Spring Conference–Another Name for a Toastmaster Holiday

Twice a year, each District in Toastmasters International puts on a conference, which serve to add value to members whose normal experience of Toastmasters is usually confined to what they experience in their clubs.

Here’s an example of 5 activities that we did in the Spring Conference held today, Saturday, April 26th, in District 30, which consists of the Chicagoland area.

1.   Opening Ceremonies

The opening ceremonies, after the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and an inspirational thought to put our minds in the right framework for the Conference, consisted of a Banner Parade.    All clubs compete in the Distinguished Club Program which consists of 10 goals for a club to achieve, some educational, some related to membership retention, some to leadership training by the club officers, and some related to compliance with basic record keeping in the club’s relationship to the parent organization of Toastmasters International.

  • If you get 5 points out of 10, you get the designation of being a Distinguished Club
  • If you get 7 points out of 10, you get the designation of being a Select Distinguished Club
  • If you get 9 points out of 10, you get the designation of being a President’s Distinguished Club

If you get any of these designations, you got to be in the Banner Parade, which meant that those clubs that achieved 10 points (which included our club!) got to file up the red carpet to the front of the stage, where they received the award for that designation.    Then all the 9-point clubs went, followed by the 8-, 7-, 6-, and 5-point clubs.   This is a way for a club to get recognition from the entire district for its achievement, and for those members in the club to get recognition for having been a part of that club’s success story for the previous year.

2.  Keynote Speaker

Every conference, they get a speaker who inspires the District membership to become better speakers.   Amazingly, our District has been able to get World Champions of public speaking from previous years, the result of their having won the International Speech Contest for that year.    But this Conference, it went beyond a speech by a World Champion:   we got Patricia Fripp, who is a trainer of World Champions!    She gave us the same pointers she gives those who are going straight to the top of the competition, in the hopes that we will, wherever we are along the Toastmasters pathway of educational and leadership achievement, up our game from “good” to “great”.    She was  entertaining, educational, and inspirational by turns, and you can see why her public speaking course available at http://www.fripp.com, is in such high demand.

3.  Business Meeting

The District leadership meets once every month, but twice a year, there is a special meeting that is held at a Conference, and the main business at the Spring Conference is the election of new officers for the district and division.    Our club was fortunate to have a member who was elected to the District leadership, and I hope it will be inspirational for those in our club (like me) who also harbor aspirations of one day being elected to that same District leadership.     I look forward to following in her footsteps a few years down the line, after I become Area Governor next year and Division Governor at some point after that.

4.   International Speech Contest

The Table Topics Speech Contest was at the conference yesterday, but today’s Speech Contest was the International Speech Contest, the one that goes all the way up to the World Conference held in August of this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.    As an Assistant Area Governor, I helped put on the Club, Area, and Division Contests in February, March, and April, respectively.   Now the 8 contestants from the various Divisions all competed together in the District Speech Contest.    Our Division competitor did a great job, but so did the competitors from all the other Divisions.   In the end, a guy named Conor Cunneen who originally came from Ireland, won the competition with his speech “Mr. Brown’s Question” about life lessons he learned from his Irish childhood.    He will be heading to Kuala Lumpur in August, all expenses paid for by the District!     The 8 speeches were so diverse, and of such high quality, that it was the entertainment value of the year to be moved by one after another of such great examples of oratory and storytelling!

5.  Awards Banquet

In the evening, those clubs and members who won awards in various contests put on by the District were give those awards in a ceremony had at the evening banquet.    My favorite part of this was at the end, where each person who achieves the highest level of individual achievement at the club level, the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award, was greeted by a line of every single DTM in the entire district.     It was a “welcome to our Distinguished club” award, and the handshakes and hugs shared by the various previous winners of that designation were welcomed by the newest recipients of the award.

This day of celebration of the art of public speaking was something that inspired me, as it usually does, to become a better public speaker and to spend more time helping others in our club and area to do so.    Tomorrow I will give a post on the contents of the keynote speaker’s presentations, but just let me conclude with the note that a Spring Conference feels more like a “Toastmaster holiday” than a Conference, and that’s because it celebrates something that I have developed a passion for doing, and when that’s the case, it feels like play, and not work.    So next time there is a conference for Toastmasters, don’t hesitate, but rather join the fun!


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