Sunday, July 29, 2018

Making A Production

When the other speaker cancels, that means more speaking time for me! I only had to give one more Visual Aids presentation to complete another Competent Communicator. I also had my go-to hypnosis presentation about the Model of the Mind. As usual I could record my presentation on the camcorder, but I could go one better: I could also record it on my iPhone and see if I could make use of both recordings to make a better video presentation.

Once I had the two video recordings in hand, or rather on disk, I looked around to see which video editing software available for OSX on the Mac would be able to help me. This is nothing new to me; I've used video editors in the past. I  did discover, though, that there were new options available. I decided to give OpenShot a shot.

As it turned out, OpenShot was perfect for what I wanted. I could put each video recording on separate tracks. By making the first track semi-transparent (alpha=0.50), I was able to see both videos overlaid which allowed me to synchronize them properly. I muted the lower-quality audio track, the iPhone recording in this case. Then I used that semi-transparent to see when were viable times for transitioning between the two different points-of-view. The main editing I needed were all available menu options: slicing videos, fade-in, and fade out. The only difficult part was the time, since effectively I had to watch the video in real-time, frequently re-playing sections to find the right cut points.

Once the point-of-view transitions were set, I explored adding a title. OpenShot already has great title sequence options including animated titles generated by Blender. This turned out to be fast and easy, and I love how it turned out.

This left just one question, whether or not I could incorporate my slide presentation effectively. I discovered Keynote has an Export-to-Video option, exactly what I needed. Once I renamed the .m4w file to .mp4, OpenShot took in the movie file no problem. A brief web search led me to the answer I needed: by just editing the clip's properties, I could put the slide presentation video over a small portion of the entire video. In this case, I just laid it over the screen in the video where I was showing the presentation in real-time. Then it was just a matter of slicing up the slide presentation videos so the animations appeared at the right times and timing the slices and the fade-ins and fade-outs so that I was not obscuring myself.

It took some time, as all new things do, but the end result for a first-time experiment was much better than I had expected. I could not upload the full-quality output to YouTube because it was too large, 3.65 GB for a 30-minute video at 1920x1080 and 15 Mb/s, but the 5 Mb/s 1280x720 render came to 1.27 GB and still looks pretty good!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Contest Checklists!

Contests are not difficult, but there are many things happening, far more than the 7 plus or minus 2 that our short term memory can easily handle. Since I have been coordinating and chairing several contests, I have been creating and honing a set of checklists to help keep them successful. They have served me well, so I will share them here so all can make use. And if you have any suggested edits I will be happy to include them!

1-2 Weeks Prior or Earliest Reasonable Time


  • Sequester location for Evaluation & Table Topics
  • Speaking area
  • Timers table or other reserved seating
  • Audio / Visual equipment


All roles must be performed by paid members of a Toastmasters club.
  • Contest Master
  • Chief Judge*
  • 3-5 judges*
  • Tiebreaker judge*
  • 2 timers
  • 3 ballot counters
  • Contestants
  • Test speaker for evaluation (not a member of a club with any of the contestants)

* Judges additional requirements:
  • Judges at Area and higher must have finished 6 speeches fromtheCompetent Communication Manual or Levels 1 & 2 from a Pathways path.
  • Judges at Area and higher must be physically present.
  • Judges at Division and higher must not be a member of the same club as a contestant. (I don't see this listed in the rules, but it is in the Judge's Code of Ethics on the Judge's Eligibility Form.)
  • Judges at InternationalSemifinals and higher must be an ATM-B or an ACB or have fully completed a Pathways path. (Like anyone coordinating at this level would even look at my checklist!)


  • Timing lights
  • Timing cardss
  • Stopwatches (2)s
  • Batteriess
  • Lecterns
  • Banners
  • Gavels
  • Envelopess
  • Pens!!s
  • 50/50 ticketss
  • Trophies!s


Contestant Briefing

  • Collect eligibility forms
  • Remove TM titles
  • Get speech titles
  • Confirm name spelling and pronunciation
  • Test speech for Evaluation
  • Evaluation contestants must use official notes sheet, no other materials (besides pen/pencil)
  • Sequester for Table Topics and Evaluation
  • Timing, technical failure +30s
  • Originality
  • Speaking area
  • Sergeants-at-arms
    • One for each door
    • At least one to monitor sequester for Evaluation and Table Topics
    • At least one to collect and return contestants' Evaluation notes
  • Speaker's responsibility to prepare props during minute of silence
  • Disqualification
  • Disputes
  • Announcement of winners
  • Draw for order

Functionary Briefing

  • Judges
    • Collect eligibility forms
    • Speech not speaker
    • Presentation not content
    • Be objective
    • Do not consider timing
    • Speaking area relevance is your discretion
    • Report dispute on originality to Chief Judge immediately
    • Must fill in 1st, 2nd, & 3rd (unless < 3)
    • Must sign ballot
    • Disputes for originality
      • Failing to cite does not disqualify, but may affect scoring
    • Destroy forms
    • Do not discuss
  • Timers
    • Start on first communication with audience (unless delay is excessive)
    • One handles the stopwatch
    • One handles the lights or cards
    • Green starts displaying at 1/2/5
    • Green stops and yellow starts at
    • Yellow stops and red starts at 2/3/7
    • Red displays until speaker finishes
    • Record time on timer sheet
    • Indicate technical failure on timer sheet
    • For evaluation contest, one timer accompanies contestants to sequester in order to time the 5-minute preparation period
    • Immediately interrupt announcement of winners if time-disqualified speaker is announced as a winner
  • Ballot Counters
    • Designate to specific judges for collection
    • Each verify arithmetic (1st-3, 2nd-2, 3rd-1)
    • Immediately interrupt announcement of winners if order is wrong
  • Tiebreaker judge (briefed SEPARATELY and not present here)
    • Must list EVERY speaker IN ORDER
    • Same requirements for other judges


  • Call to Order
  • Recognition of Dignitaries
    • Skip any dignitaries who are contestants
  • Announcements
    • 50/50
    • Food
  • Purpose of contest
  • Summary of contest rules
    • Timing
      • +30s on failure
    • Speaking area
    • Remain present or not
    • Disputes limited
    • Results final (unless wrong and immediately interrupted)
  • Announce order of contestants
  • Do not interrupt! (or enter/leave)
  • Test speech (Eval only)
  • Dismiss contestants (Eval & TT)
  • 5 minutes prep time (Eval only)
    • Acknowledge target speaker
    • Announcements
    • Table Topics
  • For each contestant
    • 1 minute of silence
    • Name, Title/Table Topic/Contestant #,Title/Table Topic/Contestant #, Name
    • Presentation
  • 2 minutes of silence
  • Direct judges to complete and sign ballots
  • Direct timers to deliver sheets to Chief Judge
  • Direct ballot counters to collect ballots and join Chief Judge
  • Intermission or interviews or next contest!
    • Announce dignitaries that were contestants (unless they are also in next contest!)
    • Do not interview contestants who are also in next contest
  • Address disputes
  • Chief Judge fills out Notification of Winners form
  • Acknowledge contestants
  • Acknowledge functionaries
    • Food
    • 50/50
    • Ballot counters
    • Timers
    • Judges (anonymous)
    • Chief Judge
    • Contest Master
    • Contest Chair
  • Announce next level contest time and place
  • 50/50 drawing
  • Finish ALL other announcements and business
  • Announce winners
    • Announce if any disqualifications have taken place
    • 3rd place (only if 5 or more participants)
    • 2nd place
    • 1st place


  • Make sure timing lights work
  • Make sure timing cards are on hand
  • Make sure you know how to start, stop, and reset stopwatch(es)
  • Know the timing windows for the contest
    • Table Topics: 1-2 minutes
    • Evaluation: 2-3 minutes
    • Speeches: 5-7 minutes
  • Time one minute of silence before each speech, use red card/lights to signal time has elapsed.
  • Time two minutes of silence (or as directed) after final speech, use red card/lights to signal time has elapsed.
  • Time speeches
    • Begin with first communication of any type to the audience by the speaker or a speaker's assistant
    • Stop timing when speaker definitely ends the speech and returns control to the Contest Master.
    • DO NOT GET ENGAGED IN THE SPEECH. Watch the stopwatch.
    • At minimum time display green and keep displaying until:
    • Halfway between minimum and maximum time stop displaying green, display yellow/amber, and keep displaying until:
    • At maximum time stop displaying yellow/amber, display red, and keep displaying until speaker finishes.
    • For contestants (not test speaker), record time on timer form.
  • After final speaker, give timer sheet to the Chief Judge

Counting Ballots

  • Know who the judges are and where they are sitting before the contest starts
  • After final speaker, once judges have finished scoring, collect ballots from the judges you are responsible for.
  • Each ballot counter individually records and scores every judge's ballot
  • For each ballot
    • Make sure it is valid
      • Judge has signed the ballot
      • 1st, 2nd, and 3rd are all named (unless fewer than 3 contestants)
    • On counter form, enter 3 points for a first place vote
    • On counter form, enter 2 points for a second place vote
    • On counter form, enter 1 points for a third place vote
    • Add up points for each contestant
  • Compare results with other ballot counters to ensure all are in agreement.
  • List top three point recipients as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place at bottom of form.
    • Ask Chief Judge to break ties from the tie-breaker ballot.
  • No indication of disqualified contestants appears on the ballot counter forms
  • Give form to the Chief Judge

Chief Judge

  • After final contest speaker
    • Collect timer sheets
    • Collect tie-breaker judge's ballot
    • Accompany ballot counters to location for counting ballots
    • Make sure all ballot counters agree
    • Remove disqualified contestants from consideration
    • Use tiebreaker judge's ballot to break ties if needed
      • Tied contestants are listed in the relative order they appear on tiebreaker judge's ballot
      • Tiebreaker judge's ballot may NOT be used to change order of contestants that are NOT tied
    • Record winners on Results Form
      • Indicate if any disqualifications
      • Do not list 3rd place if less than 5 contestants
    • Fill out contestant names on 1st, 2nd, 3rd place certificates (if any)
    • Deliver Results Form and Certificates to Contest Master when time to announce winners
    • Fill out Notification of Winners form
      • Include EVERY contestant that qualified
      • List EVERY contestant in order, breaking ties as needed with the tiebreaker judge's ballot

Disputes for Originality

The process for handling disputes is briefly described in 7B of the official rules. This is how I would handle a dispute.
  • Handle in private!!!
  • Standard is specified in 4D of the rules
    • Must be substantially original
    • No more than 25% "may be devoted to quoting, paraphrasing, or referencing another person’s content" and such content must be so identified
  • Disputer can only be a Judge or Contestant
  • Only judges, Chief Judge, disputer, and disputed present
  • Disputer explain the dispute
  • Disputed provides response
  • Disputer & disputed dismissed. Chief Judge leaves.
  • Remaining judges discuss and vote. Majority must agree in order to disqualify.
  • Judges notify Chief Judge.


  • Notification of winners form delivered to chair of next level contests
  • Destroy other forms
  • Restore venue
  • Return borrowed materials

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Club Treasurer

Links:  Club Leadership Handbook  Use of Club Funds  Dues and Fees  Fundraising
            Budget Spreadsheet  Important Dates

Congratulations! Your fellow Toastmasters have chosen you to be their club treasurer. Perhaps you have done this before, I hope you can find some useful ideas in what follows despite the familiar and repetitious information. For you first-time treasurers out there, my goal is to help you understand and perform the duties of your office in the most efficient way possible.

Why the Treasurer is Important

Dues. Dues! DUES!
  • If the club doesn't pay at least 8 members' International dues on time, then its charter will be suspended.
  • If a specific member's International dues are not paid on time, then that member will be ineligible to compete in Toastmasters speech contests or serve in any Toastmasters office.
  • If the club doesn't pay at least 8 members' International dues on time, then all club members whether paid or not will be ineligible to compete in Toastmasters speech contests or serve in any Toastmasters office, nor will the club receive credit towards the Distinguished Club Program goal for memberships paid on time.
  • Amongst the goals that the Toastmasters International board sets for Districts is a certain number of club memberships paid. (The Club Growth Director is primarily responsible for this at the district level, so expect frequent communiqu├ęs!)
The truth is that Treasurer is the only office whose duties directly affect every club member.

Dues Questions

What are membership dues?

 There are two components:
  • Toastmasters International dues which are $45 every six months
  • Club dues which are set by your club in its bylaws

Which dues does a member pay to the club?

Each member pays both international and club dues to the club. Note that this payment to the club DOES NOT COUNT as the member's dues being paid. Only payments sent to Toastmasters International count.

How does a member's international dues get paid to Toastmasters International?

The Treasurer (or another club officer) pays a member's International dues through Club Central on the Toastmasters International website:

How much does a new member pay?

A new member pays the same dues ($45 International dues + club dues), however they are prorated according to the month that member joins. For example, a member that pays in the 4th month of the 6-month membership period only pays 1/3 of the full 6-month dues.

What is a New Member Kit?

New members also pay $20 for the New Member Kit. You will also collect this amount and pay it to Toastmasters International much like dues are paid. Please get a new member's payments in as soon as possible because their manuals will not be sent until after all funds have been received.

New Member Kits are only needed for first-time Toastmasters. Dual members, transfers, reinstated members, and honorary members do not need a New Member Kit.

Who pays the Club New Member Fee?

You will have to read your club bylaws for this answer. If your club has a new member fee, it is likely paid by new and reinstated members. It might be paid by dual or transfer members. It is never paid by honorary members.

What are inactive members?

If a member has been or indicates he or she will be absent for an extended length of time, then the executive committee may vote to make that member an inactive member. Inactive members do not count towards quorum, nor do they get scheduled for meeting roles, hold club office, or compete in contests. Your club bylaws will say how much an inactive member's dues are.

What are dual members?

Dual members are individuals who maintain memberships in multiple Toastmasters clubs. A dual member pays all dues for every club in which they are a member. If a member of another club joins your club and they intend to maintain membership in both clubs, then their application should indicate they are a dual member.

What are transfer members?

Transfer members are individuals who currently have an active membership in another Toastmaster club and desire to transfer that membership to your club. Transfer members do not have to pay International dues for the current membership period when they join your club since they already paid those dues to their original club. Your club may or may not charge prorated club dues according to your club's bylaws.

What are reinstated members?

An individual who used to be a Toastmaster in the past and is now joining your club gets submitted as a reinstated member. They pay prorated dues to your club like a new or dual member.

What are honorary members?

A club is permitted to recognize a non-Toastmaster in the local community with an honorary membership. The club pays the International dues. Do not collect any money from the individual. There is no requirement to maintain membership for subsequent dues cycles.

Where do I find my club's bylaws?

In Club Central!

Do Dates

Dues have due dates. That means you have Do-Dates. The most important Do-Dates are set by Toastmasters International:
  • Pay International dues on for at least 8 members
    • By October 1 for the October-through-March membership period
    • By April 1 for the April-through-September membership period
To encourage clubs to pay dues, our district provides additional incentives:
  • Notable 9: Pay International dues for 9 members on and receive a patch for the club banner
    • By September 7 for the October-through-March membership period
    • By March 7 for the April-through-September membership period
  • Incredible 20: Pay International dues for 20 members on and receive a $25 Toastmasters gift certificate
    • By September 10 for the October-through-March membership period
    • By March 10 for the April-through-September membership period
The Notable 9 and Incredible 20 incentives assume that the site will start accepting dues payments on September 1 and March 1; if payment processing begins later, the incentive windows will shift accordingly.

The district does not see what clubs paid dues at a particular time. It would be so much easier that way, but it is simply not available. Therefore, to receive credit for the Notable 9 and Incredible 20, you not only have to pay the International dues in time, you must also download the receipts for those dues payments from Club Central and then email those receipts to the Club Growth Director at

The last important date of note is June 30 at midnight Pacific Daylight Time, the end of the Toastmasters year. In order for your club to receive any recognition in the Distinguished Club Program (DCP), the club must have either a net growth of 5 members or a total of 20 members. The DCP goals of adding 8 new members during the year also have the same deadline. The only members that count are -- you guessed it -- those whose dues have been paid to Toastmasters International by June 30! Fair warning, though: Clubs and districts all around the world are also trying to meet the same June 30 deadline, so the website will be processing a lot of traffic. If you wait until the very end, you may find yourself still waiting past the deadline!


Per the Club Leadership Handbook, as Treasurer:

You prepare and oversee the club budget.
Create the budget at the beginning of the Toastmasters year in conjunction with
the executive committee.
Report on the club budget as needed at club and executive committee meetings.

The point of a budget is to predict and plan for the club's finances. In order to do this, you will need a reasonable estimate of the club's expected income and expenses. You will also need to anticipate the club's balance and cash flow to make sure the club has the funds it needs when it needs them.

To make this task easier, here is a spreadsheet where you can enter numbers for your club on the first page and immediately see critical values for your club. You can also see a 6-month budget on the second page and your club's projected balance on the third page. As a bonus, on the fourth page you will find the dues for new members calculated for you!

Who makes the decisions?

Since the money belongs to the club, it is the club that decides the budget and how money is spent. As a matter of parliamentary procedure, the budget should be decided by a vote of the club membership at a regular meeting. Once the budget is established, then as Treasurer you are permitted to spend or reimburse funds within the amounts allowed by the budget. To go beyond those limits would require another vote by the club membership.

In practice, most clubs do not establish a budget, and often monetary decisions are made by the club officers. As long as no one objects or complains, then whatever process works for your club will likely suffice -- as long as the money is not being misspent! Which leads us to

What are we allowed to spend money on?

On The Use of Club Funds per Toastmasters International:

Authorized uses include:
  • Educational/administrative materials for club/member use
  • Meeting place rental fees (if applicable)
  • Refreshments for club meetings (must be approved by the club)
Unauthorized uses include:
  • Parties and social gatherings
  • Donation of money to causes or individuals
  • Scholarships
  • Payment of dues for individuals

How are we allowed to raise funds?

Club dues are the primary source of club funds. Clubs might also charge members other fees. If your club wants to conduct a fundraising event, please be sure you are in compliance with Protocol 8.2. In essence, stick to Toastmasters programs and activities directly related to Toastmasters missions.


When should I start collecting dues from club members?

There is no required date, but since District 84 is providing incentives for paying International dues as early as September 1 and March 1, I personally recommend that you start collecting members' dues by August 15 and February 15.

How will I remember all these dates?

You will receive several reminders from Toastmasters International and District 84. For those of you who like events and reminders on your phone, computer, or online calendars, here is a set of iCal events just for you!

How do I let members know dues are due?

Most commonly the Treasurer and other officers simply make an announcement at a club meeting. Sending an email to members is often sufficient. You can also print and distribute invoices to members. Get the word out any way you can, then track down any straggling members personally.

What if a member says they need an invoice or a receipt?

Provide them one. Make sure they are professional and presentable since that document will be seen by others. Include your contact information so that you can confirm the authenticity if needed.

What if a member says they cannot afford to pay their dues?

Let the member know when their membership will lapse, either October 1 or April 1. You are not required to do anything more. It is acceptable for someone else to pay that member's dues, but that arrangement is outside the duties of the Treasurer.

What if a member says they will pay next week and we need their membership in order to meet a goal this week?

DO NOT PAY. If the club pays the member's international dues and then the member fails to pay the club, then that dues payment will not be refunded.

Similarly, if a member pays dues by check. DO NOT PAY that member's international dues until after the check clears.

What if a member pays after the October 1 or April 1 deadline?

Pay that member's dues for the current membership cycle in Club Central. Same as if the member had paid before the deadline.

Can a member pay for a full year at a time?

At this time, Toastmasters International will only take 6-months worth of international dues at any time. If your club takes on the effort required to track, maintain, and responsibly disburse full-year dues, then this will be your responsibility as Treasurer.

The club membership application has a section for paying by credit card, so why can't the club take payments by credit card?

That section is for paying international dues directly to Toastmasters International. Toastmasters International DOES NOT COLLECT CLUB DUES. If your club wants to collect club dues via credit card or online payments, then it is up to your club to establish an account to do so. Note that such accounts have service fees! Two of my clubs have been successful with and my third club's treasurer receives funds from club members via PayPal.

Go For The Goals

Holding a club office is one requirement for Advanced Leader Bronze as is the official officer training for which this information was prepared. To complete the ALB requirements, make sure that your fellow club officers also conduct a Club Success Planning meeting, that you conduct two of the modules from either The Successful Club Series or The Leadership Excellence Series, and that you complete your Competent Leadership manual. Maybe you can even give a manual speech about the club's finances and budget.

Don't Go It Alone

For the sake of the club, make sure another officer has access to financial accounts in the even you are not available. Find out if any other members might be interested in taking on the office of Treasurer after you. Even if you enjoy being Treasurer, there might be others that could learn a lot from the experience, and that is what Toastmasters is all about!

Finally, Have Fun!

In the words of Ralph Smedley, "We learn best in moments of enjoyment."

Find the joy in what you must do, and there you will discover what you really can do!

Steven S. Morgan
Advanced Toastmaster Gold
Advanced Leader Bronze

Area 44 Director
Toastmasters District 84

©2017 · CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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District 84 Conference

Monday, December 5, 2016


At the District 84 Spring 2016 Conference, Susan and I introduced the Fall 2016 Conference theme: Steampunk.

Immediately we were inundated with questions like "What is Steampunk?" and "Where do I find Steampunk costumes?", but those who already knew about Steampunk were incredibly excited and eager to lend a hand!

How It All Started, Really

The story actually began several months earlier when our club-mate, Bob, was elected to be the District 84 Club Growth Director. This put him on the path to be the Program Quality Director the following year, and the PQD responsibilities include organizing the semi-annual conferences. Bob came to my wife and me asking us to please be the co-chairs for one of his conferences. The theme had not even been determined yet, but seeing as how we had inflicted this poor soul on Toastmasters (or was that vice-versa?), we agreed to take on the Fall 2016 Conference. Or rather, I told my wife we can do it even though she worried that it would be too much to do!


The first step, of course, was to order our High Performance Leadership manuals and set up our evaluation committee. Never pass up an opportunity to use the HPL; it is by far the best program in the Toastmasters curriculum. The committee gave us feedback on our first 2 projects leading up to establishing our mission, vision, and core values:


Our mission is to present an entertaining, educational and inspiring, conference at a quality so high that all attendees have very memorable experiences for their money and time.


A conference that
  • captures the imagination;
  • that is so well organized that the effort seems invisible;
  • that is so well documented that all future conferences are even better than before;
  • that inspires participation and attendance at higher levels than before;
  • that is a value proposition so good that it sells out early;
  • that has high theme participation from all types of attendees;
  • so memorable that attendees will be talking about it excitedly for many years!

Core Values

  • Legacy - Leaders Let Go
    • Including next conference chair and past conference chairs
    • Encouraging conference volunteers to try something new that just might fail -- and just might succeed!
    • Record steps, decisions, schedule online for continual access 
    • Encourage recording of feedback for things that work and things that don’t
  • Value - What’s In It For Me
    • Market conference price vs. cost of raw value for all contents (4 meals, keynote, 8 humorous speeches, 1 test speech, 8 evaluations, roast)
    • Market the entertainment value because people pay more for entertainment: 8 humorous speeches, roast, keynote, STEAMPUNK
  • Quality - More Than Before
    • Engaging sideshows for in-between times
    • Swag to brag
  • Memorable - Sensual Engagement
    • Video recording of speakers
      • Permission required, of course
    • Theme music?
    • PR team (per district / area)
      • Beforehand: generate buzz
        • Talk up Steampunk
        • Pitching the conference via social media and other avenues
        • Contacting VPPRs and/or Presidents directly for distribution network
        • Profiling conference team
      • During: create memories
        • Pictures, posts, videos (vines)
        • Record from each individual attendee willing to share

With these set, Susan and I prepared the introduction skit above at the Spring 2016 Conference, and then we presented our Mission and Vision to the District Executive Committee the next morning.

Steampunk The Gathering

For the next couple months, we tried to gather what information we could about previous conferences and Steampunk. From past conference chairs we get lists of to-dos and not-to-dos and what-not-to-forget as well as scripts. Bob gave us the responsibilities that each Division took on for the conference. From that information, I created a spreadsheet in Google Sheets as a checklist with due dates and responsible parties. This way we could share the spreadsheet for others to see at any time.

District Officer Training

At the District 84 Officer Training Susan and I reprised our conference skit.


July brought officer training, also known as Toastmasters Leadership Institute, or TLI for short. (I personally find this a silly acronym. TMI is commonly used for "Too Much Information" so my first thought upon hearing TLI is less than flattering. But I digress.)

We were asked to promote the conference again, hoping to reach more members. There were actually three Institutes planned, one for the Tallahassee area, one for the Jacksonville area, and one for the Orlando area. The Jacksonville date we could not attend due to a friend's wedding, but we did make our way to Tallahassee as well as to the Orlando Institute which was easy since it was close by.

In addition to our own presentation, there were little pamphlets showing the conference book cover as well as the size and prices of the ads for the book. A bit poster of the conference book cover was also on display. These were quite helpful in promoting the book; we just needed more of them and sooner!


Before the July DEC meeting, we contacted each Division Director one-on-one to establish rapport, acquire contact methods, and find out preferred communication channels and availability. We asked each Division Director for a convenient time for conference calls and the result was nearly unanimous in favor of Sunday evenings at 6.

The methods we used for communicating with the PQD, Division Directors, Contest Masters, Chief Judges, and others with roles in preparing for the conference included:
  • Sharing documents in Google Docs including task checklist and scripts
    • We took advantage of limiting who could view, comment, or edit files as well as accessibility on multiple platforms
  • Skype group chat
    • We used the group chat for our voice conference calls
    • We also used the group chat for sharing messages and pictures at other times. Anyone who was not logged in at the moment got to see the messages when they next connected to Skype.
    • Although the conference calls supported video, too, we had little need for it.
  • Dropbox
    • For sharing large files such as video files, music files, and graphic files
  • Text messaging
    • Sign of the times!
  • Phone calls
Our Sunday evening conference calls were bi-weekly at first and then weekly as we approached the conference. We probably should have used an established agenda, but generally we went through each person available for updates and asked about tasks in the task list. Thankfully none took that long, and only once did a problem even occur. All told, that is good interaction!

One difficulty proved to be that not everyone participated regularly in the conference calls, so we were lacking information about the progress of certain tasks. Attempts to get that information outside through direct contact sometimes worked, but not always. That lack of visibility led to unease on our part, but thankfully it all came together in the end.


Our primary job as conference co-chairs turned out to be promoting the conference to other Toastmasters within the district. After our introductory skits, we took advantage of other events to demonstrate and explain Steampunk, such as when we were participating in contest roles and at Halloween-themed meetings:

We also promoted on social media, particularly the Facebook event for the conference. Serendipitously, a Steampunk Industrial Show took place in nearby Mount Dora. Also by chance, my first couple weeks on a new job were performed in San Francisco where we had a chance to visit a Steampunk store named Distractions where we found the perfect outfits for the conference itself. We also got a direct look at true Steampunk technology at work at the Cable Car Museum!

Division Contests

We were asked to attend and promote the District Conference at each of the 8 division contests. We had to split up for Divisions B and E since they coincided, but we did manage to get to all of them, even the Hurricane Matthew-delayed Division F contest.

Each Division was also challenged to promote the Steampunk theme with a prize of a reserved table at the conference to the winning Division. Several Divisions took this challenge to heart leading to a wonderful display of artwork, decorations, and costumes!

Division G

I am still trying to find pictures from the Division G contests on October 1. The costumes already on display were only the beginning of the creativity that would explode in the next 6 weeks.

Division D

Standing Room Only defined the Division D contest at the Maitland Public Library on October 2. There were some very nice Steampunk decorations and many costumes.


Hurricane Hermine hit Divisions G and H at the beginning of September disrupting power and communication for several days. Hurricane Matthew threatened to do far worse to Divisions A, B, C, D, and F the second week of October, potentially landing as a Category 4 hurricane. We live in an inland county and at one point the forecast said we could get 110+ mile per hour winds. Fortunately, Matthew took a slight turn to the west and weakened, sparing us from far worse destruction than we actually experienced. In the end, wind speeds stayed under 50 mph for us.

Due to the mandatory evacuations across Brevard, Flagler, and Duval counties, several area contests in Division B (Brevard) and the Division F contest in Jacksonville that had been slated for October 8 had to be rescheduled.

Division C

The show went on in Altamonte Springs on October 9. The costumes were creative, and the decorations were wonderful, but they were all overshadowed by the Time Machine built by the Division Director.

Decorations continued to get even bigger in Tallahassee on October 15.

Division B

Division B has a tradition of making quite a shindig out of the Division Contest. This was a half-day conference at the Hilton Melbourne Beach Oceanfront. Rather than going for Steampunk decorations, the theme was expressed via table centerpieces.

Division E

The Winter Haven Hospital auditorium was a spectacular stage for the Division E contest. The decorations continued to get even larger and the costume participation was superb! Alas, finding actual pictures online is a much more difficult task.

Division A

The month wrapped up with back-to-back contests in Jacksonville on October 29. The first took place in the morning downtown only a few blocks from where the Florida-Georgia game would be played a little later. Everbank's auditorium proved to be the biggest stage of all the contests, even bigger than the District 84 Contests. Decorations were mostly found on the tables in the dining area, but several costumes were walking around.

Division F

Finally, the rescheduled Division F Contests took place at Christian Family Chapel. Bob took umbrage at his depiction in the decorations, and the costumes were fun, too, though many of them were simply the same ones we saw that morning.

The Hat

A common theme in Steampunk is the tech decorated top hat. When we ordered our first costumes, I got a plain top hat and some Steampunk decorations. At first, only a few decorations were on the front. With each District and Division event, I added more to the hat. By the District Conference, the hat had become completely covered and crowned.


Steampunk decorations are plentiful and easy to find these days, but they are NOT cheap. For 50 tables, we needed three centerpieces each (both dinners and Saturday's lunch) plus additional decorations for the registration, raffles, and other stations outside the banquet room, we were budgeted a whole $400.

Lucky for us, the Division Director in charge of decorations had experience as a party organizer, a talent for inventive repurposing, and a sudden availability of free time as a result of recently resigning from a stressful job. One decorating party focused on turning cheap  plastic top hats into old patched leather top hats. Miami Dolphins football balloons became dirigibles. The results were wonderful!


When we sought for Steampunk Trophies for the speech contests, we found the PERFECT trophies:

Unfortunately, at a minimum price of $150 each, a need for 6 winner trophies and 16 participant trophies, and a budget of under $600, this sadly was just not possible.

In the end, we found bronze-colored globes for the winners and small gear trophies for participation. Well within our budget, and still reminiscent of Steampunk.


We attempted finding some worthwhile Steampunk-themed swag. The best we found was wooden gear trains and gadgets, but of course the price was far beyond what could be considered.

Other gear-themed items similarly were too much. We did find bronze-colored metal mugs and shot cups that we could put a logo on, but the batch size necessary  was orders of magnitude beyond the number we needed. Finally we found Discount Mugs which could provide us aluminum shot cups with logos for a price we could afford -- as long as we simplified the artwork for our logo.

Bob had the logo pre-printed on paper bags just the right size for our conference books. This saved the registration team from having to put labels on bags instead. The paper bags were much cheaper than past conference bags, and much more apropos for Steampunk, too.

Spring Cleaning in the Fall

Our PQD's pet project to add greater efficiency to our storage and transportation efforts came to fruition in October. With a bit of help, we got these nice new carts loaded up and ready to move quickly on a moments notice. As a result, loading and unloading the truck became a matter of minutes instead of hours. I suffered the only real injury unloading at the conference on the 10th as I caught the first cart to keep it from falling off the truck ramp. Small bruise, nothing serious, but it sure looked impressive catching the falling shelf full of (light) stuff!

Our Costumes

My original costume was simply obtained via Amazon plus a cane from Spirit Halloween.
Susan's costume for our first presentation included a corset she had gotten from Walmart once upon a time during a Halloween costume clearance. She realized she already had the perfect shoes from another shopping deal in years past. Only a couple more things were needed:
Later, after eating better and exercising more, she was able to fit into the corset she really wanted to wear from Pyramid Collection. Her black skirt was a simple skirt she already had that she got from Torrid.

Susan's red skirt as well as her green dress from the conference and my outfit and cane came from Distractions in San Francisco. To finish off our outfits, I got new spats and Susan got Steampunk shoes.

The Venue

In January, Susan and I along with district officers visited three potential venues in Orlando, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine. I had attended Toastmasters conferences at each between 2003 and 2006, so they were all capable. The visits were arranged by a professional conference coordinator the district had contracted specifically for this. The World Golf Village Renaissance put forth the most effort with comped rooms and complimentary desserts at dinner. The contract was negotiated with the coordinators help, and Bob did his best to make sure all our needs had been included.

Susan and I made our own site visit in August to start planning out our ideas for the available space. During this visit a couple problems arose. We were told that we would only have one of the side halls for all our tables, and it was the same hall where all the educational sessions would be happening on Saturday morning. With all the tables we would need for Registration, First Timers, Raffles, Credentials, and Vendors, that one hall would have no room left for people to even walk through.

The second problem was partly our own making since we were unaware of the food conditions in the contract when we discussed having breakfast served in the same room as the Hospitality Suite. The contract negotiations had apparently gotten stuck at one point on this with the hotel agreeing to remove their no-outside-food prohibition but also refusing to agree to allow outside food.

The ensuing discussions with the venue did not include us, but we did hear about them. The venue had fired most of their sales staff and subsequently booked other conferences that were happening at the same time, and those conferences were using the same pre-conference space we needed.

By the final site visit in early September, these issues were still unresolved, so we were doing our best to plan for contingencies. We expected the registration desk would not be available until maybe an hour before registration began, so we let the Division Director with that responsibility know to be prepared for short set-up time. When we found out this could apply to all our pre-conference stations, we let everyone know to prepare ahead of time as much as possible. Given we were still two months out, this gave everyone plenty of time.

After much back-and-forth through the coordinator and a few threats of canceling the second year of the contract, we had access to the space we needed although not as early as we wanted, and we had agreement to serve our own breakfast in the Hospitality Suite room. The silver lining to all of this was that the coordinator learned a lot about what our needs were which she set about immediately to address for the Spring 2017 Conference.

Conference Book

The primary function of the conference book is to provide information about the conference itself: the schedule of events, the classes, the presenters, a venue map, and other information relevant and useful to the attendees. To help pay for this conference book, ads are sold, and since we are selling ads we want the conference book to be of the highest quality affordable.

The conference book from the preceding conference was printed the night before the conference at a very high cost. With the 2016-2017 year, the district created a Conference Book Chair, giving the planning and execution of the conference book to a specific individual. This chairperson added a very valuable twist by printing pamphlets early in the year that had the same cover and dimensions as the conference book and contained the exact shapes and prices of the ads along with deadlines and submission information. If any one idea should continue beyond the Steampunk conference, this pamphlet is it.

With a dedicated coordinator, the deadlines for the conference book were set and maintained, allowing us to go to print 10 days earlier, thus reducing costs. Although the conference book ads did not actually make a lot of money, what they did make paid for the cost of the book itself. That by itself was a huge improvement and a big win.


It fell to us to design the programs for Friday night, Saturday lunch, and Saturday night. Our first efforts were clean and simple, but the feedback we received was that a more engaging and artistic output was desired. With that guidance and a look at the very busy programs for the last conference, we added steampunk artwork as a background, including purple-themed steampunk for the roast.

The new programs proved to be very visually engaging, and Bob certainly liked them. Other feedback we received indicated that they were hard to read, a concern we certainly had. We also goofed in putting the costume contest before the evaluation contest Friday night, but an announcement cleared that up. Lesson: Proofread and prove it can be read!

The Lead-In

The week leading up to the conference of course had to be a hectic mess. To go along with crunch time on the job for me, we had the U.S. Election, our daughter managed to get herself lost an hour from home while running out of gas and without money to get home, Susan took a 52-hour trip to California to see her son's play, all before we could get to the hotel in order to prepare for the conference.

With the new roller carts, we had the truck unloaded quickly. Our "war room" office set up in the boardroom was set up in under an hour. Thanks to our checklist, scripts and certificates were already printed leaving only binding to be completed which took Bob about half an hour. The carts also allowed our in-house A/V guy to set up much quicker. The truck was also used to bring in the many decorations needing only final assembly.

In the end, the only difficulty was that first cart nearly falling off the ramp. Thursday evening was very relaxed other than our District Director getting caught in rush hour traffic out of Orlando. We had time to enjoy dinner and get to bed early. From what we heard about past conferences, this was very unusual; the night before is typically high stress with a lot of printing, setup, and organizing still happening. Preparation seemed to have paid off.

Friday morning the preparation began in earnest after breakfast: assembly of decorations, folding of programs, and later the movement of tables and decoration from the staging area in the ballroom to the storage room and the pre-conference area. We also set up -- and played! -- Susan's grandfather's victrola for display at the registration table.

Finally, it was time.

The Conference

Pictures galore from the conference hit social media. Happy to add more; just let me know!

Costume Parade

Our idea of a parade for the costume contest worked perfectly for getting us pictures of all the wonderful costumes. Unfortunately, we fumbled with names when it came to handing out the winner, but we did get it right and the results were awesome!

How We Fared

How did we measure up to our Mission, Vision, and Core Values? This is what we thought:


Our mission is to present an entertaining, educational and inspiring, conference at a quality so high that all attendees have very memorable experiences for their money and time.

We believe we achieved our mission.


A conference that
  • captures the imagination;
    • Met! So many learned and enjoyed the theme.
  • that is so well organized that the effort seems invisible;
    • From feedback of non-insiders, we believe we met this goal.
  • that is so well documented that all future conferences are even better than before;
    • A lot of documentation has been generated including this blog post and provided to the next conference chair. Whether or not this helps future conferences remains to be seen. So far, we consider this met.
  • that inspires participation and attendance at higher levels than before;
    • Theme participation appeared higher than past conferences. Attendance was not as high as we wanted though it was higher than the previous district conference at this venue. We did cover the contractual minimums, but in terms of the vision we did not meet this target.
  • that is a value proposition so good that it sells out early;
    • We hit the first 100 registrations in less than half the time of previous conferences. We were at 200 very early as well en route to about 300.
    • We covered our hotel block requirements three times over, and the hotel did in fact sell out of rooms but that was due in large part to the other conferences the hotel also booked. We heard there were some people who opted not to attend when they discovered they could not get a room at the hotel.
    • This part of our vision was met.
  • that has high theme participation from all types of attendees;
    • This we certainly met. Theme participation was seen from all ages and all divisions.
  • so memorable that attendees will be talking about it excitedly for many years!
    • Here's hoping!

Core Values

  • Legacy - Leaders Let Go
    • Including next conference chair and past conference chairs
      • Information from past chairs was invaluable and we did include the Spring 2017 conference chair in our preparations
    • Encouraging conference volunteers to try something new that just might fail -- and just might succeed!
      • Division Directors had many of their own ideas they were eager to implement, so we did not need to instigate anything. We did ask for a certain approach to recruiting contest volunteers which was attempted though difficult.
    • Record steps, decisions, schedule online for continual access 
      • Done with Google Docs and extremely effective
    • Encourage recording of feedback for things that work and things that don’t
      • We are the only ones recording anything, but at least we got the feedback and our doing our best to sustain the lessons learned
  • Value - What’s In It For Me
    • Market conference price vs. cost of raw value for all contents (4 meals, keynote, 8 humorous speeches, 1 test speech, 8 evaluations, roast)
      • When we made this pitch, it proved convincing to many people.
    • Market the entertainment value because people pay more for entertainment: 8 humorous speeches, roast, keynote, STEAMPUNK
      • From the feedback received, we made the value clear. 
  • Quality - More Than Before
    • Engaging sideshows for in-between times
      • These plans never coalesced.
    • Swag to brag
      • We got the swag, but not much there to brag.
  • Memorable - Sensual Engagement
    • Video recording of speakers
      • Permission required, of course
      • Didn't happen. I meant to record the keynote, but got caught up in the costume contest judging
    • Theme music?
      • Oh yeah!
    • PR team (per district / area)
      • Beforehand: generate buzz
        • Talk up Steampunk - LOTS!
        • Pitching the conference via social media and other avenues - Mostly social media and email
        • Contacting VPPRs and/or Presidents directly for distribution network - Didn't happen
        • Profiling conference team - Didn't happen
      • During: create memories
        • Pictures, posts, videos (vines) - Not organized, but plenty shared
        • Record from each individual attendee willing to share - Didn't happen

In Conclusion

We neither sought nor desired to be District Conference Chairs; honestly, we were surprised by Bob's request that we take on this endeavor. For the sake of a friend and his confidence in our capabilities, we accepted. The High Performance Leadership Project helped us focus our plans and establish our higher-level goals and values. After that, we did as much planning and preparation as we could and fit in as much fun and socializing as possible.

Presenting The Results

To complete our High Performance Leadership projects, here are our Presenting The Results speeches from the HPL manual.

From the overwhelmingly positive feedback, we consider this Steampunk Conference to have been a great success. We have grown from the lessons we learned and the friends we made. Hopefully those who follow will remember and continue to benefit from our efforts. In the end, we had a wonderful time partying like it's 1899!