Dun Laoghaire… it’s only taken 5 months for me to be able to read and pronounce the name of the place and I can finally spell it!
Over 300 toastmasters from across the UK and Ireland gathered at the Royal Marine hotel by the sea in Dun Laoghaire. Toasties from Aberdeen and Edinburgh, Leeds, London and Cardiff and so many places in between. Of course, the most common accent I heard was the gentle lilt of the Irish accent.
Dun Laoghaire is right on the sea, although my room had a great view of the roof.. but it didn’t matter because I hardly spent any time there! My two aims for the conference were to go to everything and to sing at the craic on Saturday night. I achieved this and so much more..
On Friday afternoon I attended a workshop held by Jock Elliott, World Champion of Public Speaking 2011. He presented his winning speech and then broke it down line by line, showing us the detail and tricks he uses in his writing. The main point I learned was the importance of the audience. The speaker is merely the conduit between the message and the audience, so remember to make it about them, not you.
The Speech Semi-Finals were held after the workshop (more about that later) and the evening’s fun really began with a champagne reception at the yacht club with everyone in medieval or viking fancy dress. We then moved back to the hotel for the opening ceremony and a buffet dinner. I had a short two-minute speech on my mind so I found it hard to fully relax and enjoy the evening, although I still didn’t get to bed until after 1am..
The District Council meeting started at 8.30am on Saturday morning. I gave a 60-second report on our division, mentioning our achievement of President’s Distinguished Division, the Princes’ Trust work being done in Area 32, the educational achievements of Area 37, speechcraft courses, celebrations of our long-established clubs and the wonderful atmosphere of our H for Happy clubs.
After the tea break the Council separated into the two new districts for the election of district officers, realignment and other issues. The little two-minute speech I mentioned earlier was my pitch to be elected Lt. Gov. Marketing for the new District 91 and I’m very proud to let you know I was successful. I would like to thank Jacqui Hogan of Maidenhead Speakers for submitting her candidacy for the same position. She spurred me on to give my best for the position and I have huge respect for her. She will play an instrumental role in helping my plans for the new district come to fruition. I know I have her full support, as she has mine.
The International Speech Contest finals were held after lunch and what a thrilling contest it was. The speeches were of an incredible standard, as you would expect, but it’s hard to describe how exceptional they were. I hope you will consider buying the DVD of the conference, it will be well worth watching. I am again proud to tell you that Division H’s representative, Chris Boden of Maidenhead Speakers, made it through to the final and was eventually crowned the winner of the final District 71 (in it’s current form) International Speech Contest. He will go on to represent District 71 at the World Championship in Kuala Lumpur.
There was a formal banquet in the evening and after a couple of dances at the disco I went in search of the craic. If you ever get a chance to go to one, craic is lots of fun. People get up and do their party pieces such as poetry, jokes, songs and stories. I sang Summertime with Hillary Briggs, incoming District 91 governor, on the cello, then I did Pokarekare Ana a cappella style. If you want to see me doing it again, you’ll just have to come to the next conference, won’t you! I hope that we will continue to have craics, even if we’re doing it without our Irish friends.
I finally found my bed at about 3am on Sunday morning, then up again at 8am for Jock Elliott’s second presentation of the conference, the story of how he became an overnight success in 35 years. Certainly a lesson in persistence, as Jock has been a finalist at the World Championships six times.
Our Division’s success continued in the Evaluation Contest, where Sylvia Lobo of Toasted Sandwich made it into the finals. The competition was very tough, as they had to evaluate a highly emotional speech about a visit to Auschwitz and unfortunately Sylvia didn’t place. However, her performance was excellent, with insightful analysis and specific points for improvement. I was really proud to be there and see her performance.
We then held a Celebration of Success session where members who had contributed to the growth of our organisation were recognised. These included club sponsors, club, area and division leaders who have achieved Presidents Distinguished club, area or division and it was really pleasing to see that there were probably more people being recognised on the stage than in the audience by the time it was all over.
The closing ceremony was full of joy and celebration as it had been a really successful conference. It will be a bit sad not to be joining with our Irish colleagues in Brighton in November, but one thing is certain – I’ll be there. You won’t want to miss it!