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 hybrid.

Hybrid 2023

The year we put on our first fully hybrid Conference! Let me frank, it was not without its challenges! 

There’s a sense of pride in being a member (and leader) of this District and the District Conference, well is our flagship event. From technical wizardry, to masterclass Contest Chairing and celebrating the first full year of a post pandemic world, this could not have been done without the support and strength of the immediate team and those beyond.

If I had to sum up this experience it would be about the importance of team and the importance of the network and relationships that exist in our community. Learning from others, not being afraid to ask and clarity on a common goal would be my three takeaways. I mean, I’ve been inspired to write this ‘photo essay’ because one of my team did about last year’s conference!

Attend 2024 

As we look ahead to this year’s Conference which is now only a matter of days away. My main job is to deliver the District Leadership Committee report at our District Council meeting. I have also been given the honour of moderating a panel discussion on the Friday evening with all of our Past District Directors (9 of them!)

Everyone has a conference journey/story – and I’m pleased to see two people that have been behind the scenes come out and moderate a panel and be in conversation this year. Alistair Marston and Kirti Daryanani DTM respectively.

My District Leadership Team 2022/2023 - Chris Arning, myself, Debbie Williams, Helen Boden-Brewer, Eddy Quah and behind Diane Richardson and Amy Jones
Nadia Nagamootoo. Proud to see her connecting with our Toastmasters community at the conference this year as the Saturday keynote.

Connections happen in all of our communities and these events are just as much about bringing people into Toastmasters as what we take out of it and with one another. I had the pleasure of meeting our Saturday keynote speaker at an event pre-pandemic and personally can’t wait to hear her perspective and get my hands on her book! #hownetworkswork

I’m looking forward to creating new memories this year so I can look back again. I hope by sharing my conference diaries, you will take the opportunity to join us over our Conference weekend. You never know who you will meet, and where that connection will take you. Come and discover your #limitlessyou by booking your ticket.

Rupa Datta

Immediate Past District 91 Director