Sunday, July 25, 2010

Korea Toastmasters 3rd National Conference

Toastmasters events are great places to strike up a conversation with friendly strangers. Even if you go by yourself, assuming that you're relatively sane and can string a coherent sentence together, you'll make friends. On the other hand, when I go to science conferences, people seem less friendly on average and more socially awkward. And conversation generally revolves around a narrow topic field. Not to dismiss the scientific community entirely though, they have been known to drink a post-conference beer or three and duly experience 'declining social inhibition as a result of ethanol intoxication'.

But at Toastmasters, the whole focus is on improving communication and interpersonal skills. So if anyone gave you a cold shoulder after you greeted them, it would be they who were in the wrong place.

The 3rd Korea Toastmasters conference and speech competition was held at the Dragon Hill Lodge, on the US army base at Yongsan.

I'd never been here before, and was impressed with the gardening. You know you're getting old when you go to a garden party and get more excited by the garden.

Ka-Hee likes Toastmasters, but doesn't often get to attend due to work commitments. Every time I post a photo of her on this blog, I promptly ask her if she's seen it yet.

The answer is usually no.

One thing we both like are refreshments. I usually wait until she takes the lead.

The conference kicked off in the main building. The MC for the night was the same as last year, a funny man who runs the show with military precision.

"Testing! Testing! 1..2...3! Your attention please! The conference will begin in exactly 2 minutes. Exactly 2 minutes ladies and gentlemen. 2 minutes. Be ready!"

During the event, one of the workshops we attended was on voice projection, run by Jinsuk Lee (a reporter for MBC). Apparently if you practice trying to speak clearly with a chopstick in your mouth, your clarity will improve. Sitting next to my wife in this photo is Ka-Yong, who we just met. She's a student in my department, in the forest ecology lab.

Inspecting the pink camera in this photo is Ju-Hee, an SRTM member who found my blog online. She said she really likes it. Thanks Ju-Hee!
To the right of her is Pil-Soo Oh, the CEO of Lundbeck Korea. I still tutor his employees during the week. He likes to play golf and is a pretty friendly guy.

Around 240 guests showed up for the event, and more wanted to come but tickets were limited. I'm guessing next year they'll have to do it someplace bigger. No one in Korea Toastmasters is paid a penny, everyone is a volunteer and all proceeds go into further club events.

The food was not very good, and there wasn't enough to go around.

But we're a forgiving bunch.

Here's our very own Ron Cahoon who represented SRTM in the speech competition.  Ron is a gifted speaker and has a very powerful presence. The standards of all of the speeches were admirably high.

And this is Keith Ostergaard, an international Toastmasters director who flew here from Beijing for the event. He has three DTM awards, which means he has completed at least 165 prepared speeches, plus various other leadership activities. If you earn the DTM award, you get a wooden plaque and a letter from HQ to your employer, explaining what you have accomplished. A single DTM would take a focused person quite a few years. 

DTM: The Distinguished Toastmaster award.

And here's our table. We're a happy bunch. Next month we plan on going to the beach together.

Want to get involved?


Moa said...

Looks fine! Toastmasters is so popular huh? =)
Haha, it still feels a bit weird to read "Ka-hee" instead of "Heather"! ;-)

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post, Lee. Are you a member of Toastmasters? I don't remember you saying. You could easily win a DTM.

Lee Farrand said...

Yes, I prefer 'Heather' myself.

Hi Bill, I've been a member for a while now... although a DTM will take me years more.

kmg365 said...

It's great to see how SRTM has developed since I last participated in it back in 2005. It was truly one of the things I missed about Seoul, and that's so cool they've expanded their venues on to Dragon Hill Lodge. Anyhoo, that's an interesting exercise using the chopstick in the mouth although I think it's specific only to Korean speakers, as proper Korean pronunciation has different requirements that practically go against the grain of speaking properly in English. (Speaking Korean correctly requires forming your sounds at the front of the mouth -- specifically from your alveolar ridge to the tip of your tongue -- with little or no movement of the lips.) On the other hand, English and other Germanic languages being more guttural in nature, require that sounds be formed in the back of the throat, with clear annunciation being achieved by using a full range of motion with the lips and lower jaw. (Getting Korean EFL speakers to improve their English pronunciation by making intentional guttural noises while opening their mouths more widely than they're used to when speaking Korean -- as well as using a fuller range of their lips and lower jaw muscles -- can be a feat in and of itself.)