Monday, November 17, 2014

95 Reasons to Remember


November 14-16 was the first ever District Conference for one of the newest Districts in Toastmasters. More than 300 people were registered for the event in Frankfurt, Germany with quite a few people deciding to show up at the last minute. The attendees, participants, and all the people putting on the conference found at least “95 Reasons to be There” and then some. District 95 history was made with a whole lot of firsts, lots of memories, and plenty of good times, here some impressions that I had from the event.

I’ve been to a few district conferences now and while it won’t be too much longer until I can count the number I’ve been to on more than one hand, I always find them fun, memorable, and I always walk away learning lots of things (often about myself). This conference will be memorable for me for a number of reasons including my helping out at the registration desk, having a role in running one of the contests, great speeches, friends, and a great weekend.

During the Opening Ceremony, Norbert Poppe gave the audience a kind of Frankfurt for beginners kick-off; D95 Governor, Kees Broos, told us about a popular expression he learned when he was living in New Zeeland “Sweet as” (which was referred to quite often during the weekend); and International Director, Khaled Matlagaitusome, told us about how some district governors will say that their districts are saturated and that there isn’t any more room for growth (with Los Angeles having 3 districts alone compared to the 11 countries currently comprising D95). Our part of the Toastmasters world is indeed growing quite a bit.

Saturday brought us the District Council Meeting where there was a lot of time spent talking about growth of the district with applications for admission to join D95 coming from the Baltic States, Slovakia, and the Ukraine. After some lively discussion about all the national applications, the District Council Meeting approved all applications to join. We were informed that Toastmasters International’s guidelines are based on a country joining with at least 4 clubs forming an area. Since the Baltic States were looking to join as an area between the three countries, their application would ultimately need to be approved by Toastmasters Headquarters. The Ukraine’s application discussion didn’t take on the political discussion that you might have assumed it would but it is a little tricky because they will likely need to form two areas due to the current number of existing clubs and they will need to do a lot of work to get the currently existing clubs up to the necessary club strength. Slovakia has actually been working on joining a European district since 1999, but they already have been working quite a bit with the Czech Republic and Austria, so their admission appeared to be the most straight forward during this DCM. Kees mentioned that he wanted to revise the Strategic Advisory Board via committees and he mentioned the creation of some committees and their leaders. We were informed that Dananjaya Hettiarachchi (2014 World Champion of Public Speaking) will be the keynote speaker at the 2015 D95 Spring Conference. Prague’s bid to host the 2015 D95 Fall Conference was accepted and the 2016 D95 Spring Conference will be hosted in Romania. On a personal note, I was mentioned during the PRO (Public Relations Officer) report for the Toastmasters Europe Podcast. Provided that all of the applications for acceptance of new countries within D95 meet with all the necessary approval, this will be a pretty big expansion of D95 and signals that further reorganization won’t be too much further down the road.

There were great Humorous Speech and Table Topics (Improvisational Speaking) Contests held in English and German. Former D59 District Governor, Morag Mathieson, had the honor of being the first-ever contest master in D59 with the English Table Topics. Contestants were to incorporate the quote “Living dangerously is the only way to live” into their Table Topic speeches. It should be noted that Goethe came from the Frankfurt area. Alexander Lang got the house rocking as the German Humorous contest master. Toni Lämmel referred to the 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking winner Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, saying that he something in them, what do you see that others don’t? Ivan Aksenov reminded the audience we shouldn’t break the rules, in a true Ivan fashion. You can read the list of winner here. Congratulations to all the winners and participants. The creativity of our fellow Toastmasters never ceases to amaze me!

While it is unusual to have non-Toastmasters as Keynote speakers, we had such a speaker with John Lewis on Saturday afternoon. John told us about using “Humour as a Management Weapon”, telling us a few personal stories. John was a perfect example of why it is good to diversify your experiences, providing some good insights to the attendees.

The announcement of the contest winners, people achieving the DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster) Award and other recognitions were a few of the highlights of the Gala Dinner. There were quite a few well-dressed Toastmasters dancing the night away. Me and my two left feet stay off the dance floor, partaking in some lively conversation instead. With all of the contests and workshops being the focus of most of the conference, the Gala Dinner provided a good chance to catch up with some friends I don’t see that often and the opportunity to make some new friends.

The conference was blessed with some wonderful workshops, including one given by Toastmasters International Director, Khaled Matlagaitusome. My own schedule didn’t allow me to attend very many of the workshops but I was pleased to get several interviews for the podcast. I was able to interview former D59 District Governor and current Regional Advisor for Region 11, Morag Mathieson, where she told me about some of the changes being planned for the Educational Program. I have a few interviews in the queue to release before I’ll be releasing these interviews, but I plan to release these in the coming weeks.

I had a conversation with a local Toastmasters that I know and she pointed out how the nature of the district has changed, which really struck me. When we were part of D59 (until July 2014) we were part of Continental Europe and now you can see the emergence of Eastern Europe with the success of some of the contestants and with the decisions being made to add the Baltic States, Slovakia, and the Ukraine. With several of the countries that have joined the district in the past few years, there is a younger demographic and the overall demographics are changing. You can also notice the wonder and excitement of our new Toastmasters. You could see how excited the delegations from the different countries that applied to become part of D95 were, when they were accepted. History was being made for this countries and it is an exciting time (especially to see excitement and potential through the eyes of our new members and the feeling of renewal that they bring the longer-term members) to be in our district.

I’d like to say a big thank you and congratulations to everyone that helped to organize and pull off this wonderful conference! I now know what it feels like to host a district conference and although I didn’t play nearly the big role that many people did, I feel the pride in having hosted a district conference in "my own backyard". I’m excited for the cities that will be hosting the upcoming conferences. I’d also like to say that if your area gets to hold such a conference that you should do what you can to help out, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve really enjoyed these past few days and I look forward to seeing everyone in the coming months. To the Toastmasters out there that haven’t had the chance to experience the Toastmasters world outside of their club, I encourage you to give it a try, you’ll learn a lot and make some great friends along the way. See you next time, Happy Toastmastering!

Note: All of the pictures are from here. I took several pictures but many have red-eye that I’d like to remove before posting. Upper left picture is the English Humorous Contest winners, upper right picture is of the German Table Topics winners with the contest master, lower left picture is of the German Humorous Contest winners with the contest masters, and the lower right picture is with the contest master, the winners, and D59 Lt. Governor of Education and Training, Tuire Vuolasvirta. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

The 11th Annual International Project Management Day Is Here.

Did you attend or are you planning on attending the 2014 IIL International Project Management Day? This is the 11th annual event hosted by IIL.It is a great opportunity for Project Managers from around the world to get together virtually, network and learn. Yesterday was the opening day with live presentations, recorded presentations, and more, but the event is open through November 21st.

I received and email from E. Laverne Johnson (IIL Founder, President and CEO) yesterday where it was stated that their have been more than 75,000 registrants! This event provides some great opportunities to network with other Project Managers from around the world. In fact, there is a "Networking Lounge" and an "Exhibition Hall", providing the opportunity to network and learn about this year's event sponsors.

If you're a PM and you have one or more certifications from PMI then chances are that you're always looking for PDUs  (Professional Development Units) towards your recertification. Between the Keynotes (live yesterday and now replay available) and the recorded sessions, you have a chance to earn up to 12 PDUs. These are available through November 21st. You will probably want to check out the "How to Claim PDUs" and download "2014_Video_Presentation_Tracker" to record what sessions you've attended.

There are several sessions available to view. I watched Dr. Harald Kerzner's "Changing Times: Growth of Project Management 2.0".  I also noticed a Sustainability thread running through a few of of the presentations, with IIL opening up a Sustainability unit. Greg Balestero, Nathalie Udo, and Jennifer Tharp and presentations dealing with Sustainability. Greg and Nathalie wrote a book together about Sustainability and are very much involved in ILL's new Sustainability unit. Greg made the point that Sustainability was just about "tree huggers" anymore that successful companies that are forward thinking are beginning to see the importance, not only for the environment but that in the coming years it will become imperative for businesses to focus on sustainability to survive and thrive. Jennifer Tharp mentioned some recent disasters and how these were all projects at one time and we now need to plan many of these things into our projects and that as a PM you do have more influence in this area than you might think. You don't have to worry, not all of the presentations are focused on Sustainability, there is a wide range of interesting subject worth checking out.

I attended  the International Project Management Day last year for the first time, so I already had experience with an international virtual conference. I'm also interested in connecting with fellow Project Managers out there, feel free to connect with me in the various Social Spaces. You can find my various profiles here. I'd would appreciate something indicating some kind of context when you connect with me (or anyone else). So why not indicate that you attended the conference?

Many of the presentations are available for download in the "PowerPoint Slides" area that you can find by clicking on the "DIRECTORY" in the upper left-hand corner of the website, where they can be downloaded (this will vary depending upon which web browser you use). You'll also want to check out the documents in the "Briefcase" . This allows you to review the material provided later on.

I hope that you'll take advantage of this excellent opportunity to get up to 12 PDUs. You have two weeks, so that gives you a lot of opportunity to view the material available. Thank you to the IIL and the sponsors for organizing this event!

The Future is not yet written, Let's build it together!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Fall Day in Freiburg

October has had a lot of celebration because of 90th Anniversary of Toastmasters on October 22nd. This added a little something special to yesterday's District 95 Division F Fall Contest in lovely Freiburg, Germany. Toastmasters every where are holding division contests in preparation for all of the district conferences that are coming up. This was the last step for Division F (South West Germany) on the way to our district conference in November. Much like the autumn colors outside, there was a lot of color in all the contestants talent and delivery. There was also an excitement in the air as contestants participated in Humorous Speech Contests in German and English and Table Topics (improvisational speaking).

I was really impressed with the very enthusiastic group of Toastmasters in Freiburg who were our hosts. The club had it first meeting in with 4 people back in September 2013 and as of yesterday they have more than 20 members. It is quite an accomplishment to think that a little more than a year ago the club was only the idea of one person and he was able to spread his enthusiasm and excitement to get the club started and with so good support they charted and now were holding a division contest! They're a German speaking club and they told us that they're planning on starting and English speaking club, you just know that they will do this. Hats off to this Toastmaster club!

We were privileged to hear former District 95 Area Governor and now Regional Advisor to Region 11, Morag Mathieson tell us about her Toastmasters adventure. Morag told us about her travels as a Regional Advisor and about a woman she recently met in South Africa who was too scared to speak at her own club and who recently did her Ice Breaker and is now motivated to continue on the path to being a Competent Communicator. She also told us that in our own challenges that we needed three types of people. First, we need Catalysts who inspire us to get started. Second, we need Champions who are there with us along the way, who can advise us in how we can deal with the obstacles that will pop up along the way and can advise and coach us as needed. Lastly, we need Cheerleaders, people who encourage us to keep going when we need a little spirit lifting.

Personally, I was very excited about yesterday's event, because I was actually competing in a division contest for my first time and in two different events. This is not something that I really thought would happen when I gave my Ice Breaker a few years ago. I'm pleased with the opportunity that I've had to develop myself in my public speaking abilities, this is something that is unique to Toastmasters and I can't tell you how much this has meant to me. One of the things that I really enjoy about an event like yesterday is to see the level of talent that was competing and looking at what I can learn from everyone and I will learn.

Within the two Table Topics contests (in German and in English) there were two good questions asked. In the English Table Topics contest we were asked what we would do with one extra hour in a 25 hour day.  In the German Table Topics contest, they were told that Santa (or the Weihnachtsman) wasn't coming, what would they do. As a contestant I only heard two of the English answers (one being my own). In Table Topics you only have a short period of time to formulate your response and depending upon the question and the circumstances at the time, you might be able to put together a brilliant response, but more often than not we come away thinking that I could have said this and I should have said that, but that is human nature and it teaches us how to think our our feet. I liked the German question and the responses because I like the diversity of ways that people celebrate that holiday, knowing that it is celebrated differently from country to country and even region to region within the same country. I can tell you now, that when we do get that extra hour in our days, I'll be ready.

I needed to leave the contest yesterday before the winners were announced. I've just seen that Ben Parsons won the English Table Topics and Kailey Peng won the English Humorous Speech Contest.  Norman Gräter won the German Table Topics and German Humorous Speech Contest. Congratulations to them and all the other participants. I'm curious to find out how the other contestants finished. The Division F Contest seemed like a great way to end all the celebrations related to the 90th Anniversary of Toastmasters that have been happening this month.

To all the Toastmasters who are considering coming to Frankfurt for the first ever District 95 Conference November 14th to 16th, I do hope that you'll decide to attend (the website is here). I was told yesterday that they're expecting around 300 Toastmasters from around Europe. For anyone who is curious to check it out, why not visit an area club (you can search for clubs here) and maybe you can even check out contests and all the wonderful workshops in your first ever district conference, and if you're ever in Wiesbaden, I'd love to have you visit my club.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blog Action Day 2014: Inequality

This year’s Blog Action Day (BAD) theme is “Inequality” and thousands of bloggers and different organizations from around the world will be writing about it for the 7th annual Blog Action Day on October 16, 2014. Every year Blog Action Day raises awareness about a specific theme and it is always a learning experience for me and all of the participants.  This year is no different.

I’ve been taking part in Blog Action Day since the first one back in 2007 and I’m happy to continue this tradition. I read about the theme that was selected a few months ago and I was thinking about it when I recently gave a speech about the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “I have a dream” speech. I briefly thought about recording myself doing a version of that speech and making it part of my efforts for this year’s theme, but I decided to put that on the back burner for the moment so that I can do an article that is still timely and relevant.

What got me originally thinking about Dr. King’s famous speech was driving in my car one day with my family I heard part of this speech through our car’s speakers, but I was quickly surprised to hear that the speech had been put to dance music and was now a popular pop song in Germany (maybe other parts of Europe for that matter, but I can’t say at this moment). While I was listening to the song, I was thinking how cool is this that a big message from the 60’s was being picked up and taken by a new generation. I don’t know what will happen with this song and what the impact will be but the possibilities are endless, when you consider the inspirational and motivation aspects and what effect that they can have on people and incorporating this into a popular song has that much more possibility to spread the message.  One point of my speech was the torch of Dr. King and his message in the 60’s being picked up by another generation and made a new.

In his famous speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963 (now more that 51 years ago), Dr. King says I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.“ Doesn’t this speak to parents everywhere, we all want a better world for our children? Dr. King’s speech hits on civil rights, discrimination, and inequality. I think that if were giving the speech on Blog Action Day (October 16, 2014) he would probably mention the following things as well.

  • People are often treated unfairly because they’re older or younger
  • People are chastised because of who they love
  • Society today is a lot more polarized with people not willing to listen to other people with different beliefs
  • Religious toleration is at an all-time low
  • People are unwilling to consider new information that might conflict with their personal dogma
  • College education (and education in general) has become so expensive that it becomes more and more out of reach
  • Women and African Americans tend to earn a lot less for the same work as white males
  • Money has long be a divider, but today we’re living in the time of the 1%. Add to this the statistic that the world’s richest 85 people own as much as 3.5 billion people of the world’s poorest people was a big topic of conversation at Davos earlier this year (Richard Fuentes mentions this here)
  • He might even have a few other things to add
Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Advisor at Oxfam wrote an interesting article about inequality. He tells about a few years ago when he was promoting a book of his “From Poverty to Power” in the U.S. and he had to replace “redistribution” with “rebalancing”, because it had become so politically loaded in the U.S. Unfortunately, this is not the only word that has had its former meaning hijacked only to put images in people’s minds that will almost stop any positive discussion and turn it into a heated political discussion where many people will immediately tune you out. Sadly, there are many topics that we can hardly have a sane conversation about any more.

Mr. Green mentions that inequality should not just be equated with income (or money) but views it as “the division of the world into haves and have nots is at its root about power” and the gap between those that have it and those that don’t. He also suggested that we need to be better telling the story of inequality and where the fight has been and is being won. You can think about the abolition of slavery and women getting the right to vote. When we claim to profess and embrace Democracy in much of the world, then we should stop ignoring inequality and so much of the world’s population.

When I think about "Inequality" today, I realize that it means so much more than ability to vote, be hired for a job, eat in a restaurant, or to sit wherever you like on the bus. I encourage you to have a look around the Blog Action Day website, to look around the web to see what people are doing for Blog Action Day 2014, you can also look for #BAD2014, #Bad14, BlogAction14, #inequality, and Blog Action Day as hashtags and keywords. There are some good ideas of how you can participate at the Blog Action Day website, which also links to conversations that they’ve had with some of the sponsors of this year’s event (like Oxfam, All Together Now, and Global Voices).   


The Future is not yet written, Let's build it together!


Monday, September 15, 2014

PMI Virtual Professional Development Symposium 2014

If you're a Project Manager and a member of PMI (Project Management Institute) you might have received an email telling you about the PMI Information Systems "Virtual Professional Development Symposium 2014" which was held September 12, 2014. If you missed it, the sessions are available "On Demand" for the rest of the month. This is an excellent opportunity to get up to 6 PDUs (Professional Development Units) toward your recertification and there was some excellent information provided.

If you're not already registered for the event, you should be able to register for it here.

There are 6 sessions plus Opening Address (Welcome and Introduction from Marke A. Langley, President & CEO, PMI) and Closing Comments. The six sessions are:

  • Keynote Address:  Secrets of the Thoroughbred Leader...Are You One?
  • Session 1: Strategies for Project Sponsorship
  • Session 2: The Two Human Factors that Drive or Oppose Change
  • Session 3: Understanding Opportunities, Challenges and Strategies to Build Your Career in Project Management
  • Session 4:  How to Best Embrace Change as an IS Professional
  • Session 5: Identifying the strategic Value Drivers for Change, through value Stream mapping

I was able to watch the Opening, Keynote, and sessions 1, 3, and 4. I found all of them to be valuable. In the Keynote Dana Brownlee discusses how Project Managers as leaders tend to be Task or Relationship Focused, but it is the a third type, that she refers to as Thoroughbred leaders where we really want to be. Peter Taylor talked about the role of Project Sponsors and why it is so important for organizations to provide the proper training and support to Project Sponsors. Ricardo Vargas gave a really practical and inspiring session on developing your career as a Project Manager, he organized his presentation with practical recommendations for "Beginning My Career", "Career Transition", and "Expanding Horizons". Dr. Ginger Levin shared what she has learned about embracing change as an IS Professional, and she has been involved in some very interesting project in her long and storied career. I plan to check out the other two session before the On Demand period is over.

I attended  the International Project Management Day last November for the first time, so I already had experience with an international virtual conference. There were some good possibilities to network while the event was live. There was a running chat during each session where people could make comments and ask questions. It was interesting to see where everybody was from. I hope that other PMI groups will get a chance to do something like this again. Everyone of the speakers from the sessions I've attended so far encouraged attendees to connect with them, which I've already done with some of the presenters. I'm also intetested in connecting with fellow Project Managers out there, feel free to connect with me in the various Social Spaces. You can find my various profiles here. I'd would appreciate something indicating some kind of context when you connect with me (or anyone else). So why not indicate that you attended the conference?

One thing that I really appreciate is that all of the presentations were made available for download in the "Resources" tab at the website. They can be saved to your "Briefcase" and downloaded from there (this will vary depending upon which web browser you use). This allows you to review the material provided later on.

I hope that you'll take advance of this excellent opportunity to get up to 6 PDUs. I also hope that you'll attend the 2014 International Project Management Day being held on November 6th and maybe we'l run into each other there. Thank you to the PMI Information Systems for organizing this event!

The Future is not yet written, Let's build it together!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Darryl Heron's 2013-14 Presidential Farewell Speech for Toastmasters

Changing of the Presidents (Darryl 2013-14 Club President & Patrizia 2014-15 Club President)

On June 25th, Word Weavers, my Toastmaster club held out Induction Ceremony, where the 2013-14 Officers handed over the reins to the 2014-15 Officers.  What follows is the speech that I wrote and delivered as I ended my term as club president.


Darryl’s 2013-14 Presidential Farewell Address

My fellow Word Weavers, we come here tonight to end an era and to start a new one. We come here to say thank you to the officers who served us proudly in the 2013-14 Toastmaster year and to welcome those that will be leading and serving us in the 2014-15 year.

I started my presidency with an inaugural address and I’m ending it with a farewell address. I’m a student of history (as well we all should be) Mark Twain has said that while history doesn’t repeat that it does sometimes rhyme and we should take the time to learn the lessons that we can from the past. There have been some famous farewell addresses through the years and we can indeed learn a lot from the giants of human history as well as the many unknown and unrecognizable people.

As many of you know, I lost my job in October, and through my self-discovery and job searching, I’ve been able to be the President of Word Weavers, even when a big part of my life was in chaos, this was certain and gave me dignity and the ability to lift my head and carry on with a purpose.  Thank you, everyone for placing your trust in me and giving me this opportunity.

I’ve learned a lot this past year, as I have since joining Word Weavers and Toastmasters.  I’d like to say thank you to all of the officers and of you, I can’t take credit for this past year, I’d like to share it with all of you.  I’m happy that we have a beamer that the club can continue to use for years to come (even if we still need to work out the screen problem). I’m excited to have great flyers that we can use to promote the club. A great big thank you to Karin and her husband for all their work on this! I’m also proud that club is Select Distinguished for the 2013-14 Toastmaster year.  While I wanted to be President’s Distinguished for the third year in a row, being Select Distinguished is the 2nd highest honor that we can achieve from Toastmasters and there are lots of clubs that don’t achieve this honor and it means that a lot of members achieved educational awards this year (like Carsten and his Competent Communicator, not to mention Ron and Regina both getting their DTMs this year).  In fact, the club was recognized by the district for achieving the most educational awards in our division for the first 6 months of this Toastmaster year! In life, we sometimes we fall short of our goals, but if we didn’t have goals we would achieve very little. Now, Patrizia and the other officers won’t be pressured to 4 peat and will be able to determine what they want to achieve.

2013-14 Officers
I’d like to call up Patrizia to help me recognize all of the officers from the 2013-14 TM year.
Served as our Sargent at Arms for half the year before her non TM life called her away.  In this time she led the search for a new meeting location that brought us here.  For this I cannot fully express my gratitude.
Thank you for taking over as Sergeant at Arms, it isn’t easy to take over a role that someone else has started or learning about the role half way into it.
She has served as Secretary for two years. She has also done a lot of work with organizing and running our club contests for the past two years.

The club depends on you and can count on you to fulfil the treasurer role. You submit everything in a timely fashion and were a key part of us being Select Distinguished this year.

Karin really helped to take the officer goal of having new flyers and made it a reality. 

You joined our club about this time last year and you’ve brought all your TM knowledge to the club. I’ve really appreciated being able to pick your brain for ideas this past year. You’ve inspired me to know that our club can achieve so much more and we can have fun while we do it.

Thank you for serving as our Immediate Past President. After serving a term as president, I realize how much work you put in when you were president, so thank you for that and for offering me your consul this past year.

I really appreciate the enthusiasm that you brought to the officers group. I fondly remember when you and I were at the American Information Evening at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt. We talked quite a bit when you were president 
Everyone, can I get a big hand for the 2013-14 Club officers!  To all of you and to all of you, I thank you for helping to make this an unforgettable year.

George Schultz, the creator of Peanuts said, “Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos

Gilda Radner said, “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next

Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.

I’d like all of the 2014-15 Officers to come up here. I hope that you’ll all support the officers and help them to achieve the goals that they will seek. I’d also like you all to seriously consider being an officer in the future, when you’re asked or you can even volunteer.  It is an indescribably rewarding experience.  We get out of Toastmasters what we put into it, so I challenge you all to put your hearts into it, you won’t be disappointed.

Helen Rowland said that, “A man never knows how to say goodbye; a woman never knows when to say it.

That being said…Dale Evans said, “Some trails are happy ones,
Others are blue. It’s the way you ride the trail that counts…Happy Trails to you, until we meet again.“

Everyone, please welcome the 2014-15 President of Word Weavers, Patrizia!


I’ve been very honored to have been able to serve as the President of Word Weavers this past year.  I would encourage others out there to think about being officers in your Toastmasters clubs and other organizations.  The world is in need of good leaders, this is an excellent opportunity to practice and learn leadership.  

Note:  All of the quotes listed above were found at Quote Garden.

Picture credit:  The picture above can be found at the Word Weaver Flickr group.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Challenging the Dragon- The Krakow Report

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the District 59 2014 Spring Conference in Krakow, Poland.  I know that it is a cliché but you really had to be there to really get the full experience, that being said I thought that I’d capture some of my experience while it is still fresh in my mind.  This year’s conference had a little bit of everything.

2011 World Champion of Public Speaking Joch Elliot

It was amazing having the 2011 World Champion of Public Speaking, Joch Elliot at our conference. He gave a very dynamic Keynote speech, workshop, and even did a target speech. He took us on his 14 year journey to become the World Champion of Public Speaking.  In his Sunday morning workshop, he dissected his winning speech and explained the Rhetoric devices he used, what an experience! He said a few things that stuck with me including, only one person takes home the trophy, but they will remember your message. He also told us of his dream to win three different districts and to finish first, second, and third, what a one-man show that would be.

The International Speech Contest was incredible. Division F was well represented by our own Rudy Morales and his Diamond Notes speech. It was nice to see Rudy make the finals. Rudy told me on Sunday that someone had told him that like Joch Elliot had said, he might not have won but everyone knows Rachel (the little girl that had taught him so much)! All the finalist speeches were memorable and the winner told us about a special marathon he participated in where he learned what it meant to be a winner. Olivia Schofield was on fire as the contest chair. Given the level of the speeches I saw at the district conference, I can only imagine how great they’ll be at the International Convention.

This was a very historic conference, as it was the last one for an integrated Continental Europe and the birth of District 95 (Northeast Europe). At the DCM (District Conference Meeting) on Saturday, We started out as D59, with officer elections and we later split into separate DCMs for D59 and D95, with D95 meeting for the first time.  Everyone was very excited to see the banner for D95 unveiled.  After being in Toastmasters for a few years, I know (or know of) more and more of the people playing their parts. Ron Joseph (from my own club) was elected as Division F Governor and another person I know from my club was elected as an area governor. Kees Broos, who I’d first got to know as a Division F Governor, was elected the first ever District Governor to D95. At the DCM we saw a presentation for the 2014 D95 Fall Conference being put on in Frankfurt. The organizing committee did a good job and people are looking forward to the first ever D95 Conference.

This year at the gala dinner, not only did we have the finals for the International Speech Contest but there were a lot of awards presented. Several of the past D59 Governors were recognized. There were twenty some DTMs (Distinguished Toastmaster, one of the highest awards that a Toastmaster can achieve) recognized including someone from my club.

I’ve heard that there is a lot of pageantry at the International Convention, but we had plenty of pageantry. There was a parade of all the flags represented in D59 from the back of the building up to the main stage and later on all the flags were hung from the ceiling, it was very impressive looking on the hanging flags from my table.

Maija and Dirk at the Gala Dinner

There was even a little romance. After the Finals of the International Speech Contest were rapping up, we were told that there was surprise.  Dirk Löffelbein, took the stage and after hearing him talk for a couple of minutes I knew that he was going to propose!  He walked from the stage to the table that girlfriend was sitting at and got to one knee to ask her to marry him. She was quite surprised and started to say what a great guy he was and then I heard her say “however” and I about choked.  However is not a word that you want to hear when you propose. Maija Kadlecova did eventually say yes, but everyone (especially Dirk) was hanging on her every word. What a memorable proposal! I wish the couple all the best, and now all future district conferences will have an additional place in their hearts.

One of the reasons that I like going to the district conference is that it usually gives me a chance to do some interviews for the Toastmasters Podcast Europe and this conference gave me the chance to do a few interviews that will be turned into episodes in the coming weeks.  I had the pleasure to interview Joch Elliot. He is the second World Champion of Public Speaking that I’ve been able to interview and the 3rd for the podcast. I interviewed a team from Romania that are largely responsible for Romania’s success in being able to join D95 (officially accepted into D95 on Saturday). They told me about the Romanian story and had advice for other countries looking to join Toastmasters. I’m not going to divulge all of my interviews but please stay tuned and find out.

I took a lot of pictures that I’m still sorting through at the moment. I’ll be posting them as I get the chance at my club’s Flickr group. I took several pictures of banners which I’ll post the Our Toastmaster Banners group pinboard as I get the chance.  You can read more about the pinboard here.
There were some wonderful workshop scheduled. Florian Mück as the contest chair for the English Evaluation Contest had a Hogwart’s theme to the contest I heard mentioned during the awards ceremony at the Gala dinner, it sounded like it must have been interesting
With so much going on during the conference, I didn’t have much time to see Krakow, during the conference, fortunately, I did get to do a little sight-seeing in Krakow, but I’ll write about that in a another time.

I really enjoyed the conference and would like to thank the organizers and everyone responsible for making it a success.  I believe that if you only ever go to your club’s meetings that you’re missing out on a key Toastmasters experience.  District conferences (and other inter club events) are a great place to meet with other Toastmasters.  I won’t be able to make it to the International Conference being held in Kuala Lumpur August 20-23 but I’m sure that if you get the chance to go it should be quite memorable. I’m looking forward to the conference in Frankfurt, I hope to see you there.  

Photo Credit: The picture of Maija and Dirk was shared on Facebook. The other pictures shown were taken by me and appear in by club's Flickr Group.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rhetorik Wiesbaden And Word Weavers Are Holding An Open House

Rhetorik of Wiesbaden and Word Weavers- Toastmasters of Wiesbaden are holding an Open House on April 30th and you're cordially invited. The purpose of the evening is it introduce Toastmasters to people interested in finding out more about it in Wiesbaden. This is a first for the Wiesbaden Area as the Open House will be bilingual (conducted in German and English).

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization focusing on the development of members' communication and leadership skills.  Toastmasters started in 1924 and has grown to over 290,000  members and 14,000 clubs around the world. This year is Toastmasters 90th Anniversary and it is expected that it will surpass 300,000 members globally.  At Toastmasters International, the club and its members are the focus. Clubs around the world meet in a variety of locations and times. At most club meetings there are prepared speeches, impromptu (speaking off the cuff), as well as evaluations of the speeches and various other aspects of the evening.  Toastmaster members start working on a series of speech projects within the Competent Communication manual (often referred to as the basic manual) that focus on different things like organizing your speech, vocal variety, body language, using visual aids, and so on. In survey after survey it is revealed that most people are terrified of public speaking.  Toastmasters gives members a chance to work on their public speaking in a safe and friendly environment. After completing the Competent Communication manual, members can start doing other specialty manuals with a wide variety of projects available.

Toastmasters also runs two different sets of speech contests. The International Speech Contest is held yearly in the Spring and the finals are held at the Toastmasters International Convention, it is really something to make it to this level of competition, as you can imagine. I highly recommend that you do a search on YouTube to see some of these contest winners.  In the Fall, there is a Humorous Speech Contest, but this ends at the District level, so there is not a global final for this contest. In addition to the International Speech Contest and the Humorous Speech Contest, there are also contests for Speech Evaluations as Table Topics (impromptu speaking). There will be a District Conference 59 (Continental Europe) in Krakow, Poland on May 16-18, and the winners from there will get to compete in the International Conference being held in Kuala Lumpur August 20-23.

Rhetorik of Wiesbaden and Word Weavers- Toastmasters of Wiesbaden are holding this Open House together, so you'll get the chance to get a taste of a meeting of both clubs at the same time.  Since it is being held in German and in English, you can experience Toastmasters in both languages.  Rhetorik of Wiesbaden conducts their meetings in German, while Word Weavers conducts their meetings in English.  Word Weavers has had several members that wanted a chance to use and improve their English and Rhetorik members see this as an excellent opportunity to train their rhetoric skills. At both clubs you'll find a supportive environment where you can work on developing your communication skills. In the few years I've been a member of Toastmasters, I've been amazed to see the personal growth of members as they go from speech to speech. You can see the confidence building and the skills developing and I never get tired of this aspect.

Toastmaster meetings are a good place to meet and network with new people outside of your work. I really enjoy meeting all the people at Toastmaster events, the people are always interesting and friendly.  Since there are so many different speech projects that members can do, you get to learn about a lot of things at a typical meeting and really no two meetings are the same because of this.

The Open House is being held at:

SEIBERT/MEDIA (5th floor)
Kirchgasse 6/LuisenForum
65185 Wiesbaden

Members from both clubs will be available for questions at 7:00 PM and the meeting will start at 7:30 PM

You can get more information at:

Rhetorik Wiesbaden: Website Facebook:

Word Weavers- Toastmasters of Wiesbaden: Website:

I've had the pleasure of serving as the President of Word Weavers for the 2013-14 Toastmaster year and I'm very excited about this unique event and hope that you'll take this opportunity to meet members from Word Weavers and Rhetorik. I'm looking forward to meeting you at the Open House, it should be a lot of fun!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 2014 Division F Spring Contest Was Incredible


The Toastmasters 2014 Spring Contest Season is open now and running nearly at full speed.  Most clubs and areas have had the contests and now the divisions are determining who they’ll send to the District competitions. April 5th was the District 59 Division F Contest and it was incredible. 

Division F (Southeast Germany) is made up of five areas and they were all represented at the contest. There were people from Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Darmstadt, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, all assembled in Mannheim for the contest.  I mentioned in my article about the F3/F4 Area Spring Contest, that I really like the cultural diversity of living in Europe. We had contests in French, German, and English yesterday.

Division F Governor- Regina Kroemer kicked off the contest by mentioning that winners of the contest would be eligible to compete in the District 59 Spring Conference in Krakow (May 16-18, 2014) and the winners from the district would be eligible to compete at the Toastmasters International Convention being held in August in Kuala Lumpar. She also mentioned that Division F would become part of the new District 95 but that we’d still be Division F, where we “Focus and have Fun”.  District 59 Public Relations Officer- Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti delivered and opening greeting via video. While there is nothing like being there in person, it was nice that we were still able to have a district office be part of our contest. Ruxandra was also the French Target Speaker.

While there is always wonderful things going on at Toastmasters and the different clubs, the two contest seasons really give Toastmasters a chance to shine and to show all the skills that they’ve developed.  It is also an opportunity to learn a lot from some great speakers.  In addition to the messaged that mentioned in the F3/F4 Area Contest (since some the winners there advanced to the Division F Contest) here are 3 new messages that I picked up:

·         You need to have special talents or tools to help others and save lives
·         What if we could turn our weaknesses into our strengths
·         Teachers are all around us (often in unusual people), are you learning the lessons their offering

I was really excited to see Rudy Morales put all his Toastmasters years to work in his speech. In fact I first met Rudy at the Division F Spring Contest in 2012, when he evaluated the target speech that I gave that day. Another aspect of Toastmasters that I really love is watching people grow and develop.  You see time and again that people will start out wanting to improve their public speaking and not only do they become better speakers but they also become leaders and better people.

Until you’ve taken part in a contest or watched one, you don’t know all the work that goes into running a contest.  There needs to be the contest chair for all the contests, which can be challenging with contests being held in three different languages.  There is also a large number of judges needed (including tie breakers) and this can be challenging due to all the languages represented in the contests being held.  The timers play a very important role, watching the time of each speech and evaluation and recording the final time.  A lot of contestants are disqualified because they go over the time limits. There are various other roles as well, but at whatever contest, people are needed in order that a contest can be held. Even if you don’t participate as a contestant, you’re help would be welcome at most any contest and the contests are usually a lot of fun, so it is time well spent.

After two contest weekends, I’m getting excited about the District 59 Spring Conference in Krakow.  If you can find the time to attend, I’m sure that you’ll have a blast.  Since District 95 will be starting after the conference, this will be the last chance to meet so many Toastmasters from all over Continental Europe. I hope to see you there.   

Note: The picture above was taken at the contest before it officially opened and gives you an idea of all the hustle and bustle it is in my club's Flickr group. You can see more pictures from the contest there if you're interested.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The 2014 F3/F4 Spring Contest Was Amazing


The Toastmasters 2014 Spring Contest Season is open now and running nearly at full speed.  Most clubs have had the contests and the area contests are under way. March 29th we had the District 59 Area F3/F4 Contest and what a day it was.

If you’re a Toastmaster and haven’t been to any of the contests outside of your club, well you’re really missing out.  If you haven’t been to one in a while, it is time to check them out again.  Areas F3 and F4 decided to run joint contest so that less people are needed to run the contests and this has been a wonderful idea, one that I would recommend to other areas that might be struggling to get the enough support staff on boar. It has also meant that people can see more great speeches and evaluations, than if the contests were limited to just one area. The impact is just that much more impressive.

One of the reasons that I love living in Europe is the cultural diversity.  On Saturday there were contests held in French and German, in addition to English.  One of the contestants participated in 6 different contests (English, French, and German), for those of us with command of one language this is quite a feat!  There was another contestant that did all of the English and French contests, and a few contestants did English and German contests.  At the area contest level, the quality of speeches is a notch above what you’d expect from the club contests, but there really wasn’t a bad speech in the bunch.

I like the Evaluation Contests because you get to hear a great target speech and then see what advice the contestants have for the target speaker that would make their speech that much better. The English target speech was called “Why Men Don’t Listen And Women Can’t Read Maps”, so as you might expect it was about relationships, a topic that most of us can relate to. The German Target Speaker was not a Toastmaster, so while his speech might not have conformed to the expectations of the audience, the speech was about something that everyone could relate to and that was trying make sense of the things that we have to do in our lives today and applying the idea of doing one third less things to be one third better. For most of us our “To Do” list is getting too big and complicated, it would make sense for us to have a “To Not Do” list. Even with the speaker not being a Toastmaster, the contestants were still able to apply Toastmaster style evaluations, showing where the speech was strong, where the speech could be improved, and summarizing their recommendations.

It was nearly impossible to have attended the contest on Saturday and not be awed, inspired, and changed for the better.  There were so many great themes and messages and I thought that I’d share a few of them.

  • Trust is at an all time low in our society- and why should people trust us
  • There are a lot of ordinary people doing wonderful things, being modern day heroes- don’t we all want be heroes like this and doesn’t the world need more people being modern heroes 
  • Legendary UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden would rather have outstanding teams than teams with outstanding players that don’t perform well as a team 
  • Do we deal inspiration or are we users of inspiration 
  • What do we want to accomplish in our lives (especially for those of us that are already parents)
  • We are enough- we need to transport this message to our kids so they live it
  • We’re too quick to judge ourselves and declare ourselves failures, in the long run many of these failures really aren’t failures but a way of changing our direction
  • We shouldn’t play with our smart phones when we should be present. Pay attention to the people you’re with, when you’re with them
  • Music is a mood changer and can really inspire you
  • Communication makes the world go round, we need to speak the same language to each other and make sure we have the same understanding of the words used (don’t assume)

On a personal note, at my club contest I was talked into competing in the English Evaluation Contest for the first time, so I’m honored that I placed 3rd in the F3 competition.  I’ve entered various speech competitions in the past, but this was the first time that I tried the speech evaluation contest, so now I’ll be watching the evaluation contests with a different perspective.

On April 5th, the Division F Contest is being held in Mannheim, Germany. Not only the winners from F3 and F4 will be there, but areas F1, F2, and F5 will be competing there as well. Contestants will be competing in French, German, and English contests. Given the level of competition at the F3/F4, I’m excited to think about the quality of the speeches and evaluations that I’ll see in Mannheim. Considering all the great messages I picked up on March 29th, I can’t even imagine what messages I’ll take away.  This is a rare opportunity to see some of the best speakers in Southeast Germany. I challenge you to attend and not leave a changed person. If at all possible, the division contests are worth checking out and I hope to see you in Mannheim.

Note:  The picture above is of some of my fellow club members and me taken at the F3/F4 Area Contest.  I've posted several pictures from the contest at our club's Flickr group.