In the Spotlight: Conversations with Our Conference Co-Chairs

To shed light on the dedication and passion fueling our upcoming conference, I reached out to our esteemed co-chairs, David Freedman (DF) and Richard Peck (RP), to learn more about their motivation and behind-the-scenes conference planning with a few short questions. Their tireless efforts and strategic insights have been instrumental in shaping the conference’s direction and ensuring a memorable experience for all attendees. Through this brief interview, I aim to offer our readers an exclusive glimpse into the planning and thoughtful decision-making driving this event. 

ZF: How many times have you chaired the Toastmasters District conference, and how has each experience shaped your approach to leading such an event?

DF: Over my 37 years in Toastmasters, I’ve been involved in approximately 40 District 53 Conferences – we used to have 2 a year. This is my sixth time chairing/co-chairing. No matter the length of time I’ve been involved I always look at each year as a blank canvas. It’s about keeping the members first…I am a member first and foremost and I ask, “Are we giving them an exceptional experience where they can learn and grow? Is the day of value that I would jump to register?” The conference committee always has great lessons learned and best practices that come from each year – that and participant evaluations we use when starting to plan future conferences.

RP: This is the first Toastmasters District Conference that I have chaired.

ZF: What motivates you to take on the role of conference chair, and how do you stay inspired throughout the planning and execution process?

DF: I enjoy logistics and planning events, whether Toastmasters or other professional organizations I’ve been a part of. Planning an event and seeing it come to fruition is very satisfying. Hearing attendees’ comments about how much they enjoyed the day makes any issues we may have come across in the planning fall away. I’ll be involved in planning conferences as long as the District leadership wants me to be!

RP: The District Conference is an opportunity for members to gather from throughout the district to celebrate the year, hear from inspiring keynote speakers, immerse themselves in great educational sessions, and witness the best speakers from the district as they compete in various speech contests. Who will go on to represent District 53 in the World Championship of Public Speaking? Wanting to provide the best member experience possible by helping to coordinate these various aspects of the conference is what motivates me. It’s not about having the title of Conference Chair…it’s about contributing to the experience. I stay inspired because throughout the process I am constantly learning something new. Thanks to those who have served on the conference committees before, and some who still do, there is a depth of knowledge that helps with the planning and execution and is vital to the success of the conference.

ZF: Reflecting on your past conferences, what are some of the most memorable moments or highlights that stand out to you?

DF:  The high caliber keynote speakers stand out as do the outstanding sessions our own members deliver. Our members knock it out of the park! Seeing the skillset of our members delivering educational sessions – some have come so far in their Toastmasters journey.

RP: In 2008, I was the Division D Governor which was the host Division for the District Fall Conference. District Governor Karin Von Kaenel asked me to open the District Council meeting by reading the District Mission but she had a request, “Please present it in a way beyond the normal read-through.” So, I dressed up as a Town Crier and delivered it with a colonial approach. I also had the honor of hosting the Friday night talent show which showcased over 20 performances from individuals and groups. There was something for everyone, from magicians to musicians, and everything in between. If that wasn’t enough, International President Jana Barnhill made her official visit to the district. Memories that will last a lifetime!

ZF: Can you share a particular challenge you’ve faced as a conference chair and how you overcame it, or what you learned from the experience?

DF: There are challenges that always pop up whether venue, speakers, keynotes, etc. The key to big issues is to work with your team to resolve them. No one has all the answers – you have a talented team so leverage their insights. No matter the experience level, every member of the team brings skills to the table to enhance the experience and overcome challenges.

2024 District 53 Conference is Breaking Barriers


Toastmasters District 53 Announces “Breaking Barriers” as Theme for 2024 Conference

Southbury, CT February 13, 2024 – Toastmasters District 53 is thrilled to announce the theme for its highly anticipated 2024 conference: “Breaking Barriers.” This dynamic theme was carefully chosen to celebrate Toastmasters’ centennial year and to reflect on the remarkable milestone of 50 years of women’s membership within the organization.

“Breaking Barriers” holds profound significance as it resonates differently with each individual, capturing the essence of personal growth, empowerment, and achievement. As Toastmasters celebrates its 100th year, the theme serves as a poignant reminder of the organization’s enduring commitment to breaking down barriers to effective communication and leadership.

“We are incredibly excited to unveil ‘Breaking Barriers’ as the theme for our 2024 conference,” said Bettyann Peck, DTM, Program Quality Director. “This theme encapsulates the spirit of Toastmasters as we honor our rich history while embracing diversity, inclusivity, and the limitless potential of our members.”

The conference will feature a diverse range of workshops, keynote speeches, and networking opportunities designed to inspire and empower attendees to overcome obstacles, seize opportunities, and reach new heights in their personal and professional lives.

“We invite Toastmasters members and guests from across the region to join us for an unforgettable conference experience,” added Bettyann Peck, DTM. “Together, let’s break barriers, shatter limitations, and embark on a journey of growth, discovery, and transformation.”

The Toastmasters District 53 “Breaking Barriers” conference will take place May 10-11, 2024 at The Heritage Conference Center, Southbury, CT. Further details, registration, and updates can be found at

For media inquiries or more information, please contact Zachary Fisk, Public Relations Manager at