Div C – Mat Rizzo

Floor Candidate for Division C Director

Candidate Statement

Toastmasters is about you, the Area Directors, Club Officers, and most importantly the members. Seeing every one of you, fulfilling your potential as leaders and communicators truly brings joy to me. It is remarkable how effectively we can change people’s lives together with supportive meetings, and by asking each and every one of us, to challenge ourselves as leaders.

Vision for 2021-22

As Club Officers and Area Directors, we have all faced unique challenges in the past year. Throughout 2021-22, our clubs will deal with transitioning from online to in-person and hybrid meetings. As the President of the only club to have already run a hybrid meeting under COVID restrictions, I will guide my team of Area Directors in advising and training clubs on how to approach hybrid meetings successfully.

Together, in the coming year, we will grow the membership of our clubs, spread the word of Toastmasters, achieve more learning successes, and have vibrant fun meetings. As Division Director, my goal is to provide full support to my Area Directors, so that they can support your clubs and members in becoming all that they can be.

My question to you is: What can we do, so that at the end of the year you say “I am proud of my achievements”, and how can we have fun while doing this?

My Why

Division Directorship is part of my leadership journey within Toastmasters. I wish to leave a lasting legacy for the next Division Director, and to encourage other Toastmasters to step up and take on the challenge of doing a leadership role within the District. Being a Division Director can also be part of your leadership journey, should you wish to pursue it!

Outside of Toastmasters

I am one of the most experienced professional interviewers in the UK having conducted thousands of interviews. In the past, I ran a corporate division and have a background in audio and software. My personal story is an unusual and interesting one spanning three countries, and including things like: having a radio show, professional musicianship, and discovering new passions later in life. All good things to chat about over a beverage! I’m always curious to hear your story as well…

Contact

Please get in touch with me and I will gladly answer any questions you have about my Division Directorship.

My easy-Speak profile

My LinkedIn profile

Why are you applying to become Division Director?

If there has been one organization to name where I have seen people consistently inspired and becoming leaders it is Toastmasters. This is because it gives people a supportive environment to grow. As Division Director, I bring strong vision. When I was Club President, I turned my Club around from about to drop off the map into a powerhouse of proactive Toastmasters. Further to this, from having been Assistant Area Director, I have the networks and contacts within Toastmasters to bring together fantastic and inspirational speakers for the benefit of the 25 Clubs in Division C. I believe the performance of the Division is in its numbers, but its heart is in its members. The value we provide is in what we do for our Clubs and our members to help them achieve their goals. The more that can be done to inspire, the more leaders are made. There is a vision for Toastmasters, and its right there under the logo. So, at the start of every Club meeting, every contest, and every training, I remind everyone: Toastmasters is where leaders are made.

What leadership roles have you had in Toastmasters so far and when did you serve in these roles?

Area Director J22, 2021
Assistant Area Director C33, 2020-2021
President Broadgate Speakers, 2020-2021
VPM Broadgate Speakers, 2019-2020

What have been your key accomplishments and what have you learnt from in past leadership roles?

As VPM, I learned that it is important to accurately track guests (especially repeat guests), their motivations, to have consistent and timely follow up, and to make the process as painless as possible. This is so that guests feel valued and respected even before they become members. Following this process allowed me to double our clubs membership from 17 to 36 members, helping to earn our clubs first Distinguished Club Ribbon in many years.

I also learned that it is important for a committee to have a strong president who informs their committee about Toastmasters opportunities and plans for succession early. This was largely learned from spending time GEing and networking within Toastmasters. These learnings I implemented when I became President, and have been active in promoting Toastmasters opportunities to my Club members. It has been inspirational for the members, and inviting them to take part in the opportunities, is seen as a step-up, a vote of confidence, someone believing in them, and something they can aspire to.

This was an ambitious goal for a Club that started the Toastmasters year with zero speeches per meeting, half the membership not attending, and the majority of members not having ever logged into Pathways. However, I learned that by repeatedly demonstrating what it means to be a leader, bringing in talented guest speakers and GEs, and having full agendas, really made a difference. The year was started with educational sessions, lot of encouragement of members, working with individual members, coaching them through Pathways, overcoming objections, and getting to a point where members were having an enjoyable time at meetings. This led to a large amount of engagement, and now almost everyone in the club has achieved the goal they started out the year with – complete three speeches. Fun meetings are inspirational meetings! Full agendas bring learning and value to members.

However, I didn’t get there on my own. As part of this process, I began engaging committee members, all of whom were new to the roles, and one of whom had only been a Toastmaster for a few months. Initially, it was a lot of work, but showing my committee members how to do their roles, and also by reminding them that they had a responsibility and commitment to the club, they slowly became engaged. This has now come full circle to the point that they are proud of their work and continually positively reinforce themselves by proactively taking on club responsibilities and they are beginning to network within the wider Toastmaster community. It is a snowball effect and the members see it too. I am really pleased to see their learning and development progress. Seven officers fully trained, at both COTs, and beyond that through continually participating in Club affairs.

Over the last six months, we’ve had guest speakers and functionaries from these other clubs: London Public Speakers, HAC Orators, West London Toastmasters, 1st London Toastmasters, Lloyds Banking Toastmasters, Liberty Speakers, Zig Zag Toastmasters, Legacy Speakers Brixton, Clever Communicators, Gatwick Communicators, Holborn Speakers, and London Cardinals. This cross pollination between the Clubs encourages and helps Clubs to learn and grow together.

One success of note was running a joint meeting with HAC Orators, where we hosted them at one of our meetings. That meeting was evaluated by a GE from 1st London Toastmasters, and they wrote some good things about us in their blog: https://firstlondontoastmasters.co.uk/2020/08/two-clubs-are-better-than-one .

A further success was running a Hybrid Meeting during the brief period between lockdowns. This involved a lengthy consultation process, and together, working with my SAA, we achieved this. Further to this, I contributed to the District Committee on Hybrid meetings. Since, I have had multiple requests to speak to Areas and Clubs about the practicalities of running a Hybrid Meeting. I’ve learned that by being brave and taking carefully considered actions, it makes opportunities to help Clubs and Areas.

Coming up during the next six months is an Evaluation Workshop (open to all Toastmasters), Speechcraft, and a Cost Reduction Programme to reduce membership prices and streamline PR.

Having a strong energy caught the eye of the Area Director, and I was then asked to become Assistant Area Director. It turns out our Area was struggling, and my focus was largely on my Club. This meant, that although I organized a good Humorous and Table Topics contest for the Area, and helped to run COT, the other Presidents still suffered from engagement. Towards the latter end of the six months, I noticed that our Area was not on target for training Club Officers and there were improvements that could be made. I found that we had lacked Area Council meetings and regular contact with our Presidents, which I had assumed my Area Director had been taking the lead on. Upon hearing about this, I began reaching out to the Club Presidents who were having difficulty to assist them. I have begun providing them with information they require, guidance, and encouragement. I aim over the next six months to bring in Toastmasters recommended practices, and to supervise, help, and inspire the Presidents, by understanding their needs and cultures. A big learning from this is that regular communication is required, and that no news is not always good news.

What are the main responsibilities of Division Directors that you are aware of?

The practical side of the role is to lead and support the Division through supervising and supporting the Area Directors. Each Club and Area in the Division should achieve its mission and fulfill its responsibilities to its members, as defined in both the Club Success Plans and Area plans for success. This is achieved by coordinating Division activities, setting Division goals, and assisting in the training of Area Directors and Club Officers. A Division Council is held at least twice yearly to discuss each Areas goals and progress towards them (although I would advise monthly), with the aim of having Distinguished Areas and Distinguished Clubs. The purpose of this is to evaluate where support is needed. Motivation, guidance, and supervision can be provided to Area Directors to help them fulfill their roles and responsibilities. Further to this, the Division Director facilitates the Division Speech Contests, and assists with Area Speech Contests. A good way of assisting with this is building a team of competent Area Directors who all assist each other, so that the Area Directors can learn how to best work together, and the different ways of running Speech Contests. In addition to building a cohesive team, the District Director knows the numbers, but understanding the culture of the Areas and the Clubs. They informing the Area directors about District opportunities, and also report back to the District Director, Program Quality Director, and Club Growth Director on Division progress, being a conduit between the District and the Areas. Finally, the Division Director fulfills all the required District Leader Competencies, as defined by Toastmasters, and brings energy to everything they do.