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Are You Really There?


Richard Peck smiling in suit jacket and red tie

Every day it seems our world grows more and more online. There is an endless barrage of online meeting after online meeting. Work? Online. School? Online. Doctor’s appointments? Online. And of course Toastmasters meetings … online. It’s so routine now that I’m scheduling Zoom calls with family members who are in the next room.

In speaking to Toastmasters around the world, I know many of you are experiencing the same thing, and are finding your club meeting a respite, a time to break free from your daily routine.

My question is, after a day of what seems to be one online meeting after another, when you join your club meeting or attend the meeting of another club somewhere in the world, are you really there? Are you engaged in the meeting or are distractions preventing you from being there?

There has never been a time when we have been required to stay so far apart yet needed to be so close together.

When looking at attendees on the screen, you can sometimes tell when they are texting, eating, speaking to someone in the room, or otherwise preoccupied. They are there but not really there! Maybe on occasion that person has been you; I can honestly say that it’s been me at times. Reflecting back, I wonder how it was perceived by club members and, importantly, how it was perceived by guests. Was I contributing to a positive member experience? Were you?

It’s easy to become distracted, but it’s important to be fully engaged, so I began employing several practices to help me focus; they may help you as well:

  • Lose the phone and tablet—I try to put my phone and tablet somewhere where I can’t reach or see them to avoid the temptation of texting someone or checking social media.
  • Close any unneeded windows on the computer—it is too tempting to check email notifications.
  • Take notes with a pen and paper—without all the distractions on my computer, I can focus more intently on the speaker.
  • Close the door—simply closing the door, or going into another room, helps block distractions from family and pets.

There are many other ways we can avoid or cut down on distractions while attending online meetings and I would be interested in hearing your strategies.

We all need to ensure we are fully engaged during meetings, that we do everything that we can to avoid distractions, and that we positively contribute to the member and guest experience. So let me ask again, “Are you really there?”

Want to feel more confident in online meetings? Download this infographic for extra tips, and share it with your club, District, and/or personal social media channels.


Richard E. Peck, DTM

International President



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