Keep on running!

Thanks to the hard work and efforts of members, Club Officers, and DEC members as a District we are close to becoming a distinguished district. Why is this important and what does it have to do with me you might ask? Running a Distinguished club clearly demonstrates to the rest of the Toastmasters Community that we have quality clubs who are meeting members needs and so it is with districts. For this reason, I am going to ask you to “keep on running”!

Keep on running!

Many sports coaches and athletes talk about running or competing beyond the finish line. If they are running 100 meters, they will talk about running 101 meters. This is because they want to finish a race as strongly as possible not only for an advantageous position this race, but also to set them up for good start for next race.

They want to ensure they achieve the best result they can and not be overtaken in the last few years. So, it is with District 91, we are in touching distance of becoming a Distinguished district for the first time since 2020. Some of you may ask why does this matter? It matters because becoming a Distinguished District shows the rest of the Toastmasters world how hard you, as DEC, Club leaders and members have worked to have a successful year yar.

As I mentioned during the Hall of Fame, we have over 1,100 pathways level awards this year and many more to follow in the last six weeks of the year. Where we most need your help is with clubs seven or fewer members to return them to good standing and help to convert some pre charter clubs into chartered clubs. If you can help, please contact either Mo our Club Growth Director or myself.

Hall of Fame

Many congratulations to this year’s Hall of Fame recipients. It was a great to see Debbie Williams and Amy Jones both acknowledged for achieving their DTMs, with Amy receiving her medallion on Saturday. Winchmore Hill Speakers won PR Club of the Year for their great website and social media activity which helped them launch a Gavel Club during the past year.

Diane Richardson, District Director 2023/24 with Gala Dinner and Hall of Fame MCs Serena Salvatore and PDG Hilary Briggs, DTM

Our Youth Leadership Co-ordinator (and District Admin Manager) presented the Youth Leadership Facilitator award to Gillian Myers of Hamwic Speakers. The first Phoenix Award of the Year for clubs who start the year with less than 12 members and then have 20 or more by the end of the year, went to FTI Consulting who started the year with only three members and now have 25.

Club Sponsor of the Year was Kavita Dukai for her work chartering Sustainable Speakers and Olga Galaiko won Club Mentor of the Year for her work supporting L&C Toastmasters Club and sponsoring a second London Stock exchange club.

City of London Toastmasters won the Club Growth Award for recruiting thirty-seven new members and growing the club to seventy-three members. Celia Edwards won Club Coach of the Year for her work with Battle Speakers who thanks to her hard work and that of the club committee in growing the club to its largest size since 2019/20.

The Corporate Club of the Year is Moody’s Europe Toastmasters, they were the first corporate club this year to become Presidents Distinguished with a perfect 10 DCP points after being a select distinguished Club last year and distinguished in 2021/22.

Hamwic Speakers, are this year’s Club of the Year. This club has a long record of having over 40 members and of becoming a conformed Presidents’ Distinguished club in early April for the past several years. To meet demand the club, hold weekly meeting to ensure that there are sufficient speaking slots available for members to progress through Pathways.

Helyn Ashford (J10) is this year’s Area Director of the Year. Last year Helyn stepped up and became an Area Director midway through the year. This year she is helping to Charter a new online club in her area, has helped all five of her clubs be the best they can be with two already distinguished and two more very close to becoming distinguished and her enthusiasm has helped raise the energy level in any room which she enters.

The Division Director of the Year is Division H Director, Guler Cortis, for her work in starting a new club at her workplace and the support she has given to clubs and Area Directors in her Division this year.

The Toastmaster of the Year is Juli Chapman, for her work as a Pathways Champion and Club Coach. The District Directors award went for the second time to Janet Alkema. Janet first helped me when she was Division D Director in 20/21. She went on to became Youth Leadership Co-ordinator the following year and continues to hold this role. In 2022/23 she stepped in to become Division D Director mid-year and this year she stepped in as Administration Manager when her predecessor stepped away in October.

Conference Team

This month’s newsletter has been put together by the conference team. If you did not attend, you missed a magnificent event as I am sure you will read and see below. Many thanks to Amy Jones, DTM and her team who put on a fantastic conference in Bristol.

If you want to develop your event management skills then Steve is looking for next year’s conference director, please contact him.

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

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


District Director: Thoughts on our late Queen

Rupa Datta on how she was inspired by Queen Elizabeth II

I write this month’s piece (originally written for the September newsletter) in a rather pensive mood.

Like the vast majority of you, I’ve only known of HM the late Queen Elizabeth as our Head of State, a woman in leadership and someone whose life was devoted to service from a young age. I’m sure as time passes there will be more reflections and parallels and for someone who was present in different ways for different people, there will be different takeaways.

Last month, at the Toastmasters International convention in Nashville, I had the honour to carry the flag of the United Kingdom during the opening ceremony. It’s hard to describe the thoughts that went through my head when the decisions for allocations of flags were being made and what it was to participate in such an event that really demonstrated the diversity of our organisation.

Given the events of the last two weeks, the whole event feels much more poignant right now.

As we near the time where we are decide on renewing our continued commitment to Toastmasters, our clubs and our personal growth, I can’t help but draw some parallels:

  • Service

The third of our Core Values. We associate 70 years of her reign as a lifetime dedicated to service as she pledged in her speech on her 21st birthday in 1947. In many ways, she was unprepared to take on the role when she did yet did so with grace throughout her reign.

At Toastmasters, we have opportunities to serve everywhere and a safe space to fail from time to time as we are students of leadership and communication. There are opportunities available right now for you to contribute in your own way. This could be within your club or beyond. Just reach out and ask the question – How can I serve?

  • Lifelong learning

As above, our late Queen spent a lifetime learning her role probably had many mentors throughout her time, and no doubt became a mentor and counsel to others along the way. We may never again see the depth and breadth of experience that one person attained in one leadership position.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some incredible Toastmasters who have been with the organisation for decades (I was 2 when one of my mentors and guides joined the organisation!) You may have read it before, and I seem to be reading it a lot at the moment as someone I met last month is posting this quote by the first female to join Toastmasters and a past International President, Helen Blanchard:

‘If you get out of Toastmasters all there is to get out of Toastmasters, you’ll never leave Toastmasters.’

  • Stability

Change is a constant fact of life. We witnessed during the pandemic the extent to which our Toastmasters community was a source of stability for many our our members. As one era ends, and we enter another, for some of us knowing that we have that club meeting to attend every week with a supportive group of people can be an important anchor.

Having the option to renew every 6 months, also gives us the opportunity to review our goals and growth – it’s ok if it may be time to explore a different club or even ‘go beyond your club’.

I have different goals to when I joined Toastmasters in February 2016. Some of what we are witnessing this month, we have never seen before and may never see in our again in our lifetime – the formalities and different types of speeches. Different roles in Toastmasters give you that too – I reflect again having chaired a formal business meeting for District Leaders earlier this month and will be chairing another one for our District and Club Leaders at the end of the month.

I hope you continue your membership with us…and contribute some small steps to help our community grow to 5000 by the end of this Toastmasters year.

“It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”

HM Queen Elizabeth II

Rupa Datta

District 91 Director, 2022-23