Friday, March 6, 2009

Answers to Governance Questions

"Courage to Conquer"

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations.

Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organization has nearly 235,000 members in 11,700 clubs in 92 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience.

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"The unprepared speaker has a right to be afraid."
- Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, Founder, Toastmasters

I copied this message from the Toastmasters International Members Group on Face Book "Answers to Governance Reshaping Questions" that was posted by the Toastmasters International Executive Director, Daniel Rex.

"Dear Toastmasters",

"In past weeks, we have received feedback from a few of our members expressing displeasure and concern about some of the provisions of Proposal A, Global Representation and Support, which will be voted on at the International Convention in August 2009. At World Headquarters, we always listen very carefully to what members tell us, and this proposal is no exception. Unfortunately, much of the feedback we’ve received includes false statements and misunderstandings about the nature of the governance reshaping proposal".

"We’ve read about rumors that the organization is moving to a for-profit enterprise; that the whole purpose of governance reshaping is to boost attendance at the International Convention; that we’re merely accommodating the needs of Districts Not Assigned to Regions (DNAR) to the detriment of the rest of the organization; the list goes on. All of these rumors, and many more like them, are completely false. The purpose of governance reshaping is to improve the way the organization is structured on a global scale, ultimately enhancing service to the member.In this message, I hope to address some of the concerns that members have raised and clear up some common misconceptions about the proposal. In the coming weeks and months, complete information will be presented to the entire membership, providing the knowledge needed to make an informed decision before the vote.Global GrowthOne of the driving factors behind the development of the governance reshaping proposal is the worldwide growth of the organization".
"There are now more than 12,500 clubs and nearly 250,000 members in more than 90 countries. The current organizational structure, which does not include any regional-level structure or support outside of North America, has not effectively accommodated this growth. In 2005, the governance reshaping process was initiated with the objective of addressing global representation and equitable support for all Toastmasters members, clubs and officers, regardless of geographic location".

"To achieve this objective, the proposal includes provisions for the re-drawing of the regional map, and extending it to include regions for clubs that are not currently part of our regional structure. As soon as the Board began to consider this issue, it became clear that expanding the structure of the organization meant we had to start looking for ways to maximize our efficiency. It was in this spirit that the Board began to look at the region conferences, and determine whether the business that is conducted there could be conducted in a way that brought the biggest benefit to the largest number of members".

"As we weighed the benefits provided to the relatively small number of members who attend region conferences against the benefits that could be provided to district officers and the membership as a whole by replacing region conferences with a more efficient training and support mechanism, we opted in favor of the latter.TrainingToday, Toastmasters provides face-to-face training for district leadership teams at the region conferences (with the exception of the DNAR districts) and at mid-year".

"Unfortunately, these two events don’t provide all the information that our district officers need to be successful. In the proposed model, district leaders would be trained year-round using a combination of convenient e-learning modules and traditional face-to-face sessions, resulting in a larger number of leaders trained more conveniently, efficiently and effectively than before. Also, this training model will allow a more consistent message to be delivered, which will result in better trained officers leading to improved service to the member".

"Toastmasters International currently pays the travel (airfare or mileage) for the district governor and lt. governors to the region conference while districts reimburse those expenses for mid-year. In the proposed model, TI would pay for these same officers to travel to the International Convention, where they would receive training and experience the camaraderie, personal ties, and face-to-face support that have long been hallmarks of Toastmasters training. In place of the June training that currently exists, new district officers would be presented with a number of e-learning opportunities that they could complete at their leisure and repeat as often as necessary. Face-to-face mid-year training would continue much as it does today, with attendees sharing problems and developing solutions together in a relaxed and cordial atmosphere".

The primary difference:
Instead of districts paying for travel to mid-year training, TI would pay. Some have expressed concern that the new district officer training that would take place at the International Convention would be too big, and that it will be difficult to achieve the level of training support that currently occurs at the region conference training. To answer this concern, I would like to point out that the training sessions planned for the International Convention will incorporate many opportunities for breaking out into smaller groups and networking with peers".

Speech Contests:
"Another important event that takes place at the region conferences is the International Speech Contest. Currently, all North American contestants compete at the region conferences, while the DNAR contestants compete at the International Convention. In the proposed solution, nine semi-final speech contests would be held – most likely on Thursday night – at the International Convention, with each district-level winner assigned at random to one of the contests. This would result in fair and equal treatment for all contestants. All speech contest semi-finalists would receive reimbursement from TI for travel to the International Convention, just as they do now for travel to the region conference".

The Right Change, at the Right Time:
"What about today’s world is still the same as it was 20 years ago? Most of us didn’t have cell phones or personal computers. If someone had told us that we would do most of our holiday shopping on the Internet, we would have laughed – not because we thought we wouldn’t, but because we would have had no idea what the “Internet” was. Today’s world is markedly different than 1989. Yet some members believe that Toastmasters should always remain the same".

"E-learning is a perfect example of the kind of change that some members have trouble believing in. Yet the whole world is moving to an e-learning model for volunteer training – not only because it is a more efficient way to train more people over greater geographical distances, but also because it results in better training, better retention rates, and an overall improved learning experience. It is time Toastmasters moved to this model for volunteer training, too.As for region conferences – it’s abundantly clear that some Toastmasters have developed a deep emotional attachment to these events, and many have expressed the desire to put this matter to a vote of the entire membership. However, the matter of region conferences is in the policies of the organization, and as such, it is under the jurisdiction of the Board of Directors. The Board is elected by the membership and represents the interests of the entire organization".

"Other issues, such as the creation of new regions and the establishment of the International Leadership Committee (ILC), are bylaws issues that must be brought to a vote of the membership as a whole. I have attended more than 35 region conferences, trained hundreds of district officers, and enjoyed the camaraderie of the experience. Each year, I’ve looked forward to attending these events with you. However, when we distance ourselves from our emotional involvement in these issues, we can perhaps see this matter in a new light and gain a deeper understanding of the reasons behind these important decisions".

"At the heart of the matter is the club experience – the positive results that each person receives from attending meetings, giving speeches, and improving communication and leadership skills. And that’s the bottom line for all of us.In the coming weeks we will provide additional information to members, clubs and officers around the world. Presentations and discussions will be held at many district conferences and at region conferences".

Visit for the most up to date information.

Best regards, Daniel RexExecutive Director
Toastmasters International /

Some TM members responses:

"Daniel, I'm so glad to see e-learning taking such a priority for the organization. Has the board considered webcasting the International Convention / Speech Contest"? Dwayne Windham


"Dan, I appreciate you taking the time to address certain issues regarding the proposed governance changes.What I still have not seen addressed are the concerns raised (not out of misinformation, misunderstanding, or emotionalism) regarding:A. The ILC proposal which puts more power in the boards hands over who will be able to runB. The continuing separation between leadership and membership, which lends itself to the creation of a have and have-not aristocracyC. The loss in opportunities for leadership, speaking opportunities, and inter-district relationships into the void created by disposing of Region ConferencesI appreciate the new fairness given to the contests - I've certainly enjoyed my times as a competitor over the years - but none of my concerns, as well as those of most of those I've spoken with, are based in the contest.I would think Toastmasters would be able to alter its Region structure, leadership model, and global mission without taking away conferences that can be improved rather than replaced, and taking more power away from the voting member by reducing our choices at the ID level.Regardless of the end results, I fully support Toastmasters, and would hope you, the Top 3, and the Board of Directors value the opinions and communications of all its members, regardless of our stance on the issues. After all, what is leadership without communication"?
Rich Hopkins (Spokane, WA)


"Daniel; Thank you for your response and explanation. One thing not addressed, which I raised, is the costs of the new contest model. With 14 regions and regional conferences and contests, TI would only have to pay for 14 winners to travel to the International Conventions. With the new model, TI will have to pay travel expenses for 80+ District winners to the convention. That strikes me as a huge expense to underwrite.And therein lies the crux of my concern about the changes - cost. And that is certainly not an emotional response". Phyrne Parker (Toronto, ON)

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