Toastmasters International is losing more than clubs and members- it is losing its magic! The nonprofit organization has 1,400 fewer clubs than it did in 2019. As a result, there are 82,000 fewer people receiving the benefits of the educational programs.
The mindset of virus avoidance and remote meetings is taking its toll. In person meetings, training and contests are the exception while virtual events are the rule in 2022.
Many members are dissatisfied with the distant and disconnected experience of Zoom meetings and especially virtual contests at the area, division, and district levels.
Delivering a humorous speech without a live audience is no laughing matter. The lack of body language cues, emotion and feedback makes it hard for the speaker to connect and adjust to the audience’s reactions. The lack of energy can add an extra burden to the speaker.
A long-time Distinguished Toastmaster in Arizona recently shared this in an email, “Live entertainment in the Toastmaster world seems to be coming to an end. The winter contests have been eliminated and now the Spring contests in 2023 are virtual.” This dedicated mentor and coach joins hundreds of people in expressing their frustration with the lack of live audience speaking opportunities at Toastmasters.
Nature abhors a vacuum and the live-speaking gap will be filled by other groups. The desire and demand for direct, in-person events is raising in 2022 and a growing number of clubs and people in Arizona are organizing to meet the challenge. Innovative and creative ideas are being implemented to provide large-scale speaking experiences and competitions. Once such event will be held on Oct.11, 2022 at the Tempe Improv where 8 finalists will perform in a humorous speech competition. The laughter, fun and festivities are free and open to the public and is not an official Toastmaster contest. Click here for tickets to the event.
I have attended this high energy and boisterous competition for three years and am happy that the tradition continues.
Twenty-eight years ago, I joined Toastmasters for the communication and leadership training but I stayed for the friends and the connections.
I love the positive energy, support, and camaraderie of the clubs and had no idea that the program and the people would have such a profound impact on course of my life. The last two decades have been an amazing experience of growth, experimentation and achievement.
Some of my best friends were met at Toastmaster meetings in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and California. These close bonds would never have been made had I only attended meetings through a zoom portal.
I am still active in three clubs in the Phoenix area but worry that some of the great power and magic of Toastmasters is being lost as fewer and fewer in-person training sessions, leadership conferences and contests are being held.
The value of live language connections should not be underestimated and Toastmasters Districts across the country should strive to meet the needs of all of its members.
I strongly believe that the benefits are of the strong educational programs are not fully realized when a speaker and an evaluator never get to meet and talk in person before or after the meeting.
Virtual Toastmasters is falling flat and can be energized by creative and innovative leaders who think out the box to find in-person and hybrid event options.
Laughter is the best medicine and can be the prescription for what ails lagging club and membership numbers.
Energy, excitement, engagement and enthusiasm can all be recaptured.
Commitment, connection, confidence and coaching can be reinvigorated.