Struck by Lightning…Twice

By Nancy Moscardini

Last March, we transitioned our Toastmasters meetings to a corporate sponsored online conference tool. We got accustomed to clicking on the link and starting the meeting, only our photos would be visible.

I’m not one who seeks the spotlight, I’m most comfortable being behind the curtain, and let others take center stage. As our club mission is to provide a safe and encouraging environment, I decided to lean into this mission and challenge myself. If I ever needed to present on camera at a department all hands meeting, what better way to practice than with your own Toastmasters club?

I turned the camera on. With flashbacks of the first time I was in a conference room giving my first speech, the nerves set in all over again. When we were meeting in person it took a while for me to be comfortable giving a speech. However, each time I did, it became easier. After a few months, those jitters were gone. Now I was going through it again in a digital environment. I had no idea that this simple task of turning on a video button would become pivotal a few weeks later.

I received an email from the district, they wanted to expand their pool of presenters for future Toastmasters Leadership Institute sessions. A list of topics were presented, and I chose Fix My Club. I jotted down seven ideas that have worked for our club and thought they may help others.  The next step was to pitch the ideas to the district leadership. I cannot tell you how valuable this session was. I was talking to district leaders, area directors, and leaders of clubs. I learned so much about content, how to present on camera, creating graphics, and more. I was with the A-team and was jotting suggestions as fast as my hand could write.

My pitch was selected to present all seven ideas. We were part of a new segment called the Lightning Round, multiple speakers with less than 5 minutes each. I started working on the slides, I chose an infographic style layout as I thought it would be easy for me to keep my pace and provide a lot of material in quick succession. Also, I needed to use Zoom. I’ve only been on it once before, and now I was going to be on camera in front of hundreds. (Insert “what was I thinking” phrase here).

The district leaders were amazing and provided helpful tips every step of the way before the event. They even prepared us that something may go wrong.  Just knowing that something could happen knocked down my nerves a bit. They are there to support us, and the audience wants you to succeed. If something happens, we will pivot and keep on going.

The day of the TLI, I was nervous, I had so much energy I felt like a chihuahua on three expressos. The best way I can describe presenting at TLI is like riding Space Mountain the very first time. You listen to the prep guides; you strap in and you are off.  After 5 minutes,  it’s over and you have that huge sigh of relief, wow that was fun, let’s do it again!

The team had a debrief what worked and ideas to elevate our presentations at the January session. I did my part to ensure I was on camera at every club meeting, officer meeting, and small groups sessions at work. By the January TLI session, I still had jitters, but I took that leap of faith and felt enabled and empowered by the guidance the district leaders offered us and presented Fix My Club again and hosted a Q&A breakout session after the main event.

If you ever have the opportunity to take a chance to do something new, now is the time. When the district is looking for volunteers, say yes. The district leadership is incredibly supportive and wants you to shine. Their evaluations are on point and provide helpful steps to challenge you and grow your skills as a presenter. I’ve taken on more new things in the last six months than I ever had as a Toastmaster, and I’m glad I did.