Yesterday we had an Area Contest for a couple of our Toastmasters® International clubs. It seems weird in this time of social distancing that my District is embracing virtual contests. It takes a lot of work for the three people who lead our District (our Trio) to learn the in's and out's of Zoom and then sharing it out with all the rest of us.

The extra work isn't designated to just the Trio. We also have at least one Zoom team. They made sure we had the pieces in place to have a smooth contest. All attendees have a wide range of experience with Zoom. The Zoom team took a bottoms-up approach to teach us the basics without being condescending. The Zoom team also created breakout rooms so judges had a place to meet independently of the contestants. The contestants also had their breakout room so they would know what to expect during the contest. From my perspective, the Zoom team created the magic that made our virtual meeting work.

Dry Run

Our meeting went well because we had a dry run the night before. Everyone worked through the questions group of 20+ people had. We practiced what to do with the breakout rooms. Judges and contestants had their briefings so they knew what they would do the next day. We practiced our script so that our Contest Master, who had been a Toastmaster for less than six months would be comfortable speaking to his computer. We muted our audio and blackout our screens except for the speaker and timer so there was little for or Contest Master to go on. He had the heart of a lion from my perspective.

I learned during the dry run, too. I had forgotten to send the script to someone important. Oops. I corrected my mistake and hoped it was the final oversight.

What Did I Miss?

Saturday arrived and I worried about how the contest would go. Would we blow it? Would it be ok? Would it be a hit? What were the things that I had missed?

The contest went off nearly flawlessly. Almost 50 people attended. We had a couple of stumbles, mostly mine. I was so proud of my team who pulled the whole thing off. We get there, partly because we have a great Division Director who helped us every step of the way.

Where Does This Fit into Life?

So what does it mean to me? I remember how hard it was when I struggled back from my stroke. I had my family and friend around me. They encouraged me to try stuff that felt uncomfortable to me. As long as I really wanted something (like walking again and talking again), they had my back. Even when I was scared of things like riding my bike, they encouraged me. I believe I am the person I am today because I had a host of friends and family rooting me on.

I think Toastmasters in my district are the same . . . friends who are cheering me on to do better. Evolving because of social distancing. I am so proud that they take the time and effort to make sure that we can be on top of the next wave. Yes, they are making sure that everyone can use Zoom to participate in our contests. More importantly, by using Zoom we are now able to move ahead of other people who are afraid of technology as their gateway to other people.

Just Give it a Try

This is a new era in our social structure. We have the people who use Zoom, Skype, Face-Time, etc. who are going to build their lives and their businesses again. There are the other people who will sit at home, wring their hands, and say, "Why us? There is no way out of this mess!" I say there is a way. You just have to try. You might be scared. That's okay. Just do it. Find a Meetup group and try.

Author's Bio: 

After successfully building her business over the last twenty-plus years, Marcia Moran thought she had life by the tail. Little did she know what was in store.

Marcia Moran has written over fifty business plans, and helped entrepreneurs strategize over how to differentiate their companies in changing environments. Her twenty-plus years of experience helping other entrepreneurs caused her to found her own firm, Performance Architect, in 2012 and co-founded Positive Business DC that same year.

After suffering a major stroke in 2014, Marcia applied her skills in planning and strategy as she strived to become whole. She never gave up. Over time she learned to walk again, but Marcia struggled with aphasia, a language disorder. She joined Toastmasters International hoping to regain her speaking abilities. It helped some, but in August 2017 she discovered a technological breakthrough that minimized her speaking disability. She then pushed beyond her comfort zone to become a Toastmasters International Club Officer in 2017, then Area Director in 2019.

A woman of many talents, she attended Skirinssal Folkehoyskole in Sandefjord, Norway and studied art. She also earned a certificate in Well-being Foundations of Personal Transformation from the Personal Transformation and Courage Institute in Virginia. She volunteers at Brain Injury Services, supporting their Speakers Bureau program.

Marcia created Stroke FORWARD because she felt there is a need to share hope to stroke survivors and their caretakers. Learning to become her own health advocate one step a time and exploring holistic methods for healing are keys to her recovery. Marcia speaks and shares her message of hope, inspiration, healing, and a way forward as she goes across the country. She welcomes new opportunities to help individuals affected by major health crises move forward.

Marcia lives with her husband Jim, two very loud cats, and two birds near Washington, DC. Jim played a role of caretaker and advocate. His observations and experiences are also captured in Stroke FORWARD.

On weekends, Marcia, Jim, and the cats go to Deep Creek, Maryland where Marcia paints watercolors. In the evening Marcia and Jim sit out on the deck and watch fireflies flit by.

Marcia holds a B.S. in Political Science with a magna cum laude from the University of North Dakota and a Master’s in Business Administration, from Chapman University, in California.

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