Sunday, September 14, 2014

KL International Convention 2014 - "A United Nations of Toastmasters"

Dear members,

Many of you may be aware that Kuala Lumpur hosted the Toastmasters International Convention that for the first time in Toastmasters history is held outside of North America. Delegates from around the world gathered in KLCC for 4 days, from 20-23 August 2014. Many of them brought home wonderful memories from the International Convention. A few of our club members have the opportunity to experience this memorable event, and one of them is DTM G. Sivalingam. 

Below is a write-up by DTM G.Siva who would like to share with us on his experience during the Toastmasters International Convention. 

By G. Sivalingam, DTM 

This was my first time ever attending the Toastmasters International Convention, and I was left with 3 lasting memories of 3 aspects, even weeks after the Convention. The first, and least important, to me anyway, were the Speech Contests.

I always made it a point to attend the District Finals at each local Convention(or Conference as it is now known), and I've always been impressed by the standard of the speakers. Imagine then 80 District Champions, contesting in 9 separate Semi Finals, 3 contests running concurrently. It was almost too much of a good thing, as the first 3 semi finals started at 230PM, the second set at around 5PM and the final set around 730PM. You could visibly see the audience shrinking as they got exhausted and left, until the room was only half full for the final set of semi finals, despite the fact that all the speeches were of a very high standard. And with all this quality, only 9 finalists could make it to the Contest Final, and with yet another hurdle to overcome-they had to deliver a completely different speech from the one they used to win the semi final. One speaker I witnessed had a stronger speech when he won his semi final, than the one he used in the final, and was not placed. Another speaker never expected to win the semi final, and had no speech to deliver at the final, only an apology.  The 3 winners were a mixed bag, with a Sri Lankan, a Chinese from Australia who contested in China and an American lady.

The second most important thing to stick in my head was the sheer diversity of the Toastmasters.  The opening ceremony, where they paraded the flags of all countries which had Toastmasters clubs, was practically a clone of the United Nations, with flags from practically every nation in the world. I thought the opening was superbly choreographed, and absolutely blew me away. This diversity struck me anew every day, when you could see African Toastmasters in traditional garb, to  the gathering conducted jointly by Japanese and Sri Lankan Toastmasters(outside the Convention on a Friday night), where the Japanese put on a traditional Ava dance performance-they brought their costumes from Japan. This diversity was particularly striking when you met Toastmasters from   an Asian country and they were Caucasians, or in the case of the second place speaker for the Speech Final, a child of Mainland Chinese migrants who settled in Australia, who proceeded to return to China to work and to become a Toastmaster.

The final, and most important thing, was the President's Inauguration, where the new International President, Mohammad Murad of Dubai, was installed in his office. He had been a Toastmaster for 18 years, but his wife had never attended a Toastmasters function until that night. He said something that struck a chord with me.  He said Toastmasters was a community, and he backed that up with his own story, as he had been a policeman in Dubai having to deal with crime and violence, and how he had been able to get away from that. His point was if he could do it, why couldn't we. I thought that was an apt and appropriate highlight and ending for the Convention as it was the last event of the 87th International Convention.

Would I go back again. For sure!! I hope you too have a chance to experience the full flavour of Toastmasters in all their international diversity at a future Convention.