Scenes from the Online Presenters Toastmasters Kickoff Meeting

gallery view
The cast of characters.

Online Presenters held its kickoff meeting on January 23. While not everything went smoothly, we solved our initial technical problems, got to know each other, and started to work out some of the details about how the club will operate. The next meeting should run a little smoother.

This video excerpt from the kickoff features speeches from Phyllis Harmon, George Marshall and Paul Finkelstein (video recording and stills shared by permission). You can see a few miscues where the video switched from video to audience member, based on a software algorithm. Next time, I should be able to hold the virtual camera steadier (after looking up how to do it).

Phyllis Harmon
George Marshall’s presentation on Pathways
Paul Finkelstein
Carole McCulloch

Preliminary Thoughts on Dues

Dues for this new club have yet to be established. In order to meet our goal of chartering this club in March, we will have to elect officers and make a decision on dues sometime in February. Meanwhile, as long as we’re officially unofficial, participation is free.

As a baseline, I can tell you members will need to pay $33.75 in dues to Toastmasters International (a slightly lower fee than for members of a club that is part of a traditional district). Club dues are still TBD, as we figure out what the club needs to budget for its own operations. I’ve proposed that charter members be charged a total of $48 to join (assuming we charter in March) and $41.75 to renew in October and every 6 months thereafter. Again, that’s not a final decision, but I think you would be safe to assume the expense will be no more than $100 per year.

Not included in the above is a $20 new member fee for anyone who is not already a Toastmasters member.

Where to Find Mute, Video Off on Our Online Meetings Platform

RingCentral is allowing Online Presenters to use a free RingCentral Meetings account for its meetings. RingCentral has a technology partnership with Zoom, so those of you who have used Zoom for other online meetings will find it very familiar. The main distinction of the RingCentral version is how it integrates with other RingCentral products.

One of the most important things to know for proper etiquette with any audio or video conference tool is how to mute yourself when there is background noise at your location or any sort of problem with feedback or an echo on the line. With video, you may also have occasion to want to turn your camera off.

Here is where to find those controls on the desktop and mobile clients for RingCentral Meetings.

Desktop Computer

The online meeting controls appear at the bottom of the screen. If you don’t see them, wiggle your mouse around at the bottom of the screen, and they should appear.

You can mute and unmute yourself by clicking on the microphone icon. The video on/off icon is right next to it.

Or use the following shortcuts:

For PC:

  • Alt + A : Mute or Unmute

For Mac:

  • Shift + Command + A: Mute or Unmute

Mobile Apps

The mobile app is pretty similar, with mute / unmute and camera on / off buttons in the lower right of the screen.

Here is what that looks like on Android.

Mobile app muted

Telephone (dial in)

*6 : Mute or Unmute

Agenda Layout

Toastmasters logo

Online Presenters Toastmasters

Monday May 23, 2022

Club Mission: We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.

Specialty: Online Presenters focuses on the development of online speaking and presentation skills for those interested in conducting better webinars or online meetings.

Preview based on next meeting

If you have a password, sign up for meeting roles below. Guests should complete the RSVP registration form at the bottom of the agenda. (If you have a password, it’s not necessary to also fill out the RSVP form – we would rather get you signed up for a specific role).

Members can find the online meetings details here (password protected).

THIS MEETING WILL BE RECORDED. Stills and excerpts from the video may be used by the club in its public relations and social media outreach.

Members and guests are encouraged to sign in anytime after 7:15 pm U.S. Eastern Time for an informal meet and greet and to allow time for any technical troubleshooting. We also do self introductions during this time. The meeting will officially starts at 7:45 pm.

Online Evaluation Forms can be found here:

Theme and Word of the Day

“Love Your Life”

Word of the Day: Facinating (adjective) capable of holding the attention; pleasing to the eye or mind especially through beauty or charm. Example: 1) It was the most facinating thing he ever discussed. 2) She travels the world meeting facinating people.

Member Inductions Ceremony

Toastmaster of the Day:
Sarra Idehen, DTM
Introduces supporting roles. Leads the meeting.

Tip of the Day:
Andrew Bern, DTM
3-5 minutes for a tip about tech, technique, or leadership.

Adrienne (guest)

For the purpose of voting, please see Timer’s Notes below on expected duration of the different speeches

Ah Counter:

Joni (guest)


Chat Monitor:

Vote Counter:

Angela Heath, VC2
As a rule, we should have no more than one speech longer than 5-7 minutes.

Pamela Benjamin, DTM
As a rule, we should have no more than one speech longer than 5-7 minutes.

Kim Leaming
As a rule, we should have no more than one speech longer than 5-7 minutes.

Backup Speaker:
As a rule, we should have no more than one speech longer than 5-7 minutes.

Toastmaster asks for the Timer’s Report & vote for the Best Speaker of the Day

7:45 PM  

Prospective Member Speeches

Topics Master:
David F. Carr, DTM
Leads the Table Topics impromptu speaking section of the meeting. Priority toward members not performing any roles.

Topics Master asks for the Timer’s Report & vote for the Best Topics Speaker of the Day

General Evaluator:
Jim Barber, PM1
General Evaluator leads the evaluation portion of the meeting, starting with the prepared speech evaluations.

Andriy Smolenko, CC

Carolina Ramírez, SR5

Marianne Grady, EC4

General Evaluator asks for the Timer’s Report & vote for the Best Evaluator of the Day

General Evaluator continues with the functionary reports (the Grammarian, the Watcher, the Ah Counter, and the Chat Monitor (1 minute each)).

General Evaluator rounds out this portion of the meeting by giving an overall evaluation, 2-3 minutes. General Evaluator should aim ONLY to add any new insights, not re-evaluate speakers or repeat information covered by others.

General Evaluator asks Vote Counter to reveal the winners of the meeting

Timer’s Notes

  • Only Prepared Speeches with duration of more than four (4) minutes 30 seconds or less than seven (7) minutes 30 seconds are eligible for voting.
  • Only Table Topics speeches with duration of more than one (1) minute or less than two (2) minutes 30 seconds are eligible for voting.
  • Only Evaluation Speeches of more than one (1) minute 30 seconds or less than three (3) minutes 30 seconds are eligible for voting.

Timing will begin with the contestant’s first definite verbal or nonverbal communication with the audience. This usually will be the first word uttered by the contestant, but would include any other communication such as sound effects, a staged act by another person, etc.

Planned Absences – Only displayed for logged in members of this site

7:48 PM  End

Organizer’s Manifesto and Preliminary Agenda for January 10

This document was prepared in preparation for the January 10 organizational meeting.

I would like to start this meeting with brainstorming and end with a few decisions on how to move forward. I’m looking for agreement on the mission of the club, setting a schedule for the first few demo meetings, and a plan for recruiting 20+ dues paying members and chartering the club.

Organizer’s Introduction: My concept for this club is that it will specifically cater to members who speak or present in webinars or online meetings or who have a professional interest in learning those skills. This special interest will be important to the identity of the club. The goal is not to replicate the model of Netizens or other online clubs who provide a location-independent alternative to a traditional club but otherwise operate as general purpose clubs.

On the other hand, we think the Toastmasters format of practicing among friends and getting immediate feedback on areas for improvement has just as much relevancy to improving online presentation skills as it does for giving in person speeches or presentations. Similarly, Table Topics conducted online ought to be good preparation for participating in a business meeting conducted online. Online Presenters might not be the right place to complete a Humorous Speaking manual. On the other hand, learning to use humor to warm up the crowd at the beginning of a webinar could be a very valuable technique for getting people to actually watch the webinar. (According to Roger Courville, survey research shows a boring presenter is the main reason people stop watching a webinar after the first few minutes).

I hope to attract professionals who present online and want to improve who may not necessarily be Toastmasters. As a result, I do not think this should be classified as an advanced club where we require that members have already completed their Competent Communication manual.

Agenda for Organizational Meeting

Organizer’s introduction (based on the manifesto above)

Participant self introductions:

  • Any non-Toastmasters in attendance? They get to introduce themselves first
  • Toastmaster self-introductions. Relatively new member or advanced? Any previous experience with online clubs? Experience chartering clubs?

Discussion of specialty club mission. Any areas of disagreement on the basic framework?

Market potential. Reasonable to expect we can recruit 20+ dues paying members?

Meeting schedule – one of the big decisions

  • Frequency: weekly to build the habit (even if not all members can attend every week)
  • Proposed time of day: 8 pm Eastern time / 5 pm Pacific time in the U.S. to cater to a target market that includes employees of U.S. based technology companies, outside of work hours.
  • Proposed duration: 1 hour
  • Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday
    • I have a recurring conflict on the 3rd Tuesday of the month. Can’t do Thursdays.
    • George Marshall, who offered to help and previously helped charter Netizens, has a regular conflict on Wednesdays and also the 2nd Tuesday (which is why he is not at this organizing meeting).
    • Monday could work for both George and I. But do we think we would get the attendance we want on a Monday night?
    • I’m not necessarily opposed to sticking with Tuesdays if someone else can open the meetings on the nights when I can’t attend.
  • No schedule is going to work for everyone in a busy group of professionals, every time, but we should pick a schedule that will work for most of us most of the time.
  • We should schedule the first few demo meetings intended to lead up to club charter, starting next week or the following week.

Ideas about format of meetings.

  • How much to follow the standard formula (3 short speeches plus Table Topics as the default) and how much to vary it.
  • How much to stick to a standard online meeting platform, versus experimenting / giving people experience with different ones.
  • Ways of evaluating members who give presentations in other formats outside of the meeting, for example Facebook Live (or whatever is new and novel in the coming years)

Choice of standard meeting platform

  • I plan to use a version of Zoom resold by RingCentral as RingCentral Meetings. RingCentral is a client of mine for marketing writing and related projects and has allowed me to set up an account that can be used by whoever is acting as the host of the meeting (it should not be used for anything other than Toastmasters business.
  • This is essentially the same video chat / screen sharing platform being used by Netizens for their meetings (Zoom).

Club dues

  • I would hope to keep them minimal. We’re getting the online meeting platform at no cost.
  • What else do we need to budget for?

Club charter process

  • Toastmasters with experience chartering a club are invited to give their input on how to proceed “Improving Skills for Webinars, Online Meetings”

Giving a presentation or leading in a meeting online requires many of the same skills as speaking, presenting and leading offline — except for all the ways that it is different. One mistake is to let the technology of webinars and online meetings can easily get in the way of the basics of clear and compelling communication. The other is the failure to appreciate the differences and make them work to your advantage.

Roger Courville, the Chief Content Officer at EventBuilder, appreciates both challenges as someone who has worked as a trainer, coach and consultant to people wanting to learn better online presentation skills since the late 1990s. “The medium always changes the message,” he says, and you have to understand the nature of the medium to be effective in it.

At the same time, he thinks it’s telling that the burning question people most often have for him is what technology platform to use, rather than the techniques they can apply regardless of whether the platform is WebEx, GoToMeeting, YouTube Live or Zoom (to name just a few options). Using the best available technology will not save you if your message is boring and your presentation is uninspired.

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