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
I’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 www.menti.com 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:
- By Location
Go to Toastmasters.org. 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.
- 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.
- 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 https://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html
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.