Toastmasters: Milestones

Over the weekend, I attended the District 53 Toastmasters Annual Conference, where I was honored as the Division Director of the Year for my work in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut last year (2018-19). This year I was the District’s Club Growth Director, responsible for founding new clubs and helping old ones (particularly challenged ones) reorganize themselves for success.

D640lZnX4AAVsbcLast year’s District Director presented me with this lovely glass block with my name and other identifying information on it.  It’s a beautiful gift and I thank all the people who made this achievement possible, although many of them wouldn’t necessarily enjoy being named in this blog. And I haven’t asked them, so I won’t.

The truth is, part of the reason I may have received this award is that I was working hard to achieve Distinguished Division status. That would have meant keeping all 20 of our clubs open, growing the membership, and having nine or so of those clubs achieve Distinguished Club status.  We didn’t meet those goals. I’m not even sure if I came closest to meeting those goals.  But I know I worked hard at it. I know that I applied an enormous amount of effort to that task, as well.

Leading people is hard. In a volunteer organization like Toastmasters, or really any magical lodge organization (and there were THREE others in the hotel where we met, while we were there — America has more pockets of magical workers than you might think), twenty percent of the people provide 80% of the labor. The Pareto Principle applies: in a club of 20 people, only four of the officers are likely to be doing the work of officers at any given moment, providing value to the other sixteen.  In a district of around 2000 people, about 400 volunteers do most of the labor that produces results.

And the work of concrete vs. abstract thinking is on display all the time — three new colleagues stepped forward to do the very concrete work of setting up screens, running the projectors, and managing the electrical cord connections. That’s expert work, technical work — mayhap not very complicated, but tricky enough in a room full of people who are not savvy to the connections between laptop and projector and wireless slide-clicker.  There’s the technical challenge of setting up a business meeting, and running through the procedural issues of Robert’s Rules of Order… and then there’s the abstract thinking of realizing that you should have scheduled a Question and Answer session so that people could ask their questions outside of the rules of parliamentary debate (and building it into the timetable of next year, as best you can, now).  And really, as a volunteer, you need to be able to move smoothly from abstract thinking to concrete thinking smoothly and easily, whenever possible.  Which is one of the goals of magical training, and one of the places to learn it is in close proximity to other people.

Ah, yes. Responsibility.  I’ve just been elected to a second term of responsibility — this time as Program Quality Director, running the District’s education program. My term starts July 1. Wish me luck.

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  1. Congratulations! That’s a good fit for your talents.

    I completed my last Advanced Leadership Bronze speech this weekend, which included quoting, “Toastmasters is a volunteer organization”. Wonder if I can cram in an ACB before next June’s deadline?

    • It’s a pity you’re not unemployed and in my district… I’d cram so much work into your ‘volunteer’ schedule, you’d complete a ACB, an ACS, an ACG, *and* an ALS before June. 😉

    • That be a terrifying storm of TLAs!

      What’s an ACB vs an ALB?

    • ACB = advanced communicator bronze. ALB = advanced leadership bronze. In the first you give ten speeches and do a project and a speech on running a successful organization. And in the second, you serve six months as a club officer and do a couple of larger-scale events for the club. Learning by doing in all cases.

    • In totally unrelated news, I’ve been offered the job of treasurer for a local Toronto makerspace.
      Should I consider it, or run for the hills? 😉

    • I would hang out and make some stuff in the maker space first, and get a feel for the inflows of money and the outflows — because the out is often larger than the in. DOn’t make yourself legally liable for numbers that are already imbalanced.

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