Talking to Michael Bown, Club Growth Director

Talking to Michael Bown, Club Growth Director

Based on an interview September 4th 2016

To meet Michael Bown, Club Growth Director (CGD) is to get excited about the future growth of Toastmaster clubs in District 21. He comes to the role with a strong track record – last year as Division A Director he brought his Division from not Distinguished at all to Select Distinguished status. He is a young man who leads with enthusiasm.

Michael’s day job is as Client Services Manager with BC Pensions Corporation where he is responsible for a staff who process a large volume of pension estimates. But being responsible for club growth in D21, he says is more than a job, it’s a job and a half.


He belongs to two clubs – Trestle Toastmasters and Nighthawks in Victoria. In addition he is chartering a new ESL club for people who might need a more relaxed environment as they struggle with English as a Second Language and who might feel intimidated by native English speakers. (Photo taken at the border between North and South Korea, 2011)

Michael started his Toastmaster journey after he had been curious about Toastmasters for a while and he finally joined a corporate club at his workplace. He went from visitor to VP Education in a couple of weeks. “And I’ve been saying ‘yes’ ever since”. He credits May Soo Tveita and George Harjani for inspiring him and mentoring him along the way.

He ran for Club Growth Director because he wanted to continue service in District 21 beyond Division Director and he saw the potential and the growth opportunities. He had enjoyed the success of coaching Nighthawks club from eight members (and looking as if it might slide down to five) up to 14 members. With pride he says “We’ve had guests every week since January.”

To convert these guests he asks them at their first meeting to present a two-minute ‘Smile Story’ at the next meeting. At that point he’s ready to close the sale. He is a strong advocate of using MeetUp. He has used it successfully to bring in guests and he’s planning to use it extensively to help struggling clubs throughout the District. (stand by for news about this upcoming initiative).

Michael has plans for many more initiatives to grow District 21. At present D21 has 150 clubs. He hopes to have 162 clubs by next June. If we can do that, he says, we can be on stage at the upcoming TI Convention in Vancouver next August. One way to add members and clubs he says, is community outreach. The Trio recently had a booth at the White Rock Farmers’ Market and they plan to be in parades and have mall booths in the near future.

To get us excited about this growth he is bringing in Peter Kossowan DTM who has started 170 clubs (yes, 170 new clubs) mainly in Alberta. Peter is so well known there that they named a club after him in Edmonton.

Michael believes that the key to club growth is a positive member experience and the key component to club quality is member strength – it’s Quantity plus Quality. We need more people in each club to give a more varied and interesting experience. Same old, same old leads to a weak meeting. We need to support all clubs to achieve excellence.

A recent successful initiative was Summer Sizzler which rewarded clubs who have had a 20% membership increase over the summer months. For struggling clubs Joe Guenette is recruiting and training club coaches to help them grow.

Michael is also planning more and greater incentives for club growth. He himself is inspired by working with other D21 leaders who really care about all D21 members and who are looking for fresh, new ideas to grow clubs.

“Clubs have to be successful for the district to be successful. I have to look out for all 150 clubs that we have as well as growing more. TI is looking for 12 more but my personal aim is to grow 15 more clubs – a 10% increase over the year. With quality meetings we can do that.

Talking to John Sherber

Talking to John Sherber

Based on an interview, September 2nd 2016

“I stood for election as Program Quality Director because I thought I could work with two interesting gentlemen to create a movement that will be good for all members of District 21.” John Sherber said. “It’s a steep learning curve but I think we have the opportunity to build something worthwhile.

“I had no idea what I was getting into and I’ve never worked so hard in my life. Before I retired I worked in the healthcare system and I also worked at Thrifty Foods for 17 years. That’s where I learned about good customer service. It made an impression on me that Alex Campbell, the owner, knew the names of most of the hundreds of employees. Toastmasters, however, is a more complex organization – we have so many different clubs over such a wide area. Each club has their own ideas and their own ways of doing things, but we are all part of a bigger picture. The individual member and the organization can’t exist without each other.

“We need each other. We have to let members know that we’re one of many on the same path, all looking to achieve something unique. We can all help each other and learn from each other. Because we are such a wide area – from Cranbrook in the east to the northern tip of Vancouver Island – I need to hear from members what you need, what you are looking for in Toastmasters and what you can give to Toastmasters. When members are achieving they recognize the personal growth the program offers for stretching themselves.


“The Trio, the three of us who direct District 21, Alan Warburton who is District Director, myself and Michael Bown, Club Growth Director, are working harder than any group I’ve ever seen. It has been a profound experience for me. We are all committed to the membership and we now have a three-year plan to bring the District into great shape. We’re doing so much this year, with the hope that we can become a Distinguished District and everything will run more smoothly as we work together.

“In August 2017 we have the opportunity to be on stage as a Distinguished District – a once in a lifetime opportunity as the Toastmaster International Convention comes to Vancouver – IF we can all pull together and get to that level.

“Myself, I like to be surrounded by good people. I’ve been in Toastmasters since 2001 and I was Area Governor in 2003. Glyn Williams mentored me to become Division A Director in 2007 – 2008 when there were 42 clubs on the lower part of Vancouver Island. I left for a couple of years and came back the year D21 split. Pat Johnson (Past International President) helped us and we developed programs such as ‘Speaker to Trainer’ and judges training so we had a Distinguished Division.

“I hope to run for District 21 Director next year, so my goal is to get better known. I’ll meet more people at the conference in November. I do believe that a leader is someone who members can buy into and believe in. It’s a combination of skill sets, and one of them is the talent for finding the right people.


“When I attended the Convention in Washington this past August all of the new Program Quality Directors received training. At one session we were seated at a table of six and given a subject that we had to cooperate on and decide how to present. At our table were people from all different countries with all different backgrounds and approaches, but we all had a part in it; we had a unified approach and we made a strong presentation. My style is to watch where things are going and then make my contribution. I like to work behind the scenes, to create an environment where everyone is working together.

“That’s what I hope to do with District 21, pull us together, help us achieve our individual aims and make the District Distinguished. Will you help me?”

Community outreach

Early this Toastmasters year five clubs in Division F worked as a team to setup a stand at the White Rock Farmers’ Market.  After attending the market on September 4th I left even more motivated to see events like this across the district.

Having a booth at the farmers’ market not only gave the five clubs a chance to promote themselves with flyers and face to face interaction with future Toastmasters, it also provided the opportunity of networking between clubs.  New friendships were built and people discussed visiting each others clubs.

The clubs also contributed to the event by designing a handout promoting all five clubs, running table topics between the bands sets and a draw for some nice baskets.

Are you organizing a multi club market, mall booth, or parade entry? If so contact me as the district is happy to cover a number of expenses as well as provide some supplies.


Michael Bown, DTM

Club Growth Director

District 21 2016-2017

Laying the Foundation for a Successful Year

Laying the Foundation for a Successful Year

Recently I had the great pleasure of being a speaker at the Club Officer Training (COT) events in the Lower Mainland and the Interior. In both places I made the same request of the audience … “Raise your hands if Toastmasters has been a powerfully positive influence in your lives.” Every hand in the room was raised!!

We are so fortunate to belong to an organization that has the potential of changing people’s lives. At the club level we need to make sure that we are laying the foundation so that EVERY Toastmaster experiences that positive influence.

One of the best ways to ensure a strong foundation is by having each and every club officer properly trained. In that way each club will have a clear sense of purpose and direction for the year.

Our Division and Area Directors have been working really hard over the past two months to set up COT events throughout D 21. We even have an amazing team, led by Marg Hope and her Toastmentors club, who provide training to our clubs in remote areas!

Make-up COTs will be provided up to August 31st throughout D21. Please ensure that your club has laid their foundation for the year by having ALL your officers trained. COTs are also open to all Toastmasters members.

For clubs who have 7 out of 7 officers trained, we will provide a beautiful ribbon to be attached to your club banner. Make sure that YOUR club receives one of the ribbons!!




Alan Warburton
District 21 Director

Destination Meetings

Destination Meetings

How about adding something special to your meetings? For instance, early this summer, Evening Edition Toastmasters launched their 14th Annual Magical Summer Globetrotting Tour, with an amazing itinerary: Greece, France, Spain and…believe it or not, Outer Space…what a trip!

Each summer, White Rock Evening Edition Toastmasters travel on a shoestring, adapt standard roles and make meetings come alive with the sights, smells and tastes of various places on (and off) the planet. LEARN MORE about how to create your own magical destination meetings in last year’s SUMMER 2015 Magical Globetrotting Tour.


GreeceIn July, outfitted with togas and sandals, and accompanied by pretty little fairy princesses, Evening Edition imagineers set sail for Greece, where they explored tranquil blue seas, inhaled the fragrance of mountain herbs, viewed ancient cities, poked around archeological wonders of the country, and peeked into the cradle of Western Civilization.

In a highlight moment, two travellers inspired everyone to take action with an ice bucket challenge…



Bonne Journee Mes Compagnon design Voyage…what a fantastic tour, with plenty of time to connect with IMG_0346people and discover an extraordinary wealth of museums, galleries, ateliers and hands-on cultural experiences! Outdoor cafe terraces, quaint village-square markets, and lace-curtained bistros with plat du jour chalked on the board…ooh là là!

El Espana…

The group couldn’t resist the lure of azure beaches, world-class modern architecture, and the incredible historical heritage in vibrant cities like Barcelona and Madrid…not to mention passionate Flamenco dancers, the unique Spanish humour, freshly prepared Spanish Style Pieta and other delicious tapas, sangria and fizzy drinks…what’s not to love?

Outer Space…

space 20160817_211246In August, eleven intrepid travellers prepared to blast off, up and away, for a once in a lifetime, out-of-the-world adventure. Destination: the final frontier–Outer Space. Just before lift-off, the Space Captain detected an unforeseen invasion. Red Alert! Red Alert! A band of Finding Vino Intruders boarded, intent on raiding the starship.

Officers in command expertly defused the emergency, and restored harmony. The newly expanded group of space travellers then cruised the Solar system, stopped by well-known planets and stars, and viewed a meteor shower from up close, without getting hit. Whether it was astronauts, aliens, or asteroids, the galaxy delivered all it promised and 20160817_211614

With many more exotic journeys on the horizon, and life beckoning them onward, this group of high-spirited adventurers can hardly wait to get underway for their magical tours again next summer. Bon Voyage!

Best Toastmaster Year Ever Challenge

During Evening Edition’s magical visit to Greece, one Toastmaster challenged everyone to “Have the best summer ever!” in a classic Ice Bucket Challenge. WATCH HERE

As the year unfolds, our district leaders challenge YOU to ”Have the best Toastmaster year ever!

Do you have a fun, unique, attention-getting way to promote your club in your community or motivate other Toastmasters? Send a short video clip to

The Road to Washington

The Road to Washington

What does it take to become a champion? Interview with Tania Ehman, District 21 International Speech Champion

Where did you get the idea for your contest-winning speech?
Oh, my goodness. Ideas just come to me and I get inspired! With the speech that won the contest “The Pebble to Pearl Ratio” I started thinking about the essence of people and how much we can hurt others with our words or the way we speak, and how long those hurting words can stay with us. Hurting words are like throwing pebbles in water, the ripples go outwards so far. Then, in an evaluation, someone said to me ‘I have some pearls for you’ and I put the idea of helpful pearls together with the hurtful pebbles and the speech came together.

Did you get support from your club members?
Oh yes, I had feedback from my club all the way through. They made me much more comfortable as a speaker. I belong to Sooke Harbour Toastmasters – it’s the best club in all of Toastmasters. I was so sick the week before the District conference that I made up my mind I would not go to compete. My club members discovered I was sick and they made this video and sent it to me – they had bought pompoms and were acting, dancing to music. I watched it and I thought, “I can do anything!” So I loaded up and came across to the conference. It taught me to just do it. You’ll never gain if you don’t try. You must choose to take a chance even if it scares you – it’s the only way to change.

Did you get help from anyone else?
I was amazed at the offers of help I’ve had from all over District 21. I’ve been overwhelmed by the offers, by people calling and Skyping, people mentoring me, telling me where and why the speech doesn’t work. One group of people gave up a whole sunny Sunday to help me. It was truly amazing. I’ve had help with everything, with structure, staying on track, keeping my stories relevant to my message, even someone helping me become mentally and physically prepared for contests. Even Ted Corcoran, who came from Ireland to be our keynote speaker at the conference, took time to help me. He pointed out the weaknesses in my speech. He explained my style of speaking – he called it “cognitive gymnastics” – that I made a mystery about what I was saying until I finally got around to the point. I had to unlearn my habit of speaking about everything else before I got to what I really wanted to say. I’ve realized that you don’t climb this mountain alone, you do it as a group. I couldn’t do it by myself.

Tell me about your contest speech
I’m not going to do the same speech in Washington that I did at the conference. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not strong enough to win at the higher level. The “Pebble to Pearl Ratio” speech is lacking some essentials. When I tried to change it I found it lost its essence. So I’m struggling to write a new speech. I’ve narrowed down a whole lot of ideas and I’ve come up with the meat of what I want to say. Once it comes together fully I’ve got invitations from many clubs to present it to them. As soon as it’s ready I’ll be doing that.

Meanwhile I’ve pulled enough layers from enough onions so that I’ve finally come to the right message. It’s one I can share and know it is worth seven minutes of people’s time. It’s a huge honour to be in that position. I feel that I have a huge responsibility to do that justice and to say something really worthwhile.

What is it like facing the large conference audience as a contestant?
I find that I face one audience at a time, starting with the club, and I don’t think of
anything else. Last year was my first year in the International speech contest and I
made it to the District but I didn’t place.

This year my goal was to place at the District. So when they called out the third place
winner, then the second place winner and I hadn’t heard my name I whispered to my
sister, “Oh, darn. I’d hoped to place.” Then they called my name in first place, as the contest winner. I thought “Oh, darn! What have I done?” I felt like a fish out of water. Then I thought, “Here’s where I find myself. This is my opportunity – I’ll take it with both hands.”

What would you say to Toastmasters thinking of competing next time?
I’d say “Do it! You’ll never gain if you don’t try. Take a chance. You must choose to take that chance, even if it scares you. It’s the only way to change.


Introducing D21 Director Alan Warburton

Introducing D21 Director Alan Warburton

On July 4th I (Val Adolph) spent some time talking with our new District Director, Alan Warburton, asking him about his plans for the new Toastmaster year. He started out by saying: “I believe that every Toastmaster deserves to belong to a Distinguished club. If we want all Toastmasters to have a rich, rewarding experience we have to help clubs in every way we can to be Distinguished. We must work together with our focus on this.”

Tell me about the importance of having clubs be Distinguished.
“We start this new Toastmasters year drastically down in membership – last year we had a net loss of 13 clubs over the year. This membership loss shows up clearly in the low number of Distinguished clubs because many clubs last year met many of their educational goals but lacked the necessary number of members to qualify for the DCP.”

“At Club Officer Training we found that most club executives set goals for 2016-2017 to make their clubs Distinguished with a membership significantly higher than 20. This shows they understand that this is where they need to be.”

How will you help clubs achieve Distinguished status?
“We know that our problem this past year has been the significant decrease in membership. It is also our solution. We need to focus on membership, membership, membership. It needs to be the main thing and continue to be the main thing throughout the year.”

“This year, we will put strategies in place to help clubs hold exciting meetings where members learn and grow. At the moment we have 37% of our clubs with 20 or more members. We’d like to increase this to 60% or more of our clubs with 20+ members. If we can do this we’ll have the “buzz’ of success.”

“We also have an organized, cohesive plan to charter new clubs both community and corporate. We have exciting District initiatives to add 12 – 15 new clubs this year.”

“If clubs are to survive and thrive we have to build in a system of support. It might be other clubs helping or a SMART team helping them to help themselves.”

What are SMART teams?
“One idea that Ted Corcoran – he was the keynote speaker at the Spring conference – brought to us was the idea of having a SMART team in each Division – one that Sponsors, Mentors And Rescues clubs as a Team. It is an excellent concept and one we need to put in place here to focus on the needs of clubs.”

“SMART teams rely on strong, committed leaders, often people who don’t necessarily have any official position. There’s a lot of expertise out there, capable members, very aware, strong, committed people who would be happy to help where they can.”

Can members expect strong leadership this year?
“My plan is to have a personal call with each Division Director each month to see where each Division is going and to brainstorm ideas to maintain strong clubs. Last year a number of clubs were on the edge of the cliff – unfortunately, with insufficient coaching support they just fell off. That’s where working together can be significant – clubs need to support each other with strong clubs helping weaker ones so that every Toastmaster has a positive experience.”

Where will the focus be this year?
“Our focus this year is on our clubs building their membership strongly. We have asked each club to set specific goals in the area of membership and they have set really impressive goals. If clubs accomplish their goals … we will all be winners.”

“It’s important that we bring back the excitement, energy, teamwork (teamwork is huge!) and willingness to support each other. Toastmasters is fun! Let’s make our meetings the highlight of every member’s week. “I hope that people will feel the excitement this year as we work together for success. It’s fun being part of a really good organization. It results in a strong feeling of pride, not just to be a Toastmaster but to be a Toastmaster from D21. We can achieve this together.”

At the end of the interview I asked Alan to talk about himself for a couple of minutes. Here is what he told me:

“Bev and I love to travel and we spend lots of time with the grandkids. I cycle and take long walks with the dog. Alan and DogOur dog is called Roscoe – he’s an 80-lb. yellow Lab with tons of energy. He’s an incredibly loyal friend and a delight to walk every day. “I’ve done long cycle rides in the past – a couple of years ago I did the Ride to Conquer Cancer from Vancouver to Seattle. I’ve done 50 – 150K rides with my daughter, she’s a very good cyclist.”

(This article is based on an interview with Alan Warburton, July 4th 2016)

CGD experience

Being Club Growth Director for less than a month (officially) has been eye opening. The role is much more rewarding than I expected and I am so happy to serve in this role. We spend a lot of time talking about club growth, quality and “district” related business, but it is rare for us to step out and share what our experience has been or what benefit we gain from serving outside our club.

The role of Club Growth Director starts the minute elections finish – which I will admit was a bit of a challenge as I had a Division Director role to complete as well. Since that election at the end of April no day has been without calls, emails and meetings. Not complaining – this was certainly a combination of the reality of the role added with our desire to make plans to offer the membership of the district with great service from July 1 – which takes lots of solid planning.


So what kind of things have happened since elections?


  • 2.5 days worth of planning in Victoria with the district trio and our regional advisor (kind of like an Area Director for Districts)
  • Conference calls with Ted Corroran DTM, Past International President and the mentor for our trio.
  • Dozens of conference calls between Alan, John and I as we recruited our team, learned of our web presence and other critical bits of information.
  • Email in the first week after elections requesting we register for District Leader training in Washington, DC.
  • Planning and delivering District Officer Training to our amazing team of Area and Division Directors along with the rest of our talented district team.
  • Roadtrips for Club Officer Training
  • Realization how important growth is this year as our District finished #97 out of 99 districts in the world.
  • Conference calls with regional advisor/international director and Toastmasters International.
  • Overnight trip to Surrey where the District trio ironed out the District Success Plan and tentative district budget for 2016-2017.
  • Attendance at Parlamentary procedure training in Bellingham, Washington with John Noonan, DTM PIP. GREAT experience meeting regional leaders. We also had the honour of being joined by Division C Director Ashwani Sinha and Division F Director Jenny Peng.

As you can see the days are quite full (especially as I try to keep up with the two retired members of the trio!), but it is so rewarding to meet more people working together with us for the same causes.

Biggest shock so far:

Didn’t realize how much International Director/International Officer candidates would campaign to the trio. They recognize we are all typically at the International Convention so they send us their materials. Of course this has been a lot of campaign emails – but these people are also calling from all over the world and even sending promotional materials by mail!

What’s next?

International Convention! I am flying in on August 13th for training prior to the convention. Not only will I meet leaders from all over the world, but World Headquarters staff and past world champions of public speaking!  The tools I will gain in DC will certainly help in being the best CGD I can be!


Look forward to continuing to serve you 🙂


Michael Bown, DTM

Club Growth Director, District 21 2016-2017

Happy New Year

Good day to all,

July 1, 2016 – the start of a new adventure in the Toastmaster organization.

As I am passed the torch of the “Quality Program Director” I want to thank the past PQD and the rest of the D21 team for all there efforts last year.

I look forward to working with two of the most capable men Michael Bown Club Growth Director and Alan Warburton District Director as the Trio for 2016-17.

Suggestions for training and ideas about how to get our message out this year?

Let me in on your ideas! I enjoy engaging on the phone and would appreciate your input.


John Sherber DTM

Program Quality Director, District 21 2016-2017