It had been a long night, the royals had just won against the blue jays (#GoRoyals), to enter the World Series and It also just happened to be one of my buddies birthday. By the time I hit the hay it was 2 in the morning, I wasn’t looking forward to getting up at 5 to go to the Toastmaster’s conference that was set to start at 8 and was about 2 hours drive from my place. And most of you are thinking by now “This is one of those, it was all bad to begin with and it all turned out great in the end stories”. And you would be absolutely right!!! This was one of those awesome, amazing experiences you tell stories about. But before we get up caught up in the excitement lets first get there (“wink”).
I got up at 5 took a shower, (“I think I did, too sleepy to tell”) and called an uber to go meet Joanne. It had been just a few months since I had joined toastmasters and I didn’t know a lot of people. Joanne was one of the few people I knew in TM and she had offered me a ride to go to the conference.
Now the thing about Joanne is she is an awfully nice person. She is one of those quite personalities. She’s also one of the hardest workers in the club and someone who goes out of her way to help people. She helped me all through my first ever evaluation contest, up to the division level where I ended up with the second prize (“yeah just plugged myself there”). But I never really had an opportunity to know her better and wasn’t sure what to talk about on the 2 hour drive (“you know what I am talking about”)
The weather as it has come before to save many a conversation, was how we started ours. But in a few short minutes it felt like two old friends talking. We shared stories about her families. “I have a little sister” said I. She told me about her family, “I have a son a year older then you in the film industry and a daughter who is an English teacher and we go visit our grand kids quite often”. It seemed that going to the conference had let me turn acquaintances into awesome friends.
We reached the conference at 8 and met some familiar faces and a lot of new ones. There were seasoned speakers and newbie’s like me. First timers got to do a scavenger hunt; the objective was to get tons of signatures. Hence this was me for the first hour of the conference “Hi my name is Lokesh, could you sign this for me”. Yeah it was funny even then.
Enter Jenny; Jenny is one of my best buddies that I met in TM. She was the one who pushed me to be part of the contests, pushed me to be part of the conference and let’s just say she can be very persuasive. Jenny wanted me to come to the conference to get a perspective of the contestants and experience the caliber of the kind of speakers that attend the conference. Along with jenny, there was Jason and Jeff 2 other awesome friends I got to know much better in the conference. Our little gang settled ourselves at a table before proceedings began. I told jenny “I am going to be kicking your seat all through the event”. Jenny said in jest “See If I bring you to the next one”. She thought I was kidding “muahahaha”.
The first event of the day was a presentation by Mrs. Rochelle Rice, a TM accredited speaker. Excuse me, while fawn over Rochelle for a few lines. Rochelle is perhaps one of the best speakers I have ever heard. Her speeches appear unscripted as though she is speaking from the heart and yet they have intrinsic organization and purpose within them. Rochelle is also an amazing dancer, with as much grace as her speeches have. Bless her heart, she somehow combined both in her presentation and blew me away. It also helps that she is also really nice in person and very approachable.
Her first speech was about how to be successful in her leadership role. Her speech spoke of trust that one needs to have in others and the need to take care of oneself while being a leader. It presented a vision on how to be successful, engaged and yet no be burned out by responsibility. She used her experiences as a dancer to illustrate these concepts. She said “I and my dance partner have complete trust in each other and that is how we are able to execute such movements”. Her dance movements were used to illustrate each point. It is something that needs to be seen to be believed. “Another reason for you to be at a conference”
After that it was onto the evaluation contests. Something that I was looking forward to and I had clear favorites. Two of my friends Kim and Sharon were competing. I once asked Kim quite humorously “Do you have one of every cup that TM has to offer”. After a moment’s thought she said “Yes I think I do”. I will let that sink in for a bit. Sharon was someone I met at my divisional contest and she was one awesome evaluator. This was the quality of contestants competing. There was much to take away from the kind of evaluations that were presented. “Something I could definitely make use of at my future contests”. We were also given ballots we could score the contestants for our own purposes; I and Jason figured we could make a game out of it. I have to say I got the results spot on. “Jason!!! muahahaha”. Kim took the second prize (“Nicely done Kim”) and Sharon gave another awesome evaluation (“Always a winner”). All the winners and contestant were amazing. I got a firsthand look at what it takes to put such a contest together and hats off to contest master and my newest friend Thealexa for putting together a spectacular contest (“They should definitely give you an award for this”).
Next up It was Rochelle back again with another blinder of speech. Her message was simple “Make it personal”. She gave what could be only considered an education on how to make speeches personal, in order to better connect with the audience. She finished off with a story about her pet that passed away. When she finished there was many a teary eye in the audience (“Yes me too”)
Then it was on to the big event. The DTM ceremony and the leadership awards. It was pretty cool to see so many prizes being given out. Then the crowning glory, most leadership and communications awards was bagged by my club. It was pretty heady stuff walking on to stage to receive it.
The final event was on to the humorous speech contest. Make sure to take some medication when you attend these. Your stomach will be hurting from laughing so hard. The contest master for this event was Jenny. Jenny is pretty awesome in everything she does. So it was no wonder she managed to pull off another awesome show (“Awesome quotes of robin William”). This time I was rooting for my friend Sarah. Someone I met in the divisional contest, she is an amazing speaker, she is a newbie like me and she blew off the competition in the divisional level. The contests were pretty intense and the contestants were amazing. I thought Sarah hit it out of the ball park with her speech (“You are a winner in my book“). The winners were announced with much fanfare. I thought to myself “I want to be on stage, next time”
The amazing day ended with Jenny, Jason, Kim and I riding off into the sunset (“Quite literally”). It was an amazing day. It was a day of fun. It was a day among friends. Most conferences tend to be too focused on the subject and lose its sense of connection with the audience. The TM conference had a persona of retaining its sense of community. This was an event, where the speeches and people mattered. On the few choice stories that you share among the best of friends, this will be one among them. So come on over to the next TM conference, maybe you could be part of the next scavenger hunt, maybe I can introduce you to all my awesome friends and you could introduce me to yours; maybe together we can be blown away by some awesome speeches and memorialize some amazing moments. “I am going to the next one, are you?”
Lokesh Ravichandran is a member of Don’t Stop Talking @ DST Toastmasters. As a first year member he has been a contestant at the Division Level in the Evaluation Contest and has attended his first conference.