Get to know Bern Toastmaster’s new Club President
Bern Toastmaster’s new President Katja Töttler hit the ground running in July (2020) leading the officers’ transition at a time of uncertainty due to Covid-19. With a whopping 16 years of TM membership which started in her home country in Germany, Katja has been a member of three clubs in Switzerland: Bern Toastmasters, the Rhetorik Club Bern (RCBE) and Fribourg International Toastmasters.
A business administration graduate, Katja moved to Switzerland seven years ago and has spent most of her professional life either working in production planning or operational purchasing for big multinational companies.
Both professionally and at Toastmasters, she has taken time off to explore and re-orient – recently as a volunteer at a parish in Berne assisting in social work. Since 2008, she works at Graphmasters SA as an executive assistant.
As she embarks on her new role, she gave us a few insights on the direction that she expects to help steer the club this year, as well as tips and resource materials for both current and prospective club members.
Question: What is your greatest aspiration for the club in the new year?
Katja: The main target is to achieve the President’s Distinguished Club again this year, an award that the Bern club has won ten times since 2004. It goes to demonstrate that the club met the membership prerequisite and reached at least nine out of the ten goals. It is the highest level of recognition available.
This will be quite challenging not only due to the hybrid (online and live) meeting situation we are currently in, but also due to the race to complete traditional awards as the transition period to Pathways has just ended. This means that we need to give special support to the senior members who have worked on the traditional program so far and who should now start using Pathways. The new mentorship program initiated by the Vice President Education Lorenz Beyeler could ease this transition. We will also have to make sure that we maintain our membership and stay in close contact – even if we do not meet in person.
What motivates your commitment to Toastmasters?
Katja: It’s always important to get out of our comfort zone. Taking over this role is one way to do so. It requires a different skillset and offers other learning opportunities in terms of communication and leadership than being a club officer. It’s particularly interesting in the challenging times we are currently facing, and I would like to help the club to get through this period. We have a great team of officers as well as highly motivated and dedicated members. They reflect the wonderful diversity of people we have in our club, making it special to me. I’m proud of the positive and supportive atmosphere we have.
What’s your message to the members for the coming year?
Katja: You can learn many different skills at Toastmasters going far beyond mere public speaking: try, practice and improve them by proactively taking over a role at each meeting and signing up early. Test yourself by steering challenging roles like Toastmaster of the Evening or General Evaluator. There are many valuable resources available. The club meeting roles are described in detail in this document; please check if the roles are performed a bit differently. There’s also an overview of skills that can be learned at Toastmasters as well as tips for speeches and evaluations. [mentioned articles available on hyperlinks]
Make the best out of the hybrid meetings and try to get as close as possible to normal public speaking, e.g. by standing up as well as by using gestures and visible facial expressions.
In addition, the new mentoring program will also offer new opportunities. Newer members should be aware that the more senior members are not so familiar with Pathways yet and might welcome some support. In return, senior members can share their knowledge about Toastmasters, public and leadership skills, as well as best practices for taking over meeting roles.
Online meetings offer new opportunities with regards to additional skills, exchanges with other clubs / members online and workshop facilitators.
Are you interested in having a particular workshop? Do you know an interesting trainer? You are all welcome to make suggestions and also help with the planning and organization!