D108 International Online Conference “Harmony in Diversity” REPORT!

D108 International Online Conference “Harmony in Diversity” REPORT!

While the memories from the recent D108 International Online Conference 2020 – HARMONY IN DIVERSITY are still vivid, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the Conference that took place in the ONLINE FORMAT first ever in the history of our district!  

District 108 International Online Conference 2020 is the largest annual District event. It takes place every spring and gathers District members and guests from all around the globe. 

The ‘first edition’ was held in 2019, and the scale of the event has grown the next year, attracting more attendees, worldwide known speakers, and more national and international companies and organizations supporting it. 

The primary goal of the District 108 Annual Conference is to enhance and foster the public speaking skills through different activities & speech contests, by exchanging experience and knowledge among Toastmasters from different parts of the world. The social activities during the Conference are a great networking opportunity to start international collaborations.

Participants of ditrict level conference take valuable advantage of the event program tailored to the core goals of Toastmasters International. The agenda is focused on personal and professional growth altogether expanding their Toastmasters network of contacts and friends.

During District 108 Conference in Wroclaw,  Poland last year, it was voted to choose the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius to host the Annual Conference in 2020. A beautiful general Conference theme was chosen and announced: “Harmony in Diversity”! It was to recognize the amazing diversity in all 4 different Divisions and 5 different countries united under the District 108 banner: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland. Tickets were sold widely. Time was passing, the organizing team was preparing the event and all venues were already booked and paid… When suddenly, only two months prior to the big conference weekend an unexpected thing happened! The whole world got blocked and paralyzed due to the quick spread of the COVID virus. So, we had to adjust. And we did. And that was a BIG success.

What makes people from different countries gather by the end of spring to share their knowledge, discuss endless amount of District 108 topics and spend quality and productive time together?

It’s definitely PASSION!

Passion for knowledge, passion for competition, passion for being together!

Conference Photo Album 

Just before the start of the Conference D108 leaders conducted traditional DCM (District Council Meeting) this time also online. The elections of the NEW DISTRICT OFFICERS for the upcoming Toastmasters Year 2020-2021 have been successfully held and we are happy to introduce the new District 108 Core Team to you:

  • District 108 DirectorElena Pawęta
  • District 108 Program Quality Director Dovile Kurpyte
  • District 108 Club Growth DirectorMonika Szlachta
  • Administration Manager – Aashish Kumar Neelkant
  • Finance ManagerGerardo Garcia-Alvarado
  • Public Relations Manager Justyna Litynska
  • ParliamentarianRyszard Kosowicz

One more IMPORTANT CHANGE is that our District grew from 4 divisions to 5 this new year!

D108 Division Directors:

  • Division A DirectorPaulina Zamelek
  • Division B DirectorMantas Lipnickas
  • Division C DirectorKamil Chmiel
  • Division D DirectorKrzysztof Indycki
  • Division E DirectorMarcin Grzeszczyk

Almost 400 participants from over 40 countries attended our event during these 2 days: Austria, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Denmark, Ethiopia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, USA, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, The Netherlands, Tunisia.

WOW!

 We also welcomed Toastmasters officials including Toastmasters’ 2017–2018 International President DTM Balraj Arunasalam, Region 10 International Director DTM Tuire Vuolasvirta, and our Special guest District Governor 6 times DTM Prasad Sovani! And of course many other global volunteers and Toastmasters leaders!

The Conference welcomed contestants for 4 SPEECH CONTESTS FINALS:

  1. A breath of inspiration in the Table Topic Contest.
  2. Lots of laughter in the Humorous Contest.
  3. Constructive feedback in the Evaluation Contest.
  4. And the inspirational International Speech Contest.

The event was free and open to anyone who wanted to feel the internal Toastmasters tsunami spirit ))

We cannot but mention the ORGANIZING TEAM that made it all possible! Please welcome the hidden warriors:

  • Contest Chair – Elena Paweta.
  • The ZOOM team: Mantas Lipnickas, Tomasz Makuła, Elżbieta Anna Filutowicz.
  • Registration Chair – Aashish Kumar Neelkant.
  • We had great visuals created by Anastasiya Siarheyeva.
  • PR campaign performed by Valeria Kholodkova.
  • Hospitality chair – Giedre Grizaite.
  • And I, Dovile Kurpyte, proudly confess, it was true honor to serve as the Conference Emcee.

And now let’s plunge into the Conference flow by recognizing and remembering every moment of it!

DAY 1. MAY 23rd 

A sunny morning of May 23rd started with the music of the Opening ceremony. Elena Paweta welcomed everyone and wished us to enjoy the upcoming weekend at its full! Some moments after our District Director Gabriela Roivainen took the virtual stage with her encouraging and enthusiastic welcoming speech. It’s never enough to say how strong we become when we are together! #strongtogether

As Emcee Dovile Kurpyte from Confident Voices Vilnius noted that we had 5 big reasons to gather in the 2020 District 108 International Online Conference at the traditional Flag Ceremony. And these reasons are: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania & Poland!

Or, in other words, HARMONY IN DIVERSITY!

No matter how difficult it may sound sometimes, in any situation there a way…easier or harder, but there is always a way! Our “How to find Opportunities in Crisis” opening speech presenter is 30+ year member, Toastmasters’ 2017–2018 International President, a businessman and philanthropist from Sri Lanka – Balraj Arunasalam! Not only he revealed the secrets of how to find the way when it seems lost, but also told us an incredible story…

When Balraj joined Toastmasters he suffered from “extreme stage fright”. Luckily with the help of fellow members of Colombo Toastmasters – the only club in Sri Lanka back then – he steadily gained confidence and took on many leadership positions. Creating a landmark in Toastmasters history, Balraj Arunasalam was elected International President, becoming the first Sri Lankan residing in Sri Lanka and the first South Asian to lead this organization.

“Toastmasters is not just an organization or a movement, it is a learning laboratory and it provides members a platform for self-discovery. With the help of a continuous, structured program, members discover their strengths by learning at their own pace. The fruits of your future success depend on a clear view of where you want to go”.

Balraj shared with us how Toastmasters helped him personally, spoke about the prospective hybrid clubs in near future, talked about the importance of leaders having a “people-first” attitude, and of course gave valuable tips for anyone who is considering taking up a leadership position for the first time.

Conference Photo Album 

Then the DISTRICT SPEECH CONTEST FINALS started!

#1. The TABLE TOPICS Speech Contest purposes are as follows:

  • To provide an opportunity to learn by observing the more proficient speakers who have benefited from their Toastmasters training.
  • To encourage development of impromptu and/or extemporaneous speaking skills and to recognize the best as encouragement to all.
  • To recognize the best as encouragement to all.

 Table Topics Contest was led by the Contest Chair Arkadiusz Ćwiek, who has been a member of the Warsaw ASBIRO Toastmasters and his life motto: “Bigger, Better, Faster, More!”, and the Chief Judge Leena Rantala, who has held nearly every club officer position as well as serving as the District officer, learning and enjoying toastmastering for 17 years already.

One profound question was answered by 8 marvelous speakers in a storytelling, motivational, informative and inspiring manner! Thanks to all our amazing participants: Cyril Junior Dim, Svetlana Ivanova, Bogdan Aldea, Marta Korsak, Karol Mątewski, Juha Oravala, Filip Zdorowski and Katarzyna Wojdalska.

And the honored winners are:

  • 1st place – Cyril Junior Dim
  • 2nd place – Svetlana Ivanova
  • 3rd place – Karol Mątewski

Technical support and keeping order during the competition was provided by Mantas Lipnickas, Tomasz Makuła, Elżbieta Anna Filutowicz. Time was bravely measured by Jerzy Lewandowski and Kamila Maciejewska. Paulia Zamelek, Ilze Donina and Lauri Lehmusvirta did a great job with collecting and counting the ballots online.

When the contest was over we had a networking session mastered with great energy by our Hospitality Chair Giedre Grizaite, who is active Toastmaster from 2015, representing Toastmasters Kaunas English. She interviewed Region 10 International Director Tuire Vuolasvirta, District Director Gabriela Roivanen, District Director elect Elena Paweta, District PQD elect Dovile Kurpyte and Outstanding Toastmaster of 2019 Ryszard Kosowicz. Informative and encouraging answers guided us from the participants #MyWHY to Toastmasters career as District and International Officers. 

The Humorous Speech Contest started with a huge portion of FUN!

Knowledgeable elegant madam Contest Chair Paulina Szot who has been a TI member for 3 years, master of ceremony of numerous gala and auctions events and her partner – Chief Judge Ryszard Kosowicz, a member of Toastmasters International for 3 years, Area D1 Director entitled the Toastmaster of the Year 2019 both took great guidance of 8 participants: Ewelina Rusin, Przemek Kutnyj, Joanna Rymko, Marta Lewenda, Juha Oravala, Cyril Junior Dim, Kert Pjatkin and Adel Badretdinova!

We laughed and giggled, chuckled and snickered! Eight glorious contestants gave us a huge bundle of laughs and had us splitting our sides with their marvelous speeches!

And the distinguished winners are:

  • 1st place – Cyril Junior Dim
  • 2nd place – Przemek Kutnyj
  • 3rd place – Adel Badretdinova

Technical support and keeping order during the competition was provided by Mantas Lipnickas, Tomasz Makuła, Elżbieta Anna Filutowicz. Time was bravely measured by Jerzy Lewandowski and Viktoriya Tudoran. Jadwiga Brzezinka, Ilze Donina and Lauri Lehmusvirta did a great job with collecting and counting the ballots online.

The first day was packed with knowledge, experience and many profitable insights! But that was just to call it a day for official business. Nothing connects people better than having some good time together. It’s impossible to have a TM Conference without an afterparty to match: relaxed, informal conversation always level us up by building new bridges both between Toastmasters members and between our countries!

Contestants, participants, and other attendees were having a chat, played Kahoot and Mafia with our Hospitality Chair Giedre Grizaite. This afterparty event truly brought different cultures, people and energy from around the world together!

DAY 2. MAY 24th 

Second day started with a key-note speech presented by Tuire Vuolasvirta, DTM. She is a member of the TI Board of Directors, the founder of the first Toastmasters club in Finland, and on top of that a Toastmaster of 16 years of experience!

In her strong and inspiring speech Tuire gave us advice on how important it is to trust and to relate during your Toastmaster journey, how to build harmony in your club, in your team and in your district. She added a stitch of interaction when all the participants could dream and imagine District 108 in 2025 while answering the question “where do we see ourselves in 5 years from now?”.

Tuire says: “Through Toastmasters, I’ve gained the confidence I needed for handling any situation. The skill I value most is evaluation – it has benefited me greatly in my career and relationships.”

Conference Photo Album 

And then again it was the SPEECH CONTESTS time!

The fantastic Evaluation Contest Finals of D108 Online Conference hooked us all up with careful moderation of the Contest managers: Contest Chair Arkadiusz Ćwiek and Chief Judge Leena Rantala.

It was a great pleasure to listen to the best evaluators of all divisions who demonstrated exceptional concentration and an amazing ability to perform positive, perfectly structured and constructive evaluations to a wonderful speech by James Falcon on the concept and value of time. Let’s congratulate all our participants: Davis Golds, Cyril Junior Dim, Justyna Lityńska, Tomasz Kubiak, Adam M. Dochtorowicz, Rasmus Bjergegaard, Gabriela Cichocka and Michael Gerlach!

And the three winners are:

  •  1st place – Justyna Lityńska
  • 2nd place – Cyril Junior Dim
  • 3rd place – Davis Golds

Technical support and keeping order during the competition was provided by Mantas Lipnickas, Tomasz Makuła, Elżbieta Anna Filutowicz. Time was bravely measured by Jerzy Lewandowski and Kamila Maciejewska. Ilze Donina and Lauri Lehmusvirta did a great job with collecting and counting the ballots online.

And then the FUN part took the floor! The ZUMBA workshop joyfully performed by Greta Kesa, formerly a Toastmaster from Lithuania who reached District level finals 3 times and then moved to Malaysia. Together with Greta we practiced dynamic Zumba moves in a real time which was a breath of fun and creativity to all conference participants! Some people even mentioned it was their first physical activity during lockdown! We loved it and felt we danced like on fire! ))

The speeches that were delivered during the International Speech Contest brought various feelings: some were emotional, some inspiring and some informational. Everyone could find something to learn from each of the speakers.

ISC was supervised by Jakub Bronowicki, who has been in Toastmasters since 2014, on the way to his second DTM, gets energy when seeing other people grow around him with the help of his contest partner – Chief Judge Ryszard Kosowicz.

And the amazing ISC winners are:

  • 1st place – Cyril Junior Dim
  • 2nd place – Magdalena Olechnowicz
  • 3rd place – Anastasiia Semykin

Technical support and keeping order during the competition was provided by Mantas Lipnickas, Tomasz Makuła, Elżbieta Anna Filutowicz. Time was bravely measured by Jerzy Lewandowski and Viktoriya Tudoran. Jadwiga Brzezinka, Ilze Donina and Lauri Lehmusvirta did a great job with collecting and counting the ballots online.

Special Guest of the “Harmony in Diversity” Conference whose speech rounded up the 2nd day was a person who doubled the clubs in his area being Area Director. He also beat the record of selling 1200 tickets when organizing the Division Contest. So far he has won some 50+ Speech Contests in all the 5 categories at various levels, and his District was ranked # 9 in the world. Prasad Sovani has been a member for 25 years and he would have completed DTM 6 times by the end of current TM year and has served in each capacity from Club SAA to District Governor. Prasad Sovani told us the secret knowledge on how to become a world class Toastmasters club!

Not only he shared with us the working strategies, but also gave exact steps and future Club titles followed by suggestions on how to unite Estonians, Finish, Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish Toastmasters members all around the world!

So much to think about! Thank you, Prasad!

Conference Photo Album 

Just before moving to a short break before the Virtual Gala and Hall of fame our Hospitality Chair and all the participants sang Happy Birthday (to myself )) And I must admit it truly was an unforgettable moment and a magical experience! I can fully recommend everyone to have a Conference with Toastmasters family as a birthday celebration! ))

To summarize, the second day was more about creating a good atmosphere, strategy, having fun and giving quality feedback to each other. 

The icing of a cake for these two insightful days was, of course, the long awaited Virtual Gala Party and the Hall of Fame of District 108!

We all enjoyed an incredible ceremony featuring all the winners of 2019/2020, most active club officers, outstanding Toastmasters and best of the best of District leaders!

And of course we congratulated all our marvellous contestants! You are our DISTRICT 108 CHAMPIONS!

Curious if you could find your name, your clubmate’s or your club’s name on the RECOGNITION LIST? Find it in the BIG LIST of D108 AWARDs & RECOGNITION page of our website!

Thank you both organizers and participants by mentioning that “this event might look like an easy task, but it definitely requires a lot of dedication, teamwork, motivation and time. It is a great learning and bonding experience for both organizers and participants. It is work done with great passion and certainly worth applying and preparing a proposal for hosting a future edition.”

I personally am extremely proud of the Team perseverance and immense positive attitude! It was a great honor to be there with you and serve as Emcee ))

HUGE THANKS to each and everyone who helped us and contributed to organizing and holding this wonderful annual District 108 event!

Dovile Kurpyte, Divison B Director 2019-2020, District 108 PQD elect 2020-2021

#strongtogether

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