Toastmasters Convention – Lessons for next year

By now you know there’s a big speech contest every year at the Toastmasters International Convention, right? But wait, there’s more. There’s a whole Convention going on during the Convention! And. It’s. Fun.

Here are my tips on the best way you, fellow toastmaster, can (and should!) experience the convention next year.

1. Go (duh). You can’t get the tremendous advantages from attending the convention by skipping the whole event.
2. Divide and conquer. You can’t attend every session, but you can learn from every session. Make friends, take notes at each session and trade notes with others (or Blog them like I did)
3. Network. Did you know there is a district in Australia with two Lt Governors Education and Training (like me) and two Lt Governors Marketing? I didn’t until I met one. Turns out that’s what you do in a district is so big it needs to split next year. There’s a cool goal.
4. Mingle with important people. Our International President (Pat Johnson), Executive Director and others in the leadership and world headquarters (WHQ) staff love meeting members (even from Kansas). Did you know that if enough people ask for a certain item to be stocked in the TI bookstore, that they will add it? Me either, until I mingled.
5. Volunteer. Many hands make light work. I spent two hours as a Sgt at Arms at the door of the Opening Ceremonies. Met more people, had easy access to pop out to the restroom, and now at least one WHQ Staff member owes me a favor (another story)
6. Go to the Board of Directors briefing. It’s interesting to learn what changes are coming, and what’s being planned for our organization.
7. Write. Put your experiences down on paper (or blog). Last year I finished a CC manual in about 3 months after the convention. There are always so many topics to talk about.
8. Read. Buy at least one book from one speaker and get it autographed. For me it was Carolyn Kepcher, the Golden Gavel recipient. She is an amazing businesswoman, an outstanding speaker and wow-level pretty (not that that matters).
9. Meet the candidates. There are always candidates for International Director and the top offices. They have some amazing ideas, really useful handouts (many on data CDs now) and will take the time to talk to any member.
10. Dress up and dance. The final dinner on Saturday night is your chance to Tux-it-up. Look your best, eat great food and do some more mingling/networking/sucking-up (if necessary). Then, after dinner and the events, you can get some dancing in with 1,500 of your closest new friends.

If you are wondering…yes, I did everything I’m advising you to do. If you go and do less, you’ll be squandering a great opportunity. If you don’t go, then you won’t even know what you’re missing. Don’t let another great convention pass you by.

Next year the convention is in Las Vegas. Even in Australian dollars you can probably afford the airfare there. Start planning now for the trip and when you go, you won’t regret it. And – of course the contest will be great too…

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