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May 2024
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Convention Memories

Why the annual event still thrills me after all these years.

By Carolyn Kaldy, DTM

Hear from members from the 2019 International Convention about their favorite parts of the annual gathering.

Since I joined Toastmasters, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several International Conventions. Each year I have enjoyed a new meeting location, a new world champion speaker, and a global melting pot of Toastmasters attendees who, despite their different countries or languages, share a love of learning and self-improvement.

The most unique and beautiful convention was the one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was the first held outside North America and had such diverse attendees—it was a cultural delight to “see something” different (a nod to the title of 2014 World Champion of Public Speaking Dananjaya Hettiarachchi’s memorable speech, titled “I See Something.”)

I still relish the Opening Ceremonies and Parade of Flags. I seek out opportunities ranging from the education sessions to the Accredited Speaker Program to the World Championship of Public Speaking, and even the Candidate Showcase to learn how to capture the hearts and minds of an audience and create chatter afterward. One of these memorable moments came from the 2017 Golden Gavel recipient, Erin Gruwell. Her authenticity still resonates in my heart and inspires me.

Four people pose together at annual conventionAuthor Carolyn Kaldy, (second from left) with friends Bea Bincze from Budapest, Hungary; Collins Christian from Perth, Australia; and Mojeed Dawodu from Kent, England.

And when I am back home, certain songs will instantly transport me back to Past International President Ted Corcoran’s late-night sing-along of popular songs from different eras and parts of the world and ending with Ted’s signature rendition of the Irish ballad “Danny Boy.” Another thrill is meeting various leaders and ;champion speakers, and getting to know them beyond their credentials. I always marvel at how sincere and caring these individuals are, and how “validated” they make me feel (a shout-out to Lance Miller’s 2005 championship-winning speech, “The Ultimate Question.”)

Many memories revolve around the exchanges—albeit too short—with other convention attendees and reuniting with past acquaintances to create more memories. Two unexpected moments spring to mind.

At the 2015 Las Vegas convention bookstore, I overheard my father’s native language—Hungarian—being spoken. I was thrilled, as I have rarely heard it since his death. Like a homing pigeon, I flew over to the voices and met Bea Bincze, DTM, Immediate Past Select Distinguished District 110 Director, who lives in Budapest, Hungary. Her welcoming smile resulted in my meeting various Hungarians over the following years, allowing me to practice my basic Hungarian and feel connected to my upbringing.

At the 2018 Chicago convention, while riding in a hotel elevator, I started chatting with another attendee. And, like a loaded deep-dish Chicago pizza, by the time we finished the Chicago River cruise, the group grew to seven Toastmasters, all originating from different countries. Over the following year, our group texted back and forth, sharing Toastmasters accomplishments and providing encouragement as we competed in contests or held leadership positions.

What will your convention experience be like? If you are apprehensive about attending an international convention, let me suggest:

  • Suspend expectations and go with an open mind to seize whatever experiences may present themselves.
  • Be brave and take the opportunity to say hello to someone outside your district, or who has a different ethnicity or nationality.

Let’s celebrate the similarities we have in our global community and honor the diversity and uniqueness of all our members. 

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