Me & My Muse – Day 111: Toastmasters Fall Conference Aftermath

What more can I say?  This weekend most certainly was a learning experience.  It was a learning experience for me and all who shared the journey at the Toastmasters District 62 Fall Conference.

For everyone absent from the journey, those on the outside looking in, that begs the question.  How was it a learning experience?  First of all, I don’t want you to be anxious.  I will get to my exciting journey momentarily.  Until then, sit back and enjoy the ride.

If I were to tell you the truth, my journey was really two journeys.  My first journey was getting to the conference.

Press rewind.  The time is 3:30 a.m.  Both alarms chime simultaneously.  The beeping of my alarm clock radio and the intense music blaring from my cell phone alarm.  I spring out of bed and dismiss them both.  Ladies and gentlemen, that’s exactly what would’ve happened IF I woke up to them.  To tell you the truth, I turned them off a few minutes before they went off.  My internal alarm clock in my brain went off before any of the other two.

In the next few minutes, I donned my dress clothes and rushed to McDonald’s for my coffees – one for me and one for my brother.  I also ordered two Sausage McMuffins with Egg,  After waiting for what seemed like hours, I received my food and rushed back home.

I divided the food and coffee, applying some chipotle Tabasco sauce and some of Emeril’s essence to my Sausage McMuffin with egg.  I then drank my lukewarm coffee, which I am certain was served to me that way.

The time was now almost 4:30 in the morning.  After some final preparations, me and my brother were on our way to Kalamazoo.  Well, almost.

After driving for a while on this one road, it turned to gravel.  At this point I began to wonder when my next turn was.  After reaching a dead end, I knew that I missed my turn.  So I turned around and began cruising down the gravel road.  That’s when a fawn darted out in the middle of the road.  I immediately applied the brakes, but that wasn’t enough to avoid it.  It bounced off the passenger side, near the headlights, tumbling backwards into the woods.  After that scare, I drove back to where I missed the turn and we were finally on our way.

At a little past 7:00 in the morning, I arrived at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in Kalamazoo.  My first journey was over, But the next one was about to begin.

Now how was this weekend a learning experience besides learning that tampering with FM transmitters can make you miss an important turn and that driving through a woodsy area full of deer at 5:00 in the morning is not a good idea?  While those were learning experiences for me, I would like to focus on the conference, where there was a lot of learning experiences for everyone who was able to attend.

I came in, registering and getting my ballots at the credentials desk.  I had a nice breakfast and sat with some familiar faces.  One of them was David Dellar, District Photographer.

After breakfast, I lined up for a Banner Parade, which I thought wasn’t organized very well.  The names weren’t all arranged in time, making it awkward for the person reading all the club names.  A few clubs were not in order, and most of the clubs were not even present.

With that fiasco over, we started off the morning with with the keynote speaker – Maureen Zappala.  Now you have heard people say, “What are you, a rocket scientist?”  Maureen can actually say that she is, since she is a former NASA aeronautics propulsion engineer.

I then went to a break out session.  I went to Jan Glowe-Janke’s session, titled “Everybody has a Message”.  She mentioned how every one of us is unique and the importance of sharing your message.

After that breakout session, it was time for Maureen’s next keynote.  In that morning’s keynote, Maureen talked about five key capacities that every employee needs to fulfill.  She used humor and entertaining anecdotes to illustrate her points.  Overall, I learned a lot from her.

The Table Topics Contest followed.  All in all, I loved the topics.  Todd Pfenninger, the one I’m mentoring got second place.  For someone very new to Toastmasters, I consider that a remarkable accomplishment.

Lunch followed, with the Hall of Fame Award ceremony.

After lunch, I went to another breakout session.  I went to Leon Wilson’s breakout, titled “Ga Ga for Google”.  He shared some useful tools that every Toastmaster club can use to make planning club meetings more effective.  This included the various tools found in the Google Docs suite.

When that was over, I bee-lined to the ballroom, where the District Business Meeting was held.  Since I was timing the meeting, I didn’t want to be late.  After being briefed on the timing by the District Governor, I got everything all set.  The Lieutenant Governor of Education and Training let me borrow her timing cards and stopwatch.

After the meeting started, I began the timing.  As I was doing the timing, there was some confusion in the room when I held up the cards at the intervals that were consistent to when the meeting started.  The only problem was that I subtracted the time, since the meeting started five minutes late.  I gave them five less minutes for that business item so that the meeting could still end on time.  This resulted in the de-synching of the meeting.  I later found out that the business items needed to be timed, and this means not basing the time off of the proposed starting time of the meeting.  Even if this was done right, The four questions about the district budget delayed the flow of the meeting by about ten minutes.

Understanding my performance on the timing the meeting, I consider it a learning experience, as Toastmasters really is with new thing that you experience.  It was my first time at trying the role, and I was told that I did a good job, despite the cues that confused the trio, the club leaders and their proxies.

Right after the business meeting, I had to rush to the Humorous Speech Contest, since there was about four minutes left before it started.

Overall, there were some really good speakers, including one that blew everyone away.  This was Rocky Nichols, member of West Michigan Advanced Club, Butter N’ Toast, Toast of the Town and Walker Talkers.  He got first place with a speech where he shares his solution to junk mail.

After that, dinner followed, with the DTM ceremony happening right afterwards.

For live entertainment that night,  there was a live auction of all the items that were there for the Silent Auction.  To be honest, the auction took more time than what I thought was necessary.  To look at it positively, all the money gained from the auction helped out the District.

With the auction over, what remained was the District Governor’s Reception, which was held in a room where I had my morning breakout.  There was a lot of good discussion, including my conversations with Ross Mackay, our candidate for Region VI International Director. Ross’s resume is astounding.  With over 20 years of Toastmasters experience, he is a DTM.  He is also an Accredited Speaker, a distinction belonging to only a select few around the world.  Ross has placed third in the International Speech Contest, and has been to more than 30 countries, making him a worthy candidate for this position.

After talking to a few people, I called it a night.

The next morning, I had breakfast and listened to Maureen’s final keynote.  I loved hearing her story on how she took her Ford Pinto on a joy ride, only to total it, much to the demise of her and her friends.  I’m glad everything turned out alright.  I also loved hearing her story about her working with Darren LaCroix and the awkward message that she left on the answering machine.  Overall, it was a pleasure having her as our keynote for this weekend.

My learning journey came to an end when I listened to Ross Mackay’s breakout.  It was the “Magic of Goal Achievement” and the last breakout of the conference.  He talked about how important the subconscious was and how we can achieve our goals.

If you didn’t have time to read all that, let me give you the short version.  I learned a whole lot this weekend, as did everyone else who was present.

With that, I will now end….


Muse:  That was beautiful.  Not like your fake entry from yesterday.

Fake?  That was real!  So I scheduled it in advance.  How else was I supposed to leave something like that if I was gone yesterday?

Muse:  The hotel did have a computer area.  You could’ve left it then.

Well, I’m finishing, okay?  I believe that I said everything that I needed to.

Muse:  And are you going to….

No.  No reading or writing.  I’ll do that tomorrow.

Muse:  *sigh*  Time to start my next romance novel: Diamonds and Dimples….

Well, she’s gone.  To reiterate, I really learned a lot this weekend.

Today’s high is going to be 52 degrees and the silver lining was going to the conference.

To all of you who have ever had a wonderful learning experience, I hope that you all have a fantastic day.


Muse:  That conference recap was golden.  Okay.  You get a pass for tonight….

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