Stage Three: Virtual Support Sessions

Reflections of a Pathways Guide

I have been in planning mode for the Virtual Support Sessions!

These are a whole new learning curve for me and for those who attend! I wanted to approach this with all of my knowledge and strategies for preparing the learner for the learning process. It is a journey! The beginnings are an important part of the journey – just as we do for any travel – we gather our maps, prepare out itinerary, and pack our items to take with us. The following is a set of preparation tasks for my journey into VSS!

1. How to prepare for sessions

First, communicate with the Base Camp Managers about their needs for support for themselves and their club members. This can be done immediately after the club visit presentations, or at a scheduled time separate to the visits.

Second, schedule the Virtual Support Sessions with attention to our own time availability, the likely best days and times for attendees, and in a sequential manner. Prepare the schedule and send to the Base Camp Managers.

My VSS schedule is now in place, with capacity for flexibility. Some Base Camp Managers and club members who want to attend will want to know in advance and plan their own availability.

My followup after the club visit presentations has been to email out to the Base Camp Managers in each of the clubs in my Area. This emails contains the invitation to attend, details of online location and support for new users of Zoom, along with instructions on where to find and RSVP to the events in a Facebook Group for the Area.

I prefer to use an existing Facebook group that I setup some years back when I was the Area Director. Many of the Club Base Camp Managers were already members of this group.

I simply added the rest and notified them all by Messenger.

Note: not all are on Facebook, so Google calendars and emails are also necessary for sheduling and notifying.

2. What to include in sessions

I have also begun to map out the content for a series of VSS, that are sequential in content and focus! These are for the moment under the banner of Base Camp Exploration and Base Camp Management!

I am keeping this process flexible and enable ‘user choice’ – I want to ensure that the Base Camp Managers want to attend – being mindful of the What’s In It for Me approach!

Base Camp Exploration is a series of five sessions focused on Base Camp Mastery:

  • Getting Started in Base Camp
  • Gaining Confidence with Education Transcripts
  • Navigating a Path
  • Completing a Level
  • Completing a Path

This segment is intended for their own learning within their chosen path and levels prior to helping others.

Base Camp Management is a series of five sessions focused on Base Camp Management:

  • Base Camp Manager responsibilities overview
  • Evaluations and Eportfolios unpacked
  • Base Camp Dashboards explored
  • Projects and Level Completion verification
  • Materials and Support strategies

This segment is intended as a train the trainer to empower them to help members in their own clubs.

3. How to facilitate the sessions

During the open segment of your VSS, do the following:

  • be the logistics manager and
  • steer attendees through use of on screen tools
    eg chat panel, video, microphone, hand raiser

Some strategies to keep in mind for the actual facilitation within a VSS include attention to engagement for the attendees. These are:

  • Prepare your virtual meeting “room” – have your slides open on the desktop ready to share
  • Keep your participants involved – ask questions of them and pause for their responses
  • Manage common dysfunctions in virtual meetings – ensure that attendees know when and how to use chat panel and microphone (eg: use the tools and permissions afforded to the Host to Mute All)
  • Focus your meeting with virtual engagement strategies – provide stimuli for interactions in voice eg Q & A, Panel Discussions, Round Robins, Table Topics.

4. Follow up process

Each of the VSS will be recorded and links provided in the Facebook group as well as emailed out for others!
Some sets of slides already seen by those club members who were in attendance at club visit presentations, will be narrated and stored in my Slideshare account. Notification of those will be sent out to the Base Camp Managers for sharing with those members who were unable to attend.

You comments are welcomed!


Pathways Express Gathers Steam!

Pathways Guide Reflections

Stage Two: October Presentations

Getting ready to enthuse club members during my assigned club visits about Pathways Experience!

I have considered the audience prior to the visit and found out a little more about who will be there and what their expectations will be. For the most part this has been done through direct contact by phone or in person with executives, and in particular, I asked about what else was happening during their meetings. Knowing where my presentation was to fit within the meeting agenda was important – this varies between clubs – and will help me put the presentation into context. In some situations I will be the only presenter after the club runs its contest, with me as a Judge. In other clubs I am an invited guest to special celebratory function prior to the meeting which involves a meal.

Key learning #1 Set the context for my attendance

I am now considering optional methods of showcasing Base Camp where there is no Internet connection provided – the use of the Quick Guides for each of the Video Tutorials will be useful here. I can show these on screen as PDFs and add the files to the USB that is delivered to the VPE for distribution electronically.  I can help to ‘show’ them the navigational aspects of Base Camp without actually being in Base Camp. This also showcases the Quick Guides as an alternative to the video tutorials – keeping in mind the different learning styles of the club members.

Key Learning #2 Provide flexible resources as take aways

My first presentation provided me with feedback on how to improve my workshop style and in particular how to be ‘more prepared‘ for answering the questions frankly and with confidence. The Master Q & A Log is a key resource for me in this regard, and reading some sections again prior to the presentation can be helpful. The document itself is dynamic and changes with new additional questions and answers as they arise in the Pathways Guides Support Webinars. Therefore I need not rely only on a print based version of the document.

Key Learning #3 Be prepared for the questions from the floor

By restructuring the basic PowerPoint presentation, I was able to divide it into 4 distinct segments: overview, what stays the same, what is different, and WIIFM. I have also built in 4 Q&A activities to mark the transition between the 4 segments.  A final segment is provided to indicate the various ‘support’ resources available to them, especially the information about the Virtual Support Sessions scheduled. I have also injected a little humour into the presentation to lighten the process and make it more enjoyable! More ‘fun’ activities will feature in my later presentations where I have had time to fine tune best practices for these activities.

Key Learning #4 Engage with the audience by creating a fun presentation!

Finally I have made a point of working within Base Camp, using the ePortfolio tool in particular, to store the ‘feedback guides’ from each of my presentations. I needed to find a way to record the anecdotal feedback and store it using the new tools from Base Camp. For the moment, I have chosen the Project called ‘Communicating Change’ from the Mastering Presentations path – a level three project which has an Evaluation Guide closely aligned to my objectives as a PG presenter.

Key Learning #5 Utilize the new tools in Base Camp now to gain confidence in their use

Getting on board the Pathways Express!

Pathways Guide Reflections!

Stage One: September self-paced learning

PG Badge D70

During September I focused on my preparations and learning for my new role as Pathways Guide. Found the process quite time consuming and unnecessarily complex – I do not agree with the enforced step-by-step sequential method of training that is used – it seeks to force the exact same learning process on each Pathways Guide, regardless of their technological or self-directed learning skills. I forged on anyway as a self-directed learner and gained some insights for the task of engaging members of my assigned clubs in the Pathways Education. It felt like I was learning in isolation, but I knew that all other PGs in Region 12 would be doing the same, so I suggested that each District in which my assigned clubs live, provide a social media group for cooperative learning opportunities.

Once I had access to the forum for sharing and networking the process seemed less isolated and I could ask my questions of others who may be a few steps ahead of me.

Key Learning #1:
Provide access to an online community (Facebook Group) for each Area.
Area North 29 already exists as a group – this I setup when I was Area Director.
Action #1: liaise with Area Director to setup a group for Area M 34.

Next I sent my Club Visit Planners to all 9 of my assigned clubs to alert them to my proposed visits and requested a one hour presentation time on their agendas. The dates were carefully aligned to their fortnightly club meetings and to my available time during October and November. With a bit of careful scheduling I realised I could fit one visit in each week. No more than that as my visits involve quite a bit of travel and overnight stays, as many of my assigned clubs are regionally located in Northern Victoria and Southern New South Wales. Now I felt a little more in control, as I could schedule and complete this process in my own manner. It was extremely helpful to have the details of club executives sent by the PDQs (Program Quality Directors) from each District. I also valued the pre-contact with clubs in Area M34 made by the Chief Ambassador from District 70 to introduce me.

In my emails to the executives, I also included some early dates for the Virtual Support Sessions that I was to provide for the VPEs in the assigned clubs during my six month project as Pathways Guide. These could begin once the Rollout of Pathways for District 12, happens in December 2017, giving all members access to Base Camp.

Key Learning #2:
Provide a clear communication with the executives to emphasise the importance of the introductory presentations and the follow up support.
Action: Keep copies of emails sent out for reference!

Key Learning #3:
Provide a schedule of virtual support sessions that established a pattern for me and flexibility of dates and times for the VPEs.
Action: Use the Virtual Support Sessions template to list my Zoom sessions.

I completed my Pathways Guide tasks in Base Camp and also reviewed one of the pre-recorded webinars from WHQ on Navigating in a Path – this gave me a more detailed view of what the learners will be expected to do at Base Camp. These recordings are accessible in the Master Q & A Document as links to GoToWebinar sessions conducted by WHQ.

Key Learning #4:
In my opinion these webinar recordings provide added opportunities to move ahead in the PG learning experience, even before Pathways has actually launched. They showcase a presenter navigating through the Paths and Levels, Transcripts and Profiles as a learner in Base Camp.
Action: Plan to incorporate that advice into the Zoom Training for PGs on October 21.

By completing the PG Quiz, I was able to reflect on the learning acquired and apply my new knowledge to answer all questions. A couple of questions gave me pause for thought – and I realised my own need for comprehension of question and need for thorough reading of resources.

I note that there is quite a glossary of new terms for learners to understand in Pathways and I will prepare a print out of those in preparation for my club visits.
When I accessed or ‘launched’ the Glossary I found that it did not include any explanation of this selection of ‘navigation terms’ used throughout the Base Camp.

  • Open Curriculum
  • Activate
  • Launch
  • View Training Details

Key Learning #5:
More anecdotal assistance will be required for clubs to understand the terminology of Pathways. Need to be able to put the terms into context for our presentation audiences.
Action: prepare to utilise some terminology games as part of motivational Base Camp Scavenger Hunts for those who join me in the Virtual Support Sessions.

Currently I am looking at ways to add value to the standard Pathways Presentation by considering the needs of the learners in understanding:

  • terminology,
  • navigation in Base Camp,
  • the differences between Pathways and traditional Toastmasters education,
  • the enhanced sets of 10 learning paths (options), and
  • the requirements for each of the 5 levels (completions).

My preparation for the Presentations will include practice with the slides and scripts, as well as attention to structuring the one hour training for maximising impact and enabling retention through participatory activities. For example chunking the presentation into 4 x 15 minute segments with activities in each.

  1. Slideset 1 pages 1-15 – provide the rationale and background to the change to Pathways
  2. Slideset 1 pages 16-27 – provide the overview of what Pathways is and includes reference to the changes in Evaluation resources and encouragement to pursue the Pathways Mentor program
  3. Slideset 2 pages 1-20 – provide an overview of getting started with login, navigator resource, choices of paths, and self-assessment process for Recommended paths.
  4. Slideset 2 pages 21-30 focusses on what changes and what stays the same for Meetings and DCP; as well as the local support team

Key Learning #6:
There is too much content in the presentation to provide comfortable and memorable training in one hour.
Action: plan to continue to use the slide decks above during the Virtual Support Sessions.

For the use of the PowerPoint Presentations, I am keen to ensure that the Pathways videos:

  1. Members Share Their Pathways Experience
  2. Introducing Pathways

are both available to play during my club visits without relying on Internet connection to play from YouTube. Noted: the Title of these in the Scripts for PGs vary from what is actually shown as their title in YouTube.

For this preparation I reached out to another PG who had already mastered the art of downloading the videos as MP4 files and storing those in the same folder as the PowerPoint Presentation file. By creating a new slide with links to the MP4 files resident on my computer, I can be assured that they will play without the need for Internet connection.

Key Learning #7:
Think ahead to the situations in which the presentations will be made and consider the following:

  • technology restraints
  • learning retention and concentration spans

Action: check after each presentation what could be used to improve the impact on learners – need to provide a feedback sheet. Q. Is there one supplied for the PGs? If not suggest that it be added.

There is still much to do! But I do feel more organised for my first club visit presentations.

Conventional Matters

flags of nationsThis week, Toastmasters from across the world, are celebrating the 86th International Convention in Vancouver, Canada. The opening ceremonies featured the Flags of Nations parade and this reminded me, in a colourful way, of our connectedness. Toastmasters International is the only global education program I know that focuses on the personal development of its members with unique and collaborative methods in friendly club environments both land based and online.

What I discovered was that I could participate in a couple of ways, although not actually being there.

  1. Virtual Ticket for Toastmasters on Demand
    Several options available for streaming video or downloading of recordings. You can watch the semi and the  finals of the International Speech Contest live online and view educationals from Toastmasters of global renown.
    virtual ticket toastmasters on demand
  2. Participate in Twenty Minute Toastmasters meetings scheduled during the lunch hour breaks of the Convention and available across the world.

There is a Twenty Minute Toastmasters event on every day of the convention and can be attended by anyone around the world. For example, this one scheduled for Thursday 24th August:

3. Join the Facebook groups who are posting about the convention and sharing photos with Toastmasters around the world.
Firebirds Collective
Online Toastmasters
Online Alliance (Online Clubs Collaborative Network)
Toastmasters Without Borders
Witty Birds




easy-speak training strategies

I have been focussed on providing a variety of easy-speak help for new users. We kicked off with a Live Online Webinar on July 31 – easy-speak for club officers. The recording for this session did not activate as had been expected. Therefore I was able to share the slides only.

Slides from that event are available here.

Next I hosted an Open Help Desk session in Zoom for people to drop in and ask a question. The first of these was August 21 and a few easy-speakers did drop in with some questions. Thanks to the presence of another easy-speak champion and myself we were able to answer those and provide assistance as the learner stepped through a process using the Share Screen tool in Zoom. This provided valuable learning for others who were listening and viewing.

Easy-speak Open Help Desk

Later I will be able to host a monthly live online webinar in my Zoom room and invite easy-speak champions to provide 15-30 minute workshops on aspects of easy-Speak for attendees.

Where can you find more easy-speak help desk resources?

First place to look is in easy-speak itself. You will find a link to the Help Desk flyer from this icon on the left hand navigation bar.

estraining logo in ES

easy-speak help desk

I was amazed to see that this site has had almost 16,500 visitors since it was created a few years ago. The analytics of this tool is a bonus. Try it out for yourself!

From the Help Desk you will find information about upcoming events and a wealth of resources to link to, including recordings of webinars stored in YouTube and slide decks stored in Slideshare. New printable and shareable resources (QuickSheets etc) are now available in the ES Shared Files Google Drive.

Note: Yes these resources are stored in different online spaces suited to the type of resource. However their links are displayed in the Help Desk Flyer for convenience.

But wait, there’s more!

Where can you access self-paced learning for easy-Speak?

The easy-speak Made Easy course (esme) was developed a few years ago as one of my High Performance Leadership projects, with Malcolm Warden himself, on my Guidance Committee. The course is designed to enable Toastmasters who are comfortable with self-paced learning, to step through the modules online and to practice on their own in King Arthur’s Playground, a fictitious club site. Take another look now as there has been some updates to its look and feel, along with an additional learning module on Control Panel Basics under construction.

esme home page new

Note: You can access this site as a guest using the password easyspeak on the Login as a Guest page.

esme 4Esme herself will lead you through the Learning Modules with some easy to understand instructions, screen images from King Arthur’s Playground for illustration, and projects to attempt at the end of each e-book within the modules.

You can also select the option to print out the e-books contained in each learning module for convenience.

And yet even more support is available in the Facebook groups for easy-speak users!

How can you join an easy-speak community in social media?

One community that I would recommend is this one, with almost 1000 members. Here you will find many easy-speak beginners, champions and gurus. Ask your questions, RSVP for events and download shared files from the easy-Speak Toastmasters Community. When you ask to join this group you will find 3 simple questions to answer. Administrators will approve your membership once they see those answers.

Another online community I would recommend is TM easy-Speak Users. Some of the members are using the site and often questions are different to those asked in easy-speak Toastmasters Community. Best to subscribe to both.

fb community groups



Zooming into Online Club Meetings

You have just received an invitation to join a Zoom Online Club meeting! What do you do next?


preparing for zoom

In Online Clubs where is used, meetings are scheduled in Zoom Cloud web conferencing software. You can prepare yourself and your computer for participating in this environment by accessing the video tutorials at the Zoom Support site:

    • Note: In particular please read this instructional page to help you get Zoom setup on your computer:

In addition please view this short video tutorial on How to Join a Zoom Meeting:

System Requirements: for computers

  • An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE)
  • Speakers and a microphone – built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth
  • A webcam or HD webcam – built-in or USB plug-in
  • Or, a HD cam or HD camcorder with video capture card

System Requirements: for mobile devices

Please access this page for system requirements, equipment and supported operating systems:

View these video tutorials to help you to prepare yourself!


And now for the fun part! Managing the Zoom Tools.

managing zoom tools

Managing Audio 

When you are participating in an Online Club meeting you have the opportunity to speak using the Audio tools. You will need to have a microphone/headset or earbuds to plug into your device. This will ensure that any audio echo is avoided.

Check first if your Audio is on. Look for the microphone icon in the lower left hand corner of the Zoom screen. If it is crossed through, you will need to un-mute by clicking the icon.

Note: Sometimes the Host of the meeting will Mute All to avoid any unnecessary background noises during speeches. You may need to Un-Mute to ask a question.

Managing Video

Use your webcam to be seen in the meeting. Check first if your webcam is switched on. Look for the Webcam icon in the lower left hand corner of the Zoom screen. If the icon is crossed through, click the webcam icon to switch on your camera. You should be able to see your image among the other participants.

If you are using a laptop with built in webcam the small light in the top centre of the laptop should be illuminated. Focus on that so that you appear to looking at everyone.

Managing your background and lighting

Now consider your background visuals. Ideally choose a quiet space away from distractions and avoid busy backgrounds behind you.

If you are situated in a busy environment with lots of objects in view, or with the possibility of people moving behind you, can you provide a screen? You may be best to locate yourself in front of a wall that is not distracting or with curtains that can be closed. Notice the variations in backgrounds for these Zoom participants.


Does the colour of the background complement or clash? Consider how your image may help you to be seen clearly against the background you have chosen. Colour is important.

Note: if you have your own Zoom account you can select Video Background in your Settings to enable the use of a background image. You will need to have a green screen behind you for this to work effectively.

Now think about how your image is illuminated. Do you have a balance of lighting? Ideally your lighting should include one lamp in front and one more behind the computer, to illuminate you and not cause shadows or silhouetting of your image.

Zoom recommends: … if you want the best lighting, we’d recommend at least 1350 lumens in that same space (3×40-watt light bulbs).

Review other recommendations from the Zoom Blog at:

If you are in a room with natural lighting and with unshaded windows. It is good practice to position yourself so that the window is not directly behind you. Behind your computer screen or to the side will work well because it doesn’t cast your entire face into shadows.

Managing the Speaker or Gallery View

When you are in a Zoom meeting you can adjust the way you see the participants. There are two options for this, Speaker View or Gallery View. The Gallery view shows all participant videos as a grid across your screen. If there are more than 25 in the room, you will see an arrow to move to a second screen.

If you are sharing your screen for a presentation, the Gallery View will shrink to a panel available on one side of your screen. You can use the navigation arrows to move the panel up or down.

The Speaker View enables you to show just the speaker large on screen. If you are the speaker you can Pin the Timer’s video screen so that you will always see that person.

Managing the Chat

Zoom provides a chat panel in which you can see the comments or questions posted by participants in the meeting. Use this to provide feedback for a speaker or to ask a question of a speaker in a Q & A segment where relevant. Use the chat panel to pass a message on privately to a participant where appropriate.

Use short sentences when posting in the chat and avoid long essays. Share URLs by copying from your browser and pasting  into the chat panel – this ensures that the link is clickable.

Note: If you are the chat monitor for the meeting, it is best to keep that panel open.

Managing the Screen sharing!

If you are presenting in a club meeting using a view of your browser screen or applications in use such as PowerPoint, you should make sure that you have that screen ready in the background.

Access the video tutorial and helpful advice on screen sharing here:


When you are using PowerPoint, first ensure that the slides will be viewed correctly by selecting the Browse by an Individual Window option in the Slideshow setup menu.

For even more advice, tips and tactics, subscribe to the Zoom blog at:


How to develop an Online Training culture in your Toastmasters Clubs

An online training program can make a huge difference in the way your club members learn fast and effectively. In land based and online clubs, specific members are stepping up to provide valuable learning experiences for Toastmasters both inside and outside of their meeting schedules – this is part of fabric of a shared learning community. It often just takes a little thinking outside the box to translate those into online learning opportunities.

Toastmasters have regularly offered one or more of the following for their clubs and districts:

  • 1-2 hour workshops in order to practice their Training skills;
  • 15 minute Educationals to teach skills to members;
  • 3-4 hour Training events for Areas
  • Speechcraft and Youth Leadership programs

Online webinars, blogs and podcasts and video tutorials are now offered as valuable real-time or anytime events – tools used by the online training champion. An online training champion can be grown and supported in your own club with a little training in the following tools and techniques.

  1. A webinar provides an opportunity for an interactive learning workshop with guest trainers from any part of the world.
  2. Blogs offer reflective learning opportunities for Toastmasters who wish to share their own learning or to read the learning of others.
  3. Podcasts offer others the opportunity to interview or be interviewed for first hand, close up and short audio visual engagement to suit those who like their learning in byte sized pieces.

None of these are new – they have been favoured by e-learning and e-training champions for decades. However, all of this can be used effectively for online training for Toastmasters in new ways using a Networked Collaboration approach. A way to share the best of the ‘best practices’ in clubs and areas near you or online.

If your club is challenged by geography and your members cannot easily attend Club Officer Training sessions you may be seeking new ways to offer effective training. This is often true for members of Online Clubs and many of them are now seeking more effective methods of training online.

The Networked Collaborative model of online training might work well for your clubs; either land based or online: preliminary training – real time webinars – followup mentoring.

Preliminary training and reading activities

  1. At changeover time, promote the use of anytime training tools and resources made available online in your club or area websites, as well as those made available from Toastmasters International. (Provide a shared document that your club officers can add to as they work through their preliminary training and reading activities.)
    For example here is a simple list of club officer tasks required of one land based club Club Officer Tasks 2017 Land Based Club can be distributed during the installation of new officers. Such documents could be provided as Google Docs for ongoing improvement or on USBs for ease of access for each officer.
  2. The Handover process can include a physical meeting one on one or as a group at a specially arranged meeting – preferably early in July. At this meeting each outgoing club officer will have an opportunity to exchange written notes, resources and assets that will help the incoming club officer. This process can be emulated by arranging online meetings; one to one (in Skype) or as a group (in Zoom). Sharing of real documentation can be done by uploading the notes and other resources to a share repository such as Dropbox. For example this link will enable you to view and download useful documents for Evaluating projects from Advanced Manuals.

Online Training Webinars

We all know that training happens most effectively over a reasonable period of time and that attendance at one day training sessions will not be sufficient for some club officers who are new to the task. The Networked Collaboration Model includes a series of one hour training webinars, scheduled over the year to meet the specific needs of club officers at times most appropriate to the Toastmasters program for the year.

Club Executive Handover Webinar

mentorPrepare for and schedule an interactive one hour training session for your club or Area to focus on the most effective methods of handover for their club officers. Late June or early July is best for this webinar. Be sure to invite trainers and participants from other clubs to share their ideas, questions and experiences.

Key objectives:

  • Process – simplify the handover process,
  • Resources – provide information from the previous year and any useful documentation to assist the incumbent
  • Support – learn where to go for help, when to let go, and setting them up for success

Follow up Mentoring

The Networked Collaboration model of online training will also include opportunities to match up officers of one club with those of another club (land based on online) for a short term mentoring process as the incoming officer learns the ropes. This method may be simplified by having the outgoing officer provide the mentoring to the incoming officer in their own club.

During the mentoring process, ask each officer to make regular contact with each other and agree on duration of mentoring, specific requirements from each officer and how the communication should take place. By telephone or over a coffee in your home town cafe or online in Facebook Messenger, Skype or other social chat service. For example: some online club officers select a team of assistants and conduct regular meetings with them for forward planning, and may invite the outgoing officer to attend. These can be achieved as a series of anytime discussions in a private messaging tool or with a group in a social chat forum setup for the purpose.

This type of follow up will help implement Training into Best Practice!

Finally don’t forget the self-paced learning who prefers an individual independent method of learning.

Where do they go for their visual learning? You can find a video tutorial for mostly everything on YouTube. Consider these videos as potential ‘any time’ training tools for your Toastmasters club officers and members who prefer the self-select method of learning. Visit YouTube and seek out those video tutorials that will help your incoming officers.

For example, there are many video tutorials on YouTube for those club officers who need to learn best practice in the use of easy-Speak club management tool. Conduct a search for easy-Speak videos and include links to these for your new club officers.