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How to run a successful Toastmasters conference

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Warning: There are lots of abbreviations and acronyms in this section! Edit

  • Thanks to Ian Flint who recognised that wheels were being re-invented -- and decided to do something about it!

Thanks to Tim Knights and Maggie Northam who put this all together in 1992!

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Conference planning -- Who does what? Edit

First, get a team together.

Here is an overview of Convener, Committee Chair, and Committee Member responsibilities when planning a [Route Planner]Toastmaster Conference: File:Conference Planning Responsibilities.pdf

Why Hold, Attend, or Chair a District Conference Edit

NOTE: This material is specific to the District 53 Conferences, but may be relevant to other conferences as well.

  • The organizational need

The primary purposes of a District Conference are to: assemble the District Council (Spring and Fall); and to select a candidate for the International Speech contest (Spring).

The District Council consists of Presidents and VPE’s of all the Clubs in the District, plus some District officers. The District officers present budgets and reports on their activities. The Council elects District officers (Spring).

In addition to the International contest, District 53 also holds another contest in the spring (Tall Tales) and two in the fall (Humorous, and either Evaluation or Table Topics).

District 53 also offers educational sessions at both Conferences.

At the Spring Conference, District 53 also presents a Communications and Leadership Award.

  • The value to the planning team

Planning a District Conference is an excellent opportunity to develop and practice leadership and communication skills. This is particularly true for the Conference Chair(s), but applies to everyone involved.

The Conference Chair(s) and Committee Chairs have the option of using their Conference Planning activities to fulfill the requirements of a High Performance Leadership Project (HPLP). The HPLP can be undertaken by any Toastmaster at any time, but each Division hosts a District 53 Conference only once in three years, so this is a special opportunity.

Planning a Conference can be a very enjoyable process. Working as a cohesive team, there is plenty of interaction with other Toastmasters and many reasons to celebrate. There is also great satisfaction in completing a successful Conference.

Virtually everything in Toastmasters is done by volunteers. That is what keeps our dues and Conference fees so low. Twice a year our fellow Toastmasters invest the time and effort to plan a Conference. Being part of the planning committee is the way to do your share.

  • The value to Toastmaster members

You don’t have to be a Club officer or a contestant in a speaking contest in order to attend a Toastmaster Conference. In fact, you don’t even have to be a Toastmaster!

If you are not a contestant in a contest, you can still be a timer or ballot counter, or part of the audience. You will hear the best speakers from every Division in the District.

The Conferences always have a fun atmosphere. There are prizes for contest winners, but there are also raffles. There is time to socialize. There is good food.

There are also educational sessions. There is a Toastmaster bookstore. There are other Toastmasters to meet and friends to connect with again.

Learn from these past mistakes Edit

Whose Conference is it anyway? Edit

The customer is always right, but a Toastmasters District Conference might have thousands of "customers" (potential attendees) and conference planners cannot possibly solicit input from all of them on everything. They therefore look to the senior District team as the elected representatives of the customers. The senior team should, in fact, be regarded as the customer. The planners propose what they believe to be best for the thousands of members, and they yield to the judgment of the senior officers.

The Facilities Edit

  • CAPACITY Auditorium-type facilities with seating for 300-400 are preferred. Delegates should have a surface facility in order to write and make notes.
  • RESERVE SEATING in strategic places for Sergeants and their assistants.
  • QUALITY SOUND must be available for all events, but specifically for:

• AGM • Contests • Speakers

  • We recommend that both static and roving microphones are available, with QUALIFIED technicians to assist and train those who use them!
  • SIGNAGE: All routes to the venue should be signed clearly. A unique colour scheme, including the Toastmasters logo, would be an advantage.
  • Arrangements can be made with the AA to assist with signage to the venue. Organise this at least 3 months in advance.

• Signage inside the venue to point delegates to breakaway rooms, restrooms, meal venues, etc. should be arranged with the venue administration. • If the venue is complex, a plan should be included in the delegate packs to indicate the location of the various function areas.

  • MAPS will be required to direct people to the venue. These can often be obtained from the venue administration. A larger scale map should also be available to direct delegates to the venue from major road/air routes.
  • TOASTMASTERS’ SHOP A separate room is essential for the Toastmasters’ Shop during the conference. A boardroom with a large table and facilities for display is ideal. The shop requires plenty of:

• Surface (horizontal and vertical) to display, and • Space for people to walk around and browse in comfort.

  • A small table near the door is required for the Stock Custodian and their assistant to collect money from people for their purchases.
  • LOCK THE SHOP at night and during sessions.
  • The shop is open during all breaks.
  • Two people should be assigned to man the shop.

The District Treasurer and Stock Custodian will provide stock, float, cash box and credit card facilities.

You need these additional facilities Edit

• Workshop rooms • Changing facilities (with showers if possible) for delegates who can't get home before the evening functions.

  • Additional rooms for speakers and guests to prepare quietly,
  • Storage rooms for bags

• Registration facilities. (See Conference Registration) • Contestants’ briefing room For the Contest Chairman to brief contestants. The auditorium would be best for this, for speakers to assess the dimensions of the speaking area, etc. • Judges’ briefing room For the Chief Judge to brief contest judges. • Cabinet/District Executive meeting room required for the statutory Cabinet / Directorate meetings that are held at this time.

  • Credentials Officer Room/Table For the Credentials Officer to register delegates for the District AGM. This facility needs to be available throughout the Conference, before the AGM is held.

Catering Edit

  • Check Kosher, Vegetarian, Vegan, Halaal and ALLERGIES. Allergies to dairy or nuts are very common. Feeding sufferers these foods could easily kill them. It's easy to overlook dairy in particular -- anything with butter, for example, is a no-no!
  • Value for Money
  • Sweets / mints for the sessions
  • Tea / Coffee
  • Rooibos (very important and often overlooked)
  • Expect complaints about the catering (but try to minimise them).

Content of the Conference Edit

  • A balance of inspiration and education
  • Send questionnaires to the clubs / district to find out what they'd like to see
  • Look through past programmes
  • Brainstorm for Inspiration

The Conference itself, blow-by-blow Edit

ICE BREAKER EVENING (THURSDAY)

  • A warm and friendly function, where people can get together.
  • If you do so in good time, the Mayor of the host city will open the conference for you! (Appoint a sub-committee, and plan it well: master of Ceremonies, Sergeants, Guests (Mayor, sponsors, etc), Guest Speaker etc.
  • This may also be the time when the District Governor will hold one or meetings with Cabinet and Directorate. Check to see if a venue / equipment and/or catering will be required.
  • The Credentials Officer may require facilities.
  • The Toastmasters’ Shop can be open.
  • This is supposed to be fun. Don't schedule an educational -- people aren't in the mood for it yet.

(a) It is often an excellent idea to appoint a small sub-committee to act as “hosts” for Toastmasters visiting from outside the geographic area. They can run the Information Desk, in partnership with the Registration Desk. They would be able to answer a myriad of questions and generally be the Help Desk people throughout the conference.

  • Have frequent breaks
  • Don't rush the breaks -- people are re-connecting with old friends and making new ones.
  • Make the evening functions entertaining
  • Check references of everybody who speaks / entertains. Don't let them remember your conference for the wrong reasons. As recently as 2005 a guest speaker wasn't properly briefed and the function was marred as a result.

Checklists Edit

Packs / Info you need to prepare

  • Delegate pack for the District's AGM (yes, this is your responsibility)
  • These should include the reports by the cabinet officers. Ask for them in writing in good time. Give them guidelines -- how long it should be, etc).
  • Judging packs (with pencils and erasers, judging forms for contest chair, chief judge and all the judges)
  • Contestant packs

People you need to brief / be briefed by

  • Anybody who is speaking. Make sure they understand where they are on the programme and understand the equipment
  • Ask if they are using equipment and if they have set it up. Don't let them set it up just before they speak -- it should be done during break.
  • Offer speakers a chance to rehearse
  • It is STRONGLY recommended that the District Parliamentarian briefs the Conference Committee on protocol. You don't want to unwittingly offend some dignitary. Set an example.

Other things to arrange:

  • A demonstration speaker for the Evaluation contest
  • Timing lights -- so only the speaker can see them
  • Make sure you've got spare lights.

Who does what at the conference Edit

Special roles

  • Designated hosts for out-of-town toastmastesr
  • Designated hosts for speakers and guest speakers (people who know the technical staff etc)

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