Stepping up to serve our District

Our Speaking club is its own boss in that we appoint a committee to run it and decide the direction in which we want to advance.

But every Toastmasters club (there are over 16,500 throughout the world) is part of a much bigger organisation – Toastmasters International. The head office in Colorado USA divides the organisation of this vast network into regions, districts, divisions, and areas.

Our district – District 91 – holds a conference each year. In recent years they have been held online, opening the presentations and learning to a much wider range of members. This year our District’s conference was hybrid, with some of the events being held in-person.

Sussex Online members were key

We are very proud that several members of our club were heavily involved in the organisation this year. For a young club to participate in this way demonstrates its phenomenal success. Congratulations to Amy, Dil, Tom, Paddy, and Jean, all of whom willingly gave their time and expertise to act in various roles to serve their district.

The theme of the conference, held on the weekend of 6-8 May 2022, was “Everything is Possible”, and delegates’ eyes were opened to just that. Whatever you want to do – you can. Whether it is to compete in a speech contest, become a leader in your club or your job, or whether you wanted to try kick-boxing or salsa, get a grip with gripping vocabulary, or maybe act to save the planet – there were talks and sessions to show us how.


I was inspired by Anthony Bennett’s keynote speech on the Saturday morning. As a teen, he fell gravely ill with an infection and almost lost his life a whopping twelve times. It took months and years, but slowly, slowly he recovered. Somehow, despite being so ill for so long, he did well at his school exams and graduated from university. On emerging from education, he was approached by the hospital that had cared for him – Great Ormond Street Children’s hospital – to raise funds for their work.

We were enthralled by the way he grasped the task, by the astounding work he did, and how he has gone on to build an extraordinary career as a speaker. But most of all, I was struck by what he said about saying “yes”. If someone asks you to do something and you say “no, I cannot do that”, your life goes on in much the same monotonous way. But if you say “yes, I’d like to do that”, many fabulous possibilities become available. And I relate to that, because I find myself saying “yes”, perhaps a little too often. But my life truly has become enriched with Toastmasters.


In all, there were three keynote speeches. Sadly, I missed one of them. The District organisers also arranged the quarter-finals of the four contests (International Speech contest, Table Topics, Evaluation, and Humorous Speaking) that every club may enter. Winners from clubs go to the area contest, the winner there moves to Division level, and the Division winner competes at the annual conference. I managed to see three of the four and witnessed some truly remarkable performances by Toastmasters from all over the south of England and South Wales, which is the geographical area covered by our district. It is worth mentioning here that our own Paddy progressed as far as Division level in the International speech contest.

The winners can be seen at this link.


The organisers used an app called Whova for access to the entire conference. This was a little strange to many members who are more used to being sent Zoom links and paper agendas. Whova, once you get familiar with how it works, is the answer to online conferences with multiple events. It integrates with Zoom, but all events are accessed via the app which works on mobile devices and, more importantly in my view, on the desktop computer.

Each session was ably led by a master of ceremonies– one of a team of MCs for the conference – and the organisers managed to keep everything perfectly on time. This is something every club aspires to:  timekeeping is so important to us.

Fun too

It wasn’t all work and contests. There was a huge amount of entertainment: social sessions, chats, exercise, salsa lessons, groups formed on the app to discuss different subjects, and a gala evening streamed from a smart hotel to those of us who were still at home.

If I had a tiny criticism to make, it is that the agendas on Whova did not give any information about what one might learn in a speech or presentation. A simple title is not enough to have an idea of what we will be hearing. A couple of sentences of introduction to the subject and the speaker would have been very helpful.

But all in all, the conference was very ably organised. It is salutary to remember that every single one of the organisers volunteers their time and works incredibly hard to achieve success. They gain from the experience too by growing their leadership and communication skills.

Want to know more?

The best way is to come to one of our meetings to see for yourself:

Or just drop us a line by clicking here.


Want to nail that presentation?

You have a big presentation to make. Or you are going for your dream job and face a gruelling interview process. You need to know how to become a killer speaker and react to any situation! Sussex Online Speakers is a new international online speaking club – part of Toastmasters International. This club is specifically focused on helping members connect online from anywhere. Find out more.

Our members have told us that from the start, their confidence levels have risen, and they have learned to express themselves in the public arena effectively and well.

And its sole aim is to help you to learn new skills in communicating, speaking to groups large and small, and leadership.

Find out more…

The beauty of language

If you’ve wondered what happens at a meeting of Sussex Online Speakers, here’s a report of the meeting on 14th February 2022. You may be surprised.

Original post by Oscar Curros, VPPR.

“Welcome!” “Les damos la bienvenida!” “Herzlich Willkommen” “Soyez les bienvenues”. Toastmaster Lucy Evans Brooks started this Monday’s session with greetings in several languages, English, German, French, and Spanish among them. She even had a go at Chinese!

The theme of the day was language. It could have been the language of love since it coincided with Valentine’s Day but, as Grammarian Johnathan Kaye said, we needed “to get out of such a commercial chocolate fest.”

Johnathan dived into the etymology of the term “valentine.” It comes from Latin, meaning “I am healthy, sound, I am of worth.” Then he proposed “strong” as the word of the day.

The warm-up session by Anastazya Tomoko Wada was full of cultural references. Many of them related to love and passion. Anastazya asked us about our favourite language and the reason why we had chosen it.

These were some of the languages and cultures mentioned:

– English as a language of sympathy and kindness.

– German, with “ich liebe dich” (“I love you”) as favourite expression.

– Mulled wine from Austria or Germany.

– Italian because it is expressive, delicious, and romantic.

– Welsh. The word “hwyl” (pronounced “hooil” /ˈhuːɪl/). It’s hard to translate but it means passion, “a strong feeling of emotion and enthusiasm,” according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.

– Proto-Nostratic: “*minV *Xeuami *Ɂäśo *mawli *i *hleŋwel.”

– The words used in Arabic for different kinds of reading.

– Banana, a word chosen from the Swahili phrase “poa kchisi kama ndizi.”

– “Ayubowan,” from Sinhala, meaning “may you live long.”

– The Turkish delight, “lokum,” is served with coffee.

Coffee was the subject of the first prepared speech of the day. Sarper Atakul talked about the economics of coffee, the second most traded commodity in the world. It moves about $100 billion a year! It was brought to Europe by merchants in the 17th century and became very popular soon.

Jean Hamilton-Fford followed with a speech full of gestures. She talked about how we can combine body language and faces in our presentations to be more expressive.

Our impromptu speaking time was presented by Oscar Curros. It was based on a fun set of questions prepared by Alex Cebo, such as: “If you had the power to shrink anything and take it with you, what would it be?” When asked, Amy Frances Holmans responded she would like to shrink her dog and take it in her handbag when boarding a plane.

At the end of the session, Michael Priest evaluated the event. He praised the good organization, with the agenda being sent some days in advance to every registered participant. He also suggested that we could have reminded participants of the theme of the event, language, a little more often during the meeting.

At Toastmasters we evaluate everything – the speeches, the table topics, and the meeting as a whole.

Intrigued? Join us on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month. Guests are always welcome! To participate via Zoom for free, register at the button below:

Finding joy

Finding joy

noun: joy

1.       a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

“tears of joy”

Last week someone gave me a Christmas card with the word ‘Joy’ on the front. I haven’t been feeling much joy lately! I work for a small company that personalises textiles and homeware, and the lead-up to Christmas is filled with long and stressful days. Managing 24/7 operations, additional staff, and demanding customers. Throw in the rollercoaster of a pandemic and I have not been feeling much joy!

However, on Monday night at our club meeting, I suddenly realised that the member I was evaluating (Mike) was achieving his Level 4 in Presentation Mastery that evening. It was a pleasant surprise – a milestone I almost missed. With a new club, my focus had been on our new members’ development and progress so I hadn’t clocked that this was Mike’s final Level 4 speech until he submitted his educational award during the meeting!

I suddenly realised that, despite all the stress of work at this time of year, Toastmasters meetings give me a window of time in which I can forget about the outside world and have a window of pure joy. That joy is certainly increased when you get to congratulate a fellow member on achieving a new milestone in their development with Toastmasters.

While many of our members have a fear of public speaking, the JOY of Toastmasters is that our clubs create a place in which members can overcome that fear.

I wish you all a safe festive season and, if you celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas.

Joy to you all!


Vice President of Education and Cofounder of the club

We did it!

We did it!

After nine months of incredibly hard work put in by club sponsors Amy Jones and Lucy Brooks, aided and abetted by our newly elected President Tom Gray and founding members of our club, our club is now launched on the sea of Toastmasters International. The official announcement is expected before 1st October 2021.

Specifically, Amy and Lucy needed to enthuse at least seventeen people new or returning to Toastmasters, or transferring from another club, sufficiently to join us.

At times we thought we would never achieve our goal. We ran two speechcraft courses which were incredibly well received, but the participants, for one reason or another, failed to commit to actually joining the club, despite remaining open to the idea. We grew a little despondent. But we are both very positive people who refuse to give up.

In August we ran an impromptu speaking workshop – again, to great acclaim, but failing to immediately garner club members in time for our magical figure of seventeen. (Since then, a few of the participants have actually signed up).

Amy Jones co-sponsor and leader

As well as our special events, from the start our club meetings have been full of fun and vigour, laughter, banter, serious moments, prepared and impromptu speeches, and friendship. Everybody who visited us prior to joining loved the atmosphere, many of them joining the club on the spot!

So it was with great pride that on September 15, Amy submitted the complicated paperwork to head office in the USA and as I write we wait to hear the result. It is not in doubt. Sussex Online Speakers is a fully-fledged chartered club, part of Toastmasters, with currently 29 members and more wanting to join.

Lucy Brooks, co-sponsor

Sussex Online Speakers is a great addition to the Toastmasters clan, as many clubs return to their in-person venues. Online actually suits many people. It saves having to go out on a rainy night, and our members hail from all over the world (USA, Germany, Spain, Poland and more). That makes our meetings interesting as we learn about other cultures.

Speaking online is increasingly important in this day and age, even as Covid restrictions ease. That is why Sussex Online Speakers is thriving, and will thrive into the future too.

Training for club members

Sunday 22 August. Three of our members have been very busy today. Two of us attended a full morning of training organised by our District (District 91) on public relations and gaining members as a result of the publicity we put out there. Public relations isn’t simply the occasional press release.

The term covers every aspect of interacting with people new to Toastmasters as well as with its members. For example, our club has recently held two Speechcraft courses, advertising them through social media. As a result we have gained some very welcome and active members to the club. This month the club is hosting an impromptu speaking workshop – again for people who know little about Toastmasters, but who know they want to hone their skills and confidence.

Our Vice President of Education, Amy Jones, was also on the serving end of another training session today – she was talking about club culture and traditions.

During one of the sessions, participants considered the assets of a Toastmasters club. The result is below:

A word cloud to describe our club

Later that evening two members attended a webinar dealing with club success plans. A club success plan is vital for a club’s development and progress, and that of its members.

When you join Sussex Online Speakers, you join a worldwide community of motivated people, who support, guide, and encourage you to develop your own potential.

Speechcraft courses have been a resounding success!

How much can a person’s confidence and self-esteem grow in just four weeks?

The answer is: A LOT!

Participants to our recent Speechcraft course came from six interesting backgrounds, with six unique reasons for joining the course. There were non-native English speakers who boosted their confidence in speaking in English every day, self-confessed bags of nerves, through to members who speak in public daily but were looking to challenge themselves further. Each participant was able to find connection and growth with the support of our members and the wider Toastmasters community.

Continue reading “Speechcraft courses have been a resounding success!”

The Word of the Day

What is the Word of the Day?

By Johnathan Kaye for Sussex Online Speakers

A lot of the Toastmasters experience is about learning. Since my passion is etymology, it makes sense that my favourite aspect of that learning is language.

When, at the start of each meeting, the Toastmaster introduces their “supporting cast”, and the Grammarian steps up, I am all ears. I wait in anticipation for them to get to the good stuff: the Word of the Day.

The Word of the Day can be topical, in line with current events or a meeting’s theme; or it can be challenging, forcing people to really think about what they want to say; or they can be off-the-wall, strange, and unusual.

Some of my favourites:


(Generously, Generosity) 

From Middle French genereux, and its source, Latin generōsus (“of noble birth”, “Superior”), from genus (“race, stock”), which itself stems from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵenh₁- (“to produce, beget”). 

Examples of usage are: 

  • Noble in behaviour or actions; principled, not petty; kind, magnanimous. [from 16th c.] 
  • Willing to give and share unsparingly; showing a readiness to give more (especially money) than is expected or needed. [from 17th c.] 
  • Large, more than ample, copious. [from 17th c.] 


Intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval 

“Her energy and enthusiasm for life” 

  • Enthusiasm: Possessed by a god’s essence 
  • Enthuse: Possessed by a god 
  • Enthusiast: a zealot, one who believes themselves possessed of divine revelations. 
  • Enthusiastic: pertaining to irrational delusion in religion 


From Old English: Hearm + Gleo, (meaning “a positive feeling gained from another’s suffering”); 

Middle-English: Armglee (“laughing at the butt of the joke”); 


     ‘I had an armgly feeling.’ 

     ‘He smiled armgly at the joke.’ 

     ‘The viewers armglied at the losers.’ 

Okay, I admit, I made the last one up.

I created “armgly” when crafting an English translation of schadenfreude (“harm” + “glee”, in German).

The word of the day is a great way to expand your vocabulary, one word at a time, as you get to join others in attempting to cram the word this way and that into certain sentences for which it may never have been intended.

Here are some more fun – but unlikely -definitions!

  • Fastidious: an ugly sprinter
  • Quick: the noise made by a dyslexic duck
  • Isometric: I so don’t deal in yards, feet and inches

As you can see, a lot of fun can be had with the simple inclusion of a single word.

The Grammarian role

Besides supplying the word of the day, the role of Grammarian requires a different kind of listening. One is far too focused on how people are saying what they are saying to think about what they are saying.

During the evaluation section of the meeting when the Grammarian reports, more often than not a really good Grammarian will run out of time before they run out of things to comment on. Many a time, I have run the red light, in an attempt to get in all that I can.

By highlighting the lovely language, the grotty grammar, and the word of the day count Grammarians will never stop fighting to achieve that seemingly impossible goal – adding another few minutes onto their speaking time…

… and helping others to improve, of course.

Five Toastmasters challenges for you!

Five Toastmasters challenges for you!

  • Take the plunge and visit a club – especially while many of them are online. Register for the next Sussex Online Speakers meeting here. All you have to do is dial in for a warm welcome. We take time to explain to visitors how the club works.
  • Take part in an impromptu speech session (we call it Table Topics). Speak for a couple of minutes on a topic given to you as you are invited to speak.
  • Join our club. Once you have visited a couple of times, take up our invitation to join the friendly, supportive community that is Toastmasters, and Sussex Online Speakers.
  • Take on a role. Once you are a member, quickly get to grips with the different roles you can take to help run the meeting. Early roles we recommend are running the warm-up, opening and closing the meeting, or operating the timer slides.
  • Start your pathway to speaking success. Every member begins at level 1* on one of the eleven available pathways. These range from Presentation Mastery to Dynamic Leadership, from Engaging Humour to Motivational Strategies. One of these will suit your objectives, and all of them will increase your self-confidence in speaking, communicating, and leadership skills.
  • Tell your friends to come along too – OK, that’s six!

So, whether you want to star at a job interview, make a presentation to clients, ask for a pay rise, run an online workshop, or just feel better about yourself – our club can help you achieve that goal.

*Access to Basecamp and the full pathway scheme is given to members of new clubs such as ours as soon as we “charter”. That means having sufficient members to become a full Toastmasters club. Help us get there! Meantime everyone can get going with level 1 speeches.

The online life with Toastmasters

This post is reproduced from Lucy Brooks’ personal blog. She wrote it at the end of last year.

Followers of my blog will know that since I started posting in early 2018 I have been blown every which way by life and fate. I became a new grandmother, and moved from cancer patient to carer, from carer to bereaved widow and a new life alone. And more recently, keen Toastmaster. No, I don’t dress up in a red coat and announce the after-dinner speaker. I joined Worthing Speakers, part of Toastmasters International.

And if that wasn’t enough, then along came Covid to keep us all at home. But rather than mope, our club, along with almost every other of the thousands of speaking clubs in Toastmasters, went online – and thrived in the new environment. But eventually my club will go back to its home in a seafront hotel in Worthing. It will be great to see people, to hug and shake hands again (a key part of the Toastmaster etiquette), have a chat and a laugh with friends after the meeting. But I enjoy the online environment too.

So to address this, I have teamed up with three other Toastmasters to create a new, always online, club. It’s called Sussex Online Speakers and we launch in January 2021.

Why online public speaking clubs are here to stay.

Toastmasters International is an organisation consisting of thousands of clubs based in dozens of countries, all dedicated to improving its members’ speaking, communication, and leadership skills.

Traditionally, these clubs have been meeting in hotels and halls throughout the world, but when Covid19 came, most of them moved, promptly and efficiently, to an online environment.

While many members of Toastmasters are hoping to move back to in-person meetings – indeed in some countries, they already have – there is definitely a case now for some Toastmasters meetings to remain online.


  • Speaking online is an important part of business life, especially now. And even when the pandemic is over, many businesses will not revert to so many in-person meetings. Meetings, workshops, and training can be delivered very well online, to thousands of people at a time, or with just a few people present. Those delivering training or presenting at meetings need different skills for online meetings.
  • It is incredibly easy (barring time-zone differences) to attend meetings that would normally involve many hours and days of travel
  • It is much easier to attend meetings from a home office or sofa: no need to go out on a cold, rainy, dark night.
  • It is possible to welcome fellow toastmasters from all over the world.

Enter Sussex Online Speakers, a new club launching in January 2021. Despite its name, the club will be welcoming prospective members from all over the country and the globe.

Led by Amy Jones, Area Director for West Sussex in the UK, the core committee will consist of Tom Gray, Area H55 director – East Sussex, and Teresa Cattermole, his assistant director, along with Lucy Brooks, committee member at Worthing Speakers and keen supporter of online speaking.

The aim is to gain 17 plus members by June 2021. We believe we can do this. You do not have to live or work in Sussex to join. Your link with our beautiful county can be as tenuous as you like (you know me). Or maybe you have no link at all, other than a desire to meet new people. Whatever, all are welcome.

What does membership of a club give you?

  • You can launch on a Toastmasters educational pathway to get you started with boosting your confidence in public speaking and online communication.
  • You can take on roles at meetings – with the aim of running each meeting efficiently.
  • You can give your first speeches and receive very valuable and positive feedback from fellow members, including a detailed evaluation by an experienced Toastmaster.
  • You will make new online friends.

Join Sussex Online Speakers at our inaugural meeting on 11 January 2021 at 7:00 pm UTC. We will be posting the joining details here. For now, like and follow us.

Look for us on Facebook and like our page, or join our group on LinkedIn.

Published by


An ordinary woman who enjoys life, loves her family and her work, and who suddenly found she was travelling a road no-one wants to travel: that of breast cancer. Cancer now beaten – for now at least – I was suddnely plunged into a nursing role for my husband who sadly died a few months ago. so again my life has changed and I have become a travelling granny! Or nai nai as they say in Mandarin!