Do, before you have time to think if you are ready – these are the best words to describe the process of organizing the spring Division D conference – Toastmasters Fusion. The plan, however, was totally different.
The plan was quite easy. 2 days of conference. Speech and evaluation contests, workshops, lectures and after-parties. Around 10 members from Katowice, Division Director from Rzeszow with the leader living now in Warsaw started to work on this event last autumn of 2019. Most of the organizational work was done online. Nowadays – not a problem. The place was reserved, speakers prepared, and club reservations were done.
And suddenly… THE CRASH!
COVID-19 stopped everything. Two weeks before the event, it was obvious that the conference could not happen as it was planned. There were three options: 1. Cancel it, 2. Change the date or 3. Do it ONLINE. The last idea didn’t resonate well within the team, but the leader decided – we’re doing it!
The conference “Toastmasters Fusion” took place on 21-22 of March 2020 – the first fully online Toastmasters conference in Europe, probably in the Toastmasters world! 🙂 It was organized by 5 people: Daria Stasiak (main organizer), Monika Szlachta (Division D Director) and the Action-Team: Marta Stachurska, Katarzyna Pruska and Szymon Pociecha. In just one week they turned everything inside out and prepared it online, everything from scratch!
There were 18 speakers delivering their workshops from Poland, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Hungary and Great Britain. All of them decided to take these lemons given us by life and to make some lemonade from them. And it wasn’t at all bad 🙂
More than 100 participants from all over Poland and even from other District 108 countries. Lots of them were happy that they could participate in the event because in real life they probably wouldn’t be able to go. Workshops about public speaking, on leadership & management skills, on how to handle the online side of public speaking. Two days full of knowledge and sharing new experiences. And the amazing online after party! 🙂
DARIA STASIAK, Speaking Elephants Club, Division D, District 108.
360⁰ DEGREE CONFERENCE FEEDBACK
“How do I look at the conference?
You have to think optimistically, share positive energy with each other in the team! Even when the situation is uncertainty and volatility! Our conference had so many unknowns! Will it be despite changing the dates of another conference (EFEKT in Bialystok), or will it be held despite some members’ doubts in the team? Will it finally take place despite the pandemic? Even the coronavirus did not stop us from achieving our goal! But it’s important to support, ask, share ideas and strive to finish consistently! That’s what I learned during the preparations for this conference”.
Katarzyna Pruska, PR Manager of conference.
“As a leader sometimes you have to pull, sometimes you have to push, sometimes – to leave. I used all these tools during the preparation for this conference )) For me the most important was “TO BE + TO SUPPORT”, to share my energy and provide the feeling that it is possible, we only needed to act! The team was great, very engaged and full of trust. And we wanted to ensure our participants’ best quality together, so we were so united”!
Monika Szlachta, Division D Director, supervisor
“I want to take a moment and say “thank you” to all of the people who supported me, joined the live webinar to see me and took the time to write to me after my video presentation.
These past few weeks I’ve been getting out of my comfort zone quite a lot and done some things I don’t normally do. For the first time I conducted a 45 min online workshop on the habits that make great leaders, I’ve attended online Toastmasters meetings to improve, even more my public/online speaking skills.
I am extremely excited and overwhelmed about it all, I am so grateful to all of these opportunities and to the future opportunities that have yet to come. Thanks to Daria, we create and Momentum for giving me the stage to realize my mission in life, which is to serve, help and inspire people to love and accept themselves a little bit more every day”.
Limor Jasiński, Keynote Speaker.
“I have quite a few events on my account. Smaller, larger, paid, free… The Toastmaster conference was to be just one of them. Even the fact that I was to manage the entire team 100% remotely was not something new, because I did it both while working at Girlboss and working at SF BCC.
And yet fate decided it couldn’t be that simple! ))
The preparations lasted several months. Lots of people were involved more or less. When a few weeks ago in one of our weekly conversations there was a question: what if Coronavirus reaches us by then? There was silence. I DO NOT KNOW. The race against time has started. The race in which we were in a weak position in advance.
One week to the conference. There is no option, we will not make it. Cancel? Postpone? To when?
The “moving online” solution has appeared in my head since the risk appeared on the horizon. There were many arguments against. Definitely more than for. Nobody has done that before. It is not known if people will be willing. How to make it all in a week?!
I don’t think I studied entrepreneurship so that I would take THE RISK.
This week of online transfers taught me more than the previous months of preparing for a stationary conference.
You are never ready enough and perfectly prepared. By doing, maybe not quite well, maybe with slips and blows, but by DOING, you can learn a lot more than by preparing this “perfect” thing.
Hige thanks to everyone who contributed to this project both offline and online. I especially thank those who survived to the end when, despite the majority, I stood up: Marta, who always stays on my side, Katarzyna, who is not lurking but just straight from the bridge, says: what can I do? and Szymon, who, despite the fact that we did not always agree, survived to the very end. You are GREAT!!!
Thanks to those who gave us support and good words even though they did not have to (especially Katarzyna!).
Thank you, all the wonderful speakers, both those who have not had the opportunity to perform, and those who have taken the online challenge in many cases for the first time in their lives!
Special thanks go to Monika, who gave me a great example of leadership, which, contrary to appearances, is not as common in non-profit organizations as it seems.
The first Toastmaster online conference in Poland (and apparently not only here) in history!
What’s next? This is the question! ))”
Daria Stasiak, Main Organizer.
“Congratulations to the organizing team for the great achievement! You were undeniably in a very tough spot after travel restrictions started hitting right before the event. I had a couple of meetings with you and witnessed how quickly you were able to change the course and find a workable solution. That was a prime example of leadership and can-do-attitude.
I enjoyed very much how you took care of us presenters and made sure that we were confident with operating Zoom. It was a lot of fun to practise using it together with the other presenters. It increased our feeling of togetherness and gave us an opportunity to cheer and support each other.
SPECIAL thanks to Monika and Daria for this opportunity to give a presentation at your Conference. It was my first long speech at an online event and I am grateful for this experience. With your fluent hosting it was easy to enter the virtual stage and interact with the audience.
Good luck with your future quests! You really know how to pull this off )) “
Heikki Siltanen, Administration Manager, District 108.
“I would like to congratulate Monika for stepping up to the challenge of moving her Division Conference online. I saw as early as mid-March that she was embracing the challenge of online events and also invited me to take part in her event then and present my speechwriting workshop.
This conference was the first (but already not last!) time I presented this workshop online. I was slightly apprehensive at first, wondering if I could incorporate the same levels of interactivity as I do in-person. To my surprise, the overall experience felt no different than it did in-person and I learnt some very valuable lessons in the process.
Kudos to Monika for writing Toastmasters history in Europe and thank you for the opportunity”!
Florian Bay, District 91 Director, Workshop Presenter.