How local professionals practice hybrid online/in-person meeting skills through Toastmasters

If you’ve attended work or professional meetings conducted in a hybrid format — with some people online and others in person — you’ve probably experienced bad ones, plagued by poor preparation and technical glitches.

These are some of the issues the members of Club Awesome Toastmasters work to overcome at their weekly Friday morning meetings, 7 am to 8:30. Guests are always welcome: register at to get both a Zoom link and directions to our in-person meeting location at the Panthers Ice Den in Coral Springs.

We offer a free breakfast on the last Friday of the month, including this Friday April 28, as a way of encouraging in-person attendance by members and guests.

If you’re not familiar with Toastmasters, it’s a professional education organization for practicing public speaking and leadership skills. Like organizations of all sorts, Toastmasters had to navigate an abrupt transition to online meetings in 2020 and the (in some ways, an even more awkward) transition back to figuring out what made sense to do in person, online, or in a hybrid format.

Club Awesome decided to make a serious commitment to the hybrid format as a way of retaining members attracted from outside the local area, as well as some who moved away or simply found online attendance more convenient. But like a lot of businesses that have tried to get at least some of their workers back in the office, our club leaders also wanted to retain the value of speaking to a group of people in person rather than only on screen.

Paolo Barone, an importer of men’s custom-tailored suits who splits his time between Miami and Italy, joined the club as an online attendee but recently has made an effort to attend in person when he is in town. As a serious competitor in public speaking competitions, he enjoys the opportunity to speak to a variety of audiences online – but also says nothing replaces the energy that comes from speaking on stage.

Personal perspective: I joined Toastmasters as a writer and editor who felt he needed to strengthen his skills communicating on stage (and, later, on screen) instead of from behind the keyboard. When I published a Social Collaboration for Dummies book and got speaking invitations in Lisbon, Berlin, and Stockholm, I put my Toastmasters skills to good use. When COVID happened, I had already been learning to adapt public speaking skills to online video tools like Zoom as a founder of Online Presenters Toastmasters, which has members from around the world.

However, doing hybrid meetings right poses a whole different set of challenges, which I wrote about in a recent article for Toastmasters Magazine. I’m hoping to interest you in letting people who aren’t already Toastmasters members know about this personal and professional development opportunity. As with other public speaking leadership skills, Toastmasters lets you practice hybrid meeting skills among friends before taking those skills into the workplace.

Here’s an example of one of our members polishing her skills:

“See You Later, Alligator,” by Tiffany Gunter, with an introduction by Paolo Barone