What I Did on My Holidays
A special blog by Chris about the 2014 Toastmasters International Convention in Kuala Lumpur, & his participation as one of the finalists
The Toastmasters International Convention. You may be wondering what it’s all about. A few weeks ago I joined around 3000 other dedicated and intrepid toastmasters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 2014 Convention. This was the first time the event has been held outside of North America and with the burgeoning popularity of Toastmasters in Asia, I was one of almost 1500 people who had never been to a conference before.
So what happens at one of these? This is the organisation’s annual event that features elections of international board members, the annual business meeting (just like our AGM but with a few more people and a bigger budget), educational workshops from professional speakers and leaders and of course the semi-finals and final of the International Speech Contest. A few of my highlights:
Because I was a tad distracted early on I only saw two of the workshops – World Champion Mark Brown talking about influence, and World Finalist Rory Vaden with his signature ‘Take the Stairs’ message about doing what you need to do (even when you don’t want to do it). Both are full-time professional speakers and both were incredible. My wife saw Doug Kruger and said he was amazing. We were also treated to an opening keynote speech by Scottish born author and speaker Robin Sieger. It’s rare to have so many speakers of this calibre in one place and they all had something to offer.
Also with something to offer were the 91 contestants in the International Speech Contest, including yours truly. The competition was a memorable experience and I learnt a lot both from watching it and being in it. The result was disappointing, there’s no two ways about it. I want to come away from any contest with a trophy. But there were so many good speakers it’s hard to feel bad when I know I did the best I could. If you haven’t seen the winning speech from Danajaya Hettiarachchi get a copy by hook or crook, it’s a classic. It is an educational experience to watch so many top class speeches and I’ve come away a much better speaker than I left. As an added bonus it’s a hell of a good feeling to have people coming up to me for the rest of the conference, shaking my hand, telling me they loved my speech and even asking to have their picture taken with me. Which brings me to …
The people. Contrary to my expectations it wasn’t full of Toastmasters-obsessed tragics. Just loads of people who love what we do here and are looking to deepen their experience and learn more. I got to meet beginners, lifers, leaders, world finalists and world champions. Geographically it gave the opportunity for people all across Asia and the South Pacific (and yes, loads of Australians!), which is the fastest-growing area for TM worldwide. It was really good to meet so many people from across the globe with diverse backgrounds and a common interest. And there was a Polish vodka party. Just saying.
This was my first International Conference but it won’t be my last. The venue for the next two has been announced – Las Vegas 2015 and Washington 2016. Clear your diaries now.