by Keary Dennison, President, Nissan Toastmasters
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) President’s Breakfast at the Texas Wesleyan Campus in Fort Worth, Texas.
If you don’t read anything else, just know that if you are a Club President, and see an opportunity to register for an officer training session that says President’s Breakfast, do it. You won’t be disappointed.
For me, TLI Trainings are always good for training new officers, picking up new golden nuggets of information for existing officers, meeting new friends, and catching up with old ones.
Just by itself, that would be enough for me to miss my regularly planned Saturday morning tennis match. Well, for this particular morning, I missed tennis because of TLI and a nice big Texas winter snowstorm. The point is, TLI is something I gladly do to improve myself and support Toastmasters.
I don’t know if it was the knowledgeable and inspiring trainers, the fantastic keynote speaker, the savory breakfast (which is the one thing I was expecting to be good if you are going to call it a President’s Breakfast), the morning snow, or the hyper-engaged audience, but this was The Perfect Storm (that was the Keynote Speaker’s speech title by the way) of people, communication, and action items to make for one the best TLI training sessions I have ever attended.
Ok. That was a lot to throw in one paragraph (or one long run-on sentence) so let me break down this excellent day into more digestible, bite-sized pieces.
First of all, I need to pause a moment to thank my new Toastmaster friend Joyce Trimble, DTM. We met by chance, over email, when she sent a prospective new member to our club, then some helpful information, then let me know about the President’s Breakfast, and finally asked me to write this recap. It was a relationship that started by chance, but I knew right away, she will be someone good to know. She is the type of person that, all of sudden, takes an interest in you and your growth. They are so helpful to know but, at the same time, challenge you to improve. Toastmasters is full of those types of people.
The day started with me contemplating if I should even make the trip. I was up at 6 in the morning, watching the news about the snow, ice, and cold temperatures. At 6:45 am I made the “go” decision and started the long trek to Texas Wesleyan University. I luckily made it safely.
It was COLD outside, but oh so WARM when I finally walked into the meeting space. It was like being a kid growing up in Minnesota, playing all afternoon in the snow to come home to a warm house, smells of great food, and the comfort of seeing people you know. I sat down next to Jan Petersen and, as expected from TLI, instantly met a new friend. I couldn’t have picked a better table mate. She knew everyone that came to our table and made sure that introductions were made by all. Fellow Toastmasters, if you want to know how to make new members or officers feel welcome, just follow Jan’s example.
At this point, I thought I would be talking mainly about the wonderful breakfast, which was great. That was only a sign of the great things to come. The real treat was the credentialed list of Toastmasters that were on the agenda. It was like all your favorite musicians, lined up to play for just you and your closest friends. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to see some of the best Toastmasters had to offer.
The list included:
- Jamie Pickering – District Director
- Chris Raneri – Program Quality Director
- Robi Ley – Immediate Past District Director
- Awesome Audience of Club Presidents
- Great Panel for the Leadership Open House
I will break up the President’s Breakfast into a three-course meal with a dessert at the end.
Course One: Keynote
Our first treat was a keynote speech from our Immediate Past District Director, Robi Ley, titled “The Perfect Storm”. How fitting that as she spoke, the snow was at its most intense outside. Normally, with my attention span, I would have watched the snow, however, Robi’s speech was so good that I could not help but be captivated.
Course Two: General Session
The general session was extremely motivating, which is great because it was about motivation.
The General Session was led by our District Director, Jamie Pickering, and our Program Quality Director, Chris Raneri. Two very polished and accomplished communicators and leaders. Learning about motivation and leadership from them was like learning basketball from Michael Jordan.
Course Three: Presidents Officer Training
Jamie and Chris also completed the President’s Training program. Two people have great insight into what makes great presidents. In fact, I took away three, handwritten pages of golden nuggets that I can take back and use to make improvements in my home club.
I learned my role as Club President, how to better lead the club and other officers, the tools available to help make a successful club, and where to get support when needed.
Dessert: Supplemental – Leadership Open House
The Leadership Open House focused on taking more responsibility in Toastmasters. Specifically, about taking that first step outside of club leadership into District Leadership as an Area Director.
To facilitate this, Robi Ley lead a panel discussion that included four more credentialed Toastmasters (Jill, Mary Lee, Diana, and Jen). The panel took more than 14 plus direct questions from the audience on district-level leadership.
I really felt that the panel was transparent, honest, and detailed about taking the next step in Toastmasters. Even more importantly, even though I had not considered it before, after listening, I really gained some confidence that, when I’m ready, I could take that next step and be an Area Director.
Fellow Toastmasters, that’s when it hit me. I had always thought that moving beyond the club level was more about supporting Toastmasters. After this session, I could really see now how to further leadership opportunities could improve me and help grow my career. Most of all, I could see myself taking that next step.
It was now 1:30 PM. It was a fun-filled day that I really enjoyed. I sincerely thank all the Toastmasters that helped to organize this event.
The snow had finally melted and I easily made the trek home to enjoy the rest of my weekend.