Since the appearance of COVID-19 in early 2020, we have all had to make tough and often emotional decisions. One of the toughest decisions World Headquarters and the Board of Directors had to make this year was how best to conduct the 2020 Toastmasters International Convention. How could we create the level of community, networking, and inspiring programming that is such a part of our convention? Could it even be done? Eventually, the obvious choice became to hold a virtual convention, despite all the unknowns. What would it look and feel like, what would it cost, and how many people would be willing to attend? The price was announced (attendance would be free), registration was opened, and then the waiting game began. It started off slow … 1,000 … then 2,500 … then a jump to 10,000 … and in the end, over 60,000 individuals registered for the first-ever virtual convention in our 95-year history.
With so many registrants, and this being our first experience with a large online platform, there were inherent risks of technical difficulties, and while some risks were realized in the first few days, World Headquarters quickly resolved them. In the end, the convention was a success, with thousands of attendees over an exciting six days. For the first time, as far as I can remember, we conducted our Annual Business Meeting with zero invalid votes! Thank you to all the delegates who participated in this historic business meeting.
Congratulations to the newest members of the Board on your election, I know you will serve our members well. Congratulations also to Mike Carr, our 2020 World Champion of Public Speaking, and our newest Accredited Speaker, Mohamed Ali Shukri, DTM. I stand in awe of your accomplishments and wish you all the best on your future endeavors.
For me, the convention is about connecting with old friends while meeting new ones, experiencing the majesty of the Opening Ceremony and the Parade of Flags, and cheering on competitors from around the world as they vie for the World Championship of Public Speaking®. This year, I was still able to experience all these things only in different ways. Regardless of how we connect with one another the importance is that we connect … and no one had to witness my attempt at dancing!
Past International Director Tracy Thomason, DTM, once stated that what makes Toastmasters special is the sense of community it provides, that feeling of belonging, the feeling that we matter to one another. This year’s virtual convention still allowed us to come together as a worldwide community!
I encourage you to continue to reach out to our members and clubs around the world, to meet new friends, and grow your community. Together, we can make a positive, lasting impact on the world.
Richard E. Peck, DTM
Watch the video below to see Toastmasters leaders around the world congratulate Richard E. Peck on becoming International President!