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My experience of the Toastmasters International Convention in California, 2010

After 29 hours of flights and layovers we had one day to acclimatise (Monday) to the 40 degree heat of Palm Springs before a grueling schedule of 5 days of training, conference and contests began. But on the day of acclimatising, of course we had some work to do – we interviewed candidates for international office and this is why those proxies are so important! As your District officers we carry the responsibility of taking the decisions of who is best to represent all our members in the next year of office, and it is often a tough call.

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From the Tuesday we started training for two days, which was a historic occasion because for the first time we were being trained with all the countries of the world after the resolution was passed last year to do away with DNAR (Districts Not Assigned To Regions) which was our designated region until then. It was indeed a global experience with a much broader learning than the previous year for me.

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LGET Keryn House, DG Rob Douglas and LGM Francois Rossouw receiving training

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Conference opened on the Wednesday evening with the glittering Opening Ceremony and each of us (Rob Douglas, DG, Francois Rossouw, LGM and myself as LGET) carried flags from our District on to the stage – what an honour. I carried the Zimbabwe flag, which meant I was the last person on the stage before the USA flag. Over 100 flags were carried onto the stage that evening!

The conference started the next morning with a Board of Directors briefing and then the Hall of Fame where our DG Rob Douglas, DTM was honoured with the Excellence in Education Award for his work as LGET in 2008.9 in achieving the District goals. Well done Rob!

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Excellence in Education & Training, Rob Douglas

The educationals then started with past international winners taking the stage like Lance Miller, DTM (winner 2005) and Jim Key, DTM (winner 2003) . Next the International Semi-final contests began, and Ryan Ebedes did us proud by placing 3rd in his round with his speech entitled “ Lessons from Sociable Weavers”.

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3rd place in the semi-finals, Ryan Ebedes

Friday dawned with Candidate showcases for 4.5 hours as we saw all the potential new leaders of Toastmasters International presenting their speeches ahead of the elections on the Saturday. We had more educationals in the afternoon, which I enjoyed as I saw Mark Eaton (the tallest man I have EVER seen!) - he went from a 7'4" twenty-one year old mechanic who couldn't play basketball to a twelve year career as an NBA All Star with the Utah Jazz. Then I went on to hear about being “Too Busy For Your Own Good – Get That Spark Back in your Life” with Connie Merritt (registered nurse, life coach, business owner, author and speaker) who taught us to ‘Admit it! Accept it! Let Go! and Be Present!’ – Wow! She sure got her message across. We managed to squeeze in a few more interviews with candidates before the Golden Gavel Dinner in the evening which is where Toastmasters International recognizes the Distinguished Districts and the 2010 Golden Gavel recipient, Carolyn Kepcher from ‘The Apprentice’. She told her story really well, and had the audience in the palm of her hand.

On Saturday we woke early as we had a 7am Annual Business Meeting (!) with four hours of elections to determine the new 2010.11 leadership. In the afternoon, the International Speech Contest was held. After hearing 9 excellent speeches, the winner was announced as David Henderson from District 55 San Antonio Texas with his amazing speech entitled, “The Aviators”, a touching story about two children growing up playing a game flying aeroplanes. The elegant dinner dance that evening was a fitting end to the week – Past International President Jana Barnhill, DTM, AS, presided over the installation of the newly elected officers and directors.

We flew back the next day the long way home (it seems there is no really short way), and landed in Spring temperatures (well, almost) - What an experience, thank you.

Best Regards

Keryn House, DTM, Lt Gov Education and Training