Starting a new club and moving from face to face meetings in Toronto’s King Street office, to meeting virtually via home office laptops.
Pitch Please is a new Toastmasters Club in Area 54 that had to learn how to become a Toastmasters club at the same time as adjusting to the new normal of virtual environments. They’ve have had six meetings so far, five of which have been virtual.
The club was started from the desire to have a Toastmasters presence in Toronto for Accenture, a global professional services company with 482,000 people in more than 120 countries. This idea became a reality in February 2020 when they kicked off their first meeting at Accenture’s King Street office.
The first meeting was a huge success, in large part due to the support of more experienced Toastmasters Janet Heidker DTM (Distinguished Toastmaster), Andy Semotiuk, Julia Lawr, and Rita Burke who helped fulfill key meeting roles as well as coached the new Officers. Unpredictably, March 6 was the last face to face session, before the Accenture offices closed due to COVID 19.
The Toastmasters Pitch Please officers unanimously voted to continue with the club, rather than waiting until social distancing was no longer in effect.. They committed to offering a forum for members to learn, receive feedback and work on skills development. The paperwork was submitted and it was just a matter of time before the District 60 welcomed “Pitch Please” to their community on May 13th.
Establishing a new club presents its own challenges but doing so in an exclusively virtual environment meant Pitch Please Officers had to get creative in order to foster a community through remote networking. They set up key digital resources including an online forum to share comments, questions and pictures. They also try to simulate the in-person meetings so their speakers experience as close to a live presenting environment as possible – for example maintaining meeting formality, asking speakers to stand when presenting, and collecting feedback online to be shared real-time with all meeting speakers.
During their first virtual meeting on April 17th they experienced a number of teething issues (likely similar to other clubs) such as logging in challenges, muting noisy backgrounds, maintaining mute status while synchronising to unmute for clapping after a speech. Visual cues for Word of the Day (finger snapping at the camera, think “Addams Family”, when it’s mentioned), and coloured backgrounds from the timer, increase interactivity.