We're getting very close to the beginning of a new Toastmasters' year. July 1st will mark the time when the old EXCOMs will hand over responsibility to the new EXCOMs. This happens at all levels and it is an exciting time. The new officers are eager to assume their duties and the old officers are eager to relax and take a break.

This time of year also marks the time when the Club, Area, and District Success Programs come to a close and the numbers are reset for the coming year. During this cycle of renewal, it is also a natural time for all Toastmasters to step back and think about renewing and resetting their goals for the coming year.

One of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, "Begin with the end in mind". What this means is that you need to have a personal vision. A dream, a destination, a goal. You have to decide where you're going before you'll have any chance of getting there.

Over the last couple of weeks I've been trying to deliver this message to the Toastmasters in Area 66. Progressing in the Toastmasters educational programs is important for every Toastmaster. The success of a leader in Toastmasters depends on the success of individual Toastmasters. The success of the District depends on the success of its Divisions which depend on the success of their Areas which depend on the success of the Clubs. But Club success is measured by the success of its members. 

One basic assumption I make is that people join a Toastmasters Club to learn and grow. Primarily this personal development is in the areas of oral communication and leadership, and the mechanism for learning is to engage with and complete projects. Setting goals helps us measure our progress and inspires us to take short-term action in order to reap long-term rewards.

I have asked Toastmasters in Area 66 to set goals for the coming year. I urge every Toastmaster to set goals. What is your Toastmasters Dream? Write it down and tell others. You are much more likely to be successful if you do.

As I begin to visit more Toastmaster clubs, I am starting to notice distinctive Club 'personalities'. The basic meeting roles, rules, and activities are common to all clubs, but the personalities of the members, the venue, and the local traditions make each club a different experience. 
Last weekend I had a great experience visiting ICAT Toastmasters. After weeks of curiosity, I finally found out that ICAT stands for Indian Chartered Accountants Toastmasters. The meeting was very impressive. A textbook lesson in timing and role-playing. They also elected their new Executive Committee while I was there (pictured at left).

Another point that has been brought home to me is the need for constant practice to maintain public speaking skills. I've done Table Topics at three different Clubs over the last two weeks and my performance has not been as good as it should be. This is the sort of thing that Toastmasters training is so good at - highlighting weaknesses and providing opportunities to address them.