Sunday, August 20, 2023

Bahamas hosts a plethora of Toastmasters

We are no strangers to the Bahamas. We are scuba divers, and the Bahamas has some of the best scuba diving in the world. Jim's and my first boat trip together was to West End near Freeport. But, we've never been to "this" Bahamas.

Not our normal dive!

This is the fancy resort convention (ie expensive) Bahamas. It is beautiful and the convention facilities are as good or better than anything I've ever seen before.
There are about 1,000 people attending the convention and they are from all over the world. The opening ceremonies included a parade of flags - over 100 of them - that is only rivaled by the Olympics. There are also a LOT of Toastmasters right here in the Bahamas. Most people I know back home don't even know what Toastmasters is, but here in the Bahamas it seems to be common knowledge. When we passed thru customs and said the purpose of our visit was to attend a conference the agent asked if it was for Toastmasters. Our cab driver said his brother is a Toastmaster and is attending and he told us all about Tony Longley, the director for the area. According to our taxi driver, Bahamas is the largest center of offshore banks in the world and Toastmasters is encouraged to help prepare people to be successful in business.
In addition to the parade of Flags, the opening ceremonies included a speech by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis. He tells of his 40+ years as a Toastmaster and how he was instrumental in changing the status of the Bahamian clubs from 'undistricted' to part of District 47 along with Florida. Clubs must have a district in order to send speakers to the International Speaking contest. Semifinals for the contest were held yesterday and one of the winners, Anastarcia Palacious, is from the Bahamas. That's a big deal - these speakers are 'knock-your-socks-off' good.
I first joined Toastmasters because of my 5th grade teacher, Lillian Smith. This was in 1964, before women were allowed in Toastmasters, they had their own 'Toastmistress' clubs. I was living, and attending grade school, in Anchorage Alaska and Mrs. Smith was involved in a Toastmistress club that started a junior auxiliary. She made me join and I soon became the president!

I joined again in Morro Bay, CA when I was a lawyer in 1981. This time it was the regular Toastmasters. I was so impressed with the other members. I loved hearing their stories and telling them mine. When I moved back to Florida I checked out the local Toastmasters, but it took me till sometime in the 90s to find Earlybirds where I felt right at home. Jim also joined, so it became a staple in our lives. We even visited Toastmaster clubs as we traveled. In New Jersey, Arizona, and even in Brisbane, Australia.
Even though I've been involved in TM for a long time, it was always just about enjoying the speaking and the comaraderie, I really never paid much attention to the organization. Being at the convention is teaching me what a cool organization it is. Founded by Ralph Smedley in 1924. I looked him up and I liked what I found: 

Ralph Smedley on wikipediaThe father of Toastmasters, Ralph C. Smedley, was known to be a modest and quiet person. A tireless worker with a passion for helping others to realize their full potential himself, he was far from flashy or flamboyant.[1]

He had always been determined to make Toastmasters, his brainchild, a success.


In 1903, at YMCA, he saw the need of interpersonal skills pertaining to communication, management and leadership in the community. In order to aid people to learn how to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees, he started the speaking club - The Toastmasters Club 

From that humble beginning, toastmasters now encompasses 280,000 members in more than 14,700 clubs in 144 countries.
Jim and I are proud to be in that number.

Over the 4 days of the convention Jim and I helped out with different functions as "Helping Hands" volunteers. Mostly at the registration desk.

We also attended educational workshops. My favorite by far was called "No Joke: Engaging your Audience like a Clown (not the creepy kind.) The speaker was Don Colliver. He was so good, I went straight to Amazon on my phone and purchased the kindle version of his book Wink. He gave some concrete techniques to be more effective and get some laughs in the process.
The primary purpose of the convention is to crown the World Champion of Public Speaking. There were several sessions where the semi-finalists gave their speeches, then the winners of that took the stage on the final day. WOW I think I'm pretty good at public speaking ... right now I feel pretty low on the totem pole. These folks are phenomenal. You're laughing, crying, on the edge of your seat, and feeling inspired. There's a lot to learn. The word I'm taking away from this whole even is "engaging." That's the goal of public speaking - to Engage your audience. 

On Saturday, 8 speakers competed and Jocelyn Tyson won the championship. We felt privileged to be able to witness this event. 

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