Striking the Right Note

When the last note ends, the band members are all packed up and the audience members have gone home, what remains? The feelings and the memories of experiencing a musical journey that for a short while removes you from your everyday life and transports you to another place.

This year’s conference certainly struck the right note on so many levels, and hopefully inspired and impacted not only our Toastmaster members but also our leaders and conference volunteers as well.

Now that the band is packed up and returned home, let’s review what members experienced over the three days of conference offerings.

Our Solo Artists

We had three keynote speakers-one for each day offering a unique perspective of their own Toastmaster’s journey and how lessons from their journey could be enhanced with the pathways program. Each solo was beautiful and memorable in its own way.

Greg Gazin. On Thursday night, Greg opened our conference with his personal and touching rendition of his own life-changing moments. How his journey with a Beatles cover band impacted his life and how Toastmasters has played a prominent role in his life, encouraging him to take on unexpected leadership roles. His story, a gentle rise and fall of individual notes, showed how unexpected twists and turns can bring joy, learning and growth. He challenged us to be diligent and intentional in our work within the Pathways program.

Mohammed Murad. Mohammed’s keynote slowly rose to a powerfully built conclusion. His stories weaving in and out of each other, common threads and notes playing over again, drawing us in and challenging us to examine those whose paths cross ours. His voice often mystical at times, carried us along on his life journey of leadership and unexpected career opportunities. But wait, if you didn’t connect with his keynote delivered from the other side of the world at 4:30 am in the morning, wait 30 days and then come and talk with us. He led us down the ever-widening path of our lives and encouraged us to view the Pathways program from the perspective of competencies and skills rather than manuals.

Dan Magill. Dan lightened the mood and helped us celebrate our newest path in Pathways, Engaging Humour, as he opened our Fun Saturday with his Keynote: I’m Not Funny.  His stories hit the right note by showing us how to add light to any speech no matter how dark the subject material. His personal stories of Emily and her speech on how it feels to be hearing impaired in a hearing world were touching and impactful. While light and jaunty, his speech rose and fell as he took us from one joke to another and then drew us into the story after story. If that was not enough, he then joined our humorist panel in the educational sessions and shared even more of his talent and wisdom with our members.

Our solo artists struck the right note with their vulnerability, wisdom, light, and generosity.

The Base Section

Every orchestra needs a base section. The base section adds strength and sets the tone and the pace of the piece. Our base section is our district leadership team. They set the tone for our conference. They are there long before we start to build our work and our pieces. If the base is not steady, if they have no direction, then the whole piece falls apart.

Our base section supported us when we needed it, left us to create on our own, experiment with new ideas and reigned us in when the pieces got a bit too chaotic.

Bev LeBlanc was there for all our conference meetings, guiding us and supporting us. She trusted that we had the expertise and the experience to pull off this performance, even when at times it may have appeared that we did not.

She recommended people to us and helped us fill roles and is responsible for creating the beautiful O’Canada video used to start our conference on Thursday night. Her leadership was steady support providing us with a solid base.

Christina Kruis attended meetings and offered guidance and encouragement as only Christina can. We can never express how the constant rhythm of her caring and dedication to Toastmasters has impacted and guided us throughout our own Toastmaster journeys over the years. She and Rebecca Klepic ensured that the District Showcase went off without a hitch. A strong and steady beat to keep the conference rolling.

Katrina Aburrow attended meetings and met with us when needed. She shared her vision of what she wanted the conference to be, keeping us in tune with her personal wishes and what the district needed.  She came prepared to run the District Council Meeting and is an example of someone dedicated to Toastmasters and servant leadership.

Katrina and Christina along with their percussion section, Camille Gibney, Marcy Field, Bev LeBlanc, and Wendie Swirski, recognized the Of the Year award recipients, and both the distinguished clubs and distinguished Toastmaster members during the awards and recognition portion of the conference. Katrina remembered those members we lost in the past year and Grant Hanna filled in the missing notes of district recognition with the Dare Recognition program recognizing those Area Directors who performed above and beyond.

Eugene Sicat helped us with the Parade of Clubs and participated in the District Showcase. Eugene is a steady reliable beat on the leadership team.

The conference would not have been a success and we would not have had the number of successful clubs or successful members without this strong and steady base section. We are all able to create what we do within the district because they provide us with that strong steady beat of leadership.

The MCs: Our Toastmaster Teams

The MCs of the performance are the conductors of the show. They direct the musicians to play when it is their turn. They interact with the audience, they set the tone for the night, and they ensure that the performance runs as smoothly as possible.

This year we had three Toastmaster teams to help us run our show. Alex Ann and Marcus Udokang started the conference off with a bang with their high-energy toastmaster pairing and kept that energy running all night long on the first night of the conference. Faye Andrusiak and Bev Ward were the perfect pair to lead us through an evening dedicated to the leaders of District 42 by guiding us through a networking activity, introducing our Keynote Mohammed Murad, highlighting a video on Robert’s Rules of Order by Al Gibson, and handing the conference over to District Director Katrina Aburrow to run the district council meeting. Lastly, Nandini Venkatesan and Marvin Henry were perfect pairings to lead us through our fun Saturday and the last day of the conference. Their warm personalities and connection set the right tone for a fun day of learning and recognition.

Our Clowns

Every good Circus show starts with clowns and sprinkles clown activities throughout the evening. We wanted to honor the newest path of the Pathways program, Engaging Humor, by inviting Bob Rogers and Lucas Steeves to lighten our conference and demonstrate the humorist or joke master role of many clubs.  Puns and juggling brought laughs and smiles to break up the more serious leading and learning.

The String Section

This year’s conference filled in the orchestra with a mix of educational sessions that gave the conference added depth and soul. The engaging fun and humor sessions added a lightness to the conference that will hopefully be felt long after the conference is over.

Laura Chambers led our humor panel made up of Bob Rogers, Lucas Steeves and Dan Magill through a series of questions designed to help us add humor through our Pathways projects. Kevin Porras, new to Toastmasters but not new to Improv, encouraged members to add vulnerability to their speeches and the Igniters club demonstrated how every club can make even the grammarian and timer roles exciting and fun.

The personal development sessions included learning about podcasting from wellness coach Tim Borys, business skills we can gain through Pathways with Susan Mercer- Thornhill and improving our positive mental health with Mona Cooley and Vince Aliberti.

Professional development sessions included sessions designed to build our business and career skills and to teach us to take our Toastmaster skills into the real world of work so we can play our best tune. Sessions were presented by Anthony Sanni, Gimalle Crawford, Steve Olofinlade, and Catherine Secundiak.

The soft sounds of DJ Toasty otherwise known as Wendie Swirski filled in the background throughout the conference and during the lunch hour. Musicians Mary Schoendorfer and Michaela Enzmann balanced out lunch with their solo piece on the Pathways program and the DTM journey.

When the Band was Out of Tune and the Performance Fell Short

Even when a show has been running every night for several years, there are still times when the performance does not go as well as planned.

So much of the conference went well and normally we would not point out where we could have done better but we owe our educational session presenters an apology for not meeting that standard of excellence we strive for in Toastmasters. Reasons don’t matter; timing, communication errors and technology all played a part in sessions not being properly supported and timing shortages. It matters. Our presenters put a tremendous amount of work into their presentations, and they deserved to have a well-run session. All we can do now is debrief and take away lessons learned so that the next conferences learn from our mistakes.

The main purpose for having these educational sessions in the first place was to introduce the district members to the wide array of talent our Toastmaster members bring to us. It was also our hope that once the district leaders saw the calibre of talent in our district, they would be inspired to create other performances at CLED training using this same talent. Highlighting the shining stars that grace our district.

Again, deepest apologies; we know how hard you worked, and you deserved better.

Additional Performances

Our two contests further highlighted what talented members we have in our district. Congratulations to all the winners. We are so grateful to Chuck LeBlanc and Michelle Ryerson who played their roles with perfection and professionalism, creating two masterpieces of contest chairing and judging.

Saya Sanyal and Brad Korbo counted when they needed to count, creating a perfect score, and making sure we were able to vote at the district council meeting.

The Backstage Team

Whenever the performance looks great on stage you can be guaranteed that the people who are working backstage are every bit as competent as the people in the limelight.

There were so many people who made us all look good.

Vesna Ivkovic took a rough sketch and turned it into a work of art that became our conference website. Ricardo Oliveira helped her and made sure that members were able to register.

Very simply, if people do not know about your show and your performance, no one will come. Vesna made sure people came. She made all of us look so good; how could anyone refuse?

She created the Parade of Clubs video and performed magic to make this conference shine. We are forever indebted to her.

Harvey Taphorn played his piece and then handed over the baton for Wendie Swirski to conduct the tech team. All the members of the tech team are the heart and soul of the virtual backstage. They worked continuously behind the scenes, while we enjoyed the performance. We looked good because they did well.

And yes, there is more. We want to acknowledge our cue masters, Verge Monton and Alwa Majzoub, who private chatted throughout the conference to all the performers on stage cuing their upcoming roles. Robyn Taphorn provided prizes for the contest adding fun for all.

Our main room timers, Kathy Tam, Shadna Rana, Kimberly Detmold, and Vesna Ivkovic kept the main performers on time. Thank you to all the other timers, chat masters, and sergeant at arms for the educational and district sessions. You know who you are. So many hands go in to make a performance a hit.

Lastly, Keith and I would like to thank our family members who supported us while we were on this journey. Thank you, Laurel and Isaac Korbo, and David Nakaska whose love and support mean the world to us, and who make our hearts sing.

Ann Nakaska and Keith Lee

D42 Conference Co-Chairs

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