Technical Issues with Zoom Calls

The five main problems that effect the level of Zooming we are all doing during the Covid era, are internet stability, picture quality, sound, lighting and to a lesser extent, the need for reading notes or speeches while looking straight into the camera, in order to keep eye contact with your audience.

I am writing from a personal point of view, so some of these issues may not be a factor for you. Our Internet is stable most of the time, unless it lashes rain and the junction box on the road gets flooded, due to the fact that the door is a bit bent and water can get in to it (I do wish they would fix it). It is presently mid November, and I live in Ireland, so, as you can imagine, Internet stability is, lets just say, not ideal at the moment. Other factors that may affect your internet speed and stability are, the package you have, the ages of the cables in your house, the distance your house is from the junction box and the access to high speed broadband in area in which you live, as well as how well your modem is working and whether you use wifi or ethernet connections.

The picture quality is greatly effected by the camera you are using, I use the camera on my computer, I have however, downloaded the webcam updates for a variety of my cameras, in an effort to improve the picture, however, I am happy enough with the quality from the computer, so I will continue to use that. I would like the image framing to be a little wider, but, it is not such a problem that I am going to add a stand alone camera to my already full desk. This may change in time as the system evolves, and if I really wanted to use a lo-fi fix, I could push my chair back. Simple!

Sound for me was the biggest issue, as I cannot abide bad sound, or distracting sounds in the background or any of the interference and distracting noises that you frequently come across on either YouTube or Online Meetings. I will, like a lot of people, put up with dodgy video, but, bad sound is simply not acceptable. To this end, I bought a stand alone, USB, cardioid microphone, that I now have clamped to my desk, behind my computer, I can swing it out over the screen when I need it and it is not in frame and then push it back when I don’t need it. It improved the sound greatly for the people listening to me and meant that I did not have to wear my AirPods when on calls.

My lighting solution for a while was to turn up or down the brightness on my screen, as I felt the situation necessitated. This was not meant to be a permanent solution, so I started looking for mounts for some of my small free standing lights, but, the only mounting solutions I could find were tripods and this was not what I was looking for. I wanted a clip solution, so I could mount the light to my screen. However, if I couldn’t find a solution that I wanted, I was ok with using the screen brightness method, as I had received some compliments about it. It was a flat light, right in front of me, so it may not have been all that flattering, but, as far as I was concerned, at least people were not straining to see me in the darkness. I will get back to this in a minute, as I have now found a solution to this and the next problem. Hooray!

The final issue, which is much less of a problem for an awful lot of people, and more of a Toastmasters quandary, is the need to be able to present or read notes whiles looking into the camera. I, like a lot of Toastmasters, would read the speech from my screen, and would then not be able to make eye contact with my audience, which was not ideal. I tried moving the speech around the screen, in an effort to get it as close to the camera as I could, so I could try and minimise the sight of me reading from the screen, I did ok with this, but, I was still looking for a better solution. I had seen lots of people using teleprompters on YouTube and they seemed to be a perfect way to resolve the issue I was having, however, for the longest time, the ones I saw, all needed to be attached to a camera, and as I mentioned earlier, I wanted my Zoom setup to be small, discrete and most importantly, not something that was going to constantly annoy me. It also needed to not block either my screen or the camera and I did not want to spend a massive amount of money on the setup I bought.

Last night I found the perfect solution for me, it has two arms, one of which holds a ring light, the other holds a phone grip, they are both set on a clamp that I can attach to my screen! YAY! I then discovered that I could use the Pages App as a teleprompter that auto scrolls! Double YAY! I now have the perfect, small solution for my zoom meetings.

I have included links to the products I use below, the stand for the USB is not the exact one I use, but, it is incredibly similar. I have also included a link to a post I wrote on how to use Pages as a teleprompter.

https://youknowwhenyou.com/2020/11/15/iphone-teleprompter-option/

Dynamic Leadership – Connect with your Audience Speech 3.2

This speech focuses on Connecting with your Audience, it is the first elective project I have chosen to complete from Level three of the Dynamic Leadership Pathway. I delivered it to a a new club and not the one I am a member of.

Good afternoon Madam President, Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests. Today I am here to talk to you about Pathways, the educational programme we use in Toastmasters. Before I start talking about Pathways, I just want to briefly explain about the software that we use to support members journeys through Toastmasters.

There are two different sites we use, they are Easyspeak and Toastmasters International.  Easyspeak is the software we use on a day to day basis to automate the planning of meetings and to track and support members development, as well as general club administration. This is the site that people spend more time on. We use it to request speeches, confirm attendance and when we will fill roles, it helps generate agendas and is very user friendly. It helps to centralise club information and gives clarity to meetings. Every member needs to register for both the Easyspeak and Toastmasters International sites. You can use the same login’s for both. You can use Easyspeak to track your own progress of your speeches and leadership roles, which is useful. You can also see information about the area and the district too. Should you wish to speak at another club, like I am today, easyspeak makes its simple for me to register this speech with my own club, as they are both on Easyspeak. It does not take long to familiarise yourself with Easyspeak.

Pathways is the Toastmasters Education programme, that you can complete at your own speed. It is designed to help you grow as a speaker and a leader, you will learn real world transferable skills. To start with Pathways you need to log on to Toastmasters International and choosing a Path, this can be done by either completing an assessment or, if you know what you want to focus on, you can just pick a path yourself. If you decide that a path is not for you, you have 30 days to contact Toastmasters and change it for free, if you wait until after the 30 days, you will need to pay $20.

There are 11 Paths to choice from and if you unsure of a Path to pick, Toastmasters recommend that you pick Presentation Mastery. When choosing a Path, I think it is important to look at the mandatory speeches and see if you want to do those, if you don’t, you should pick another path. If you do, you will not miss out on any speeches or projects, as all the paths share a majority of the same projects and speeches, and all speeches teach you about Public speaking, mentoring, presentation skills and leadership. Each path has 5 levels and each level has the same number of speeches that need to be made. Level’s 1 and 2 have 3 mandatory speeches that teach you the basics of public speaking. Level 3 has 3 speeches, 1 is mandatory and the other 2 come from a selection of 14, Level 4 has 1 mandatory speech and 1 you elect from a list of 5, Level 5 has 3 speeches, 1 is mandatory and 1 is an elective from a list of 6 the last one is a wrap up. At the end of the Path you will have completed 14 projects across the 5 levels. Each path starts with an ‘Icebreaker’ speech, the objective of which is just for you to introduce yourself to your fellow members and to get you talking, this speech can be about absolutely anything from your love of Rubik’s cubes to the time you bungie jumped off a hot air balloon, and everything in between.

The 11 paths are: 

1. Presentation Mastery, this will focus on learning how to gauge audience response and to improve your connection with your audience. The final project is an extended speech where you can apply what you have learned. The Mandatory speeches in this Path are: Persuasive Speaking in level 3, Managing a difficult Audience in Level 4 and Prepare to speak professionally in Level 5.

2. Effective Coaching, focuses on understanding and building consensus, contributing to the development of others by coaching. The final project is a High Performance Leadership Project of your choice. The Mandatory speeches in this Path are: Reaching consensus in level 3, Improvement through positive coaching in level 4 and High Performance Leadership in Level 5.

3. Engaging Humour, focuses on understanding your sense of humour and how that sets of humour translates to engaging your audience. The final project is an extended humorous speech where you can apply what you have learned. The Mandatory speeches in this Path are: Engage your audience with humour in level 3, the power of humour in an impromptu speech in level 4, and develop your message with humour in level 5.

4. Innovative Planning, focuses on creating innovative solutions and understanding of the steps needed to manage a project. The final project is a High Performance Leadership Project of your choice. Mandatory projects are Present a proposal in level 3, manage projects successfully in level 4, High performance leadership in level 5.

5. Leadership Development, this path helps you build your skills in learning how to develop and implement a plan as well as time management. The final project culminates in the planning and execution of an event that will let you apply everything you have learned. Mandarin projects are Planning & implementing in level 3, leading your team in level 4, and in level 5 the mandatory project is to manage successful events.

6. Motivational Strategies, at the end of this path you will understand the principle of motivation and will be able to successfully lead groups to accomplish tasks. This path culminates in a team building project. The mandatory projects in this path are understanding emotional intelligence in level 3, motivate others in level 4, and in level 5 it is team building. 

7. Persuasive influence, this path helps you build skills in how to negotiate a positive outcome while building strong interpersonal skills. The final project is a High Performance Leadership Project of your choice. The mandatory projects in this path are understanding conflict resolution in level 3, leading in difficult situations in level 4, and high performance leadership in level 5.

8. Strategic Relationships, this path focuses on understanding diversity, building personal and professional connections with a variety of people and how to develop a PR strategy. The final project involves you applying your skills as a leader in a volunteer organisation. The mandatory projects for this path are making connections through networking for level 3, PR strategies for level 4, and leading in your volunteer organisation in level 5.

9. Team Collaboration, will teach you about active listening, motivating others and collaborating with a team. This path ends in a project focused on applying your leadership skills. The mandatory projects for this path is successful collaboration in level 3, motivate others in level 4 and lead in any situation in level 5.

10. Visual Communication, this path focuses on developing your skills for sharing information with a group, planning communications and creating innovative solutions, it emphasises speech writing and delivery. This path ends with the development and launch of a long term personal or professional goal. The mandatory projects in this path are develop a communication plan in level 3, communicate change in level 4, and develop your vision in level 5.

11. Dynamic Leadership, it focuses on understanding leadership and communacaiotion style, the effect of conflict on a group and the skills needed to defuse conflict, it culminates in a project focused on applying your leadership skills. The mandatory projects in this path are negotiate the best outcome in level 3, manage change in level 4 and lead in any situation in level 5.

You will also need to complete some leadership roles, these are the meeting roles. 

When you want to take on a role, you will need to contact your Vice President of Education and let Kasia know that you want to take on a role. Then you will need to check the objectives of the role on Easyspeak and prepare for the role you have taken on that week. When filling the role, you will need to explain to your audience what the role entails and then later in the meeting you will need to present the report for your role, e.g if you are a Timekeeper, you will inform the members how long people spoke for, or the Evaluators will give their evaluation. 

Thank you Madam President, Madam Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests. 

Dynamic Leadership – Negotiate the Best Outcome Level 3.1

Toastmasters Dynamic Leadership  Negotiations 3.1

Somebody once said “Negotiation is not a weakness it’s a power”. I agree with this sentiment.

Madam Area Director, Mr President, Mr Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.

In this speech I am meant to talk about a Negotiation I have participated in or one that I will participate in. This was an interesting project for me to research as negotiation is something we all do from a very young age and is a life skill we all need, but, it is a skill that seems to be glossed over most of the time in peoples private lives. When you think about negotiations, you normally think about work related situations, quite frequently contracts. I know some workplaces run negotiation courses, but for the most part, outside of work, it is ignored. Alternatively, you may possibly think about various international diplomatic talks and agreements, in particular Peace Accords.

“Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development” – Nelson Mandela.

I will just quickly run through the four main negotiation styles and outcomes. The main styles are accommodation, compromise, competitive and collaborative. To use the accommodation style, you must be willing to give information and make concessions. Very useful when you need to mend or maintain relationships. When you use compromise, you are meeting your counterparts halfway and all parties make concessions, this is most effective when there are time constraints or when relationships are positive. The competitive approach can come across as aggressive and strategic, and is most effective if an agreement is needed quickly or there are limited elements to the agreement. There is always a clear winner and loser with this style. The collaborative style involves brainstorming to gather ideas for solutions that will suit everyone. This is most effective for developing and maintaining positive relationships, but, it can be time consuming.

The four main type of Negotiation outcomes are, are Win-Win, Win-Lose, Compromise and when to walk away. Win – Win means that both sides are in a better position after a negotiation. In win – lose, one party wins at the others expense. The compromise outcome means that when an agreement is reached every party has had to made concessions. Sometimes, you need to know when to walk away and end the negotiations. 

Marvyn Gaye said “Negotiation means getting the best of your opponent”.

I used to work in a job that involved negotiating with other parties, both sides would come to the negotiations from very entrenched emotional positions and they had ZERO intention of giving way one little millimetre. When they walked in, you could see that that from every pore in their body seeped an attitude of ‘No way, no today, not any day!’. Their main objective was to simultaneously look like they were taking the higher ground, but, in reality, a lot of them just wanted to be as awkward as possible to the other side and to win. However, you could still normally find some level of compromise with them. This I found could be done by keeping things friendly, casual and low tension, and by giving people time, space and respect. I also discovered that if you acknowledged their pain and point of view, and really listened to their story, asking pertinent questions and being genuinely interested on a human level, they would relax a tiny a little bit. 

They didn’t want to be there, and were (usually) sick of the drama, stress and constant battle. It may just have been another day in the office for me, but for them, this was their life, their future, it was crucial that they got the result they wanted, or as close to it as possible. Sometimes, just getting people away from their ‘Committee” of friends, family and pub based advisors, did the person in question the world of good. With all that noise, and all those contradicting opinions it is nearly impossible to know what to do. I always thought it was just a question of compromise, but, now thanks to this project, I see that there were also collaborative and accommodating elements involved, as everybody in those negotiations wanted a result, and there really wasn’t an option to walk away, and a solution was imperative. In my more cynical moments, I  used to say that it was a success if everyone was equally miserable at the end of negotiations. Clearly, I should have used the word happy, but people rarely are in those situations.

“Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing” – Carrie Fisher

However, apart from these examples of negotiations, the truly everyday negotiations that you will go through for the entirety of your life are the ones in your head. “I want to go for a walk, but, it’s cold/wet/windy, I’ll walk for longer tomorrow”, “I’ll contact ‘x’, but, they could be busy, I’ll leave it until the weekend”. Do you use phrases like ‘just 5 more minutes’ or ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ or ‘just one more’, or ‘if I do this now, I’ll do that later’? If so you are negotiating yourself out of doing something, that you probably ought to be doing. These are concepts we use from a very young age, even as children we ask our parents ‘just 5 more minutes before I go to bed/do my homework/brush my teeth. Words like ‘just’, because’, later/tomorrow, maybe’ are all excuses. This is when you are using self negotiation as an avoidance technique. It can stop you meeting your potential or hit your own goals. In the words of an exasperated Nike Executive, JUST DO IT!

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate” – JFK

In conclusion, in this speech, I have briefly explained the styles and outcomes of negotiations. I have referred to a previous job I held that involved negotiations and how this speech has taught me some of the elements that I was unintentionally used during those situations. I have also touched on self negotiation and how you can use it as a way of giving yourself an excuse to not to do something that you probably ought to. 

Thank you Madam Area Director, Mr President, Mr Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.

Meeting Roles

Toastmasters meetings have a number of roles that Members need to fill, in order for the meeting to take place. As part of your Leadership education, a number of these roles need to be completed by Level 3 of Pathways, regardless of which Path you have chosen. I have posts about all of these roles elsewhere on my blog. Please find links below.

The main Meeting roles are:
Failte Officer/ SAA – Committee Role
Toastmaster –
Grammarian –
Timekeeper –
Speaker –
Evaluator –
Zoom Master –
General Evaluator –
Listening Post –
President – Committee Role
Vice President of Education – Committee Role

Other possible Roles your Club may have:
Poet/Joke Master –
Ah Counter –

The roles that you need to complete before you finish Level 3:
Ah Counter
General Evaluator
Grammarian
Speech Evaluator
Timekeeper
Toastmaster
Table Topic Master

Links to other blogposts about these roles:
General Evaluator
Table Topics Master
Listening Post
Timekeeper/Timer
SAA
Zoom Master
Grammarian

My Paths

This is a list of the Paths I have followed together with the titles of the speeches I have made in Pathways.

Dynamic Leadership
Level 1:
1. Ice broken
2. You can’t take it with you
3. Ships, Storms, Shame
4. It’s that time of year


Level 2:
5. “Don’t panic”
6. How people communicate
7. Mentoring

Level 3:
8. Pathways
9. Daily Negotiations
10. Misadventures of a Mischievous Little Girl


Level 4:
11. Manage Change
12.
13.
14.

Engaging Humour
Level 1:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.

Pathways Mentor Programme

General Evaluator

The General Evaluator evaluates everything that takes place during the club meeting, that is not otherwise and delivers a report later in the meeting. As General Evaluator, according to Toastmasters, you are meant to do the following:

Before the meeting, was the room and equipment set up in time? were the guests welcomed on arrival and were they informed about the format of the meeting?

Meeting Opening, was the presiding officer prepared and organised? Did the meeting start on time? Was everyone properly introduced? Was the Toastmaster properly introduced?

Toastmaster
Did the Toastmaster fill all roles prior to the meeting
Did the Toastmaster introduce and explain the meetings theme
Did the Toastmaster introduce the General Evaluator
Did the Toastmaster introduce the Topics master

Grammarian
Did the Toastmaster introduce the Grammarian
Was the Grammarian prepared and did they introduce their role in the allowed time
Did the Grammarian properly introduce the word of the day
Was the word of the day fitting, challenging and appropriate for the meeting

Frequently, the Grammarian and Ah Counter roles are treated like one role.

Ah Counter
Did the Toastmaster introduce the Ah Counter
Was the Ah Counter prepared and did they introduce their role in the allowed time

Timer
Did the Toastmaster introduce the Timer
Was the Timer prepared and did they introduce their role in the allowed time

Topics Master
Was the purpose and timing of Table Topics properly explained
Was the topic appropriate and did it fit the meeting theme
Did the toastmaster call on people who did not have meeting roles first
Were guests invited to participate
Did the topics master track time to keep to the agenda
Was control properly returned to the Toastmaster

  • Ensure other evaluators know their tasks and responsibilities.
  • Explain the purpose and benefits of evaluations to the group.
  • Identify and confirm meeting assignments with the timer, grammarian and Ah-Counter.
  • Confirm the club meeting program and/or checklist with the Toastmaster.
  • During the meeting, take notes and report on all club proceedings to evaluate things such as timeliness, enthusiasm, preparation, organization, performance of duties, etc.

At the start of the meeting, you stand up and say something along the lines of:
Hello Madam/Mr President, Madam/Mr Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests. The purpose of the General Evaluator is to evaluate everything during the meeting. I will evaluate all the roles that have not already been evaluated, to do this, I will be looking for good example of preparation, organisation, delivery, enthusiasm, observation and performance of duties, at the end of the meeting I will give my report.
Thank you Madam/Mr Toastmaster

Table Topics Area Contest

Last night, I took part in the Area level Table Topics competition hosted by Tara Toastmasters and held on Zoom. In the Humorous Speech competition Colm Roe from our Club came second, his speech was hilarious, he is an established Toastmaster, a joy to listen to and a wonderful speaker. Well done Colm!

I took part in the Table Topics Competition, and I drew the highest number on the dice (11) so I was the first speaker. They used the dice to randomly decide what order people spoke in, when you do these things face to face, they might ask you to pick a piece of paper with a number written on it, but, using an app to shake two dice was the online solution. I did not make the most of the time I was given, and my thoughts could have been clearer. All in all, I think coming third was probably fair, if not a little generous, but, i’ll take it. It gives me encouragement to do better next time. The gent who won my section, absolutely deserved to win, he was brilliant. He knew that the quote we were given “We are citizens of the world. The tragedy of our times is that we do not know this.” was from the 28th American President Woodrow Wilson.

We were also asked to give a light hearted fun fact about yourself, I told them that I had a deeply silly streak and that I was part of a Haka Flashmob on Grafton Street, a few years ago when Ireland played New Zealand.

Well done to the winners of both competitions who came from UCD Smurfit Business School.

Timekeeper/Timer

The Timekeeper/Timer is responsible for timing all the sections of the evening, in order for things to be accurate and punctual. This helps people practice the skill of expressing yourself within a specific time and to stop people waffling on.

Before the meeting, check the Agenda and raise any queries with the Toastmaster of the meeting. In particular, note the times of the prepared speeches. Prepare an explanation of your role. Make it interesting – for example, google ‘time’ for a fascinating fact. Like all Meeting Roles, you should use it as another excuse to talk, so make as much of the role as you can it the time permitted.

When you arrive at the meeting collect the timing equipment from the Sergeant at Arms/Failte Officer and make sure that you have the three colours and a bell. Make sure to sit where the signal device can be seen easily by those at the lectern.

During the meeting, when you are introduced, give an explanation of your role and demonstrate the signal device. Throughout the meeting remember to signal each participant as required and record each persons name and time used. When asked to give your report by the Toastmaster, stand at the front of the room and announce the participant’s name and the time taken. You can, if you wish, when reporting on the time of each Table Topic, remind the audience in a few words about the subject.

After the meeting, return the Timekeeping equipment to the Sergeant at Arms.

Make sure to register that you have filled the role in Pathways.

Table Topics Club Competition

Our Club held a Humorous Speech and Table Topics Competition on the 13th of October. I took part in and won the Table Topics section of the evening. The next level is the Area Competition that is going to be held on the 22nd of October. It is been hosted by Tara Toastmasters on Zoom. It will consist of the winners of all the Area’s Clubs competing against each other.

Table Topics is a part of the evening where you don’t need to prepare a speech, but you just reply to whatever the topic is that you are given by the Table Topics Master. In a Table Topics competition everyone is given the same amount of time on the same topic, which is fair. The topic that was posed to those taking part in the Club competition was along the lines of ‘what good things will come from Covid’.

I went first, during the club night, as I was the Zoom Master for the evening, so I was able to listen to the speakers who came after me, this was nice, as you normally miss out on some or all of the other speakers.

It will be interesting to see what topic we are given in the area competition. Apparently, sometimes the Table Topics Master provides a topic that is more about their knowledge than giving people a chance to speak on a topic off the cuff.

Whoever wins the area competition will go on to the District Level and will represent the entire Area in that Competition.

Good luck to everyone taking part at the Area level.

Dynamic Leadership Speech – Mentoring Level 2.3

Toastmasters – Dynamic Leadership Level 2 Speech

Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring

5-7 Minutes

John C. Crosby said “mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”

Good evening, Madam Toastmaster, Mr President, Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.

Mentor  – Noun – “an experienced and trusted advisor”

              – Verb – “advice or train someone”

The role of a Mentor in Toastmasters is for the Mentor to take an interest in their Mentee or Protégée, and share with them information about the Club, Meeting Roles, competitions and what they need to do to progress through the educational programme, Pathways, as well as providing guidance, motivation, support, and role modelling. A Mentor may help with setting goals, developing contacts and identifying resources. The Mentor is someone who can encourage their Mentee and try to make joining the Club as easy as possible.

When you join a Toastmasters Club, one of the first questions you are asked is ‘do you want a Mentor?’, I think the answer to this should always be yes. Having a Mentor is like having a fast track into understanding how the Club works and what you need to do. My official Mentor is Declan Garvey and he is a wonderful Mentor, who kept a close eye on my progress and efforts when I joined the Club. The quiet word, the encouraging message, were all most welcome and a wonderful reminder that I had someone rooting for me. I was nervous about sending him my Icebreaker speech to look at, but, he could not have been nicer. Thank you Declan. 

You may ask, what do the Mentors get out of this? Well, they can learn from their Mentees, they remain active in the Club, they may find out some new information themselves and, of course, they get the joy of helping someone else. The Club in turn, benefits from keeping Members, gaining new Members and having engaged, satisfied Members, so it’s a win for everyone. 

In my experience everyone in Toastmasters is Mentoring everyone else. As everyone wants the rest of the Members to do well, to improve and to benefit as much as possible from their time in Toastmasters. This is all done with a gentle touch, a quiet word here or there, a constructive comment, a suggestion, a point in the right direction or a clarification of some confusing element. 

Our VP of Mentoring is Karen O’Donnell, Karen knows everything about Toastmasters, she has earned her DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) and has served on every level of the Toastmasters organisation in Ireland. Karen is a wonderfully generous Mentor, who has been amazingly informative and supportive in the time I have been in the Club. Grainne and Colm, both of whom are also amazingly experienced and successful Toastmasters, have also been so kind and helpful, they all genuinely want all the members to do their best and get what they want out of Toastmasters. Thank you to all of you.

I saw a quote from Diana Olin that I felt sums up Toastmasters attitude to Mentoring, she said “Mentoring isn’t an extracurricular activity. It’s vital for cultivating an enriching, inclusive community.”

It was whiles I was preparing for this speech that I realised just how lucky I have been when it comes to meeting people who take an interest in what it is I am doing. In Photography, I have had the good fortune to cross paths with a number of very kind people who encouraged and educated me in a number of facets of the day to day running of a photography business, photography itself, and put up with me following them around. Thank you Derek, Wim and Lionel. Derek is an incredibly patient and kind person, who always listened, treated me as an equal, even though I was the assistant and made me feel like part of the team. He has been so open with his creative process and his sources of inspiration. It was a complete joy to hang around with him in his various studios and on shoots. Derek is so respectful to models, other photographers and workshop attendees, which is sadly, not always the case. My favourite studio shoot we did involved a model and a hell of a lot of plastic sheeting in his Studio, so that we could protect it from all the warm water that we were spraying around the place, in an attempt to make it look like it was raining. Derek’s photos from that day are amazing, I just wish I had made more of the opportunity he gave me to shoot too. We had a mark on the roof that was the target for the squirt guns we were using, which was above, but slightly in front of where the model was standing. We were all very giddy and laughed a hell of a lot that day. A couple of us took in turns to squirt the water and I may have ‘accidentally’ squirted a couple of people other than the model. Oops! A couple of years later, I was watching a segment about Hozier being at a Victoria’s Secret Fashion show, when I saw a familiar face, the model we had worked with on the ‘Make It Rain’ shoot was now a Victoria’s Secrets Angel! When I told Derek, he said he had known that she was special and would go places. 

I was incredibly flattered and a little nervous on the day that Wim asked me to shoot the Groom and his Groomsmen preparing for the Grooms Wedding as he had enough confidence in my abilities to do it. I ended up driving all but one of the Grooms party to the Church, the one I didn’t bring with me had gone MIA the night before, and just made it to the Church by the skin of his teeth for the ceremony. Wim would consider my answers, if he asked me a question and had enough faith in me, that he took my word for it, if I gave him information on something. 

Mentoring is an incredibly important part of the Toastmasters experience, but, one that I think is as valuable as all the other elements that they teach.

In summary, if you, like Lailah Gifty Akita believe that “every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor”, please consider taking the opportunity to be a mentor, as both parties will gain from the experience.

Thank you for your time Madam Toastmaster, Mr President, Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.