Thriving During the Pandemic Times - The Road Travelled

George How

Ontario declared a state of emergency on March 16 to combat the spread of COVID-19. Our community club OTM Oakville Toastmasters meets on Thursday evenings at the St Simon’s Anglican Church (McKay Hall), Oakville. I have been informed by St Simon Warden on March 14 that the location was no longer available for use. What do we do now? Cancel meetings indefinitely? The pandemic times presented a problematic situation. OTM rose to the challenge, by being up and running our 1st Online meeting via the ZOOM platform on March 19.

On a personal basis, I took the opportunity to learn as much as possible about video conference tools, online meetings, etiquettes, Dos and Don’ts, security aspects, etc. A snapshot of the participation and learning activities include: District 60 1st Online Judges Training via ZOOM, District 60 Division G 1st Online International Speech Contest, District 86 1st Online Speechcraft by Som Speaks, Toastmasters International 1st Online Webinar on Thriving During Social Distancing, Promoting Toastmasters, and George How Survey on Usage of Various Video Conference Platforms amongst the Official Toastmasters International Members Facebook Group. Visiting various Club Online Meetings and Open Houses provided the vehicle to learn, exchange and adopt new ideas: MCEBT, Brampton Talks, MI Speaks & Chennai Speakers, and Mississauga Sales and Marketing.

Indeed OTM has been thriving during these pandemic times. OTM held their 9th Online meeting on May 14. OTM hosted the Club's 1st Online Learning Workshop on “Effective Evaluation” by Steve Elliot on April 16. OTM hosted the Club 2nd Online Learning Workshop on “How to Write a Speech in 15 Minutes” by Aurie Contosta, Division C Director on May 14. Throughout these challenging times, the Club pursued on its drive towards continued excellence. The Mission: to provide the members with quality, inspirational and educational learning experience in a positive, safe, and virtual environment, whilst respecting social distancing.

The 15-Minutes Speech Preparation Workshop, based on a John Wang Worksheet was a great learning experience. Aurie helped the participants through the various phases of speech preparation. Two hardy souls volunteered to deliver their “impromptu” speeches. Hitesh “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Politicians”, and Mirjana “I am Hooked” were evaluated by Josephine and Paulette respectively. Everybody pushed the envelope during the Online Workshop. Participants from across the province were connected, from Belleville to Sarnia, to Northern Ontario. The Guest Participants (“Awesome Strangers”, per Mirjana) came from 10 Clubs, giving rise to the workshop potential and positive impact on approximately 250 Toastmasters. All in all, it was a most rewarding experience. A synergistic win for OTM, OTM Members, and fellow Toastmasters within District 86!

Acknowledgements: OTM Club Officers, OTM Club Members, Som Speaks, Brahm Memone DTM, Glynis D’Souza DTM, Iona Rondricks DTM, Annie Bai DTM, Madan Chauhan DTM, Hilgay Beckles DTM, John Wang DTM, Shahan Aaron, Novette Gordon, Lucia Yglesias, District 60 Angela Ho DTM. Thank You Steve Elliot and Aurie Contosta DTM for conducting the Online Learning Workshops. Huge Thank You Speech Writing Workshop Participants: Cityvp Manjit (GMAT), Elise Leblanc (Voix du Nord), Hitesh Parmar (Markham), Igor Varshavsky (Fluid Communicators & Leaders), Jale Fancey (Riverspeak), Lily Wang (MCEBT), Mirjana Sheridan (Brampton Talks), Rachelle Alincy (Fellowship), Sandra Valks (Belleville Speakeasy), Suzanne Rondeau (Mots du Midi), Bryce Fung, and Anoop Srinivasan.

George How Pak Hing, PEng, DTM
OTM Oakville Toastmasters # 5940499, Club Founder
Area Director of the Year, 2016-2017
Submitted May 17, 2020

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