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20. A New Series: My Personal Journey in Public Speaking: 7. Highlights - Conventions!

Continuing in the life of a Toastmaster, one of the highlights as a Toastmaster member for me was in attending conventions. Conventions are the twice a year events where Districts gather together and do mainly 3 things: conduct the finals of some of the speech competitions, learn from some of the best teachers / specialists in and out of the Toastmaster fraternity, and network like crazy.

Semi Annual Conventions happen around the last quarter of the year, where the finals of the Humorous Speech and Speech Evaluation contests for that District usually are the bigger highlights of the event.

Annual Conventions usually happen on the 2nd quarter of the year, usually around April or May, which also functions as the venue for the finals of the District's Table Topics and International Speech contests. The difference here is the International Speech contest winner will usually represent the District in the International competition finals held by Toastmasters International, usually in August later that year.

My participation levels increased over the years of my involvement in Toastmasters.

Level 1 participant: Wanting to get better personally

Being a generally introverted person, I started going to conventions as an observer, a learner, and that is fine. Many attend the conventions to learn from the various plenary speakers and short workshop speakers, whom share their experiences and teach the members who attend. As I started my Toastmaster journey, my main goal was to give better speeches, to be more prepared in table topics, and of course, to try to be a higher quality contest participant.

Level 2 participant: Wanting to meet new friends, to grow my personal network

As I became a more experienced Toastmaster member, I started to get involved in helping to organise events, to organise speech contests, to assist in running meetings at my local club. Then I realised that no man is an island. No member can be an island to be successful. As I see others reach out to me for assistance and help, I started to open up and reach out to others for help. I learnt that Toastmasters go out of their way to assist other Toastmasters in organising and running meetings and contests, etc. They are a super helpful bunch. Around this time in my journey, I have new objectives in my attendance of conventions. I now go to conventions to learn, but I also go to connect, to meet new friends, members from other clubs, other areas, other divisions, and boy that was hard. As an introvert by nature, I took to sticking to people I know or met before. Only after a number of conventions was I able to bring myself to introduce myself to people I have yet to be introduced to.

Over time, I grew more comfortable in doing this? Have I lost all my fear? Nope. I am still shy today, just less shy than before. I learnt that, it take practice, over and over again, overcoming shyness one day at a time, or should I say, one new person at the time. Will I ever totally overcome my fear? I don't know, just that I am a bit bolder today than I was yesterday only if I step out of my comfort zone every day, one person at a time.

Level 3 participant: Encouraging others, and allowing others to encourage me, too

After some time, to proceed on with my Toastmaster journey, I had to move on further than my local club. After a year as the club VP Membership, I was elected President of my club. The year after that, the natural path was to move into the Area Council. I was honoured to be elected as an Area Governor in my then Division W. As Area Governor of Area W5, I had 4 clubs under my "care". I had the privilege to work with 4 extremely motivated club presidents and various other council officers in Area W5. As an extension, I was thus a member of the Division W council. I was then extremely privileged to have a dedicated team from the Division Governor to the other Area Governors to the other officers in that council. My personal journey and growth during that year alone leapfrogged me in many ways and in many areas. (If you are reading this, Div W and Area W5 council members during my time.... I loved working with you all!)

So when I went to conventions at that time, my main goal was to support club and area and division members when they received their various awards. So conventions were joyous occasions when we proudly cheer for our fellow members whom won prizes of achievement and for clubs which garner various awards for meeting club goals etc.

Concluding remarks

If you noticed, you will see that my reasons for attending changed over the years, a direction which I felt is similar to how we live our lives as well. We start out by learning to fend for ourselves and also looking out for our own needs first. Then, as we grow, we start to realise the world does not revolve around us, and we start to appreciate others in our lives. Then, later on, we realise that we have grown to a stage where it is not about ourselves growing but about helping others grow, and thus goes the cycle, and I am glad that going to conventions, while being a simple form of event attendance, actually taught me much about life.

How about you? Where are you in life today?

If you are a Toastmaster, how is your convention attendance working for you? Drop me a note to share.

If you are not a Toastmaster, what do you think? As an outsider looking in? So far, do you know anyone whom may benefit from being a Toastmaster? Link me to that person… I can share more…

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