Guest Editor Division G Director Alex Knibbs, ALB ACS
Alex Knibbs, Division G Director
It’s my privilege to assume Division Director responsibilities this year, a Division in which we have three Areas and 15 clubs. My own personal Toastmasters journey began in 2015, starting up a new Corporate Club with PPD LLC. Not long afterwards the opportunity to start up a new community club presented itself and, before too long Saffron Walden Speakers was born, a club that’s gone from strength to strength, realising President’s Distinguished status one year after Chartering. My vision this year is centred all around ‘support’. Supporting my ADs [Area Directors]; supporting the District Officers and continuing to support and mentor club members who are progressing via Pathways and non-Pathways educational routes.
One of the pleasantly reassuring things I learned at the outset of taking on the Division Director role is that it’s perfectly fine – in fact, recommended, to have an assistant Division Director. Fortunately, I knew the perfect candidate …. over to Natalie King to introduce herself …
Natalie King, Assistant Division G Director
OK so who am I? This is a question I often ask myself but seeing as this is a brief introduction to me as a Toastmaster, I will leave the deep thoughts for another time and provide you with a brief synopsis.
I joined this institution nearly four years ago, just to learn to speak to two or more people, as my self-confidence was at an all-time low. After six6 months of attending meetings, doing a few roles and the odd table topic, I gave my ice breaker speech. From there I just kept planning to do my speeches as I felt that I should commit to completing my CC [Competent Communicator] manual, that was all I wanted to do. I was slowly plodding my way through the CC manual, when over a year after joining toastmasters I did my fifth speech and realised that I liked and enjoyed giving speeches.
From there I was challenged by my mentor to get my DTM [Distinguished Toastmaster]. Needing my DTM meant that I had to do a leadership role, so I became an area director. This was a role that I very much enjoyed. Near the end of my term as area director I was asked if I would do Division Director, a role I did not feel ready for, but luckily, I knew someone who would suit the role and who needed the leadership role for his DTM. As you can perhaps imagine there was a big sigh of relief from me, that Alex took on the role. But I did not want to leave him hanging and knowing that this role would be a challenge for him, due to other commitments, running a club as well as being new to toastmasters. I offered to help him as his assistant Division G Director.
So far, I have enjoyed the role and Alex is a capable leader, so I look forward to the year ahead. Now all I must do is complete my Advanced Communication Gold [ACG] and I will have my DTM. Not bad for someone who panicked if they had to speak to more than two people!
And speaking of Area Directors(AD): here’s a glimpse of my stalwart AD companions in Division G ….And a few members from around the Division
Area 1 Director, Karen Bellerby
My name is Karen Bellerby and I joined TI just over seven years ago by accident and a very happy accident it has turned out to be!
Not equipped with a crystal ball but in 12 months I hope Area 1 will be once again boasting five clubs and, personally, I hope to be sporting my ALS [Advanced Leader Silver] and maybe an ACS [Advanced Communicator Silver] to go with it having decided to stay on the traditional route for the moment :- the 2020 deadline has certainly focused my mind!
I just want to learn and view everyday as school day, so I expect this year to gain far more knowledge than I could ever impart.
My vision is about firstly getting the area and its members comfortable with and fully embracing Pathways. It’s a great program that is fit for 21st Century purposes and not something to be scared about. I want to be a resource for the clubs to use to facilitate an easy pick-up and transition. A fifth club is also very high on my agenda/wish list too.
I’m really looking forward to it all and as Donald Rumsfeld said, “at the moment I don’t know what I don’t know” but it’s going to be one hell of a journey!
Area 25 Director, Ray Mitchell
Currently holding ALB and ACB, I am a former VPPR and have been a public speaker in varying guises for about 30 years. I am in some ways a perpetual student (6 degrees), and once upon a time was a naval infantryman.
Area 41 Director, Martin Horner
I joined Toastmasters in 2009 and shortly afterwards worked with two other Toasties to keep Cambridge City Communicators alive after the sudden loss of two Founder Members. We decided that by running enjoyable Meetings, people would attend, join and stay with us and this has proved to be the case. I progressed through my CC, ACB [Advanced Communicator Bronze] and ACS and have now obtained my ACG as well as ALB. I was instrumental in helping regularly with last year’s Speechcraft sessions in Cambridge too. My pastimes include walking (in previous years around the coast of East Anglia and nearly half of the SW [South West] Coastal Path plus in the summer more than 80 miles of the Wales Coastal path along the Pembrokeshire Coast).
Are we having a laugh?
By Guy Doza, Cambridge Speakers, Area 41
I recently entered the Toastmasters District 71 Humorous speaking contest. The objective was simple: deliver a 5-7-minute humorous speech. Be funny. Make people laugh. Try not to embarrass yourself too much…. Sounds easy, right?
The main danger with giving a humorous speech is that if the audience is expecting a humorous speech it is much harder to be funny. The key to humour is surprise and it’s hard to surprise someone who is anticipating it. Spontaneity is key to making something funny. Is it a coincidence that people tend to laugh a lot more during table topics than they do during prepared speeches?
I knew that if I were to win this competition I would have to do something new, something daring and something utterly and totally random. So, that’s exactly what I did. I did push-ups on stage, I ripped off my shirt, and I attempted to flirt with an uncomfortable looking middle-aged woman on the front row.
One of the things that I did differently from a lot of the other speakers is that I reacted to the audience. I pointed out when they were laughing, and I commented when they looked sceptical. As a result, the speech felt a lot more spontaneous and my jokes got a better response. If you rehearse a speech too much it is no longer a speech and it becomes a performance. At Toastmasters we are not actors, we are speakers and it is important to remember that. To deliver an effective humorous speech (in my opinion) it’s crucial to keep it real, keep it friendly, and leave some space for spontaneity. And most importantly, enjoy it!
Turning my biggest weakness into my biggest strength.
By Vibesan Illampooranan VP Education at Cambridge Speakers
I have always struggled to communicate with other people due to my stammer therefore I avoid talking to people, which can be quite lonely. I couldn’t even introduce myself to them. University was a difficult period especially through fresher weeks. For example, I struggled to introduce myself to the cleaner in my accommodation halls. She asked me for my name and I said, “I don’t know”. She couldn’t stop laughing, from then on. I told myself I needed to change.
So, I joined Nottingham University public speaking group and finished a level four presentation skills diploma with my degree in biochemistry. I usually stammer on single words when I present or deliver a speech. At the end each speech, students told me that I was an inspiration and gave them motivation to join the public speaking group which increased in strength from 10 to 30.
After I graduated, I still wanted to carry on public speaking, so a friend introduced me to Toastmasters, I joined quite a few clubs. As I believe that the more speeches I do, the less anxious I am, so I don’t stammer as much. Usually making the audiences laugh a lot, really does help to relax me hence I don’t stammer as much.
I end up finishing 18 speeches with Toastmasters, but this doesn’t mean I am perfect at public speaking however I don’t feel afraid to speak in public or introduces myself. There’s still a lot I can do to improve public speaking, that’s why I still go Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is like a gym, you can only improve by doing roles and speeches, and that is how you put yourself out there. Yes, it’s very difficult and yes, you may feel completely naked when you’re on stage, but your own voice and opinion count too. Just give Toastmasters a go and it will change your life for ever.
Paige Skelton of Brandon Speakers and Crossroads Communicators
Going through school, I was always the quiet student in the back of the class. I never had the confidence to speak out in front of people. I didn’t want to draw any sort of attention to myself. I was even scared to pay for things in a store because I was shy, scared, and insecure. It wasn’t until University when I had to give a presentation that I realised I had never spoken in front of more than a couple of people in my entire life. That is when my father signed me up for Toastmasters. I cannot describe how welcomed I felt from the first meeting. The welcoming and supportive environment and members got me from not speaking during the meeting to volunteering to do a duty, then from a duty to a table topic, and one year after I joined, I did my Icebreaker speech. I have now done all duties, including being Toastmaster of the Evening, I completed my CC Manual in June 2018 and was awarded our club Toastmaster of the Year trophy in July of this year. Looking back on my progression throughout the couple of years that I have been a member, I am elated. I have seen myself grow from someone who was scared to talk to anyone and the words ‘public speaking’ made me want to faint, to someone who can stand up in front of a group of people and deliver a speech with confidence. And although sometimes I get nervous standing up in front of people to talk still, I know that the people looking back at me are so supportive and I could not have achieved what I have without the love and support of my fellow Toastmasters.
Charles Greensitt, VP Education, Saffron Walden Speakers.
I am Charles Greensitt, for those who know me I have the name Charles Grenoir Greensitt on Facebook. Why the name Grenoir? – it derived from school after having the sixth form art scholarship, scientifically as a formula, for those of you technically minded, Greensitt + Renoir = Grenoir. Grenoir is also the name for my website. Creativity is a large part of my life, in my engineering and my photography and artwork. When a poster came up in Saffron Walden for a speaker’s club, I jumped at the opportunity, having previously seen Bob Fergusson, a few years before, at an engineering conference. From the outset the Competent Communicator and Competent Leadership manuals were like a scholarly article to me, held close to my heart and guiding me on the Toastmasters International journey. The club offered a positive community and allowed opportunities in speaking and something more… if you want to be creative and experiment then here is a safe place. Table topics can be simple, from word association to objects. If you want to push the boundaries for independence and impromptu speaking, then push Table Topics to the limit. This allowed me to fully exploit my creative bent, first with an ‘Only Connect’ board, a BBC production converted into a plug and play board, easy to adapt. Then came the complexity of ‘Turnip of Fortune’, a real spinning Wheel of Fortune with a fantastic formula to entertain and prizes. The best table topics that I have seen include mystery and variety, with a personal approach. The Turnip of Fortune is a ‘spin to win’ concept – it’s been a well-received concept at a few different clubs now and episodes can be seen on YouTube.”