News and Events - D91 Toastmasters UK South

Celebrating success

We have a lot to celebrate and be thankful for in District 91 during these challenging times. First of all, thanks to all of your efforts, almost all of our clubs moved their meetings online and we even have guests and new members joining our clubs in the virtual world. The standard of most of our online events has been superb and I expect our upcoming District 91 Conference with its amazing line-up of speakers to be one of the best Toastmasters online conference in the world!

Would you like to end your year on a high note? Why don’t you become a Triple Crown and complete a third educational award this year?

So far nearly 100 members have won this award over the course of the Toastmasters year. Could you be next? Find out how Mel of Didcot Speakers won her Triple Crown in the video below.

Don’t forget about the Pathfinders Award too that you can win for completing a path of Pathways. Many of these awards were given at the recent Division Hall of Fame and you still have two months to finish a path and become a Pathfinder too!

I am also keen to hear more stories of success and achievement from you. During our District Conference Hall of Fame, we will be rewarding a number of clubs and individuals. I am looking for nominations for the Toastmaster of the Year and the Club of the Year.

The Toastmaster of the year will be an individual whose actions were of the highest standard in supporting our members and clubs. Perhaps he or she inspired you and did something amazing. If you would like to nominate someone, please use this link.

The Club of the year will be a club who achieved excellence throughout the year. While excellence metrics are important, we are also looking for stories and how a club and its leaders supported its members. Can you think of a club that laid out amazing events? Is your club perhaps the best club if the world? If so, use this link to tell us more.

What Could Go Wrong?

The Story of the Port in the Storm

By Carolyn Johnson, VP of PR, Chiltern Speakers

March 2020

Our club was burgeoning.  We had had a bumper January of guests, an Open House in February, and March saw our new members standing up front taking the first steps of their public speaking journeys in front of a friendly and substantive live audience.

Our committee had worked hard over the previous months to build a better new member  experience.  We lined up the VP of PR and the VP of Membership to attract guests to meetings and follow-up afterwards with a slick sign-up process.  We created a new ‘Hospitality’ role to ensure guests were welcomed and introduced to a member or two so they had someone to talk to and engage with during the evening.  Our President would give each guest a special welcome in his meeting introduction and ask them to say a few words at the end about their impressions.

We focused on celebrating the victories with standing ovations for Icebreakers and awards with photos and social media accolades for best speakers, evaluators and Table Topics.  We laughed heartily with our speaker journey fellows inside the disciplined structure of our Toastmaster sessions and watched each other grow.  Then went to the pub afterwards.  What could go wrong?

The Transition

We no longer have a live venue, we no longer have the lively face-to-face interaction, we no longer have the pub.  We no longer have that excited and slightly anxious drive, or walk, to the meeting, we no longer have that post-meeting reward and joy of reflection on our way home.  So what has become of our club in this new world cohabiting with Covid-19?

As soon as it became clear that society would need to head indoors, right as March membership renewal was approaching, we knew we had to create a vision, with an element of certainty, or the club could suddenly end up on a trajectory of contraction we really did not want.  There is no way we did all that work to have it wiped away by a disease!

So we fired up our laptops and downloaded Zoom.  Luckily for our club, we have club leaders who like to explore new avenues and try things out – and this was just what we needed.  Our committee, along with members from other clubs in our Area, spent evenings and weekends working through a trial-and-error system of devising a new Toastmasters online meeting.

Which aspects of a meeting could we retain?  Which aspects are hard to emulate? What tactics could we employ to mitigate the ‘losses’? What could we actually gain?

It became very quickly obvious that this learning experience could be embraced and shared.  New skills mastered that are directly applicable to the fast-tracked remote workplace and the sudden explosion of all generations of people driven online.  We have a new Toastmaster meeting role – that of the ‘Zoom Master’ – skills gained here which can be shown off in work meetings when someone wants a poll, or a team needs a break out room, or a recording for future reference.  Meeting recordings have become a much-valued asset!

And our VP of PR suddenly had a new wave of material to attract new members – our Facebook feed became enriched with new learnings and images of social interactions at a time when everyone was locked down and restricted from human connection.  People could join in at the click of a button on their PC – not just at their local Toastmasters club, but at ANY club!  How to travel and meet people from different parts of the world, whilst sitting in your own armchair? Here was the answer!  Make connections with people in Mumbai, Vancouver, Barcelona? Yes please!

Oh and it wasn’t all swimmingly successful – the technical issues have had us puzzled a number of times with audio-visual gremlins and connectivity blips, and then there is lighting, positioning, eye contact to get right.  Then came the Zoom-fatigue phenomenon – so we had to get creative with physical actions, visual variety, recorded applause, dressing up, blowing kisses at your Zoom neighbour! (Yes we really did that…)   

Suddenly the emails started coming in and Facebook messages popping up – can we come along to your next meeting? Send me the Zoom details!  Prospective new members, former members who had moved away and wanted to check back in and members from other clubs who want to try out new audiences.

August 2020

So where are we now?

Membership is up! Diversity is up! Fun and learning lives on!  We have the most members we have ever had at 41, with regular attendance at 25 people or more including 3-4 guests.  Our club came second in the Beat the Clock competition to gain the most new members before the end of June.  

Yes sure we have a few members taking a break, and new chatter has begun about when and how we will get our much-loved in-person format back – but the online format has not only taken away, but it has given.  It has given us new and different opportunities – and it turns out that people are willing to embrace them.  It has provided us with a much loved Port in a Storm.

Your vote counts

Every year, Toastmasters International holds its Annual Business meeting, this year online on Friday 28th August 2020 at 12pm GMT. Every Club in the World has a voice and can impact the future of the organisation. On 22nd July, Club Presidents and Secretaries will have received a notification to assign the Club Proxy and make the Club vote count. Delighted to see many Clubs this year have elected to vote directly and experience the International Convention and Business Meeting. 

The vote this year is on Proposal A and B, as well as the election of 7 International Directors, including our own Region 10 (Europe).

Our District Trio (Arnaud, Helena and Rupa) have interviewed all 23 candidates to cast an informed vote and help shape the future of our organisation. We encourage all Club members including anyone who will be attending to learn more about the process and the election. Here are useful information to better understand what and who we are voting for as Clubs. 

  • Proposal A and B are changes to our Toastmasters governing documents with direct impact on our administrative and operational makeup

This year the International convention is online and this is also where we get to hear more about the candidates and proposals we will be voting for at Candidate showcase on Wednesday 26th August and Annual Business meeting on Friday 28th August 12pm GMT. If you are a member or Club leader and want to know more about the process there is an FAQ about Proxies and Annual Business on the Toastmasters International website

Welcome 2020-2021

Thank you for the trust you placed in me in May. I joined the organisation in 2013 out of sheer puzzlement hearing a group meeting in my workplace that kept clapping and cheering at lunchtime. It intrigued me!

I will also remember Linda, the first person that talked to me about Toastmasters and how it could benefit me as an individual and the organisation at large.

What I did not know then were the tremendous opportunities Toastmasters brings to its members:

  • Practice Public Speaking
  • Develop and Practice Leadership Skills
  • Gain confidence in any situation
  • Master the elevator speech
  • And the list goes on …

In my 7+ years as a member, I discovered or perhaps re-discovered, the power of conversation, the power of words and the power of human interaction. Whether a member, Club Leader or District Officer, we are all volunteers, spending our precious time improving our own skills but also supporting others in doing the same.

Cherish the feedback, praise and celebration you receive at Club meetings.

We have a tremendous District, with deep skills in pretty much any domain that I can think of, this makes us successful, this makes us who we are, tackling challenges one after the other.

This year marks the beginning of Pathways becoming our only and future-looking education programme, allowing our members to develop more skills than ever before. Choose a path and progress to the next level, you will be transformed!

As you prepare for your next meeting, ask yourself … how can I bring this unique experience to others? Will this meeting be the best it can be?

Ask colleagues, friends and acquaintances to attend your next meeting, I am sure they will gain a unique perspective and perhaps even think about joining your Club! Now is the time to reach out and share our experience.

I look forward to seeing you at the meeting, and always remember:

“We learn best in moments of enjoyment”
Ralph C. Smedley

Excellence in Education and Training

The start of the Toastmasters year provided the perfect opportunity to deliver online training for the new District Leaders. Over the course of a full day and follow up Division Director and Area Directors sessions, I can report 100% of our District Leaders have been trained, which is fantastic.

The support provided has allowed our Divisions and Areas to deliver the club officer training. With the online environment, the Divisions pooled resources to offer training. During the month of July, Toastmasters Leadership Institutes and Club Officer Training have been conducted. With over 725 officers trained so far, what a great start. There is still time for training during August, and targeted training session will become available. There are already plenty of clubs that have had their seven club officers trained and a set of club officer pins will be coming your way.

Program Quality Team 2020/21

Andy Hessey

The District Webinar series will commence on 2 August. Leading on this is Program Quality Webinar Manager, Andy Hessey, DTM. There are up and coming webinars providing personal development, alongside Toastmasters learning and a key session on running contests. Keep an eye on the District 91 website for details, and on our social media channels.

Sam Warner

This year we are re-booting the Trainers Bureau, under the leadership of Trainers Bureau Manager, Sam Warner, DTM. There will be an update page on the District 91 website, providing details of trainers that clubs can request come and deliver training on Toastmasters areas, such as evaluations and table topics, sitting alongside the skills of mentoring and club development.

Liz Hobbs

The Conference Review Committee Chair, Liz Hobbs, DTM, is undertaking a review of conferences for District 91. This is a unique opportunity, factoring in the lessons learnt from switching from an in-person to an online conference which occurred in 2020. It allows for the supportive tools to be put in place and to build on the last six years’ worth of knowledge and experience. 2021 is due to be held in London, more to follow on the bidding process for those wanting to run this conference.


Club officers have been busy writing the success plan for 2020/21. The Distinguished Club Program has changed to reflect the education program is Pathways all the way. As members, take the time to check your educational goals for the year ahead, are you aiming to complete your first Path? Consider the steps along the way and how members of your club can assist you in achieving your goal. For those new to the Base Camp Manager role, there will be webinars scheduled for you too.

With international travel paused for many of us, travel the global virtually. Visit online clubs and expand your Toastmasters experience, from Auckland to Karachi, Cape Town to Barcelona, Helsinki to Cardiff, Dublin to Calgary. Happy travels.

Helena Boden-Brewer

Program Quality Director

Imagine this

A keen individual, let’s call her Carmen, has heard about Toastmasters from a friend and tries to contact her local club via the internet. A few days go by and she hasn’t heard back, so she then picks up the phone to call. Because Carmen is super keen, she manages to get through to a previous committee member who gives her the information required for your next club meeting.

David on the other hand, has worked up the courage to explore Toastmasters, after hearing about it from his elder brother for years. He hears nothing back and does not pursue things further. Does any of this sound familiar? Every year, between May to July, we go through a leadership transition period in our club’s and Districts. Sometimes it takes a while to for handovers to complete. Toastmasters International remains one of the primary search tools for people looking for their local club. Are the contact details in club central current? How long does it take for your club to respond to an enquiry?

Over the last few months, we’ve all experienced a new member experience to anything ever before. With most of our clubs adopting virtual meetings, our ‘network break’ may not feel the same. In some cases, it’s been a lifeline for long-standing members to get involved as it may be easier for them to dial in and not have to worry about childcare or a commute. Some may wish to stay connected to the club but opt for shorter meetings due to the other screen time they have.

As you plan as far as you can for your club’s success this year, I’d invite you to engage all your members in feedback. This could be by running a survey or facilitating one meeting just to ‘Moments of Truth’ – a way where all members can get involved in quite literally doing an MOT of the club.

Finally, we have a number of clubs in our midst this year that could genuinely do with some additional support. To that end, I have appointed a Club Retention Committee charged with finding and matching appropriate ‘Club Coaches’ to such clubs. Could this be you? You are invited to get in touch to support the members of these clubs get back on track

I wish you a fantastic start to the 2020-2021 Toastmasters year and every success with your personal educational goals this term.