, with over 20 Clubs on track to become Distinguished simply by renewing 1/2 members, or register 1 Educational Award!

Together we have managed to keep meeting, deliver speeches and close out on projects, you have made a significant impact on your personal growth but also that of fellow members.

Over the coming weeks, I will be attending both my Club meetings and help celebrate the achievements of our members on their anniversaries. I encourage you all to look at ways to recognise the achievements of the year, a special meeting, an award ceremony or simply an extended recognition segment at the next Club meeting.

Let’s keep focus on achieving and recognising our achievements!

Looking forward to hearing your success stories!


You still have time

As we head towards the end of the Toastmasters year, we have one key message for our clubs. You still have time to bring your clubs back to a strong membership position.

We are currently in the middle of a membership drive called Beat The Clock for clubs to increase your membership by 5 and we are encouraging everybody to engage with these efforts. The mantra 30 is the new 20, still stands.

Ensuring your club hits the 20 member mark, will enable some clubs to achieve DCP level.  For members requiring the opportunity to complete educational awards, there’s still time to organise megameetings and events to assist them to achieve their educational goals. Plus, this provides you with an opportunity to invite non-renewed members and guests to attend.

Here’s how you can help. 

1. Members and renewals – during March and April, some of our members did not renew, but are now starting to come back. If you have members that decided not to renew earlier, now is the time to contact them to invite them to renew. 

2. Increase your membership – clubs can host their own Open House Meetings to invite guests and non-renewed members too. To support this, there’s £100 available from the District for marketing the event, e.g. Facebook ads, Meet Up registration etc.. Keep the receipts to claim the expenses back. To benefit in this Toastmasters year, the event must take place between now and the 30 June 2020.

3. Club Finances – review the club’s budget for the year ahead. The slower than usual renewal payments have affected some clubs more than others.  When we come out of the lockdown, clubs may struggle to hire the same venues, for a variety of reasons. An option is to switch to annual renewals from September (rather than 6 monthly) as this will greatly assist with budgeting. Discuss with your members now as this change impacts them.

We acknowledge that these have been challenging times over the last couple of months. Throughout this time, for members facing uncertainly, their Toastmaster meetings have been a constant. Many clubs have stood up to support their members. We are not alone. It is particularly heartening to look at the clubs in Italy, with the testing situation there, to witness their members continuing to be actively engaged, providing invaluable support for each other and in turn, have helped their clubs to grow. The measure of this success, clubs achieving distinguished and having a strong membership based. We can learn from this, if you have established and experienced members that haven’t yet renewed, it is time to bring them back into the fold. As well as welcoming guests to join meetings and continuing to attract new members. Ensuring new members are registered with Toastmasters International by the end of June.

Some clubs are excelling, they have increased their member base. If that is your club, are you sharing your good practices with other clubs? Can you help a neighbouring club that is struggling? We have pre-charter clubs that are close to chartering and looking for support, can you get involved? This is your opportunity to support all clubs to bring them back to a strong membership position. While we are at it, let’s Beat The Clock!

It has been an absolute delight and pleasure to serve as your Club Growth Director this year. I look forward to continuing to serve you, next year as, your Program Quality Director.

Helena Boden-Brewer, DTM

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!