Ending My Toastmasters Presidency: Looking Back At An Era

Two weeks ago, we held virtual elections in Toastmasters, a chapter of a public speaking organization. I’ve been attending for seven years and counting. Last year I was elected President, and accepted the nomination when realizing that no one else had time or spoons to be president.

What has it been like to be president? It’s a good question. I’ve asked myself how I’ve enjoyed taking on this role, and being responsible for the club. What was this journey like? Have I grown as a leader? According to my peers in the club, yes on the last one.

It is a lot of work, with getting documents and papers in order. Officers need to attend training once every few months, meetings need to be organized, and people need to pay annual membership dues in the spring. There is also the spirit of showing moral support. One has to decide if they are attending other meetings, and serving as a guest speaker for contests. Knowing what you can provide emotionally is very important.

The pandemic has also made it very interesting. Our meetings used to be in-person. We’d meet at a tavern that was owned by the deli next door, so we would order breakfast and tip the wait staff nicely. When the pandemic mandated stay-at-home orders, we went fully remote. Membership went down because people felt that seeing little squares on Zoom was not the smae as an in-person meeting.  Currently, our club will test out some hybrid solutions. We have some facilities that have offered to host us now that we got insurance. The next president will have to make the final arrangements.

I agree with this decision to keep a baseline remote meeting. While meeting remotely isn’t the same as meeting in-person, safety is important when we have a pandemic going around and getting the virus does not mean you become immune to it.  Instead, the more times that you contract COVID, the more likely that your body will develop chronic conditions over time.

With that said, it has been a rewarding experience. Guests get a chance to see how we run things. My respect for previous presidents has gone up, as they try to boost morale and stay on top of their paperwork. One of my predecessors took it upon herself to ensure that everyone confirmed for meetings, and advised me to do the same. I learned to do that, after a few rough starts. My successor, I will advise him to do the same.

Keeping this club together during the pandemic has not been easy for any Toastmaster president. We crave that companionship, and being together. We persist, however, and find ways to make a Zoom comfortable, or a hybrid space well-ventilated. As a result, speakers grows.