our first toastmasters post-pandemic hybrid meeting

Before the pandemic, our club mainly met over a video conference between our NY and NJ office. Everyone was in one of those rooms. (We had a couple other formats, but they were rare.)

Shortly before the pandemic, we talked about adding a phone option for people who would be telecommuting that day. But we shut down too fast for that to grow legs.

Last week, we had our first post-pandemic hybrid meeting. We used the same WebEx link that we’ve been using for the last 16 months. We also had a meeting room in the invite for anyone who happened to be onsite. (We are doing a pilot where a small number of people are onsite.

How it went

  • We had three people in the meeting room. (spread out). We were all visible in the pane of the WebEx representing the room.
  • We had about a dozen people in their homes.
  • Our club mascot (stuffed animal) also attended the meeting in person. He was super excited to be there after spending all that time alone in a file cabinet :).
  • When we were doing pure virtual meetings, we did introductions by having the Toastmaster say each person’s name (based n the participant list) and that person saying their group (we are a corporate club) and a quick fact. With hybrid, the Toastmaster had the people in the room go in a circle to introduce themselves and then did it based on the participant list. This approach is not ideal for a team meeting because it makes the in person participants seem more “central”, but I think it is ok for a Toastmasters meeting.
  • When we did introductions, I brought the mascot right up to the camera and had him wave so everyone could get a good view. (Anyone who joined during the pandemic was seeing the mascot for the first time.)
  • It so happened that one of the speakers (me) was in the physical room along with the Toastmaster. We also had a table topics speaker in the room.
  • We did not shake hands or touch in any way. (We had stopped doing that a little before we went virtual only)

What did I learn about speaking at a hybrid meeting

First, I learned that public speaking is like riding a bike. It came right back to me. Phew.

Additionally, I treated the conference room webcam as if it was a participant in the room. I stood in a place where I was clearly visible to the webcam. (Which was not the head of the table because it is a very long room and we don’t have zoom working yet.) I also made eye contact with the two people and the webcam. So I treated the webcam as if it were an actual person in the room.

What do I think will happen in the future

I think we will have more than three people in the room. But I think we will stay hybrid forever. The odds of everyone who wants to be in Toastmasters being in the office the day we meet seem low. And public speaking at work will involve a mix of in person and remote. So good to practice it.

We used to have Speakouts on Mondays so that people who weren’t in the office on Thursdays had an opportunity to speak. I think we will go back to something similar. Except rather than it always being Monday, have the day rotate. That way members who are only in the office once a week will still get to practice speaking in person.

I also think we will encourage members to meet in small groups at each give a speech. This will introduce more flexibility in speaking in person days they are in the office. It will also accommodate those who don’t feel comfortable being in a room with a lot of people for health reasons. Three people in a room is less risk than “whomever shows up for Toastmasters that day.” Notice I said health reasons. If someone merely doesn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a group, that’s something to get over in Toastmasters!

toastmasters pathways – how to see what your members are up to

Sept 2019 update: The percentage is now on report 2 (the level progress tab). The percentages have changed slightly as well. See the updated post:

toastmasters pathways – how to see what your members are up to – part 2

In Pathways, three Toastmasters officers are able to access Base Camp Manager. They can view individual progress. For example, this bar chart shows how many members my club has currently working on level 2. (If you don’t see anything in your bar chart, refresh.)

I knew you could click the little arrow and view details (in a browser) or export to Excel to see which members are on which paths.

However, I didn’t realize you could tell how many projects they did within that level until yesterday. A big thanks to Cambria Heights Toastmasters for saying “what’s that” when I was demoing.

When you log in as a member, you see two percentages:

  1. The percentage complete within a level.
  2. The percentage complete within a path (aka across all five levels)

What do the percentages mean? (If you don’t like math, skip to the table at the end)

Ok, so what does this mean? Suppose a member has completed the Icebreaker and Evaluation/Feedback projects in level 1. This member has two projects remaining in level 1 (Research/Presenting and Level Completion.)

Therefore the member is 50% done with level 1. The member is also 10% done with the path. (Completing the full level would mean being 20% done with the path since one of five levels would be complete. Since the member completed half of level 1, the member completed half of 20%. Which means the member is 10% done with the path.)

Let’s try another example

In the screenshot above, we have three members at 20% done with the path. These members completed level 1 but did not complete any level 2 projects. We also have one member 25% done with the path. This member completed one level 2 project. (Remember 20% means completed level 1 and 40% means completed level 2.)

Can i just have a reference without doing math?


Percentage What it means
0% Signed up for a path, but didn’t do the icebreaker yet
5% Completed the icebreaker
10% Completed two projects in level 1
15% Completed all the projects in level 1 but needs to submit the level completion (or have it approved)
20% Completed level 1, but hasn’t yet done any projects in level 2
25% Completed one level 2 project
30% Completed two level 2 projects
35% Completed all level 2 projects but needs to submit the level completion (or have it approved)
40% Completed level 2, but hasn’t yet done any projects in level 3
45% Completed one level 3 project
50% Completed two level 3 projects
55% Completed all level 3 projects but needs to submit the level completion (or have it approved)
60% Completed level 3, but hasn’t yet done any projects in level 4
66% Completed one level 4 project
73% Completed all level 4 projects but needs to submit the level completion (or have it approved)
80% Completed level 4, but hasn’t yet done any projects in level 5
85% Completed one level 5 project
90% Completed two level 5 projects
95% Completed all level 5 projects but needs to submit the level completion (or have it approved)
100% Completed level 5; path complete!

completing toastmasters pathways level 2 before level 1 is approved

See my main Presentation Mastery Pathways page for some context.

I completed all the projects in level 1 on January 4. My level 1 actually got approved today due to some difficulties in processing. I had lots of speaking opportunities in the club though and I successfully completed all the level 2 projects before I obtained access in Base Camp. This blog post is about that journey!

Each path has three required projects for level 2. All of them have the “Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring” project. The Presentation Mastery path also has “Understanding your Communication Style” and “Effective Body Language.”

For level 2, you can do the three projects in any order. I describe them here in the order I did them.

Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring

On January 10th, a speaker at our Speechcraft session cancelled so I jumped in with this speech. Since level 2 was locked, I went online to see if anyone had uploaded the PDF. I found out that a club shared the “Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring” PDF online (link no longer works). The description on mentoring vs coaching was excellent. I like how the project has you speak about a time you were mentored.

For more on this project or how to download the evaluation sheet, see my starting level 2 blog post.

Effective Body Language

On January 16th, I was giving members of my New York club an unofficial preview of Pathways. I choose to use the “Effective Body Language” speech for this. I couldn’t find the PDF manual online. Instead I went to the “Speeches and Evaluations” section of Base Camp and downloaded the evaluation sheet. I gave my speech and got evaluated.

Now (as I write this blog post), I’m reading the actual project. I learned that I was supposed to get feedback from a mentor or reviewer while practicing. Oops. The online project also contains good tips on posture, stance, position and movement. I need to move more deliberately when I speak! There was also good descriptions of the four different types of gestures: descriptive, emphatic, suggestive and prompting. There was a video and great interactive exercises. Finally, there were references to culture and the visual impaired.

Understanding your Communication Style

One of my clubs meets on Thursdays lunchtime. At the January 18th meeting, we had a speaker cancel the evening before. This happens sometimes. Work is of course the priority! As a DTM, I knew it would be no trouble to put together a speech the night before. And it was a perfect opportunity to complete level 2!

The same club that shared the “Introduction to Toastmasters Mentoring” also club shared the “Understanding your Communication Style” PDF online.

I read the PDF. It contains an excellent 12 question “test” where you answer how you view yourself. Then you add up the scores to determine your communication style:

  • Analytical
  • Direct
  • Initiating
  • Supporting

You can then read how each communication style interacts with the others. (The online version is better because it automatically tallies your score and lets you control the order in which you read about the styles.)

Not surprisingly, I’m mainly analytical/direct. Then I had to write a speech. Since Pathways is new, I chose to include a couple sentences on what each was. Then I had the audience vote on which they thought was my predominant style. The majority of my speech was me telling a story of a strength (or perceived weakness) of my interactions with each of the four styles. It wound up being a great speech. Our VPE even suggested that I save it for the humorous speech contest.

This is a great project and really shows the benefit of the Pathways educational program!

Submitting level 2

Since I did all three projects on paper, I went back and clicked through in Base Camp. Then I emailed my evaluations to our club leadership for approval. And now they know what to do so getting access to Level 3 should be fast!