Building a Storytelling Path

Adapting Pathways to Storytelling focus Toastmasters101

Making Your Pathways Work For You

If you’ve been listening to the past year’s podcasts of Toastmasters 101, you’ve heard me say that I want a good storytelling path.

Sadly, it’s not in development as far as I know. When I last asked, I was told that no new paths are being worked on now.


So what am I going to do?


Are you willing to commit an hour a week to improve your personal life and your career?

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. This is Toastmasters 101. I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

While working on this podcast, I’ve seen that the difference between the paths is not tremendously significant. Levels 1 and 2 are virtually identical. Level 3 – the majority of it is public speaking skills. Pathways really doesn’t diverge to concentrate on the different fields until Level 4.

Even then, the projects are pretty much the same across the paths. Even Level 5 has many of the same projects.

So if I’m asking for a storytelling path, what might I get? More of the same.

Build a Storytelling Path

So why not take an existing path and make it a storytelling path?

Late last year, I heard about a storytelling book that inspired me to give a speech about it at a club meeting. With the book in hand, I described the author’s major points of how to build a story. Some might call it plagiarism – I prefer to call it an in-depth book report which inspired a half dozen of my fellow Toastmasters to buy the book at the end of my speech – but it got me thinking.

Why not take a Toastmasters path and make it about storytelling? Develop my own path?

Nobody said I couldn’t.

You’ll be hearing more about how I do with this during the rest of my path, but today, I want to lay out what my plans are and how I intend to structure this path to focus on my interest in storytelling.

So peek over my shoulder and see what I’m crafting.

I need to match the projects to my personal goals to improve my storytelling skills. Let’s go through the path and make some choices now (so I can print out the evaluations and have them ready in advance.)

Level 1 of my Storytelling Path

Ice Breaker

This was my first speech where I gave an overview of the points in Matthew Dicks’ book Storyworthy.  (This is not an affiliate link for Amazon.) I presented his components and explained briefly what each was and its purpose in a story.

Level 1: Feedback and Evaluation

I gave my second speech on the first component from Storyworthy. I told my own story and then explained how I crafted the story along the book’s premise. My evaluator will miss the next meeting, so I’ll give my 2nd speech in the Feedback and Evaluation project at the next meeting he will attend.

Level 1: Research and Organize

Last week, I gave a speech at my advanced club Hall of Fame Advanced Speakers. Our TMx series is a series of workshops about speech presentation skills – I opted for persuasion and talked about the three traditional methods of persuasion: ethos, logos, and pathos.

So Level 1 is almost done. Let’s look at my plans for Level 2.

Level 2 Storytelling Path and the style projects

Because I’m working on the Visionary Communication path, I have both the Communication Style and the Leadership Style test speeches. I’ve selected another book about using stories to market a business to help me do these speeches.

The mentoring project will probably focus on the power of using stories to influence others in a positive or negative way. In order to follow the project, I’m looking for stories in my own life of how story has influenced me.

Level 3 Presentation Skills and Storytelling

Develop a Communication Plan – so this is where I’m really glad that the walls between the projects have come down. As I record this podcast, I’m in the middle of a project that requires a communication plan. If I had to wait to finish those other projects from Level 1 and 2, this project would be long past. That’s not to say that I won’t have another project to work on in the future – but I have the perfect opportunity to work on it now. That’s Toastmasters working for me and my personal development. I like that.

This project focuses on how to formulate a central message and develop a communication plan for a target audience.

How I’m going to work storytelling into that – I don’t yet know. But research shows that human beings are hardwired for story. So my communication plan must include story in some fashion.

For the required electives in Level 3, obviously I should select Connect with Storytelling. But I’m also going to select Using Descriptive Language – just based on the description

This project addresses the difference between literal and figurative language along with how to determine when to use each to create vivid descriptions.

I haven’t done this project in the past. I hope it’s what I expect – working with language.

Level 4 Where my path gets complicated

Communicate Change

Looking at this project description:

This project focuses on creating a communication plan by gathering evidence to support the need for change and communicating change with your audience.

Makes me think that this should come before the Level 3. Because I’m working on an outside-of-Toastmasters project, I may do these two projects concurrently. I’ll certainly take the time to look at both of them together and see what’s what. I’ll give different speeches in my club for evaluation, but it may be that I use both of these together in my presentation to the organization. I’ll have to decide later. Later being – the day after tomorrow. I have a short deadline.

Again, how to make this about storytelling will require me to actually open the project and study it.

Level 4 elective projects – ok, I always do the Managing a Difficult Audience in my advanced club because no one knows how to disrupt a speech like them.

I probably should consider the Manage Online Meetings because if my focus is storytelling, it’s a medium that storytelling fits well into – but does storytelling fit into a meeting format?

Storytelling and a podcast also work – but my podcast isn’t really storytelling, is it? A compelling blog would include storytelling, but not really focus on it, unless I decide to blog about my storytelling experiences.

Nope. I’m sticking with Difficult Audience because I love that project so much!

Level 5  Develop your vision

I admit, I’m totally confused by the sequence of the assignments of this path, but then again, I haven’t done much in the way of examining the path. This may be logical, but it feels backwards to me.

How to develop my vision – this may be the report on how I repurposed the Visionary Communication path for storytelling. Hard to say.

That is one of the problems of re-purposing a path to a new focus. I took a look back at the Presentation Mastery Level 5 project Prepare to Speak Professionally and it’s maybe more compatible with my plan, but when I picked Visionary Communication, I didn’t have a storytelling path development in mind.

What would a Level 5 project look like in storytelling? I’m not sure. This is to be a capstone project for the path, so developing the competencies to be a professional storyteller might fit the bill… I’m not sure. What do you think? Go to the Toastmasters 101 podcast Facebook page and tell me what you think it should be.

Oh, look – one of the electives for Visionary Communication is prepare to speak professionally. Or a high performance leadership – I could host a storytelling event locally. That’s a very appealing idea and already I’m inspired!

Why do I need a Storytelling path anyway?

Remember, my priority in this path is to improve my storytelling skills. Using Storyworthy and other books are just the start. There’s a local storytelling slam that I’ve applied to speak at, and other open mics to practice the craft outside my club. I’m sure there’s a workshop as well.

Maybe you’re not interested in a storytelling path. But the decisions you need to make for your path’s projects need to align with your personal goals. Picking a project like Lessons Learned in a storytelling path isn’t going to help me improve other than beyond the preparations and stage time.

The point is – and this goes for all of us in Toastmasters, whether we’re from the classic days or strictly from the world of Pathways – we’re responsible for the path we choose to build us and our skills. It can’t be the other way around. We’re not children who should be spoon-fed. We’re adults with our own plans and dreams for the future and Toastmasters is the pathway we’re taking to help us get there.

How will you use your path to get you to your goal?

Wrap it up, Kim

Storytelling, like public speaking and leadership, are learned skills that we only achieve with practice. I’m going to spend most of my time in Level 3 working on presentation skills while I put into practice the things I read about.

What about you? What are you working on in 2020? What’s your vision for the future?

Right. I’m doing Visionary Communication. I’m talking about visions already.

Every week, I say that our music comes from and we’re sponsored by Toastmasters District 10. Today, I mentioned a couple of books – the links to the books are in the show notes on my website Toastmasters 101 dot net slash 44. This is not an official endorsement of the book, but I think you might like it!

See you next time on Toastmasters 101 podcast. Tell your friends. They’ll thank you for it.