Having attended the International Winter Conference in Moscow, I took notes about good practice we can bring & reinforce in our European Districts. Here’s my top five.
During the interviews – I am being recorded on two cameras – one recording both the interviewer and me, the other doing a close-up of me. During the presentations, there is a camera taking the stage directly, a Go Pro sticked to the wall taking the stage from an angle and – I believe also a third camera, just don’t know where it was!
Until now, I’ve seen Toastmasters interviews recorded only with a phone; speeches and workshops with a single camera at the back of the room. Adding professional recording gives more opportunities for the PR – and also gives a chance to get a quality recording for themselves (which can be beneficial for them whenever they’re pitching themselves as speakers / MCs for non-Toastmasters events).
Chief of International Relations
The team had one person dedicated to talking to potential foreign guests who could deliver workshops. Never before have I seen having one person dedicated to such work (it was usually the conference chair or PR chair doing this as a side-job). But in the Moscow Winter Conference, international guests filled large part of the agenda: 6 out of 7 workshops.
While Moscow is generally an attractive place to visit, a friend of mine (born and raised in Moscow, now living in Prague) asked me: “Why the hell would you go there in December when it can easily be -20 C?” Adding the hassle (and cost) of getting visa and the fact that the Moscow Area is not yet part of any of the Districts, every foreign guest would be an achievement. Getting six speakers (and a few more visitors) seems like a magical act.
If you want to raise the bar of quality of workshops in your conference: Get yourself a chief of international relations.
“Russian Style Dinner”
Eating pelmenie, drinking a set of fruity alcoholic drinks and listening to three cheerful Russian men singing “Kalinka”, “Katyusha” and some other notoriously known Russian songs made me feel like being in a movie.
I am clearly evaluating this from the perspective of an “International Guest”, but the dinner was something I could not experience anywhere else – and made my stay in Moscow memorable.
There are so many conferences to attend and so little time. If you want to make yours attractive, give a thought to the question: “What can we make the participants experience they could not do anywhere else?”
This is the fourth year that I am a District Officer – and therefore the fourth year that I can’t compete. I loved it before – and I miss it. The Moscow Area team allowed international guests to join the International Speech contest. I’m grateful for the opportunity.
I also believe it is valuable for the Moscow Toastmasters to compare themselves to others in the contest (since they are not districted yet, they can’t climb up the official ladder). Toastmasters in Slovakia did that (allowing members from other countries to compete in their own contest) on a regular basis, before they got districted. The benefit was boost in the overall level of their speakers’ abilities.
While this is not possible in the official spring contests – the elimination of “official” Fall conferences (and their replacement by unofficial ones) invites exactly to doing this. You don’t have to wait for the World Finals to enjoy some real International Competition!
“No one left behind” approach
Organization of such an event requires a lot of planning and acting upon the plans. The organizers often need inputs from the participants, trainers and contestants. I got an email asking to confirm my participation on a walking tour (with a deadline), an email asking for my slides (with a deadline), and asking for my speech title (with – you’ve got it – a deadline). Preparing for this conference, I never missed a deadline – not thanks to my outstanding organization skills – but thanks to the “reminder sending” skills of the Winter Conference team. With every deadline approaching, I would get a reminder over email – accompanied by a reminder on Messenger that I have received an email with a reminder.
I could not have missed a deadline even if I had tried.
Even I often take the approach of “I’ve sent it in an email, they should know and act!”. It takes extra effort to remind your guests in time what they need to do to get the most out of a conference (such as: sign up for a Friday dinner). But it shows that you care. In my eyes: Effort well invested.
If you’re working on organizing a conference right now – let them be your inspiration.
Good luck – and maybe I’ll see you there!
Lukas Liebich, District 110 Program Quality Director