Covid and the institutional memory of Toastmasters clubs

Covid and the institutional memory of Toastmasters clubs

Several years ago, as part of my efforts to become a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM), I was honoured to be named the Coach of an old and storied club here in the suburbs of Johannesburg (the Rivonia Toastmasters Club). As so often happens, this club had fallen into a bit of a slump and was down to 8 members at the time. 

The leadership team and I committed to improving the club in all respects, so we decided to revive a meeting theme for which the club had been famous years earlier; the Lifeboat Debate. The problem was that none of us knew how to run it. It had been some years since that meeting theme had been run. In other words, the club had lost its 'institutional memory', something that can easily happen to any organisation (like our clubs) that changes it leadership team every year and that has a constant inflow and outflow of members. 

During the first few months of lockdown this year I started to wonder what would happen to some of the meeting themes that I had been involved in developing over the years. Our clubs couldn't meet in person, and so we were tending to skip the more fun events that I personally used to look forward to the most. In some cases we went ahead with our fun events, but they weren't quite the same (case in point, I found the Roast of our former club president very challenging this year, because with the audience on mute, there was no laughter, no matter how funny the laugh line.)

This is one reason, why that former President and I decided to document as many meeting themes as we could. Clubs lose institutional memory from time to time anyway, but with Covid, they are bound to lose more. Our small contribution to solving this problem has been to build up a database of meeting theme ideas with detailed instructions on how to run each theme. 

Back when I was the Rivonia club coach, we did manage to run a Lifeboat Debate meeting, but afterwards I was told by a former member that we hadn't done it correctly. We had made some fundamental mistakes that while it was still fun, it just wasn't the same.  

Recently I made an effort to visit with that former member and find out how to do it properly, as it was originally intended. I am happy to say we have now documented it on our database of meeting themes and I intend to share it with the current club leadership and hopefully soon be able to take part a Lifeboat Debate myself (either face-to-face or online - as I believe it will work as an online meeting). The Lifeboat Debate meeting theme is documented here.  

If you know of a meeting theme that you would like us to preserve or would like to share with the world, please tell us about it here

By Eamonn Ryan

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.