Me & My Muse – Day 849: 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 Crowne Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan: October 30-November 1, 2015.

First of all, the theme.  Having already mentioned it in the past, I believe that it bears repeating.  The theme for Grand Rapids’ Fall Conference was “Be Who you Want to Be”.  And I can tell you beyond certainty that it happened.  How so?  Follow me, and will be your guide through this exciting weekend of treats, speaking and networking.

First of all, the name of the theme was decided because of the time of year.  With it being Halloween, it would only be fitting if we could be who we wanted to be. With Halloween being able to do this, the same can be done with Toastmasters.  In Toastmasters, you have the chance to be who you want to be.  With that said, that’s pretty much where the theme came from.

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

My journey consisted of a rather lengthy 128.10 miles to the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  I had to drive down M-30.  This was the first leg.  After I got to M-46, I turned right.  I then turned left on Barry Road, right on Washington and left on Bagley Road.  It then led to a divided median of the north-south bound US-127.  Turning right would take you north.  Going through the median and turning left would take you south.  I went through the median and turned left.  This was the second leg.  I drove down US-127, taking it all the way to I-69.  I headed west on I-69 for a short time and then took that to I-96.  I was then on the final leg.  I drove south on I-96, getting off on the exit for 28th Street, turning right and then right again at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.  I then parked in a spot that was some place near the hotel.  I went down the hallway and found my room:  364.  I took the key, stuck it into the slot, and entered.

The furnishings were typical of your standard hotel.  Queen-sized beds, alarm clock, TV.  Just your standard fare for a standard room.

The bathroom was nothing to write home about either. In fact, There is something unfortunate that I will discuss later regarding the bathroom, so stay tuned.  The coffee machine was in there, with cups, sugar packets and non-dairy creamer.  The towels were underneath the sink, where they usually are.

Right outside the bathroom was the closet, which I used to hang my belongings.

Okay.  I don’t need to bore you any more with the room.  Let’s get to the fun stuff.  After getting situated in the room, I went downstairs to the atrium, which served as the central hub for the Toastmasters Conference.  That’s right.  No more running all over the hotel for break out sessions.  For just this weekend alone, we owned the entire atrium.

I registered and then entered the Michigan-Superior rooms, where I saw Margaret Sieh running around, busy as can be.  Carol Prahinski also popped in, buzzing around and trying to get things set up.  As as I wanted to help, I feared that I would be a hindrance if I got in their way.

A little bit later,  dinner began.  I helped myself to some boneless BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, baked beans and a little bit of coleslaw.  For dessert, I grabbed a slice of cheesecake.

As we finished our dinner, Dana LaMon took the stage.  He delivered his first keynote, titled “Pack Power in your Presentation”.  With Dana LaMon, I was impressed.  Not only was he 1992 World Champion of Public Speaking and Accredited Speaker, he was blind.  Despite being blind, this speaks volumes to what he has accomplished in his life.  He was an inspiration to all and he really captivated the audience.

After that keynote, I hurried to the Atrium for my briefing.  Since I was a judge for the Table Topics Speech Contest, I needed to listen to the briefing.

The Table Topics Contest followed.  All in all, the topics were pretty good.  They all answered the question “If you had a time machine, who would you send and where would you send them?”  A woman from the Macatawa Club in Holland, Michigan won.  Despite being wheelchair bound and handicapped, this woman answered the question better than anyone else.  Her answer was moving and it touched the entire audience.  She deserved first place and I’m glad that she got it.

Since the Table Topics Contest started early, we ended early.  This was good since the District Governor’s Reception followed.  It was held in room 365, which was one of the hotel’s suites.

In checking the spread, it was amazing.  A lot of the snacks were Halloween themed.  There was Goblin boogers (green-colored caramel corn), raw meat (purple-colored rice crispies treats), scabs (pecans), ghosts (vanilla covered mint oreos), mummies (vanilla covered mint oreos with chocolate stripes) and a nice rack with treats to dip into the chocolate fountain.  You could dip apples, bananas, pretzel rods, marshmellows and oreos into the chocolate fountain.

In addition to that, there were small tangerines that were decorated to look like little Jack O’ Lanterns.  For drinks, there was a good selection of alcohol, but I didn’t drink any of it.  I was content with the water that I brought.  I stayed for a while and enjoyed the snacks and networking.  Overall, it was a lot of fun and very sweet.

The next morning was breakfast.  The slideshow had pictures of various different clubs in our district.  My club was one of them.  After the welcome and introductions, the theme “Be Who You Want to Be” was introduced.

Dana LaMon then gave his second keynote, titled “The Driving Force”.  In this keynote, he outlined how success is depicted atop a rugged mountain and that the climb to it is steep, hard and treacherous.  He then shared knowing what we want, knowing where we are going, acting to make things happen, looking forward to our destination and persisting until the DRIVE to success is finished.

I then went to a break out session.  I went to Kathey Batey’s session, titled “Finding Your Heart’s Message”.  In the session Kathey talked about the heart’s message and how it’s what we really want to say.

Lunch followed, with the Tim Lomas Perpetuals Awards, Hall of Fame Award ceremony and DTM Ceremony. I actually got an award that I’m not proud of, which is the Triple Crown Award.  I’m not proud of this award because it was not done in due honesty.  Toastmasters International made a clerical error in the processing of my awards.  with the Competent Communicator and High Performance Leadership Project, I should have two awards, not three.  The third was from them processing an extra Competent Communicator award, which has identical speech titles from the second submitted award.  This is a simple mistake that I will have TI resolve as soon as possible.

After the awards, there were some more breakout sessions to choose from.  Noreen Savage’s “Quick and Dirty Storytelling: A Practical Method for writing Pithy Presentations”  It was informative, interactive and fun.  I had to think of an idea on the fly that day, since I was a little tired from getting up early.

The Humorous Speech Contest followed.  Overall, there were some really good speakers, including one that blew everyone away.  This was Ray Dill, a member of the Macatawa Club in Holland, Michigan.  With Macatawa Club being in Area 17 and Rocky Nichols, the Contest Master being Area 17 Director, it makes me wonder if he actually won this contest.  Afterall, Macatawa won both contests!  I’m just kidding.  Rocky would never take the path of dishonesty, despite the fact that he has a hopeless addiction to speech contests.  Ray got first place with a speech where he talks about an interesting evening that he experienced.

After the contest was the Business Meeting, which I got to quickly.  Being the parliamentarian, I had to make sure that everyone in the District Council was following Robert’s Rules properly.  This was not an issue, as all the items were pretty much scripted and were all in accordance with the meeting’s standing rules (i.e. all motions will be made in the positive, not the negative, voting on a motion may only be done by those delegates who have a ballot, etc.)   Different items were discussed, with me carefully listening to ensure that parliamentary procedure was conducted properly. All in all, the meeting was okay.

After that, dinner followed, with a fun Halloween Masquerade Contest.  I went up to my room and changed into my Mario costume.  My brother was Luigi and together, we were the Mario Brothers.  After the dinner, we were all asked to line up by the stage.  Some delegates from District 28 (one of our neighboring districts) judged the costumes.  For the results, I didn’t win.  I did get an honorable mention and was able to take one of the light up Jack O’ Lanterns home.

After the masquerade, Dana LaMon gave his third keynote, titled “Make the Message Memorable”.  This was a fun one, as he shows how to make a speech memorable.  Overall, I really enjoyed it.

When this was over, I decided to take a break.  A little later, I came back and everyone was dancing to “Thriller”.  When the “Cha Cha Slide” came on, I got up on stage and started dancing.  Spanakopitas were served as appetizers, and I helped my self to a bunch of them.  When the dancing continued, I was tired, and decided to call it a night.

The next morning, I had breakfast and listened to Dana LaMon’s final keynote speech “The Tool Box for Building a Better Speaker”.  It was an informative speech with a bunch of useful tips.

Following that was the last speech.  I and everyone else listened to Paul Artele’s “What’s Your Value? Values Based Leadership Training for Toastmasters and Beyond”.  I loved this session, as he had the room laid out with different answers that everyone could run to.  Answers ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.  Overall, it was a blast.

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

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 this last weekend.

Fake?  That was real!  So I scheduled it in advance.  How else was I supposed to leave something like that if I was gone on Saturday?  And what happened to the fat one?

Muse:  Her?  I beat her like I did before.  She’ll be out for a while.  The only thing that I have to deal with is this fat body…*sigh* Oh well…Oh, and 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 things that I learned from Dana LaMon:  The hook, the hammer and the hinge.  A very nice way to rename the opening, body and conclusion of your speech.  Also, a quotable quote from someone he knows.  “If you change the environment, you change your opportunities.”

Muse:  That’s pretty good!

I know.  I really took that away with me.

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 73 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…