The new Toastmasters year has begun as of July 1, 2017, new officers have been elected and submitted to the Toastmasters International website, and Toastmasters across the globe are excited as ever. To commemorate the new year and to guide the new officers, the TLI or Toastmasters Leadership Institute was held to fulfill these two goals.

The TLI took place yesterday and I was excited to go to one of my first district sponsored training events. On Friday after work, I couldn’t wait to meet new people and learn valuable skills pertaining to the VPE or Vice President Education role. So far, I found the role challenging since it meant taking on new responsibilities and taking communication to a whole new level. It was time for me to step up and the training has given me the tools to succeed.

First, I will give you a general timeline of the day. Then, I will dive into the reflection portion on what I learned.

The event took place from 7:30 AM – 4:30 PM. This all-day event was not only full of training and workshops, but also one that brought great joy, energy, and networking opportunities. One of the neat features about Toastmasters events is that world-renowned speakers offer their tips and details on what makes Toastmasters an amazing organization and how Toastmasters can make huge impacts on people’s lives. We were honored to have Lance Miller, a 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking, deliver a wonderful keynote on what makes a Toastmasters club great and how to improve as a club to achieve more and enrich more lives. Mr. Miller not only executed his presentation flawlessly, but he also brought in humor and personal experiences to strengthen some of the key points to bring the message back home to each and every individual Toastmasters club.

After the keynote, we had a 15-minute break and we were off to our training and workshop sessions. I attended the advanced training session which consisted of two parts. This particular session gave a nice overview of each of the 7 officer roles. Each officer role was explained in further details by previous Toastmasters who held the position. These experts were creative in their explanations and connected key points to specific activities associated with each role; thus, each Toastmaster can apply what was learned to his or her club in some variation. After all, each club is different in nature, their organization structure, people and the way the agenda is set up. After this training session was done, it was time to head off to lunch at Subway for a quick bite because we had to return promptly for the next set of sessions.

It was 1 PM and time for the VPE exclusive training which also consisted of two parts. Since there were only around 15 people in the room, we were able to break out into groups and discuss what makes a club fun and engaging. By conversing with people, I was able to get a feel of how others run their club and obtain some common themes representative clubs.

Finally, it was 3:30 PM and time for the last session, a technology workshop. This workshop was different in that it focused on how technology can eliminate manual work and make the process of confirming roles, managing education goals and attracting new members easier which would benefit the club in many ways! I was impressed by the tools available to create an eye-catching site that not only would help maintain the image of the club, but also bring in automated features such as e-mail follow-ups for members who have not shown up or for confirming/dropping a role with a click of a button. Overall, I was glad to attend this workshop since I was able to acquire some wonderful ideas and would be able to share them with other officers and members.

Now, onto the reflection portion as promised!

Reflection #1: ALL members must run the club

This may seem obvious, but based on Mr. Miller’s keynote, I learned something interesting. Often, we look at executives as the top people who have the final say and everything should be done according to their plan. But, in reality, everyone must contribute and motivate each other to bring in results. Unlike a business where this little room for error, Toastmasters is a sanctuary for those who wish to try and fail. No results? Try something new, that’s all!

Reflection #2: Keep guests in mind

Before members even exist, they are guests. Guests are the foundation of any club and officers/members must ensure guests are treated with respect and are motivated to return and even speak for the first time. This also means the meeting should be run as smoothly as possible to keep guests happy and interested. We all want new members in our clubs as they bring diversity and contribute their own stories with their speeches. Guests need to know someone is willing to help them by providing resources and contacting them in case they require assistance.

Reflection #3: Visuals aid in fulfilling educational goals

We all want members to complete their CC, CL or DTM goals. But, they need a purpose for doing so. It is not acceptable to push members around hoping they will complete their manuals. In fact, this is counter productive because some members may leave! Then, you must obtain new guests and convert them into members…see the problem? It all starts with visuals. Get creative! Create a chart and track the progress. Add rewards for members when they achieve specific targets. If a member finishes 5 speeches from the CC manual, perhaps you may give him/her a gift. It may even be as simple as placing a star on the chart. When a member sees the physical reward, he/she may become more motivated. Furthermore, this may even signal to other members who have not yet completed 5 speeches that they should as well so they can obtain a star! It’s all about getting creative! No matter what, keep trying. Keep members motivated and happy!

That’s all for now. I may even make a part two of this to include more reflections.

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