Education Sessions: The Big Stages at Toastmasters Events

Education Sessions at Toastmasters conferences, education days and officer training events: do you want to take the bigger stage and speak to a larger Toastmasters audience?

Education Sessions – Step Up and Step Out

The districts are announcing their Annual Conferences right about now, and maybe you’ve seen some calls for presenters. Does that intimidate you – or challenge you?

Maybe a bit of both?

Today, let’s chat a bit about the bigger stages in our districts – Annual Conferences, fall education days, and Officer Training.


Do you want to overcome your fear of public speaking? Do you want to discover the leader inside you?   Then try Toastmasters.   In one hour per week, we can help you become a better public speaker and develop the leadership skills you want. This is Toastmasters 101 and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

Have you been to a TLI?

TLI stands for Toastmasters Leadership Institute. It’s a few hour training session for the club officers to attend twice a year.

Every district has their own way of organizing the training sessions. In District 10, we have the District training and have breakouts for each club officer role, along with critical keynotes about the Distinguished Club Program, Pathways, and other important topics. Then every division also has a make up training session in the same format.

Have you ever been to your district’s annual conference?  It’s usually a weekend event – it may be one, two, or three days long with some big-name keynote speaker (or two), the district speech contest to send a competitor into International speech contest process, and several education sessions that break out to focus on specific topics.

Or maybe your district hosts another annual event that focuses on marketing, club growth, or other specific topic?  Toastmasters International is encouraging districts to help members out with more advanced, in-depth events.

How many does that make?

In District 10, 5 divisions, 7 officer roles, plus the district TLI, – That’s 42 opportunities to speak to a bigger, different from your club audience at education sessions.

Add to that anywhere from 6 to 12 education sessions at the Annual Conferences and we’re talking from 48 to close to 60 stages to be filled.

Are you the speaker to fill one?

Conference Education Sessions

Let’s talk about the conference slots first.

Conference slots need to be filled with a lot of variety. You have members who are DTMs. You have DTM track, mid-track Pathways members, and new members. You can’t expect the same topics to appeal to all of those potential attendees. So you have to figure out who your audience is.

Then take your topic and think about that audience’s need. If you’re discussing leadership opportunities such as Speechcraft or the Youth Leadership Program, you’re going to have a more advanced audience – you can be a lot more in depth because you can start at a more advanced level.

If you’re talking about a specific presentation skill, will your speech include a workshop that will interest your listeners – beginners and advanced?

Here’s the funny thing about applying for a speaking slot at a conference – they probably have no idea that you’re interested. You have to sell yourself to them – prove that you’re able to take this stage and rock it.

I make an effort when I’m the education chair to recruit all year long. I don’t know how many other ed chairs do the same. Your application is probably coming right out of the blue to them.

So how to get picked?

1. Sell yourself.

You know those articles that come up in your social media feeds? 10 Ways to Feed Your Cat – You Won’t Believe #6!

Yes, we all hate ourselves when we open those click-bait titles, but look, they’re engineered to get our attention. Use a great title for your presentation and use a click-bait subtitle. But don’t make the ed chair hate themselves for opening it – make your proposal shine! Let your ed chair see that you know

  • who you want to speak to
  • why they want to hear you
  • how you’re going to cover the topic
  • the attendees’ takeaways.

Selling yourself is not misleading your audience about what you’re going to cover in your education session.  But there are ways to pitch it to make it sound more enticing, more exciting.  Just make sure you follow through on your promise!

Writing a short blurb about your proposed education session – less than 200 words – along with a very short biography that can be used in marketing or the conference program – less than 100 words is good, less than 75 is better – really helps the education chair out.  That may be part of the application requirements.

2. Give them everything they want.

If they ask for a video – give it to them. It doesn’t have to be professionally produced. It doesn’t need to be anything more than a good smart-phone video. Ask one of your club members to record you with your phone during your speech that’s on the topic you want to cover. Give them a taste of what you’re working on and show your stuff.

The application may be complicated. If you have any questions, ask them. This is not top secret rocket science.

3. Pick a good topic.

One of the best ed sessions I’ve ever seen was – political. You know – that topic we’re not supposed to talk about? But the speaker wasn’t advocating a particular platform or action – he was encouraging us to use our skills to make an impact in our communities. Great presentation. It was years ago and I still remember it. That’s the caliber of the topic you need.

Look, we’re going to see the usual presentation topics: evaluation skills. Leadership skills. Communication skills. Find your topic and how you make it different from everyone else.

4. Respect the deadlines.

There’s this theory that being the last to submit gets you more attention by the selection committee or committee chair. In my experience, apps went into a computer folder and I opened them in alphabetical order – or whatever order my computer sorted the list into. Being first was not worse that being last, and being last wasn’t better than being second to last.
But was the worst was being late. Every single time I got a message from someone – “Sorry to miss the deadline.  I’ll be submitting on Friday – this week is just so busy.”

Look, I have horrible time management skills. But this was a red flag to me. Waiting for the last minute is a problem with procrastination. That is definitely a problem for me – because I know that the ed sessions are important for marketing. Usually, I selected from the proposals on the day after the deadline and submitted them immediately.

Waiting for a late proposal has downstream consequences.

So respect the deadline. Don’t wait for the last minute to submit. If you’re ready, send it off. Don’t wait.

If you don’t get selected, ask why. It could be as simple as there were too many applications and yours was sadly not picked. Or it could be that with a couple of changes, you’d be able to put together a better proposal next time.

Making your proposal stand out doesn’t have to take a lot of work. By choosing to work with a partner, you’ve already created an unusual proposal in District 10. Put together a panel and you’ve really got my interest. There’s something about a variety of viewpoints, especially if you think a good discussion will come out of it.

Change up the usual format. Do a workshop with lots of opportunities for audience participation.

I’m thinking about a proposal about my storytelling path experience. I know there are a lot of people who are interested in storytelling, especially with the growth of storytelling podcasts and story slams like The Moth.

How would I put this together and how I would pitch it?

I’d probably talk about how we have stories that are worth telling every day, even on the days that are ordinary. Then I’d talk about what I have learned from the books and workshops I’ve attended. I might even spend at least 15 minutes with the audience working through an outline format that I find works well and ask them to tell their stories in small groups.  Or I might just skip all the intro and go right into the story creation method.  That workshop might be unique enough, right?  If you’re interested in storytelling, that might be the one education session you want to attend, right?

The title might be The Story of You:  Finding and Telling Your Stories When You Think You Don’t Have One.   Too wordy. How about:  Three Stories:  You’ve got them in you – now get them out.  Better.

My pitch would be simple:  Storytelling is hardwired into our brains.  We all have stories – so how do we discover them and how do we tell them?  In this workshop, we’ll start right away with discovering the extraordinary in our ordinary days, how to structure a story using techniques that keep an audience’s attention, and what not to do at the end.  Join Kim as you work through this interactive workshop with tools you’ll use every time you tell a story.

That’s 77 words.  Good, I’ll add a bit more.

This workshop will appeal to all Toastmasters who want to build their storytelling skills.  Whether new or advanced Toastmaster, this program will deliver a deep dive into the techniques that anyone can use in speeches or Table Topics  .  

Ok, 115.  A few more.

Do you struggle with stories?  Are you sure you don’t have that kind of life that produces the great stories that keep your friends, family, or audience on the edge of their seats?

A little editing and moving this new part to the top and I’ve got a good pitch at around 140 words.  If I were picking education sessions, I’d consider this one.

Of course I would.  I wrote it.  Better question:  Would you pick it?

What do you want to hear?  What topics interest you?

I have a lot of ideas for presentations I want to see. What do you want to see at a conference? Can you do that? Because if you want to see it – so do others.

Club Officer Training (COT) and Toastmasters Leadership Institutes (TLI)

The officer training sessions are different from the conference education sessions.

Toastmasters Leadership Institutes are held twice a year – once before the beginning of the Toastmaster year which starts on July 1, and another in November.

The Distinguished Club Program requires 4 of the 7 club officers to be trained at both sessions. The requirement isn’t for the same 4 to be trained at both the summer and the winter training sessions – any 4 at either training cycle is enough. Say your president, VPE, VP Membership, VPPR and Treasurer show up at the first annual training sessions. Then, at the second, the president, VPPR, VPE and Sergeant at Arms get trained. This qualifies the club to get a point on the Distinguished Club Program – even though the secretary never made it. That’s not ideal, by the way.

Therefore, these sessions are a lot more directed. Doing an officer training means you have a very specific set of content to cover and probably not a lot of time to do it. There are pre-written slide decks with the information on them. I know people who have used those. I also have seen a lot of creative presentations by experienced officers who have walked the walk.

If you’re interested in doing these education session presentations, talk to the division director or the district’s program quality director. They can tell you what they need.

Training Keynotes or Education Sessions

At the district and division training session, there are keynote speeches. These generally cover specific topics:

  • The distinguished club program – this year it will be important because the metric is going to change.
  • How to grow clubs: open houses and recruitment. I heard a speech about Speechcraft in one day that inspired me to do it too.
  • Pathways – at this point, I don’t see the point of discussing it as much as we do, but I’ve done a few of these as a Pathways guide. I think now we need to be discussing how we manage the upper levels of the paths that require longer, bigger projects. The new requirements for the Pathways DTM award captures some people’s attention – I’m always surprised how many people don’t know about it or how to attain it.
  • Judge training. This is especially popular at the November training.

If you can talk about these topics, these division directors are looking for you for an education session or keynote. The TLI keynotes are geared for Toastmasters training and leadership – so propose topics in line with that.

District Education Days:  Marketing or Club Growth or Pathways

Many districts are now focusing on education or marketing programs for their members. All of what I’ve said about how to apply and what to give them apply to these sessions as well. Smart presenters will find out the event theme and write the presentation proposal that relates to that theme.

In all cases, start reaching out early to the district leadership to find out who you should talk to. Prepare a proposal that you can email to someone or use the content to fill out the application form.

No application form for an education session?

If there isn’t an application form, I suggest the following items should be included:

  • A description of the content you want to cover and an outline of the material.  Give it a snazzy title.
  • PDF copy of the handout – this can be a rough draft that will be refined as you build your slide deck.
  • A time requirement or range of times that this presentation might take. The DTM presentation doesn’t need 40 minutes (in my humble opinion) but a Pathways project might take 30.
  • A video of you presenting. It doesn’t need to be long – just enough that they can see your skills. Get someone to record your next speech presentation (and make it a good one!) and put it on Youtube as a private video that will only be seen if you send them the link. But if it’s good, share it with your club and use it in your club’s marketing!
Wrap it up, Kim

Reach out early and ask. If it’s too early, when you should reach out again.

What do you want to learn about at an officer training or at the annual conference? Let me know on the Toastmasters 101 Facebook page.

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Toastmasters 101 podcast is a production of Toastmasters District 10. Our annual conference is now accepting applications for the education sessions!

Next week, we’ll talk about how to find speech topics and how to title your speeches.  Is that important?  Let’s do a test:  keep track of how many ads you look at in social media in the next week and what the titles were that inspired you to click?