One meeting: two continents

From Daniel Broadhead, President Berkeley Square Speakers

Why not have public speaking in two continents at once? Creating video-linked Toastmasters’ meetings with other clubs in other countries and even on different continents to your own is a stunning experience and eminently possible for you to achieve. We invite you to be inspired to make such a meeting and, in the words below, be enabled to make it happen!

Our vision for this year at Berkeley Square Speakers is to create breakthroughs for our members in our personal and professional lives. A key way we inspire these personal breakthroughs is by achieving breakthroughs as a club. To this objective, and inspired by a letter in May 2014 Toastmasters Magazine by Bruce Yang DTM, Bruce talks of a more connected global toastmasters community, and using teleconferencing to achieve this. On 3 November 2014 in the spirit of “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation” Berkeley Square Speakers, in Mayfair, London, held our inaugural intercontinental toastmasters meeting with Swakupmund Toastmasters in Namibia, by live video link.

2014 11 03 BSS and Swakupmund Toastmaste

At the meeting we enjoyed a powerful icebreaker from from Mari-Claire Rencs from Swakupmund Toastmasters on the obstacles she has overcome to become a chartered accountant and we received an eye opening CC9 speech of discovery from Saskia Kort of Berkeley Square Speakers on the Gorilla that exist across Africa that Saskia is going to visit on a forthcoming trip to the continent. Our Table Topics Master Kate Rowland, in London, ran an inspired topics session across the two clubs, picking out toastmasters in London and via the screen in Swakumpmund.

2014 11 03 Edna and DanielEdna Botha, Swakupmund Toastmasters’ VPE Area 4 Governor, District 74 (Southern Africa) said of the session, “The combined cyberspace, across culture and time barrier, Toastmaster club meeting of 3 November had huge impact on the Swakopmund Toastmasters. This is a club on the coast of Namibia surrounded by desert with a small population of just over 44 000 people. The closest Toastmasters club to them is almost 400km away in Windhoek the capital city. Our club was greatly enriched by this experience transferred by Berkeley Square Speakers. We not only observed a meaningful speech evaluation, interesting speech, dynamic Table Topics but we also encountered our first ever Table Topic evaluations. The General Evaluator’s style was most refreshing and very informative while the BSS club’s Toastmaster of the evening was very secure in handling this “cyber-spaced” meeting with glee. This innovative initiative of the BSS committee, was a great example of true leadership, leading not only their club but inspiring other clubs to embrace the future and to grow yourself while you impart success to others. I always say: “Blessed are the flexible for their resilience will shoot them forward”. Watch the meeting video here:

Sebastian Boo, the Berkeley Square Speakers Toastmaster for the evening said “Being TM for our first virtual meeting with the Swakpmund TM club was a fantastic experience which I had been looking forwards to with great anticipation. During the meeting I had to concentrate on the agenda even more than usual to ensure things ran smoothly. With the slight time lag and the occasional blip in the quality of the sound and visual streaming it was critical to pause, not speak too fast and enunciate well-all things that I should be doing anyway as a toastmaster! Edna Botha, my counterpart TM in Swakpomund who was so skilled, eloquent and calm that it did much to make me feel at ease and comfortable in my role as the BSS TM in London. Personally it was very rewarding and also an emotionally touching experience. It made me realise three things. Firstly technology can really expand our possibilities for meeting and connecting with others by rendering geography and physical distance almost irrelevant. Secondly, and this was based on the content of the speeches at the meeting, people all over the world have many of the same hopes, fears, dreams, annoyances and desires. Thirdly, if I do go to Namibia, I know I have friends there ! As I club, the experience made us realise that we do belong to a wonderful community of toastmasters all over the globe. It has also emboldened us to think about what more we can do to benefit from being part of Toastmasters to learn, contribute and grow both as a club and as individuals”

A key element of organising a meeting with a club thousands of miles away from your own is to ensure that the clubs you target are either on the same point of longitude, or around 12 hours ahead on latitude to allow you to run your meeting as close to the normal start time as possible. It is for the VPPR to put together the shortlist and send the initial emails and establish initial contact. Then the Presidents can then agree the agenda format and the VPE’s can populate the agenda with members. Each club will require a technology minded member to take care of the video link-up. Each club will also want to appoint an experienced toastmaster for the meeting itself.

It is important to be willing to compromise on the agenda format. This has to be done in a way that honours the tradition of each club but that also allows for a smooth flowing and enjoyable meeting. I would also advise that you write out, and share, a more detailed agenda that you might otherwise do. On the day of the meeting, you need to ensure that the camera is placed so that it can capture not only the speakers, but also as much of the audience as possible so that each room can get a good sense of each other and so that the table topics master can pick speakers from the other country on sight!! I would also advise doing a dry run through on the technology side to ensure smooth running on the night ,(or morning!) of the meeting.

I have found through this process that there is a huge engine in the hearts of toastmasters to drive and create a positive impact for themselves and their communities. Making connection with Edna and the team at Swakupmund is an enriching experience. I like to think Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters International would be proud.

Last Updated on 7th September 2020 by