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Challenges and Opportunities

(how about that, another wordy webpage--but you might find it interesting)


    A bend in the road is not the end of the road...

unless you fail to make the turn.

- Helen Keller

Change is inevitable; but progress depends on what we do with that change

- Charles Wheelan








To say that Covid years have been challenging year is kind of like saying the Titanic sprung a leak. The global COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc and tragedy worldwide impacting individuals, families, communities and nations. Toastmasters has not been spared and like so many other organizations large and small, we had to adjust and will continue to navigate our way through the darkness that still lies ahead into an uncertain future.  That future is full of challenges, but those challenges also present opportunities and the sun rises on the distant horizon as we look forward to brighter future.


Even before 2020 our organization was adjusting to multiple significant changes--the introduction of Pathways, a dues increase, the World HQ move from California to Colorado in the USA, the discontinuation of our traditional Autumn District Conferences (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway, the Spring for those Down Under). There have been many bends in the road and the way ahead has not always been clear. But change is inevitable and essential for growth and challenges and adversity also present opportunities. These are opportunities not just for the organization--but for you as an individual as well. We will need leaders, problem solvers and creative thinkers to meet the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that lie ahead of us--you may hold the key! 


Let's look at a few.

The Post-COVID Normal

Yes, a time will come a time in the future when the situation we are facing now will be in the past.  What that time will look like is not clear, but what is clear is that it will be different than life, including life as a Toastmaster, was before COVID. There will be a new "normal." We've seen some of that already -- online meetings, contests, conferences and conventions. Resilience, is the acceptance of the new normal and striving to make it the best it can be. We must do that at all levels of Toastmasters and we can do that. This presents significant leadership challenges but also significant opportunities. It's a time to be creative, and innovative and celebrate what is possible rather than lament what has been lost--and each and every member has something to offer in exploring the new path before us.  The future will likely be a time of great innovation as seek new ways to leverage technology to achieve our envisioned future -- "To be the first-choice provider of dynamic, high-value, experiential communication and leadership skills development."  As unfortunate and tragic as the pandemic was, it forced to learn new ways of doing things, and likely hastened that future as a result.

You may have the solutions to some of the challenges we will be facing!

I've included some resources here.

Emerging Markets

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Toastmasters was growing -- and it will again!  Here are the numbers , from the Toastmasters International website:

364,000+ members

16,200+ clubs

145 countries


To borrow, and paraphrase, a phrase from history, the sun never sets on Toastmasters! We did suffer setbacks due to the pandemic, but as we emerge from it (hopefully soon), we will begin to grow again and much of the growth will be in emerging markets.

Emerging markets present both challenges and opportunities.  They are area that can have exceptionally high growth rates as Toastmasters becomes available in them. The opportunities are for new members, new clubs and new districts. Those clubs and districts will need leaders, those members will need mentors. And the entire organization will need fresh ideas on marketing and effectively leveraging technology to serve these markets while maintaining the culture and values that makes us strong as a community.

An increasingly Multi-Cultural/Multi-Generational Membership

While emerging international markets represent obvious expansion into diverse cultures, this is also true within established markets. My district is near Washington, DC--the US capital, and it is a very culturally diverse area with residents from around the world. We get to learn from each other, and that's exciting! But we also need to learn more about each other so we can work together effectively. That's also exciting but it can also be a challenge. Effectively bridging cultural differences and leveraging diversity is something we must consistently do well if we are to serve all of our members, worldwide. According to the demographics published on the Toastmasters International website, regional membership is:

55.6 % in the Americas

27.2 % in Asia

8.3 % in Europe

5.6 % in Oceania

3.3 % in Africa

Further, if you've been watching these demographics over the past few years, membership, as a percentage of the overall organization, has shifted from North America to Europe and Asia. The top three primary languages spoken by members, after English (61.1 %), are Mandarin (4.0 %), Hindi (3.2. %) and Spanish (2.7 %), with a decrease in English over the past few years.   That represents a shift in member cultural identify as well. 

Related to this, is recognition that we are also multi-generational. 

Within the US, the demographic breakout by generation is:

Baby Boomer (born 1946 -1964, over age 55): 21.1 %

Generation X (born 1965 - 1980, age 40 - 55): 19.85 %

Millennials (born 1981 - 1996, age 24 - 39): 21.9 % 

Generation (born 1997 - 2012, under age 23): 20.46 %


As a comparison, in China, as of 2014, Millennials were 30 % of the population*

Within Toastmasters, the demographic, per the Toastmasters International website, is:

Over age 55):  30.5 %

45 - 54: 21.0 %

35 - 44: 22.7 %

25 - 34 %: 20.4 %

18 - 24: 5.4 %  

The average age of a Toastmaster is 46.2 years (Gen X), yet the median age of the US population is 37.9 years (Millennial),** and the global median age is 29.6 years (Millennial).***

As the world population demographic shifts, so too, inevitably, will ours. As an education organization we must meet the needs of all our members. This means attracting and retaining Millennials and Generation Z as they build their careers, assisting Generation X as they navigate the mid-career challenges and the Baby Boomers in and approaching retirement. To remain relevant and vibrant as an organization we must serve the needs of all and those needs are not identical across generations. Not are their preferred forms of communication or expectations for the organizations  they affiliate with. 

Every generation and culture represented by our diverse membership adds richness to the tapestry that is Toastmasters. There are challenges, but as with all challenges there are opportunities for up and coming leaders to build the bridges that will connect us and make us stronger.

These are just a few, there are many more. You probably know of some or have ideas how we might tackle these. If you'd like to share, I'd love to talk to you. Please reach out to me through the "Contact Me" feature on this website.

Even challenges are beautiful opportunities in disguise.

- Rhonda Byrne

* Extracted from: Statista Research Department, released June 2020, 

** Extracted from "Countries With The Highest Median Age," World Atlas,

*** Extracted from "Age Structure", Our World in Data,

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