By Nick Freiha

Mandarin Toastmasters, a subsector of Toastmasters International, is thriving in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. Toastmasters International recently recognized Mandarin as a “Select Distinguished Club” for adding new members. For many months the communication and self-development club transitioned to hybrid meetings where members can participate on Zoom or in person. In person attendance is increasing again as more people are vaccinated against Covid. 

Toastmasters International is a 97-year-old non-profit volunteer organization which helps its members overcome their fear of public speaking and learn leadership skills in a friendly, supportive environment. Members deliver both prepared and impromptu speeches that are evaluated constructively by other members. Everyone participates at their comfort level. 

The club’s vice president of education, Taylor Brill, was asked how Mandarin Toastmasters has survived while other clubs no longer exist due to the pandemic. Brill said, “We have a very committed group who were already giving up their Saturday morning twice monthly to meet. That commitment has helped the club persevere.” 

Club President Augusto Menendez said flexibility and constant communication have been critical to the club’s survival.

“When our library meeting room is occasionally not available, we move the entire meeting to Zoom,” Menendez said. “We can quickly pivot by notifying our members through email or text of changes affecting the meeting.” 

Toastmasters International has also had to pivot by taking its program online, including the communication manuals that help train members in speaking as well as holding its annual international conference on Zoom. A positive consequence of the pandemic is that since most clubs now have a virtual component, members and visitors can attend meetings hosted worldwide through Zoom. 

Mandarin Toastmasters is 15 years old and meets the first and third Saturday of each month from 10:15 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the South Mandarin Regional Library, 12125 San Jose Blvd. Visitors are encouraged to attend in person or via Zoom and the club is open to anyone who is interested. There is a small annual fee. Send a message to or visit the club website at for more information. 

Photo courtesy Nick Freiha 
Mandarin Toastmasters meet the first and third Saturday of each month at the South Mandarin Library as well as via Zoom. 

  • Support community journalism! Subscribe to the Mandarin Newsline today!
  • Havana Printing 904-447-5021