As we start a new year in Toastmasters we mustn't forget the legacy that our predecessors have provided for us. In the four years that I have been on the District Leadership Team (DLT) I have been privileged to have worked with stars - Kevin Lee, Michael Collins, Red Skelton and this last year Patricia O'Reilly - and the other DLT members. They have all worked tirelessly for the District and given us a strong foundation on which to build. I clearly have big boots to fill.
So what will be my priorities for the year?
We should always put our members first, remember that Toastmasters is a hobby and not forget that all our leaders are volunteers and still learning about their roles.
FUN AND TEAMWORK
When you take on a new leadership role many people expect you to have a theme for the year. Mine is FUN AND TEAMWORK. Often our meetings can be a little too serious and feel a bit too much like work. If our meetings are FUN, if we look like we are having fun, then people will want to join and stay.
Meetings can become a bit repetitious, try ringing the changes, have a theme, introduce more humour, find more ways to recognise and celebrate success, bring cake!
I also believe that TEAMWORK will produce the best results. If we all pull together we can make our clubs better and more successful each year. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team.
I've been a Toastmaster for 12 years, founded four clubs, and I continue to be a member because it WORKS! I have seen, and in part helped hundreds of people grow as a result of their membership of this great organisation and it has given me lots of learning and leadership opportunities.
MY VISION FOR THE YEAR
I have had a few concerns that I'd like to try and have some impact on this year:
1. More Education Awards. With fewer than 10% of members historically getting education awards (CC) and the Distinguished Club Programme putting a “false” limit on education awards I’d like to see and encourage clubs using Pathways to increase the ratio of awards to members.
2. Increased Member Retention. I'm sure more can be done to encourage members to stay with us. I believe we lose some new members in the first few months, due maybe to not helping them to get up to speed quickly in the Toastmasters ways. There are still a number of new members who haven't yet enrolled on Pathways. Having a Mentoring and a Pathways Champion in the club is a great way to help new members to get started on their journey.
3. Striving for Excellence. We have many clubs that consistently achieve 9 or 10 goals each year. Where do they go to improve? I’m a great believer in continuous improvement so I’d like to find a way of recognising and celebrating continuous improvement and excellence.
I recently received a short, 3 minute video Excellence is the Next 5 Minutes from Tom Peters, consultant and author of the best-selling book on business management practices - In Search of Excellence. Please take a look at the video https://youtu.be/9FemFVIHDps
4. Sustainable Club Growth. We have lost 10% of our clubs in the last two years so growing more clubs and making our clubs more sustainable will also be a challenge for us. Fortunately we still continue to grow clubs - 30 in the last two years. Should we be more proactive and have a specific target for starting new clubs rather than being reactive and leaving it to chance?
We have some great tools available to us to help plan and execute improvements including the Club Success Plan, Moments of Truth, Guest/Open Nights, PR and Membership Growth Campaigns, Pathways, etc. and I know that members of the District Leadership Team will be looking at ways to encourage and incentivise some of these areas.
We need to “hit the ground running” - start the year applying these tools NOW rather than having a scramble at the end of the year to get results.
2020 DISTRICT CONFERENCE AND INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION
On top of this we again have the excitement of 8 semi-final contests and 4 finals at the Killarney Conference in May 2020 and how about attending the first International Convention in Europe - Paris in August 2020.
Divisions have been asked to complete their Humorous and Table Topics contests by the 30th November. Area Directors will notify their clubs of the dates of the Area contests, so clubs can set the date for their club contest.
REMEMBER - The winners of the Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests at Division level will go forward to represent their Division in the semi-finals at Killarney 22nd - 24th May 2020.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2019-2020?
So what are your personal goals for 2019 - 2020? How will you achieve them? Speak to your Vice President Education (VPE) and make sure you regularly participate in the club programme. Make good use of your mentor - if you want one speak to your VPE.
Like most things in life - you get out what you put in. Grab every opportunity to develop, make the most of your membership and retain it for as long as you can by paying your dues on time - before October 1st and April 1st. Toastmasters’ Personal Development is great value for money – you’ll not find anything better.
I wish you all the best for 2019 - 2020.
Let us all strive to make our clubs, our Areas, Divisions and District even better this year than last.
Please communicate with our District Leadership Team during the year, share great ideas with us so that we can pass them on, and we'll do our best to be as visible as possible at Division and charter celebration events during the year.
Have a great year!
District Director 2019-2020