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

Slicing the Cake

Insights from the October renewals

Thanks to the work done by the District Leadership Team (DLT) to improve our communications and send you, our fellow members, information that is relevant to you, we have gained some new insights on members’ Pathways journeys when they leave Toastmasters. It also allows us to connect better with each member rather than sending out a mass email to everyone. Just as with a cake to eat a whole cake is probably too much yet everyone would like a slice that satisfies their needs at the time.

Of the 1,265 members who left District 91 at the end of September, 871 of them had enrolled in Pathways, however, more than 1,000 members left without gaining a single Pathways award. This shows that members are not engaging with Pathways even though they have signed up. I would encourage new members to start their Pathways journey soon after they join a club. Experience has shown that members who enrol and are active in Pathways are the members who gain most from their membership. Whilst seeing other members speak or give an evaluation can be helpful, the best way to get better at anything, public speaking, cricket, home baking etc. is to take part in a safe club meeting environment. Think of your club as a training ground before you go “onto the pitch” giving a speech or presentation at work or at a friend’s wedding.

In a related issue. To help build a picture worldwide across Toastmasters International, long standing Aylesbury Speakers member Selina Griffin is conducting research that is trying to build a predictive model looking at using Pathways data to find Toastmasters that appear at risk of leaving so we gain a better understanding of why members leave. This is part of her PhD research with the Open University. She is working with Dr John Lurquin a member of staff at Toastmasters HQ. All information will be anonymised, and John will be selecting potential interviewees. 

Thanks Toastmasters Campaign – goes real!

You have hopefully seen the Thanks Toastmasters campaign ads in past couple of years, which clubs can download and use for their own publicity. In this month’s newsletter we have another real-life example of Thanks Toastmasters, a video from Remko Timmermans, a member of Didcot Speakers on how Toastmasters has helped him in his career in rocket science. Last month’s newsletter article on how Toastmasters has helped Tom Bailey become a Barrister, was the most read article. Nikita is looking for further examples of current or past members who are willing to make a short video or draft a short article explaining how Toastmasters has helped them achieve their career or life goals. If you know of anyone then please ask them to contact Nikita. The articles will be shared in the D91 Website, newsletter, and other social media channels.

Happy Anniversary – Campaign

A benefit of introducing the new CRM programme is that we can now more easily find members who have a membership anniversary. In the last few weeks with the help of the D91 Public Relations Manage, Nikita Parks, we have sent out congratulatory emails to members who are celebrating their 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or even their 10th or 30th membership anniversary. It is a way for the DLT to thank members for their continued membership and support of Toastmasters International and D91 and their local club.

New Administration Manager

Unfortunately, Aayushi Jain DTM has had to step-down as our District Administration Manager. However, I am delighted to announce that Janet Alkema DTM has agreed to become our new Administration Manager with Immediate effect. Janet is a very experienced Toastmaster and has been a Division Director twice, the first time for Division A in 2019-20 and last year as Division D Director. I am sure you join me in wishing Janet all the best in her new role.

Diane Richardson
District Director 2023-24

Recognising Excellence in 2022 – 2023

On 30th July this year, we hosted your District’s Hall of Fame over a social event on London’s Southbank. The full list of those individuals and clubs recognised at this event can be found here.

For several years, we’ve recognised individual clubs with the ‘Club Excellence’ award; a recognition that goes beyond the dashboards. Clubs are recognised for some of the more intangible elements that show success aside from membership and training numbers. Examples here are contributions of members beyond the club such as in leadership positions, conducting wider Toastmasters education programs and the overall ‘feeling’ someone gets if they visit such a club.

Why not visit one of the clubs listed and discover the magic?

We also recognise clubs who have suffered a little but bounced back over the course of a Toastmasters program year with the
 Phoenix Award.

Due to the nature of our organisation, we celebrate milestones and length of service largely through education achievements. For example, to become a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), individuals must complete several projects and leadership service over a period which make it quite a milestone when achieved. I know this year’s team have a renewed emphasis on length of member service and anniversaries.

Reflecting on my own Toastmasters career journey, I got stuck in very early on simply due to a combination of my own curiosity and others opening doors for me. As a result, I wanted to pay this forward by recognising
 new members who had dived straight in and added value outside of their club in their first 12-18 months of membership.

After the May elections, many individuals start to wind down. This year, we felt compelled to recognise a District Officer who kicked it up a gear in the final stretch with the
 District Mission Award. This year, to the best of my knowledge, was the first time District 91 issued the Communication and Leadership Award. This award recognises someone who has made significant impact in a community under these categories and need not be a Toastmasters member.
Spreading the footprint of what we do is a collective responsibility. Two members were handpicked by our Public Relations Manager for their consistency of effort. A key function or mission of the district is to ‘build new clubs’ and as we stepped out of the pandemic 6 new clubs (all corporate!) were recognised with the
 Pioneer Award. This is testament to the fact that companies see the value of our program for their employees.

Every now and then we get asked if there are criteria for the main awards i.e.,
 Toastmaster of the YearDivision Director of the Year and Area Director of the Year. The simple answer is – yes! There are checklists that act as a guide for these and often it is quite clear at some point in the year who the recipient will be. In some cases, the deciding factor may be because of something an individual has contributed (often quietly) to the cause or overall mission.

In my deliverance speech at the May Hall of Fame, I referred to the fact that I searched high and low for the checklist for the
 District Director’s Award. This one is understandably quite subjective, and you can find out why here.

I didn’t get off Scot free, though. There’s a certain type of speech known as a roast in which the subject matter is often someone leaving a role. When it became clear that this was about to happen, I was incredibly nervous however couldn’t help but choke up at the affection that came through not one but four roasts! One was delivered by immediate past District Public Relations Manager, Chris Arning and can be watched back here.

I once again thank the 2022-2023 District Leadership Team for their service, commitment, secret scheming to put this on, and for their friendship – a lovely byproduct of working intensively in a team for 12-15 months.

As ever, thank to event photographer Chris Bovell from
Blaqpix for capturing special moments. You can view the photos here Password: Limin

Rupa Datta
Immediate Past District Director 2023-24

District Director Newsletter – October 2023

October thoughts from District Director, Diane Richardson

Dear members, 

We are now a quarter way through our Toastmasters’ year, and let us congratulate ourselves for the achievements our clubs have made so far this year. I am delighted that many of our clubs have been successful in recruiting new members and in registering Pathways education awards.

We held our first District Council meeting where our Club Presidents and Vice Presidents of Education voted with our District Executive Committee for all Area, Division and District contests to take place as hybrid events this year. I have already attended two very well organised and managed club contests with new members stepping up and entering their contest often with enormous success. This is especially pleasing as it shows that new members feel comfortable enough in many clubs to take what many outside Toastmasters perceive as being a huge risk or challenge. This speaks highly to how many clubs have a welcoming, open, and friendly atmosphere which encourages people both to join and then take part in club meetings and contests.

I know that several Area and Division Directors are planning their contests either for later this month or in November, which gives everyone a wonderful opportunity to network and to support their club members as they strive to reach the next level of the Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests.

Your District team has also submitted and received approval from Toastmasters International HQ, our District Success Plan, budget, marketing, and communications plans. This is a major milestone. It means our District can become a distinguished district at the end of the year once again.

I am pleased that Steve has been running the District Officer Training over the course of the summer as Programme Quality Director. 95% of our Area and Division Directors attended training. It was especially interesting that the last-minute training which Steve organised, attracted District Officers from District 95 (Germany and Scandinavia), and allowed us to exchange ideas, to learn from them and for them to learn from us. This highlights the importance of encouraging members and Club Officers to visit other clubs to network and increase the speed of their personal development as members learn to speak in front of new audiences or share best practices between clubs.

It is also pleasing that Mo, our Club Growth Director, has had successes in this first quarter, with two new clubs, Sustainable Speakers and Medidata EMEA, chartering. Several clubs that had been suspended have now become clubs in good standing again. I know that Mo has a strong pipeline of club leads and prospects and is asking for your help with demonstration meetings for potential new clubs and as mentors for recently chartered clubs.

I hope that you enjoy the contest season currently underway.

Best regards


Convention News

Annual Convention Hall of Fame

Districts 71 & 91 were both celebrated at the Hall of Fame at the Annual Convention in Nassau. Elizabeth Jordan and Diane Richardson each received the “District Program Quality Award” for achieving Smedley Distinguished status for numbers of distinguished clubs and Rupa Datta received the “District Club Strength Award” for strengthening average club size by 14.4%.


District Trio at Annual Business Meeting
District Trio at Annual Business Meeting

Last month was the Annual Toastmasters International Convention. During the convention there was the Annual Business Meeting. During this meeting various announcements were made. I think it is worth sharing a few key points with you as you may have missed them elsewhere. The news was mixed but based on the data it has, the International Board is confident that we have turned the corner and the organisation will start to grow again.

Unfortunately, the reduced costs during the pandemic were insufficient to cover the reduced income from membership, which is why the subscription increases couldn’t be postponed any longer.

In District 91 we have a higher percentage of clubs meeting in person clubs than the worldwide average. Worldwide 60% of clubs are still holding hybrid meetings, 20% in-person and 20% online.

The higher-than-average number of clubs meeting in person has helped us grow our membership in the past year as globally in-person clubs recruited an average of eight new members and online clubs five new members. The average club size grew from 17.2 members per club to 21.2 around the world last year.

The number of paid clubs world-wide fell by 3.2% last year, although there are encouraging signs of progress. This year 47 districts chartered 68 new clubs in July, compared to 28 clubs in July 2022. Whilst we didn’t charter a new club in July, we charted a new club in August. Many congratulations to the sponsors of Sustainable Speakers in Area B9.

A new customer service team has been recruited to extend the contact hours to as near 24/7 as possible and to improve service levels at TMI HQ. The location will be revealed after the team have been trained. This will help clubs receive a quicker response from Toastmasters International and the District team obtain answers on your behalf if we can’t answer them ourselves.

District 91 is part of region 10 which covers the whole of Europe and parts of North Africa. Currently there are nine regions in the North American continent and five in the rest of the world. Following the huge growth of Toastmaster clubs in India, Africa, and Asia, to ensure that each region has fewer than 15% of clubs, from 1st July 2024 the regions will be split seven in North America and seven for the rest of the world.


District 91 member David Henson delivering an educational session at the Toastmasters International Convention
District 91 member David Henson delivering an educational session at the Toastmasters International Convention

Reformation of District 71 and 91 Postponed

At our District Council meetings in May 2023 both Districts 71 and 91 agreed that the District Directors should write to the International Board of Directors to request that a joint reformation committee should be established to examine the possibility of establishing a third district in the UK & Ireland.

On 14th August, Distinguished Toastmaster Matt Kinsey (International President) and Dan Rex (CEO) wrote to the current and past trios of both Districts to inform us that a decision to reform both Districts had been postponed to March 2024 at the earliest as neither district had reached its expected club growth target of 200 clubs for D71 or 170 for D91.

Membership Renewals

A quick reminder that it’s renewal time during September. Despite the subscription increase, the cost of Toastmasters membership is still fantastic value for money. For $10 a month which is a lot less than many people spend on coffee each week in cafés. It is also great value for money compared to short term public speaking courses which can often cost a lot more. Toastmasters has the added advantage that continued membership offers continuous training, so you develop the equivalent of Public Speaking muscle memory, and great friendships.

Diane Richardson
District Director, 2023-2024