A Canadian Journey: The International Convention

A Canadian Journey

Sunrise over the water greets us as we gather for breakfast. The mountains look close enough to touch, although they are still quietly shrouded in their morning mist. The voices and faces that surround us are varied in accent, lilt, color, and expression. It’s Monday, and yet it’s a different Monday. No DFW traffic. No commute. No texts, emails, or frantic phone calls.

This particular Monday, we – Greg, Robi, and Jamie – embark on a week of exploration. This is the first day of District Officer training in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Following two days of intensive training, we will experience the 2017 Toastmasters International Convention with all its pomp, circumstance, and celebration.

Unless you’ve been a member of a trio, you cannot begin to understand the sheer volume of information that is about to pumped into our heads. We have two days to absorb the ideas generated by not only those who have served before us, but those who serve now, in peer roles, around the world.

Truthfully, this is not our first day here. We spent our Sunday evaluating seventeen people who have stepped forward with a desire to help guide our organization for the next two years. Seventeen highly unique individuals with a common goal; occupy one of seven seats on the Board of Directors.

To give you an idea of how this works; we have fifteen minutes to ask questions, hear answers, evaluate those answers, discover something about that person, then through later discussion, decide how we wish to vote. All in one twelve-hour period.

This Monday morning, as beautiful as our surroundings are, there is already a feeling of being overwhelmed by the events in which we’re involved. The day has just begun.

The very first session as a trio helps us determine our personality styles and communication preferences. I don’t believe there were any real surprises. We are different, and that’s a good thing. It makes us stronger.

By the end of Monday, we have spent sessions not only as a trio, but we have also been split out into groups with our peers. We have the opportunity to network with people from around the world. What we discover is that in spite of all our differences, we face many of the same issues in our districts. In these sessions we share our ideas, listen to their ideas, commiserate with each other, and make friends.

Last year, as CGD, I talked to other CGDs from around the world. I made contacts and kept up with them throughout the year. In many ways, this is a class reunion. I have moved up to PQD and so have they. We are still peers, still friends, and we have grown another year stronger. Friendly faces pass me in the hallways, smile, wave, and we often stop and share hugs and handshakes. Those connections are vital, I believe, to the ongoing success of our years of service. We depend on the support of our immediate team members, but the support received from peers around the world is equally necessary.

My hope, as I watch Jamie interact with her peers, is that she, too will make meaningful connections that will impact her, her role, and our district in the present, and going forward.

My hope for Greg is that he sees his own strength as a leader. People remember him from last year, ask him questions, look to him for advice and information, and respect the values he brings to the organization.

As the sun sets on Tuesday evening, again a beautiful and inspiring sight out the convention center windows, I know it will take time to process all I’ve taken in. I will re-read notes, shuffle through the many business cards I’ve collected, and send emails with information I’ve been asked to share. But I was not alone in this experience. My fellow trio members; no, that’s not right. My friends were exceptional companions on this Canadian journey.

by Robi Ley

Program Quality Director, District 25, 2017-2018