Sharpening our Saw

As I write my newsletter entry this month, I realised that I am in danger of beating myself up and as such, I think the content is going to write itself. I wanted to do a video, but now I am out of time to hit the deadline. I wanted to add a relevant picture for a subject I had in mind, but I am out of time. This is an important leadership lesson for us all. Things do not always happen the way we would want them to. As leaders, we must re-plan and re-prioritise and at the same time, always remember that as volunteers while it is important that we carry out the role that we have agreed to do, we must accept that sometimes other life priorities like our work, family and health comes first.

I am going back to Stephen Covey again. He talks about sharpening our saw. We cannot sharpen our saw if we keep knocking ourselves about the fact that we let it get blunt in the first place. We must sometimes accept things for what they are and look to move on.

Last month I spoke about shining a spotlight on a future club or district leader and then encouraging them to run for office. How did you get on? Did you find someone, or did they say no to you. Is it worth supportively asking them again whether they would reconsider?

A few weeks ago, at the University of Law in London, we held our latest District Executive Committee meeting and afterwards held another round of District Officer Training to support the work of our Division and Area Directors. I thanked them on your behalf for all the work they do as District officers, and it was fantastic to see once again how talented and driven they are. But I also wanted to thank you, our members for all that you do. I know that we all join Toastmasters for specific individual reasons but along the way don’t forget about how you have helped by even just saying hello to a guest or explaining the agenda, or offering to be a mentor, or to sort refreshments for your club. Whatever you have done for others beyond your personal reasons for being in your club – thank you! This is the sort of selfless activity that gives our clubs and our program the quality we can all be proud of. In addition, congratulations to those members who have earnt one of the 851 educational awards since the start of the program year.

Talking of educational awards, one of the things that is asked regularly is “What news do we have about the new Pathways system?” The honest answer is that we do not know much. We have been told by WHQ that we are going to be given around 2 months’ notice which should give us enough time to support with training and messaging. But I can assure you that no one in the District Leadership Team is sitting on a secret pack of slides with all the answers of how it is going to work and when – we do know it will be in 2024 but we do not know when.

Finally, the very best of luck to all those members that have competed or are soon to be competing at the Divisional level contests – we look forward to seeing you in Bristol for the District Conference

With thanks again for all you do.


Steve Vear, DTM
Program Quality Director 2023-24

Courage and Encouragement

As excitement grows for the next half of our contest season, I want to start by wishing all contestants the verry best of luck. Whether you are entering the evaluation contest, or indeed setting out on your journey to become the next World Champion of Public Speaking, I hope that you learn and grow from the experience!

I am sure that you have had this reminder given to you so often that you will find my next words incredibly boring – but please do remember the eligibility requirement for speakers and functionaries of the International Speech contest. This is especially important if you are responsible for running a contest at club, Area, Division or District level. Please do consult this year’s Speech Contest Rulebook.

Very soon the deadline for elected roles in District 91 will have passed. But what about if your next opportunity to take the next step on your leadership journey doesn’t involve an elected position? You may have noticed that I said leadership journey, and not Toastmasters leadership journey. Why? Because all too often it’s s easy to forget the very clear and powerful transferable leadership skills that an organisation like Toastmasters international can give.

Your Area Council will soon be looking to elect the next Area Director, your club will be holding elections for committee positions in the next few months, and if that doesn’t give you enough chances to put your best foot forward, the District is always looking for people to take on small and not so small tasks.

But I am not pointing this out just to try and attract you to a leadership responsibility within Toastmasters. I want to you to think about the role you can play in encouraging the next leader. Almost of all of my roles within Toastmasters, whether it be at the club or District level, happened because someone asked me, or encouraged me to think about stepping up.

Have you met someone new to your club who is curious and capable, who could be your next secretary to wet their appetite? Is there a reluctant Vice President Education in your club who really should be the next President but needs YOU to ask them to run, or for you to tell them how great you think they would be.

What about someone from another club that stands out as someone who has done all committee roles who you would like to see role model things across your area. What would they say if you asked them to be the next Area Director?

In a voluntary organisation, sometimes it just takes a direct approach, a confidence boost – a cheerleader to step forward to nudge the next leader into the spot light….. who are you going to push into the spotlight? If you don’t want the light to shine on you – imagine the feeling of being able to shine the light on someone else and then think ‘look who I found for us. Shine that light now – and make someone feel amazing.

Congratulations to all our members who have achieved educational awards this month – and thank you to all those club officers who have been attending club officer training in the previous weeks, I do hope that you found the experience worth while.

Don’t forget that conference tickets are on sale for Bristol – it is going to be such a great weekend and I hope to see you there.

I’ll let you go now, you have a spot light to plug in!


Steve Vear, DTM
Program Quality Director 2023-24

Taking stock

Last January I was lucky enough to be sailing across the Atlantic on a two-month career break. It was then I decided that I was ready to return into a District Leadership position and decided then to run for an elected position, which of course leads me to be authoring this article in the Office of Program Quality Director. For me, January gave me an opportunity to step back and take stock of where I was (geographically I was many miles away of course, but you know what I mean) and where I wanted to go next on my journey. I have always found it a worthwhile experience to both reflect on and celebrate the past as well as to plan for and try and get excited for the future.

I wonder what January, the mid-point in our Program year will mean for you? Are you one of the hundreds of members who have achieved an educational award this year, are you a contest winner who is looking forward to our District finals in May 2024, or are you simply just enjoying your Toastmaster experience for all that it has to offer? One of the added benefits of Toastmasters which we don’t really talk explicitly about is the wonderful new connections and hopefully friends that we gain as being part of this community. I remember an ex-member of Basingstoke Speakers once telling me, that they joined Toastmasters to gain confidence – and what they gained was not only confidence but friendships that will stay with her for a long time. So, while Toastmasters International might measure our ‘Quality’ in terms of a dashboard and District goals, I am sure that we all have our own very personal ways of measuring the quality of our Toastmasters membership and all the experience it has to offer.

Toastmasters International has been sending regular communications about the upcoming changes to the Pathways system, launching a new LMS system and informing us about paths that will not be moved over to the new platform. I would encourage everyone to remind yourselves of these changes here to ensure you stay up to date with the most recent changes.

As we get ready to go into our next contest season in almost no time at all, why don’t you start thinking about whether you want to start your journey to become the next World Champion of Public Speaking? If you are a member who have gained a minimum of two levels in Pathways or are a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) then you are eligible to enter your club contest, which could lead to the Area, Division and District Finals. There is then a Regional stage which is judged via video submission before then reaching the World Semi Finals at the international Contention in California in August 2024. While of course it is true that very few people get to call themselves the World Champion of Public Speaking, it really could be you! Don’t talk yourself out of it and get planning that speech now! It is important to highlight of course that as well as the International Speech Contest, we will be running the popular Evaluation contest alongside it – so as I always say, Toastmasters has something for everyone.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank Amy Jones DTM, this year’s conference director and her team of conference leads who have been working hard in the background to put on a wonderful District Conference in Bristol on the first weekend in May 2024. I can’t wait to share with you news of a special guest who will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary with us!

In a recent leader’s letter article I reflected on the fact that as leaders we are never alone and there is always someone on hand to support you. This is the same for our individual Toastmaster journey – if you have questions, are looking for support or even are on the lookout for your next Toastmaster challenge, don’t ever hesitate to contact me directly or your local member of the District Executive Committee who will be on hand to help you.

Whatever the rest of your year has in store for you – enjoy it and remember – you don’t know what the best version of yourself looks like and neither does anyone else!

On the twelfth day of Christmas

‘On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love……’ OK, OK: I will save you the Christmas songs, but I did warn you in my video message of last month that I do love a bit of Christmas and at the time of writing I am but days away from getting my Christmas cushions out of the cupboard and my finger hovering over my Christmas play list on Spotify.


We have now seen the conclusion of our Division level contests throughout the District and so we now the finalists who will compete to become District champions at our conference in May next year. I want to take this opportunity to thank all those members who played an important part in the success of all the contests from the club, area, and Division level. Special thanks are due to the Division Directors who worked collaboratively together to ensure the best possible events. They certainly showcased some high standard of speakers – well done everyone.

Club Officer Training

The next round of club officer training has started so committee members will soon start to see the district calendar fill up with lots of opportunity to be trained. Remember that not only does training offer a fantastic chance to be supported and learn in your role, attendance of 4 or more offices contributes to a point in the distinguished club program if this is the second time clubs have sent four officers along.

Don’t forget that the 7×7 incentive is still very much active! If 7 officers (must be a minimum of 6 individuals) attend for the first time the club receives a set of Toastmasters club officer pins. If clubs have already done this in the first round, then they will be eligible to claim £60 for their clubs.

Between the 13th and 24th November, we ran our second round of Corporate Club officer training where no less than 104 officers qualified for their credit. I would like to thank all those that played a part in either providing training or for offering their services as Zoom masters.

2024 conference

I know our Conference Director, Amy Jones DTM is very keen to provide an update for you, so instead I will just refer to the event by thanking Amy and her team for all the amazing efforts so far.

Educational Awards

Many congratulations to those members who have worked to achieve more than 400 educational awards since the start of this year. We look forward to sharing with you more information about the changes to the Pathways LMS system when it becomes available in the new year.

I hope that you all get to enjoy some rest over the Christmas period, and may I wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Steve Vear
Program Quality Director 2023-24


Christmas is Coming

Christmas is Coming - Steve Vear

Time has this amazing thing of just escaping without you even realising it. I love Christmas and cannot wait for the end of December to be here when we’re celebrating with our friends and family.

Steve Vear, DTM
Program Quality Director 2023-24

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