Looking back, as Bern Toastmasters ushers in the new year
July marks the beginning of the club year here at Toastmaster’s Bern. We’re excited to start a new year (2020-2021) having spent the last three months exploring new ways to keep club activities running in the context of the Coronavirus lockdown in Switzerland (March to May 2020) and social distancing rules which meant club members couldn’t meet-up physically. To get a sense of what the year was like, we sat down with the outgoing club President, Pierre-Yves Schütz.
What was the club’s peak moment in the past year?
I enjoyed all our special events such as the workshops, the Christmas party and the joint meetings. The main highlight for me was without hesitation the club contest.
The whole club came together, from the newest to the most senior members – helping to judge or taking up roles – and extremely well-prepared contestants. It was so well organized that it felt like the “World Championship of Toastmasters Bern”. Maybe we should organize a club contest at each meeting!
What was the lowest point of the year, and how did you manage it?
The February – March (2020) period was definitely the busiest time of the year. We had club preparations and area contests, planning Damian Conway’s workshop and I was also helping at another Toastmasters event – the Novice Competition in Geneva. Combined with the uncertainty thrown at us by the Coronavirus, that was a lot of weight on my shoulders. I wish I had asked for help earlier. When we started organizing the online meetings, I had learnt my lesson – and I received great support when I asked for help.
When the Coronavirus lockdown started, some clubs immediately switched to online meetings while others suspended their meetings. Deciding to organize online meetings was a no-brainer. First, most of us also experienced the same transition at work, so mastering online meetings became a useful skill to work on. Second, we had so many members who were aiming to complete the Toastmaster’s year and receive their awards, that we had to provide a possibility for members to reach their goals.
In your opinion, what can the club do better?
Discussing with other club members or officers, one realizes that many clubs struggle to get new members or to have enough members speaking at meetings. Fortunately, we don’t face similar challenges at Toastmasters Bern.
But there are still other areas where we could improve on.
Roles are often taken up at the last minute, just before the meeting. This can negatively impact on the quality of the meeting if the role takers do not have time to prepare accordingly.
We could also have more diversity for some of the main roles such as Toastmasters of the Evening or the General Evaluator. These roles tend to rotate between the same people.
So far, we do not have a mentoring concept that is applied consistently. I’m thrilled that the new committee has engaged to get this started!
We also have club veterans who no longer attend club meetings, which is understandable as the program doesn’t change much, and after some time, it loses its novelty. We could probably do more to bring them back. I know that some members have ideas to provide more value for advanced members and I’m looking forward to engagements in this direction.
What’s your message to the incoming team?
The new committee has a larger number of officers, as usual, this year, with a few shared roles, and the secretary and treasurer positions held by two different members (as opposed to one). This is a huge asset if the team works well together but could potentially pose an information-sharing challenge. Having effective communication will certainly be something to keep an eye on for the new team.
Besides that, I wish everyone a great year filled with learning experiences and fun while doing it. I can’t wait to see how the 2020 – 2021 year will look like!