May is one of my favorite months of the year. In Connecticut, where I live, the weather is getting warmer, the flowers are starting to bloom, and my favorite activity, drag racing, is in full swing. While all those things make May special, they’re not what make it one of my favorite months. What does? The flurry of activity that occurs within Toastmasters during this time. There is the annual District conference, the speech contests, and the election of District leaders. To borrow from a famous line in the movie The Wizard of Oz: “Conferences, contests, and campaigns … Oh my!”
Admittedly, the District conference season this year will be quite different than in the past. Conferences are being conducted either online or as an in-person/hybrid event. Some are being held over multiple weekends. Whatever the conferences look like, the planning teams are doing everything they can to provide you with the best experience possible.
Although many of us would likely prefer that the conferences were all in person, there are many benefits to an online event, with safety being number one. Beyond that, if you have ever wondered what it would be like to take part in an educational session or witness a speech contest at a District conference beyond your home District or country, this year brings that possibility.
For this contest period, all District-level speech contests are required to be conducted 100% online. This means more members and guests than ever can watch your District’s top speakers. And those speakers will have more members and guests encouraging them and cheering them on. Who will ultimately represent each District in the International Speech Contest Region Quarterfinals? Attend the speech contests and find out!
Use these District conferences to think ahead to next year. Who will lead your District during the 2021–2022 Toastmasters year? As we head toward our International Convention, I encourage you to read the candidate materials, attend the Candidate Showcase, and listen to each candidate’s two-minute speech during the annual District Council meeting. Make sure your voice is heard and your vote counted by taking an active role in the election process. Attending District conferences is a great way to understand the process ahead of time.
It’s a brave new world. We can choose to embrace it, or we can choose to ignore it. We can’t do both! I kindly ask that you toss your preconceptions regarding online conferences, contests, and campaigns aside and approach them with an open mind. With a light beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel, we all just need to be patient a little while longer. I hope to see you at an upcoming conference.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to take part in a District Conference beyond your home or country, this year brings that possibility.
Richard E. Peck, DTM