In this age of technology, with all the buzz over the latest Apple or Android phones, tablets and even smart TVs, many people question the logic of spending time and money to actually go someplace to learn something new. Why not just learn online?
Therefore, the question must be asked: Are conferences and conventions obsolete? I say no!
A few weeks ago I asked my friend Frank Storey, DTM, of Linthicum, Maryland: “Have you ever gained any tangible benefits from attending a district conference or International Convention?”
He said the very first district conference he attended, in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1987, was life-changing. Frank had been a Toastmaster for just over a year, and at that conference, then-District Governor Pauline Shirley (who later became International President) introduced him to Past International President Eddie Dunn. She introduced him this way: “Eddie, this is Frank Storey, a rising star in District 25.”
“Attending a convention connects you to the big picture of our program.”
Frank said those words changed his life and inspired him to dedicate himself to Toastmasters for the rest of the year, and as it turned out, the next 30 years. By now he has attended more than 25 International Conventions, including one where he met his future wife, Karen. Attending a convention is more than just the camaraderie, education sessions and speech contests; it connects you to the big picture of our program. I’ve heard many amazing speeches at our conferences and had the opportunity to meet world-class presenters and Toastmasters leaders. You can meet people of every age, color and nationality—all united for a common goal. It will renew your faith in humanity.
I attended my first International Convention in Toronto in 2005. The keynote address by former fighter pilot Major Anthony “AB” Bourke changed my life. He spoke about becoming inspired “to perform with flawless execution and reach new heights in your personal and professional life.” I purchased his book for 30 and quickly read it. When I returned home and went back to my office, I changed the way I work. That book helped me learn the art of flawless execution. The inspiration to pursue my leadership journey in Toastmasters started at that convention.
Since then, I have always looked for that one golden nugget from a district conference or a convention you can apply to your life. These Toastmasters events also allow you to gain valuable ideas you can bring back home with you and share with members of your club.
Attend a Toastmasters conference or convention and you, too, can have a life-changing experience. With the 2018 International Convention happening this August in Chicago, take advantage of signing up when registration opens early next month!
BALRAJ ARUNASALAM, DTM