These members from around the world were nominated for their outstanding contributions in helping others adapt and excel in a virtual environment. This is part of a recurring series.
Rising Leader Embraces Challenge
When COVID-19 broke out in Wuhan, China, back in January, Toastmasters District leaders made the decision to guide all clubs to meet online in response to the quarantine order in China. At that time, no one had experience meeting online and they didn’t know where to start. Julia Gu, who was Vice President Education of Shanghai Xujiahui Toastmasters Club in Shanghai, quickly sprang to action. The same day as the District announcement, she took the initiative to organize a test of available virtual meeting platforms. She originally compiled a team of four members, but more than 180 members from four Districts in China reached out with interest in helping. Julia led this group in testing six platforms, collected feedback, and organized the first demonstration meeting via Zoom.
Once the platform was selected, Julia began brainstorming how to make online meetings an attractive learning experience. She realized she had the opportunity to bring in speakers and leaders from around the world, and coordinated seven meetings with unique speakers.
Throughout the pandemic, Julia encouraged new members to try new roles, trained them in coordinating online meetings, and supported them to ensure they had a great Toastmasters experience. She also engaged the senior members by encouraging them to coordinate with guest speakers. These members were happy that they could connect with renowned speakers and leaders, while improving their own communication skills.
Julia’s vision and leadership during the height of the pandemic impressed her club members, and she was elected as 2020-2021 Club President.
Nominated by Hongjin Du, Shanghai Xujiahui Toastmasters Club of Shanghai, China.
Leader in Adversity
Known as the man with the solution, Venkatesh Kulandaivelu, District 116’s Public Relations Manager, worked to empower club leaders to conduct Zoom meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. He ensured that all the members were effectively coached and trained to conduct online meetings with ease. This led to conducting the first online Area Speech Contest and the Division contests. Venkatesh and his team were available during all the contests and enabled members to have an excellent online meeting experience. They encouraged the organizers and contestants, who then gained confidence in their abilities, and felt fully prepared for District 116’s Annual Conference.
The annual conference was a three-day event hosted by Venkatesh and his team. The online event went off with no technical glitches, mishaps, or interruptions! Venkatesh was instrumental in creating an online culture across District 116. He guided everyone including club officers and Division and District leaders. Thank you Venkatesh for selflessly leading the way!
Nominated by Manzoor Moideen, DTM, Doha Toastmasters Club of Doha, Qatar.
Ohio, United States
Beatriz Ibarra is a patient teacher, coach, and technology guru who gives her time to help club members master Zoom. She has spent countless hours working with members to answer questions and solve technical issues. She practices with speakers before meetings so that they can be comfortable and show their best selves.
She has a knack for working with people who have very different skill levels. Beatriz assisted members with technology challenges as diverse as the club’s membership. Members were using old computers, phones, and iPads and some had never experienced online meetings. But Beatriz stepped up to train everyone and researched Zoom technology to find answers to virtual background challenges and merging attendees who logged on with multiple devices.
Beatriz is the first one to unmute herself during a meeting and answer a technical question like, “Can you see my screen?” She has creatively changed members’ names within the video to represent a role for that meeting (“Speaker #1: Molly Ketcham”) and sets up the polling to vote.
Parker SpeakEasies Club believes that Beatriz’s dedication, patience, and professionalism have been enormous factors in members’ successful transition to meeting online.
Nominated by Molly Ketcham and Lisa Newburger, DTM, both Parker SpeakEasies #533 of Cleveland, Ohio.
Brian Dodd, DTM
British Columbia, Canada
Two years ago, Brian Dodd, DTM, introduced Zoom to First Canadian Toastmasters Club. Many members were resistant because some felt members needed to be at the meetings, shaking hands, and socially interacting together as a group. Then last year club member Larry Proud, DTM, was diagnosed with an invasive cancer and connected with the club through Zoom because it was too difficult for him to attend in-person meetings. Larry soon passed away, leaving a huge void in his Toastmasters family. Thanks to Brian’s constant and relentless encouragement to maintain a Zoom connection to every club meeting, no one was denied participation. When COVID-19 forced everyone online, First Canadian Toastmasters transitioned effortlessly and brought in guests from Nepal, Iran, the United States, and Canada.
Recently the club virtually hosted an awards ceremony, and Brian was the recipient of the Larry Proud Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to a member who contributes beyond the call of duty to the club in a professional and supportive manner. Brian was recognized for this award as his dedication and encouragement successfully introduced club participation through Zoom.
Nominated by April Atkins, DTM, First Canadian Toastmasters Club of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
If you'd like to meet more nominees, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series.