Chronicling Joy and Fame : The Division J&F Annual Conference
There’s no time for the all-important morning coffee or breakfast. Knowing the beast that was Colombo traffic immediately got dressed, hopped into the car and sped towards the Dimo 800. When I arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief as the clock read 8:30 AM. Thankfully I was on time having sacrificed my valuable morning coffee and breakfast.
Usually, I would never think of making such sacrifices. Neither would many other Toastmasters, whose morning probably began in a similar manner. But this wasn’t a usual run of the mill day. This day was special. For this was the day of the Joint Division J & F Annual Conference: Joy & Fame. What unfolded at this conference? Was it worth the sacrifice? Read the chronicles and see for yourself.
Kicking things off with the Division F Table Topics Contest
There’s a popular saying which is, “Toastmasters always starts on time.” While there are clubs that might disagree with this statement, at the Division J & F Annual Conference, this saying was at the core of everything. The conference kicked off on time with everyone taking their seats and the national anthems of Sri Lanka & India being played. Following the national anthems, we saw TM Sanjeewa Fonseka — Division Director of Division J alongside TM Chandrasiri Wanasinghe — Division Director of Division F take the stage.
Both Division Directors gave their short address welcoming the audience, thanking everyone for being at the auditorium for the conference so early on a Saturday morning. Following the address by the Division Directors, we saw DTM Sudash Liyanage — District Director of District 82 take the stage to deliver a few words of inspiration to the audience.
Afterwards, it was time to get the show on the road. Following the address by the Division Directors, it was time for the first big event of the day: the Division F Table Topics Contest. The MC introduced the contest chair: TM Arshad Nizam who then gave a colorful introduction to the contest master of the Division F Table Topics contest: TM Darren Pullanayagam.
We then saw TM Darren take the stage and read out the rules of the Table Topics Contest. Once the rules were read, the contestants (excluding the first) were escorted out of the hall, the doors were sealed and the contest began. One after another, we heard short, mesmerizing speeches that were created on the spot by the talented contestants.
Lessons in leadership and the Division J International Speech Contest
Immediately after the Division F Table Topics Contest, we saw the International Speech Contest of Division J. Eight speakers that won at the tough Area-level contests that Division J is famous for took the stage. One after the other, the audience was treated to a collection of stunning speeches, covering a wide array of topics. Each one came with a unique inspirational message to take away. Needless to say, judging this contest was likely difficult for the judges.
Once the final contestant had concluded their speech, the MC’s took the stage once again. This time they had a refreshing announcement that was most welcome: refreshments were served. Once the announcement ended, many Toastmasters in the audience who were on time dashed outside to grab what would be their breakfast for the day.
Following refreshments, everyone returned to the hall and we were treated to a session on leadership. This session was one conducted DTM Nagaraj Rao — the Region 13 Director. Over the course of his session, he shared many different stories and lessons on being a great leader. The ultimate takeaway we got from the session was that a leader is a person helps those around them achieve greatness.
What unfolded after lunch
Following DTM Nagaraj’s session, it was time for the lunch break. Once everyone had returned to the hall, the conference resumed once again. The second half began with a short presentation by TM Sarma Mahalingam on the upcoming Toastmasters International Convention, which is scheduled to be held in Vancouver from August 23–26 2017.
This will be the convention where we will see DTM Balraj Arunasalam from District 82 take on the role of being the International President of Toastmasters International. During his presentation, TM Sarma shared details on how one could reach him and get details on taking the trip to witness this historic moment in person at the convention. Afterwards, it was time for the final two contests.
Kicking off first was the Division F International Speech Contest. As with the previous contests, it began with the contest chair giving a colorful introduction to the contest master: TM Safiyas Ismail. Once TM Safiyas had read out the rules and the chief judge gave his approval, the contest began. Once again, we were treated to an inspirational buffet of speeches by speakers who had won a tough battle at their respective area contests.
An hour passed, and the International Speech Contest of Division F came to an end. Immediately afterwards, the MC’s took to the stage and introduced TM Shiham once again. For as one contest ended, another was about to begin. TM Shiham took to the stage to give another colorful introduction.
This was for the contest master of the Division J Table Topics Contest: TM Ayodhya Galappaththi. To say the contestants were anxious would have been an understatement with this contest being the final one of the day. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop any of them from delivering a stunning impromptu speech after they took the stage.
The Grand Finale with the awards
Once the contests ended, it was the twilight of the conference. The MC’s announced a short tea break to grab some refreshing tea and stretch their legs. Following the tea break, the conference was nearing its end. As the tally counters and the chief judge were finalizing the results, we saw a member of the District 82 trio take the stage.
DTM Suganthi Periasamy — Club Growth Director of District 82 gave a short speech reminding us about the benefits of being a member of Toastmasters. She then proceeded to hand a few ribbons to clubs in Division J and F that went the extra mile in achieving their membership goals.
Once the ribbons were handed over, we saw the return of TM Sanjeewa onto the stage to deliver the vote of thanks to the people that made the conference possible from the many sponsors to the role players and to the talented conference chairs: TM Zaid Naushard — Area F4 Director and TM Fairooz Marikar — Area J3 Director.
Finally, it was time for the awards. The chief judge returned, with the results. The anxious moment everyone had been waiting for was finally here. After much tension, the results were finally announced and they were as follows.
Division J International Speech Contest
1st Place: Amr Akram
2nd Place: Thushara Roshantha Jayatunge
3rd Place: Kavishka Perera
Division J Table Topics Contest
1st Place: Kalpana De Silva
2nd Place: Randini Ambagahawita
3rd Place: Anne Chalindri
Division F International Speech Contest
1st Place: Kaishika Rodrigo
2nd Place: Nuwan Rajapaksha
3rd Place: Ealilmolle Rajagulendra
Division F Table Topics Contest
1st Place: Kaishika Rodrigo
2nd Place: Thusitha
3rd Place: Shamil Aniff
Once the awards were announced, the sun began to set on the conference. Both literally and figuratively as the MC’s thanked everyone for attending and wished them a safe ride back. Of course, like with many Toastmaster meetings, there was a large crowd that stayed behind to socialize. More importantly, they had to take nice pictures (one set with the backdrop and another with the nice cars at Dimo) for Facebook.
Ultimately, my stomach grumbled once again reminding me of the morning sacrifices I made. But walking out of the hall, I felt it was worth it. For the days one gets to learn from the best speakers in two divisions are few. The days one gets to learn from an International Director are even fewer.
One needs to make sacrifices for a shot at joy & fame. In the end, we haven’t found fame just yet, but we did find joy and some valuable lessons at the Division J & F Annual Conference.
About the author
A Maldivian, born in India and raised in Sri Lanka. Mazin describes himself as an Asian Salad. Currently, he’s the 8th President of the APIIT Toastmasters Club. In 2015, he joined the District 82 PR Team as its first Blog Master and launched the District 82 blog. When not Toastmastering, he shares the stories of innovation in the world of technology as the Editor of ReadMe, which is Sri Lanka’s leading IT news publication.