Guest Division J (Central Dublin)

Guest Division J (Central Dublin)

My Leadership Journey

Colm Mc Glade ACG, Division J Director

This September I will be 25 years in Toastmasters. To celebrate, I hope to achieve my DTM award. To achieve this, I was required to take on a leadership role. This was new to me. The reason I joined Toastmasters was to improve my public speaking skills. I was President of Rathfarnham Toastmasters 20 years ago. However, since then, I avoided all leadership roles……until last July when I stepped into the role of Division J Director.

It has been a steep learning curve for me. To become a good leader, I would need good leaders. I chose Peter Kieran, DTM, as my Assistant Division Director. Peter has been Division C Director on two occasions and an Area Director on three occasions. He knows the ropes. I am very grateful for his advice and guidance during the year. I am also very appreciative of my three area directors: Area 2 Director Gareth Coghlan, Area 7 Director Mairead Murphy and Area 57 Director PJ Claffey, for their commitment, enthusiasm and hard work throughout the year.

Division J is a new Division in Dublin city centre, with 3 areas. We started the Toastmaster year with 12 clubs. However, 2 clubs have fallen by the wayside – Saudi and Digital Hub in Area 57, but we have also gained 2 new corporate clubs, Irish Life in Area 57 and Takeda in Area 7 (both chartered). There is a possibility of 2 more corporate clubs joining the Division soon, although probably not before 30th June. They are AIG and IDA.

The make-up of Division J is now as follows

  • Area 2: Dublin, Eblana, Society, Accentuators
  • Area 7: Cogito, Vox Populi, Uncensored, Takeda
  • Area 57: I.E.Templebar, PWC, IFSC, Irish Life

As my year as Division J Director comes to an end, I can now look back with pride at our achievements. The year’s highlights include:

COT1: This was held in Wynn’s Hotel on Saturday 14th July. There was a good turn out from all the clubs. Topics covered included Moments of Truth with Area 57 Director PJ Claffey, GDPR with Brenda Lannon, Administration Manager District Leadership Team and Pathways with our District Director Patricia O’ Reilly. Mop up training was held in the Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday 22nd August. The feedback from COT1 indicated that members wanted more guidance on Pathways.

COT2: This was held in Chartered Accountants House on Pearse street on Friday 8th February. This included more training on Pathways with Patricia O’ Reilly and a session on attracting and retaining new members with former Division M Director Dermot Carey. Mop up training was held on 20th February.

DOT1+2: I attended District Officer training last June and again in January. This was a great experience and very informative, a coming together of all the Division and Area Directors in Ireland (and some from the U.K), along with members of the District Leadership Team.

Speech Contests: Having to organise speech contests was a new experience for me. I have been involved in many speech contests in the past as a contestant, but I had never organised one. I would prepare my speech, turn up on the day and participate. I didn’t really understand what was involved to run a successful contest. I selected this as my HPL project. The members of my guidance committee included my assistant Division Director, Peter Kieran, Area 2 Director Gareth Coghlan and the then President of IE Templebar Toastmasters Ritchie Prenderville. We worked together as a team to organise the contests to ensure they were a success.

The Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests were held in Wynns hotel on Sunday 11th November. There was a good turnout. Dermot Carey from the Uncensored club won the Humorous Speech contest and Elaine Gallagher from the Dublin club won the Table Topics.

Wynn’s hotel put up their prices after Christmas, so we had to search for another suitable venue for the spring contests. On Sunday 14th April, we held our International Speech and Evaluation contests in the Hilton Garden Inn in the IFSC. Phillip Khan Panni from Society Toastmasters won the International Speech contest while Elaine Gallagher was a winner again in the Evaluation contest.

Division J was the big winner at the District 71 conference in Norwich in May, as both Dermot and Phillip won their respective speech contests. Phillip will now go on to represent both Division J and District 71 in the European Regional Final, via a recording of his speech. If he is successful, he will then progress to the World Semi Final in the U.S. in August. This, of course, is not Phillip’s first time to win the District 71 International Speech Final. He has won it on 3 previous occasions and, in 1994, he came 2nd in the World Final. What an achievement! On behalf of all the members in Division J, I would like to wish Phillip continued success.

New Corporate Clubs

As mentioned above, two new corporate clubs chartered this year in Division J – Irish Life (see enclosed article) in the autumn and, more recently, Takeda. Both myself and Area 7 Director Mairead Murphy are sponsors for Takeda. The club was very fast in getting off the ground. The initial demonstration meeting was held on 8th March and the club chartered in May with 32 signed up members.

A demonstration meeting was also held for AIG last December and it is hoped that they might charter soon. The IDA has also expressed an interest in setting up a corporate club and we hope to organise a demonstration meeting for them quite soon.

While I am happy that my year as Division J Director is coming to an end, I’m also delighted that I took on the role. It gave me a whole new perspective on Toastmasters. I learned many leadership skills along the way, including the necessity to be organised, to have a vision and to set goals; the importance of teamwork and the need to delegate; the importance of listening skills, to be able to listen to others views and take advice. Above all, I gained a lot of satisfaction from my role. I believe Division J will continue to grow and prosper and I wish the incoming Division Director every success and happiness in the role.

Irish Life

Ronan Kearney, President Irish Life

The idea of Irish Life Toastmasters first came about towards the end of summer 2018. As a member of Dublin South Toastmasters, I had often seen how club members joined for professional reasons and were often encouraged and even sponsored by their employers to do so. Working for a relatively large organisation myself (Irish Life has approx. 2,500 employees based in its Dublin City Centre HQ) I could see the potential for a new corporate club. Initial marketing involved a poster campaign and word of mouth within the company. It wasn’t long before several interested and enthusiastic people came forward eager to be involved. A few us visited the Google Phonics club in Barrow Street (big thanks to Steven Scully for his hospitality) to get an idea of how a corporate club might work. Inspired by what we saw at Google we returned to Irish Life armed with plenty of good ideas. Soon after this we arranged a launch in Irish Life, open to all staff, and saw a great turnout of over 50 people. Again, we were assisted with the launch by Steven and some colleagues from Google which helped tremendously.

Following the launch interest continued to grow and we realised that chartering a new club was viable. Having secured a regular meeting location (‘The Hive’ meeting room in Irish Life HQ – see attached photos)  we scheduled our first meeting for October 2018 and saw an attendance of 35 people. In November we were honoured to welcome Toastmasters International CEO Dan Rex to our club as part of his visit to Ireland, and promptly included him in a lively and entertaining Table Topics session! We currently have 40 registered members and expect this to continue growing due to our regular participation in awareness-raising initiatives within Irish Life and positive feedback passed on via word of mouth.

A lot of work was involved to get the club up and running but we’re now really seeing the rewards with lots of highly entertaining meetings in The Hive and fantastic progression for our members.

Twenty-three years of membership

Peter J. Claffey, ATG, Area 57 Director

When it comes to Toastmasters, you could call me a lifer. I have been a member of TI since 1996, without parole. I joined Rathfarnham Toastmasters back then and in more recent times I am also a member of Powertalk Toastmasters.

At that very first meeting, I was taken by the confidence of the speakers who spoke that night in Rathfarnham, particularly those who gave the prepared speeches but also those who spoke on a topic they were just given. Yes, I wanted to be like those speakers and resolved there and then to work hard to be so. I even spoke for a mere 30 seconds, my lips trembling on a Topic and I felt very foolish doing so. I sounded a bit strange speaking. Do I sound like that? I was very self-conscious of my voice and it was a very strange feeling. On that first night I resolved to say something at every meeting thereafter, just to get over these strange feelings, hopefully build my confidence and be as good as the other members.

After a few meetings I joined up and got the CC Manual in the post a few weeks later. Ten speeches, which I planned to do in 2 years. I took to speech preparation and practice with great gusto. I lit up when I got a good evaluation from my Evaluator. I read the evaluation slips again and again, just to absorb the good feedback again. This feedback gave me greater confidence to move onto the next Toastmasters levels. In June 1998 I got my CC Award. This was followed by the CL in 2000, the ATM Bronze in 2002, the ATM Silver in 2006 and finally ATM Gold in 2009. While speech preparation, practice and speaking were my first love in Toastmasters, I did get great enjoyment and confidence by doing Sergeant at Arms, Vice President Education and President at Rathfarnham.

Speech contests too were a great favourite of mine including the Humorous and Tall Tale Contests, as well as the International Speech and Evaluation ones. Such was the standard in Rathfarnham I only won a few. Getting to an Area or a Division final was a major achievement. Whether it was giving speeches or entering contests my confidence has continued to develop and my speaking repertoire has expanded to include humorous, inspirational and motivational styles. Give me a stage now and I can speak on anything you want. This is what Toastmasters has done for me. If you continue to embrace public speaking through the Pathways programme you will become the speaker you want to be.

In 2018 I was asked to take on the Area 57 Director Role. I took it on with some trepidation as it was not one, I had done before. But now as I come to the end of my year, I am delighted I have done it. It gives me more confidence and experience on the Toastmasters Leadership track. I really enjoy going to the Clubs in Area 57 which are around Dublin City centre near where I work which are IE Temblebar, Irish Life, PWC and IFSC. I am also working with AIG Toastmasters Club who will hopefully charter shortly. Because these Clubs are mostly corporate ones, they often approach their meetings in a different way than I was used to in Rathfarnham. Nevertheless, they also have the Toastmasters friendly and light-hearted approach to public speaking and members learn by doing. I would now recommend you take on the Advanced Leadership track. It is another way to develop your confidence and it has helped me greatly in my professional career to date. Without Toastmasters I would never have taken on many roles and responsibilities at work. So, keep on speaking, get involved on your Club committee or take that leadership track. Your Area and Divisional teams need you. Happy Toast mastering and be the leader you wish to be.

My journey to the District 71 title

By Phillip Khan-Panni

The 2019 District 71 Conference at Norwich was an amazing event, with no less than 12 speaking contests. But my focus was on just one – the International Speech Contest, first the semi then the final. As you probably already know, I won the title against a talented field. It was my fourth victory at this level, and it followed an 18 -year gap since the last time. Let me tell you the story of my journey and what I have gained from it.

It all began in 1992, when a fellow-Round Tabler invited me to join him in setting up a new Toastmasters club in Bromley. It was the first I’d heard of Toastmasters, but the chance to make speeches appealed to me. At the time I was still traumatized by the recent tragic death of my first wife, and my memory was shot to pieces. For my Ice Breaker (all about myself, of course) I had to use notes! But when a fellow founder member, Giles Robinson, delivered his previous International speech, I decided to follow in his footsteps.

Twelve months after joining, I completed my CTM and reached the District 71 final for the first time. It was in Dublin’s Killiney Castle and my speech, “Where the honour lies”, was in support of the underdog. The loudest applause I got was when I applauded the Irish football team that Jack Charlton had taken to the World Cup Finals. With that victory under my belt, I was off to Toronto for the Inter-District contest against the best of the non-American world.

I was clearly under-prepared and came third. Australia’s Jock Elliott (World Champion in 2010) told me I’d started in the wrong key (too high), with nowhere to go when I got excited in the speech.

Two years later I won the District 71 title again, this time in Galway. Throwing Fortune Cookies into the audience, I established a great connection with them. Next stop was San Diego, and the Inter-District contest. At the last minute I inserted a Margaret Thatcher joke that got a big laugh, breaking my concentration. I blanked for four l-o-n-g seconds! Fortunately, I recovered and got the nod from the judges. I was in the World Championship Final!

People told me I was close to winning but had to settle for second place. I talk about that in my current championship speech. In the years that followed I built up a training business called Speaking & Presentation Skills and co-founded the Professional Speaking Association (PSA). It was only in 2001 that I was able again to win the District 71 title, travelling to Anaheim for the World Championship. But in the semi (i.e. Inter District) my microphone became dislodged, and I came third. I then took a break from Toastmastering.

Towards the end of 2016 I re-joined TM, having come to live in Ireland. After visiting perhaps, a dozen clubs I settled on Society in Dublin’s Pearse Street. What an amazingly supportive and friendly bunch they turned out be! My speech on being Forever Second found favour at Club, Area and Division levels, and brought me to the coveted District 71 title in Norwich for a record fourth time.

And what have I gained along the way? Top of my list is my wife. Evelyn and I met at a TM Conference in Crawley. I have had the chance to pit my speaking skills against a variety of talented speakers, developed a training business and become a professional speaker on the process of verbal communication. It enabled me to become a published author of 13 books and to find a set of like-minded people, both in Britain and in Ireland, some of whom I call my friends. Yes, it has been a worthwhile journey. I recommend it to you.

A Club That Broke All the Rules

By Elaine Gallagher, President of Dublin Toastmasters

Have you ever discovered a family secret, something that you would have never guessed? I discovered Toastmasters in 2012 and joined Dublin Toastmasters, the oldest Toastmasters club outside North America. Never for a single minute did I consider that Toastmasters had a family secret that would intrigue me, and that Dublin Toastmasters was determined to make an impression.

What is the intriguing Toastmasters family secret?: A constitution outlawing lady members. Members were to be composed “of male members at least 21 years of age.” Dublin Toastmasters was a club determined to right this wrong largely because the club’s first President Paddy Cunningham was ‘a woman’s man’, a man of vision, a man of foresight.

The Dublin club chartered, over 60 years ago, on 12th April 1958. The founding members included women, not a controversy by today’s standards but following the chartering of the club, this became a point of contention.

In a letter dated December 1965 form the Toastmasters International Territorial Council of the British Isles to the Secretary of the Interclub Committee stating:

“We are quite aware of the origin of lady members in Ireland in 1958. P.D. Cunningham Esq., seeking a method of keeping together a group of people (male and female – also former students of his own) turned to Toastmasters International for the answer and in so doing – inadvertently, or otherwise, included some of the fair sex.”

Women in a Toastmasters club was out of bounds contrary to the Toastmasters constitution at that time and “could not be permitted”. The alternative proposed to the existing “lady members’ was to join a separate “Toastmistress Club”. The powers that be stated “As to the fairer sex, God bless them…” Even if women were to be bestowed with heavenly blessings, these could not include membership of Toastmasters International. Bravely, this idea was flat out ignored and requests for permission to allow a visit from a Toastmistress was also flatly ignored on a few occasions. If Toastmasters International would not allow female membership, Dublin Toastmasters would pave the way for the new world and facilitate membership of both men and women. Registration with Toastmasters International would be by way of surname and initials. Until Toastmasters International changes its rules, Dublin Toastmasters at least had plausible deniability and the good people in California would have to deal with the consequences.

Sixty years later, Dublin Toastmasters is dealing with the consequences. Sixty years later Dublin Toastmasters has a serving President who is a woman. Sixty years later, the membership of Dublin includes some of the most inspirational women and men I know; women and men who serve side by side on the Committee; women and men who compete and succeed in Toastmaster International District Finals; women and men who encourage other women and men to serve with integrity respect and excellence.

It’s been an honour to serve as President of Toastmasters during its 60th year. I have nothing but gratitude to Dublin Toastmasters for sharing the Toastmaster experience with both women and men. This has allowed me to enhance my career, deepen my friendships and to meet my husband, also a Toastmaster, and a Past President of Dublin Toastmasters. I often wonder did Paddy Cunningham, the man who broke all the rules realise the power of his perseverance…

My road to winning the #Norwich19 District Humorous Speech

By Dermot Carey, Uncensored Speakers Club and Dublin Toastmasters Club.

I arrived back from lunch one afternoon in 2003. There was an email waiting for me. It read “A meeting of all staff will take place in the board room at 2.30pm. Everyone must attend”. That day became a turning point in my life. I found out that day that I was losing my job.

I wasn’t too upset as there were plenty of jobs out there, then my friends told me about a new trend requiring job applicants to make presentations to interview panels as part of the recruitment process. The idea of making a presentation to an audience filled me with terror. I had previously left a job when they decided to promote me and give me my own list of clients. I was the type of person who was quite happy to sit at my desk in the corner, just me and my spreadsheets.

Then a friend suggested that I try Toastmasters. I checked out the details of my local Toastmasters club and went along as a guest to their meeting. I was particularly Inspired by one member who told how they had overcome a speech impediment and now loved to speak in public. I decided to join the club while at the same time thinking to myself that perhaps in 6 months I might venture to stand up and speak. I found rather quickly with the help, support and encouragement of the club members that delivering a speech in public wasn’t so terrifying after all. I began to enjoy the experience of getting up and speaking in public.

In 2007 I entered my 1st humorous speech contest and I got to Division Final. I had never heard of a division final up to then because no one from the club had progressed that far during my time at the club. The division final was like a whole new world to me, but I realised that I needed to up my game if I was going to win. In the intervening years I had made several attempts to get in the District Final and taken time out to be a district officer, to help organise 2 district conferences and to help start Uncensored Speakers Club. In 2017 I came 2nd at the district humorous final in Sheffield and in 2019 I finally achieved my goal of winning the district humorous speech final in Norwich.

What have I learned by being in Toastmasters? I have learned that speaking in public is not such a huge insurmountable obstacle, that with time and practice it can be quite enjoyable. I have learned all the other things that are so important in our professional lives such as organising a speech, managing time and meetings, all the things we take for granted in Toastmasters. I also learned that feedback is important and when you take on board what others are telling you then you can really progress.

The most important thing that I have learned about humour is that you need to keep to a simple topic that you have experience of and that when you exaggerate a simple situation it can have comic effect. Whoever thought that being an “accountancy super-hero” would make people laugh? Well neither did I. I also found out how supportive your fellow contestants are at a contest.

I would encourage every member to take a chance and enter a contest. If you are not a member of Toastmasters, well just take a chance, I did, and it has had a profound and positive change in my life, giving me the confidence to try many new things outside of Toastmasters and it has led to a new career.

Go on have a go.

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