Making more memories at the District 91, UK South Annual Conference 2024

It came… and went in a flash! I write this a week after the #LimitlessYOU conference in Bristol (and online) in May 2024. Colleagues around the world still have their conferences coming up and a few of us are already planning our trips to the International Convention in California this summer. Following my recent article, reflecting on my conference experiences since 2017, I’ve been asked to write a few words about my reflections on this most recent conference. Duty bound once more, I knew I had at least two jobs over the weekend: I have a non-Toastmaster friend who lives just outside of Bristol that I looked up earlier in the week. She had been intrigued about this Toastmasters thing, probably because of my social media posts and decided fairly last minute to grab a ticket to have a taster. It was great to be able to have brought a non-member to the event and to catch up. One of the other things that I noticed on the Friday evening and a definitive reason to celebrate was the number of first-timers to a District Conference. This was evident both in the official proceedings and over informal drinks in a hotel bar afterward. After the Table Topics Contest, a little pivoting was required for our panel discussion. It was an absolute pleasure and honour to have been given the opportunity to Chair, and I’m still amazed that we managed to have all TEN District Directors on stage at the same time. Saturday, the theme was Connect – there’s something to be said about how we do this through speeches – and connecting with our audience/listeners, for me, is just as important in terms of the one-on-one conversations that happen through networking. Our keynote speaker on Saturday morning, Nadia Nagamootoo, was someone that I’d met at an event pre-pandemic. We went to the same business school. The power of social media is such that you can keep reasonably up-to-date with what is going on with another person and so when our Conference Director asked me for speaker suggestions, I shared a post that I’d seen. On the morning of the keynote Nadia and I got to have breakfast together and catch up. On to the District Council, I’m not kidding when I say that I love a good business meeting! Yes, there are a few of us that geek out on this sort of thing. For many of you, you may not be aware that the conference weekend is built around this one event! For a District Director, it’s their main event of the year… whether incoming or outgoing, a LOT of work goes into bringing the event together and starts months in advance. I chaired the District Leadership Committee this year and that process started back in December. It culminates in the elections that take place at the Annual meeting of the District Council. In the afternoon, we typically hold the International Speech Contest finals. After the District Council, this event holds the next highest significance and is mandatory. Getting it right gives our winner the greatest possible chance of making it through the next level and onwards to the semi-finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking. The standard was incredibly high this year and on a personal level, it was incredible to see two members from my club(s) in the final. I’ve been fortunate enough to have developed a global network of friends in Toastmasters, mainly as a result of my time on the District Trio – some of that cohort will be lifelong friends and is evidence that adversity fosters resilience and deepens relationships. As a District, we’ve got a few members from other parts of the world who served in various capacities and are still willing to serve. I may have heard of them through my friends and contacts but only got to meet a couple of them for the first time in person at the conference. The Saturday evening culminates in our Hall of Fame and Gala Dinner, and for some an after-party of sorts. This year it was the #321 gang and perhaps as I am heading to retirement, I sat that one out! No doubt, more was celebrated, members connected and memories were created. On Sunday, I missed most of the morning of the conference. Here’s the thing… it’s ok not to go to every single thing on the agenda, particularly if you are an introvert. I totally needed a bit of quiet time for myself. My official responsibilities were largely over and I needed to sort something out so I could get home later that day. As I’ve learned over the years, there’s an art to conference going, and some of the moments and memories that are created happen around the event itself. I’ll certainly be catching up with the bits that I missed in the conference platform, in particular the conversation and the evaluation contest. There’s also something to be said about capturing moments on camera that people don’t know you have (up to mischief!) I managed to catch the humorous speech contest final which again showcased the best of the best. Delighted also to watch the panel discussion moderated by Alistair Marson, who has been behind the scenes for the past two District Conferences and has become a great friend. And finally, watching the installation of the new District Leadership Team and hearing our District Director elect’s inaugural speech. Not only was I, and the rest of the audience moved by it; for me, it epitomised the conference themes as a whole. Rupa DattaImmediate Past District 91 Director

Making memories since 2017

One of my best Toastmaster friends in Europe always says that District events are the places that we discover our future leaders. Where best then to find our future leaders or become one yourself then by attending a District Conference? Come with me on a brief trip down memory lane as I reflect on my District 91 conference experiences and the people that I’ve met along the way. Gatwick November 2017  My first memory of attending a conference was back in 2017.  It was the last time we held two conferences a year. I was club President of Trojans Speakers in Ealing and went out of sheer curiosity over duty. I remember to this day the top two Humorous speeches and the Contest Chair Glen Savage DTM who was my Area Director and now a great friend.  Our current First Vice President, Aletta Rochat DTM was our Region Advisor back who was our special guest speaker. Something else that I recall was her saying ‘Numbers tell a story.’ Fast forward to last year’s conference where she was our guest of honour, I remember telling her that. During the Hall of Fame, we stood next to each other on stage handing out recognition. She got the opportunity to reconnect with some old friends also! Bracknell 2018  This time I was driven more by duty than curiosity, though a combination of the two! Still club President, I knew that I was carrying votes on behalf of my club for the District Council meeting (AGM). By that point, I also knew that I was going to be the next Area 29 Director so wanted to understand the bigger picture more. I was willing to chance a whole weekend with Toastmasters! Helena Boden-Brewer DTM was the Conference Director.  Pedro Casillas, DTM was our District Director and Andy Hammond, DTM Program Quality Director. It was at this event that I recall meeting Steve Vear, DTM for the first time. Little did either of us know that a few years on, in the 2022-2023 term, he would be my Parliamentarian and this year, our Program Quality Director. Pedro Casillas, DTM District Director 2017/2018 and me with this years Program Quality Director, Steve Vear DTM Aletta Rochat, DTM as 2VP with me at the 2023 Hall of Fame at The Fable with Arnaud Sartre, DTM District Director 2020/2021 Past District Administration Manager Ruth Ribeiro, myself and Brad Revell, DTM Ashford 2019 Driven again by duty first, as Area Director a responsibility is to actively participate in District Executive Committee meetings. This year I was also standing for election as Division B Director. The first time I have had to have gone through the District Leadership Committee process, one that this year I am chairing myself.  There was a lot of fun and camaraderie at this event for sure. I’m pictured with Brad Revell, DTM who was my Division Director at the time and Ruth Ribeiro who would go on to be Area 29 Director. I fondly remember Sonia Aste winning the International Speech Contest with a speech called ‘Morning People and Night People’ – this was also the first time I got an insight into the higher levels of Contests as she progressed through to 2nd place in the Regional Finals. Online 2020  The year that no-one saw coming. An incredible feat by all involved in the Conference that year to migrate us online and pioneer that at scale for the rest of the world.  Full confession though, I was on the side of the camp that did not want to spend a weekend in May online. I was standing for Club Growth Director that year and knew my movements with respect to Candidates Showcase and the District Council. It was the first year that I had been contested for a leadership position and as a result a different approach to attending these events goes through one’s mind.  Post election, I remember the District Director elect, Arnaud Sarte DTM, texting me for the bits I did need to dial in and attend!  Online 2021 Another year online and perhaps for that reason, the Conference year that I recall the least. Again, duty and active participation in the District Council were my main drivers. As a Trio member, getting ready for the Hall of Fame to recognise outstanding achievements in Club and Membership Growth was an honour in a challenging year.  Helena-Boden Brewer DTM was Program Quality Director (now known as Fairy Godmother) and Guler Cortis was Conference Director. Knowing that I was the nominated candidate for Program Quality Director and thus had to oversee the conference the following year, made me want to learn from these two by osmosis!  For those standing for election this year, enjoy the process and the journey. Spoiler alert – someone that has taken a background role in supporting me and some of our past conferences in recent years has a very visible role this year on the conference programme! Maybe more than one! Online —> Hybrid 2022 The year I was Program Quality Director. The year I was accountable for the District Conference. A year that I was not ever anticipating would happen when I first attended a District Conference 5 years prior.  There were still many unknowns in the Autumn of 2021. We had no Conference Director and did not know if we could have in person elements. Well, as ‘Everything is Possible’ – one of our Division Directors, Debbie Williams, stepped up to the task.  Coming back together in person at the 2022 conference for the Hall of Fame and evening social event Heading into the Gala DInner 2023, held at The Fable My fond memories of this Conference were of the installation ceremony performed by our now International President, Morag Mathieson, DTM as I took the step to becoming your District Director.  We also managed to pull off a hybrid social event for the evening Hall of Fame. Which paved the way for the 2023 Conference to become fully … Read more

How could we maintain the engagement after a year locked at home?

District 91 held its 2021 Annual Conference on 1st and 2nd May 2021. 2020 saw the District pivot from in person to online in around 6 weeks; 2021 was always going to be online but how could we maintain the engagement after a year locked at home? This was the challenge our Program Quality Director, Helena Boden Brewer DTM had to steer on behalf of our members and appointed Guler Cortis (who was part of the 2020 conference team). She stepped into the role of 2021 Conference Director … the rest is history. I will forever be grateful to both Helena and Guler for the clear strategy and flawless execution of our 2021 Online Conference.  The lessons of the past were shared with many new and exciting opportunities arising after a full year of lockdown, from technology to new ways of engaging our members who once again attended in large numbers from across the District and around the World (approx 500 attendees across the weekend). So how did it look? The District went all in! Four (4) stages Learning, Growing, Inspiring and a keynote Stage. With over 20 workshops and a full complement of contests, it was one of the busiest conferences ever, within something for everyone! If you want to relive some exceptional moments, check out the 2021 Conference playlist. Of particular note, we were blessed with the presence of Erin Gruwell, 2017 Toastmasters Golden Gavel. Erin delivered a heart warming keynote, who recounted some of the deep personal stories behind the work of the Freedom Writers Foundation. We also had the exceptional presence of Dan Egan, World renowned Big Mountain Skier who truly put perspective behind pushing the limits to achieve peak performance and the power of purpose. What else did we do? We also had our Annual District Council meeting that voted in Helena Boden-Brewer DTM as District Director and other District business matters. In between sessions, did you know we can bring a unique flavour to online meetings? District 91 did it with a cocktail making session that was expertly run by Cat Kipling who I recall was particularly well received. Thanks Cat!  And of course, we also had a chance to wind down at the end of the day with a virtual party! Now … why do some of us keep coming back to District Conferences? There are multiple reasons. It is a time of celebrations! Celebration of our successes, celebration of our members & Clubs and celebration of our Contest winners. Conferences give us that annual opportunity to gather with friends and create memories that I know many of us hold very dear to our hearts. I have personally made lifelong friends, and can recall many special moments with our members. From first timers witnessing with awe the best our District has to offer to District contest winners contemplating a spot on the international stage – we have changed lives. Thanks to our members, we make a difference in the world, we empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. This is our mission at Toastmasters and I look forward to seeing you in Bristol in May! Arnaud Sartre DTM, District Director 2020/2021

A Powerful Narrative with Désiré Binam

I am limitless when I am on my Roller blades! Webinar Session In April of 2020, Désiré received the devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Overcoming immense challenges, he persevered through two rounds of grueling chemotherapy and endured four surgeries. In 2023, Désiré shared his journey with cancer at the district 91 International speech contest and finished second. This time to reflect on how the art of speech writing and delivery has become an integral part of his ongoing healing process. He is looking to articulate a powerful narrative, illustrating the symbiotic relationship between embracing medical procedures with positivity, journalling his experiences, delivering impactful speeches, and embracing constructive feedback. Through this virtuous cycle, Désiré remains proactive, motivated, and resilient in the face of daunting medical obstacles.   About Désiré joined Experience French Toastmasters in 2015 and was an active member of Data Science Speakers Club, London.  He is a passionate speaker with an ability to showcase his life experience through his moving speeches and has developed a keen ability to inspire his listeners. Désiré is a District 91 International Speech Contest Finalist (2023), speech title With a Little Help From my Friends. Each time the inexorable pull of Toastmasters sucked him back! Now he says he is back for good; he is having too much fun and he couldn’t bear to leave his Toastmaster friends.

Saturday Keynote Speaker – Beyond Discomfort with Nadia Nagamootoo

by Satchin Semage Unlocking the Power of Inclusive Leadership Join us on Saturday at the conference for a transformative journey into inclusive leadership, guided by the expertise and passion of Nadia Nagamootoo. As we delve into the heart of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), attendees can anticipate an immersive experience that not only challenges perspectives but also equis them with actionable strategies for creating positive change. Nadia’s wealth of experience as a Chartered Psychologist, MBA, and accredited coach sets the stage for a dynamic exploration of inclusive leadership. Her warm and engaging style, coupled with innovative learning approaches, has made her a sought-after speaker globally. As the founder and CEO of Avenir, Nadia has catalyzed powerful conversations and driven meaningful change at all levels of organizations worldwide. DEI conversations often evoke strong emotional responses because they touch upon our core values and beliefs. Nadia is here to help us all challenge our discomfort and go beyond … to forge stronger connections and create lasting legacies. In this session, attendees will embark on a journey of self-discovery and growth, gaining invaluable insights into the complexities of inclusive leadership. Through insightful discussions and thought-provoking anecdotes participants will not only understand the importance of DEI but will also be empowered to take action within their organisations and communities. So, as we prepare to unlock the power of inclusive leadership with Nadia Nagamootoo, let us be inspired by her wisdom, passion, and dedication. Together, let’s create a more equitable and inclusive future. Join Nadia at lunch on Saturday to get your signed copy of her book ”Beyond Discomfort’ and dive deeper into the conversation with her podcast ”Why Care?” Beyond Discomfort Book Why Care Podcast Avenir Consulting

Sunday Keynote Speaker – Navigating Uncertainty with Dr Graham Norris, DTM

by Satchin Semage If the last few years have taught us anything, it is that the future is uncertain. In order to build a limitless legacy for ourselves, we first must embrace uncertainty and focus on developing strategies to help us navigate change.  Join us for a riveting keynote speech on Sunday at the conference, where Dr. Graham Norris will guide us through the intricacies of inclusive leadership in an era defined by uncertainty and change. Graham, an organisational psychologist and futurist, brings a unique blend of expertise to the table. Specialising in adaptability and strategic foresight amid uncertainty, Graham’s work revolves around helping leaders navigate the complexities of rapid technological changes, market unpredictability, and organisational restructuring. Throughout his illustrious career, Graham has honed his craft, combining psychological insights with futurist methodologies to aid decision-makers in crafting robust, long-term strategies. His approach isn’t just about mitigating risk; it’s about transforming perceived threats into opportunities for growth and innovation. In his keynote speech, Dr. Norris will delve into three key points essential for mastering leadership in uncertain times: Conquering Uncertainty: Graham will provide insights into conquering uncertainty, offering practical strategies for leaders to navigate ambiguity with confidence and clarity. By embracing uncertainty as a catalyst for innovation, attendees will learn to thrive in the face of adversity. Breaking Free from Limitations: Graham will challenge attendees to create strategies to break free from limitations, encouraging them to think beyond traditional boundaries and embrace a mindset of possibility. By reframing limitations as opportunities for growth, leaders can unlock untapped potential within themselves and their teams. Challenging Perspectives of the Future: In this final point, Graham will challenge attendees to confront their perspectives of the future, encouraging them to envision bold, transformative possibilities. By embracing a future-focused mindset, leaders can anticipate trends, seize opportunities, and drive meaningful change within their organisations. As we prepare to embark on this journey of discovery and growth, let us be inspired by Dr. Graham Norris’s wisdom, foresight, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Together, let’s learn how to navigate uncertain times and seize opportunities for innovation and growth

From our Bristol Host

Serena Salvatore is our Bristol Host! For the current President of Bristol Central Speakers, the conference this year is right on her doorstep and she cannot wait to connect with delegates attending in person (or online!) If you are making it to the conference in person (or to Bristol anytime!) Serena has great tips for what you can see and do! Keep an eye out for updates from Serena leading up to the conference weekend. You’ll find Serena at the conference as part of our host team! Discover Bristol’s Maritime Marvel Did you know that Bristol has a fascinating maritime history? This city was once one of the most important ports in England, playing a vital role in exploration and trade. The iconic Harbourside area, with its renovated warehouses and museums, offers a glimpse into Bristol’s seafaring past. One of the highlights is the SS Great Britain, a historic 19th-century steamship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, which you can explore. The Harbourside is also home to several cargo restaurants housed in converted shipping containers, offering a unique dining experience. As you stroll along the waterfront, visit the M Shed museum to delve deeper into Bristol’s industrial and maritime heritage. Alternatively, the Arnolfini gallery in a former tea warehouse showcases contemporary art exhibitions with a stunning Harbourside view. As you stroll along the waterfront, you’ll also come across the Portbury Railway, a steam train that transports visitors through Bristol’s industrial heritage. Attending the Toastmasters International district conference here will allow you to soak in the atmosphere of this historic port city that has shaped global commerce and culture. Immerse yourself in Bristol’s maritime legacy and let it inspire you as you hone your public speaking and leadership abilities. 31 March, 2024 Bristol: A City of Culinary Delights Dear Toastmasters, We’re on the verge of a delicious escapade as we gear up for the upcoming Toastmasters International district conference in Bristol. This city has blossomed into a veritable haven for food enthusiasts. Let’s journey through Bristol’s eclectic and vibrant food scene, where tradition and innovation meet at the dinner table. Bristol’s Culinary Canvas: A Diverse and Sustainable Palette In Bristol, every bite tells a story of sustainability, creativity, and community. The city prides itself on its commitment to local produce and ethical eating, which shines through in its dining options.  Bristol is a city where food is much more than sustenance—it’s a celebration. A World of Flavours: International Delights Bristol’s food scene is a melting pot of cultures, each adding unique spice to the city’s culinary mosaic. Indian Cuisine: Dive into the rich flavours of Indian cooking with Nutmeg, where regional dishes from across India are served with a modern twist. Nadu offers a journey through the flavours of South India, presenting a symphony of spices and aromas that are both comforting and exhilarating. For dosa enthusiasts, Kal Dosa is a must-visit, offering crispy, flavourful dosas that are a testament to the art of South Indian cooking. Italian Flair: Pizzaland and Bosco transport you to Italy’s heart with authentic pizzas. At Pizzaland, the pizza is a canvas of fresh ingredients and traditional techniques, while Bosco Pizzeria offers a contemporary twist on classic flavours, making each bite a memorable experience. Noteworthy Nods: Michelin Stars and Culinary Wizards Bulrush is at the forefront of Bristol’s upscale dining scene, a Michelin-starred gem known for its innovative approach to British cuisine. Chef George Livesey’s creations are a testament to the beauty of locally sourced ingredients, transformed into exquisite dishes that captivate both the eye and the palate. Wilson Restaurant offers another exquisite dining experience, where seasonal and local ingredients take centre stage, crafting a familiar and thrilling menu. It’s a place where each dish tells a story of Bristol’s rich culinary landscape. Let’s make our visit to Bristol a culinary discovery and delight journey. We look forward to sharing this savoury adventure with you! Till then, keep your appetites adventurous and your spirits high! 7 April, 2024 Explore Bristol’s Vibrant Art Scene Did you know that Bristol holds the title of the street art capital of the UK? The city’s dynamic streets are a living gallery adorned with a rich tapestry of murals that transform ordinary walls into extraordinary art. Renowned for its cultural vibrancy, Bristol is home to the iconic works of the elusive artist Banksy, whose thought-provoking pieces are scattered throughout the city, offering a unique blend of artistic heritage and contemporary commentary. Banksy Walking Tour → Joining us for the Toastmasters conference in Bristol promises an enriching learning experience and an immersive journey through an urban landscape pulsating with creativity. This artistic backdrop is not merely decorative; it is an integral part of the city’s identity that encourages innovative thought and a bold approach to communication. As you explore the winding streets adorned with artworks, you will find endless inspiration to embolden your public speaking skills and motivate you to think outside the box. Embrace this opportunity to enhance your oratory abilities in a setting that celebrates creativity and expression. Let Bristol’s artistic spirit inspire you to new heights in personal and professional growth. 14 April 2024Gala Dinner Venue Sneak Peak   Check out the gala dinner venue in this sneak peak video below!   14 April 2024 Green  Bristol, renowned for its commitment to environmental sustainability, earned the prestigious title of European Green Capital in 2015, recognising its dedication to ecological conservation and sustainable urban living. The city is well-known for its expansive network of cycling paths and its proactive stance on renewable energy use, making it a prime example of eco-friendly urban development. As you plan to attend the Bristol District 91 Toastmasters International conference, you’ll find that the city’s commitment to green spaces aligns seamlessly with Toastmasters’ values of personal and professional growth. Exploring these verdant areas can provide a refreshing backdrop to your developmental journey. For those interested in experiencing Bristol’s lush landscapes, here are some notable green spaces to visit: The Bristol Botanic Garden offers a diverse collection of plants and flowers, … Read more

Join us in Bristol and discover a limitless you in 2024

From your conference director … In 2024, District 91 marks a decade of existence, and Toastmasters International celebrates a century of empowering individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. We look forward to celebrating Toastmasters International’s 100 years and District 91’s first decade with all of you. District 91, UK South Annual Conference 2024 3 – 5 May 2024, Bristol in person or online Our conference theme this year is, “Limitless You,” which not only celebrates the myriad possibilities for one within Toastmasters but also being able to overcome the limitations and challenges that life has to offer.  When I reflect on the most life-changing moments in my life, I compare them to that feeling I’ve had when flying on a plane or a hot air balloon ride. Looking at the world from that point brings a sense of excitement driven by nerves, endless possibilities and pure awe. The same feeling was felt when I graduated from school and started a new job… I relate it to the feeling we all get when we embark on a journey at Toastmasters, be it joining Toastmasters and doing an icebreaker speech, becoming a club officer or a district leader, the sky is the limit. The limitless possibilities that we can find in this outstanding community of Toastmasters, where we strive to become better versions of ourselves defines the concept that we are all filled with limitless potential.  Those moments of pure awe define our experience as members and have shaped the history of Toastmasters International and District 91.  What can you expect at Limitless you? Celebrate In 2024, we mark a century of Toastmasters International and a decade of District 91 (UK South). At the conference, both long-standing members and newcomers, along with our esteemed guests, will come together to commemorate this significant milestone. It’s a chance for everyone to reflect on their Toastmasters journey and create lasting memories as we celebrate together. Connect Our Toastmasters community is built on these connections, and at the District 91 Annual Conference in Bristol, we invite you to forge fresh connections. Whether your aspirations are professional or personal, our gathering is a place where you’ll discover meaningful connections that will enrich your life Create Maya Angelou’s words resonate deeply: “If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” Our conference will reflect upon the legacy of Toastmasters International and District 91, inspiring you to contemplate the legacy you are constructing for yourself. Through workshops and speakers, you’ll find the motivation to be more intentional in shaping your legacy and discover the limitless potential within you. I am both excited and honoured to serve as the Conference Director for this special event, and I assure you that we are putting our hearts and souls into creating a conference that captures the essence of our theme and celebrates our milestones. If you want to be part of this milestone event and explore your moments of pure awe, consider signing up to join our conference team or become part of the programme and partners who will help bring the conference to life. Here to serve, Amy Jones, DTM Conference Director 2024