Level 4 Electives

Level 4 electives Pathways Toastmasters 101

Level 4 Electives are exactly the same across all the paths with three exceptions.  Those electives were turned into the required projects for those particular paths.

Level 4 Electives

Looking at this list

  • Create a Podcast
  • Building a Social Media Presence
  • Managing a Difficult Audience
  • Write a Compelling Blog
  • Manage Online Meetings
  • Question-and-Answer Session
  • Public Relations Strategies
  • Manage Projects Successfully

I  see that many of these relate to the newest trends in communications:  online and social media.  Even the Public Relations Strategies project is relating to media, even if it’s hypothetical.  Question and Answer Session, Manage a Difficult Audience, and Manage Projects Successfully do tend to be more in person rather than virtual.

Since you’re listening to me on a podcast, I don’t imagine I have to explain the power of social media and an online presence.  But let’s generally review all of these electives because here’s the start of you using your skills in a very outward fashion.

Level 4 Electives: Create a Podcast

I’ve been podcasting for a while now.  I’ve seen huge changes in the field.  Technology has come and gone.  Hosting programs have offered free and collapsed.  Which formats and platforms are the best to invest in.

Because for podcasting, you’re going to make some investments in equipment, even if all you purchase is a microphone.  Yes, I know some people might use their computer microphone and others will use their iPhones.  But… speaking for myself… investing in quality equipment was a good decision because my final podcast sounds like something I’m generally proud of.

Here’s the thing with podcasting.

  1.  You have to do it.  Just recording and editing isn’t enough.  You have to put it out there for someone to hear and potentially respond to.
  2. Everyone’s first podcast is really, really bad.  Like horrifyingly bad.  Unless you’ve got a few years behind you in the radio, tv, video or podcasting fields, it’s a pilot.  You’re going to do the best you can.  Next time, you will do better because of everything you learned from the first episode.
  3. Equipment isn’t everything.  Content is king.  Then again, if people can’t understand you, can’t hear you, or get really annoyed by your sound – you lose the chance for them to hear your content.

This is the thing I like about the Toastmasters podcasting project.  It doesn’t try to tell you how to podcast.  That was smart.  The field has changed significantly over the years and will change again.  Instead of TI being stuck with dated material that will discourage you or cost you money you don’t need to pay, they tell you to research podcasting yourself.  Very smart, TI!

In 2019, I recommend fellow Toastmaster David Hooper’s book Big Podcast.  You can find it on Amazon and it’s worth every penny.  David’s a great podcaster and his book is on target for you to build a big podcast.  He’s a friend and I make this recommendation with no financial incentive.

What should you podcast about?  Well, what should you blog about?

Write a Compelling Blog

Choosing a topic for a blog or a podcast is very subjective.  What are you passionate enough about that you want to talk about it on a regular basis?

The requirement to post 2 blog posts for 4 consecutive weeks isn’t unreasonable.  And you can blog at virtually no cost using a WordPress.com website, Or Blogspot,  Or Whooshka.  Or Wix.  No, I don’t have links to any of these in my show notes because I’m not recommending any of them.  I know plenty of people who have hosted blogs on all of those platforms and been completely happy.  I haven’t so I can’t.  I’ve used a paid WordPress website for my blogging/podcasting/show notes.  I can recommend them, but then you’re paying a significant amount of money for hosting and spending time or money on design.  Your call.  Do you want to spend that kind of money on a Level 4 elective?

The thing that stops people isn’t usually the technology of blogging.  It’s usually the topic.  What should I write about?

I don’t know, but I will tell you about another podcaster I know of.  He podcasts because it opens the door for him to talk to people who otherwise would never speak to him in his field.  He’s interviewed big names and gotten well known – because he started podcasting about something he’s a big fan of.  He’s not an expert.  He’s not any kind of authority.  He’s just a guy who loves comic books – and now talks to the leaders in the industry.

The Best Level 4 Elective?

This may make podcasting the best Level 4 Elective.  When you work to produce a great podcast

  • produce content regularly
  • interact with your audience
  • give them value in exchange for their time

then you can see unexpected, fantastic things happen in your life. The podcast field is small compared to blogs.   Because of your podcast – you can talk to the people you want to talk to.  That is very, very cool.  And you know what’s cooler?  When people hear you and recognize your voice in a room.  I’ve had that happen a few times.

Are podcasting show notes the same as blogging?

There’s a big overlap in podcasting with blogging, if not the other way around.  Smart podcasters offer show notes, which are effectively blogs, because Google loves the written word.  People find things because of what is written on a website.  It’s the most effective way to get found.

So my show notes are pretty detailed and follow search engine optimization techniques.

Ooh, did I scare you there?  You don’t have to understand the tech to blog.  You just have to have something to say for a minimum of 300 words, twice a week, for 4 weeks.

Most bloggers and this includes me, batch writing.  I get an idea and write about it, which inspires the next idea and I write about it, and then I get another idea… you get the picture.  When I get into writing mode, I’m not going to stop because I finished this task if I’ve got another idea that I’m likely to forget.  So I may write a series of posts but delay the publication using the blogging software.  Many of them do allow you to schedule out your posts.

This won’t get you into the habit of writing weekly, but it’s more efficient.

Building a Social Media Presence

This has got to be the simplest of the Level 4 electives.  According to Facebook, 4 BILLION people in the world are on this platform.  That’s more than half of the world population.

And those who feel that FB has overstepped, there are other options – Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Soundboard, Reddit…

See, it’s everywhere.  You can establish a social media presence very easily.  It’s maintaining it that’s the rub.  Creating a presence is simple.  Maximizing it is the challenge.  You see, social media is first social.  And social means that it’s about people, therefore their tastes, fads, fashions, interests, all drive how social media works.  So each of the social media platforms c0nstantly change how they work.  A post that may have great impact years ago will get lost in the maelstrom now.

And as of October 2019, when I record this – Facebook and Instagram have started new systems to determine what people see on their news feed.  I’m going to have to learn how to use the new algorithm to make sure my podcast announcements get out.

Since we’re on this topic, would you mind doing me a small favor?  Would you go to my podcast Facebook page and let me know where you found out about this podcast?  Referral from another person?  Post on Facebook?  Announcement on the District 10 website?  Thanks!  I appreciate you doing that!

Create that Social Media Presence Carefully

If you are going to create a social media presence for your club, let me beg you:

  1. Find out if someone has already done it.  It’s far easier to take over an existing platform than to build a new one, especially if your club already has one.  You don’t want to compete with the other one.
  2. Commit for more than a couple of posts.  Look, I’m one of the admins for the District 10 Facebook page and group.  I’ll follow your club to get your latest updates.  It makes me cry inside if you start posting and stop.   I’m reposting your material.  It’s not just that I want the D10 pages to have current content.  People are looking for Toastmasters on Facebook and we’ve got the corner on Toastmasters in northeast Ohio – it’s in our name.  If they search for us, they’re going to find us.  I want to help them to find you – so I share your posts.   Asking you to take a longer commitment does seem unfair, based on the Level 4 electives project description… but I’m not thinking about the project.  I’m thinking about your club.  If your club has a Facebook presence and it suddenly stops one day and nothing else is posted for months or years, it looks bad for you.  It makes you look like your club is dead.  I hope your club has a Facebook presence.  I just don’t want it to hurt you.
  3. No joking aside – posting daily on Facebook is the minimum to build a presence.  Instagram?  Some of the current experts say up to 4 times per day and they tell you what times to post.  Twitter – 11 to  20 times per day.  LinkedIn?  Who knows?  I know people who post daily.  They see their businesses grow through LinkedIn.  Each of these has its own quirks and sizes of images.  You can use Hootsuite for prescheduling releases – it helps a lot.
  4. Think images for every post.  Find relevant videos.  Build club themes.  It’s October right now and I have one post a day called Toast-o-ween.  What’s scarier than public speaking?

Did I say social media presence was the simplest?  I take that back.  That can’t possibly be the simplest Level 4 elective.

Manage Online Meetings

Level 4 Electives Manage Online Meetings will require you to have some comfort using technology.  I’ve run a few of these with my high school students and the biggest challenge was the tech.  If you use Zoom, for first-time users, they’re going to struggle to figure out why no one can hear them.  That button on the bottom left that unmutes a speaker is everyone’s first trip-up on the platform.

Whatever platform you use, the online meeting can be fun.  It doesn’t have to be a serious topic that must be addressed.  You have to manage the meeting.  It can be about planning an event, it can be about the followup after an event.  It can be a drinking party while watching a political debate.  No, no, don’t do that.  There’s no managing that.  You could all watch a video together and discuss it.  The point is that you manage the tech, the interaction between the participants, and come to a reasonable endpoint.  You need a practical set of skills.  I’d suggest practice first.  Get a few people on whatever platform you pick and try it.

Managing a Difficult Audience

Online meetings are pretty mundane compared to a difficult audience.  Managing a Difficult Audience has to be my favorite of all of these electives because – I didn’t exactly follow the rules.

There are days that I think the project descriptions presume that everyone is perfectly behaved all the time and need to be encouraged to get a bit wild.  Maybe because I teach teens that my opinion is exactly the opposite.  Having the club officer assign roles to the meeting for you to manage is way too simple.  To enjoy the full experience, go for mayhem.

Or not.  Your call.  In my introduction, I asked everyone in my advanced club to take on the challenge of being a difficult audience member.  And because these people know me and mostly love me and frequently tolerate my bent toward the crazy, they gave me exactly that.

I failed this project – laughing the whole way.  I had hecklers.  I had interruptions.  I had a group get up and start a separate discussion at the other end of the room.  I think I had one of my audience come up and adjust my hair.  Maybe that was just the nightmare I had later that night.

I will repeat this project for every path I take because at some point, I might manage them.  Or not.

One elective I’m not likely to take is

Public Relations Strategy

This is the perfect project for a Vice President of Public Relations or a District Public Relations Manager.  I’m just not sure who else other than those on the Level 4 Elective Strategic Relationships path who would benefit from it.  That is probably my lack of creativity to see how to use it.

I don’t enjoy public relations in general – even if I finished the old advanced manual.  I did enjoy that because I decided then that the only way to manage a unique situation of doing three speeches in one week was to base each of them on the same premise.  Vampires and zombies were as good as anything else I could come up with that week.   This might be fun to do with a crazy theme.

Promoting your club is a good idea.  But it’s got to be the club’s efforts behind it.  You need events and activities planned well in advance to promote them.

Managing Projects Successfully

This is why I was so pleased to see the walls between the levels come down.  Sometimes the project – like a club contest, or an area contest, or a district contest, or a district conference – doesn’t come along your linear path through the program.

There are several projects inside the Toastmasters year that require project managers. where you can use Manage Projects Successfully.  But this project can also be a project outside – you’ve got opportunities to step up in your communities.  You may need to recruit someone from your club to help you with evaluations and the project requirements.  Read through this completely before you get started.

Actually, that’s good advice for all of these electives.

Any questions?  Good, because we’re down to the

Question and Answer Session

When I’ve done breakout sessions, I always include Q&A during the presentation, so this particular project of the level 4 electives – I’ll be honest here, I’ve never done it the way they want.  I don’t give a speech and then do Q&A because I prefer the question be posed at the point that the audience member wants to know, rather than waiting.

To be honest, it’s mostly to prevent me from contradicting myself later and sounding foolish, but it’s also my preference.  When I’m in the audience and I want an answer, waiting increases the likelihood that I’ll forget the contest or a critical part of the question.

So I take questions during my speeches and presentations.

Technically, I have gotten this evaluation several times.  I give a training seminar several times a year with another toastmaster.  She’s much better about remembering to bring along an evaluation form than I am, but I tend to go for this project’s evaluation for the training.  I want to know what I’m communicating and what questions we are asked so we can improve the seminar next time.  I love hearing what people ask because it becomes a springboard for the presentation that I otherwise might not develop.  We include a bit about a relevant TV program in our seminar now because of a question that someone asked.  Their questions build rapport with the audience.  I know that I have a pretty strict divide in my audience in these training sessions.  Questions are cool with me because they help me bridge that gap.

Level 4 Electives challenge us.

These Level 4 Electives challenge us.  And they should.  It’s a reasonable guess that you’ve been a member about a year when you start this level.  These Level 4 Electives skills require the previous levels’ training and experience.

Between my completed paths and picking my next one, when I was looking for speech projects,  I tended to look at this list first for speech projects.  I want the challenges that Level 4 Electives bring.

And if you ask why I never did Level 4 Electives Create a Podcast – this is the reason.  Not much of a challenge when I’ve been doing a podcast for years.  But I’m looking at doing a new podcast on another project and maybe… maybe then…

Wrap it up

Thanks for listening to the District 10 podcast production of Toastmasters 101.  You can find out how to subscribe to the podcast on the player of your choice through our website Toastmasters101.net.

Our music is from incompetech.filmmusic.io.

Last week, it was pointed out to me that I misuse the term Pathway.  The program is called Pathways, but the individual series are called Paths.

I would like to know… do you use the word “Pathway” for your path?  Or is it just me?  Let me know at the Toastmasters 101 Facebook page.  I have a poll up on the page.

In the meantime, I’m trying to use “path.” Except when I say Pathway.  Sorry.