COT, DOT, workshops, club visits and karaoke!

Time has been flying in Zurich, especially as a lot was going on in Toastmasters. It’s high time to catch up and share what I’ve been up to lately, so let’s go!

Club Officer Training (COT) in Zurich

On the bright side, being an area director at Toastmasters involves less work than being a club president (at least in my case, and so far). One of the main tasks is to provide two trainings for the club officers within my area to ensure that the club officers are well equipped for their roles. Traditionally within Division E of District 109 all area directors organize the trainings together, whereby one will take place in summer and the other in winter. As too many cooks spoil the broth, we split the responsibility for the summer and winter COT among the area directors.

I was organizing the training together with Harry and 50 people showed up, which is an absolute success! We had at the beginning a bit of food and then our District Director provided a key-note on what has been going on at higher levels. It’s always interesting to see and hear what is going on behind the scenes and I became much more aware of how big it is and what parallels exist to a global international corporate company (which you wouldn’t guess only by visiting club meetings). For the main part of the training we split the participants into three workshop groups (2 English speaking groups, 1 German speaking group). The training material was focusing on the club success plan, which is ideally filled out by the club committee at the beginning of the year. Firstly, it forces the club committee members to think about what values and principals are important in their club culture. Secondly, it encourages you to participate in the club distinguished program and think about how the individual goals be met in order to receive recognition as a club.

I think the most important part about the training was that the people have fun and get plenty of opportunities to network, and I do believe we achieved this.

District Officer Training (DOT) in Salerno, IT

Depending on which role you have within the district, you get invited to a training as well. Luckily, as Area Director I do qualify for the training and most of the expenses for travel, food and accommodation are covered by the District. This year the training was taking place in Salerno, which is right below Naples. The training starts usually on Friday evening and ends Sunday around noon. 

As I still had a bit of time left, I decided to go a bit earlier and visit Naples on one day and Pompeii on another day, before heading to Salerno. In Naples I visited a couple of churches and chapels, but the highlight was of course the pizza and the pair of leather gloves I got, as it took me ages to find the shop hidden away in a flat on the 3rd or 4th floor in a residential area of the city. Even though I don’t speak Italien, I found a nice pair of gloves. However, I did find it a pity not being able to speak even a little bit, as I’ve just had so many questions about this glove shop which is run out of an apartment in an residential area, which is filled with boxes full of gloves and two “nonnas” sitting at old sewing machines creating wonderful pairs of leather gloves. Pompeii was as expected very impressive and I’m happy to have booked the guided tour before further discovering it with a fellow Toastmaster.

The training started with a nice city tour on Friday late afternoon and a dinner. Saturday was packed with presentations on various topics. I enjoyed most listening to the presentations which were focusing on how to make the most out of club visits, more information about Speechcraft and how to be a superhero as an Area Director. In the evening we headed out for dinner at a nice Italien restaurant next to the sea. Sunday morning continued with presentations and the District Executive Committee Meeting (DECM). The latter follows a very tight agenda and at the beginning of it the parliamentary procedures, which are followed within the meeting, were explained. To be frank, at first I’ve found it a bit over the top (and I admit I was “a bit” tired as I stayed out for drinks “a bit” longer). However, seeing the bulk of topics that needed to be covered and decided on, following a set of parliamentary procedures enables to have different opinions voiced and decisions taken in an efficient manner – which is important.

I have the following three highlights from the training:

  1. The people I got to meet 💛. The district covers 16 different countries in Europe and I got to meet people from Israel, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece and Italy.
  2. Seeing so many different speakers and presentation styles 🤓 always makes me reflect on my own style and what I want to do differently in the future.
  3. It’s one big playground to experiment on 👩🏼‍🔬. Every person at this training is doing this on a voluntary basis and being part of Toastmasters allows me to experiment on different levels and get feedback on it (which is absolutely amazing and priceless!).

Own workshop series and Speechcraft

A couple of weeks ago I already published my own list of workshops, which I consider to be evergreens. I’ve already had the opportunity to do some of them at different clubs and looking forward to getting all of them done at least once. So what about Speechcraft? Speechcraft is an educational workshop series provided by Toastmasters, which covers the basics of public speaking within 4 to 8 sessions. A Speechcraft series is usually conducted before a club is chartered, to give people a quick start into the Toastmasters programme, and alternatively it can be offered once a year by a club to the public as a way to generate some income for the club.

As a new corporate club is being charetered within Divsion E, I was invited by one of my fellow Area Directors to be a Speechcraft coordinator and help conduct the sessions. Again, very good practice for my side to do some workshops and also meet new people. I was very impressed by the mini speeches the speechcrafters (participants of the programme) were giving. I especially liked that the people were enthusiastic about all of it, as the more you put into it, the more you get out of the programme. 

Club visits in Zurich

Another task I have to complete as an Area Director is to visit my clubs and provide feedback to them. By now I’ve visited 3 out of 4 clubs and it’s always interesting to see the different meeting styles, club cultures and how the executive club committee team members are involved. Usually I always try to speak with the president before my visit to make sure I get a feeling for how things are going and where issues might be. This autumn I seem to have been quite lucky, as most times I’ve visited a club it was some sort of special meeting – either involving an apéro or a party with a cake.

If the club is doing well, it’s quite an easy job to visit it, as you can get further involved but don’t have to. For me the challenge is really how I can best support my weaker clubs and help them make the most out of the programme. Weaker clubs usually struggle with their membership base and the fewer people you have, the more difficult it gets to run meetings and fill a club executive committee. So, I guess time will tell if they are open for what I have planned for the future and if it will enable them to grow stronger. 

Karaoke - loved it!

Some hate it, some love it, and from a Toastmasters perspective it’s a great vocal variety training. One of the presidents in my area organized a dinner and later on Karaoke at Toro Bar in Zurich. Due to other commitments I only went for Karaoke, but I ended up staying till the bar closed. This was not following the original plan, but I had of course to wait until they played “Angels” from Robbie Williams (would be a sin to go before, wouldn’t it?). 

All the best and until soon,


Bonus Material: F.A.Q. for Toastmasters

The club executive committee consists of 7 roles: President, Vice President Education, Vice President Membership, Vice President Public Relations, Secretary,  Treasurer and Sergeant at Arms. Ideally all of these roles are filled by different people every Toastmasters year, starting July 1st and ending June 30th. A club can introduce other roles to the club executive committee, e.g. Vice President Mentorship.

As Toastmasters is a global non-profit organization with clubs distributed across the globe, there exist some hierarchy. The most important part is the individual club member, who is part of a club. Usually 4-6 clubs form an Area, and 3-6 Areas form a Division, 3-7 Divisions belong to one District.

With regards to the key responsibilities, they can be summarized as: club visits, organization of club officer trainings, organization of area contest and finding a successor (anybody interested?).


It’s in fact very similar to a strategic plan where you keep track of what goals you want to achieve and how you will do it. Clubs get recognized with a reward if they achieve a certain amount of pre-defined goals. Besides this, the club success plan involves also questions about values and guiding principals of the club. (“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – Peter Drucker)

No, it’s all voluntary work. Only a small number of events are financially supported by the district or maybe a club.

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