Youth Leadership Program: Take Toastmasters out of the club

Youth Leadership Program from Toastmasters Toastmasters 101

Youth Leadership Program by Toastmasters – Is it time for you to take Toastmasters out of your club?

There are about a zillion good reasons to become a Toastmaster. Everyone has their own reason to join. But at some point, after you’ve witnessed what our training has done for yourself and for others, do you ever think – maybe it’s time to take Toastmasters out of my club and into my world?

Welcome to Toastmasters – where in about an hour a week, we can teach you public speaking and leadership skills. You will change your life as you improve your communication skills and discover the leader inside you. I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

Youth Leadership Program

A couple of years ago, when I was coaching high school speech and debate, I heard about the Youth Leadership Program from Greg Loo, my DTM mentor. He kindly shared his kit with me and I found a program that I thought was pretty cool – but not right for my students. My speechies and debaters weren’t interested in leadership – they wanted to win debates and speech contests.

So the kit sat on my desk for a while. But I kept seeing it and thinking about it.

The Youth Leadership Program is an 8 week program for middle school and high school students. Leadership is in the name, but I really didn’t see how it was teaching leadership skills.

The shape of the training was essentially – public speaking training with a lot of extra. We start out with an election of club officers. 4 weeks later – we do it again. We plan a final party. We welcome our family to the last meeting and demonstrate what we’ve learned.

It took actually running a Youth Leadership Program to discover the real power of the program – and taught me a thing or two about leadership. Was that the goal?

I’ve never asked Toastmasters International. Maybe it was!

Youth Leadership Program in Cleveland

I worked with my friend Dan Toussant to run a YLP for an inner-city school in Cleveland. I’m pretty sure neither of us had gotten prepared enough. We passed out the workbooks to a group of 7th and 8th graders and started the process to elect leaders. We did Table Topics. We explained how important it was to learn how to speak to a group and learned the real reason we’d been recruited to do this: each of the students in this group were expected to give a short speech to the school board of trustees about their plans for the future. It seems in years past, the students needed help – and the principal, co-incidentally Dan’s daughter – had asked if we as Toastmasters could help.

With the support of our club, we headed up to Cleveland every week to try to demonstrate the power of public speaking and the need for preparation before you stand up to give an ice breaker.

The students loved Table Topics. LOVED it. We could have done nothing else for all eight weeks and they would have been delighted. But we did insist that the students do the two speech assignments: the ice breaker and a 2-3 minute speech about their futures.

We’ve all seen how adults change in Toastmasters.

It’s ten times bigger in teens. We went from a boisterous group of kids who one by one became frozen on stage for their first prepared speech… and in just a few weeks – everything changed. Young women who I could barely hear speak stood up and told their stories. Young men who were brash and loud became thoughtful and wonderfully open with their lives. Several of these students were being interviewed at local private high schools where they could win full scholarships.

All of our students who interviewed won full rides to prestigious private high schools.

We showed them the steps the stage and they blew us away.

And I was hooked. YLP is now my favorite of the Toastmasters programs we have available to take Toastmasters outside of our clubs.

How does the YLP work?

First, you need a place to meet for 8 weeks that will permit food. That’s important later.

Second, you need to recruit at least 6 middle and high school students. How you recruit them is a challenge. I’ve worked with homeschooled students. Dan and I worked with a school. Others have taken the program into the local juvenile detention center, into church youth groups, to Scouts or other youth organizations, and another just posted about it at the local library and her children spread the news. I’d say it’s hard to run a meeting with just 4 students, so I say you need 6 students and 2 adult Toastmasters leaders.

Third, you need a partner. I think the two leaders makes a big difference. I’ve had to run youth meetings by myself and it’s difficult, especially the first few weeks. The timer and evaluators need someone to sit with them and explain their tasks, as well as the Toastmaster of the Day. The coaching falls off after a few weeks once the students understand their roles.

Fourth, you need the Toastmaster Club to agree to support the program – that means committing funds to purchase the program and to pay for the final party. You see, we can’t charge for this program. The leaders and the clubs underwrite all of the expenses.

At the first meeting, which is pretty much an introduction to the classic Toastmasters education plan, – not Pathways!

Pathways and Youth Leadership Program

Ok, quick detour here.

Pathways and the YLP don’t seem to have much in common. YLP introduces basic public speaking much like the Competent Communicator and leadership like the Competent Leadership manuals. I like the sequence that the skills are presented in – chairmanship through public speaking presentation skills. Especially for shy or fearful participants, it’s a smooth and easy pace for them to get comfortable.

We spend a lot of time talking about evaluations – probably more than the program does. Oddly, I get more pushback from students about giving an evaluation than giving a speech. Just a demonstration as recommended in the coordinator’s manual hasn’t been enough.

The evaluation forms were the trickiest for me. Which page should an evaluator use? Should they use their own book? No, you and I know that’s the wrong way to do it – but several students did exactly that. I finally got some loose evaluation forms from the kit and used those instead.
I put a lot of emphasis on the evaluations because I believe you improve significantly more quickly when you evaluate. This motivates the students who want to improve to volunteer. I’ve noticed that the youngest members of the group are the most reluctant evaluators.

There is an election of officers at the beginning and again at the middle of the program. One of those officers is a secretary and I think I should depend on that person a lot more. I didn’t realize that some members were avoiding the role of evaluator until the end. I think that I’ll ask that secretary to keep track of who has and who has not served.

Table Topics

The biggest attraction is being a Table Topics leader. We’ve done two different things.

First, one of our clubs has a box of Table Topics cards prompts that the kids LOVED. The questions ranged from personal experience to philosophical musings. I tried sorting out some of the more mature questions or ones that I thought the middle schoolers would have trouble with.

Second, I told next YLP group to come up with their own and told them to do a google search for Table Topics. We got a lot of leading questions and pretty generic Table Topics.

Then I did this crazy thing in one of my speech classes where I asked the students to tell me how they would use a particular superpower. For some reason, that particular prompt unlocked their imaginations and from that point, they brought in the most imaginative, insightful and funny prompts that I ever heard. I’m not likely to use that box again – why should I? Their imagination and creativity topped anything of that box.


The timer role was also a huge challenge. It’s hard to remember to watch a clock. We’re always going to have one of the adult coordinators sit with the timer. I’ll use an app in the future but I face it toward myself as timer, not at the speaker. The timer can use the visual cue to put up the color cards.

I think that the timer role is more important than we give it credit for. Being able to focus on a task and not get sucked into the speeches is hard but it’s critical to leadership and to speakers.

Final Party

When you get to the final party, I’ve had one group take the entire project out of my hands and put together a pot luck meal instead of the club footing the bill for a pizza party. I’d say that group was a raging success! That’s why I say you need a meeting room that permits food – that last party is a great way to wind up the program.

You will have a lot of fun with the Youth Leadership program. Your skills shouldn’t just stay in Toastmasters club meetings – take them out into the community and you will change people’s lives.

Wrap it up, Kim

I hope you all had a fine new year and are looking forward to your next big accomplishment in Toastmasters. It’s time to examine those Pathways projects or to finish up those old advanced manuals. We’ll be here with you to talk about Toastmasters.

Thanks to all the people who have been sharing the podcast. I appreciate it- as well as the shout-out from the School of Podcasting podcast in their episode number 704. So tell a friend about Toastmasters 101 podcast this week. Bring it up in your club meeting! Yeah! I like that idea!

Our music is from

We’re sponsored by Toastmasters District 10. I saw another district putting out the call for their own district podcaster… how about that… Are they trying to take Toastmasters out of the club too? Good for them!