By Michael Maddox, VP Membership, Professionally Speaking

“First timer” . . . that was me at this year’s Toastmasters International Convention in Denver. It even said so on my name tag ribbon. When Toastmasters CEO Daniel Rex asked how many of the hundreds gathered in that hall were at a convention for the first time, about a third of us raised our hands.

How fortunate we were to have come from all over the world to experience four days of what makes Toastmasters famous: positivity; professionalism; excellence; socializing; international reach; stories of success and of overcoming failure; role models; tips for better speaking and leadership; a store stuffed with every gavel, placard, guidebook, and banner a Toastmaster could want. And one excellent speech after another.

During four experience-packed days, three overriding themes struck me:

  • the can-do positivity of Toastmasters,
  • the inclusiveness of Toastmasters—with people from many different cultures telling their life stories,
  • and that Toastmasters is still the best vehicle for people to improve their communication and leadership skills, enabling them to be all they can be.

I’d seen these themes often in both clubs I belong to: Professionally Speaking (Poulsbo) and Harborside Toastmasters (Bremerton). They’d been evident at clubs I’d visited. But they were in full force at this big production in Denver. The positivity, inclusiveness, and striving for excellence cascaded over us in speeches, regional meetings, workshops, and as we celebrated achievements in true Toastmaster style.

Reinforced for me was the international nature of Toastmasters. I know this from Toastmaster magazine, which features pictures of club members from around the world. I know there are now more clubs outside the United States than in it. I know the name says International; the convention—full of varied accents, names, flags, costumes, and international buffets—added color, flavor, and fun to the privilege of belonging to this global club.

Four days as a first timer at a convention full of great people, principles, and speeches gave me the big picture of what Toastmasters is and what we can do in it. I’ll attend another someday (next year’s is in Paris, ooh la la). For now, I’ve brought home those communication and leadership lessons, to apply them here and share them with others.

I urge every Toastmaster to experience this at least once. Start saving now. There’s a Toastmasters International Convention in your future!

On October 24, Professionally Speaking Toastmasters will show specially chosen video highlights of the 2019 TI Convention. Seating is limited. Find details and reserve your seat HERE.