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May 2024
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Highlights from the 2019 Toastmasters International Convention

By Laura Amann

In August, Toastmasters from around the world gathered in Denver, Colorado, for four days of inspiration, friendship, and learning. One attendee called the event “Toastmasters without borders.”

This is an apt description for the fast-paced program, which drew more than 1,700 members—41% of whom were first timers—representing 71 countries around the globe.

Opening Ceremonies included the always impressive and moving Parade of Flags, where members dressed in national costumes carrying the flags of nations in which Toastmasters has a presence. Keynote speaker Phil Hansen, an internationally recognized multimedia artist, author, and innovator, spoke afterward. His energetic and inspiring presentation, “Embrace the Shake,” examined how working within our limitations, rather than letting them defeat us, can actually expand our possibilities.

Entrepreneur Jia Jiang received Toastmasters’ prestigious 2019 Golden Gavel award for his training methodology around a common yet painful experience: being rejected. He spoke about what he learned by confronting his biggest fear, rejection, head-on, every day, for 100 days. Jiang is a pioneer in the concept of rejection therapy, and his 2017 TED Talk was one of the most viewed talks of that year.


World Headquarters Tours

Toastmasters World Headquarters is located about 20 minutes from the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, where the convention was based. Many attendees took advantage of the proximity to visit the new offices; the organization relocated from California nearly two years ago. For two days, buses brought hundreds of enthusiastic visitors to Headquarters for the Smedley Tours.

During the tours, Toastmasters met staff, browsed the just-installed interactive museum, and took countless selfies with staff, each other, at the building’s front door, with a portrait of Ralph C. Smedley, and posing with their country’s flag, which was part of a custom lobby display featuring the flags of all countries with Toastmasters clubs. Proceeds from the Smedley Tours went to support the Smedley Fund.

Annual Business Meeting

All 12 proposed amendments to the Bylaws of Toastmasters International and the Club Constitution were adopted during the Annual Business Meeting. Members can read more about these amendments on the Toastmasters website.

Accredited Speakers

It was a banner year for Accredited Speakers. Six candidates vying for the coveted designation gave their final presentations to the judges—and for the first time in years, the judges conferred the title on all candidates. The new Accredited Speakers are: Paul Artale, DTM, from Swartz Creek, Michigan, U.S.; Dr. Yelena Balabanova, DTM, from Mukilteo, Washington, U.S.; Michael Bayer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada; Sima Dahl, DTM, from Chicago, Illinois, U.S.; Thomas William Iland, DTM, from Valencia, California, U.S.; and Gregory Van Borssum from Killcare Beach, New South Wales, Australia.

New Board of Directors

Deepak Menon, DTM, of New Delhi, India, was installed as the 2019-2020 International President during inaugural ceremonies on August 24. A chartered accountant and partner with the New Delhi firm of J.P., Kapur & Uberai, Menon has been a Toastmaster for 17 years and played a key role in club growth across India and neighboring countries.

Richard Peck, DTM, a 13-year Toastmaster from Seymour, Connecticut, U.S., became the new International President-Elect. Rounding out the Executive Committee: Margaret Page, DTM, Delta, British Columbia, Canada, first vice president; Matt Kinsey, DTM, Coral Springs, Florida, U.S., second vice president; and Lark Doley, DTM, Jonestown, Texas, U.S., Immediate Past President.

Seven new international directors were also seated for two-year terms: Naomi Takeuchi, DTM, Petaluma, California, U.S., Region 1; TK O’Geary, DTM, Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., Region 3; Mohamad Qayoom, DTM, Kenner, Louisiana, U.S., Region 5; John Lesko, DTM, Front Royal, Virginia, U.S., Region 7; Stefano McGhee, DTM, Weymouth, Massachusetts, U.S., Region 9; Aletta Rochat, DTM, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa, Region 11; and Sudha Balajee, DTM, Bengaluru, Kamataka, India, Region 13.

Hall of Fame

During the Hall of Fame ceremony, five Toastmasters districts were recognized as President’s Distinguished; eight were recognized as Select Distinguished; eight as Distinguished; and 17 as Smedley Distinguished, the highest level of recognition a district can achieve.

In addition, Presidential Citations were given to 18 members for exemplary service and dedication at the club, district, or international level.

Speech Contests

More than 110 contestants participated in the International Speech Contest Region Quarterfinals. Fourteen advanced to compete in the semifinals at the International Convention: Beverly P. Adams, DTM, (District 39), Jivitha Siddharthan (District 28), Aaron Beverly (District 18), Kevin Robart (District 45), Khushi Pasquale, DTM, (District 95), Bharat Sangekar (District 73), Mariann Pascal (District 102), Daniel Midson-Short (Founder’s District), Luisa Montalvo (District 55), Eric Beba (District 24), Herman Noronha (District 35), Faith Ellis (District 81), Omar Alhusseini, DTM, (District 79), and Kwong Yue Yang (District 89).

Six finalists competed for the World Championship of Public Speaking: Beverly Adams, Aaron Beverly, Bharat Sangekar, Daniel Midson-Short, Luisa Montalvo, and Kwong Yue Yang.

The first-place winner was Aaron Beverly from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.; second- and third-place winners were Luisa Montalvo from San Juan, Texas, U.S.; and Kwong Yue Yang from Guangzhou, Guangdong, China.

Twenty-four contestants competed in the Video Speech Contest (a category for members of undistricted clubs). First place went to Winston Owino of Nairobi, Kenya, with the speech “Basic Human Drive.” Second place went to Zaid Kaliya, DTM, of Karachi, Pakistan, with the speech “Three Magical Words,” and the third-place winner was Oltesh Thobias, DTM, of Nairobi, Kenya, with the speech “Round and Round.”


A Toastmaster from Ghana holds the country flag during Opening Ceremonies.The six new Accredited Speakers.Toastmasters delegates use electronic voting devices to cast their votes at the Annual Business Meeting.Canadian Toastmasters celebrate before Opening Ceremonies begin.Lark Doley (right) presents the President’s 20-Plus award to the top three districts.The 2019-2020 Toastmasters Board of Directors.District leaders use Legos during a team- building training exercise.


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