iStars: A Division I Initiative

What starts as a spark, gives rise to a raging fire that burns inhibitions, fear and the innate sense of non-belongingness to a cause. We all hope to be a part of one such spark once in our life. Toastmasters itself began as a spark, which is now spreading across the world like wildfire. Within Toastmasters, we have examples to look up to, and one such initiative under Division I, led by the Division Director TM Santhosh Sharma, is the iStars. What is the iStars, what was its’ genesis, and what has been the story behind the rise of the iStars? Our team got in touch with Santhosh, and he led us into a freewheeling conversation about the baby of Division I.

Where did the idea of iStars take birth?

iStars found its formative seeds in the early days of Siemens Toastmasters Club. I was the founder president there and in the initial days, members from nearby clubs like Infosys and Wipro lent us a helping hand by coming and participating in our meetings. One feature of our meetings was that we used to get a General Evaluator from another club, and I noticed that these interactions helped us have high quality meetings. Each GE and role taker brought in their unique perspective, best practices and obviously, some great feedback for a nascent club like ours. This made me think and the ‘Division team’ of Division I sat and formulated the iStars programme.

What has been the core concept of iStars?

iStars serves to ensure that every club strives to have high quality meetings. Good speeches, educational sessions and high quality evaluations ensure that a good meeting happens! The program also functions on the concept that for having a continuum of high quality meetings, it is not always enough to just interact within the club. Inter-club exposure and networking helps bring out the best in Toastmasters, and foster quality. iStars aims to be a collaborative medium that looks at all aspects: Fun, Variety and Quality.

What has been a critical success factor for iStars to succeed?

A majority of the Division I clubs are centered in and around Electronics City (Bengaluru), and I feel that has really helped the program to grow leaps and bounds!

What is the one pain point you feel iStars has addressed for Toastmasters attending other clubs’ meets?

Recognition. A toastmasters club in its nascent days depends on the support of experienced Toastmasters who can help ensure quality meetings. But we often saw, that after pushing a few people continuously for meetings at a new club, they felt demotivated to go continuously to the same club. We answered the question of “What is in it for me?” We took care of the fact that efforts shall be rewarded across individuals, clubs and the ADs who often push experienced members to attend such meetings.

How has it helped Division I as a whole?

Every club has now learnt to open up and talk to other clubs. We have a process where the VP-E’s of the clubs invite other Division I club’s members to come to their meetings. The club leaders now can focus on their club’s problems, and work on it with their ADs and get resources from outside the club easily. For the members who visit, they become brand ambassadors of their clubs and perform to the best of their ability, as they have to be sensitive, careful and analytical in their approach. They also get to complete their educational awards, and that is a plus point! This has helped the ADs to help struggling/new clubs get support after the problems have been identified. It helps the division to strategize for the clubs and their meetings.

How does it help the clubs?

The clubs get good, quality meetings. I believe that meeting quality is the cornerstone of a good club, and once we achieve that, the DCP points will come by themselves. iStars is just the fuel to ignite the passion within a club and the individual members.

How do you ensure transparency in the system?

We ensure that the clubs give us their MoMs after the meeting is over. The MoM is the real moments of truth for both the club and iStars, as we get to know how many people were involved in the meeting, and who participated. The points scheme is based on that very basis.

What has kept iStars going?

The clubs and individuals have kept it going, really. The real kudos goes to the Division I team who have ensured that the participants are recognized regularly, and the team has been the backbone of the system, keeping it regularly updated and issue-free. I would say that the PR for iStars has also been a driving factor in ensuring iStars has kept going in the past 6 months.

Didn’t you face challenges implementing a whole new system?

Yes, the challenge would have been that people wouldn’t know how it works – so the ADs took special effort to present iStars in their club visits, and that really helped people adopt this system, and led to nearly 250-300 Toastmasters participating in the programme. We faced some issues with co-ordination, and the members brought it to our notice. It is heartening to see that the members of Division I are invested into iStars, and that has helped it flourish! They have gone outside of their comfort zone, networked and helped clubs – and that has helped us overcome all challenges!

What’s next in iStars? Are you going to surprise us?

Yes! iStars v2 is out soon, and we have made the system detailed and more discriminatory in order to ensure quality meetings across the Division. Our team noticed the patterns of behaviour of our members in iStars, and that has helped us build a robust system to look to the future – where we can help out new and struggling clubs to reach the heights that they were meant to reach.

 

For understanding how iStars works, login to tiny.cc/istars. We hope this interview helps the spread of new ideas across the District, thereby ensuring quality meetings and happy individuals. Cheers, Division I, keep up the good work!!

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Meraki – Division A & B Annual Conference

 

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence”.

– Vince Lombardi

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10th April 2015-  Move n  Pick , Bangalore was all set to host the 1st Division Annual conference for the year 2015-16. The joint Division Annual Meet of Divisions A  and B of District 92 was kick started by  MCs, TM Nischal Shetty  and TM  Allan with the introduction of the the word Meraki. Moving forward, they introduced the man who needs no introduction, DTM Ram Jayraman and invited him on stage for his inspirational address.

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DTM Ram spoke about the difference that he notices in toastmasters 35 years ago and now. He said that over the time laughs, hugs and smiles are being replaced with smilies, emoticons and LOLs. He advised us to have enthusiasm in everything you do.

Conference chair TM Ranjini Ranganathan took to the stage and welcomed the gathering. She reminded us to interact with everyone since there are no strangers here, only friends you are yet to meet.

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Division B director DTM Arjun Sundar Raj addressed the gathering.
Here is what he said “Have you done justice to what you joined toastmasters for? Have you done justice to your goals a leaders and speakers? Without you there’s no us. We will help you find your purpose. Arjun  then felicitated all the district officers.

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District director, DTM Gauri Seshadri addressed the gathering. She drew parallels from the movie Kungfu Panda 3 and told us that we will never become better than what we are unless we try something new. Adding to it, she said toastmasters gives you that platform to step outside your comfort zone and try exploring your potentials. If you ever feel you need help, you always have your mentors to reach out to and they will help you succeed.

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PQD, DTM Arjun Raj Urs spoke next, “This conference bring  Divisions  A and B together , where A is for A star and B is for be the Best. The two division directors are testimony to these qualities. Chandramouli has lead his division to be a star and Arjun has lead by example to be the best at everything you do.

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CGD, TM Pawas Chandra was up next. He advised us , that in toastmasters we are supposed to build bridges and not fences. He encouraged us to build better relationships with each other.

After which the two divisions split for their individual International Speech Contest. For Division A Contest master,TM Muthu Kumar read out the objective and rules of the contest. The Contest Chair was  TM Gopinath and  the role of Chief Judge was taken up by  TM Balajee Gopalan.

The contestants order was announced and the contest began with back to back power packed speeches.

TM Prakhar chose “Paper of choice”.  In the speech the contestant  emphasised that, Our lives are a blank piece of paper. The question is who writes on it? Who makes your choices for you? Make sure you are the author of your choices.

Often in life we have to make decisions and it is up to us whether we choose to stay within that line of ethics and morals or cross it. That was the crust of TM Balu’s speech  “When I cross the line”.

TM Bhagyashree gave a gimple of “A present from the present”. Accept every situation cheerfully no matter how difficult it maybe. Accept your difficulties and let your difficulties also know that, you too are difficult.

In his speech “All it takes “ delivered by TM Dirish said,  All it takes is a hello to make a new beginning. Don’t let ego come in between relationships and ruin it.

TM Akash shared his life story through “ Over the edge”. He stated,  All my life I have been over the edge unable to fly, not able to complete something I wanted to do. Be it in studies, at work or my passion to skydive. But if you believe you can, you will.

Contestant no. 6, TM Karthik  took “One brave step” towards bravery.
In his speech he mentioned, Learn to take brave steps in life. If you fail, you learn something new. If you make a fool out of yourself, you will at least make someone else smile. But don’t forget that there is also a possibility that you might succeed.

“Make a difference”, said  TM Monindra Das. One person’s efforts can make a huge difference for the world. The question is are you doing something that can create a difference ?  Do small things in small ways that can create a difference for others.

The last speaker at this contest, TM Chandramouli  questioned his audience in his speech What are you adding?”Little acts of kindness adds value to your life. Add kindness and compassion to everything you do and you will notice how it changes your life.

Around the same time in the adjacent room, Division B International Speech Contest began.

The handsome and funny MC, TM Nischal, introduced the Contest Master TM Pratibha Singh who smoothly conducted the contest in her pleasant and charming voice. She efficiently announced the contestants and their topics and also introduced the chief judge TM Santosh Sharma and the Contest Chair TM CLN Shastry.

Six brilliant contestants battled it out to be the winner of the Division  B International Speech Contest.

Contestant no.1. In his speech, “Let it fly” ,TM Mathew Varghese used a kite as a metaphor to inspires us to follow our childhood dreams. He satted his  own example on quitting a career as a CA.

TM Kaleem Khan’s “The agony and the ecstasy”,  spoke about the power of positive thinking  in achieving success in our endeavours. He explained the impact it had on his life by beginning and ending with a beautiful description of him pole vaulting in school.

TM Ashin Paul evoked the importance of taking action to fulfil one’s ambition in his speech, “The time is always right”. Some inspiration from his young nephew and uncle was all he needed to realise that in order to succeed you need to take action.

TM Acharya Ratna Dasa through his speech, “Count Your Gold Coins”, taught us that we should count our achievements and not our failures. Even on a bad day what matters is that we be happy about how far we have come.

In her speech  “Track Your Progress”,  TM Bindhya Urs elaborated on the perils of being a perfectionist. She resolved that instead of getting discouraged about how far we are yet to go, it would benefit us if me acknowledged how far we have come.

Parikshith Virupaksha’s with a speech titled “I Will Not” told us how he learnt, the hard way,  and that trust is the most important thing in any relationship.

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An educator, entrepreneur, film maker, Sayyed Sulthan Ahmed  delivered an educational session to all the delegates at Meraki .
The session was titled “My experiments with communication”. He walked us through his experiences and work and how he makes educational movies for kids and how the world was moving towards that stage where kids needs to see, feel and believe.

Starting from   his college days , he has been organizing events for kids under Krayons. His  work has enabled kids to understand the world better and become successful. He’s been experimenting with media as part of his work and has shot several short films for kids. His films have won the national award 4 times.

Moving on to the Division A table topics, Contest master TM Deepthi Shetty, quickly ran us through the rules for the contest.

Topic for the contestants  “Character is easier kept than recovered”

Contestants who took the stage were:

TM Ankita
TM Amith Prakash
TM Ameya
TM Payal
TM Nishant
TM Akash
TM Chaitanya
TM Dirish Mohan

In the other hall , Divisiion B  Table Topic contests were being held. TM C L N Shastry, the Contest chair for this  division contests  introduced the contest master TM Namitha to kick start the contest.

Contestants for Table Topics Contest were:

TM Mathew Varghese
TM Debarshi
TM Sheetal
TM Hruday
TM Shivani
TM Parikshith Virupaksha
TM Saket
The topic thrown at them “The start is what stops most people”

The conference  chair TM Ranjini Ranganathan, thanked all the delegates for their love and support. All the role players for the day were recognized for making Meraki a grand  success , the winners were announced shortly.

The Winners for the day were:

 

Division A Table Topics :
Winner – TM Dirish Mohan
1st Runner Up – TM Amit Prakash
2nd Runner Up – TM Chaitanya

Division A IPSC:
Winner – TM Dirish Mohan
1st Runner Up – TM Chandramouli
2nd Runner Up – TM Kartik Nellutla

Division B Table Topics :
Winner – TM Mathew Varghese
1st Runner Up – TM Parikshith Virupaksha
2nd Runner Up – TM Sheetal

Division B IPSC:
Winner – TM Parikshith Virupaksha
1st Runner Up – TM Mathew Varghese
2nd Runner Up – TM Vindhya Urs

Written by Sannidhi Surop