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Brickell Toastmasters in Miami

During our trip to Miami, Fl we were so lucky to visit a regular meeting of Brickell Toastmasters Club.

And here is why.

It was our first visit of a Toastmasters club abroad. We were looking forward to see how meetings are conducted in the USA, the homeland of all toastmasters clubs.
So on the 8th of July we came to the Bank of America building in downtown Miami. The venue is a Merrill Lynch conference room with a stunning view of the ocean.

The Brickell toastmasters club has 54 official members, attendance was about 20-25 members which is very good considering the time (12.15 on Friday)

We came a bit earlier so the room was empty. But colorful agendas were already printed.
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What was unusual about Brickell Toastmasters and impressed us the most:
1) Time-management. According to the agenda, duration of the meeting was roughly one hour. We were a bit skeptical initially because we know from experience it’s very hard to organize meetings during lunch time. However, to our surprise the meeting had started at 12.15 sharp as planned. At exactly 12.14 everybody became silent and watched the hand of the clock on the wall to reach the beginning time!
Throughout the meeting every participant demonstrated excellent time-management skills – almost no one was over the limit.
Two interesting details: Instead of cards, Brickell Toastmasters has a special device for a timer. It looks more like a toy traffic light.
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However, it’s amazingly convenient to use. The timer’s role was masterfully performed by Korlan Bektassova who was recruitted by the toastmaster of the meeting on the spot..
Another interesting thing is a 30-seconds-rule – amazingly cool technique! Once speakers reach a maximum time limit, a timer counts until 30 and then begins to clap and everybody joins. Yes, it’s that easy and genius! No long boring speeches, no brandishing a red card! Though only one speaker during the table topic session was granted an applause from Korlan – everyone being so cool staying within the time limits! Also the club saves time on writing feedback. At ATC the toastmaster of the meeting usually gives one minute to write feedback note to the speakers. At Brickell all members write feedback during the next speech.
Here is a timer’s report form:
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2) New roles. Not only Brickell Toastmasters has a joke master – a separate role which is combined with the role of a grammarian in our club – but also they have two quite unusual roles:
 Vote counter. Actually, I took this role without even thinking – just wanted to try something new. But anyway how hard could be counting votes for the best prepared speaker, best table topic speaker and best speech evaluator?! In reality, I was overwhelmed by the flow of votes!Brickell Toastmasters uses the standard ballot for voting and brief evaluations. The Vote counter collects all feedbacks and votes, counts votes for the best prepared speaker, second best and most improved,  and also sorts feedback notes for the prepared speakers and distributes them at the end of the meeting.
– CL evaluator – Brickell Toastmasters assigns a special member to fill CL manuals of all the role takers. This is quite unusual, however, I suspect this practise leads to a very high rate of competent leaders in the club :-)
3) Little details:
– Ah-counter has a special clicker which he uses upon hearing filler words and sounds. I was SO annoyed at first – what the guy is doing?! He is DISTRACTING the speakers! But then it became obvious that the clicker has a powerful effect: after several clicks the speakers started to control his/her speeches and consiously decreased the number of filler words.
– Sergeant-at-arms opens and closes the meeting.
– The meeting begins with everybody saying a short oath.
– We’ve met an area director. It was the first Toastmasters high official I’ve ever met in my life. ))) It’s cool that area directors visit toastmasters club which they supervise.
We are very grateful to all toastmasters of Brickell club in Miami for their hospitality. As a token gift from ATC, we presented a bar of Kazakhstan chocolate to the best prepared speaker. He was so happy! :-)
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Everyone was kind and genuinely interested in Astana Toastmasters Club. They all asked questions about us, about Astana and Kazakhstan (- Do you all speak fluent English? – Of course! :)) And the area director even promised to visit us one day.
Overall we were extremely impressed by the Brickell Toastmasters CLub. How effectively it is organized, how time wise and productive.Korlan as a president promised to implement some tools in our club. Looking forward seeing best practice in our beloved Astana Toasmasters Club!
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