I find myself doing less and less in front of the computer right now. Maybe I don’t have the mental space? Maybe I’m too stressed? Whatever it is, I’m struggling with the idea of spending a day online for the upcoming Toastmasters District Conference.
Why should I?
Why should you?
Are you interested in building your skills in public speaking and leadership? Then Toastmasters is for you. We teach both in a safe and fun environment where you’ll get immediate feedback to help you grow. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.
Toastmasters District Conference
Toastmasters International hasn’t reported the new membership numbers yet, but everyone expects that we’re down – just like everyone else int he world. But we also know that TI has done the work to help us get through this crisis – encouraging online meetings, permitting officer training to go online for credit, and moving the annual convention that was scheduled for Paris this year to a virtual conference – apparently at no charge.
But any conference, to me, is not so much about the speakers. Sorry, keynoters. #Sorrynotsorry. I can listen to your presentation later if it’s available. Frankly, any speaker needs to have unbelievable – and I mean that literally – unbelievable value to get me to sit down at a conference to listen to them. I find the breakout sessions have more value to me because I can choose.
Podfest – annual conference for podcasters
I go to a podcasting conference every year called Podfest. If you’re interested in podcasting and getting started, this is a lovely way to learn what podcasting is, how to get started, and most of all, to make the contacts you need in the field. I have a link to it in my show notes – and it’s not an affiliate link.
Conferences and conventions are about the people. The information I need is going to be available in some fashion – I can ask, I can research, I can find it.
This many people, all focused on the same thing, in one place?
Some people would say that you can get the same experience at an online meeting. I’m not so sure about that.
Relationships through Conferences
Let’s take Kyle. Kyle and I were sitting next to each other at the last conference I attended. Kyle and I are in several groups on Facebook. I know his name. He knows mine. Frankly, he’s kinda a big deal in podcasting… I am not. He gets more downloads of his podcast in the first hour after he releases an episode than I get in a month.
So – at a conference, I’m getting to know a celebrity. That’s not likely to happen to me online.
Then, we were at the same table for a trivia game, run by – you guessed it – another podcaster. In fact, everyone at the table was into podcasting. We were from all parts of the country. I knew one guy at the table – David, a fellow Toastmaster – and 6 other strangers.
We did win, by the way.
People and Proximity
I got to know these people because of personal proximity. Kyle, – well, he and I became friends. We hung out at different points during the week. We didn’t plan it, but it happened and for both of us, I think we took away a valuable relationship. It grew in the hallways, chatting, not in the keynote sessions, listening.
For me, that friendship with Kyle may be the best thing that I took away from that conference. I still have my notes from that breakout session about promoting my podcast. I still have the handout from that other breakout session – with people’s podcast names on it. But I value Kyle more than either of those.
Marsha Friedman, DTM
How do you get to know people online at a conference?
Basically, it’s on me. It’s on all of us to try to make the conference work for ourselves. I need to make the effort to watch and listen – in the chat more than in the room. Like at my podcasting conference, in the hallways, not in the ballroom.
So what’s the purpose of attending an online conference?
I don’t question that there are people with things I need to learn at this conference. District 10 has some education speakers this year that I believe have valuable ideas and information that I should learn.
My purpose to attend is to learn. I need to come with the right attitude – and I hope that those people who are presenting understand the difference between an online presentation and one in person. There are differences.
I sat through a sales pitch last month to get the valuable prize at the end (a free consultation that I might have gotten if I just emailed them, but hey, I sat through it…) and there were so many gimmicks that the presenter did to keep us nailed to our keyboards that I felt manipulated and abused. Toastmasters is about learning and practicing new skills, so I’m hoping that our presenters have done this already. Learning and practicing the new skills, not how to manipulate and abuse their audience, I mean.
Their purpose hasn’t changed, regardless of the venue. They have a message and I have the choice to listen and learn or not.
I think that these presenters are pretty passionate about what they have to share. I respect that. I’m passionate about podcasting, which is why I do it and why I’m willing to talk about it all the time.
I’m talking a lot about podcasting in this episode, but it’s something that I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about Toastmasters, which is why I podcast about it. When you bond your passion and your purpose, that’s where you find your power to influence the world. How to influence people.
And, because this is Toastmasters, this is also the way to learn how to express that passion and influence people with your purpose.
So – if you’re going to an online Toastmasters district conference this month, and chances are that your district is holding a conference soon, if it hasn’t already – there are a couple of takeaways I have for you.
Takeaways for the Toastmasters District Conference
I’m not talking about using, manipulating or abusing them – I’m talking about making an extra effort to listen and watch – to get to know people. I’m hesitant sometimes to take that first step unless I have something of value to offer them. So, thanks to Marsha, I’m going to make that effort – to seek out those who I don’t know and find out about them.
For myself, I’m going to give people a view of myself on screen that’s not a pre-manufactured view. I’m not going to use a virtual background. I keep my tiaras beside my computer so I can put them on. You’ll be able to see my grandmother’s painting of herons. Or egrets. Big white birds. Whatever. You’ll see my life in my space in that little online box – maybe you’ll be intrigued by the artwork. Or maybe you’ll be amused by my lava lamp beside it.
I’m showing you me. And if you want to get to know me because of those things, that’s great.
I’m going to be looking at you. If you’re choosing to hide your life from me with a virtual background, I’m not going to judge you, but I’m not going to have a glimpse into your life that might be a place for us to build a relationship. So reconsider that boring, everyone is using that virtual background. Unless it’s a picture you took, I don’t want to see a beach.
Marsha told me that I need to get out and get refilled – fill my bucket. For me, that’s getting outside, so I might be on my deck during the conference, which means that if you see me, you might see my garage or you might see my garden, or you might see my neighbor’s dog come over and want to play fetch.
Regardless of onsite or online, the district, the conference chairs and committee chairs have stepped up in ways we never predicted last year. Their purpose – to put on an event that would have value to our Toastmasters.
Do I have something in my life that’s giving me purpose right now? Yes, I do and I hope you do too. These presenters are giving us theirs. I respect their work and their commitment.
My purpose at conferences is to make contacts and build relationships. I seem to move back to people, don’t I? I think I’m going to have to be careful not to sound like a jerk – without the physical presence, it’s so easy to misinterpret someone’s message, right? – but I’m going to try to scan the squares and find a new person to connect with.
We have contests at our Toastmasters district conference. We see people’s passions as they tell us their stories and give us their ideas and their words. I will be there for our district contests – not just because 2 of our club members are competing against each other or because I want our club to boast that we’ve got the district contest winner going on to the International Contest… I’m going because this is my dream – to get up on the district stage. I didn’t do it this year, but next year… I’m shooting for it again.
Our passions will show when we can’t stop taking the risks. Sometimes we finish what we start because we’re passionate about keeping our word, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in, even when everything changes. Are you taking risks right now?
I hear a lot about risk right now – we shouldn’t take a risk doing this, or it’s too risky to do that. In a pandemic, risk is one of those words everyone is talking about.
At the online Toastmasters district conference, we’ll see people and their passions. Find a way to show me yours, even if you’re not the speaker. Participate in the session as the speaker asks so we can find you.
People. Purpose. Passion.
Funnily enough, that’s the theme of our District 10 annual conference.
You’re welcome to come visit District 10 for our annual Toastmasters district conference. Check out District10.org – that’s the number 10, not the word – for details. Because there’s no charge, we can welcome you to join us, but we need to know you’re coming so we can be prepared. If your district has canceled its conference, come join ours. Bring your own beverage of choice, make sure you know what time zone you’re in and that we’re in Eastern US time zone (that’s UTC -5), and settle in for some excellent teaching. I have people you can root for in the contest, if you’re interested.
The link is in the shownotes.
Wrap it up, Kim
May 15th, 16th and the contest is on the 17th. See you there!
My thanks to Marsha Friedman, one of my DTM mentors. She’s a great friend whose worth cannot be measured.
Our music is from Incompetech.filmmusic.io.
Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.
Stay hopeful. Stay healthy, Stay home – but come to our conference or go to your own.