Get Ready for Online Toastmasters Meetings

How to get ready for online Toastmasters meetings

After spending time on Pathways, taking the quizzes, reading the material, I created a presentation and practiced, so I’m ready for my online Toastmasters meetings, right?

Not yet.  There are a couple of extra steps that we need to take now that we’re having online Toastmasters meetings that were easier in person.  Today on the podcast, we’ll review the steps you need to take to be ready for your next presentation at your online Toastmasters meetings.

INTRO

Do you want to improve your public speaking and presentation skills?  Then Toastmasters is here for you – we’ll help you develop the skills you need in a safe and fun environment.  This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

The Value of Preparation

I have this friend, a former Toastmaster, who has this rule:  prior proper planning prevents problems.  He also believes that arriving on time is late and less is not more – intense guy.  But he is right, even if the sentiment is pretty much the exact opposite of my style.  Coasting in right on time, for me, is a personal victory.  Getting someplace early – that’s just nuts to me.

But yeah, he does have a point.  Preparation for a meeting does make it go easier for you, if not for everyone else.

One of the Toastmasters’ big things is awareness of time.  This is not an innate skill for me.  I’m not a timely person and I appreciate that Toastmasters respects our time so much that they want us to start and end on time.  Since my first club meets at 7:30 in the morning on a workday, we have to end on time.  Another club I was a member of held its meetings at noon. Again, very time-sensitive.  When I joined an evening club, it was a lot less pressure on me and it showed.  I admit, my lack of time skills, combined with the scheduled start usually right around the time I would be getting up from the dinner table, required me to make an extra push to get there on time.

Now that we’re meeting online, I do get to the meeting at the starting time, most of the time, but when I’m a speaker, that’s actually too late.  Because I have things to do before we start.

How to get ready

  1. If I want the evaluator to have the right evaluation form, I need to be sure to have it available to be sent.
  2. If I want the Toastmaster of the Day to have my introduction, I can’t count on the TMOD getting it from the agenda.
  3. Then, if I want slides to work on the platform, I need to be sure I have the permissions on the platform to share my screen and to know how to make it work.

Three simple things.  I used to be able to walk into my meeting room with my laptop, set up the projector, hand my evaluator my printed out evaluation form, and give the Toastmaster of the Day my introduction for my speech.

That’s exactly what I have to do in an online Toastmasters meeting, but I find that it’s not so rote yet.  I’m still learning the steps.

What to prepare:  Introductions

Using Free Toast Host or Easy Speak, you can enter a speech introduction for the Toastmaster of the Day.  However, our agenda printout from Free Toast Host never shows that introduction and as a result, many of us never upload an introduction.  I have a separate introduction form that I’ve been using that is downloadable here on the Toastmasters 101 dot net site, and I could send that to the Toastmaster of the day… but right now, we don’t have that role filled in all the time.  As we have guests from other clubs – come on in and join us at Cuyahoga Falls Toastmasters, Wednesdays at 6:30 pm UTC-5 – Eastern Time – they don’t have access to the agenda anyway.

Rabbit trail:  Agendas

Let’s take a bit of a digression here.  How is your club managing the agenda for the online Toastmasters meeting?  Do you have a link to it in the meeting?  Do you copy it onto a document and share it with the members as they sign in?  Is it in a shared document like a Google doc?  Is it posted as a slide on the screen as people come into the meeting?

I can think of a lot of ways that it might be done, but I’d like to know what you do.  Go to the Toastmasters 101 podcast Facebook page and tell me what your club does to share the agenda.

Back to the topic:  your introduction.  I think putting it on the agenda gives the TMOD a notice that you’ve got something prepared, but I send mine through chat directly to that person.  That way I know they have it.

In our club, if the TMOD doesn’t have the introduction, they make up horrible lies about you.  You don’t want the audience to get into the wrong state of mind before your speech, right?

What to prepare:  Evaluation Forms

I spoke about this last week in the podcast – evaluation forms.  I find them valuable and I want people to fill it out and send me mine – and I want to do the same for others.

My biggest problem while we met onsite was remembering to print them out and bring them – so I tended to print them all out and keep them in a folder that went with me to most of my meetings.  You’d think that this would be less of an issue for online meetings, but last week I spent 15 minutes talking about them, so clearly, the solution isn’t obvious to me.

With a new computer system, I can now access the Pathways website, find and download the evaluation form, and send it to my evaluator, as soon as I find out who my evaluator is.  When we have guests, I like to ask them to evaluate me – I love new evaluators.  Mostly that means I don’t have any idea who it may be, so I need to have the evaluation form ready to send via the meeting platform software.  There’s an option in Zoom to share a file directly with another meeting attendee.

Keep it on the platform

If you don’t have a computer system that will handle all of these commands while you’re in the meeting, then you need to download the evaluation form file before you start.  Have it ready to send.  I have a file explorer screen open with the file already highlighted and ready to move to the chat option to share.  I was pleased when my evaluator sent it back to me that night.  That’s one feature that I need to remember – fortunately, my evaluator was able to find my email address and mail it back to me because I forgot to give it to him.

Maybe I could put it on the fillable PDF and let my evaluator know where to look?  That might work.

If you’re the kind of person who puts things on your desktop screen, that’s another easy way to share the file.

I like to share it in the platform.  I don’t want people to have to go to their email program and leave our meeting to find it and open it.  It would be smart for me to ask for my evaluator’s contact info so that I can reach out if I don’t get my evaluation back from them.

What to prepare:  Sharing Screens and Slide Decks

I just completed my Level 2 Understanding Your Leadership Style speech project this week.

This is the third time I’ve had to give this speech project and guess what?  My style didn’t change significantly.  But I wanted to change up my speech to continue my storytelling path development.  Fortunately, I had 3 top styles and 3 stories about teaching people to sew.  It seemed to fit together but I wanted some images to go with the presentation.

This isn’t just because I think watching talking heads is boring.  This is mostly about a big professional presentation I’m giving in June – using slides in a webinar.  I need the practice.

So I created a few slides.  Nothing really very innovative.  Just some words and images to help me keep on track.  For a 5 to 7 minute speech, I had 7 slides.

Slide management on a meeting or webinar platform is a problem for me.  I’m not comfortable with them at all, so I’m going to do all my presentations for the next 6 weeks with slides.  Even Table Topics.  I’ll take on the role and use images for the prompts!  These practices will help me smooth out my presentation skills before my big webinar debut in June.

Slides and Sharing

I need to know how to seamlessly move into the slide presentation during online Toastmasters meetings.  I know how to develop slides, the 3 30 rule (three lines of text, 30 font, use images, don’t read from them) but my ability to manage this online is woefully bad.

Do you know how to get slides set up on your platform and move into them – and out of them, since that seems to be as big a problem – gracefully?

Using a double screen setup, I have managed to improve my process, but I need to do better.  People who don’t have a double screen set up, you’ve got a lot of clicks to make it work well.

It’s clunky, it’s awkward, and it makes the audience wait.  I want to do better – but I can’t wait for the beginning of the meeting to test my sharing ability.  I have to do it before the meeting starts.

Our club opens the meeting room about 15 minutes before the meeting begins.  That helps me get my slides set up in a separate window and to be sure that I can share the screen – it’s not always set up that way.

I also want to be sure that I don’t start sharing the screen during the Toastmaster of the day’s introduction to my speech, or if I do want to, that the TMOD knows I’m going to do it.  Let’s not be rude, here.

Before the Online Toastmasters Meetings

Before my online Toastmasters meetings, I’m going to have my evaluation downloaded and ready to share.  I’ll have my introduction in a place that I can cut and paste it into the chat box to the TMOD as soon as possible.  My slide deck will be tested and ready to share (but I will check on that window or app to be sure it’s still active when it’s time to go – that was my biggest problem this week.  Next time, only one tab with just the slide presentation will be open.)  If you’re using Powerpoint or Keynote, this may be less of a problem, but I use Canva.com to create and to present my slides.

Handing out handouts

We’ve often encouraged our speakers to provide a handout if their material is technical or if they believe the audience will want it.  Presuming that you prepared it in advance as part of your speech preparation, when should you offer it to the audience at your online Toastmasters meetings?

If only there were a clear answer.  In person, there are three options – before the speech, during the speech, and after the speech.

I think that during the speech is the worst option of the three for an online presentation.  I think – and I’ll try this soon – to put the link to the document in the chat for people to access as they wish before the meeting begins.  After the speech ends, you’re providing a horrible distraction for the audience from the next speaker.

So send it out early and encourage people to download and open it before the meeting begins.  PDFs are the best option, as they can be opened by everyone, instead of a docx file from Windows, which may not be accessible by those on the Apple platform.

Wrap it up, Kim

Proper prior planning isn’t just thinking, it’s action. Get your files ready and check to be sure that your slide deck is ready to play.  Your club members will thank you as you improve your clubs online Toastmasters meetings!

Toastmasters 101 is podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.  Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io.

Next time, I want to talk about how you share information about Toastmasters to your club guests.    In the meantime, stay hopeful, stay healthy, and share Toastmasters 101 podcast with your Toastmaster friends.