News and Events - D91 Toastmasters UK South

Florian Bay: Contest season tips!

Contest season tips!

The Humorous Speech & Table Topics contest season is now in full swing. Winners at the club level will take part in Area contests whose winners will in turn represent their Areas at Division contests. Winners of the Division contests will then take part in the District final at the Ashford Conference in early May. All four District level finals will take place in Ashford, Table Topics, Humorous Speech, International Speech an Evalations.

While many clubs have already run their contests, some have not so here are some tips for you. Remember that all contest need the following functionaries in order to be valid:

– A minimum of five (5) anonymous voting judges

– One (1) tie-breaking judge appointed by the chief judge

– One (1) chief judge

– One (1) contest chair. You can also have one per contest

– Three (3) ballot counters

– Two (2) timekeepers

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A Gap in the Map

During my tenure in the role of Area Director for Area 42, I became more aware of the distribution of clubs in the South West of England, and noticed the gap of many miles between the clubs in Bristol and their Western neighbours, Exeter.

As I am always keen to have a project on the table, I started to think about this situation and did a little research into towns that fell between the two clubs. By a process of elimination, it became clear that the ideal location for a new club would be Taunton. The advantages of this location where numerous. It had one of the highest concentrations of population, it was on the M5 corridor, and had another large town, Bridgewater, only a few miles away.

I spoke to the trio, Andy Hammond, Florian Bay and Arnaud Satre, outlining my idea, and asking for advice. Florian sent me a very helpful workbook that he had developed called ‘Launching Successful Clubs’ and I started to gather my team together.

I initially invited two members from Casterbridge Speakers (Dorchester), who were travelling some distance from the North of Somerset to attend the Casterbridge meetings, and with their encouragement and support, and in early Spring 2019 I put together a timeline for all the steps I would need to take to achieve the goal of launching a new club.

I began in February with looking at the surrounding clubs, and finding their meeting schedules, in order to select a night when there were no other meetings nearby, so that we could ensure some support during the early weeks.

I then drew together a formal committee, which a member from South West Speakers, Grace Jones, now Area Director for Area 62, joined, so with a group of four, we began to plan. We set up a series of online meetings, with formal agenda’s and minutes, in order to keep track of our progress.

By the beginning of March we were looking for a suitable and affordable venue. All our research was online and by phone, until we found a venue that looked promising, and then two of us went to see if it lived up to expectations. It was reasonably priced at £15 per hour, had a bar and pub food available, was large and had ample parking. This fitted our criteria, so it was booked until December. We felt this was wise, in case a better option was found at a later date, but this was ideal to get us off the ground.

We then had work to do, deciding the name of the club, the club mission and vision (which we largely cribbed from other clubs), and one of our team started work on the club website. We applied for help with registering on Easyspeak, and allocated officer roles for the three potential members. We appreciated a great deal of help and coaching from Casterbridge for the VPE and Treasurer roles and progressed through our journey, opening a bank account, which I did quite simply and quickly online with Lloyds Bank.

I informed Arnaud that we were in process of planning our launch on 10th September, and he sent me a box of goodies for the club. I then registered the club with Toastmaster International, we offered the role of Club Sponsor to two of the founding members. As we had to pay a little over £100 to headquarters to register, we asked for sponsorship from Casterbridge. They agreed to loan the club £50.00 of the needed funds. We then received another box of materials from headquarters. Purchase of the basic club needs became an item for the budget. We had some lights and other materials donated from another club, but had to purchase a lectern (Amazon) but still needed to work on our budget and member fees. We received help from experienced treasurers with this key part of the planning, as setting the financial basis for the survival of the club was of utmost importance.

We organised invitation cards and labels from a local print shop, and two of us toured Taunton and the surrounding area, leaving information at reception desks, canteens and business premises, including conference centres. Our launch was also put onto Eventbrite, and we were sponsored by the Bristol Clubs to be published on Meetup. As we were fortunate to have one member who was in the publicity business, we put press releases into the local papers, and had two six minutes exposure on the local Radio station.

The date arrived. We were to serve a simple finger buffet, and we had a launch cake, with the Toastmaster logo boldly displayed as part of the cake topping.

The response from Eventbrite was encouraging nine guests arrived and were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm, supported by members from Casterbridge and South West Speakers.

We had decided to follow the usual format for the agenda, but only have 2 speeches. As we wanted to introduce guests to the journey they could follow, we selected two fairly new members, one from each supporting club, and delivered one Icebreaker and one speech from Pathways Level 1. We felt this would make potential members feel reassured that it was possible for them as well. We had a lively and enjoyable meeting, with four of the guests committing to join, and others willing to think about it and spread the word. We also had some additional cards printed with the regular club schedule on them, for all to take away. All the guests participated in Table Topics, and the atmosphere was relaxed and supportive.

Our district Director, Florian was there to support us and took the General Evaluator role, and we also had support from Mike Burrows, District A Director, who has been a source of knowledge and help throughout the process.

We now have to carry this momentum forward into the coming months. The leadership knowledge we have gained has been invaluable, and with the support we have had, we are confident that Taunton Speakers is here to stay.

Step forward and try something new

As we head into the autumn, it’s Toastmasters contest season! For all members this an opportunity to step forward and try something new; this may be as a competitor, chairing the contest or being a judge. This is the perfect chance for experienced members to mentor and share their knowledge with those taking some of these roles for the first time. An important consideration now that renewals have taken place, is checking that members are in good standing, i.e. have renewed their membership.

Thanks to all the hard-working club Treasurers, Vice Presidents Membership and Presidents that have been focussed on their club’s finances over the last month. Membership renewals have been processed thick and fast.  The 20:80 challenge has proved a good one for many clubs across our District. What is it about pizza that our members love? A full list of those clubs that have achieved the reward of £50 for their pizza party will be published after the end of the renewal period.

The new club demonstration box production line has been in full swing, with the first box dispatched to Burnham Speakers (located in Buckinghamshire) ahead of their demonstration meeting on 16 October. Closely followed by Swansea Speakers demonstration meeting on 17 October.  Support for demonstration meetings is welcomed, contact me if you want to get involved.

When members step forward to set up a new club, they do not do so alone. There is plenty of support available from the Club Extension Committee and experienced members.  Recently, Club Extension Chair, Bob Bowes, delivered the first of the new club sponsor and mentor workshops. Thanks to all that attended. More of these events will follow.

Remember that information is being posted on the Toastmasters International UK & Ireland Facebook page, keep an eye on details of up and coming events.

Good day fellow members!

Since our last newsletter, we have completed our first round of Club Officer Training and I am happy to share we have a record high number of Club Officers trained (770 officers to be precise).

What does this mean to me? As a member of a Club whose Club Officers have received training, the Club leadership has gained a greater insight into how to provide the best possible experience for members. Ask your Club leaders for further information, I am sure you will be inspired to become a Club leader at the next opportunity.

Club contests are coming to an end with Area Contests now in full swing. With our Humorous and Table Topics events, there are plenty of opportunities to hear from neighbouring contestants. Book your place at your Area Contest, and witness the best your Clubs have to offer, and get inspired to participate at contests in the Spring.

What else has happened? Many of you would have received educational awards, in fact over 300 educational awards have been submitted so far this year. This is an astonishing number! Thank you for achieving so much in only 3 months, that is 1 educational award every 7 hours! Imagine what more can be achieved by the end of the Toastmasters year. Reach out to your VP Education and find out how best to plan for your next project.

Continued membership is the best way to consistently gain new skills and develop your speaking and leadership abilities. By the time this newsletter reaches you, the renewals period will be over and have no doubt you will have renewed your membership. In doubt? Wondering what the Pathways learning programme can bring you? Ask you VP Education for more information and feel free to reach out to other Club or District Leaders, we are here to help!

Our annual District conference, London 2020,  is approaching (1-3 May 2020)! Would you like to be part of history? If you want to know more and get involved, drop me a line. There are a number of roles available whether it be Finance, Public Relations, Education, Sponsorship, Logistics, Registrations and more.

Growing forward together

September is always an interesting month in the Toastmasters calendar. The buzz, recognition and inspiration of International Convention slowly fade away. The final pieces of the administrative jigsaw fall in place during September with the online District Council Meeting. Finally, contest season begins in earnest in September with Table Topics & Humorous Speeches contests at the club level.

I am really proud that thanks to your efforts, the current Toastmasters year started with a bang! This year, we’ve had 100% of our District Leaders trained and a record number of Club Leaders trained at Club Officer Training. Most importantly, renewal performance is higher than last year and about 20% more members have joined our ranks compared to last year! Last but not least, nearly 350 educational awards have been submitted.

Well done you for choosing extraordinary, bravo for choosing growth!

This is only the beginning of an amazing adventure of growth and excellence. I am learning loads this year as District Director. Chairing an online meeting with nearly 150 people attending was a first for me last Saturday. I’m looking forward to receiving loads of incisive feedback during our 360° feedback exercise in our next team meeting.

You too can learn a lot this year and a great way of doing this is to set yourself a goal. If you’re a club President, resolve to build a legacy for others to build on. If you’re a club VPPR, unleash your creativity and make a name for your club in your community or company. All of you, attend meetings and set yourselves goals. Why don’t you try to finish your first pathway this year or become a triple crown by completing three levels by June 2020?

Let’s grow forward together!


District Executive Committee 07 September 2019

The District Executive Committee met on the 07 September 2019

Here are the key documents and presentations from the day:

DEC & District Leaders Day Agenda 07 September 2019

DEC Meeting Minutes 07 September 2019

DEC Presentations 07 September 19