Many countries are on lockdown, have some restrictions imposed on them and life as we know it has come to a complete standstill. Toastmasters meetings and contests have now moved online, and our annual conference has been cancelled.
As a President and an Area Director, I witness everyday the plight of many Toastmasters during this time.
At my home club, there are members, many of them entrepreneurs, who wish to continue their journey, but, cannot, due to financial constraints. I empathize with them, suddenly, Toastmasters membership is not an immediate priority. It warmed my heart to hear that the Garmeson Trust has extended a hand to these Toastmasters so that they, too, can continue their journey to self-development. Kudos to the District 74 leadership for this initiative.
On the other hand, there are those who do not see value in online meetings. One of the clubs in my Area elected to postpone meetings until after lockdown. The members are not motivated to sit in front of their devices for yet another meeting, after having to endure them at the office. After a lengthy discussion with them, hearing their point of view and what their challenges are, it took a lot to convince them of a harsh reality: nobody could have predicted that things would turn out the way it has. Online Toastmasters meetings are a first for many, but that in it lies the opportunity to learn digital skills that we can use as we prepare ourselves for the ‘new normal’ that awaits us. The members have agreed to give it a try by visiting other clubs and adopting their meetings accordingly. Kudos to them for challenging themselves.
And then, there are those in the middle, like me, – those who are capitalising on this lockdown period to lockdown on their educational goals. Online meetings have given me the opportunity to visit countries I have never and to interact with the larger Toastmasters community. I have visited France, Ghana, Togo and London in less than two months. It is amazing to witness how well the rest of the Toastmasters family have adapted to online meetings and how well we have too. Kudos to us.
Toastmasters is, indeed, a global community, all with one unique goal – to improve our communication and leadership skills, transcending barriers to face to face meetings. Now that is leadership – being agile and adapting to changing times. And Toastmasters is where (agile) leaders are made.
by Maud Nale