Diary of an Online Toastmaster

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Diary of an Online Toastmaster

Wednesday 18 March 2020

ycc board room (2017_11_09 05_44_11 UTC)I attended my Indigo Speakers club meeting via Zoom whilst the other members practiced appropriate social distancing in our usual meeting room for our second meeting of the month. For me the experience was made enjoyable and I felt included.  An experienced member accessed my Zoom room on her iphone with ease and I remained at home. The audio was very good from both venues and I was able to see others in the room when the camera on the iphone was focussed on various areas of the room.

club central online attendanceMany months ago Indigo Speakers had already indicated to prospective visitors and guests that our club permitted virtual attendance. That was recorded in Club Central by selecting the Club Demographics and clicking the Online Attendance Accepted option. See above.

At that meeting we discussed our plans for meetings during COVID-19 pandemic. It was agreed we would meet online in Zoom for the time being, with each member logging in from their own home. We can now boost our membership by inviting other community members to attend these online meetings as a visitor on the first and third Wednesdays of the month during the mandated period of social distancing. Details here.

Thursday 19 March 2020 (afternoon)

GTOAs  a  former member of the Global Trainers Online Advanced Online Toastmasters Club I was invited to assist as Chief Judge in a Mock Online Contest.

I had been a Contest Chair and a Chief Judge in many land-based contests and had, over the last few years of being an onliner, practiced the skills of being an Online Contest Chair and Chief Judge. The tasks involved for both are quite different and challenging at first. The Mock Contest was a commissioned event for leaders in D7 and attracted a large number of their members.

GTO2 return to main room messageLeader Michelle used Zoom, of course, and I created Breakout Rooms for the Judges where they could be briefed on the online protocols of casting their votes.  Once they were briefed they could return to the Main Room individually. Later they could be called back to the Breakout Room individually to present their results to the Chief Judge and the Counters. Officials could ask Judges to return to Main Room again and then tally the results, sending a Private Message to the Contest Chair when ready.

GTO1 message for judgesIt was also necessary to create Breakout Room for Contestants, this was especially important for the Evaluation Contest that we were demonstrating. Contestants could be in a private quiet area to prepare their notes supervised by the SAA, and then asked to return to the Main Room through a Broadcast Message from the Zoom Master.

Note: It is recommended that the Zoom Master not have another role. The creation of Breakout Rooms, assigning contestants or judges to the rooms and closing rooms, is an intense process.

Thursday 19 March 2020 (evening)

TWB meeting 19 march 2020I attended an online meeting with the Toastmasters Without Borders– one of the early chartered 100% online clubs sponsored by colleagues in D73 and mentored by yours truly. That night they attracted many visitors and guests with a high quality online meeting featuring three prepared speeches and six impromptus. There was a busy round robin segment in which every visitor could test their audio.

It was inspiring to watch the way this club managed their meeting with close attention to the cultural and language differences among their international members.

Saturday 21 March 2020 (morning)

ablaze video on websiteI attended an online meeting with the Ablaze Online Advanced Toastmasters, a vibrant club that meets early on Saturday mornings (6:00 am for me). This meeting featured a long educational project speech, opportunities for many table topics impromptus, lessons from Magda and a busy round robin segment. This meeting too attracted a large number of attendees and yet everyone had a chance to speak briefly and gain valuable experience of being an online meeting attendee.

Ablaze Advanced Toastmasters is a 100% Online club. Our members are our top priority. Heart above headcount is our motto. In this club, we live the values of TM.

Saturday 21 March 2020 (afternoon)

d73 calendar onlineI had offered my service as a Judge for the Division Contest being held online for Central Division in D73. During this event I learned how to be more efficient in the use of Breakout Rooms from Emma the Zoom Master and how to facilitate smoothly as the Contest Chair Kerry. I experienced what it was like as a Judge to be assigned to the Breakout Room seamlessly and prompted on how to return individually. We were briefed on the use of our Ballot forms and how to cast our votes to the Chief Judge and Counter via Private Chat message in Zoom, and our job was done.

This event was a complex arrangement of a variety of some physical locations for contestants, delivering their speeches whilst on view by computer cameras on their own laptops or one provided by the Contest Chair, and a Zoom presence for the Judges.

Note: Lessons Learned at this session were invaluable for me, just in time, for my next roles for other Online Contests. See below.

Saturday 21 March 2020 (evening)

Capture Agenda in Google SheetThe online Toastmasters Meeting called ‘Moving Meetings Online’ was scheduled for D73 and D69 attendees at 7 pm AEDT (UTC +11). We used Zoom of course, and attracted 160+ attendees across the districts. I had setup the Agenda to offer D73 Toastmasters an opportunity to deliver a speech or play a role in the online meeting, sharing it with them as a Google Sheet. (see above)

We learned again how important it is to prepare key role players for their task in an online meeting. Practice sessions were offered prior to the event and discussions took place offline in various social media tools such as Messenger, What’s App and Facebook.

This meeting was designed to showcase a typical Toastmaster meeting online and to provide educational information on how to run the meeting. With that event now satisfactorily sparking interest in the process of Moving Meetings Online, we have planned another for 28 March 7 pm AEDT (UTC +11). The Saturday night seems to appeal, given the current restrictions on attending functions with crowds or eating out in restaurants.

By participating in Online Meetings (the new normal) you will find new ways to grow as a speaker and a leader.

Sunday 22 March 2020 (morning)

humorous winners at kellysI had been asked to be the Zoom Master to help with D73 Ranges Division Contests online. They, like many other Divisions needed to act quickly to organise an alternative to running the contest in the usual way. I had not really known what to expect in a hybrid arrangement so I took on the challenge to increase my knowledge and expertise.

My previous online activities that week gave me the confidence to approach this complex task. At this contest the speakers were (mostly) in a physical location and the judges were online. Guests and visitors formed an online audience for the speakers who had prepared for the International, Humorous, Evaluation and Table Topics contests. Humorous winners are shown above with Division Director Kelly and Contest Chair Nola! Congratulations to all participants, officials and audience for a great event.

We learned how important it is for clarity of audio (minimised echo) for online speakers to have the best impact. The online Zoomers also learned how to remain silent in voice and in text chat during the speeches. The judges learned how to be nimble and the contestants learned how to be flexible.

Note: Ensure that your venue has a carpeted speaking area to provide better acoustics and place the microphone in an optimal position to capture best volume.

breakout room creation

breakout room creation from my view as Zoom Master

The first process of creating and moving judges into the breakout room in Zoom was a little tense, but then I understood how to make it seamless for the judges. Having a list of the Judges names and updates of any changes was crucial. During the second contest I relaxed and did a better job, taking some screen images along the way.

Note: You need to have the Host permission in the Zoom room to execute the task.

Sunday 22 March 2020 (evening)

The final event for me last week was the International Video Speech contest for members of the Firebirds Collective, 100% online club, where I was the Contest Chair.

colour coded speaker orderThis time the organising team decided to have the contestants briefed in a separate Zoom room altogether prior to the contest. I presided over that briefing and helped the five contestants get to know the protocols of competing online. (Each of these contestants had competed online before, so my job was easy.)

The selection of speaker order needed an innovative approach and I chose this one. The picture above displays the end result of speaker position choice. I created the slides using coloured rectangles in PowerPoint and used Screen Share in Zoom to display. I asked the speakers in alphabetical order to choose a colour and I added their name to that rectangle. The colours, revealing the speaking order number, formed separate slides that were then displayed. I recorded the results on the first slide and  the contestants and Toastmaster of the Day, could record the result. The TMoD asked for the speech titles and I added those in the last rectangle ready for copy and pasting.

Then we left the briefing Zoom and returned to the Firebirds Collective Zoom room with plenty of time before the Judges returned from their briefing. The contest was facilitated by the Toastmaster of the Day after the SAA had briefed the audience on the meeting protocols online.

This event attracted over 60 attendees who were most impressed with the smooth running of the contest, the high calibre of speakers and many stayed on for the ‘after party’ for a discussion.

Lessons Learned

Online Participant needs to have good internet connection, good audio and video functions on their device, and willing to participant with both.

Online Chief Judge needs to have prepared the judges prior to the meeting eg request the submission of eligibility forms via email.

Online Judge needs to have the Ballot sheet beside them and to be swift in responding to the request to cast votes in the private chat to the Chief Judge.

Zoom Master needs to have confidence and expertise in the use of the Zoom Breakout Rooms as well as keeping an eye on the Chat panel and prompt with private messages.

Online Contest Chair needs to have access to a separate Zoom room for the contestant briefing and how to use a Breakout room in Zoom for gathering contestants in the Evaluation and Table Topics contests.



If you are looking for ‘best practice’ in running online meetings for your club, try visiting one or more of the existing 100% online clubs.


If you are seeking support and advice for preparing to move online, apply to join the Online Alliance Facebook group.


If you are wanting to discuss the potentials, protocols and purpose of online training for Toastmasters, apply to join the Online Toastmaster Training Facebook group.

Zoom hosted Toastmasters Contests v1.0

If you need to run your contests online, this PDF document provides valuable advice. Thank you to Kit Barritt from D71, United Kingdom.

If you are planning on moving your meetings online (specifically to Zoom) for your Toastmasters Club this short ecourse will help.




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