The Great Return
700 days… that’s a long time. From March 3rd 2020 through to February 1st 2022, Dublin South Toastmasters was forced online during the Covid-19 pandemic. We had tried to get back to normality in December, with an in-person meeting in early December. Unfortunately, Covid once again threw us another challenge with the Omicron variant, so Zoom once again came to the rescue.
But then, with a New Year dawned new hope, and by February 1st we were officially back in the Clayton Hotel! It was amazing to see everyone again, and despite only a dozen or so being present at first, that will only grow in the coming meetings. In the two meetings we have had since, we have had some challenges. For most of us, it has been two years since physically speaking in front of our fellow members. For other members, who have joined us since the start of the pandemic, it was their first time speaking to an audience instead of a camera.
We have known for a while that hybrid meetings were the way forward. After some planning in November, we set up a Hybrid Test team. With a combination of committee members and fellow members, speakers, laptops and microphones, the team found a way to make it work.
Our current hybrid setup has one laptop on the lectern, with speaker and microphone connected by cable or Bluetooth. Our club President uses a second laptop, which is pointed towards the audience, so online members can experience a ‘crowd’ setting. We connect this laptop to the screen in the room, so anyone online can be seen by the whole room. A third laptop can also be used by the timer, so online members can check themselves against the clock.
Opportunities of Hybrid Meetings
Despite the challenges that one can face with technology with hybrid meetings, as was discovered in our first meeting back, it can present a number of opportunities.
- It gives club members more experience of working with technology and the different challenges one can encounter. No-one likes the experience when technology fails in a Toastmasters meeting, but what if it was an important sales pitch? Keeping a cool head under pressure is one of the skills one can develop as a Toastmaster.
- Understanding how to effectively use technology can greatly enhance your competency as a speaker. Sometimes telling something to an audience is not enough, and you need a visual aid to back you up.
- Sometimes club member have to cancel a speech due to illness or being a close contact, sometimes hours beforehand! Having a hybrid setup means that if you get caught up at work or are a close Covid contact, you can still perform your role. Being flexible in an active and busy world can be a very important skill to develop.
Is there room for improvement, of course! More members need familiarise themselves with technology setups, as currently, only a few of us know the setup routine and requirements! When speaking, we learn to adapt and how give the best speech we can. Part of that success is in the build up. But then again, what is Toastmasters if not learning how to respond and adapt to real-life situations.
We look forward to welcoming you in person, and also online in the very near future.