Toastmasters International - with Naomi TakeuchiLast week, I attended the 2013 Toastmasters International Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it was a busy, fun filled week, so much so, that I had little time to sit and craft a thoughtful blog posting.   This is my fourth TI Con, and I must say, it was overwhelming with all that I had to celebrate!

1) Sunday through Tuesday:  I was one of the members of the Teresa Dukes campaign for International Director of Region 11, and through that experience, I was able to meet all the TRIO members (District Governors, Lt. Governors of Education and Training and Lt. Governors of Marketing) from around the world.

I was also able to see the inner workings of how campaigns are run and how important these are to the success of the Toastmasters International organization.    I also built strong bonds with all the members of the account team representing the US, the UK and Canada.   It was exhausting sometimes handling back-to-back 15 minute interviews, and no doubt it takes a team to make a successful campaign.  We all worked so hard to support our candidate.

Naomi Takeuchi and Sheryl Roush - Heart of a Toastmaster

Me and Sheryl Roush signing the “Heart of a Toastmaster” books

2) Wednesday morning:  I was inundated with people who wanted my autograph with the launch of the “Heart of a Toastmaster” book!  I was in the bookstore when it opened on Wednesday morning at 10:00am, and the author, Sheryl Roush, pointed me out in the crowd and a throng of people asked me to sign their books.

I was only one of 135 contributors, but since my face is one of three featured on the cover, many people were excited to get my signature.   Over the entire week, I probably signed about 300 books!

Naomi Takeuchi "Heart of a Toastmaster" by Sheryl Roush3) Wednesday afternoon: I was also one of the showcase speakers for the “Heart of a Toastmaster” pre-convention event on Wednesday.  This was my first presentation at a Toastmasters Convention on the big stage to an audience of about 750+.   As the last of 15 speakers, I took the stage at 4:37pm (7 minutes after the session was to end at 4:30pm), and the crowd laughed with me as I shared my travels and friendships I’ve made around the world through Toastmasters International.

It is great to be surrounded by such warm and supportive people.    Later that evening, we had a reception with all the contributors where we had a chance to laugh and learn about our respective stories.  I made so many new friends all through this collaborative effort!

4) Thursday morning:  District 37, the State of North Carolina, was recognized as a Distinguished District for making our goals over the year.  As the District 37 Governor for 2012-2013, I was able to walk the stage along with all the D37 members during the “Hall of Fame” ceremony and gave a double high five to our Toastmasters International President, John Lau.

I am so proud of the work our team did last year, but more importantly, I feel very blessed that our D37 team likes each other.

5) Thursday afternoon/evening:  I witnessed some incredible speeches from around the world during the speech competitions.  We were very proud of our competitor, George Vinoj Vincent, as well as Bryant Pergerson (a former District 37 member) who both made it to the semi-finals.  The competition was stiff, and although they did not take first place, they are still first place winners in our hearts.

George Presiyan Toastmasters International with Naomi Takeuchi

George Vinoj Vincent (District 37 Champion) with Presiyan Vasilev, 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking

6) Thursday late evening:  One of the benefits of Toastmasters is the plethora of friendships you make from around the world.  For the last three years, District 37 and District 72 in New Zealand have worked to have a joint dinner together.  This year was a big treat since their speech contestant, Kingi Biddle, won the Semi-Finals and later went on to win 2nd place on Saturday.

I sat directly across from him and his wife Wendy and got a chance to know him personally.  He said he only lives about 45 minutes drive from the location where the Hobbits were filmed for the “Lord of the Rings.”  No doubt, I will need to plan a trip down there someday!

7) Friday morning:  This was absolute torture for me as a night owl as I was assigned the task of getting good seats in front for the Candidates Showcase.    One of the District Governors said I looked like a zombie standing there with my cup of coffee.  Everyone in District 37 knows, I am fairly useless before 9:30am, and for me to be there at 7:15am to save seats was quite remarkable.   Then on top of that were four hours of the candidates on stage to answer questions and make their closing statements.

I was very proud of Teresa Dukes and how she composed herself on stage.  I am glad we were able to secure the seats to give her some friendly faces to see.  It was all worth getting up early in the morning to see the smile on her face that her crew was there to support her when she took the stage.

8) Friday lunch: 
I met with all the Immediate Past District Governors for the 2012-2013 year for lunch, and we all celebrated how much we were able to help each other and commiserate with each other through our challenges.  We were the first District Governors who had to abide by the new measurement system for achieving Distinguished District or higher, and we had numerous conversations on our Facebook group throughout the year.

Several of us have already made our intentions to run for International Director at the Kuala Lumpur conference in Malaysia next year.  I’ve already told people that my intention is to go for Accredited Speaker (AS) as my goal.  Regardless of our plans, we do know we’ll see each other again and continue our bond through next year as well.

District 37 Toastmasters International9) Friday evening:  As a Distinguished District Governor, I also had an opportunity to walk in the procession with other District Governors around the world who had achieved that status or higher.  It was fun to wave to the crowd as each one of us walked down in the procession just before dinner to hear the keynote speaker.  Regretfully, I missed seeing Susan Cain who wrote “Quiet Leadership” since I had campaign duties to attend to, but thankfully, our District 37 Public Relations Officer, Glenda Teams, was able to get her to sign my book.

10) Saturday morning:  This was the big event with the World Champion of Public Speaking competition.  In the end, Presiyan Vasilev from Bulgaria took 1st place, Kingi Biddle from New Zealnad took 2nd place and Shurooq Albanna from the United Arab Emirates came in 3rd place.

Teresa Dukes - Toastmasters International with Naomi Takeuchi

Teresa Dukes, Region 11 International Director Candidate

11) Saturday afternoon:  The other more important big event was the election for a variety of office positions during the annual business meeting.  I was one of the “observers” to watch the vote counting, and we started with a glitch in the system.  One of the delegates had entered too many votes (in the order of 2M or so) and the computers got bogged down.  Thankfully, they were able to resolve it, and we went on with the voting.

We did electronic voting last year, and this year we did that again.  However, this year, some of the delegates just could not figure out how to use the remote devices.  Several of the competitions for Region 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 had 240-420+ votes that were invalid.  It wasn’t until Teresa’s vote came about that there were only 18 invalid votes.  I regret to say that Teresa Dukes lost to Khaled Matlagaitu by about 1000 votes.  She did get 47% of the vote, though, so it was a very close race.  I am very proud of all that she’s done, and I have no regrets in helping her with her campaign.

12) Saturday afternoon/evening:  We had a chance to wish our new leaders well in their Toastmasters International journey and say goodbye to outgoing International Director, Viki Kinsman.  Afterwards, we had the President’s dinner where our District 37 team could all reminisce about what we learned at the convention.  All-in-all a great way to end the day.

Colleagues and Friends.  Some days I had only three-four hours of sleep after networking with friends until 1:00am only to get to bed by 2:00am.  Waking up to the alarm at 6:00am or 6:30am was not pleasant whether it was to help with the campaign or to attend an important session,  but in the end, it is always great to reconnect with friends.

1000 Cranes, LLC  Naomi TakeuchiI absolutely love my Toastmasters International family, and although it was sad to say goodbye, we know that many of us will see each other again in Kuala Lumpur and help each other in our respective journeys.

If you’ve never been to a Toastmasters Convention, I highly recommend you take the time to go.  There are so many people here who will help you and give you guidance as your grow in whatever path you take.

How About You? Do you want to improve your leadership skills?  What’s stopping you from joining or attending a Toastmasters meeting?  You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn and who you’ll meet!

I look forward to hearing your toastmasters comments and updates below or contact me here.