Attending a Worldcon

One of my many hobbies is traveling. My recent travels brought me to the windy city of Chicago.

Dear Mr/ Madam Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and welcomed Guests, the reason for traveling to this city was to attend the 80th World Science Fiction Convention also known as Worldcon.

Worldcon is an annual international gathering of Science fiction and fantasy fans, it was first held in New York in 1939 with roughly 200 attendees. It is the longest running Science fiction convention in the world. Over the span of 80 years some of the guests of honors have included Ursula Le Guin, Issac Asimov & Terry Pratchett to name but a few.

You don’t just buy a ticket to Worldcon, you buy a membership to attend or support a Worldcon. The membership gives you voting rights in the Hugo Awards and also to select the City that will host the convention in two years.

The Hugo Awards are nominations for Science Fiction & Fantasy books and a long list of other categories that you can vote in when you are a member. There is normally a Hugo voters packet that is sent out to members, the voters packet can contain books, artwork or samples from the Authors who are nominated.

In 2014 the Hugo Voters Packet I received had the full set of the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan as the whole series was nominated. Unfortunately it was not successful in winning the award that year but I got to keep the books. Another big part of worldcon is hosting a Hugo Awards Ceremony which is a fancy event for all involved and is streamed on youtube. The winners collect a rocket shaped award which is designed locally each year.

Worldcon visits a new city around the globe each year and is organized by a different group of dedicated volunteers who participate in a bidding process to bring Worldcon to their city. This year’s Worldcon was in Chicago, the name of the convention was called Chicon 8 as it was their 8th time to host Worldcon.

On my first day at Chicon 8, I headed to the Registration Desk to pick up my badge. All members get a badge which makes it easy to remember people’s names. I volunteered at this year’s convention. I found my way to the Operations office to introduce myself and find my schedule and what exactly I will be doing. This role involved strolling around the convention with a high -vis jacket on and a radio to help out members especially with directions as the hotel was a bit of a maze. I like volunteering with the conventions as it’s a lot of fun and a good way of meeting new people.

Worldcon is run by fans for fans, it is solely run by volunteers from all over the world. I was part of the group that brought Worldcon to Dublin in 2019. It was held in the convention Center in Dublin city. It was a big deal for the group as it was the very first time it was held in Ireland. One of the Guests of Honor was Nobel Prize Winner & Astrophysicist Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.

I got to meet Irish Writer John Connolly at the convention, I’m a big fan and had a bit of a starstruck moment. He was very nice about it and gave me some postcards for his new book.

It is a tradition to pick up Ribbons from fan tables, some people get very competitive on their ribbon collection to see who can make the longest trail, as you can see from my badges I only like a small amount. But they are colorful, funny and they help to keep your badge from turning around. I love traveling to other countries for conventions for all of these reasons and more. It is a great way to visit a country, do some sightseeing and meet lots of Authors that I admire. I always come back with good memories and a long list of book recommendations.

I have attended Worldcon in London in 2014, Helsinki in 2017 but when the pandemic hit it scuppered my plans to Travel to New Zealand in 2020. Thankfully the organizers pulled together and held the very first Virtual Worldcon called Conzealand. In December 2021 the Washington DC Worldcon had their first hybrid convention, where a member could attend virtually or in person.

Going forward all the committees that are in the bidding process have started adding virtual items to their program to allow members to join from their own home. This is a new change for the science fiction community and will bring more fans together. It is very exciting and I’m looking forward to seeing what the group for Worldcon in Glasgow 2024 do for their hybrid programme.

There is so much more to a worldcon than the small amount that I have touched on , I would encourage anyone to consider attending one in the future, maybe in Glasgow 2024 or even Dublin in 2029. If you would like to learn more about Worldcon please see me at the break and we can chat some more.


First speech – The icebreaker

Completed in May 2022

Good evening fellow toastmasters and guests, the title of my speech is 

Icebreaker or monologue?

The definition for Icebreaker is 

1. a ship designed for breaking a channel through ice 

2. Something that serves to relieve inhibitions or tension between people.

The definition for Monologue is a long, tedious speech by one person .

For this evening my speech is definitely the second definition of an icebreaker and whether it is a monologue can be decided at the end.

I have taken part in different types of icebreakers at company training days, they are used as a way to get the employees into a good mood ahead of whatever training session is being done.

I have also used icebreaker games myself as a guide leader to help new girls that have joined to help them feel less self-conscious and also to have a bit of fun.  The best one was to say one word to describe yourself using the letter of your name. For example, I would be Gracious Gwen.

A lot of Science fiction conventions I attend have an icebreaker session for new members who have no idea what is going on and might be nervous, shy or just enjoy meeting new people. I have taken part and it usually involves having a sticky note on your forehead with a famous name and playing the game, who am I, where the other players try to describe the person on the sticky note and you guess who it is.

For this particular icebreaker I have decided to tell you a bit about myself and why my accent can cause confusion about what county I’m from. I’m going to use these lovely coloured socks to help me as a visual aid. 

To start off I have blue & navy socks to represent Dublin as I was born in Dublin and I lived there for the majority of my youth. I think the confusion started early as my mother is a dub but my father is a limerick man and we spent a lot of time going to limerick to visit family and i was raised on Limerick Hurling.

The kids in school would be confused about where I spent my summers as I was in Hospital with my grandparents and I didn’t know why they were confused because that’s where they lived in a small town called hospital. We spent a lot of time in the car driving through small towns to get to Hospital . I loved it and enjoyed seeing all the different places especially at xmas time. 

When I was 18 I stayed in Cork with my sister and I met a nice fella , we dated for a while and when we were 21 we moved to Limerick city.  (hold the green & white socks) Living in Limerick city is very different from the small towns of Limerick so we didn’t stay there that long, a year at most. 

Myself and the Cork fella decided to move to Cobh Co Cork. It’s a beautiful town by the sea  made famous by some large ship that docked there once. (hold the red & white socks)

I spent all of my twenties there having a bit of craic and enjoying it immensely. I learnt to drive on the lovely hills and began my own adventures of driving to Dublin & Galway to visit family, something I definitely inherited from my dad. During that time myself and the cork fella went our separate ways, it’s just how it goes sometimes. 

When I was 30 I went to Galway to visit my other Sister and I met a nice Galway fella. After a year of dating I decided to chance it all and I moved to the nice town of Athenry. (maroon & white socks). Myself and the nice Galway fella are married twelve years now. 

I started working in Chanelle in Loughrea, not a bad town to work in and commute to daily.  It was where I learnt about the toastmasters club when it first opened. I came as a guest once and then I got a job in Galway city and lots of stuff stopped me from getting to a second meeting.. Finally a good while later I managed to come back as a guest for my second meeting and then made a great decision to join up.

As for the county socks I’m not planning on picking up anymore. I think I have enough to try and keep paired. Maroon is definitely my favorite colour. 

I will end my speech there and let you decide if it was a monologue or an icebreaker?

Thank you