Facilitating Online Toastmaster Meetings

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Facilitating Online Toastmaster Meetings

In this week’s post I will focus on ‘how to prepare for effective facilitation of your online meetings’.

During my years as a facilitator and moderator for a myriad of online meetings, webinars and conferences I have learned a thing or two. My elearning and ementoring events have been scheduled in a variety of web conferencing platforms, and each time I learned from them how to improve my skills. This learning experience has enabled me to transfer the skills into the online meetings for Toastmasters. My advice for effective facilitation of your online meetings is based on three P’s:

  1. Purpose
  2. Preparation
  3. Participation

online meeting success

Knowing your purpose will help guide you in the preparation and participation of your Toastmaster meetings, whether they are regular club members meetings or club officer executive meetings.

Note: Refer back to my post of June 23 where I advocate attending specific training online.

The preparation phase should take place at least a week prior to the meeting and you should ensure that all meeting roles are delegated appropriately for the level of expertise of the membership. This may be done as an agenda PDF shared with members or created electronically in easy-Speak using a simple template. Include any instructions for your audience such as how to access and print the agenda and/or a summary of the meeting theme or purpose.

Effective audience engagement is an important element and you will need to ensure that they feel empowered to participate and interact, rather than just be passive listeners. Just as you will do in a land-based club meeting, let the visitors know how they can interact and give them options. Remind all participants of the protocols involved in speaking during the meeting and how to use the tools in the web conference software.

In this exemplar I will provide a short case study for your comment or consideration!

Case Study #1 : Inaugural Toastmaster Club Meeting

First experiences are so important and worth taking extra time in getting them right!

The new online club leader defined the purpose of this first meeting as ‘entice the participants to join the online club‘. The leader (let’s call her Kim) created a social media group and invited people to express interest in attending the inaugural meeting. She then created an agenda in her Prospective Club easy-Speak site and assigned roles for those who had volunteered. An Event was posted in the Facebook group with details on how the participants could prepare to join the meeting online. Details of the meeting location and its URL were sent to all registered members of the easy-Speak site via the meeting email system.

Kim structured the online time into two segments:

  • an initial half hour setup time in which participants could be assisted with technology and meet the others from a variety of locations
  • one hour Toastmaster meeting agenda consisting of speeches, evaluations, table topics and reports.

During the pre-meeting, a few experienced on-liners provided technology assistance and networking for those who were new to the environment. Kim also checked that all role takers were present and ready to perform their roles. The major roles were filled by experienced Toastmasters to bring stability and continuity to the meeting and the newbies were included in a Table Topics segment designed to get to know them better. One or two stepped up confidently to fulfill roles they had never done online before – this was a real bonus. Kim learned that this type of flexibility would enhance the enjoyment factor and bring an element of surprise.

When-Our-Comfort-Zone-Becomes-A-Danger-ZoneKim chose a traditional Toastmaster facilitation method for the hour, one that the audience could relate to. This provided the ‘comfort zone’ element to ease some of the ‘fear factor’ that was expected in an inaugural online meeting. At all times it was positive and instructional – giving advice on how things could be done online. A great example of this was the assistance given to the Timer who was able to improvise his timing device inventively. (Think about how you might be an innovative timer in an online meeting!)

Between each segment of the program, Kim provided smooth and insightful segues, moving the meeting forward promptly and professionally. There was a solid feeling of trust imbued by Kim and all participants felt empowered. This is an absolutely essential skill required by the online meeting facilitator.

men greeting sunDuring the formal speeches and table topics members were encouraged to use web cams and audio to create a dynamic screen presence. This is similar to how you would invite your guests to approach the lectern in your land-based clubs – gentle pressure – to push beyond their comfort zone.

There is much to see and hear in an online meeting – often with far more clarity and audible content –  an up close and personal experience. Nevertheless some tactics are required to keep everyone attentive and engaged. Laughter is the best tactic and there was plenty of that in this inaugural meeting.

I provided a presentation with PowerPoint slides to illustrate ‘Online Clubs Overview‘, upon which were a series of questions for audience participation. Answers were typed into the text chat and this created a different type of interactivity during my speech.

Evaluators ably provided their verbal feedback to speakers and promised to send their handwritten notes on downloaded PDF versions of the Project Evaluation Guides.

successGuests were given the opportunity to give verbal feedback on the meeting and there was even time for a short club business segment in which volunteer club officers were nominated.

This inaugural meeting of the Toastmasters Without Borders was an all round success!

It had purpose, preparation and participation – the 3 P’s of effective online meeting management.

JULY POSTS: During July I will be focusing my posts on the Club Management aspects of Online Clubs using easy-Speak. The July Webinar Series from the easy-Speak Help Desk will commence on July 14 – Agenda Basics. Details and RSVP available in the easy-Speak Toastmasters Community in Facebook.




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2 replies on “Facilitating Online Toastmaster Meetings”

Very clever to ask participation typing into the chat box: how many new comers used it? No mention of my speech and what you thought about it – a lot more informal, but also geared to give confidence to new on-liners. I am looking forward what you would say about our Inaugural, probably quite different, as you say so well at the beginning, we all have different aims. But our main is of course, the one from all Toastmasters clubs: give confidence. Learn together in an joyful environment.

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