A new project aims to help people from across Central Otago improve their communication skills regardless of their location.
Waitati Toastmasters Club member Jane Gregory, of Dunedin, has devised a way to allow people to take part in Toastmasters programmes even if they live in remote areas.
Recognising that setting up a local club can sometimes be difficult in areas with a low population, the club has established an easy way to take part in meetings by using an online video link.
Toastmasters was an international organisation that aimed to help people develop their speaking and leadership skills, Mrs Gregory said.
“We practise also impromptu speaking, which is good for answering questions off the cuff.”
The clubs practised giving and receiving feedback, helping people to have greater self-confidence, she said.
“As a starting point for rural areas we thought we would invite people who were interested to join the Waitati club meetings via video-conferencing.”
People would be able to remotely join club meetings taking place in Waitati, north of Dunedin, from their own homes.
“They can use their mobile phone, tablet or laptop,” Mrs Gregory said.
People could interact with other club members, gaining instant feedback and learn without leaving their home.
“So that means they will be able to work through the education programme, practise speaking and impromptu speaking, and giving feedback just like every other member.”
The participants would have a view of the room showing all the people in the audience “and they can see you”, Mrs Gregory said.
“Plus at the top of the screen you also have a view of each of the people who are joining the meeting online.”
The nearest clubs to Central Otago were “pretty spread out” at the moment with meetings in Wanaka, Gore or Dunedin.
As well as helping people practice communication skills, the clubs were a great way to make friends and connect with others in remote areas, Mrs Gregory said.
Toastmasters was a non-profit organisation, so membership fees covered only the cost of education materials, she said.
“We basically run on the smell of an oily rag – we are just covering admin costs.”