Reflections on a Fantastic Toastmasters Year

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

The opportunity to step up as Club President came completely out of the blue for me, but I’m so glad I took on the role. The previous Club President and another committee member approached me last Summer, saying my name had come up as a possible candidate and asked if I’d be interested in starting the role from July.

I was flattered, and despite a little voice of doubt in the back of my mind that whispered “they’ve got the wrong person”, I agreed.

I was excited and well prepared for my first committee meeting. I sent out an agenda and asked the Secretary to take the minutes. Apparently, this was a first and the new format was greeted positively. I was happy to be off to a good start and a progressive attitude continued throughout the year from all Committee members, meaning we have achieved a lot over the last twelve months.

The last six months have been especially challenging, not just for our Harrogate club but for clubs around the globe, with the impact and management of the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s been an incredibly testing time, but I am proud to say we have adapted to online meetings well and have even managed to expand our guest base to include dial-ins from as far as Florida, USA! I’ve been so pleased with the resilience and positive attitudes of our Committee and members, allowing our club to continue in the face of adversity.

A Jam Packed Year

This year our club has achieved so much together, we’ve;

  • Enhanced our impromptu skills with additional fun evenings dedicated to speaking ‘off the cuff’, organised by stalwart Toastmaster, Mike Pywell.

  • Enjoyed a lively Christmas party at NJ’s attended by more than half the club. The highlight for me was an entertaining, unprepared mock interview between Jane Wood as interviewer and Jackie Hill aka ‘bin operative Joan Collins’.

  • Refreshed our website, so we can update it with posts like this one, and re-launched our social media platforms.

  • Created a buzz at our first open event for several years. We welcomed almost ten guests to our regular venue at The Cairn Hotel, and a great night was had by all.

  • Encouraged members to develop both speaking and leadership skills, resulting in numerous Competent Communicator, Competent Leader, Advanced Communicator, Advanced Leader and Pathways awards. All of these have contributed to Strictly Speaking Harrogate maintaining our President’s Distinguished Club status.

  • Held uplifting, enjoyable meetings encouraging new and experienced members to participate and grow as communicators.

  • Successfully moved to online meetings during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic, welcoming guests and creating new development opportunities including the ‘Zoom Master’ role for members.

As I hand over the reigns of President to one of the current year’s VPPRs, Jessica Dodds, I know that I’m passing a healthy, vibrant club to a safe pair of hands. I wish her the best for the next Toastmasters year.

Two Final Thoughts

I’m going to close by sharing the two most rewarding things I have experienced this year.

The first is a personal comment. Toastmasters’ motto is ‘Where leaders are made.’ That little voice of doubt in my mind has been quashed, thanks to the support of everyone around me my confidence in my own leadership abilities has grown. ‘A safe place to practice’ is the mantra which is frequently repeated at club meetings. We should make that our motto. I have certainly learned a multitude of skills which are transferable to my day job as a Sustainability Consultant.

The second encompasses the whole club – and you, the reader, even if you haven’t visited yet. It’s been incredibly rewarding to hear from both members and visitors alike that we’re a friendly and welcoming group. That’s thanks to all of the committee and every participant each time we meet.

If you haven’t experienced our warm and friendly welcome yet, we’d love you to come along and see for yourself.

Michelle Marks

President 2019 - 2020

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