While attendance dipped to about a dozen through the pandemic, Oak Bay Toastmasters met and improved on its mandate of providing a vehicle to practise public speaking while improving communication and leadership skills.
The club was among those who slid into the Zoom platform as in-person meetings came to a screeching halt. That set them up to introduce a whole new skill set, said Oona Jean, public relations for the club that started in 1882.
The shift was hard for some members, but gave new opportunities to practise public speaking in virtual environments. It also allowed a member who had returned to Mexico to continue to participate.
Longtime member Glyn Williams misses more than the social aspect of in-person meetings. He misses seeing a speaker’s slight shift in weight or small hand gestures.
It’s harder to read a speaker through one’s screen.
However, Williams is also excited that the online option offers an opportunity for hybrid meetings, where members can attend from afar.
The weekly 60-minute meetings are supportive, positive and fun, allowing everyone to enjoy the evening while developing individual speaking and leadership skills. Members change roles at every meeting, giving everyone a chance to experience all roles.
Jean joined for two reasons, to become more comfortable speaking in front of people, and get out of the house one night a week.
“One thing I wasn’t expecting is you work on speeches, so it helps you formulate your thoughts and writing as well. It helps you find your voice,” she said.
Similarly, Williams boils his decades-long involvement down to four valuable lessons – how to listen, evaluate, communicate and be more open minded. That open mindedness is both generational and multicultural. It helps that the club has a diverse and dynamic membership that includes people aged 18 to 85 in a variety of occupations.
While still working on in-person gatherings, Oak Bay Toastmasters meets every Tuesday.
Guests can visit free up to three times, to participate in the impromptu table topics session and offer a short comment at the end of the meeting. Visit oakbaytoastmasters.ca for details.