Me & My Muse – Day 497: Toastmasters District 62 Fall Conference Aftermath

This is it.  The recap that you have been waiting for.  Or is it?  Whether it meets or expectations to a T or falls just short of them,  here it is, in its entirety.  The Fall Conference aftermath from the Toastmasters District 62 Fall Conference at the H Hotel in Midland Michigan: November 14-16, 2014.

First of all, the theme.  Having already mentioned it in the past, I believe that it bears repeating.  The theme for the Midland’s Fall Conference was “Explore Your Sweet Possibilities”.  And my how sweet this weekend was.  How so?  Follow me, and will be your guide through this magical weekend of sweets, speaking and networking.

First of all, the name of the theme was decided because of the conference’s location.  If anyone knows anything about Midland, it is known as the “City of Modern Explorers”.  With that in place, it would make sense for our conference chair to decide on a mouthwatering theme:  “Explore Your Sweet Possibilities.”

When will he get to the weekend already?  Here it is.  First of all, the journey.

My journey consisted of a very long 8.3 miles to the H Hotel.  I had to drive down Saginaw Road.  This was the first leg.  After I got to Herbert Henry Dow High School, I turned right on Main Street.  This was the second leg.  I drove through the rain covered roads, past Orchard road, Currie Parkway and M-20.  I was then on the final leg.  I drove past the Courthouse and to my final destination: the H Hotel.  I turned on Ashman, driving downhill to the parking deck.  I pressed the button and received my parking ticket.  I then proceeded to park my car in a nearby space.

Checking in was quick and efficient.  I got my room key and took my luggage to an elevator.  I went down the hallway and found my room:  231.  I took the key, looking for a slot to stick it into, but there wasn’t one.

Confused, I then realized that this was the latest.  For these rooms, you have to badge in.  Taking my “badge”, I held it near the scanner.  The light turned green.  The door was unlocked.  I took my luggage and entered the room…

Once inside, I was blown away.  The room was stylish and contemporary.  A charge station sat on the nightstand, complete with an HDMI slot, a USB slot, composite cable jacks, an iPad slot two three-pronged wall outlets and a few other slots and jacks.  For those who love gadgets, you could charge them all here.  An analog alarm clock radio sat on top, with the phone to the right.

The bathroom was separated by a stained glass sliding door encased in wooden paneling.  Inside the bathroom was an open shower, with glass and wall tiles.  The shower fixtures were all Kohler.  The sink was spacious.  A large rectangle with soap and mouthwash.

Right outside the bathroom was a system of drawers and cabinets.  One of the smaller cabinets opened a mini fridge.  Perched above the drawers was a coffee station.  A Keurig coffee brewer sat there, with a fine assortment of coffee and tea K-packs.  the coffee creme sat there, with the stir rods and assortment of sugar packets.  And the best part?  REAL coffee mugs!  Not the cheap ones that they have wrapped in plastic.

But there were more surprises.  My brother pressed a switch on the wall, which moved three different curtains up and down.  The mirror portrait was an HDTV, which sat directly across from our double beds.

On the side with the HDTV sat a small table with two lounge chairs on either side.  A lamp with a floor switch sat to the right of the lounge chairs.  This was the perfect place to settle down.

But with a conference to begin, we didn’t do that.  I left the room with the items I needed, loudly exclaiming,  “I LOVE this hotel!”

“I heard that,” came a voice that was nearby the elevators.  The voice belonged to Michelle Mertes, one of the two conference co-chairs.

After a short conversation with her,  I exited the elevator, with the doors opening from the other side.

When I got to registration, I noticed a few familiar faces at the registration desk.  They were members from my club, helping with the registration for the conference.  One of them was the club president. Another one had a difference office.  After registering, I helped myself to some hors d’oeuvres and entered Indigo I&II, the ballroom and conference space for the conference.

After eating my hors d’oeuvres, I moved on to my king-sized Pay Day that I bought at the gas station.  Coincidentally, this conference fell on a pay day so I helped myself to one.

After eating, I spotted Darren LaCroix, the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking.  He would be our keynote speaker for the weekend, and I wanted a picture with him.  After asking him, I got the shot.

The evening began with Darren LaCroix, giving his first keynote titled “Own the Stage”.  He outlined some common mistakes that speakers make and even invited a few participants up to give them a chance to speak.  After they speak, Darren stops them and gives them some pointers on how to improve that speech.  This segment was done with Darren and Ross MacKay, Distinguished Toastmaster, Accredited Speaker and Region VI International Director.

After this was the District Governor’s Reception in room 317.  Things got sweeter when I went here and saw all the chocolate.  There was a chocolate fountain with strawberries, graham crackers, pretzels, marshmallows, red velvet cupcakes, Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes and brownies.  The reception got so crowded that it was hard to hear anyone’s conversation.

But I was able to meet one person there.  Her name was Krystal Wilson.  Finding out that she was competing tomorrow, I gave her some advice on what to do.  Overall, it was fun making connection and a new Toastmaster friend.

The next morning was breakfast.  The slideshow had pictures of 21 different clubs.  My club was one of them.  After the welcome and introductions, the theme “Explore Your Sweet Possibilities” was introduced.

Darren LaCroix then gave his second keynote, titled “From Chump to Champ”.  In this keynote, he outlined his story on how he wanted to be a standup comedian.  I got to hear about Darren’s long road to achieving that.  He showed his winning version of his “Ouch!” speech and a much earlier version of that same speech.  He even showed his 1992 debut at Stitch’s comedy club in Boston, where he was terrible, only getting one laugh.  But looking at that one laugh, Darren saw that as successful and pressed on, ultimately becoming World Champion of Public Speaking in 2001.

I then went to a break out session.  I went to Antulio Borneo’s (E Division Governor) session, titled “Effective Networking – How to Cultivate People”.  In the session Antulio explained this, and invited up some participants.  I was one of them and someone from my club was another.  All in all, this session was fun and I learned a lot from it.

After that breakout session was the Table Topics Contest.  All in all, the topics were pretty good.  They all answered the question “What makes you laugh?”  Someone else won, which was nobody from my area or division.

Lunch followed, with the Hall of Fame Award ceremony.  To my surprise, I actually got an award for successfully serving as a Club Coach.  A Toastmasters International briefcase.  The Club Coach that I worked with also got one and everyone who served as a Club Coach returned to their seats.

After the awards, Darren LaCroix gave his next keynote, titled “Speaking Outside of Toastmasters for Fun, Profit, Club Building!”   I had to miss part of this, due to having “complications in the bathroom” I will not go into details here, but I missed most of this keynote as a result of this unfortunate event.

After that keynote was the Business Meeting.  Different items were discussed, with me seconding one of the motions. All in all, the meeting was okay.

The Humorous Speech Contest followed.  Overall, there were some really good speakers, including one that blew everyone away.  This was Jim Graczyk, member of my home club, Midland Toastmasters.  He got first place with a speech where he talks about his experience with “Slow Swimmers”.  The speech involved him in the doctor’s office getting “samples” from a cup with his wife.  You figure it out.

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

After dinner, Darren LaCroix gave his final keynote, titled “Just for Laughs! Comedy Keynote”.  This was a lighter one, as he shows how to use humor in our speeches.  He closed with a improv routine involving a woman standing behind him, pretending to be Darren’s arms.

When this was over, I bee-lined it to my room to change into my dancing clothes.  When I got back, it began.  Lorrie Ito and Aaron Templeton showed off a dance.  After that, we got a dancing lesson, which I bombed.  I managed to get the routine right, I just wasn’t that good at it.

The night continued with free dancing, which I partook of.  I said goodbye to Darren and watched him dance with Lorrie Ito.

After that, I called it a night.

The next morning, I had breakfast and listened to Ross MacKay’s keynote speech “Explore the Sweet Possibilities of Leadership”.  It was a speech that I have already heard before.  It was just another version of it.

Following that was my last my breakout session.  I went to Paul Kiewiet’s “Living With The Asterisk*”.  I loved this session, as it really applies to the asterisks that are in my life.

I then stayed for the conference glows and grows, thanks yous and the preview of the next conference in Jackson, Michigan.

Following that was an inconvenient shift that I had to work, giving me zero time to unwind.

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 a couple days ago.

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. Except for…oh yeah!

Muse:  What?

One of the important things that I learned from Darren LaCroix:  Stage time, stage time, stage time.  Vinny, his mentor told him to never give up stage time.  He told him that if he ever gave up stage time, he would never work with Darren again.

Muse:  That’s harsh!

But it drove the point home for him.  Stage time is very important.  Never give it up.

Muse:  I learned a lot from my conference too, but I’m tired.  I didn’t sleep well last night so I’m going to take a nap.

Okay.  I’ll let you do that…

Today’s high is going to be 27 degrees and the silver lining is getting this recap done.

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.  I loved what I learned at my conference too, but man, am I tired…