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Local News

New Lenox Toastmasters using virtual meetings to practice public speaking

The New Lenox Toastmasters have not missed a meeting through the pandemic.
The New Lenox Toastmasters have not missed a meeting through the pandemic.

The New Lenox Toastmasters have not skipped a beat since the pandemic began. Although the group’s meeting spot, New Life Church at 500 S. Gougar Road, closed through June, they have not missed a meeting.

And to go along with that, all 22 members have renewed their memberships. Each meeting has had approximately 15 members attend in person or via Zoom.

The Toastmasters’ experience is set around its 11 pathways that members can choose from, including visionary communication, presentation mastery, dynamic leadership, innovative planning, team collaboration, leadership development, motivational strategies, engaging humor, persuasive influence, effective coaching and strategic relationships.

Once a member completes one goal, they can go down a new pathway as a way to keep them engaged.

“I think that shows that we are providing value to the members,” Area Director Martha Sojka said. “We’re meeting in a hybrid fashion now and it’s another opportunity to build a new skill set.”

Sojka is the director of five other area Toastmaster clubs, but New Lenox is the only one offering the hybrid model.

As many people have had to work from home, honing in on the skill of talking on Zoom or other platforms has been beneficial, and that includes Sojka.

“I work for the county, and the public hearings are all virtual,” she said. “We have the opportunity to practice things at the club level and iron everything out. We focus on different techniques like eye contact, sound quality, background. With Toastmasters, you can learn these in a safe environment.”

Toastmasters International offered the group additional resources. The group’s timers can change their Zoom background to show a timer and change colors to alert the speaker to how much time they have left.

As restrictions have eased, the group has still continued to follow the hybrid model, allowing a certain number of members to attend in person.

The group is always looking for others to join and those interested can do so by visiting newlenoxtoastmasters.com. The website’s main page allows those interested to choose between attending the Zoom meeting or in person.

Sojka added that the group is especially important in being a positive outlet for members and future members.

“We’ve all been in isolation and we’re able to provide a safe place to meet,” she said.

The group’s next two meetings are on Saturday and on Oct. 24. Join the group’s Facebook page for more information.

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