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!


New Series: Network Centred Collaboration!

This month I am focusing on the benefits of Online Champions of Change! I have some reflections to share with you and some information on what I know about current Online Toastmaster Champions and how to develop a network of future champions.

Reflections of a Flexible Learning Leader

Phase One: E-learning

All good things come to those who wait! Yes, sometimes it takes considerable time in waiting for larger organisations to change. E-learning was one of those changes that took place in the years 2005 to 2008 in Australia and took about three years to embed into the Australian Adult Education environment. Just before that change was implemented the Australian Flexible Learning Framework initiated a Flexible Learning Leader program that enabled a cohort of over 200 trainers from Universities, TAFE, Industry and Community Education, to research, explore and build strategies for embedding e-learning. They were known as the Flexible Learning Leaders (FLL). My turn as an FLL, began in 2002 and my focus was on developing e-mentoring strategies for e-learning teachers.

As the Flexible Learning Leaders program completed and reflections of its success were commissioned,  I joined a team of four authors to create the paper called:

The impact of e-learning champions on embedding e-learning in organisations, industry or communities” – learn more by viewing.

The major findings from that research was:

The impact of e-learning champions

This study concurs with the literature findings that e-learning champions aspire to:

  • change attitudes towards e-learning
  • build e-learning capacity among as many teachers, trainers and learners, where possible
  • influence their organisation to adopt processes that will sustain e-learning and build the organisation’s reputation in e-learning.

The E-learning environment grew from those beginnings and Australia is now leading innovation in E-learning. The Flexible Learning Leaders are still actively supporting e-learning in their learning institutions.

Phase Two: E-portfolios

In this phase in Australian tertiary education the adoption, implementation and embedding of e-portfolios for teaching and learning emerged as the next strong contender for sweeping changes in the industry. The e-portfolio movement is still thriving today after ten years and also has its fair share of champions.

E-portfolios Australia grew from those beginnings and I was very proud to have been part of that initiative.

ePortfolios Australia is a professional network which aims to support the use of e-portfolios in Australia and beyond through professional development activities and the sharing of resources, ideas and practice.

The contributions from e-portfolio champions across the world continue to inspire new learning and assessment strategies in adult training through the embedding of e-portfolio systems and practices.

Fast Forward to Toastmaster Online Champions

I consider myself as one of the champions for online training within the Toastmasters Education program. I have explored the development of online training in different formats: from running live webinars, creating video tutorials for user training of easy-Speak. I have also developed online club officer training strategies for online clubs and instructional designed self-paced online courses  – one to help the easy-Speak Community. I am just one of many who champion the growth of online strategies for improvements in the Toastmasters experience.

Online Training Champions

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There are a number of Toastmaster Online Training Champions who are exploring other strategies such as webinars for Mentoring, Social Media, Club Management, Club Officer Training and many more. Yet others provide regular Podcasts, Video Tutorials, and the use of a wide range of e-learning tools for education. Another specialist online club is beginning to attract Global Online Trainers.

The journeys of these ‘early adopters‘ provide a wealth of knowledge and wisdom in best practice for those who come after them. They are not funded or supported officially in their roles, they are doing this voluntarily for the benefit of others, to help cope with change. In my view, they too are champions,

Network of Champions

Just imagine what else may be achieved with a special ‘advisory group‘ commissioned by World Headquarters  to explore the future potentials for online training. A current network of online champions is emerging from groups of online Toastmaster leaders.  ‘Action teams‘ are exploring the realms of Education & Training Online for online clubs.

This is one of several teams which are part of the network, a group of experienced Online Club executives and members, who seek to liaise with WHQ at Toastmasters International about how best to support members of chartered online clubs and potential online clubs. Yes a group of champions leading the way and providing advice on the change from land based club management to online club management! Explorations of online club officer training is part of that.

Pathways Champions


There is now a need for personal skill development programs to help Toastmasters participate in the changed Pathways Education program. Pathways Guides are being enlisted to support Toastmasters who participate in those programs. The Guides themselves will undergo personal training about the Pathways program and how best to support members in clubs across the Areas in their Districts.

These Pathways Guides will become the champions for the Pathways program and assist in the implementation and embedding of change within the individual journeys for club members.

Their championship is supported by the Chief Ambassadors for the roll out of Pathways in each district. Each will continue to liaise with the Program Quality Directors in each district, as the roll out continues over the next year or so. This is the embedding process!

Another group of champions.

What have I learned in my online journeys?

I learned how to be an effective e-mentor for teachers. I learned how to implement change in adult learning institutions. I learned a great deal about change in large educational organisations through my work as an e-mentor for trainers in Universities, Technical and Further Education Institutions and Community Colleges. I also realised early on, how important it was to build a cohort of champions to assist in the process of implementation and embedding of change.

I can now use my reflective practice and knowledge gained to propose a rationale for Toastmasters to build their own network of Online Champions. I began this week to consider the characteristics and tasks of champions from my Flexible Learning Leadership program and how to transform them for use in the Toastmasters environment.

What are the characteristics of an Online Training Champion?

  • skilled in online training
  • willing to share their expertise with passion and enthusiasm
  • learner focused and able to communicate effectively with all kinds of people
  • able to provide tailored e-learning messages, solutions and advice
  • enterprising and willing to solve problems: small/large; technical/non-technical
  • open to scrutiny and willing to adapt as new information comes to hand
  • persistent and model their actions on core values of integrity, respect, excellence and support
  • communicate a commitment to promoting online training and the use of technology to provide educationally sound and reliable teaching and learning solutions.

What activities do champions undertake?

Good practices by online training champions to facilitate the uptake of online training and e-learning include:

  • developing a strong understanding of facilitator, trainer and learner needs through active listening and relationship building
  • offering e-learning solutions that are contextualised to the user’s needs and build on their current skills and knowledge
  • monitoring the preparedness of learners to include e-learning in their practices
  • transferring e-learning know-how in small chunks
  • supporting learners on their e-learning journey
  • building confidence through mentoring strategies
  • improving learner outcomes based on feedback and their own research.

We now have a wealth of knowledge and expertise in starting, chartering, managing and maintaining online clubs embodied within our network of Online Toastmaster Leaders.

It is time to focus on how to model, implement and embed online training strategies into our Online Clubs. We need Online Training Champions!

Next blog posts in the series:

Network Centred Collaboration

  1. How to develop Online Training Champions in Toastmasters Clubs
  2. How to develop Champions for Change in our Toastmasters Clubs



Harvesting Online Training Resources: Contests

Club Contests

  • How do you prepare for land based Club or Area Contests, as a Club Officer?
  • What resources would you recommend to assist in the training of Contest Chairs, Contest Judges and Area Director teams?
  • How would you plan, schedule and facilitate contests for Online Clubs?

During September I have been searching for useful sites and resources to recommend to club officers in Toastmasters clubs, especially during times when the focus is on Contests. The following websites from our Australian and New Zealand districts may be useful for you.

District 17 Western Australia site lists club officer resources including information on all seven executive roles for traditional land based clubs. One collection you may find really useful at this time of the year is the page for Contests, thank you David Nicholas, webmaster.

District 69 Queensland pages required a little more digging to get to their nuggets of information, however there are some very useful resources for Area Directors. I was especially pleased to find a collection of these that could be used for Area Director teams.


District 70 New South Wales and Canberra has a great set of web-based Contest Chair Checklists and an excellent set of templates, scripts and running sheets in the repository of Contest Files.

District 72 New Zealand provided a list of video tutorials and many more useful resources for my research into Contests. Some of these are part of the Toastmasters International site, but were not known to me before today. In particular I liked the Contest Tutorials: an overview of The Contest and Roles, instructions about When You’re the Judge and guidance in completing the Judges Guide and Ballot – I will be sending these to my team of Judges.

District 73 Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania resource pages include a great set of Frequently Asked Questions about the Contest Rules.

District 90 New South Wales, District and Club Officer resources pages provide very useful downloadable templates and documents for your Contests. For example this Contest Budget Template or this spreadsheet for your Area Contest. From their website you can link directly to the websites of other Australian and New Zealand Toastmaster Districts.

Finally, you would be wise to join the Resources for Toastmasters Facebook Group where you will find shared resources and great discussions about them.

Online Contests

  • Online Club Contests, is this possible?
  • How can we run contests online for the global online clubs?
  • Online Area Contests, is that really a potential?
  • What would we need to get those happening?

The Firebirds Collective recently conducted a successful Club Contest for Humorous Speeches. Three of our advanced members stepped up to compete and prepared their 5-7 minute humorous speeches. The event was scheduled in easy-Speak using a special Contest template where speakers, judges, and other roles could be self-selected.

The speaking part was easy; the judging part was a little more complex. Prior to the contest date, speakers were asked to complete their eligibility forms and send to the Contest Chair, and all judges were asked to complete their eligibility forms and send to the Chief Judge. All participants and audience met in our GoToMeeting room and we used the Online Club Contest process as a ‘lesson’ for all Firebirds.

The Contest Chair briefed the speakers on screen prior to the contest start, and used an innovative method of selecting their speaking order. The Chief Judge briefed the judges on screen in the segment prior to start time and all agreed on a simple process for submitting their votes privately to the counter, off screen. (Clever use of technology in the background.)

Contest Chair, listeners and timers were present on screen as the Speakers were introduced and then each speaker delivered their speech in the order selected. The usual minute of silence was used in between to allow the judges to deliberate.

Speakers were interviewed whilst we awaited the vote count and the results to be delivered by the Chief Judge offline. All contestants (Svetlana Rakhimova UK, Isabel Carter NZ, and Brian Dodd CA) were shown their Contest Participant certificates and the first and second place winners were shown their certificates, on screen. The two winners were able to announce their success in social media.

I can envisage how any online club might do the International Speech contest in a similar way, and I am sure they can successfully run a fair Evaluation contest online. However, I am now looking for innovative ideas now on how to run a fair Table Topics contest online. Post your ideas here or in the Online Training for Toastmasters Facebook group.

Then, of course, the next question is, can we schedule an online Area Contest for Division O, Area 1?

I am working on that! This will be one agenda item for the current leaders of the ‘onliners’ in the first ever Online Area Council meeting in November!




Change of Focus: Online Training

As I move into the realm of online training for Toastmasters, I will change the focus of the next few posts to the needs of Club Officers! Wherever you may be.

I want to focus on the importance of Online Training and how this can overcome many of the perceived barriers to successful Club Officer Training.

As Officers in Clubs, across the world, you have been attending specialised training sessions for being effective members of your club’s executive team. You have faced ‘Moments of Truth‘; you have collaborated on ‘Club Success Plans‘; you have unpacked the ‘Club Officer Handbook‘ and you have networked with other club officers in your area.

If you were strategically located, you will have been able to travel to a venue near to your club for this one-day training. Groups of club officers from your area were able to exchange their views, experiences and goals for carrying out the tasks associated with their roles, in a face-to-face setting. In the space of 2-3 hours you may have interacted with a number of new Toastmaster friends and learned some new ways of being a club officer. All good! But what do you do with that? Where do you go next for further training?

If you were regionally isolated, you would have faced the challenge of a long journey there and back again. If you were not available on that day you would not have been able to capture the learning that took place, even after the event. Regional Toastmasters are disadvantaged.

The face-to-face one-day club officer training does not meet the needs of ALL executive teams!

Now consider the content and impact of the club officer training events and ask yourselves these questions:

  • What were your learning expectations of the events?
  • What if the training sessions did not meet your needs?
  • Did the training experiences justify your attendance?
  • What were the takeaways you gathered from your training event?
  • Are you satisfied that you can now fulfil your club officer role with confidence?
  • How will you continue to communicate with the trainers and other clubs in your area?

How can the Club Officers’ ongoing learning experiences be improved? 

In my world as a connected educator I know that one-day training does not ’empower’ or ‘train’ – it simply sets the scene for your own enquiry based learning. Were your questions answered?

As adult learners we do expect to bring our prior experiences to the training table and have our opinions and ideas valued. Did your one-day training do that for you?

As Toastmasters and Club Officers we need to be able to work together as a team to manage our clubs. Do you now have the team collaboration skills that you need?

My suggestions for improving our current Club Officer Training are based on my experiences as a learner, as a teacher/trainer and as an experienced Club Officer.

Change the Focus: from trainer led training one off sessions, to a series of learner focused workshops!

Districts are mandated to schedule Club Leadership Training (CLT)  sessions in August and February and we know that in order to earn an extra point in the Distinguished Club Program, at least four officers must attend.  Most clubs manage to do that faithfully every year, even though they may have experienced that same learning each time. Some clubs do not manage to send their officers for CLT and often those that do, may miss out on DCP points simply because their membership base has been reduced. This is a huge discouragement for those clubs, especially in regional areas, where numbers are small.

There must be a better way of motivating club officers to attend training!

What if you could access some of your Club Officer Leadership Training from Home? Let me explore the possibilities here with you!

  • We have the technology – a plethora of web conferencing tools to choose from
  • We have the motivation – most Toastmasters are used to ongoing training
  • We need the skills – Toastmasters are often required to participate or present in webinars
  • We need the convenience – many regionally isolated Toastmasters need access online
  • We can train the trainers – our Toastmasters skill base includes skilled online trainers
  • We can support the officers – District officers can provide a value added CLT experience

Toastmaster teams in some Districts are currently working on improvements for their CLT programs; District 21 and 73 to name two. We can learn much from those who have already explored the value of Online Training. A small team of enthusiasts are exploring a solution to the need for ongoing training opportunities for club officers online.

One Solution!

District 73 Initiative: Regional Toastmasters: Club Officer Series

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COTO workshop 1 flyer final

More details here