Less gruelling, and considerably more enjoyable than Army Officer Training, five members of the Brighton & Hove Speakers Club committee recently attended Club Officer Training in Tunbridge Wells. Three of us travelled up by car together, leaving Brighton earlier than Google Maps advised, in anticipation of congested roads and tailbacks.
As it happened, the roads were completely clear all the way there, meaning we arrived one hour before the meeting was due to start. What on earth were we to do with a whole unscheduled spare hour? Yes, you have guessed correctly – visit a warm and welcoming public house of course, to partake of the local ale!
After unanimous approval of the aforementioned ale, we went to the train station to meet our President, who had travelled down from London, then headed off to the meeting venue. After tea and introductions and/or reunions with committee members from other District clubs, we were welcomed by the Area Director, Sue Pellow.
For those new to the structure of Toastmasters International, Area 55 comprises Battle, Brighton & Hove, Eastbourne, Lewes and Tunbridge Wells. Our Area is part of Division H which is part of District 91. Are you following this okay?! Good.
The first presentation was given by our very own David Sutcliffe and was entitled ‘Building on Achievement for Continued Success’. As part of this we ran through a few exercises where we considered the efforts our clubs were making in areas such as fellowship, meeting variety and communications.
One thing that emerged here was that Brighton and Hove Speakers Club can be very proud of its early implementation of technology and social media. Easyspeak especially contributes to our club’s organization, though interestingly we learned that this is not actually an official Toastmasters tool but has been created by a group of volunteer Toastmasters based in the UK. Various different tools are in use by Toastmasters clubs worldwide.
The next presentation was by the PR Manager for District 91, Sue Fish, and she gave us all tips on the effective use of social media. She pointed out the importance of YouTube, as many people start their searches there. There was a lot of really helpful advice which we are now going to implement as part of our club’s PR strategy
After a short break our Area Director, Gordon Piggott, gave a presentation entitled ‘Enhancing Evaluations’ where we considered the obstacles to providing effective feedback and some of the ways in which these could be overcome. The important message we all took from Gordon’s presentation was that when evaluating, please always keep in the forefront of your mind the notion that your evaluation should ultimately encourage the speaker to return next time and continue developing… not resign in despair with a feeling of hopelessness and self-loathing!
David Sutcliffe concluded the event with a presentation on the new Revitalised Education Programme which is currently being piloted by other clubs and is expected to be rolled out around the end of 2016. The program has been updated to take into account changes in training and technology, with some fantastic new projects, for example how to communicate well in interviews – a great addition, as an interview is in some ways the bigger, more terrifying brother of speaking on stage!
It was emphasized that no matter what stage anybody is at in their Competent Communicator or Competent Leadership manual, no work will be lost and there will be a path from the old program to the new. David has been designated Revitalized Education Program Ambassador for our Area.
A great training session was had by each and every one of us – it was a fantastic opportunity to network with fellow Toastmasters from other clubs and exchange ideas and advice. We finished just after 4pm and set off back to Brighton, and as our stomachs started to remind us that it was getting close to dinner time, discussions in the car led to the proposal that Indian curries washed down with wine should be the next subject for evaluation that evening. The result was successful – no recommendations, only commendations.