Monday, May 18, 2009

Email from International President Jana Barnhill (2008-09)

In 1996, I witnessed Jana Barnhill in action when Jana was competiting in the World Championship of Public Speaking talking about "...light up your lantern" at the Toastmasters International Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

I also had the opportunity to meet Jana in person when her husband Robert Barnhill was International President.

Today, I received Jana's email to all Toastmasters in her own capacity as International President. It is like Hillary Clinton becoming USA President after Bill Clinton...

May 18, 2009
Dear Toastmaster,

I hope that the Toastmasters program is bringing you everything you thought it would: increased confidence, improved communication and an opportunity to meet your personal and professional goals. As a growing organization, now in 106 countries, we strive to make the Toastmasters experience consistent and rewarding, no matter where your location in the world.

This August, at the International Convention in Mashantucket, Connecticut, every Toastmasters club worldwide will vote on Proposal A: Global Representation and Support. This plan would improve the way Toastmasters International is structured on a global scale and improve service to every member.

The proposal includes two items for clubs to vote on:
Expanding from eight regions in North America to 14 regions worldwide to accommodate our organization's rapid growth.

Replacing the International Nominating Committee with the International Leadership Committee (ILC), which would provide an enhanced system for nominating international director and officer candidates.

In addition, three items which will be presented to the Board of Directors for their approval:

Adding the region advisor marketing position (one per region) to support districts.

Creating a comprehensive district officer training program, including e-learning and face-to-face sessions.

Moving regional business and international speech contest semifinals to the International Convention.

For a more detailed explanation, please view my video message at

I ask that you encourage your club officers to vote in favor of Proposal A. By doing so, you will allow global representation and support for every member in our organization - no matter where he or she lives. If you have any questions about this plan, send an e-mail to

The future is yours. The future is bright. Let's all have The Courage to Conquer it, by voting in favor of Proposal A!

Jana Barnhill, DTM, AS
International President

Sunday, May 17, 2009

How Fast? How Slow?

The Toastmasters program is a self-paced program. There is a saying, "Slow and steady win the race" but in this fast moving world, how long should one take to complete the ice breaker, the Competent Communicator and the ultimate Distinguished Toastmaster.

Here are following suggestions to taken with a pinch of salt.

1) A new member upon full payment and online application submission to Toastmasters International can do the icebreaker at the 1st Club meeting. A formal induction of new member can be held first and followed by an introduction to the club members with Project 1: The Icebreaker Speech.

A new member should do the Icebreaker within the first 3 months upon joining. Otherwise, it is not a good sign.

A mentor's role is to help navigate a new member through the first 3 speech projects. That can happen within the first 3 months but should not take more than 6 months. If after 1 year, a new menber still has not completed Project 3, then both mentor and new member are in trouble.

One can debate, it takes time to overcome fear, to learn the ropes or to have better confidence in delivering in English but if after paying 2 semi-annual dues and a member celebrating the 1st anniversary has still not done Project 3, it is a timley to ponder the reasons for joining in the 1st place.

Very often members continue to join just to de-stress and to have a few laughs in a friendly club but Toastmasters can offer you more than that.

2) How long should one take to complete the Competent Communicator?

The fastest has been within the first 6 months. There are 10 projects, for a club that meets twice a month, there are 12 club meetings within 6 months.

So doing a project speech at every meeting, one can complete all 10 projects. Any slips can be covered by doing a project speech at a club meeting of another Toastmasters Club.

NOTE: The rule is only 1 project speech is allowed to be credited for each club meeting and for each day.

So attending 2 different Clubs to do 2 different project speeches is in vain. Repeating the same speech project at 2 different club meetings for learning is a gain.

If you are doing a project speech at a different Toastmasters Club, it is important and courtesy that the member get prior agreement with the Club Vice President Education. Remember each Toastmasters Club is run differently.

If you are a dual club member, it is important to advise in advance to both Clubs in advance to which Club you will be credited your award to.

There are some Toastmasters Clubs that have meetings weekly - in Thailand and USA. If so, then technically it is possible to complete the Competent Communicator within 3 to 6 months!

Strike while the iron is hot as there are always members who have been around for 6 years and have yet to complete Project 10 - the slow coach or the perfectionist or those interested in Table Topics only.

Ideally, I would say that 6 to 12 months is a great target to complete the Competent Communicator. To be serious, focused and motivated towards self-development. There must be hard work, sacrifice and goal orientated towards the Distinguished Club Program annual time cycle.

Completing the Competent Communicator within 2 years can be considered "slow and steady".

Any self respecting Toastmaster should complete their Competent Communicator within 3 years otherwise the expiry date comes into force.

3) The "new" Competent Leadership after over three years of introduction is still a burdensome and difficult award to complete because there are so many roles to be planned and each requires evaluation.

You have to be Grammarian, General Evaluator and Toastmaster of the Meeting so many times and there are many additional different roles like in Speech Contest, Publicity and talking to guests, it requires self-discipline and energetic VPE to ensure all the "i" are dotted and all the "t" are crossed for a Competent Leadership manual to be completed.

Until it can be fully integrated into a Club duty roster, I see that Competent Leadership continues to play the role of forced fulfilment to meet the Club DCP goals and for those motivated towards their ALB, ALS and DTM.

4) After the struggle of finally completing "a less than perfect" Project 8, 9 and 10, and the delay of submission of Competent Communicator or indecision of which Advanced Manuals to pick and the gap of waiting for the Advanced Manuals to arrive, more often than not, a Competent Communicator does not progress to their Advanced projects immediately.

Going from CC to AC is a transition like going from high school to university where the subjects or projects change from mandatory to selective.

Except for highly motivated members who want to upgrade from CC to ACS, most Competent Communicators may take more than 3 years or may never ever finish their first two advanced manuals or 10 advanced projects.

To keep the momentum going, ideally, it is great to complete the Advanced Communicator Bronze within 12 months after the Competent Communicator.

It is not uncommon to see the same member completing their ACB/ACS or ACS/ACG within the same annual term just to meet the two DCP goals. Why the rush? The reason could be that no other club members is willing or able to complete the Advanced Communicator in that term.

Personally, I feel it is better for the Club to miss one of the DCP goals than for a member to rush to complete two Advanced Communicator Awards within the same term. Of course, exception can be made if the member has completed the first award at the beginning of the term and has taken another 10 or 11 months on the second award. That is going into technical details but you know what I mean.

5) How long is reasonable for a Distinguished Toastmasters?

Technically, it is a minimum of 2 years and 1 day to complete a DTM. 1 year as Club Officer and 1 year as District Officer. Of course pushed to the limit, if a member serves as Club Officer and District Officer the same year, than it is an incredible 1 year and 1 day.

For those in a hurry or commited to a limited time with Toastmasters, it is important to remember that Club Committee and roles like Assistant Area Governor or Division Treasurer does not count towards your DTM. So go for the roles like SAA or Area Governor or District Treasurer.

Realistically, I have seen the fastest new DTMs taking 3-4 years to acheive their awards. In the old DTM program, there was a requirement of 4 years of continuous membership to apply for DTM.

Personally, I took over 5 years to achieve my DTM when I was Division N Governor and was the second person in Penang to do so. Quite a number of veteran Toastmasters of over 10 years were shocked in disbelief.

Again it is not so much the time but the hard polishing and personal growth that is important. There are a few DTMs who may still speak hesistantly on the stage with glaring grammatical errors but who is to judge.

Again whether it is CC or DTM, the Toastmasters awards are a recognition of completion of program rather than a passing of grade. But are not the terms "Competent" and "Distinguished" a hallmark of excellence....

Genearlly, it is the spirit and hope of every Toastmaster and Toastmaster Club that every member will be earnest in fulfilling their all requirements for the Distinguished Toastmaster. Some times a member does not have time to sponsor or mentor or coach a club but their names has been submitted so that they can achieve their DTM award that term. That is not right. Any award should be earned and there is personal pride in earning it but we live in a complex world.

In achieving a DTM, a member would have many opportunities to polish and hone their communication and leadership skills along the journey to reach this highest individual recognition by Toastmasters International.

Achieving the DTM is a goal that not every Toastmaster may want to aspire for but for those who do and does it in earnest, the benefits are incredible. "We reap what we sow".

In short, 3 years for a DTM is possible and a bit fast. I would say that 4 to 6 years is ample time for full ripening period for any dynamic DTM who is active and committed and enthusiastic in Toastmasters.

There are a select few Toastmasters worldwide who continues to repeat their DTM several times. I have repeated the DTM once using the new format program when I was the District 51 Lieutenant Governor Education and Training.

But I feel rather than repeating the same DTM program every two years, it is more benefial to help another member to achieve their first DTM. But who am I to say as "One man's meat is another man's poison".

So if you have 5 years for Toastmasters, you can do your Icebreaker, achieve your CC, CL, ACS and your DTM and win a speech contest here and there and make many great friends.