Wednesday, May 15, 2013

in Antwerp at the toastmasters Spring conference

Have you ever been to Antwerp? No? I have not been there before last weekend either! And it also was my first time to go to a toastmasters district conference! My friends and club mates Kai Ley, Niels and Günther came a long and we all where really exited! Kai Ley was to be in the English speaking and the evaluation contests and of course we hoped she would be able to win. But that was not the only high light. I was really looking forward to the jam packed program with workshops, contests and social events. And even a city tour so there would be a change to get at least a little glimpse of the beautiful city of Antwerp!
The fist day started with a bang: a story telling workshop with Ed Tate, the 2000 World Champion of public speaking. I had informed myself about Ed and what he does a little before going to the District Conference, but of course it is always different if you meet someone for real. And Ed was much better in real that I had expected. He was giving us tons of information in a very short time and we had lots of fun, too! Lots of new ideas and inspiration to help me in my own speeches...;-))
After the workshop I we went to the official registration and got our first impression of the Stuurboor and meet some people. Everything was a bit confusing at first and I needed to find the right place and people, since I was to be a timer in one of the contests. And I wanted to be ready when the semi finals of the English speaking contest would start. Kail Ley was in those and of course Niels and I wanted to be there and give her our support by being in the audience! She did a really great job and we were anxious to find out if she would go on to the finals. Unfortunately she did not. The contest was on a really high level and I was glad I was not one of the judges. It was a hard job for sure! We had a short coffee break and Kai Ley had to go into the next contest: the semi finals for the English Evaluations! I was a timer for this contest, but of course in the other group, since you can not be on the tech or judge team, if there is someone from your club in the contest. Just like the contest before, the evaluations where really great and I enjoyed it very much to hear such a lot of quality speeches/ evaluations! Even when I could not concentrate full on them because I had to concentrate on working the lights first! Kai Ley did not get into the finals for the evaluations, too, and so we had some sad moments, but they did not last for long and the program went on. In the late afternoon I was at another workshop, by Serge Pegoff. We did some very intresting group work and I had some insights about how to be more persuasive! We where really hungry and went to a beer tasting event just next door. Unfortunately it was out doors and just had some tents and I was not dressed warm enough for something like that! And it was quite hard to find any vegetarian food!!! But it was a good change to do more talking and getting to know more fellow toastmasters...;-)) And, as if that would not have been enough for one day, we also decided to go to a local Karaoke bar and have some fun, sing and dance....;-)) I was half dead when I finally found my way to my bed!
On Saturday we had more workshops (another on with Ed Tate, with Anne Kathrin Jansen from Köln, Jack Vincent and Robert Cockburn) and the finals of all speaking and evaluation contests. So it was definitely more food for thoughts, inspirations and great speeches to listen too! One of my highlights was to meet so many nice people from all over Europe and connecting to them! And of course we all could not wait for the evening program: the Gala Dinner and the Award ceremony! I was sitting next to toastmasters from Colone and Bonn and Switzerland on the other side and that combination was of course the guarantee for a hilarious and short evening! The food was great and I was really amazed at how quickly all 400 of us where served and it seamed that we did not have to wait at all! The award ceremony was very touching and more than one tears where shed. The atmosphere was nearly electric! And after handing out all the trophies, metals and gifts to many many people we got treated to music played by a live band and a chocolate fountain! It was another long night with dancing and having fun. It was not so much about talking any more (too loud for that!) and I was happy to see my bed again in the small hours.
Sunday, our last day, started with Ed Tate again and I tell you this amazing guy got better each time I saw him ( how does he do it?). After a short coffee break I went to two more workshops, one by Bob Mohl and one by Kirsten Ujvari. More great stuff to learn and before we all knew it it was time for the closing ceremony! What really hit me there was the introduction of all the new officers for the district 59! So many people are working for toastmasters and I had seen a talked to quite a number of them, but I did not realize who they where, or rather what they did in the TM team! Wohhh!
I was quite exhausted by then, but I still did not want to miss the chance to see a bit of Antwerp and joined the city walk. The weather was not too nice to us, but at least I was wearing warmer cloth this time! And it was totally worth it! Antwerp is a very beautiful city and I would not mind to come back again and see more! After some typical food ( chips with some kind of curry sauce and later waffels) we where heading home and since we all where a bit over the top already we had as much fun as you can have when reading sings in a language that you can not understand much of!!!
After that experience I only can say: I hope I will be able to go to Budapest in November, too!

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