Two weeks ago I attended the Toastmasters District 59 Conference, “Springtime at the Beach”, in The Hague. This was the first time I attended such a conference, and I was impressed at the level of the speakers and the organization of the conference itself.
Being an Area Governor, for me the event lasted two days and half, starting on Friday June 4th afternoon with an executive committee meeting, following with the start of the conference, later the evaluation contest and a party with divisions showcase. That wasn’t a slow start.
On Saturday we had some workshops, the elections of new officers and the international speech contest. The way the conference, workshops and elections are held reminded me very much of my time at AEGEE and how there the Agorae were held; even some of the topics covered are similar, the way sometimes the focus is put on the procedure and not on listening at length to what the candidates plan to do if elected, etc…
On Sunday we had more workshops and the training for the new district officers (namely Division and Area Governors).
International Speech Contest. This is the main attraction of the event. We could say that we paid the 135€ fee of it to attend this contest. We had 10 speeches, one representing each division. As I wrote above, the level was very high. I couldn’t see a clear winner; a prove of that is that only one of my 3 favourites came among the 3 first ones. The winner, Na Elom Amouh, told us about his journey from Togo to Munich and how we should never give up in the pursuit of our dreams. A motivational speech. In general, most speeches in these competitions tend to call the audience for noble purposes, inspire good behaviours, etc. I must admit that some of those speeches do get to move you.
Evaluation Contest. Here, the participants had to evaluate a very good speech from former District Gov Christopher Magyar. This is not an easy task, as it is always more difficult to find points of improvement. Even though in this contest the level was very high as well, with very analytical and encouraging evaluations, this time my 3 favourites came in the first 3 positions, the winner being Tara Majumdar.
Miscellanea. There are many small details, side happenings, different situations that contribute to enlarge the baggage the one takes from the conference.
- The landscape surrounding the conference letting members to relax.
- The music being played in the plenary sessions, especially the banners parade bringing up the spirits of all attendees.
- The chance to have meals in the terrace.
- The wonderful garden for the gala party and the party at the beach.
- The attentive organisers… the continuous availability of stroop waffles, coffees, etc.
- The counting of votes behind the scenes… when each one is coming up with a different number!
- The entertaining way in which chairs conducted the contests.
- The experience of tweeting the event (from @TM_Madrid and @javierirastorza)…
Learning experience. Overall, the conference is an intense learning experience. You learn how others organise officers’ trainings, set up clubs, give recognition to members, set up workshops, and use different techniques and skills in public speaking… To end this post I wanted to remark two workshops that I attended and especially liked:
- Pecha Kucha: this is a presentation technique originally from Japan that consists of preparing a presentation that consists of 20 slides, each one lasting 20 seconds and that will run automatically. You, the presenter, can’t stop it so you need to time yourself to precisely convey your different messages when each slide is being shown. It was very dynamic and I think it’s a nice challenge to try it one day. Check out the calendar of Pecha Kucha nights in different cities around the World.
- Youth Leadership Program: this is Toastmasters program for youngsters. A couple of Toastmasters explained how they have carried it in a school with teenagers. From what I saw, it must be a very rewarding experience, a way to give back something to society and at the same time a way to help young students improve their skills. This is also another challenge I might try one day.
Next District conference… in Barcelona; I’ve already booked my place there!