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. 
blog comments powered by Disqus