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July 2024
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Convention Co-Hosts Welcome You to Anaheim!

Get to know the mother-daughter duo co-hosting convention.

By Laura Mishkind

Mother and daughter posing together in different shades of pink clothing
Jessica Allen, DTM (pictured left), and Joan Lewis, DTM

The 2024 International Convention will be here before we know it, and no one knows that better than this year’s convention host co-chairs, Joan Lewis, DTM, and Jessica Allen, DTM. This duo is excited to welcome Toastmasters from around the world to Southern California for an extra special event. In addition to the usual convention excitement, members will be celebrating 100 years of Toastmasters International. Lewis, a member since 2001 and a 2018–2020 International Director, says she is eager to share the “grandeur of it all!”

Lewis and Allen are a unique duo themselves—they are a mother-daughter team. The two Southern California residents are savvy business owners and have a close relationship. For 16 years, Lewis has run a company specializing in lien processing, and prior to her foray into entrepreneurship, she spent three decades as a paralegal and associate pastor. Today, she enjoys playing an active role in her church.

Allen is a mother as well. She has two daughters and owns an IT company with her husband. When she’s not working or volunteering with Toastmasters, she is a singer in her band, which has two Los Angeles-based residencies.

In their role as host co-chairs, these two members have plenty of responsibilities, including recruiting and coordinating Helping Hands volunteers and committee chairs, helping Toastmasters World Headquarters meeting planners where needed, connecting with local agencies and officials for support services, and promoting the convention.

In this episode of The Toastmasters Podcast, 2024 International Convention co-chairs Joan Lewis and Jessica Allen, a mother-daughter duo, share their thoughts about this milestone event and give you a sneak peek into what expect in Anaheim, California.

Together, Lewis and Allen have chartered a Toastmasters club, started a business, mentored more than 20 leaders who went on to serve at the District level, and have both served as District and region leaders themselves. In 2011, they were both in District roles and that year, the District was Select Distinguished. They have also at various times both belonged to the same two clubs: the online-only Parliamentarian Toastmasters and the hybrid club Praisemasters in Los Angeles.

This mother-daughter pair is no stranger to working together or Toastmasters, and they are eager to welcome you to convention. Allen says, “Be ready to high-five me when you see me walking through the hallways. Say ‘hi’ when you see our team in those Helping Hands vests. We are here for you and ready to make this a memorable experience for you!”

Woman smiling in black jacket with Toastmasters pin and badgeJoan Lewis, DTM

Are you from Southern California originally?

Joan: I am originally from New York City. Although being born and raised in New York, I never got used to the cold winters. I told my mother that as soon as I was old enough, I would move to someplace warm, and I did. My husband and I moved to Los Angeles where the weather is much more to my liking.

Jessica: Being a native Californian, especially in the vibrant and diverse region of Southern California, is indeed something to be proud of! My connection to the Golden State and its unique culture, landscapes, and communities undoubtedly shapes my identity in a special way.

Have you attended a Toastmasters convention before?

Joan: I have attended almost every Toastmasters convention since 2008. The first time I witnessed the flag ceremony at the opening session, I was hooked. I have never been disappointed. The annual convention has become my summer vacation.

Jessica: My very first convention in 2010 was in California, so this is a full circle moment. The energy and sense of camaraderie at Toastmasters conventions are often contagious, uniting individuals from diverse backgrounds and locations under the common goal of self-improvement and mastery of public speaking. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by like-minded people who share a passion for communication and personal development.

What is your dynamic like as mother and daughter and co-chairs?

Joan: Over the years, my daughter and I have worked on many projects both inside and outside of Toastmasters. … We have always enjoyed working with each other. This project is an exciting journey. Having the honor of being selected as co-chairs for the historic 100th anniversary convention will be the greatest and the most memorable Toastmasters experience we will share together as Toastmasters mother and daughter. My husband, who is also a Toastmaster, always says, “The family that Toastmasters together, stays together.”

Jessica: I couldn’t spell out our working and personal relationship better than my mom has done. However, I will add that we just make each other better. We are total opposites but, somehow, we make it work every time. It is a real blessing for me to have the opportunity to learn from and work with my mom. She is truly my hero and mentor in life. Any opportunity I get to work with her and soak up all that wisdom, I’m taking it!

Is your relationship beneficial to working together, and if so, why?

Joan: Yes, because our motto is the same when we work with teams. We want to have fun. We want to get the job done and remain friends. We share the same work ethic and values, and we understand each other.

Jessica: We are both strong and established leaders in our own right. We understand the importance of collaboration and synergy. By coming together as a unit, we are able to combine our individual strengths and talents to achieve even greater success.

Woman in black jacket with Toastmasters t-shirt and pins and badgesJessica Allen, DTM

What do you find most rewarding about the convention planning process?

Jessica: It’s truly heartwarming to hear about the excitement and anticipation from members as we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Toastmasters. Their enthusiasm reflects the deep appreciation and connection they feel toward the organization and its rich history.

Collaborating with my mom, as well as the staff at Toastmasters International [World Headquarters], offers a unique opportunity to witness firsthand the behind-the-scenes efforts that go into organizing such a historic event. [The staff’s] enthusiasm also underscores the importance of creating a memorable and meaningful event that honors Toastmasters’ legacy while also celebrating the members and the organization’s future. It’s inspiring to see the passion and hard work that everyone brings to the table, as well as the camaraderie and support that fuel our collective efforts.

Joan: Being able to share this experience with my daughter is incredibly rewarding. It allows us to create lasting memories and embark on fun adventures together, which we can cherish and share with our families. I’m also grateful for the enthusiasm and willingness of numerous members to volunteer their time and support, especially my home club, Praisemasters.

Additionally, I’m eagerly anticipating reconnecting with old friends whom I haven’t seen in years or have only interacted with online. It’s an exciting opportunity to reunite with familiar faces and strengthen our bonds within the Toastmasters community.

What should attendees expect from this convention? Why should they attend?

Joan: They should expect to be amazed. This convention is going to be beyond all their expectations. The energy and excitement are already at a high pitch.

Jessica: They should expect a convention like no other! Expect surprises and some new things to be added. But also expect the traditions we love so much that have made us who we are for the last 100 years. This is going to be an event to be remembered for decades to come.


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