Note: Toastmasters is changing the name of the title to area director starting July 1, 2015.
You may be asking, “Matt, I have a life. Why would I want to be an area governor?” In short, you should be an area governor because it is what I believe to be the most rewarding experience you can have in Toastmasters. Even members who have gone on to higher offices in Toastmasters have told me how much they enjoyed being an area governor and how it has benefited them in their personal and professional lives.
For those of you have been on the fence about being an area governor, haven’t even considered the job, or have even rejected the job before, I want to show you why being an area governor is a great opportunity for you and give you a realistic view of the commitment you would be making for this job.
What’s In It for You?
Many people think of Toastmasters as exclusively a public speaking group. We are actually a communications and leadership training organization. Becoming an effective communicator will take you a long way to becoming a more effective leader, but you still need the training and experience in leadership. Being an area governor is one of the ways Toastmasters helps you learn by doing.
To explain this, let me share with you my experiences with leadership.
Before Toastmasters, I’ve held leadership positions twice in my working life. Both were disappointing. One time, I listened to an employee’s concerns and suggestions and passed them on to my boss. Her response: “He’s a troublemaker! Give him a written warning!” In the other leadership role, I found myself in an ongoing political struggle between my boss and the employees I supervised. I eventually stepped down and took a staff position. My leadership experiences left a sour taste in my mouth, and I was unwilling to take on leadership roles in any situation. I didn’t even want to be president of my Toastmasters club.
With the encouragement of Linda Northrop (who was then the incoming Founder’s District Lieutenant Governor of Marketing), I decided that I would become an area governor. I finally got the gumption to become club president for a six-month term before becoming area governor.
In the year that I’ve been area governor, I’ve seen what a wonderful thing leadership can be. I’ve seen how my guidance can make a direct impact on people. I’ve seen one of the clubs in my area that was struggling at the start of my term, blossom to become a Select Distinguished club. I’ve enjoyed the satisfaction that comes from putting together a speech contest – with the help of a number of people – and watching it come off well. I discovered that leadership is not about controlling people, but training and encouraging them to succeed.
I’ve also had a lot of support along the way. My district, Founder’s District, offers excellent training programs that give you the basics of leading an area. The greatest amount of support has come from my fellow area governors and other district officers. We realize that we’re all in the same boat, and we all help each other out and advise each other as needed.
It’s true that the working world is more like Dilbert than Toastmasters. However, this experience as area governor has given me greater confidence in taking leadership roles in the future. I know that I could be a leader and do it successfully.
A Reality Check of Time
The reason a number of people don’t volunteer to be area governors is the time commitment. If you are one of those people who might want the area governor job, but are worried about the time you’ll have to spend at it, I want to give you a realistic view of how much time you need to spend. You can then decide whether you can fit the area governor job into your schedule.
The area governor position is a one-year commitment. (Although, I’ve found that the year goes by way too quickly.) The amount of time you spend doing area governor work is as follows:
- You will go through area governor training sessions. If I remember right, these totaled six hours on three separate dates.
- Each month, you will need to attend a division council meeting. When I was area governor, these meetings lasted about two hours.
- It is strongly recommended that you hold area council meetings with your club presidents each month. Ours were an hour.
- At least twice a year, you need to visit your clubs. This is a fun event, because clubs often treat their area governors as welcome guests and some clubs even provide lunch. However, add the meeting times to your schedule. (For me, this totaled nine hours twice a year.)
- Also twice a year, you will hold an area speech contest. The amount of time you spend on this will vary. I spent about 10–12 hours for the fall contest and 6–8 hours on the spring contest (including the contest itself), but I did a lot of work myself. I also produced scripts that I used and shared with other area governors. (I’ll provide you with copies as well.) You can delegate some or even all of the work. (You can appoint a contest master to plan and run the contest for you.)
- Once every other month, you need to attend a District Executive Council (DEC) meeting. These run three hours each, plus travel time. (In Founder’s District, these meetings rotate among the different divisions to be fair. This means you’ll have a long drive to at least one of the meetings.)
- There is also the miscellaneous bits of time that come from giving follow-up phone calls or e-mails to club presidents to send dues, writing thank-you notes, mailing leads lists, and other work. This averages out to be another hour or so per month.
These are the minimums. You may spend time going to other speech contests, attending conferences, teaching officer training, meeting with clubs that need help, writing press releases, and performing other tasks that will help you as area governor. It is a “what you put in is what you get out” proposition.
Also keep in mind that the workload varies during the year. Your schedule is the busiest in September and March when you have to conduct your area contest, finish club visits, and make sure the clubs send in their semi-annual dues. You get a breather during the December holidays, and the workload tapers off in May and June.
The trick to managing your schedule is to learn how to delegate your work. Not only will it make your life easier, it will give you a chance to learn a crucial leadership skill. This is another way Toastmasters helps you learn by doing.
Taking the Plunge
As you’ve seen, the area governor job gives you a great opportunity to learn to be an effective and supportive leader, if you are willing to put in the time and dedication. We also have areas that need you. What we don’t have is time. We need to get area governors lined up in June.
Please consider this position, and then contact your incoming district governor to apply.
My year as area governor has been the most rewarding one I’ve had as a Toastmaster. This is an opportunity I hope you will consider next term.