The Last Toastmasters District Conference


Toastmasters International has decided that many of the newer struggling districts around the world have trouble putting on two conferences a year, so they have said that starting in 2018, districts will put on only one conference a year in the Spring.   So that meant that the Fall Conference I went to today for District 103 is going to be the last one I ever go to!

The reason why this conference was special was not just because it was the last one.  Some notable events happened:

  • Mike Rafferty, Past International Director and former Regional Advisor, announced that the new Toastmasters educational program called Pathways will be rolled out in our District in February of next year.   That’s only about three and a half months away!    He was recruiting Ambassadors and Guides for the new program and I volunteered to be both.
  • Don Williams, our Club Growth Director, said in terms of adding new clubs, we are on track for becoming a President’s Distinguished District.   As the Club Retention Chair, a position that is essentially that of being an assistant to the Club Growth Director responsible for getting club coaches for struggling clubs, I hope to help out District become a President’s Distinguished District by making sure that clubs that are struggling stay above water in the 2017-2018.   In this way, there are least no more additional clubs required to make up for ones that close.
  • The announcement was made that the International Conference will be held from August 22-25, 2018–right here in Chicago!   That’s another reason for working hard to become a President’s Distinguished District–because our district will then receive an award on the world stage!
  • Jeff Stein, a Toastmasters acquaintance from the Windy City Professional Speakers Club (now in District 30) introduced me to Stephanie Kowalyk, the Club Retention Chair from District 30.   District 103, representing downtown Chicago and the South Suburbs, was split off from District 30, which now represents only the North Suburbs.   She and I realized we were in parallel positions in the District leadership in our respective districts, so we had a long talk about challenges we both faced.  We realized it would be a good idea to collaborate for that very reason.

I’m so glad I went to the conference, which was a lot more intimate that last year’s Fall Conference mainly because it was half the size.   After all, District 30 and District 103 were split last year, District 30 getting five out of the previous nine divisions and District 103 getting the remaining nine.   Being smaller has its advantages, not just because those who competing in contests have a greater chance, but because organizing on a district-wide basis is also a lot easier with four divisions rather than nine to worry about.   Although many grumbled about the split, it certainly was in retrospect a good idea!   Now with only a Spring Conference to worry about in the future, life will get even simpler in the District.

However, I will miss Fall Conferences because they were a part of the Toastmasters seasons of the year.   They were the finale of the first six months of the Toastmasters year, to be followed by the Winter Toastmasters Leadership Institute in December getting ready for the final six months.   I will miss the fun and fellowship–as I remarked to a fellow conference goer, the Fall Conference felt like a trip to the Toastmasters version of Disneyland!

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