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!