Spring Conference Planning – A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats

The beauty of planning a conference with a team is deciding on what pieces you want to see for yourself in those three days. Over the last twelve months our Spring Conference Teams have expanded, all working towards the vision of providing a refreshing and educational learning experience for our attendees.  The Conference Teams embody the slogan of: “A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats”.  They are not only members and leaders within their clubs and district, but they are also vibrant people who lead busy lives outside of Toastmasters.

Although it’s always so easy to look at what we could have done to be better, in our debriefing session, the team agreed that it was overall an enjoyable and enriching conference.  We had a vision in mind, we worked towards the goals, and we overcame challenges along the way. For Annie and I, we could not be prouder of what the team has accomplished. The heart, thoughts, ideas, time, and efforts put into the conference made it the best we could offer.

This is a Toastmaster experience we will forever remember.  Thank you all for being a part of it.

As Conference Co-Chairs, and on behalf of the Spring Conference Team, we wish to extend our gratitude to all the attendees, volunteers, presenters and guests.  In addition to all the unsung heroes who generously offered their time, effort and resources throughout the past year to help create an outstanding event, we have a long list of Team Leaders who deserve special recognition…

…District Director Alan Warburton, Program Quality Director John Sherber and Club Growth Director Mike Bown.  The generous support, service and dedication of the trio is immeasurable.  Following the values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence they were able to lay the groundwork for great things to happen.   

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…Education Chair & Conference Mentor Chris Kozakowski.  It was May 14th, 2016 when Chris, Annie and I sat down at a restaurant for a late lunch. We ordered food and immediately started chatting about Toastmaster Conferences – our first ever experiences, what we liked, and what we wanted to see in our Spring 2017 Conference. We chatted for three hours before parting ways.  It was that defining moment that I realized Annie and I were going to really enjoy this conference planning process.  Wearing her Education Chair Hat, Chris did a ton of work to make sure the sessions were well-planned and offered high quality. It was a huge bonus to have a mentor with the depth of experience and expertise that Chris offers.

…Program Quality Director  John Sherber.  Annie and I met John for the first time at the June District Officer Training. Right after that, John immediately involved himself in the planning process.  He made many trips from Victoria to Surrey and visited the hotel.  Along with Chris, John has been on our teleconference calls from the very beginning, and was instrumental in providing support and feedback to the Conference Team.

…Publications Coordinator Ros Hansen. It’s always a pleasure working with people you admire, and Ros is one of them. As the District Administration Manager (DAM Madam Ros), she truly embodies “A Toastmaster Wears Many Hats”. Ros is not only involved in the District Leadership Team, she is also the coordinator for the District newsletter “What’s the Buzz”.  For the Conference, committed services above and beyond her designated role as Publications Coordinator. Ros was also part of the Sponsorship Committee, helping to locate many of the goodies in the registration welcome bags. Ros was also involved in creating the promotional posters and videos we have on the District Facebook page and website. Wouldn’t you also agree that the brochure was professional with messages, acknowledgements and advertising throughout?  Thank you Ros!  (Note from Ros: Special mention of appreciation goes to Cheryl Crotty for her incredible support; to Don Rokosz, for the inspiration behind the survival kits; to Hana Khalaf our Gift Basket Coordinator who was working at full speed picking up gift baskets from various locations and polishing them up for presentation, and who also prepared the name badges; and to the fantastic crew of Pro Edge and Evening Edition volunteers who helped locate specialty items, assemble the pot of honey gifts and collate the survival kits for the first timers’ welcome package. What a team!)  

…Facilities Chair Ron Newell. Ron is also a key Toastmaster role model for us.  We saw how Ron would often arrive at Toastmaster events a day earlier to set up as the District Logistic Manager.  That’s only one example of the wealth of details we have learned just by observing him. When Ron joined the team, it was evident that we were going to have a spectacular time working with him. Starting from visiting the hotel to meeting the hotel staff before the conference, to working with Focus Audio & Visual on the sound system, to approaching sponsors to offset conference expenses, Ron has gone above and beyond in putting together a successful conference experience for all of our members. As Ron said, he has walked away from the experience learning many new skills…and so have we.

…Sponsorship Chair Cheryl Crotty. Cheryl is such an organized and detail oriented person, which is needed for the Sponsorship Chair. This role requires a lot of delegation and communication with the Sponsorship Team, in getting the logos sent to our Publications Coordinator and Website Chair, and following up with the Registration Chair on getting the goodies into the welcome bags. Special mention to Jamie MacDonald who secured a much appreciated sponsorship for the program brochure.  Cheryl’s collaboration with our auctioneer Don Rokosz on getting the live auction items organized and displayed was fantastic.  Special thanks to Ron Newell, Don Rokosz and Marcus Ray for doing such a great job of closing deals and accomplishing so much in such short order, and for their enthusiasm and outstanding service during  the auction.    We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the volunteer teams who donated gift baskets for auctions. This is the biggest team we have on the conference committee with sub teams and volunteers, thank you all!

…Public Relations Chair Andy Vuong was enthusiastic in wanting to take on this role. We had multiple phone discussions on ideas and tasks. With the work of Ros Hansen on creating the posters and videos, the PR for the conference proved to be positive and effective.

…Registration Chair Carolyn Bray and Finance Chair Cila Kwong.   It has been a blast working with Carolyn and Cila, who are both ‘First-Timer Conference Organizers’. The meetings over coffee and the teleconference calls were instrumental in every way.  We got a chance to see how the Fall 2016 Conference unfolded, and planned for what to expect leading up to our Spring 2017 Conference. These two Committee Teams were the busiest over the three-day Conference, often managing their stations during peak hours and dinner times. Thank you to our Committee Teams and Volunteers!

…Volunteer Chair Valerie Adolph. Val has been an absolute gem in our Conference Team. At our first meeting together, we shared our volunteer experiences at past Conferences and Val suggested clarifying the volunteer roles with job descriptions. This really helped us when we got into the later part of the Conference planning when Val worked with the various Committee Chairs in helping them find volunteers.  Val has a talent with language and word usage;  she often edited our Conference documents before they were sent out, which was a big bonus. Many thanks Val!

…Decorations Chair and Gift Basket Coordinator.  It is often the small pieces of the conference planning that contribute to the bigger picture. Karen Van Delft, our Decorations Chair did a spectacular job with color coordination and creative ideas that fit with the theme. (We would have had gold streamers coming off the ceiling if it wasn’t for hotel restrictions!) It was fun coming up with ideas and seeing them come alive on the day.   Thanks also to the committee teams who helped fluff up those paper decorations. It will be all the small things that add up when we think of all the memories of the Conference many years to come.

…Banner Parade Chair Fred Jones. It has been a pleasure working with Fred, who assured us he would be happy to help out in anyway. We had heard from our Program Quality Director that Fred would like to take on as banner Parade Chair.  From there, Fred knew exactly what he needed to do. Fred was organized in getting the clubs to assemble prior to the open ceremony; he was also stellar as the introducer of the clubs. Fred was another ‘Toastmaster Who Wore Many Hats’ throughout the three days, as he and Ron Newell managed the audio visual table.

...Website Chair Bev Young. We owe all our gratitude to Bev for the beautifully and professionally created website. Our goal was to make it user-friendly for registrants to sign up and find information. Bev brought in her professional background and shared her expertise with the Conference Team. Along with the Website Editor Eric Sayre, they worked on updating the website and keeping the information fresh right up to the Spring Conference.

…C & L (Community and Leadership) Award Committee Chair Mike Robinson. Our District Director Alan Warburton had been working closely with Mike on the selection process for the C & L Award recipient. Mike, along with six other committee members nominated and selected this year’s recipient.  Following various selection processes, the Committee decided on Bob Kuhn, a deserving recipient who leads with heart, and who has contributed so much to the community in the form of communication and leadership. Bob’s personal stories of struggling with Parkinson’s disease while leading a life outside his comfort zone were inspirational to hear.
…Credentials Chair Deborah Richards and Credentials Chair Mentor Raymond Ho. Raymond has been involved in the District and the details of setting up credentials table for many conferences. This time, Raymond mentored Deborah ensuring that the knowledge and experience was shared.  Many thanks to our credentials team.  Without their time and effort, we would not have been able to conduct important business at our annual meetings. They are the first to get there, often stationed from early in the morning till much later in the day, until quorum was achieved.
…Contest Chair Moya Webb and Chief Judge Marion Gushue-Geiger.  It’s truly a pleasure seeing how well organized Moya and Marion are, and how they operate in their roles. Both of these roles require pre-communication with various supporting roles, judges, and contestants. Moya made sure the contestants were completely and professionally briefed and prepared about where to speak and how to use the microphones.  Both contests were run flawlessly and the audiences thoroughly enjoyed the speeches. It is the second time Marion has been the District Chief Judge, and I am as impressed as the first time around. I remember Marion would come up with creative incentives for judges to watch the judging video and made sure they had gone over the judging rulebook again. There’s so much to learn from both Moya and Marion.

Submitted by Conference Co-Chairs  Jenny and Annie Peng