My Turn: A World of Possibilities

My Turn: A World of Possibilities

Why attending the International Convention
was worth 70 hours of traveling.

Deniz Senelt, CC, ALB 

While deciding what to do, my mind raced: I can’t be too busy or too poor to attend the 79th annual Toastmasters International Convention. I need this! So I decided to go. Despite the current global economic situation and my personal concerns, I knew attending would bring me more benefits, greater success, better business and a stronger network, as well as support, motivation and inspiration.

In early August, I flew from Istanbul to London, then London to Miami and then Miami to Los Angeles – a total of 35 travel hours from my home in Sisli, in Istanbul, Turkey, to Palm Desert, California, United States.

What drew me such a great distance? I wanted to enjoy the Toastmasters semifinal speech contests, the World Championship of Public Speaking, the keynote speeches and education sessions. But more than that, I wouldn’t think of missing the free mentoring moments, caring friendships and other valuable experiences at the Convention.

I have a challenging business life. For two years I’ve run a training, coaching and consultancy company. I’m also completing master’s-level studies in cognitive psychology. Still, I attended for the ideas and opportunities.

At last year’s Convention I was a “First Timer,” carrying this label under my name badge, which allowed others to know and help me feel welcome. This year I was again the only Turkish participant, so once more I carried our flag at the Opening Ceremonies. I was proud to represent my country and happy to meet people from other countries. We shared our diverse experiences while getting ready for the ceremony. Imagine a group of 73 men and women holding their colorful flags and chatting about their connection to the country represented by their particular flag. This was a feast for my soul!

Toastmasters is a great place to develop exceptional leaders and communicators, and I believe people in my country would greatly benefit from the Toastmasters program. But we have only two clubs in all of Turkey. We are working very hard to build Toastmasters in my country, but it isn’t always easy.

I first tried to found the Istanbul Toastmasters club in 2002. With a dedicated team we managed to charter it six years later, and during my presidency in 2009, we even became a Select Distinguished club. Now my goal is to grow a Toastmasters district in Turkey!

I found help with this dream at the Convention. I met a past international director who explained the Toastmasters development strategies of Asian countries – they hold the record for growth. Then I received some advice on the subject of growth from several past international presidents.

I also got help with my professional life: A DTM who runs a successful company gave me 15 minutes of her time, offering tips on running a business. She coached me with ideas based on her business experience and also promised to send me some resources. After this, I ran into a Toastmaster who has written books. I was able to get some tips on how to publish a book.

One of the best reasons for attending the Convention was to watch the organization’s future unfold at the Board of Directors Briefing and Annual Business Meeting. I was able to witness, first-hand, the elections of our leaders, and I learned a great deal from their campaigns.

Whether you’re a seasoned Toastmaster or a newbie, as we call it in our club, experiencing the International Convention makes a big difference in how you see yourself, the Toastmasters organization as a whole and all the possibilities. I will be at the 80th Annual Toastmasters International Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, next year, because I cannot miss seeing Tammy, Dale, Ted, Denise, Keith ... and all the rest! Wouldn’t you like to join us for the friendship, learning and opportunities? Let’s meet there!

Deniz Senelt, CC, ALB, is the past president and founding secretary of the Istanbul Toastmasters. A corporate trainer, coach and consultant, she can be reached at