From Vanessa King, D91 Program Quality Director
Toastmasters International Convention, Las Vegas, August 2015
Every year in August, Toastmasters from around the world gather for the International Convention. This year it was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m going to try and give you a flavour of what International Convention is like, which might explain why it’s taken me the best part of two weeks to get over it…
Convention for the District Leadership Team actually starts three days before everyone else. On the Sunday we interviewed most of the candidates standing for election to the International Board of Directors. This is a long session of discussion and evaluation of the candidates, followed by analysis at dinner afterwards. A significant part of the decision-making process takes place at these interviews, at least for me, so they’re really important in helping us decide who to vote for on behalf of our members.
District Leader Training
The following two days were training for District Leadership Teams from all over the world, approximately 300 people. We covered topics ranging from organisational updates, finance and delegation, through to team dynamics, creating a culture of success and sharing challenges with other leaders. The opportunity to meet other leaders, gather ideas and share success is incredibly valuable and time very well spent. We also have the chance to renew friends and meet new people, of course. The training is lead by the Region Advisors, experienced Toastmasters appointed by the Board of Directors to support the districts in supporting our clubs.
Training is very tiring, as it runs from 8-4:30 both days, and there is work to do over dinner as well. There’s not much time to catch your breath before the Convention itself gets underway. Seemingly overnight, long empty halls ring with the voices of over 2,000 Toastmasters…
The Opening Ceremony included the parade of flags. I actually find this quite moving, as it’s a visual display of just how far across the world the Toastmasters organisation has spread. In the words of founder Dr. Ralph Smedley:
“Ours is the only organization I know dedicated to the individual, we work together to bring out the best in each of us and then we apply these skills to help others.”
It’s very exciting to be part of a movement that changes lives, wherever they may be.
Of course, no stage in Las Vegas would be complete without an appearance from The King, Elvis Presley…
And the teams from Districts 71 and 91 managed to get together for a group photograph.
Contests are an important part of the International Convention. The stages were set and filled with a record 97 district finalists from across the world…
And here’s highlights from the winning speech by Mohammed Qahtani, the World Champion of Public Speaking 2015.
Superb Keynote Speakers
A highlight for me was listening to the recipient of the Golden Gavel Award, Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus. He took us on his journey from university lecturer in Bangladesh to Banker to the Poor. His vision of the future as one with zero poverty and zero unemployment is not only achievable but mandatory and I am inspired to find out more about his vision. Other speakers included Patricia Fripp, Darren Lacroix, International President Mohammed Murad, author and comedian Judy Carter, entrepreneur and broadcaster Alex Malley and inspirational businesswoman Marilyn Tam.
Did I mention long halls and Toastmasters from all over the world?
The Business Meeting
International Convention isn’t all fun, however. The Business Meeting is where the serious business of setting the direction of our organisation for the next year takes place. The fact that we all got up and had a bit of a dance to Lionel Richie, Elvis and others is neither here nor there. We discharged our duties after a four-hour meeting and elected the incoming Board of Directors. we extend many congratulations to our own past District Governor Teresa Dukes, who was elected International Director for Region 11. Don’t miss her two-minute speech!
Recognition and Awards
The efforts of our members are recognised at the International Convention. I felt very excited to walk out on stage and be presented with awards, but mostly I felt proud to have been able to play my part in helping our members achieve their personal awards. That’s what the awards really mean. Sometimes we can get carried away with numbers and positions on dashboards, but we remember that our numbers represent members and over 3,000 men and women growing and developing themselves.So these awards are for you, guys! Congratulations on being part of a superb district, Number 3 in the world in fact!
President’s Inauguration Celebration
The four days of Convention were closed in style, with a wonderful dinner and ball. Of course there were speeches, but also lots of dancing and good food. There was even a craic at the end of the evening, in a room somewhere off the main ballroom. The Americans called it a sing-along, but it was a touch of Ireland presided over by Past International President Ted Corcoran.
The next International Convention will be held in Washington, D.C. Will you be there?