This is the week of the Toastmasters Annual International Convention. It was originally supposed to be in Paris, France, but instead it’s taking place in my home office. And in kitchens, living rooms, lofts, studies, and wherever people around the world have their computers set up. For the first time ever, the Convention and all its activities – including the competition to determine the World Champion of Public Speaking – are taking place online.

I’ve been to a number of International Conventions, in locations from Phoenix, Arizona, to Chicago, Illinois, to Mashantucket, Connecticut, and have greatly enjoyed meeting and mingling with people from around the globe. There is absolutely nothing that can compare to being there in person. But long before I had to decide whether I could manage a trip to Paris, it became a moot point, as the coronavirus canceled pretty much everything. I have no idea how the convention organizers managed to put together a virtual convention in the time they had in which to do it, but I was happy for the opportunity to attend the convention without having to cover the cost of airfare to Paris, not to mention hotel, meals, and other convention costs.

I registered for the event, and blocked off the week on my calendar so I’d be able to attend all the sessions and activities, just as if I were there in person. That was the plan, anyway, although it didn’t exactly work out that way. Real life still got in the way, as well as some technical glitches and hiccups at the start of the convention, and I found myself playing catch-up most of the time, watching recordings of the different sessions, rather than seeing the events as they were going on.

Although I regretted having to sacrifice the energy, anticipation, and excitement of being in the moment and taking in the different activities as they were going on, I appreciated being able to “attend” everything at a more relaxed and leisurely pace than if I had to keep up with the schedule and the agenda in real time. I also didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn in order to catch the early morning activities, as the convention is taking place in Greenwich Mean Time, which is four hours ahead of my time zone.

The main event, as far as I and many others are concerned, is the finals of the World Champion of Public Speaking contest. It’s an exciting and inspiring event, and it takes place tomorrow morning at 10:00 my time. At conventions I’ve attended in the past, I was always seated pretty far back in the auditorium. There are thousands of people in attendance, and lots of officials and dignitaries who are seated up front. But tomorrow, I’ll be there, front and center, with no one blocking my view. I’ll be sitting in a comfortable chair, and close to the action. Who could ask for anything more?

I’m looking forward to the day when I can again attend conventions in person, whether they’re close to home or far away. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy all the benefits of this one, right here at home.

August 28, 2020
©Betty Liedtke, 2020

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