Fun at the Founder’s District Conference

Today I went to the Founder’s District 2012 Fall Conference for Toastmasters International. I thought I would recount a bit of what went on so as to give non-Toastmasters and Toastmasters who have never gone to such a conference a taste of what the fun is all about.

1. Registration—time to network! (8:00 AM-8:45)

The first part of any Toastmasters Conference is the opening registration, where people get their conference programs, pick their seat in the conference meeting hall, and network with other Toastmasters.

I once heard someone say they didn’t go to District Conferences because they were afraid it would be too “cliquish”, in other words, that they wouldn’t feel welcome. I can attest to the fact as a former introvert that this is simply not true, at least for the Founder’s District. There are some extroverted people in Toastmasters with whom it is easy to establish a rapport. The introverted ones may take a second or third meeting before they feel comfortable about approaching you in the future. But as far as you approaching them is concerned, I have never felt like I was being given the “brush off” whenever I went up to a Toastmaster and introduced myself.

2. Welcome and Humorous Speech Contest—time to laugh! (8:45-10:30)

Victoria Dotson, the Founder’s District Governor, opened the meeting and quickly gave the meeting over to Carolyn Bramlett, who was the Contest Master in charge of the Humorous Speech Speech.

There were 8 contestants, one each from the 8 Divisions in the Founder’s District. I was rooting for those in the Divisions of my clubs (C and D), of course, but listened attentively to all 8. One part of me was laughing at the funny and touching parts of each of the speeches, but I had an “evaluator” track going in my mind at the same time, trying to give my own private “ranking” of who I thought did the best job. But I learned something about technique from every single speaker.

3. Business Meeting—time to be serious! (10:30-11:30)

After the speech contest, there was a business meeting in which the past Conference meeting minutes were approved, various Divisions reported how things went in 2012, and there was a call for new business. There was none, so we skipped to the real important business of … lunch!

4. Contest Winners, Keynote Speaker, Club and Member awards—time for inspiration! (11:30-1:45)

During lunch, the contest winners were announced:

  1. Daniel Midson-Short, who did a speech on myths about Australia
  2. Charlie Cheatham, Jr., who did a speech on his imagined sports heroism
  3. Aneeza Haleem, who did a speech on being liberated from women’s liberation

I ended up in my own mind picking two of the same winners that the Judge’s picked. The approached the one person whose speech I thought should have won but didn’t how much I appreciated his speech and his effort.

Then Roberta Perry, the immediate past International Director for Region 10, gave a speech on experimental leadership. The message of her speech is that you need to create an environment in which people whom you lead feel okay with taking risks and trying new things.

Finally, those clubs and members who had achieved great things in the past year were recognized. It was so inspiring to see the 11 people who achieved the highest honor of the Toastmasters International educational and leadership tracks, the Distinguished Toastmaster award. I kept thinking “that’s going to be me in some day!”

5. Workshops—time for learning! (2:00-4:00)

There were two workshops being put on, and I chose to go to the one put on by Craig Kausen, grandson of Chuck Jones, the legendary creator/animator of such cartoon characters as Bug Bunny, Pepe le Pew, and Wyle E. Coyote. His topic was “Creative Inspiration”, and he told the story of his life and that of his grandfather in the first half, to show the creative wellspring that runs in his family. In the second half, he discussed the nature of creativity and his involvement with the Creativity Center, a non-profit education organization located in Costa Mesa whose vision is to inspire the creative genius in each and every one of us.

I ended up talking with a fellow club member who saw the same presentation, and we spent a half hour thinking of creative things we can do to improve our club!

So, between the networking, awards, contests, accolades and workshops, I had a wonderful time and will be on a “Toastmasters high” for the next weeks. For those of you Toastmasters who have never been to a District Conference, I urge you go because your mind will gain a larger vision of the future than you had going in!


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