Me! But before I tell you about it, I’m going to torture you with a review of the entire conference. What an exciting ride this weekend was. The District 3 Spring Conference for 2012 was the best yet. It’s always great to see Toastmaster friends from all over the state. Lots of hugs and catching up. My friends, Eve and Dennis Clark did a great job on the Raffle Room. Very impressive! And my friend, Sue O’Neill, was the First Timer’s chairperson. They had a record number of first timers at this conference, so she was very busy. I am so proud of her. It’s great to see people like the Clarks and Sue on fire for Toastmasters. These folks are up and coming leaders for District 3, and it’s great to be part of their club and their leadership journeys.
Friday’s banquet started out with the recognition of Outstanding Club Members. A lot of familiar faces were recognized, but so were a lot of newcomers. I love this new tradition in District 3, and I love the gal who dreamed it up, Rose Beeson, our District Governor. It’s so great to see recognition trickling down to the club level to lift people up, to help them believe that they can soar higher, to challenge them to step up into bigger challenges.
Next up was the DTM ceremony. For non-Toastmasters, DTM stands for Distinguished Toastmaster. It’s highest educational achievement in the Toastmasters program. In District 3, new DTMs are ushered in by candlelight and presented their medallion by their mentor or a loved one. I never cared about becoming a DTM until Emi Bauer dragged me to a conference. As I sat through that ceremony all I could think was, “I have got to get me one of those!” Yes, it’s true. I was so excited that I lost all sense of grammar!
The Tall Tales contest on Friday night was absolutely fabulous. I’m so glad I wasn’t judging, because the competition was fierce. The two speakers who took first and second were both riotously funny. The guy who won did a better job at incorporating a spectacularly obvious yet completely unexpected twist into a conclusion that bookended the opening and had the audience laughing uncontrollably. It was a brilliant piece of speechwriting. (I have to admit to being insanely jealous. I have never been able to write an effective Tall Tale.) The guy who took second was amazing as well.
I missed the roll call and keynote speech on Saturday morning. Drat it! I slid my finger along the face of my phone instead of stabbing at it, turning off the alarm instead of snoozing. I was sorry to miss hearing Gary Schmidt, Past International President, giving his keynote.
I made it in time for the educational sessions. The first session I attended was with Gary Covert talking about Cultural Intelligence. It was very interesting, but wow, did he need more time! It’s such an important topic and we barely nicked the surface. The second session I attended was Celestial Navigation with Layne Gneiting. Now, if you’ve been reading my blog, you might recognize Layne by his psuedonym on this blog, The Professional Storyteller. Let me just say, this guy rocks! The best educational session I have ever been to, bar none. I laughed, I cried, and in the end, I admitted it. I am DYING to compete at the International level. I’ve never said that out loud before. I’ve never even admitted it to myself before. But Layne got me to admit it. I want it, and I want it badly. Layne promised that once I committed to it out loud, let people know, put myself out there, that people will help me by providing the resources I need to make it happen. Oh Layne! You are the best! More on this later. I enjoyed sitting with Sue O’Neill during this session. We are going to start being mentor/support buddies in pursuit of our visions. Yay!
Saturday lunch is always Hall of Fame time, where everyone who has earned an educational award is given their pin. For several years I ignored the letters inviting me to the luncheon. What a foolish thing to do. The Hall of Fame Luncheon is a kick! I got some new bling, including a beautiful Triple Crown pin. Ooooooo, ahhhhhhh! The best part of lunch was seeing my friend, Nancy Goins, honored with the Juris Kursulis award. That gal is a super Toastmaster! I was so happy for her!
Saturday afternoon is all about the Candidate Showcase and the District Council meeting. Even though I’m a voting member this year, I entrusted my proxy to my friend, Eileen Kotula, and went home to take a nap with the boys. I didn’t end up getting any sleep, because I was replaying my speech over and over in my head. I did get in some good cuddles with Gumbo and Chinle, and I know I was better rested than if I’d stayed for the meeting.
Finally it was time for the contestant briefing. For the first time, I got to size up the competition. My friend and fellow redhead, Debby Waugh, drew the first speaking slot. I drew the last. Between us, a bunch of guys whose names all seemed to start with the letter “T”. I was stoked to draw the last slot in speech competitions. I love seeing what I’m up against and then rising to the challenge.
I learned a couple of things during the briefing. First, I was the only competitor who was planning to eat dinner. Everyone else admitted to being too nervous to eat before a contest. Pah! Give me food! Second, one of my competitors, Tom (who asked to be called The Guy Who Always Loses, but who will be called Tom anyway because he rocks) told me that he reads my blog. Sneaky guy! He never comments. The turkey! And not only does he read this blog, but he showed it to The Guy Who Always Wins, the incredibly gifted Michael Desiderio! At first, that was a little disconcerting. I mean, I was trying to fly under the radar here, but then I started feeling flattered.
We tested the mic and then we waited for dinner. And then the dignitary parade. And then the announcements. Finally it was time for the contest! Just like Friday’s contest, all the contestants were fabulous. At this point, I was still feeling a bit uneasy about my speech and how, um, “unique” it is. I was very confident about my ability to sell it, but still, I was worried that judges might be looking for something more traditional. And then the guy right before me spoke. His speech was so much more “unique” than mine that it made me giggle. He was up there on stage singing, dancing, throwing water around with wild abandon, speaking in rhyme, doing magic tricks, and just generally being fantastically goofy and entertaining. All of the sudden, my speech was feeling normal, in fact, almost staid! Seeing him having such a fabulously wacky time up on stage freed me up to go all out once I got up there.
What a feeling to be up on the District Conference stage, vying for the opportunity to go to International. Toastmasters are the greatest audience in the world. Those 7 minutes on stage were fantastic. It was such a rush to have the opportunity to share my message on gratitude with so many people.
There were a lot of announcements while we waited for the results of the contest. My friend, Dennis Clark, won the money hat for over $900. My friend, Sue O’Neill, announced the winner of the First Timer’s contest. She was so nervous about not having a script for the announcement, but she handled it like the pro that she is. One of my clubs, Maverick Toastmasters, was announced as the winner of the Club Pride contest. So much to rejoice over.
Finally, it was time to announce the winners. My friend, Debby Waugh, took third place. Tom Otstot, my blog stalker, took second place. They were the two that I had placed in the top three with me. I thought I was going to win, but I’ve been wrong before. I was still holding my breath. My friend and our LGET, Marcia Roberts, drew out the announcement of first place as long as she could. She is so coy! But finally, she said my name! I don’t think I was quite as ridiculously silly as I was at Division when I thought I had lost, but still, what a rush. The standing ovation, the millions of hugs and kisses, the offers of assistance that followed were overwhelming. I’m still trying to process it all. Oh yes, the offers of assistance! Didn’t Layne promise that if I committed to the goal and spoke it out loud, told people about it that they would provide the resources to help me? Well, he was right! I have people who want to help me with wardrobe, people who want to help me raise funds for the trip. Michael, The Guy Who Always Wins, offered to do anything he can to help me. Tim Swearingen, Past International Director and one of my mentors, also offered to help me understand how to best present myself. I got offers from I can’t remember how many clubs for speaking slots between now and August. I love, love, love the people in this District!
I walked around my house for an hour last night, holding the trophy and saying, “Oh my God!” over and over again. When my alarm went off this morning, I sprang out of bed (OK, it was more of a roll, but an enthusiastic one) to check to see if I really had a trophy or if it had all been some kind of wonderful dream. I really do have a trophy, and it is beautiful.
I can use my current speech in Orlando for the semi-finals, but I’ll need second speech in case I make it into the finals. While I ponder that, here are some pictures from the contest.
Marcia Roberts gives me the Certificate of Participation before the winners are announced.
I get a little excited about the trophy.
Marcia and Rose ask me to pose like a normal person.