meetings

Using the Travelling Toastie Initiative to become Scotland’s most Travelled

Using Travelling Toasties to Visit other Toastmasters clubs…. Why bother?! Perspectives from Scotland’s inaugural most travelled Toastmaster.

Nick Mockler:

Nick Mockler ACB CL, is a co-founder of Stirling Speakers. He is the inaugural ”Scotland’s most travelled Toastmaster”, and from his viewpoint rather embarrassingly given that he’s an Irishman!

Nick took full opportunity to partake in the Travelling Toastie initiative run by the District during the 2016/17 year when still a member of Perth Toastmasters. What was originally intended to be a number of opportune visits to other clubs, Nick unexpectedly would go on to join a second pre-charter club in Dunfermline (which has now chartered), and become Assistant Area 43 Director in the process!

Much like others who were top Travelling Toasties in their Divisions, Nick would go on to achieve multiple education awards in the form of a coveted ‘Triple Crown’ (CC, CL, ACB), and also competed at a high level in the Division S evaluation contest held in the Scottish Parliament coming 3rd place.

He also served on the committee in Perth Toastmasters as VPM, and did his part contributing to the club’s ‘’10/10’’ on their DCP for the 2016/17 year, one of 18 clubs out of 196 to achieve this. This also led to the award of a district commendation for Nick, whereupon he received a plaque for runner up District 71 (UK and Ireland) Vice President of Membership of the year.

The clubs Nick visited were: Dundee Toastmasters (3 times), Linlithgow Speakers (twice), Falkirk Orators (now called Forth Valley Speakers), Livingston Speakers, Dunfermline Toastmasters, Inverness Toastmasters, and St. Andrews Toastmasters.

Outside of regular meetings, Nick also attended the Division S Humourous Speech and Table Topics contest held at Waverley Communicators. He also competed at the Area 43 Evaluation contest held in Dundee, and the Division S Evaluation contest held in the Scottish Parliament.

 The benefits of travelling to other clubs in brief:

  1. My development has been fast tracked over a shorter space of time.
  2. In your home club you always have challenges to overcome in order to grow and develop. Visiting other clubs and getting involved is like trying to overcome the same challenges all over again as you’re speaking in front of a different audience.
  3. I saw many different styles and interpretations of speech projects, and different ways of performing meeting roles that I’ve incorporated into my own approach.
  4. By speaking to a variety of different audiences, I’ve validated my abilities as a speaker in a similar way to taking part in contests, but without the pressure that comes with performing in competition.
  5. New ideas have been brought back to Perth when I was still a member there; these ideas included an increase in social media presence, stronger emphasis on mentoring, placing more emphasis on the leadership track, and more education sessions.
  6. The confidence gained, and the people I befriended in other clubs started a chain of events that has now led to the launch of Stirling Speakers.

In Toastmasters we sign up to four core values: Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence. In Perth I believe we have Respect and Integrity in spades. In terms of Service and Excellence, I was unsure. The reason for this was that my experience in Toastmasters up until that point was limited to the home club.

I was a member for six months when appointed onto my club’s committee in June 2016. During the first Club Officer Training session of the 2016/17 TM year, club officers were grouped together to share ideas and learn about their roles. It was an interesting session and I learned a lot by hearing how each club is a little different in terms of how it’s run.

As a result of this session, I felt compelled to take the initiative and travel to other clubs and see how they do things. Most visits were opportune; it was only later on that I would find out about the Travelling Toastie initiative, albeit my original intentions for making club visits have always been the same.

 

Linlithgow Speakers (http://www.linlithgowspeakers.org.uk)

Where? The Lowport Centre, 1 Blackness Road, Linlithgow, West Lothian, EH49 7HZ.

When? 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month starting for 19.30.

Meeting Room Layout? U-Shape.

Chartered in 2005 Linlithgow is one of the oldest TM clubs since the resurgence of TM in Scotland in the mid-1990s. Very friendly and welcoming, I enjoyed the meetings a lot.

Things I found to be different:

  • EVERY club I visited had people on hand to make me feel very welcome. Never once did I feel uncomfortable or put off in any of the visits I made.
  • On my visit there was an education session on the different social media used by the club, and learned that Meetup was proving to be very effective in terms of reach and cost benefit.
  • I also took part in a unique Table Topics session; you had to hold your hands behind your back for the first minute, and then you were allowed to use gestures after one minute.
  • A buzzer for crutch phrases!
  • The U-shape (or horseshoe) room layout was a first for me and I much preferred it as you have more space to address the audience with the flexibility of speaking behind a lectern.

Ideas brought back to the home club:

In Perth, with the exception of Meetup, we are well set up on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Eventbrite), and have our own website. However, nothing was being updated regularly. I took it upon myself to start updating Facebook with more content. Over time, our PR and social media presence has now become a group effort, whereby we now regularly update our social media.

My own development:

It’s still something I’m trying to figure out, but when I did the table topic within the session I mentioned previously, it had been one of the better table topics I had given up until that point (this was at a time when I wasn’t a member for very long and struggled with table topics).

To go to another club and do a table topic would make you assume that it’ll be twice as tough, but unusually I was very relaxed and performed okay. Part of me believes that when you visit another club, chances are nobody has seen you from the beginning and you’re being evaluated in the moment. As a result, that can make you more relaxed.

Dunfermline Toastmasters (https://dunfermlinetoastmasters.co.uk/)

Where? Carnegie Conference Centre, Halbeath Road, Dunfermline, KY11 8DY.

When? 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month starting for 19.00.

Meeting Room Layout? U-Shape.

One of Scotland’s newly chartered and one of the most vibrant clubs out there, Dunfermline Toastmasters started in March 2016. Although there was lots of outside help from members of other Toastmasters clubs, the club is starting to assume its own identity with many of its ‘organic’ members being very proactive on the Competent Communicator tracks, the Competent Leader tracks, and taking up committee roles.

Things I found to be different:

  • My first experience in seeing how clubs support each other, whereby experienced members from other clubs within Area 30 come along to help out on a regular basis (e.g. Livingston and Edinburgh Haymarket).
  • Because of this support from experienced members of other clubs, a lot of onus was placed on education sessions catering for the new members at Dunfermline (e.g. I was present for an education session on how to use Easyspeak).
  • I also found strong emphasis on the Competent Leader track.
  • The general atmosphere of the club is vibrant to the point of where I was only delighted to join the club and try help to charter!

Ideas brought back to the home club:

In Perth we had a lack of education sessions, and paid little attention to the Competent Leader. We have now started to emphasise the Competent Leader, and some of our members earned their Competent Leader awards this year. As a means to offer more variety and keep things fresh, we also have educational speeches almost every month.

The most predominant source of motivation I have in life is to have a sense of purpose or meaning. The competent leader track can be used to promote the fact you have something to show for taking up meeting roles.

My own development:

Joining Dunfermline has allowed me to more quickly develop my leadership and communication skills. Also, this can allow for a quicker turn around in terms of taking up improvements suggested for a role or speech (i.e. Wordmaster in Perth one week, and opportunity then to do it within a week at Dunfermline considering the feedback I received from the General Evaluator in Perth the week before).  I also saw the ups and downs of a club in the pre-charter stage to try and reach the magic membership number of 20 in order to charter. This has served me well going forward with the new Stirling club in terms of the lessons learned from Dunfermline’s experience.

Falkirk Orators (Now Forth Valley Speakers)

Where? Tesco, Colliery Road, Falkirk, Central, FK2 9RA.

When? 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month starting for 19.30.

Meeting Room Layout? Theatre.

Forth Valley Speakers is a small community club situated in the centre belt and is within Area 60 (the majority of the clubs in Area 60 are in Glasgow). The club chartered in 2011.

Things I found to be different:

  • Again a buzzer for crutch phrases!
  • My first experience of the theatre style of room layout.
  • I also got to see an advanced speech being given from the storytelling manual (Project #5 Bringing History to Life). Up until this point I had only seen Competent Communicator speeches.
  • This was also the first time I came across a club that had a ‘Third Half’ of tea and coffee after the meeting for more informal chit chat with many of the members and guests joining in.

My own development:

Seeing an excellent rendition of an advanced storytelling speech compelled me to look further into life after the Competent Communicator. This is an excellent resource detailing the various manuals available and the projects that can be undertaken: http://d4tm.org/communication-program/advanced-communication.

Livingston Speakers (https://www.livingstonspeakers.org.uk/)

Where? West Lothian College (Studio 3, Ground Floor, Terrace 3/4), Almondvale Crescent, Livingston, West Lothian, EH54 7EP.

When? 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month starting for 19.00.

Meeting Room Layout? U-Shape.

Chartered in 2015, Livingston Speakers are situated within Area 30 which includes Capital Communicators Edinburgh, Edinburgh Haymarket, and newly chartered Edinburgh Advanced Toastmasters. Having met members from Livingston through Dunfermline, I paid a visit to see how things were done in West Lothian!

Things I found to be different:

  • Like Falkirk, I got to see another interpretation of an advanced speech project.
  • Members and guests alike had name badges pre-prepared.
  • Ribbons were given out for the best Table Topic of the evening voted on by the Table Topic Evaluator.

Ideas brought back to my club and my own development:

What was apparent in Livingston is that the organisation of the meeting beforehand was superb. This helped me to appreciate how important the role of the VPE is in terms of organising the meeting well in advance, and being proactive in their communication towards members and guests alike before the next meeting.

In my own opinion, a well organised meeting means that there’s an added layer of professionalism and people have ample time to prepare for role and be more relaxed on the night. In turn, this helps us maximise our potential, and get closer to what it is we want out of Toastmasters.

Inverness Toastmonsters (http://toastmastersinverness.com/)

Where? Inverness College, 1 Inverness Campus, IV2 5NA.

When? 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month starting for 18.30.

Meeting Room Layout? Theatre.

Chartered in 2013, Inverness Toastmonsters was Scotland’s most northerly club (that distinction now goes to North Highland Speakers which chartered in November 2017!). When I visited in November 2016, Inverness just had a hugely successful year having received President’s Distinguished for the first time in their history. This also coincided with a turnaround from not being a club of good standing, to becoming a huge success story in recruiting new members based on streamlined process innovated by Laura Bruce the current District 71 PR manager.

Things I found to be different:

  • Table topics before rehearsed speeches.
  • A system of rewards for different roles during the night (best table topic, evaluator, and speaker). This requires everyone in attendance to vote and the sergeant at arms collects the ballots and tallies them up.
  • Guests are also given a memento for coming along for the first time!

Ideas brought back to my club and my own development:

I encountered first-hand the environment that contributed, and no doubt continues to contribute to the success of Inverness in its ability to attract and recruit new members. I didn’t see a single guest or member left on their own, and someone was always there to say hello and make guests feel welcome. Being the good host and catering for the needs and wants of potential members are crucial, in addition to put on a well-organised, professionally run meeting.

I also found topics before speeches to be an interesting one that may cause debate among individual members who may have a preference. In Perth we started to rotate and that seemed to have worked well (every second meeting will have topics before speeches).

Dundee Toastmasters (http://www.dundeetoastmasters.org.uk/)

Where? Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, 152 Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4DY.

When? 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month starting for 19.00.

Meeting Room Layout? U shape.

Chartered in 2008, Dundee can be considered Perth’s ‘sister club’ as the two clubs are only 15 miles away from one another. Both clubs’ help each other out during the contest season, and many members visit one another’s club to give speeches or just pop in for a visit!

Things I found to be different:

  • Albeit expensive to run, Dundee in my opinion has the best meeting venue I visited. The DCA has ample car parking, and is situated right in the centre of town allowing easy access for people who don’t have a vehicle.
  • All members have name badges that are stored away and laid out again at the beginning of each meeting.
  • The DCA is a wonderful venue for a drink afterwards, Dundee TM have a ‘third half’ and I very much enjoyed the chit chat!

Ideas brought back to my club and my own development:

There has always been a great relationship between Perth and Dundee, and the biggest lesson learned is that good neighbourly relations can have great benefits. By helping out one another at contest season, this can reduce stress in the organising of contests, whilst also allowing for members within your own club more opportunities to compete as the contest roles can be filled in by the members of the visiting club.

I also found this beneficial for my own development, as I took up the contest chair role in Dundee’s spring contest which helped towards completing my CL. I also gave a speech on one of my visits, an off kilter one about Dundonian creation and Scottish icon Oor Wullie. An example that if you have a speech idea about a particular topic, there may be opportunities to cater to a local audience for maximum effect!

I also visited Dundee in my role as the Assistant Area 43 Director, which gave me insight into the protocol an Area Director has to undergo when making a club visit.

St Andrews Toastmasters (unfortunately now defunct)

Chartered in 2014, St. Andrews has unfortunately been suspended due to a lack of members, perhaps one disadvantage of maintaining membership exclusive to university pupils only, which led to haphazard membership numbers and irregular meeting schedules. I visited on my run as Assistant Area Director.

Things I found to be different:

  • Meetings were held on a Saturday morning! No other clubs in Scotland do that.
  • The meeting format was a ‘power hour’ with no explanation of the programme, no introductions of meeting roles, two speeches, and a shorter topics session.
  • Unfortunately my first experience of a club that’s struggling.

Ideas brought back to my club and my own development:

I had my work cut out for the meeting I attended but took it in my stride as I had grown and developed a lot by visiting other clubs when the time came to visit St. Andrews. I gave a speech, did a table topic, gave a speech evaluation, did the table topics evaluation, and was the general evaluator! Taking up multiple roles is something that no longer fazes me, and at times is necessary especially over the summer months, and for Stirling’s meetings as a new club.

Conclusion – to repeat the benefits of travelling to other clubs in brief:

  1. My development has been fast tracked over a shorter space of time.
  2. In your home club you always have challenges to overcome to help develop yourself. Visiting other clubs and getting involved is like trying to overcome the same challenges all over again as you’re speaking in front of a different audience.
  3. I saw many different styles and interpretations of speech projects, and different ways of performing meeting roles that I’ve incorporated into my own approach.
  4. By speaking to a variety of different audiences, I’ve validated my abilities as a speaker in a similar way to taking part in contests, but without the pressure that comes with performing in competition.
  5. New ideas have been brought back to Perth when I was still a member there; these ideas included an increase in social media presence, stronger emphasis on mentoring, placing more emphasis on the leadership track, and more education sessions.
  6. The confidence gained, and the people I befriended in other clubs started a chain of events that has now led to the launch of Stirling Speakers. Ironic in that I now have a potential club on the doorstep with much less travelling!

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *