The Laughing Toastmaster: I Can Make You Win…?

Caution: contains information unsuitable for winners

In a world obsessed with winning, I’m glad to say losing is very much alive. I can personally testify to losing jobs, pin numbers, house keys, car keys and so many Toastmaster competitions my self-esteem is lower than Twitter’s reputation.

Yes, it’s competition time at Toastmasters! A time when the Toastmasters Gods (aka Judges) insist on following that silly tradition of, ‘There can only be ONE winner’, leaving the rest of us in Loserville. Worse still, we have to muster up false-smiles and say things like, ‘The important thing is to participate’, ‘It’s all about the learning experience’, when all we want is to go home and cry. Or is that just me?

I hate losing! I hate losing even more than I like winning, which makes me wonder why it keeps happening. There’s only one thing I was happy to lose (at the tender age of 16), and even that was a disappointment! But that’s the case for 99.9% of the world population so I don’t feel too bad about that.

World experts (in THE EVENING STANDARD) claim successful people have what is called a ‘Winning Mentality’. Wow! Is that all? I mean, it’s not like I go around telling myself ‘You’re gonna lose!’, neither do I shout ‘I’m a winner!’ like they suggest. More like I don’t talk to myself. But what do I know? I’m losing.

I better do something before I end up unable to leave home for fear of losing my keys, catching agoraphobia and eventually losing my mind.

I decide to enrol on a three-day event, ‘BE A WINNER!’ with the self-styled winner guru. Three days? A lifetime of losing can be changed in less than it takes an avocado to ripen? I’ve wasted so much time!

I will be able to ‘Unleash My Power Within’. First, I have to ‘Unleash my Credit’ with the bank, because it’s £1000. Expensive, but what’s a little (more) debt when I will also ‘Awaken the Tiger’ in me? Not sure about having wild creatures inside my body, as anyone who’s watched ALIEN will testify.

With hope and anticipation, I get there, READY FOR SUCCESS! I’m thrilled to see 7,000 other losers are there too! It’s like Loser’s Anonymous except we wear nametags:

MY name is SONIA ASTE, and I’m a Winner!

I’m really impressed! The event hasn’t even started and I’ve already achieved it!

MY £1000 pound ticket turns out to be the cheap seats. I’m so far from the stage I could be in another time zone. I hire binoculars (extra £50) and can just about make out a tiny dot on stage informing us that WE ARE ALL SPECIAL!

Tiny Dot explains that once he had been overweight, homeless, jobless, no one loved him, his father in prison, his mother washed other people’s laundry, he suffered from BO, acne, dandruff, halitosis and … didn’t go to The Prom. It’s so sad … I mean not going to your prom??? I cry into my binoculars. But Tiny Dot transformed his life, because:


We are asked to write down WHAT WE WANT TO BE. Middle-aged guy next to me writes down: ASTRONAUT, a petite lady on my right: BASKETBALL PLAYER. Boy!

People are really going for their dreams! I write: WIN THE NOBEL PRIZE (in chemistry, physics, literature, medicine, economics and peace). That should cover it.

Next, Tiny Dot informs us that we have to ‘walk on hot coals’ to conquer our fears. Hot coals? Like in the Spanish Inquisition? Excuse me I’ve just remembered I’ve got athlete’s foot and my GP insisted I didn’t aggravate it.

Binocular Section look at me with disgust and go for it. OK fine! But if being a winner guarantees not burning your tootsies why does everyone look petrified and a medical team is on standby?

One guy ignores all instructions launches into a FRENZIED FIRE CRAWL. Men in white remove him from the premises.

Despite not doing the BARBECUE walk, I still get a CERTIFICATE OF PARTICIPATION.! This includes a 50% discount on the next course: ‘BE A WINNER AMONG WINNERS!’ which I might need because with all this winning, I think I’ve lost the plot.


——— Sonia Aste is a Toastmaster who still considers herself a winner. Catch her in the panel discussion:

And the Winner is … none of these panellists! How to learn, grow and bounce back from losing.

Sunday May 8th District91 Conference 9:45am

——— More from Sonia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Division H March Update

What is happening in Division H?

As the third trimester of the Toastmaster year comes to a close, Division H is celebrating another busy, successful year.

A big thank you to the Division H Leadership Team and all members within Division H for working hard to have successful clubs and areas within the Division so far. We are a close-knit team, we keep the communication flowing, and the results are visible.

On 8th January, we held an interactive training session as part of our Winter TLI (Toastmasters Leadership Institute). We included a panel discussion from clubs in the Division sharing their best practices.

 We achieved another record attendance and received raving reviews throughout, with an average participants’ feedback of 4.5/5. All those that attended found great value in the training provided. A heartfelt thank you to those who attended and provided feedback.

 Many of our clubs are very active.

Congratulations to Brighton and Hove Speakers for having the highest number of new members within the Division to date; and winning the Talk up Toastmasters Award by adding five more new members since February.

Congratulations to Beckenham Communicators and Speakers of Croydon, too. They won the Early Bird Renewal Incentive with more than 12 members renewing in February.

Division News – Club Highlights

We are inspired and celebrate our clubs’ achievements! These are just some of them!

New Charter: Sussex Online Speakers chartered on the 1st of October 2021, now they have an upcoming Speechcraft starting in March!

Gatwick Communicators held an Open House on the 21st of February and created a compelling series of marketing videos you can view here.

Arun Speakers are now running hybrid meetings, along with Kent Speakers and Battle Speakers.

Worthing Speakers Club has achieved 10/10 DCP points in February and is on track to become President’s Distinguished for three consecutive years

Speakers of Croydon recently concluded its annual Speechcraft resulting in every participant joining the club. Presently on course to being President’s Distinguished.

Speakers of Croydon also hosted an Evaluation workshop in February led by Chris Murphy from Tunbridge Wells Speakers and winner of the 2020 UK national Evaluation Contest and runner-up in 2021. The club is moving to a better and more well-presented venue for in-person meetings. Make sure you visit them!

Croydon Communicators and Liberty Speakers are planning a joint Speechcraft. Both clubs are on course to achieve Distinguished status.

  • Liberty Speakers held an Open House event in January with excellent reviews in the community, especially the business sector.
  • Croydon Communicators recently moved to a new home for its in-person meetings. Check them out.

Purley Speakers is on course to be President’s Distinguished! They received outstanding reviews from the community using Meetup to attract guests at its swanky new in-person meeting home. An Open House event is at the planning stage. 

Kent Speakers recently held a joint meeting with their local Rotary Club, and great fun was had by all!

Overall, there are many exciting changes in the Division, so watch this space and keep in touch!

Are you looking for more practice?

Battle Speakers is looking for new members and will focus on hybrid meetings, join them; it’s a great way to get a second club and more practice. Check their website

Did you know?

Division H has had three Area Directors win “Area Director of the Year” since the District was founded! See yourself! 

Division H has consistently had its members serving on the District Leadership Team.

Last year (Guler) and this year Debbie, both from Division H stepped up to take the demanding role of District Conference Director.

Dates for your diary

On 26th March is the Division H International Speech and Evaluation Contest – please register here to attend: REGISTER

The winners will then represent Division H at the District Contest during the D91 Conference 6-8 May, 2022. They will join Dan Magill, Humorous Speech contest winner and Marcus Tomlinson; Table Topics contest winner.

So come and cheer these champions at the District Conference.

Check out the link to the District Conference, get your tickets now and discover how you can help make this another engaging event. D91 Conference

Division H Members Wall of Fame

We love to celebrate our members who have so far completed a Level 5 Pathway awards this toastmasters year:

  • Guler Cortis, Speakers of Croydon / Purley Speakers
  • Emmanual Karamagi, Speakers of Croydon
  • Matt Clark, Croydon Communicators
  • Islay O’Hara, Tunbridge Wells Speakers
  • Catherine Cannon, County Communicators
  • Dave Simpson, Worthing Speakers
  • Phoebe Weston, Arun Speakers

Triple crown awards so far include

  • Alan Chapman, Beckenham Communicators
  • Juli Chapman, Beckenham Communicators
  • Robin Lulham, Eastbourne Speakers
  • Adrian Moore, Speakers of Croydon
  • Debbie Williams, Speakers of Croydon

We look forward to adding more names to the list as members achieve their educational goals.


—Debbie Williams, Division H Director 2021/2022

The Laughing Toastmaster: We Need a Cure for Meeting-gitis

Did you know there’s a virus going around? I don’t mean the one that’s so bad it makes having a root canal feel like you’re in Disneyland.

I’m talking about Meeting-gitis, a dangerous condition that if left untreated can turn you into a full-blown Meeting-alcoholic.

This may not sound like a big deal. Most of us work in environments where meetings are an accepted form of life. What else are managers going to do all day? But while your boss does it because he loves the sound of his own voice, Meeting-alcoholics do it out of a pathological fear of having a meeting-less agenda.

‘It took over my life’ confesses Julian Warn, a Toastmaster who wants to remain anonymous (but I forgot). ‘I ended up neglecting my family, friends and my personal hygiene. At work, I’d go to any meeting that would take me. I even participated in the ‘Accountant’s Lunch Catch Up’, which was not only useless (I work in IT) but drop-dead dull.’

Julian admits gate-crashing meetings to feed his addiction. ‘Sales meetings were the easiest to infiltrate. They were all drunk or hungover.

He recalls more of his shameful past, ‘I reached rock bottom when I found myself going to ‘HUMAN RESOURCES: WE’RE HERE FOR YOU’ (voluntary attendance). It was just me. That’s when I decided to ask for help’.

Treatment is not easy to come by. Traditional programs based on AA’s ‘My name is Julian and I am a Meeting-alcoholic do not work as they involve yet another meeting, feeding the addiction even further.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Meeting-gitis strain has mutated and we face an even more devastating virus: ZOOM-MONELLA. Born out of the need to stay connected during the lockdown, people suffering from ZOOM-MONELLA feel compelled to attend meetings ‘virtually’ 24 hours a day!

The latest casualty (an engineer from Surrey), was forcefully removed from his shed which had more screens, graphs and satellites than NASA’s control room. His loving wife, Bonnie Woes (another Toastmaster) tearfully admits, ‘Intervention was necessary. He had turned into a ZOOM-BIE’.

Think this has nothing to do with you? Think again. How many times have you ZOOMED into a meeting and thought, ‘When is this going to end?’. Or worse, had the temptation to MUTE everything, pretend to listen while secretly watching Master Chef? Or was that just me?

As Toastmasters, we are lucky to have meetings that are lean, mean and run like a machine, thanks to our wonderful Timekeepers. But this is far from the norm, most meetings are useless and lack purpose.

‘ANTI-MEETING’ lobbies around the world are calling for new laws to tackle the problem. Not by punishing the addicts, but by penalizing the ‘MEETING DEALERS’. Charming and persuasive, these criminals lure innocent victims into attendance with promises of coffee, Krispy Kremes and ‘It’ll only be 5 minutes.’ Without realizing it, the victim is subjected to ‘The Gateway Meeting’ (meeting to program future meetings) and addiction is inevitable.

A spokesperson for ‘Just Say NO to Meetings’, Rupa Data (or was it Datta?) comments, ‘There are different approaches to dealing with meeting addiction around the world. Some countries place a greater emphasis on law enforcement, while others do not.

Sonia Aste

In the UK steps are being taken to create legislation to classify them into three groups: A, B and C.

Class A are the most harmful and include PowerPoint Presentations, (PPP is now an identified form of torture).

Class B includes meetings where someone with an ego the size of the UK debt hogs up all the stage time.

Class C includes people saying ‘I’ll be brief’.

Rupa continues, ‘Progress is slow due to lawmakers’ endless meetings. In the meantime, we should all be doing our part to prevent this terrible disease’.

In order to do that, ‘Just Say NO to Meetings’ has published a guideline to help stop the addiction before it starts.


  1.  Meeting rooms should be empty (no chairs, tables, whiteboard or air), to promote speedy endings.
  2. Aim to start LATE and finish EARLY.
  3.  The ‘meet and greet’ person should reek of B.O. and suffer from halitosis.
  4.  All attendees will be required to leave their egos at the door.
  5.  Anyone with an agenda that is not in the agenda will be prosecuted.
  6.  Anyone asking any ‘further questions’ will be fired on the spot.
  7. Finish with an ACTION PLAN – that requires no further meetings.

Rupa ends with a piece of advice, ‘The perfect meeting? The one that doesn’t happen’.

——— Sonia Aste is a Toastmaster who believes in only one kind of meeting THE TOASTMASTER MEETING. She is a member of the Riverside Communicators Club.
——— More of her stuff on website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

To Become a Leader of Tomorrow

By Andrew P. Bennett DTM, Youth Leadership Encourager

The first Youth Leadership session is an exciting moment for our Toastmaster Coordinators and Young People. It was with pleasure that I joined Toastmasters Joanne Roxburgh and Julie Parker on Zoom as coordinators of our newest program with King’s College Aspire. The young people in this group are 16-17 years old. The program is being sponsored by City Limits Toastmasters.

We broke the ice with a getting to know you exercise during which all the young people spoke. Joanne gave an engaging presentation on how to find a topic and create a speech for the next meeting. Julie shared her skydiving speech complete with a video clip. I explained the skill of evaluation and led our very first attempts at a round-robin evaluation of the speech with the young people contributing their commendations and recommendations. The session ended with Table Topics in which every young person took part.

We are delighted to be working alongside Olivia Hylton – Pennant, Widening Participation Officer at King’s College and look forward to watching our group exploring their speaking skills over the coming weeks.

As one program begins another reaches its conclusion. We were very pleased to renew our contact with George Green’s School, E14 where the students, led by Paul and Sarah Andreas (Beckenham Communicators) as Toastmasters coordinators, accompanied by their teacher Diamond, enjoyed their program. I visited twice the group on zoom to contribute to the sessions and was able to see first-hand the progress made by the young people both in confidence and skills.

Here is some feedback from Hilde Lewis, Year 12 and 13 Leader at the school which I share with you all.

Toastmasters Youth Leadership transformed our young people into effective speechwriters and impromptu speakers. It provided a safe space and support network to feel comfortable making mistakes. All in all, it is a fantastic program that helps generate the attributes to become a leader of tomorrow.

Learn more about The Youth Leadership Program here.

Division L February Update

What is happening in Division L?

Happy Chinese New Year to those who celebrate with their loved ones!

I’m glad that our District would like to feature clubs and areas within Division L. Division L consist of 5 Areas and 23 clubs. Area Directors are committed to serving the clubs in their areas. Please do feel free to reach out to me, John or Area Directors. As we are here to serve you.

Asst Div L Director – John Akers

Area 16 Director – Brighton Gono

Area 45 Director – Anoop Ramanathan

Area 47 Director – Sushil Shah 

Area 56 Director – Georgina Mylona 

Area 61 Director – Angelie Bharwaney 

Like many members, I’m personally a big fan of Toastmaster International as it has had a positive impact on my life. The more I participate the better I am. The more I share, the more I learn & grow.

The integral part of the club is our members. Members constantly balance work and life i.e., the number of ‘active’ members in the clubs fluctuate hence I encourage clubs to plan regular membership building events like Open House, Speechcraft, etc. I’m pleased to share recent success on this front: –

“Manor House Speakers held a well-attended Open House event recently. It was very successful and resulted in the recruitment of several new members.”

“London Communicators Club ran an open house in-person meeting attended by 22 guests, 2 new members joined on the day.”

“Harrovian Speakers Toastmasters held in-person open house meetings. Rupa Datta, our very own Program Quality Director presented the First Class award won by the club in 2020/2021. In a subsequent meeting,7 guests attended the event and they enjoyed it so much that 2 of them are in the process of becoming a new member!”


“TJX Expressions Speakers held a Share and Learn session, their version of an Open House and over 35 people attended.”

“Angel Speakers are planning an Open House event to attract new members & grow the club. Watford speakers planning in-person Open House too!”.

To find out how your clubs can also grow: Speech Craft  ||  Open House   ||  Guest to Member

Many congratulations to the HOD Speakers Club who celebrated its 20th-anniversary open house, it was well attended and 7 of the club’s former Presidents participated in the event. Also present was a (pre) District 91 speech contest champion and the people present heard how a number of members supported his journey to the Cincinnati convention. They also heard a pre-recorded message from Margaret Page. The founding President asked all present to reflect on the number of lives the club had touched and changed over the last 2 decades!


Sarita Yadav (Division L Director)