Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone who’s a member of District 91 Toastmasters. I also extend these greetings to members of your family, and friends. We’re fast approaching the halfway point of our Toastmasters year. It seems incredible how quickly it has gone. Experience tells me that the second half of our year seems to pass even more quickly than the first half. It is now time to consider what progress you have made towards meeting your personal goals for this Toastmasters year, and what changes you may need to achieve them. This applies to everyone: our individual members, our clubs, areas, divisions and indeed our district, as we all “Stroll to Smedley”.

Pathways updates

Those of you following the Pathways listed below:

  • Effective Coaching
  • Innovative Planning
  • Leadership Development
  • Strategic Relationships
  • Team Collaboration

should have received an e-mail from Toastmasters International HQ earlier this week about important changes to Pathways and specifically these paths. With the new system the paths listed will no longer be available for purchase and will not be fully updated to match the rest of the pathways education programme.

You will still be able to access these paths and they will remain on your personal profile and education record if you have completed them. The remaining paths will benefit from having many new features including a new improved digital evaluation tool an updated experience giving and receiving feedback and for some club officers it will mean that they no longer need to approve your pathway level completions in both Base Camp and Club Central, helping to reduce their workload. Full details can be found about the new version of Base Camp which is being introduced next year by the Pathways Update page or the Education Programme FAQ page.

District Executive Committee (DEC) updates

Last week the District Executive Committee met for the second time this toastmaster year. At the DEC our District Alignment Chair Barbara Saph outlined the criteria she must follow together with the rest of the committee when deciding how many Clubs each Area should have, how many Areas each Division should have and how many Divisions there are in District 91. Barbara has already started to work on report for next year and will give her first report during a February committee meeting. No final decisions are made until a District Council meeting in May 2024, when all clubs in good standing have an opportunity to vote.

The other main business of the meeting was Rupa announcing that she had formed the District Leadership Committee and is now looking for candidates for leadership positions next year 2024 to 2025. If you are interested in becoming a member of the DLT or division director next year, please get in touch with Rupa as soon as possible. Rupa will be issuing further information later this month.

Club growth

We’re always looking out for new opportunities to start new corporate or community clubs in District 91. If you have any ideas where we could start a new corporate or community club, then please let either Club Growth Director Mo or I know. A quick reminder for those interested in gaining a Distinguished Toastmaster award that starting a new club is one of the key stepping stones to earning the award.

Once again, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and remind everyone that Happiness Brings Success.

Diane Richardson
District Director 2023-24

Celebration Season

Fellow leaders,

Congratulations to our Division Directors, District contest winners and all those who have made the contest season a success. The Bristol District Conference in May 2024 will be exciting with competitive District Contests to look forward to.

Congratulations to all our Members who were recognised at the Division Hall of Fame events. Every award is testimony to the commitment of our club officers who manage clubs and the unique developmental opportunities provided by the Toastmasters education programme.

Christmas festivities are upon us and I look forward to celebrating our D91 Toastmasters 10th Xmas as we look forward to both our District 10th Anniversary celebrations in May 2024 and the Toastmasters International 100th Anniversary later in 2024.

Well done to all clubs that have successfully renewed enough members to remain in good standing. We have achieved over 4000 membership payments to date, thanks to your hard work and support for the District mission.

This is not yet celebration time as we now need to focus on supporting many of our clubs to rebuild our membership base to ensure we have enough members to provide quality club meetings.

Many of us join Toastmasters for a specific reason and the success of the Toastmasters programme is best reflected in October renewal dashboard as many members have developed the skills and confidence required to fulfill the Toastmasters mission. Congratulations to our immediate past members and renewed members as we approach the milestone of 100 years of Toastmasters International and 10 years of District 91.

Thanks to our new club coaches volunteers, we do require more volunteer club coaches to support our low member clubs, please contact the Club Growth team if you would like to be a club coach which is a prerequisite for becoming a DTM and an opportunity to share your knowledge and ensure the benefits of Toastmasters can reach more people in future by helping build sustainable clubs.

As we consider the opportunities to grow our clubs, rebuild our low member clubs and build new clubs, it is important to ask ourselves this question?

What do I want to achieve as a Toastmasters leader in the next 7 months?

Wishing you a merry Christmas.

Mo Dawodu
D91 Club Growth Director 2023-2024

Heeding the Call

So why did I say yes to taking the District Administration Manager role?

It’s a question I have asked myself several times these past couple of weeks! Why did I accept the DAM role? (Just as well this is not audio as that last might have been bleeped out!!)

I’ve been an enthusiastic member of Toastmasters International since joining Farnham Speakers in 2012 and then joining newly chartered Godalming Speakers as a mentor in 2019. I’ve worked my way through being VPE, VPM, President, Secretary and even VPPR. I have steered clear of the Treasurer role for the safety of the club accounts!! As for SAA – yes, I help out behind the scenes with that too. I’ve been Area Director twice and Division Director twice, District Alignment Chair for three years and was on the Programme team at this year’s conference. I’m also the Youth Leadership Programme Champion for District 91 and running my third Youth Leadership Programme at a Farnham secondary school.

So, when Diane asked if I would take on the District Administration Manager role I didn’t say yes immediately as I know it is a lot of work supporting the District team. However, I really appreciate the value of Toastmasters, the community and the learning opportunities I have benefitted from and know that it has made a very big difference in my life. Just recently I was paid to give a 45 min talk to a group of about 30 people – you couldn’t exactly call it an after-dinner speech – although technically it was as they had just had dinner! I really enjoyed the opportunity to practise the skills I had learnt in Toastmasters for engaging the audience, for being comfortable at the front of the room and for delivering a talk of value – and the feedback assured me I had. I have Toastmasters to thank for that – and taking the DAM role is another opportunity to give back.

I am looking forward to working with the District Leadership Team this year and getting more involved with our wonderful D91 community.

Janet Alkema
District Administration Manager 2023-24

A Cantankerous Christmas Carol

How’s your Christmas looking? If it’s full of sparkle and joy, please stop reading this and go sing Mariah Carey’s, ♫ All I want for Xmas is youuuuu …♫

If, on the other hand, you’re muttering, ♫All I want for Xmas is youuuuu … to shut up already with that festive cheer! ♫ this article is for you! I aim to provide top, tinselly tips, so that die-hard Scrooges (like me) can feel fully justified on being anti-Christmas!

Let’s face it, it’s been a tough year. We’ve had the cost-of-living crisis (on going), the housing crisis (on going), the Brexit-mess-crisis (all but forgotten). The plethora of strikes these past months has taken ‘industrial action’ to an industrial scale! Not to mention the government’s re-re-re-shuffle, which is like the child’s game of musical chairs, but with more tears and tantrums.

If that wasn’t enough, we face the festive season with its ‘forced to be happy’ mandate and its stupid songs that are downright deceitful!

Case example, ♫ Santa Clause is coming to Town♫

Not anymore, he’s not. Not with immigration at an all-time peak. Even if he applies for a working visa, it’s gonna take ages to process. Plus, don’t the reindeer have to go into some kind of quarantine?

Which leads to, ♫ Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer … ? ♫

Red nose? I hope it’s not Rhinophyma (aka ‘whisky nose’) and a case of drink-driving. That would be a PR disaster for Santa. Not only would Rudolph have to attend the drink-driving rehabilitation (DDRS) course (they clearly accept all kinds of animals), but children would miss out on their gifts.

Not that kids care anymore. Most of them pretend to believe in Santa so their parents won’t start crying. You tell a child, ‘Be good or Santa won’t bring you anything’, they’ll answer, ‘I’ve already ordered it through Amazon’.

Nothing is sacred! Remember those captivating Christmas carols we used to sing? Well millennials claim they’re as outdated as sending Hallmark cards (which, BTW, destroy the other Amazon).

Take, ♫ Frosty the Snowman, was a very happy guy! ♫ Today he’s having a major meltdown due to global warming.

Or, ♫ We Three Kings of Orient are, following a yonder star ♫ Following a star? For goodness sakes guys, wise-up and get a satnav.

As for Justin Bieber’s ♫ Mistletoe ♫ It’s going to be banned. Too many unwanted kisses. #MistleToo

If this sounds a bit un-Christmassy, I apologize because there’s more. Mainly the ‘Covid Enquiry’, which this year was voted number one ‘Christmas Downer’, along with the smell of Brussel sprouts (before and after eating).

But they say the last thing you should lose is hope (and your undies at the office party), so it’s time to take the reindeer by the horns and enjoy what the festive season has to offer! Scrooge Spirit Style!

Start by singing ♫ Feliz Navidad … ♫ while you wait to clear the 3-hour immigration queue to enter Spain, France, Portugal and all other EU countries! Thank you, Brexit!

Next, get your ‘British Museum’ advent calendar. Every window opens to a stolen item some country or other wants back. Spoiler alert: the 25th opens up to the Nativity Scene in front of the Parthenon Marbles.

Great news! No need to buy presents. Climate change has made it OK to recycle gifts! I’ve been doing it for years. In fact, my family has been passing around a Ferrero Rocher box for decades.

As for the wrapping paper, my mom always hoards it and uses it the following year. We used to call her a cheapskate, now she’s a national hero!

Finally, why not poke a hole at all the insufferably idiotic inflatable XMAS Santas in your street? Just to prove that all this Christmas sparkle and joy is just a lot of hot air.

Because if there’s one year when one should NOT feel guilty about indulging in the anti-Christmas spirit, it’s most certainly this one.

With that in mind, I raise my glass and leave you with my favourite (edited) Christmas Carol,

♫ Do you see what I see? A star! A star! Dancing through the night, it’s the alcohol I’m drunk as a skunk! It’s the alcohol I’m drunk as a skunk! ♫

Merry Christmas, everyone. —-

Sonia Aste is a Harvard MBA, Engineer, Meng, and a proud Toastmaster at Riverside Communicators Club.  More from her on websiteTwitterFacebookInstagram