Online conferences, part 2

Jul 26, 2020

A couple months ago I wrote about an online event I was attending. In short, I was disappointed, and I blamed it on the lack of networking. But I've just returned for one of our Toastmasters Division Bootcamps[1] I feel more energized and refreshed than I have the right to be.

It seems like I was wrong. If last time I was confused and wrote about why I think things went downside for me, I believe it's time for a 180 turn. Let's look at why things went right this time!

My own state of mind

First thing's first, I recognize that the way I approach an event is possibly more important than the event itself. I can't but notice now the last event was one in a series of online events during a time when we were all longing for the real deal. Honestly, there was a lot more friction there than this weekend and maybe I wasn't even in the right mood to put in the effort to do networking.

This weekend, I stayed through the lunch breaks, played some music, chatted with people during the workshops, did my Sudokus, and was just really willing to have a good time. I must say it out loud and must acknowledge this weekend I'd have enjoyed the that district contest much better than I did then.

I hesitate to say why I was better prepared the second time. Yet, here I was, and that alone probably made a difference.

Being involved

I wasn't really part of the organization team, I was just there with 1 other person, taking care of Zoom. I helped move people between rooms, took screenshots, posting links to feedback forms, recorded meetings (poorly)... I just did logistics and pressed buttons, and was patient with people reminding them how to rename themselves so we could have an easy time.

It doesn't really matter what I did, I was there, in 2 extra chats, seeing the organizers communicate. I got to see people complaining about small things, people rushing to make backup plans in the case one of the trainers would not show up, and people deciding how we'd count participants, and validate attendance to the trainings.

People claim my buddy and I did an amazing job there, but in all honestly it was mostly him. I just had an extra reason to talk to people, and a little extra thing to fill my time with.

I HAD to be online

Being a "Zoommaster" comes with 1 "downside". You have to be online throughout the entire event. You need to move people between rooms (one of the cheaper zoom accounts, people can't move themselves, don't judge), or answer questions, mute/unmute people. Minor tasks really, but they require you to be online.

I mention "downside" in quotes, as being online forced me to take part of almost every break, every coffee table conversation. Out of the close to 100 participants from both days, I've witnessed a mere 10-15 people talk during those breaks. And I was one of them. It makes perfect sense that I would have skipped networking opportunities last time if I were in the other 85%-90%. It made sense to think networking doesn't exist.

Be online, aim for the breaks, aim for the early morning coffee time. Of course there are fewer opportunities to network in an online event, but they definitely exist.

Glad to see how and when I was wrong in the past.


  1. Bootcamps are trainig events we host primarily for new club board members. These are some of the first larger Toastmasters events people get to once they are cozy in their club. ↩︎