My Turn: Toastmasters in the Social Networks

How to refine what you do online.

By Joe McCleskey

As a group, Toastmasters members have embraced online social networks in a big way. Tune in to any of the most popular social networking sites – Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr – and a quick search on the word “Toastmasters” will turn up hundreds if not thousands of enthusiastic member contributions. Online profiles of Toastmasters members throughout the world, photos of current and historical Toastmasters meetings, videotaped club meetings and speech contests, vigorous debates on Toastmasters policy issues – all of this and more can be found with just a few mouse clicks and a broadband Internet connection.

If you haven’t done so, why not explore the many social networking opportunities available to Toastmasters online? But before you participate, please take a moment to consider the following advice: 

  •  Respect the privacy of your fellow Toastmasters. You don’t have the legal right to videotape, photograph or record the voice of anyone who hasn’t given you permission to do so, much less the right to post that image or recording on the Web for all to see. This means you should never bring out your camcorder or digital camera at a club meeting or speech contest without the permission of everyone who might appear in your video or digital photo (audience included). Remember, too, that Toastmasters is a place where people can overcome their fear of public speaking in a safe environment, and the thought of being recorded or photographed makes some members very uncomfortable.
  •  Represent the organization with dignity. Whenever you associate your online activities with the Toastmasters name, you become an ambassador to all current and future members worldwide who may happen to view those activities. Remember, Toastmasters is a global organization, and a photo, video or forum post that you may find humorous or harmless could very well be deeply offensive to someone in another part of the world. This doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself when you’re online; it means only that you should be as respectful and judicious as possible when representing Toastmasters to the online community.
  •  Pay attention to quality. If you do decide to take some photos or shoot some video to share online, get the best quality shots you can. For videos and digital photography, make sure there’s enough light in the scene and that the light falls on the front of your subject, not on your subject’s back. For audio and video recordings, be sure to use a good-quality microphone. Even if you don’t have the best equipment, a little care (and research in professional techniques) can go a long way toward improving your work.
  • Remember the rules of online behavior. When you’re participating in a heated debate in an online forum discussion, it’s easy to forget that people can’t hear you or see your hand gestures. This often leads to a breakdown in communication when forum participants don’t understand that something is said in jest, or when a comment can appear more mean and spiteful than intended. It’s always a good idea to be as kind and understanding as possible in any online discussion, even when you’re passionate about the topic, and to remember that there’s a living, breathing human being at the other end.

Joe McCleskey is Manager of Educational Development at Toastmasters World Headquarters and a former editor for Videomaker Magazine.