Updates & Posts

Preparing for the small screen

By Helena Boden-Brewer

Fellow Toastmasters this is our new reality. As we adjust to this massive change to our world, for the majority that are staying at home, pause to consider those that are working to support us, from the wider community. For some this may be family and friends that work in the health service, the supermarkets and the delivery drivers. Follow the advice as we receive it. The changes are daily, and we all have to readjust again.

For our Toastmasters community, the switch to holding online club meetings, hosting events and contests, the response has been phenomenal. In such a short space of time, Zoom meetings are being held and the sense of our community is shining through. The club buddies of phoning members of within your club and checking in with members. It’s a small thing, that really matters. For those that are self-isolating or live alone, being able to join in, either online or via the dial in details, hearing familiar voices, sharing stories, are providing support in these challenging times. 

A new role of Zoom Master has sprung up. I’d like to thank all those members that have joined the Zoom Masters What’s App group and are sharing information and creating guidance, that we can all benefit from.

With these extraordinary times, comes changes to our personal lives, for some, this is about the job security and certainty. The shift to moving job interviews online is something new to many. From the posts I put on Facebook and What’s App last week, there are volunteers stepping forward, offering to help those seeking support for online interviews. Contact me if you require support in this area. 

Last year for Toastmasters I wrote a series of articles about preparing for the small screen. There are similar tips if you are preparing to conduct a webinar, host a virtual meeting or be interviewed online.

Here are ten tips for you to consider.

1 – Are you sitting comfortably?

If you are delivering a webinar you will be sitting in the same chair for at least an hour. Ensuring you are comfortable, with good back support will help. Then there’s the position of your laptop or camera in relation to where you are sitting, which parts of you can be seen. Movement is tricky, if you lean forward towards your camera, the audience will receive unexpected close up.  Think about your habits, do you rock in your chair, place your hand under your chin, rub your ear or flick your hair? All small things, but easy to become distracting for your audience watching you.

2 – Who are you?

If someone has booked to attend your webinar, they may have done so for several reasons, such as you’re an industry expert, your webinar has been recommended, or they liked the subject matter of your webinar. Providing a brief induction about you and the purpose of the webinar helps settle the attendees. If you have over 20 attending, it may not be possible to allow time for them to introduce each other. However, if it a business meeting, a small conference or an interview, it is definitely worth knowing who else is there. Allow time for introductions as simple as name, position and company. This will assist you in knowing if all key stakeholders have joined, and if not, have they sent a representative instead.

3 – Can you hear me?

This is the biggest issue when delivering online training sessions. You need to check in with your online audience that they can actually hear you. The blips and crackles on the sound mean that you are battling with software and putting it this right, rather than delivering your webinar. Joining virtual meetings there is sometimes odd background noises which the attendees are unaware of from their location which is very loud. If you can control muting attendees, do. If not, then encourage them to mute themselves whilst listening. There may be times that despite all the checks that the signal just isn’t good enough. Be prepared to redeliver key points when you recap.

4 – What does that mean?

There are many turns of phrase that are quirky and very British. One recently which had a TV audience thinking about its meaning, ‘put jam on your shoes and invite your trousers down for tea.’ Whilst this may be an obscure expression to some, others will know exactly what is meant by it. When you add turns of phases or language which are not readily in everyday use, consider how your attendees will interpret them. A webinar on an industry subject with a global reach delivered in English, all the whizz bang technical jargon will be fully understood. It will be something else, that will trip you up. Consider the questions and time it will take for you to explain why you would put jam on your shoes and invite your trousers down for tea. 

5 – It’s behind you!

Whilst you are busy focussing on the camera, have you checked what’s behind you? Whenever possible a clean background is the simplest. If you work in an office that has glass screens, walls and doors, it can be distracting for your audience to have people walking behind you when you are delivering your presentation or pitch. If it’s a virtual interview, definitely clear up the clutter and check what photos and artwork is on the wall. You need to ensure ample lighting for your face, particularly if your background is dark. Does any of the lighting cast shadows on the wall behind you? If it does, change this.

6 – Testing, testing, one, two, three!

It is worth conducting a run through of any presentation you give. Treat online the same way and practice with a test session. If you are handling technical aspects, it’ll give you one less concern when you are delivering. For webinars, definitely consider recording and watching the test session. You can use this to make any necessary changes. Also, if you have technical problems on the day, you can always use this version to send out the attendees of your webinar later. If you are working with a software package, check out if they have on-line tutorials that you can watch, the tips may prove very handy, should the technical gremlins decide to come out to play.

7 – Lookin’ good!

Just like meeting people face to face, you have to look the part, your appearance matters. Being well groomed will help you and your confidence, particularly in an interview situation. It’s not just the clothes, your hair, beard etc…. neat, tidy and professional. In the world of the big and bigger screens, makeup is the norm for a reason, for presenters and actors. Consider how to take the shine from your forehead, taking out redness from the face or conceal dark circles under the eyes. The camera picks up all those blemishes and to you, they will seem to be magnified and you will focus in on them. Be confident and use makeup if you need to.

8 – Any questions?

Be prepared to answer questions. Something to ponder is using systems which provide you with options, for example attendees message rather than interact vocally. How will you manage this? You may want to consider having support to deal with the online questions as they arise. They are likely to follow themes based on what you have said. You can have some standard responses ready which you can add into your webinar as you go along. If you are managing the live stream and the questions by yourself, pause after key points check in with the audience that they are following you. This is a good time to ask for questions, which you can then address before you move on. As you presenter you control this and when you are ready, confidentially state that you will take any further questions about the queries after the webinar.  

9 – Reading between the lines.

Try to avoid reading from notes. You will look down and your audience will have a great shot of the top of your head. If the notes are on screen, the movement of your eyes will look odd. All the warmth you will have generated will be lost as you are more likely to come across as stern and robotic. Know your presentation inside out, so that you appear natural. Having prompt cards with key words on that you can glance at helps with when delivering presentations. How about using post-it notes on the side of your screen? You can see them, but the audience can’t. 

10 – And action! 

Start on the scheduled time. Greet your audience, colleagues or potential employer with a smile. All the skills that you have developed presenting in person apply here too. You have to engage your audience to ensure they receive your message. A mic or headset maybe required, if you are waving your hands about, you may knock this. Endeavour to keep your hands out of shot, if need be, sit on them. Be aware of your nonverbal communications, your eye contact, body language and facial gestures, all come into play. Allow the best of your personality shine through.

Remember to keep a steady pace of speaking, take pauses at transition points and breath. Endeavour to engage with your audience by checking in with them and addressing their questions. Keep to the time stated. 

See you on the small screen soon.

Dear members,

By Arnaud Sartre

On my monthly message, I would normally share the many achievements of our members and how they relate to our goals, but today is different.

Many of you are directly impacted by the current coronavirus outbreak, I understand the challenge. Many of you are helping the country fight the ongoing health crisis, I thank you. Many of you face life changing personal and professional circumstances, I stand by you.

Our Toastmasters Clubs have always provided a safe environment to develop communication and leadership skills. They continue today. For the past couple weeks, I have witnessed tremendous resilience across our District and I want to thank you.

I thank you for moving our Club meetings online, I thank you for designing online speaking contests at close to no notice and provide a fantastic experience for all our members, I thank you for stepping up and leading your communities in time of crisis.

Over the comings weeks, I urge you to look after yourselves and your loved ones. Reach out to your members and friends and invite them your next Club meeting, for some this will be the only contact they may have that day. We can and we will make a difference in our communities.

Despite these challenges, we continue to run our scheduled Division contests (now in an online format), and I encourage you to attend the next events – check our District calendar for more details. Looking ahead to early May, we will also hold a 2-day online District conference, get your ticket on our conference website!

I look forward to e-meeting many more of you over the coming weeks and months,

Stay safe,


Stepping up to opportunities

By Florian Bay

Who would have expected a month ago that Toastmasters would move online as entire cities and countries are locked down, I certainly didn’t!

Challenging times like the ones we are in can provide many opportunities but also require creativity and thinking outside of the box. I am genuinely impressed at the speed at which nearly all clubs in District 91 moved their meetings online. To all of you that spearheaded this gargantuan effort, THANK YOU! I am so proud of you for stepping up to meet a challenge that nobody could have predicted even a few weeks ago.

Coincidentally, stepping up to opportunities is my main message to you all in my video message. Back when it was filmed, I never expected that online meetings and dealing with unknown unknowns would be one of the opportunities that we could step up to.

What impressed me the most in the past few weeks is how quickly challenges like timekeeping during a virtual meeting and how-to set-up online contests were sorted out. Every challenge provides new opportunities and every problem has solutions. I know that many of you are curious to find out ways to retain our membership in the current times and here are some ideas for you to consider:

  • Liaise with your venue to see if they’ll refund your room hire costs.
  • Reduce your membership fees slightly if your club won’t be paying room hire costs.
  • Have open conversations with your members and get to know their circumstances.
  • Highlight the new opportunities that online meetings bring.
  • If people are unconvinced by switching online, ask them to attend meetings to see for themselves.

So far being District Director during a pandemic has been an interesting experience for me and one that’s teaching me a lot of things. All of my Toastmasters journey in leadership taught me a lot of things. As the end of the Toastmasters year draw near, start to plan for your next moves and consider stepping up to leadership. Fancy learning how to sell? Then become a VP of Membership! Want to have a crack at leading a team and a group? Become a club President! Want to deliver training and coordinate activities on a larger scale? Consider becoming Area Director!

We’re well on our way

Over the past months, we have seen a steady growth in the number of educational awards being submitted, and I am thrilled that we have now over 1,000 educational awards this Toastmasters year across our District! This is a tremendous achievement and shows many of you are progressing with your goals.  Congratulations!

More than 2/3 of educational awards have been awarded under the Pathways programme, which shows more and more of you are engaging with our education programme. To put it into perspective, this is over 15% more awards than this time last year! Congratulations again!

Don’t forget to check with your VPE that you progress is fully accounted for, and all your achievements recorded in Basecamp are formally recognised. Let’s aim high and why not reach that coveted 1 educational award per member this year?

For anyone still completing educational awards under the Traditional programme, I would like to remind you that all traditional awards must be submitted by 30th June 2020 in order to be recognised by World Headquarters.

Many Clubs have already started the next round of Contest, check out the latest rulebook for any question, and I look forward to seeing you on stage in London at our annual conference on 1-3 May!

Expand your speaking opportunities

Do you want to speak beyond your club, do you want to deliver a speech to a new audience. Then why not join in the mock conferences at London Metropolitan University (Holloway Road campus).

The purpose of the mock conference is to create an opportunity for students to practice simultaneous interpreting in almost real scenario.

They will cover different topics and and are looking for speakers who are interested in delivering approx. 10 minutes presentations.

They have 4 mock conferences on Mondays and run two sessions each time:

  1. From 12.00-14.00 with interventions in English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Japanese
  2. From 15.00 = 17.00 with interventions in English, Italian, Chinese and Polish

General topics are:

  1. Monday 24th February 2020 – Looking to the future: the UK’s relationship in Europe – bilateral relationships with European countries now and beyond Brexit
  2. Monday 9th March 2020  – Mock conference of the European Works Council meeting for a company operating in the automotive industry
  3. Monday 23rd March 2020 – The development and impact of ITC (Information and Communications Technology) and social media on our daily business and personal lives.
  4. Monday 20th April 2020 – Let’s talk business, changing the way we shop, new strategies to develop ecommerce, reinventing the high street shopping experience

If you are available and willing to contribute on any of the dates, please contact Ewa Jasinska-Davidson info@ewajasinska.com.