Do Online Toastmasters Meetings Really Work?

When the COVID-19 Pandemic first hit and members of my club started talking about moving club meetings online, I have to admit that I was very sceptical. In fact, I was convinced that they would never work. Now, less than four weeks later, I am delighted to admit that I was wrong.

At the time of writing this article, the two clubs, of which I am a member, Solent Speakers and Shilling Speakers, have both held two very successful online meetings. Using the Zoom Meetings platform, we have been able to recreate the format and fun of our usual club meetings. In so doing, we have offered our members the ability to connect positively with members, guests, and visiting Toastmasters from other clubs. 

Discovering Toastmasters beyond your own club

Toasmasters International LogoI’ve been a member of Toastmasters for more than eleven years and over that period I’ve become a big advocate of visiting other clubs.  When asked why, I usually say that, all Toastmasters clubs follow the same basic recipe of speeches, evaluations and table topics. Yet each has its own unique and distinctive ‘flavour’. 

I love meeting new Toastmasters, hearing their stories and learning about – well everything.  But pre-COVID 19, visiting other clubs was a lot harder than it is now.

Visiting Toastmasters Clubs around the globe

It has always been possible for Toastmasters to visit other clubs abroad, and now I has become a whole lot easier (and cheaper). The rapid switch to online clubs has opened up the whole of the global Toastmasters community in a way that we could never have envisaged just a few weeks ago.  I know because I’ve been club surfing while in home isolation.

My online experience so far

In week one of lock-down, I visited four Toastmasters meetings in addition to my own club. The first was to Paris Toastmasters, in France, where I know fellow Toastmaster Carol Bausor. Vive la France!

Then it was back home to the UK for the District 91 Division H International Speech and Evaluation Contest.  During this virtual visit, I picked up valuable online presenting tips from the Target Speaker in the Evaluation Contest, who gave a talk entitled “How to be a Zoom Director.”  

My third club visit of the week was to Dnipro Toastmasters in Ukraine for their themed meeting “Cats & Dogs.”  You can imagine my delight when my impromptu story about our rescue dog won Best Table Topics award. I was also taken by this quote from one of their speakers.

“Don’t you feel like we are all trapped on the huge cruise ship called Earth
 and there is nowhere to escape?”

The same day, I discovered Storytellers Online, an initiative by the Eastern Europe District Director which attracted 110 visitors in as many cities.  They used to form a word cloud of participants’ locations. We heard six stories on “The Meaning of Life” then an Open Mic session gave us three more tales. 

Week 2 took me to Dun Laoghaire outside Dublin to hear lovely lilting Irish accents. I loved the fact that they start and end their meetings with an aphorism or pithy observation.

E.g. “What lies in the well of your heart comes up in the bucket of your speech.”  

They also had a role that I’d never come across before. Poetmaster, whose job is to start the meeting with a poem or a joke.  

The next day I visited three clubs. At lunchtime, I sat in on TK Maxx’s corporate club in London. Afterwards, I dropped in on the extremely polite and respectful, Emerald Toastmasters of Nigeria. In the evening, I attended the London Victorians Toastmasters meeting to hear three mini-debates on Monarchy, legalizing drugs, and pros and cons of Artificial Intelligence.  Wow, what a day! 

A day later, I was off again. This time, because I speak fluent Dutch, I chose to visit Toastmasters Antwerpen in Belgium, a club I had visited many times in person when I lived there.  Although all the faces were new to me, it was still a delightful experience. Their theme was one of my favourites: “Personal Development books”.

Week 3 – Three more meetings on Monday: the energy-filled Bangkok Toastmasters in Thailand, where I was Table Topics Evaluator. Pinnacle Advanced Toastmasters in Sri Lanka where 50% of members are DTMs and finally, Experience French in London where I was Table Topics Master. 

On Wednesday, I met “Tom in the Hat” at Eloquent Entrepreneurs in Denver, Colorado, a club for members with the entrepreneurial mindset.  I wasn’t the only international visitor on this occasion, as I was joined by three Toastmasters from Taiwan.  On Thursday, I attended one of my old Belgian clubs, Fonske Leuven, where I took on the General Evaluator role.  I was a charter member of the club in 2009. It was wonderful to be reunited with some of the other founding members including one, whose first-ever speech, I remember vividly, and now he’s a DTM!

On Friday, I visited Singapore Online Speakers, where I had the privilege of hearing the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, Darren Le Croix. He shared lots of excellent tips for how to create  “Unforgettable Presentations.”  The next day, I visited Gemstones Toastmasters in Nigeria, along with visitors from several other countries.

A great way to make more of your membership

In three weeks, I have visited 16 clubs on four continents, met hundreds of Toastmasters, and learned much, all for the price of my Toastmasters membership.  International visiting online is a great way to make the most of your membership. If you have never done it, there has never been a better time!

Want to have a go? Here’s how to get started.

By now, you should have some appreciation of the enormous range of Toastmasters experiences that can be accessed as a direct result of the rapid switch to online meetings.  You connect with fellow Toastmasters from across the globe, learn from their speech content, observe their online delivery skills and pick up tips and ideas for running better meetings.

There are many different ways to find online Toastmasters clubs. Here’s how I did it:

  1. By Location
    Go to Select “Find a Club” and type in a location. Then use the email club option, to introduce yourself, then ask them if they meet online and if so, where you can find out more details of their online meetings.
  2. Via easySpeak
    If you want to find clubs in the UK, log into easySpeak, click on Organization (left-hand column) then select D91, then Meetings. Now select Calendar (top left) and “All online meetings” in the drop-down menu (bottom left). You will see clubs listed on every date.  Choose one, click on the meeting manager and send an email.
  3. Via Facebook

Please Note: Remember to check the time zone of the meeting you are considering joining as how it converts into your local time.  You can do this using one of many online websites such as

About the Author

Antonia Harrison, ACS ALB, has been a Toastmasters member for 11 years and is a past-president of Solent Speakers in Fareham, Past Area A1 Director and the founding president of a new pre-charter club, Shilling Speakers, in Havant.

Beyond Your Club in 2020

#make more of your membership

Many members never venture beyond the safe haven of their local public speaking club and as a result, miss out on a host of additional benefits. In this short article, I’d like to draw your attention to some of the many learning opportunities that are coming in 2020.

Area Events

In toastmasters, local clubs are the heart and soul of the organisation. Clubs are then grouped together into Areas. Areas are routed together into Divisions, and Divisions Andre grouped together into Districts. All our contests start at. Club level and then the winners go through to Area contests. Area champions then compete at Division Level and the Divisions go on to take part in the DistrictContests. Area events are an enjoyable way to benchmark yourself and your club against other local clubs.

Area Contests

Every year Toastmasters clubs club four contests to provide members with an extra challenge to improve their public speaking and evaluation skills. The winners of the club contests go on to compete against the contest winners from neighbouring clubs in their area. The winners of the Area contest will, in turn, be eligible to take part in the Division contests.

  • In the Spring we host the International Speech and Evaluation Contests
  • In the Autumn we host the Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contest

Area Training Events

The Area Director will arrange club officer training (COY) events) twice a year. These are open to committee members and to other paid-up members who want to learn more about the roles and responsibilities involved in running a Toastmasters club

Division Events

Division Directors will organise two Division Contest Events in Spring and Autumn. members are encouraged to attend these events to support their area champions, to network and to access educational workshops.

In addition to the Division Contests, it is common for the Division to host Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) days. These offer additional leadership related training opportunities and are open to all paid-up members to attend.

District 91 Spring Conference

1-3 May 2020 – London

  • Four Contest Finals
  • Gala Dinner
  • World-Class Keynote Speakers
  • A Host of World Fabulous Workshops
  • Gala Dinner
  • Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony
  • Lots of Opportunities to Get Involved
  • And Much Much More…

Having attended four of these annual events I can thoroughly recommend attending at least one of these fabulous events. You’ll make new friends, pick up lots of new ideas to take back to your club and have lots of fun. More details to follow shortly.

International Events

Toastmasters International Convention

August 5-8 2020 – Paris

August 2020 sees the most accessible Toastmasters International convention for European clubs. For the first time ever, the TI Global Convention will be held in Paris between 5th and 8th August. Information is still a little sketchy, but you can register your interest here to receive a notification as soon as more details become available.

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Toastmasters Membership

Get curious about your goals

Set aside to time to think about what you want to get from your Toastmasters membership. If you are not sure, talk to other members and ask them about their goals, then decide what YOU want to achieve. Remember, everyone is starting from a different place, so set goals that realistic and relevant to you based on where you are now. Finally, remember to review your goals regularly, updating them as your skills and confidence grow.
TIP – Share your goals with the club’s VP of Education, and they’ll help you by assigning speech slots and roles to suit your needs.

Attend club meetings regularly

It’s a fact that the more you engage with the Toastmasters programme, the more you get out of it. Commit to attending as many club meetings as you can and you’ll be amazed how quickly your confidence will develop.
Tip: Enter your club’s meeting dates into your diary at least six months in advance and treat them as a priority.

Engage with the Pathways online education portal

Pathways is an online learning portal which provides members with a structured learning path to help you achieve your public speaking and leadership goals. Choose one of 11 distinct paths at a time and then work through the various projects and levels in sequence, building your knowledge and skills as you go. 

Tip: If you are struggling to get started, ask one of the more experienced members for help

Schedule your speeches

Your first pathways speech is called the “Icebreaker.” It’s a 4-6 minute prepared speech crafted to introduce yourself to club members and to establish your baseline skills. The icebreaker demonstrates where you are now on your speaking journey.

Tip: Talk to the VP Education about booking a date for your icebreaker or next speech as soon as possible.

Learn at your own pace

Pathways is a self-paced programme, so there’s no set timescale for completing your icebreaker. Some people do it within a couple of weeks of joining, others take several weeks or even months. 

Tip:  “jump in” and schedule your icebreaker ASAP. It may seem daunting, but the sooner you begin the sooner you’ll start to see the benefits.


Prepare properly

You’ll get more out of your membership when you set aside time to prepare for your speeches and meeting roles.  For speeches, this means working through the relevant module in Pathways and then preparing your speech assignment thoroughly.  For roles, e.g. sergeant at arms, timekeeper, etc.) this means reading the role description to understand what is expected of you. 

Tip: Proper preparation will dramatically increase your chances of doing a good job and will help you manage your nerves.

Volunteer for meeting roles

Fulfilling a meeting role is as important as making speech. As well as helping our meetings to run smoothly, you will develop valuable leadership and communication skills. Some are are simple; others are more complex. Our VP Education will help you get started.

Tip: To accelerate your development, challenge yourself to go beyond your comfort zone by volunteering for more complex roles.

Ask for a Mentor

In Toastmasters, we encourage our members to seek out a mentor to help them get started. A mentor is another, more experienced, member who is happy share their experience and help you achieve your initial goals. 

Tip: If you are interested in getting a mentor or being a mentor to someone else talk to the club’s VP of Education, and they’ll suggest potential mentors.


Visit other clubs

Every Toastmaster starts by joining a local club. As your confidence grows, we encourage you to visit other clubs to see how they “do”  toastmasters. When you do, you’ll make new friends, speak in different venues, and present to different audiences. 

Tip: Toastmasters is international. If you are working in another city or travelling on holiday, why not do an internet search to see if there is a Toastmasters club nearby and ask to attend one of their meetings. 

Take on a club leadership role

Clubs don’t run themselves. Behind the scenes,  a team of elected members who volunteer to ensure that the club runs professionally for your benefit.

This team includes a President, Immediate Past President, VP Education, VP Membership, VP Public Relations, Secretary, Treasurer and Logistics Manager. 

Tip: Learn about the rewards and responsibilities associated with these roles by asking a committee member.