Back in August 2017, I had the privilege of being invited to support the hackathon for women in Prizren, Kosovo. One of the things that caught my attention at this event was the enthusiasm with which people from each team demonstrated their projects in five minute presentations at the end of the event.
This encouraged me to think about further steps to support them. One idea that came to mind was introducing them to the Toastmasters organization. Toastmasters is not simply about speaking, it is about developing leadership skills that can be useful for anything from promoting free software to building successful organizations.
I had a look at the Toastmasters club search to see if I could find an existing club for them to visit but there doesn't appear to be any in Kosovo or neighbouring Albania.
Starting a Toastmasters club at the Innovation Centre Kosovo
In January, I had a conference call with some of the girls and explained the idea. They secured a venue, Innovation Centre Kosovo, for the evening of 11 February 2019.
Albiona and I met on Saturday, 9 February and called a few people we knew who would be good candidates to give prepared speeches at the first meeting. They had 48 hours to prepare their Ice Breaker talks. The Ice Breaker is a 4-6 minute talk that people give at the beginning of their Toastmasters journey.
Promoting the meeting
At our club in EPFL Lausanne, meetings are promoted on a mailing list. We didn't have that in Kosovo but we were very lucky to be visited by Sara Koci from the morning TV show. Albiona and I were interviewed on the rooftop of the ICK on the day of the meeting.
The first meeting
That night, we had approximately 60 people attend the meeting.
Albiona acted as the meeting presider and trophy master and I was the Toastmaster. At the last minute we found volunteers for all the other roles and I gave them each an information sheet and a quick briefing before opening the meeting.
One of the speakers, Dion Deva, has agreed to share the video of his talk publicly:
The winners were Dhurata, best prepared speech, Arti, best impromptu speech and Ardora for best evaluation:
Afterwards, some of us continued around the corner for pizzas and drinks and discussion about the next meeting.
Future events in Kosovo and Albania
Software Freedom Kosovo will be back from 4-7 April 2019 and I would encourage people to visit.
OSCAL in Tirana, Albania is back on 18-19 May 2019 and they are still looking for extra speakers and workshops.