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March 2024
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Virtual Preparation Pays Off

Thanks to Toastmasters, my career as a professional speaker and corporate trainer will survive.

By Cassandra R Lee, DTM

Cassandra Lee smiling in blue jacket and black shirt

Gone in 24 hours.

In one day, I saw it all disappear. My income for March became a casualty of COVID-19. Hotels cancelled the use of their meeting rooms. Airlines suspended flights. Participants cancelled their seminar registrations. These factors influenced my clients—seminar promotion companies—to cancel all scheduled face-to-face in-person training seminars.

In just 24 hours, a month, which had 15 days of earning potential, was wiped out to zero! As a self-employed professional speaker and corporate trainer this was alarming. COVID-19 altered my world faster than anything I had ever experienced.

I spent the day in emergency-mode determining what I had and what I needed to get me through the pandemic.

What a Difference a Day Makes

The next day presented an unexpected opportunity. An opportunity to which I credit Toastmasters. I received a phone call from one of my clients who told me their company was in the process of converting many of their live seminars into online training; this included topics I taught in person. My client asked if I would be interested in teaching the online version of the classes. My response was “Absolutely!”

My contact said, “I know you haven’t taught online classes for us before. Do you think you would be comfortable with that training format?” Again, I said, “Absolutely!”

I shared with my contact that although I had not taught online classes for them, I did have experience using various platforms to teach online classes thanks to my involvement in Toastmasters.

Now, whenever I teach online classes for my clients, I receive compliments on my teaching skills and technical abilities.

Impressed with my response, he then gave me the logistics for my virtual training classes that I would facilitate the next week.

After the call ended, I took a moment to reflect. I thought about how the day before everything seemed so bleak. My livelihood had been halted because I could not conduct face-to-face, in-person training sessions. Then, in a matter of hours, I received an opportunity to facilitate training sessions in a way I had practiced with Toastmasters—online.

Toastmasters—My Practice Ground

Thanks to my home club, the Wrightwood-Ashburn Overcomers (WAO) Toastmasters, I had started teaching myself how to do online classes back in 2012. I learned how to use an online teaching platform to create a series of videos to help fellow members understand meeting functionary roles, club officer roles, the Toastmaster’s Promise, and other topics relevant to the successful management of our club.

Then, in 2016, I conducted the “WAO Wednesday Virtual Webinar Series.” It gave me a chance to conduct special educational workshops during the month of January.

Cassandra lee in red shirt and hat standing next to Toastmasters banner

As I moved into District leadership, I continued to hone my online teaching skills with District 30 Toastmasters when I participated in the 2014-2015 “D30 Virtual Teleseminar Series,” facilitated by Iqbal Atcha, DTM. He and I continued online training when we did a series of “Quick Tip Videos for Recruitment and Retention” in 2015-2016 when I was the District 30 Club Retention Chair. I continued online classes via my “PQD/VPE Teleseminar Series” in 2016-2017 when I was the District 30 Program Quality Director. Now, I facilitate the “Senior Advisor Webinar Series” for District 103 Toastmasters.

These experiences allowed me to learn how to navigate teleconference platforms such as and webinar platforms such as Skype, Zoom, and WebEx.

More importantly, these self-taught virtual training opportunities were a blessing in disguise! They gave me a chance to gain technical training, expand my speaking skills, improve my facilitation skills, and boost my self-confidence to teach online.

Now, whenever I teach online classes for my clients, I receive compliments on my teaching skills and technical abilities. My evaluation scores are rated high which has put me among the top trainers to facilitate their online classes.

I know Toastmasters is to thank for my online teaching success. I am so glad I have always used my Toastmasters involvement as a practice ground for transferrable skills and experiences. I encourage others to do the same.

Thanks to Toastmasters, my self-employed career as a professional speaker and corporate trainer will survive COVID-19 after all.

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