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.