While people around the world were practicing social distancing, Toastmasters from Pakistan decided to practice distant socializing. Shortly after Toastmasters International allowed all clubs to conduct online meetings, many of the clubs in District 122TC in Pakistan were quick to adopt to the online way of meeting.
As club officers learned to cope with conducting online meetings, three clubs—Professional Toastmasters @ LUMS, CA Toastmasters Club Lahore, and Ravi Toastmasters Club—decided to host a District-wide joint online Toastmasters meeting to learn from experience. We soon realized that online meetings allowed us to expand beyond our clubs and District; we have a global reach. As a result, we invited members from across the world to our online meeting.
We used the Official Toastmasters International Members Group on Facebook as a tool to reach out to our global audience. Many members from around the world were looking for opportunities for an online experience or had relevant queries, so we invited them to attend our online meeting on Zoom. For the first time we had to mention the time zone when inviting someone to attend the meeting!
We had speakers from four different clubs in three cities and their speeches were evaluated by evaluators from yet another four clubs in three different cities. Our meeting on Zoom reached capacity and the live stream was viewed by more than 250 people on Facebook. We had people joining us from across Pakistan as well as India, Malaysia, Kuwait, Bahrain, United States, and Saudi Arabia.
When we shared the news of our successful online meeting on the Toastmasters social media groups, we had more than two hundred responses and a number of queries. This amazing first online experience gave other clubs in the District the confidence and drive to hold online meetings and open their doors to an international audience. As a result, many clubs of District 122TC adopted online meetings and still welcome Toastmasters and guests from within Pakistan and abroad to attend meetings.
If you’re interested in attending a meeting in Pakistan or any other country, visit Find A Club. There are also many groups on social media dedicated to connecting members to online meetings. I am a member of a similar group in which members from around the world share their club meeting invites and welcome members to join remotely. The Region 11 Facebook group is also helpful in sharing meeting invites or seeking members who are interested in attending online meeting outside their geographical location. If you wish to invite a global audience to your meeting, be sure to mention the time zone. When I am inviting a specific person to my meeting, I always look up their location and indicate the meeting time in their time zone.
Usually when Toastmasters from outside Pakistan attend our meetings, members befriend them and invite them to attend future meetings as well. Some of the guests take on a role in an upcoming meeting. Guests find the experience very insightful as it allows them to identify the similarities as well as appreciate the uniqueness of the Toastmasters experience in Pakistan. They also get to experience our culture and hospitality.
Having a global audience brings amazing cultural diversity to the meetings, which is reflected in the speech topics. One of my clubs had a meeting theme of a virtual tour of the historical city the club is situated in. The Toastmaster of the Day became a tour guide and showed participants different parts of the city to share historical information and pictures, and to meet the next person with a meeting role or the speaker. One of my clubs is a closed corporate club. Although we don’t usually invite Toastmasters from other clubs, now we do invite members of our company to attend our online meeting. They love to finally see the faces of their colleagues they are missing due to the work-from-home arrangement.
If you haven’t yet attended an online meeting, go ahead—I promise you will not regret it. Experiment with new mediums and you will grow stronger as a club and as a member. Your online meeting experience will be unique. Even if you believe that online meetings will not be able to replace your regular in-person meetings, this is a great time to remain connected until the time arrives for our new “normal” way of living. We are all going through what is possibly the most challenging phase of our lives, so let’s make sure no one gets left behind.
Zunair Zafar, DTM is a professionally qualified accountant and serves as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a leading private university in Lahore, Pakistan. A Toastmaster for over six years, he is a member of three clubs and currently serves as District Director of District 122TC.