I didn’t win. But I sure had fun.

The Toastmasters District 6 Fall Conference was held last weekend in Rochester. The Fall Conference is also where the finals of Toastmasters’ annual Humorous Speech Contest take place, and this year, I made it to the final round of competition. I had fun giving my speech, and I think I did a good job delivering it. It got a lot of laughs and applause, and people were nodding and smiling as I sat back down afterwards. But when the top three winners were announced, my name was not on the list.

I was disappointed, of course, especially after putting in as much time as I did preparing and practicing the speech. But then again, I’m sure everyone else put in as much time and effort as I did, if not more. My disappointment was gone long before I got in my car to come home from Rochester the next morning. While I drove, I thought back over the weekend and everything I learned and enjoyed during the conference.

It’s always fun to see friends from around the state – and some from Ontario, Canada – that I usually see only at our District events. And I met and talked with some amazing new people that I’m already looking forward to seeing again next time.

The educational sessions I attended were entertaining as well as informative, and gave me new skills and ideas that I know will help me – not only in my speaking, but in life in general.

I heard powerful and thought-provoking speeches from not one, but two eloquent and inspirational leaders who were special guests. Our keynote speaker was the 1st Vice President of Toastmasters International, a gentleman from Queensland, Australia. In addition to the words of wisdom and advice he had for us all, I enjoyed listening to his delightful accent.

I saw grace, humility, and quiet strength in our Communication & Leadership Award winner, who works at the Mayo Clinic and who praised the people he considered to be “giants” in his life because of all they did for him and for others. People such as teachers who gave up their own time and resources to help and support their students, and a school custodian who rescued him from a potentially humiliating experience when he was young.

One of the most memorable moments of the weekend for me came at the very end of the conference, when we all sang Happy Birthday to a woman I greatly admire, and often share a room with at Toastmasters conferences and conventions. She’s always encouraging others, while shunning the spotlight herself, so it was a special joy to celebrate her on the occasion of her 90th birthday.

I drove home from the conference thinking about all my connections and interactions with people I enjoy and admire, and smiling at all the memories and achievements the conference provided. It suddenly occurred to me that I was a big winner over the weekend, even without a trophy from the Speech Contest.

And I sure had fun.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 6, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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