In the face of all the advice to stay home, how do we Toastmasters meet?
Let’s talk about moving my Toastmasters meeting online. Let’s talk about moving all Toastmasters meetings online!
“When managing during a crisis first make sure that your people and the organization you are managing are going to be safe, then look for opportunities.
Periods of turbulence provide both large risks and large opportunities, so after you make sure that you and your people are safe from the risk of ruin, look for the opportunities. It is at such times most people pay the most attention to the risks than the opportunities, that at such times opportunities are greatest.” – Ray Dalio
via Harry Duran.
Welcome to the new world.
In the midst of all the panic, the crises, the lack of toilet paper in the stores, we find we can still function. It’s a matter of adaptation.
Becky Holland Fuller is president of Singing Sands Toastmasters Club in Michigan City, Indiana. I saw her post on the Official Toastmasters International Members Facebook Page about her club’s first online meeting last night and I immediately messaged her.
I HAVE TO TALK TO YOU!
We’re all feeling a bit at sea with the news from Toastmasters International that encourages online Toastmasters meetings. Many of us have been in webinars, some of us have run webinars. But how do you switch from an on-site meeting to an online meeting? How does that work?
Toastmasters has several online clubs. But this abrupt change challenges us in new and frankly, scary ways. That’s why I wanted to talk to Becky – she’s done it.
To be a leader, you have to have a good foundation in public speaking. In one hour a week at Toastmasters, you can learn the communication skills to reach your goals and achieve your dreams. This is Toastmasters 101 podcast. I’m your host, Kim Krajci.
This podcast will be longer than usual and contains of lot of Becky’s advice – so be prepared to take notes and to share this episode – Toastmasters 101 pagedot net slash fifty two – with other members of your clubs, your areas, your district – there are a lot of people who need to know what Becky has to say.
First, let’s recognize that change is hard. I think the last three years with Pathways has proven that to us. But we can manage this conversion with some key steps and 4 attitudes that will make it… easier.
(For those of you reading these show notes – I have not transcribed Becky’s comments. You’ll have to listen to the podcast.)
Where to meet
First, Becky said:
[quote about educating club members]
Becky is right – we have to take the time to educate our members about the platform we’re going to use. I’ve collected a short list of a few options on the website – toastmasters 101 dot net slash 52 – which include
- Zoom.us http://zoom.us Free and paid accounts. Free accounts only permit a 40 minute meeting if more than 2 people attend.
- Google Suite https://cloud.google.com/blog/products/g-suite/helping-businesses-and-schools-stay-connected-in-response-to-coronavirus
- WebEx https://www.webex.com/ which is what Becky used
- GotoMeeting https://www.gotomeeting.com/
Not all of these resources are free. Some of them are giving free use under certain conditions – Zoom traditionally has let free users have only 40 minutes if they have more than 2 in the meeting, but that’s been changing. GoToMeeting is not free and kinda pricey, but it’s a nice platform. Google Suites and Google Hangouts might be free now, but expect that free to change to charge at some point.
Back to Becky’s point – you need to make a decision about what platform to use. That may be decided by the district. If you’re in a corporate club, they may have a different software already configured for your company’s security and system. But take the time to teach your members how to use it.
Here in District 10, our district uses Zoom. I’ve been using Zoom for a while now. I find it’s familiar and easy for me to use – possibly because as a podcaster, I use Zoom. I used it for my meeting with Becky. I’m ok with the quirky controls – but most people find it difficult to use the first few times they use it. Becky’s team emailed all the members with exact instructions how to use WebEx along with a direct link to the meeting. They even made a 10 minute video explaining how to use the platform.
A while back, my podcasting coach asked me to help him make a video on how to use Zoom. I thought he did a great job – so I’ve been linking people to it. The link to the School of Podcasting How to Use Zoom Video is in the show notes. Thanks to Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting – drop a note in the Youtube comments if you appreciated his work.
How to [prepare to] run a meeting.
So now that your members know the basics, are you ready for an online Toastmasters meeting?
Prepping the Meeting
Ever heard the word “netiquette”? It’s a standard of behavior that is expected on the internet in meetings. Everyone has their own expectations, and Becky’s club decided to deal with it from the start: with their sergeant at arms’ instructions (PDF for download.)
[Becky talks about Singing Sands Sergeant at Arms prep]
One of the most important actions a Toastmaster must take is control of his microphone. Whether it’s attached to a headset, a pair of earbuds (wired or Bluetooth) or in your camera or laptop, the microphone is going to pick up all those noises in your room. That’s why you need to know how to mute your microphone and, when it’s time for you to speak, how to unmute it.
During an onsite Toastmasters meeting, we are often passing notes between ourselves. Evaluation comments. Votes. How are we going to do that online? We’re going to type and that is very loud online. Even silent keyboards have a little bit of noise. You have to know how to mute your microphone just to reduce the noise that you’re putting into the meeting.
The same thing applies to your video.
[Becky story about unintended naked people]
Then there’s chat.
Some people like chat. Others find it distracting and turn it off. What’s your club going to do when you need to send each other messages?
Becky took their club’s agenda and created a PDF that everyone could download and see.
Then they did the trial run to see just how to run a club meeting online.
[Becky prepare in advance]
I can’t say how much I appreciated her commitment to making this work – she and her team put out a lot of effort. Their dress rehearsals helped identify several key issues that they resolved before they even got online for the meeting. The meeting agenda PDF was only one thing – there were several they had to address.
Table Topics, Evaluations, Timers for Online Toastmasters Meetings
Toastmasters is an interactive meeting. We work with each other and that means we need to be able to communicate with each other without disturbing the flow of the meeting. In an online Toastmasters meeting, things are a bit different.
When we meet in person, your club may have name plates or name tags to identify ourselves. Some clubs add an extra name plate to indicate who is filling the roles. Other clubs have assigned seating to expediate the movements around the room. We don’t have that problem in a conference call, but one great hint I heard from the training Region 6 provided their districts was to change your name online to include your role, such as Speaker #1 Kim Krajci. That helps everyone know what your role is.
There are three big considerations with the webinar platforms. How do you manage Table Topics? How do you handle Evaluations? And what must be the biggest problem I’ve seen people address on the FB page – how do you handle time signals?
Here’s a problem that will take practice to manage – but it’s very doable.
1. You could have the TT Leader just select the participants. Volun-couraged people to speak.
2. You could collect volunteers through chat or through the Raise Your Hand button – most programs have this option to signal the host that you wish to be recognized. Or you could literally raise your hand and hope that the TTL has their screen set to see all participants.
Your club picks. But make sure that everyone knows the method.
In clubs where everyone participates in Table Topics, this isn’t an issue – but don’t assume that the Table Topics Leader’s order of people on their screen is the same as yours. Wait to be called by name.
Voting for Table Topics is a bit tricky – personally, I would hate trying to track votes in chat.
Becky’s team developed a form on Survey Monkey to list all of the participants. For the prepared speakers and the assigned evaluators, that was easy. For Table Topics – not so easy. Who was going to speak?
Becky’s very creative solution was to have a 2nd window open for a document where she could enter the names in order, and then copy and paste that into the Survey Monkey questionnaire.
Survey Monkey is a great resource – that’s https://www.surveymonkey.com/ but the free version has some restrictions – how many questions you can ask, for example. I would recommend getting a Google Form that you can use – both can also count your votes for you. I think that I’ll create a single document, share the link with the club on the agenda (it’s a PDF agenda, so I can add a hyperlink or live link to the document) and keep reusing it week after week. The format won’t change, just the names of the speakers. But Becky’s plan to use a spare open document to type, cut and paste is smart. It makes the process fast and seamless behind the stage as it were.
Evaluations and Evaluators
With Pathways, getting evaluations is pretty simple. We can just go to the Pathways website and download the necessary form from the Tutorials and Resources tab in Base Camp. Some people can even download a fillable PDF version. I’m a big fan of the Page Three of the Evaluation form and try to fill that out first – but how do we watch on the screen and evaluate at the same time?
Split screens on desktops, or separate open windows, or print out the evaluation and when you’re done writing on it, take a picture of it and email that pic to the speaker, or mail the hard copy to the speaker.
If the speaker is not working on Pathways – and right now, we’ve got a lot of speakers who are cramming in their final classic program awards speech projects – then we may have a problem. The speaker can send you a copy of the evaluation form, or they can give you the questions in a document and send it to you. If they use a Google doc, sharing it can be done easily and quickly, and filling it out online is as simple as typing. Then both the speaker and evaluator have access to it without resorting to taking a picture or snail-mailing it.
This is one problem I foresee – we often don’t have evaluators assigned until the meeting. That’s not a problem when you’re sharing a manual or a printout of the Pathways evaluation. It can be a problem online if club members need to email at the last minute. How does your club assign evaluators? This may become a priority in the online meetings.
So how do you send those messages? How do you vote?
All of the webinar platforms I’ve used have a chat option. There are two: talk to everyone, and talk to one specific person or group. Becky’s club set a standard for their usual evaluation technique where everyone gives the prepared speakers a short, written evaluation. Those evaluations are directed to the member personally, not to everyone. Tech issues are sent to everyone so that they can resolved quickly.
Explaining the process at the beginning of the meeting will make it less confusing later.
I’ve been to a few online Toastmasters meetings and the timer problem continues to vex people. I’ve seen several requests for solutions and seen a few.
The most obvious solution for a Toastmasters meeting online – using the cards or an app – doesn’t seem to work consistently. I once saw a very kind timer use a soft bell – one ring for green, two for yellow, and 3 for red. As I recall, it worked pretty well – if the speaker was wearing headphones. It was a very soft bell. I’ve also heard of the timer unmuting themselves and saying “green” “yellow” or “red.” Again, that may work well if the speaker has headphones. I’m not so sure it would be heard or if it would be too distracting.
Becky’s team opted for the time to put the words in the chat feature. Using WebEx, that worked well. I’m not sure that it would work in Zoom because the chat has to be manually turned on by each attendee. They might forget.
Keys to Moving Your Toastmasters Meeting Online
Becky has 4 keys to making your online meeting experience a success.
1. Timing: Open the space early and the host stays until everyone else leaves.
2. Patience: this is new to many of us and we’re going to have hiccoughs.
3. Have a way to share your feedback. Use your evaluation skills to help improve everyone’s experiences.
4. Have a sense of humor. Weird, horrible, funny, bizarre – all those things are going to happen. Deal with it with laughter, not finger pointing or criticism.
New Online Roles for your Toastmasters meeting online
Online meetings will require a couple of extra roles.
1. The Meeting Host is the person who opens the meeting online and manages the platform. This person holds the keys and controls certain aspects. The Meeting host can mute noisy attendees or unmute speakers who forgot to unmute themselves. Think of this person like a virtual sergeant at arms.
2. Tech Master – this person will be the person who helps the attendees use the platform. The Meeting host shouldn’t have to try to manage the meeting and help a late attendee get situated with their mic or camera. A designated Tech master is an important role.
3. Chat Master to mind the chat. This person can help members and guests without disturbing the flow of the meeting.
4. Online Monitor Some clubs also have visual equivalent of the grammarian – to help you know how you look. If your camera is pointed at the top of your head or maybe at the ceiling. Some online clubs strongly disapprove of shutting down your video. Others don’t mind at all. Your club will decide what’s right for you.
Using Club Officers
You might want to call on the club secretary to help fill in the agenda for the PDF or help with the online voting forms. You can ask the VPE to supply the current list of members who have signed up for a role. You might want to have a list of the current membership so you don’t have to type – you can cut and paste.
hat we shouldn’t do is depend on the Toastmaster of the Day to manage all of this on their own. Too much work, too much pressure – we’ll drive people away when what we need is members to step up.
Online Toastmasters Meeting Quirks
Even with all the work, there were still a few quirks
[Becky raise your hand]
[Becky ah counter]
In the end, Singing Sands Toastmasters Club of Michigan City, Indiana, has had a great start to their online experience.
Wrap it up, Kim
I hope this podcast will help your club’s move online go a little smoother.
If your club has found creative ways to solve the problems Toastmasters will face as we move to virtual meetings, I’d love to hear them. Drop a comment in the Toastmasters 101 podcast FB page!
“When managing during a crisis first make sure that your people and the organization you are managing are going to be safe, then look for opportunities.”
Ray Dalio is right. Becky Holland Fuller and Singing Sands Toastmasters club are looking for opportunities – and they’re making it work.
Stay safe and stay healthy. See you next time on Toastmasters 101.