By Janet Fuchek
The 2015 Toastmasters International Convention, which took place Aug. 12-15 at Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, brought together 2,528 registrants from 65 countries. The prestigious event embraced enriching activities that encompassed Toastmasters leadership and public speaking tracks.
The Toastmasters International Convention is a meeting place for success, whether it be as a speech contestant, presenter or award recipient. Add to the mix incredible Toastmasters leaders and the inspirational atmosphere can’t be beat.
“I really love to be on stage and to inspire people – to make people laugh,” says Mohammed Qahtani, who claimed first at the convention’s World Championship of Public Speaking on Aug. 15 – a highlight of the event. With his dynamic speech, “The Power of Words,” he won over the judges and the crowd alike in a field of 10 finalists. “The fact that I can do this means literally nothing is impossible,” figures Qahtani, who has survived bullying in school to later become a world champion in public speaking. A member of the Dhahran North Park Club in Saudi Arabia, District 79, for the past six years, the accomplished Toastmaster was mute until the age of six, struggling afterwards with stuttering. He has advice for aspiring Toastmasters. "Face your fear,” he says. “My fear was opening my mouth and saying something.”
Aditya Maheswaran of Mumbai, India, District 41, took second for his inspiring speech, “Scratch,” while Manoj Vasudevan of Singapore, representing District 80, finished third with his entertaining presentation, “We Can Fix It.”
While speech contestants will return to their homes with invaluable stage time, or better yet, top accolades, the average participant will have special memories, new friendships, and a renewed sense of purpose as a Toastmaster.
“I like meeting a lot of new people,” says convention registrant, Steve Phinney of Aurora, Colorado, who has been a Toastmaster for a little less than a decade. “It (Toastmasters) helped improve my delivery as a minister.”
The convention kicked off on Aug. 12 with a Board of Directors Briefing, where the Toastmasters International Board of Directors provided updates about recent actions and decisions, as well as shared the organization’s strategic plan and vision for the future. A panel discussion ensued, featuring international officers, directors and regional advisors, who explained their roles. They described ways Toastmasters could serve as an officer, from the club to district level.
World Champion and Accredited Speaker Dana LaMon, also of the Distinguished Toastmaster rank, delivered an educational session entitled, “Making the Club Experience Meaningful.”
The First-timers Gathering afforded international convention newcomers a networking opportunity as Toastmasters International President Mohammed Murad, a DTM, welcomed them to the event.
At the opening ceremony that evening, the Parade of Flags took place, followed by a State of the Organization report by President Murad. Darren LaCroix, CSP, and the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking and a member of the Powerhouse Pros Club in Las Vegas, gave a presentation. Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, gave the keynote speech, “Under the Magnifying Glass: Good to Great on Steroids.” She offered tips to make speeches memorable.
The Region Advisor breakfast was held on Aug. 13 for past and current region advisors. A Hall of Fame event acknowledged Toastmasters International’s top performers for 2014-15. Judy Carter, a comedian and author of The Comedy Bible, enlightened the audience with her presentation, entitled “The Message of You: Finding Extraordinary Stories in an Ordinary Day.”
The Advisory Committee of Past Presidents Lunch also took place that day.
Fripp and Darren LaCroix coached volunteers on the delivery of parts of their presentations in the afternoon session of “Under the Magnifying Glass: Good to Great on Steroids…in Action!”
The speech contest semifinals was scheduled for that evening, featuring 96 contestants from regions from around the world vying for 10 berths into the World Championship of Public Speaking on Aug. 15.
On the agenda was The Past Officers and Directors Breakfast that took place on August 14. Accredited Speakers delivered their presentations at the final stage of the 2015 Accredited Speaker Program. Educational sessions included the following topics: “Leadership Excellence,” “How You Can Achieve It” by Marilyn Tam, “Life Is Too Short for Fear and Embarrassment” by Alex Malley, and “Laughter Becomes You” by Tim Gard.
At the Golden Gavel event on Aug. 14, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Muhammed Yunus, received this highest honor presented to a non-Toastmaster in the field of communications and leadership. Toastmaster 2014-15 Distinguished Districts were also acknowledged.
The evening’s activities concluded with a candidates’ showcase, where candidates for international office were interviewed in front of an audience of convention delegates.
After the annual business meeting on Aug. 15, the highly anticipated Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking featuring the 10 finalists took place.
Regional gatherings, followed by the President’s Inauguration Reception, the President’s Inauguration, where newly elected officers and directors were inducted, and the President’s Inauguration Celebration completed the week’s slate of activities.
Toastmasters Marketplace featured candidates’ corner, the convention store, exhibitors, a speakers’ showcase, a candidates’ reception, and a leadership roles booth.
The 85th annual Toastmasters International Convention is slated for Aug. 17-20, 2016, in Washington, D.C. The 2017 Toastmasters International Convention will take place from Aug. 23-26, 2017, in Vancouver, B.C., in Canada.
For more information about a Toastmasters Club near you, consult the website www.toastmasters.org.
Manoj Vasudevan, third-place winner, from Singapore, District 80, with his speech, "We Can Fix It"
Aditya Maheswaran, second-place winner of Mumbai, India - District 41, with his speech, "Scratch"
Mohammed Qahtani, first-place winner, from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, District 79, with his speech, "The Power of Words"
Muhammad Yunus, Golden Gavel Recipient, who was recognized for his efforts to end poverty through micro-lending and cause-driven businesses in his home country of Bangladesh and throughout the world
Tim Gard delivers a presentation, "Laughter Becomes You"
Longtime Toastmaster, Remy Riborozo, of Pinellas Park Park, Fla. (Florida), District 84
Minnesota's Stephen and Nancy Shaner enjoy the President's Inauguration Celebration, the culminating activity on Aug. 15, 2015
Toastmasters encourages networking
Couples take in Toastmaster conference together
A touch of Scotland at the Toastmasters conference