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July 2024
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Benefits of Attending the International Convention

Toastmasters share what they’ve gained from the 4-day event.

By Mackenzie Eldred

Group of people standing in line smiling at a convention

Since it began in 1931, the Toastmasters International Convention has brought members together from around the world and provided them the opportunity to connect with others, hear from world-class speakers, learn new skills, and celebrate achievements.

Hear from members about their favorite memories and the knowledge and benefits they gained from attending an International Convention.

Jan Vecchio, DTM

Kingscliff, New South Wales, Australia

Benefits: “Apart from the obvious benefits of attending world-class educational sessions, listening to world-class speeches, participating in the Annual Business Meeting, helping and working with candidates seeking election to the Board of Directors, and having fun at Ted [Corcoran]’s Sing-Along, the big benefit for me has been networking and building friendships that will last a lifetime. Thanks to Toastmasters, I have fabulous friends throughout the world. These friends are my world and have helped shape the person I am today.”

Favorite Memory: “My favorite memory was the first convention in 2010 in Palm Desert, California. Being in the audience to watch the Parade of Flags at the Opening Ceremonies, and realizing how many countries Toastmasters has reached, was an amazing experience. I had never thought about it before: Toastmasters brings together people from all over the world. The Opening Ceremonies flag parade is the one event that I would not want to miss. In my year as District Director (2012), I had the opportunity to be part of the parade. I was immensely proud to carry the flag of Benin and to this day, always cheer when the Benin flag is carried in.”

Mary Swanson, DTM

Jordan, Minnesota

Benefits: “There isn’t just one benefit. I feel energized by the information and resources I gather during the convention that I take back to my club. Networking with members from around the world helps me be aware of different cultures, viewpoints, and techniques. The stories that members share about their Toastmasters journeys inspire me.”

Favorite Memory: “So many favorite memories. The one that continues to stand out is my first convention in 2001 in Anaheim, California. I attended every event that I was able to. The winner of the World Championship of Public Speaking was Darren LaCroix. The speech contest had 10 incredible speeches that blew me away. The Golden Gavel recipient was Jim Cathcart. I was in awe of the presentation that he gave after he was given the award. I participated in the Hall of Fame where my District was honored as a Distinguished District. Lastly, I enjoyed the President’s Celebration. I was so impressed with my first convention; I have only missed two International Conventions since.”

Carolyn Kaldy, DTM

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Benefits: “In the working world and the volunteer world, I have found myself second guessing whether I should even attend a physical gathering and face the intimidating prospect of walking into a world full of strangers. By attending the International Convention, Toastmasters has given me the confidence to take those steps into an unknown physical group of people. To me, it is an important space that I can renew my confidence, practice creating face-to-face connections, and enhance previously made connections.”

Zaid Kaliya, DTM

Karachi, Pakistan

Benefits: “The International Convention isn’t just an event; it’s a refueling station for the motivational tank, replenishing my spirit for the year ahead. Meeting individuals from across the globe, encountering the World Champions of Public Speaking, and bringing back positivity to my homeland—all these experiences enrich my journey and inspire me to reach greater heights.”

Favorite Memory: “Stepping into the bustling energy of Nashville in 2022 for my first in-person Annual Convention was unforgettable. The honor of holding my country’s flag in the Parade of Flags brought tears of pride to my eyes. To dream of becoming a World Champion of Public Speaking and witnessing the semi-finals and finals was an extraordinary feat. The moment I captured a selfie with the latest World Champion is etched in my memory forever. In 2023, amidst all the attractions like the Parade of Flags and WCPS, Lisa’s keynote speech resonated deeply within me, echoing with a resounding ‘YES, YES’ in my mind. Receiving the Excellence in Club Growth award from Matt Kinsey, DTM, International President 2022-2023, remains a cherished memory, fresh in my heart.”

Frank Storey, DTM

Linthicum, Maryland

Benefits: “The benefits are numerous: attending all the great educational sessions, the International Speech Contest, the Golden Gavel event, and, of course, making new friends and reconnecting with old friends. This is especially true when you have connected with people online and then finally get to meet them. The 1990 convention was held in Dallas, my home District at the time. It was especially memorable because I got to serve on the volunteer committee.”

Favorite Memory: “My first convention in 1989 in Palm Desert, California, was especially memorable as it was in a beautiful location. I attended my first International Speech Contest, saw my first elections, and met so many amazing people.”

Carmen Lee-Pow, DTM

Newark, Delaware

Benefits: “The benefits of attending an International Convention are unbelievably abundant. The unexpected connections you make, the melting pot of personalities, and the Parade of Flags from various countries around the world leaves you speechless and sometimes in tears. One cannot help but be overjoyed to be a part of an organization that has changed so many lives by being flexible with its programs for unlimited growth of self-confidence, self-development, and leadership opportunities. Every Toastmaster should try to attend at least one convention to see the organization’s bigger picture.”

Favorite Memory: “My favorite memory will always be the one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—the first-ever convention outside North America. The diversity of members from all over the world who spoke different languages was delightful. It was a dynamic, exciting, thrilling, and electrifying atmosphere.”

Anthony Longley, DTM

Nassau, Bahamas

Benefits: “I would encourage every Toastmaster to attend an International Convention. Embrace the opportunity to see the organization through a larger and brighter prism. Learn how things truly work while rubbing shoulders with the leaders who work hard on our behalf as they serve with humility and pride. Enjoy the networking and make new and lasting friendships. Nothing beats watching the World Championship of Public Speaking contest live as well as the high caliber of presenters in the education sessions. It’s definitely worth the investment!”

Favorite Memory: “My favorite memory hands down would have to be the 2023 International Convention held at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar resort in Nassau, Bahamas. I will always treasure the honor of serving as Convention Co-Host. Secondly, to witness a fellow Bahamian, Coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin, be the first from my country to receive the Golden Gavel Award. Thirdly, to watch as our Prime Minister, Distinguished Toastmaster Philip Davis, as he addressed the convention live from center stage.”

Arnaud Sartre, DTM

Faversham, England

Benefits: “Such global exposure is rare, if not unheard of, at least at this scale outside the corporate world. I have likened the convention to a giant human connection experiment. Outside the convention, I have never had the opportunity to hold deep meaningful conversations with so many people, on so many topics, from so many backgrounds and cultures. This really brings to life Ralph Smedley’s quote ‘Understanding comes through communication, and through understanding we find the way to peace’—something the world needs to be constantly reminded of.”

Favorite Memory: I can recount at least one memorable moment at every single one of these conventions, but Chicago is perhaps the most memorable of all. It was also my first attendance as a Trio member having only been elected as Club Growth Director. So, among the excitement of the convention, I also experienced a truly life-changing environment, being able to interact so seamlessly and naturally with hundreds of other District leaders from all parts of the globe. I recall the last sentence of my election speech being ‘we make the world a better place’ and here I was, living that final quote among so many beautiful souls. It was so enriching and unique, plus being surrounded by other club members that crossed the Atlantic to experience the convention for the first time was just the cherry on the cake! Chicago was also a place I made long-lasting friendships, truly astonishing from only meeting in person for just a few days!”

Beth May

Mount Airy, Maryland

Benefits: “Few experiences offer the kind of personal and professional enrichment that a Toastmasters International Convention can provide. Even if you attend only one convention, you may find the benefits to be profound and long-lasting. In my case, I credit my first convention experience with giving me the courage and inspiration to quit my job of 28 years to take my career in a different direction! In addition, at an educational session I learned about the physiology of positivity, which inspired a lifestyle shift.”

Favorite Memory: “My favorite International Convention memory is my first convention in 2015—the whole thing! It was magic from the start—an inspiring educational session with Distinguished Toastmaster and Accredited Speaker Dana LaMon—to finish—dancing until midnight at the President’s Celebration. Although it was more than eight years ago, I remember everything in between: feeling excited at the First Timers’ Gathering, being awed by the Parade of Flags (one of my favorite parts every year), learning new techniques from world-class speaking coach Patricia Fripp, getting inspired by Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus at the Golden Gavel Award ceremony, watching dozens of world-class speeches at the International Speech Contest Semifinals, seeing Mohammed Qahtani, DTM, win at the WCPS, and dancing in the aisles during breaks at the business meeting.”


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