Imagine walking into a room full of two thousand Toastmasters. How would you feel? Frightened? Overwhelmed? Inspired? How about all of the above? Going to my first ever international Toastmasters convention was an eye-opener. It started on Wednesday morning with the Board of Directors Briefing where we learned about the strategic five-year plan for Toastmasters International (T.I.) and heard from the outgoing International Directors as well as the President and the CEO. The event was so professionally run that at first I forgot that T.I. is a non-profit organization.
The four conference days were jam-packed with motivational speakers, speech coaches, leadership meetings and more international speech contest speeches than you ever thought possible. I attended three semi-finals and saw twenty-nine speakers at those. Some were there for the first time, others had tried and failed and come back many times. Every story was worth listening to, every voice I heard gave me a little something to take back home. I was honoured and humbled to listen to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank and inventor of Microfinancing, who received the 2015 Golden Gavel Award, the highest honour T.I. offer to non-Toastmasters every year.
Elections are a big part of any T.I. conference, whether at District or International level. Vegas was no different, so on Saturday morning at 8:30am I attended the Annual Business Meeting to represent and vote for a number of clubs. We elected half of the International Directors, who will serve for the next two years. Our own Teresa Dukes from District 71 (which includes Ireland) gave a fabulous two minute speech on why she was the best candidate and got elected by a great majority. Finally at lunchtime I sat in a room full of two thousand people, current and former presidents, international directors, and of course World Champions. The one thing they all had in common was their unquestionable will to share their knowledge and help others succeed, no matter what path you chose for yourself.
The lights were dimmed and we all sat in great anticipation, waiting for the ten finalists. We were not disappointed. The winner was Mohammed Qahtani, from Saudi Arabia, who inspired us to consider the power of the words we choose and the influence it can have on those around us.
One thing I can say for sure. I have never heard the words “Distinguished Toastmasters All” announced to introduce so many people as I have in those four days in Las Vegas. Everyone, it seemed, had their DTM. And it gave me new motivation to work on my speeches. At the conference I got to speak (and dance) with people who have been Toastmasters for over twenty years. How’s that for dedication? It reminded me that the journey is never over until you say it is. My journey will hopefully lead me to Washington, D.C. next August and Vancouver in August 2017 for more Toastmasters International Conventions and World Championships of Public Speaking. Who knows, maybe one day one of us will be up on that stage holding the trophy. What’s holding you back?
Area Director 2015-2016