Dynamic Leadership – Descriptive Language 3.3

Good evening Mr Toastmaster, Mr President, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests. 

On a beautifully balmy afternoon during a glorious childhood Summer, the flower scented air was filled with buzzing bees and brilliantly coloured butterflies. I decided to explore the neighbours fields behind our house, I had done this many times, and was allowed to do so, by both our neighbours and my Grandmother. Sometimes I would walk in the fields with my neighbours so I knew my way around both the land, and the ghosts and echoes of the past that lay there. 

Moving through the house, I could hear the distant din coming from Granny’s tv, and my Aunt’s lively yet muted footsteps moving around upstairs. Gently closing the kitchen door behind me, I skipped down the steps, watching the little birds singing whiles fluttering around the feeders and then darting back to the safety of the Fuchsia bushes, turning left I made my way towards the four small steps at the end of our garden that inexplicably lead to the top of a low wall, which marks the border between our property and the fields behind us.

Standing on the top of the wall, to my right I can see the crumbling remains of the pale blue summer house, with its missing slats and peeling paint, which was now used to store hay and nuts for the horses, beside it was the corroding carcass of the crashed Mini that one of the neighbours sons had pushed into place years before with a friend of his. The improbably straight, towering twin trees, reaching for the sky were connected high up by a sturdy steel beam, from which hung the long, slowly, creepily, creaking chains of what was once a film worthy swing, at the end of each of the chains precariously hung half of the old, broken seat. To my left trees were popping up through dense undergrowth, with chaotic brambles reaching out in every direction. In front of me, past an ocean of vegetation was my target, the fence and gate that were the entrance to the horse fields. 

The trickiest part of my adventure was next, it took some concentration to navigate my way across the wobbly, slowly rotting pile of sticks, branches and other plant detritus, so I didn’t slip and get my foot stuck in a hole. I carefully pick my way towards the summer house, occasionally slightly slipping, but, I eventually make it to the edge of my own wooden mini Everest, jumping off and straight into waist high plant life, OUCH! The vast bed of nettles I have landed in fall around my bare legs, simultaneously stinging them a million times. Swimming through the sea of scrub, I make my way to the old, worn, wooden gate. Due to its weight, I can’t open it so I climb over the five solid bars. Continuing my mission for mischief, the rabbits skittishly scatter away from me, hopping off to longer, more dense areas of grass at the edge of the field, that will provide them with better cover. 

I know if I turn around I will be able to see our house through the trees, but, for now, as I face into the fields, it feels like I am the only human on earth. I carry on and cross the wooden plank that sits on top of the year round boggy area with the permanently embedded hoof marks, beside the smallest of streams. A pair of sparrowhawks dance on thermals high above me, swopping and circling in graceful arcs and loops. Scrambling up the bank in front of me, grabbing small branches and clumps of grass, I get to the top. I just need to find the right spot of barbed wire to climb across, trying to not look down as I tightly hold on to the trunk of a tree that I am swinging from that hangs over the old Harcourt Street Railway line, as long as my feet keep in contact with the ground, I’ll be ok. Picking and tripping my way along the bank, I see what feels like my own private, ancient, moss and weed covered stone hump backed railway bridge. Pausing momentarily, before galloping across the bridge off my neighbours land and into to the wheat fields beyond it. 

The contrast from the enclosed green monoliths I have just left to the open fields of golden wheat is startling. Alone, I can see as far as the masts on the top of the Dublin mountains with no sign of man in between. Then, as I am lost in my thoughts CRACK, CRACK, CRACK!! Frozen to the spot it takes me a short while to realise I had just heard shots coming in my direction! I can’t move, my feet, they won’t move. Move, Emily! CRACK, CRACK, CRACK. Finally my feet get the message from my brain, I turn and run like the wind. I can hear more shots, heavy footsteps, my pulse is echoing through my brain, the only thought in my head is RUN, GO HOME! I can hear him breathing, it must be a cross farmer, I wasn’t meant to be there. Can’t he see I’m just a child? Maybe I can hide in the neighbours fields? There seems to be two men, I make it across the bridge, stumble my way along the bank, falling across the barbed wire, tearing my shorts, I can still hear him, he’s getting closer. Oh, I’m in so much trouble when I get home. No longer being careful, just wanting to be safe. I keep falling down, but, I make it to fields behind my house, I can see home, I can’t hear him at the minute, but, I think he is still behind me. What if he is at the house when I get home! I scale the gate and the wall quicker than I ever have in my life, my black and white cat, Patch, sensing my panic, is now running along beside me. 

Running up the stone steps to the kitchen door, I grab and press the door handle down, it clicks, I pull it towards myself, peering into the kitchen wanting, wishing, that nobody is in there, as I don’t want them to ask why I am scared. My eyes sweep the unusually empty room, good, it’s all clear, now I just need to make it upstairs. 

This jumpy soul with the taste of trouble on her tongue, tries to stealthily, silently sneak upstairs through our surprisingly silent house, to the safety of my room with the cool, calm countenance of someone who had not just been shot at by a towering, angry, hairy farmer, who hated children, but had in fact, just been innocently gallivanting around their garden. Nope, nothing to see here. Nuh hu. There is neither sight nor sound of my Granny or my Aunt, so I press on in pursuit of peacefulness.

Jumping onto my soft, squishy, safe bed, I squeeze my favourite teddy as if trying to hide the shape of heart bursting out of my chest from prying eyes, in a puddle of frame. Hoping against hope that the farmer would not tell our goodhearted Neighbours, or worse again GRANNY! My Aunt should be ok, but, could this be the first time that I would be in trouble with Granny? That would not be nice AT ALL! If Granny told Mum, it would probably be better if the Farmer had shot me!!

I can happily and gratefully report that the huge, irate, hirsute Farmer who abhorred children, neither told our lovely Neighbour, nor my Granny, but, that may be because, as I found out years later, the yeti of a farmer was in fact a propane scare cannon and not a human! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the attempted murder of a child for trespassing and the breath on the back of my neck from the mammoth Farmer, were simply the product of a child’s overactive imagination. All of which was set off by a 150 decibel bang, similar to a 12 gauge shotgun, from one of these incredibly startling cannons.

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

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 – 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.