Online Toastmastering: Challenges & Opportunities | Interview with Gabriela Roivainen

Why come to an Online Toastmasters meeting? Is it possible to practice and polish  our public speaking skills efficiently this new way? How will this period of self-isolation impact our careers, families, life?  

We truly face many challenges in these turbulent COVID times. However where there is a challenge – there is also an opportunity. 

District 108 PRM Valeria spoke with our District Director Gabriela Roivainen for motivation and advice that we all need these days. Great practices, hidden advantages of online Toastmastering and online networking, and how to keep our chins up no matter what, – these were the main topics of our talk.

Q1. Gabriela, what are your expectations for this situation. How long do you think the self isolation / quarantine period will last? How our usual life may change when it’s finally over?

I have no expectations. We may have a pointy curve of Corona infection, or a very long flattened one. We may have one peak or several. A vaccine may be developed, or the virus may mutate faster than the vaccine can be created. There are so many unknowns at this moment, that I prefer to have no expectations and focus on living fully in the present.

Regarding the changes, I believe that we world will become more scattered, people will focus more on their close ones, we’ll work more online and meet face-to-face less.

Q2. The whole world including Toastmasters is moving online. Many people are feeling insecure and stressed out in this new online environment. How do you think these changes can be turned into the advantages? What’s good in ‘online Toastmastering’?

We are very lucky that we can meet online, imagine this pandemic happening 40 years ago when we could communicate only by phone, fax or telegraph. I believe that we should take full advantage of this option.

`Online Toastmastering´ brings the feeling of normality, brings the community in our homes and fulfill the socialization need that we, humans, have. Toastmasters meetings keep us connected to our own clubs but also to the world. We can hear a story and have first hand information on what is happening in Australia, Canada or India, since the number of online guests and the locations from where these guests are connecting is growing from one week to another.

Q3. One of the main and most painful issues for us is job problem. Businesses are struggling and people are losing their jobs. Do you think Toastmasters can help people to find a solution in this situation? Can you share any examples you’ve heard of?

Toastmasters should be one of the first choices for people, if they lose their job.  The club community makes you feel engaged and needed, there you can practice your job application or job interview and receive feedback on structure, time management and efficiency of sending the message. In Toastmasters clubs you can network and find information about new openings. You can ask for recommendation regarding your work as a Toastmaster and many more. Personally, I provided several recommendations for Toastmasters and I had received calls from their employers, with questions about team work, integrity, perseverance in reaching their goals and so on. I believe these recommendations help them a bit in landing on their dream job.

Q4. In our District 108 we have a number of corporate clubs many of which are at the crossroads of either keep holding meetings or cancelling membership. Any advice for the officers and members of these clubs? Why keep the ball rolling?

Especially for corporate clubs, having meetings where members can talk about other subjects but work, are very important for keeping the spirit high. In addition, opening the club for members outside the corporation, or other branches of the same corporation is very useful now. There is no question anymore if the economic changes will come, but when it will happen. The more networking we do, the more people we know, the better chances we have to overcome this pandemic with minimum damages.

Q5. Could you share some tips on how to stay positive and keep our chins up?

My tips are to stick to “normal routine” although we stay home, it is important to dress up, stay in contact, even if you don’t feel like it, go to meetings, try to limit following bad news and exercise – there are online fitness courses everywhere.

This too will pass and we’ll see each other, wiser, on the other side…

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