A Peak Experience at the 2019 Toastmasters International Convention

Discover from District Director Kevin Markl what happens at the Toastmasters International Convention from interviewing Board of Director candidates, district officer training, educational sessions, the world championship of public speaking and much more!

The 2019 Toastmasters International Convention was held this year from Wednesday August 21 to Saturday August 24th in Denver, Colorado. The TRIO – top 3 leaders of our District (Ashley Ching, Club Growth Director, Bett Bollhoefer, Program Quality Director and Kevin Markl, District Director) arrived early on Saturday August 17th.

Why arrive days before the Convention starts? Our first order of business on Sunday, was preparing and interviewing 14 candidates who are running to be Board of Directors (BoDs) for our International Organization (330,000+ members across 140 countries). You can see some of the candidates here and here. Our BoDs represent our members around the world, guide the creation and implementation of our 5 year strategic plans and more (our current 5 year strategic plan is here if you’re curious).

The interviews were fast and furious, with just 15 minutes with each candidate. Ashley focused on how we can increase the transparency on what the board discusses and how decisions are made that impact our members and clubs. Bett dug into the biggest problem Toastmasters faces today in the minds of each candidates and how we solve it (some discussed retention, others talked about growing too fast, improving club quality and much more). I focused on digital transformation and their backgrounds on strategic planning – we still have a ways to go to deliver the best online experience possible for our members! Our team presented our recommendations and why we would vote for each candidate to our caucus below. 

District 57 Attendees caucus at the 2019 Toastmasters International Convention

Following a day of interviewing candidates, our training begun. Yes! Club Officers get trained, Area & Division Directors get trained and so do we! One of the first exercises was to work together as a team to build a lego model as quickly as possible. Sounds simple? Note quite – only 1 person could so the demonstration model to be built at a time and with different colors/sizes of lego shapes and different personalities on each 8+ person team, it was a true exercise in collaboration and teamwork. How well do your club officers and members get along? Are you able to work together towards becoming a Distinguished Club?

Besides playing with lego’s, we learned how to build and communicate our vision and plan for success this year, where all our guests, members and officers will Experience Excellence. If we all focus on having fun, recognizing each others accomplishments and working together as a community, we will reach our goals and become a Select Distinguished District (remember, District 57 was among only 15 Districts in North America that achieved this EPIC distinction last year with the help of all our members, clubs and officers).

An update from the Board

Before the Opening Ceremonies, there’s a briefing from the Board of Directors, providing an update on the latest and greatest in Toastmasters. One thing everyone will be happy about – the Pathways Basecamp homepage is going to be much easier to navigate and Path Selection is also going to be much easier. The staff at Toastmasters World Headquarters continues to work incredibly hard and if you have any questions about Pathways, please don’t hesitate to reach out to them.

Opening Ceremonies began with the ceremonies of flags. I held the Swiss flag (I actually lived there for 3.5 years many years ago) and had a wonderful time kicking off the event. The keynote speaker, Phil Hansen, shared his moving story about no longer being able to draw and paint as an artist due to nerve damage through his years as an artist. This didn’t stop him from creating though. He found ways to get past his self-limiting beliefs and to create art in new ways. Remember – when you think you can’t do something – is there something really stopping you or are you stopping yourselves from Experiencing Excellence?

What do you want to learn? With the Convention underway, there was an array of educational sessions to pick from, including one from our very own, Michael Notaro, The Call of the Leader. Learning isn’t just about going to sessions. More than 2,000 people were at the Convention from around the world who all eager to meet others too. As my new friend from Australia, Mark Snow, writes:

Practically every member is approachable, from our International President all the way through to our club members. Never be afraid to say hello and strike up a conversation with anyone. Time spent learning more about who our members are outside Toastmasters is seldom wasted. We are a marvellously eclectic bunch with so many valuable stories to share


Recognition is one of our most important values and is one of the many reasons more than 25+ members of our District came to Denver. On Thursday night, we were all recognized alongside our peers at the Hall of Fame ceremony. This is where Distinguished Districts, leaders who have achieved excellence and others are recognized.

Our very own Jim Kohli was recognized with the Presidential Citation – the most prestigious award you can earn at the leadership level. Bett Bollhoefer was recognized with the Excellence in Membership Growth for her role as the Club Growth Director in the 2018-2019 year, growing our membership and clubs. More than half of our clubs were Distinguished, earning me the Excellence in Program Quality Award. And of course, our entire District was Distinguished.


We couldn’t have started 9 new clubs, grew our membership and had more than half of our clubs reach Distinguished status without the help of every member, club and officer. Thank you for helping us all on our EPIC RUN!

Being Distinguished meant all of our members could get on stage in front of 2000+ people to be recognized. Check out the experience first hand walking on stage and being recognized in this Facebook Live Video I recorded so you could all share in the excitement and understand what we’re all looking at in the photo above.

Friday means dancing and… the annual business meeting. I had mentioned this earlier – we had interviewed 14 candidates for 7 roles and had to vote on them, plus 10 proposals (amendments to our bylaws). The business meeting started at 4:30pm on Friday night and went until 9:15pm. I’ll never complain that our District business meetings run long! While votes are being tallied there’s fun music, dancing and a great opportunity to chat with your neighbors. 

Congratulations to District 57’s very own Naomi Takeuchi, DTM, below, and her election to Toastmaster International Director for Region 1 through 2019-2021. I’m also happy to say that every candidate we recommended did in fact win except for the last one. Less than 600 votes separated both incredibly strong candidates. We were happy for either to win and serve.

Naomi Takeuchi, DTM, Region 1 International Board of Director from 2019-2021 celebrating with Kevin Markl, District Director, District 57 Toastmasters. Both are members of the same District!

As you can tell, the Toastmasters International Convention is about more than meeting people and making friendships with those from around the world, more than training our next generation of leaders, more than recognizing accomplishments and having fun, and even more than 5 hour long business meetings. It’s a Peak Experience in a class of it’s own – and we haven’t yet spoke about the World Championship of Public Speaking – another story for another time!

If you are intrigued about the experience and want to learn more, send me an email at kevin@d57tm.org. If you want to attend next year, now is the time to start planning your trip to the 2020 Toastmasters International Convention which will be held August 5-8 in exquisite Paris, France.

I hope to see you all there to celebrate our success this year, helping our guests, members and officers Experience Excellence and becoming a Select Distinguished District together.