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2021 Virtual Convention Highlights

Diverse mix of speakers and programs spotlight a stirring event.

By Toastmaster Magazine Staff


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In its second straight year of virtual programming, the 2021 Toastmasters International Convention, held August 23–28, was a resounding success, providing more than 18,000 registrants from 173 countries with greater access to educational offerings than ever before.

The annual showcase gives members around the world the chance to hear world-class speakers, celebrate Toastmasters achievements, and gain new ideas and insights about communication and leadership.

Highlights of this year’s convention included an online mix of 16 education sessions, the most Toastmasters has ever offered at the event. Other convention staples included the multi-country Parade of Flags, a prominent Golden Gavel honoree, the selection of a new slate of international leaders, and the always-rousing World Championship of Public Speaking®.

Though Toastmasters couldn’t connect in person because of ongoing COVID-19 public health protocols, attendees were able to visit virtual booths to interact with World Headquarters employees and convention sponsors, and view club experiences from around the world. The online platform was expanded and refined from last year’s first-ever virtual convention.

Registrants can continue to view or revisit portions of the event via the convention platform through October 29 or through Toastmasters On Demand. If you missed registering, you can still purchase an All-Access Pass for 40 USD. Certain sessions are free and available to anyone, including the Annual Business Meeting, Toastmasters 360, the President’s Inauguration, the Board of Directors Briefing, and the Hall of Fame.

Here is a brief recap of convention highlights.


Opening Ceremonies and Keynote Address

The annual Parade of Flags took place virtually with 113 flags featured. After viewing the colorful display, audience members turned their attention to keynote speaker Robyn Benincasa, who drew from her experience as a champion adventure racer to draw parallels between the sport and team-building in Toastmasters. With a focus on teamwork and moving forward instead of looking back, Benincasa started off the 2021 Convention with inspiration and high spirits.


The Golden Gavel

Toastmasters has honored an outstanding communicator with this prestigious award since 1959.

The 2021 recipient, Liza Pavlakos, shared what she’s learned about self-belief, perseverance, hard work, mastering adversity, and leaving a legacy of kindness in her speech, “Becoming by Overcoming.” Discover more about the Golden Gavel in this Toastmaster article.


Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking

From an initial pool of 30,000 participants in 149 countries, 28 members competed virtually in the International Speech Contest Semifinals at convention. Eight finalists—two from each of the four semifinal rounds—advanced to the World Championship of Public Speaking held Saturday, August 28, also virtually. Verity Price, DTM, of Cape Town, South Africa, emerged as the winner.

Price, representing District 74, won with a speech titled “A Great Read,” which examined her journey through depression and anxiety and how she was able to change her life. She is the first African to earn the title of World Champion of Public Speaking. Watch the video interview below to learn more about her journey to the virtual stage.




Coming in at second place, Nitay-Yair Levi (District 70) from Newtown, New South Wales, Australia, delivered his speech “Advice for Life,” and Roger Caesar, DTM (District 86), from Brampton, Ontario, Canada, finished in third place with his speech “Is It in You?”

Find out more about the top three winners in the Speaker Showcase, with International President Margaret Page, DTM.

The five other finalists were Errol Leandre (District 47), Kin Ng, DTM (District 80), Isidro Sousa (District 107), Stephen D. Chin, DTM, (District 4), and Darryl Pace (District 63).


Video Speech Contest (for undistricted clubs)

Congratulations to these video champions:

First Place: Roderick K. Grech, Mosta, Malta, of Toastmasters Malta, “Want It!”

Second Place: Annie Yun Bai, DTM, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, of One Country One World, “A Piece of Relationship Advice”

Third Place: Alhaji Abubakar, Austin, Texas, of Virtual Professional Speakers, “The Catalyst”


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Accredited Speaker Program

For the 2021 program year, there were 11 applicants for Level 1, and three candidates moved on to present in front of a live virtual audience and panel of judges for Level 2. Forrest Tuff, DTM, of Tucker, Georgia, earned the prestigious AS designation after completing the challenging program requirements and progressing through the two levels of evaluation. His speech was entitled “Brand Strategy For Business Success.” Learn more about the Accredited Speaker Program.


Hall of Fame

The annual Hall of Fame ceremony celebrates the successes of Distinguished Districts and individual members in the 2020–2021 program year.

During the ceremony, Districts 116*, 121*, 81, 94*, 82, 114*, and Pakistan Territorial Council were recognized as Smedley Distinguished, the highest level of recognition a District can achieve. District 118 was recognized as President’s Distinguished; District 41 was recognized as Select Distinguished, and Districts 98, 51, and 34 were recognized as Distinguished.

In addition, Presidential Citations were given to 21 members for exemplary service and dedication at the Club, District, or international level.

(The * denotes Excellence in Leadership Award for achieving Distinguished District for three or more consecutive years.)


Annual Business Meeting

Watch the results of the Annual Business Meeting for more information.


International Board of Directors

2021-2022 Executive Committee

President: Margaret Page, DTM, Delta, British Columbia, Canada

President-elect: Matt Kinsey, DTM, Coral Springs, Florida

First Vice President: Morag Mathieson, DTM, Moehrendorf, Germany

Second Vice President: Radhi Spear, DTM, Piscataway, New Jersey

Immediate Past President: Richard E. Peck, DTM, Seymour, Connecticut

 

Newly elected 2021–2022 International Directors seated for two-year terms:

Region 1: Louisa Davis, DTM, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Region 3: Michael J. Holian, DTM, Chandler, Arizona

Region 5: Monnica B. Rose, DTM, Rowlett, Texas

Region 7: Elmer Hill, DTM, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Region 9: Jeff Sobel, DTM, East Greenbush, New York

Region 11: Ali Shahbaz Ali Shah, DTM, Muharraq, Bahrain

Region 13: Gauri Seshadri, DTM, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India


Education Sessions

There were learning opportunities across four tracks, with a total of 16 education sessions.

If you purchased the all-access pass, you will be able to view most of these sessions On Demand until Oct. 29.

 

Tracks

Dynamic Communication

  • The Leader’s Guide to Unconscious Bias (not available On Demand)
  • When Generations Connect
  • Proven Secrets for Communicating With Power and Persuasion.
  • Building Relationships Through Effective Digital Experience

Leadership/Professional Development

  • How Toastmasters Can Advance Your Career
  • Following a Leader Is Voluntary
  • Connecting, Creating, and Collaborating
  • Just Say It! The Secret to Giving Feedback

Public Speaking/Stage Presence

  • Boosting Your (Online) Charisma
  • Laugh and Learn: The Magic Power of Humor
  • Speech by Design: A Skillset Analysis
  • Top 10 Presentation Don’ts: How to Avoid Them and Rock It!

Self-Improvement

  • Interview Skills: Know Yourself
  • Emotional Intelligence: The Self-Aware Leader
  • Find the Balance: Work, Life, and Self-Care
  • How to Build Your Personal Brand

Mark your calendars for a Toastmasters first—a hybrid convention experience! The 2022 Toastmasters International Convention will be in Nashville, Tennessee, and online, from August 17 through August 20. See you next year!


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