Customize Your Toastmasters Path

Customize Your Toastmasters Experience

How do you customize your Toastmasters experience?

“At least, they didn’t have to amputate my foot.”

That’s how my conversation with Joy, my Toastmasters protege, started yesterday.

“What?” I must have screeched into her ear.

“I think it might make a good speech at the Toastmasters meeting,” she continued.

Ya think?

Joy is a gifted copywriter and marketing specialist.  She knows how to put together a story to help a business grow.  That line “amputate my foot” is typical of her ability to capture my attention.  She was calling me about the confusion she had with the Level 1 Project 2 instructions.


Today on the podcast, we’re going to talk about making Toastmasters education program work for your goals. To customize your Toastmasters experience. I want to talk briefly about that Level 1 Project 2 confusion, and how Joy is looking at her next speech project. We’ll put that together with my report on adapting the Visionary Communications Path to storytelling.

Do you have goals in your life?  Do you want to make changes in your world and have an impact on the world around you?  Then Toastmasters is here to help you.  We teach leadership and public speaking skills that will be the tools you need to reach your goals.  This is Toastmasters 101 podcast, and I’m your host, Kim Krajci.

Customize Your Toastmasters Experience

When Joy called me yesterday, I was making dinner and thought for a second that I should just call her back later, but I picked up the call and I am glad I did.

Not just because Joy had a question about the Level 1 Project 2 confusion – although let’s start there.

Level 1, Project 2 is still complicated

Level 1 Project 2 is complicated.  For new members, this is a difficult set of speech projects to understand.  I’ve covered this before in a previous podcast – episode 7 – last year.  While nothing’s changed – nothing’s changed.  It’s still – to me – overly complicated.

Joy’s confusion is justified.  I don’t think this project description is well written, so let me go over it.  For this project, you’re going to give a brand new speech. Not your icebreaker – that was the previous speech.  Nope, this speech is about another topic of your choice.  5 to 7 minutes.  I do recommend you talk about something you like, because after you give this speech the first time, you’re going to get an evaluation with points of growth.  Then, you’re going to rework this speech, changing it up based on the evaluation you received, and give the speech a second time.  So there are 2 speeches assigned to this project.  Then you need to evaluate another speaker in your club.  That’s the whole project:  2 speeches, one received evaluation, one given evaluation.

As I say, complicated.

Joy’s confusion is like everyone else’s:  they think the first speech they gave – the ice breaker – is the speech they’re supposed to repeat.  I thought that back when I started on Pathways.

Joy’s story isn’t mine to tell, but she’s got a whopper to share at our club meeting for her next speech.  But don’t you want to know why she thought the doctor might say they have to cut off one of her feet?  I do!

Customize Your Toastmasters Pathway – Storytelling

Joy’s natural default is to craft words to entice her reader to want to know more.  Her gifts with language are outstanding.  But she joined Toastmasters because she knows that her presentation skills need work.

Everyone joins Toastmasters for self-improvement.  I’ve been a member officially for 1o years now and I’m still looking to improve.  But right now, while I’m never going to say I’m a great public speaker, I want to focus on storytelling.  Toastmasters isn’t providing a pathway right now specific to storytelling, but several months ago, I announced here on the podcast my intent to modify the Visionary Communications path to work on these skills.

Like all Toastmasters newbies, I’m facing some challenges.

The first level’s speech projects were pretty simple for me to adapt to telling stories.

Then – the plague hit.

Here’s the second, deep, dark reason that I wanted to work on storytelling.  I love performing before an audience.  That feeling when you’ve got them in your hand and they’re breathlessly waiting for your next word… man, there is nothing like that.  Nothing.  I love that feeling and I want to build that skill into my presentations.

It’s not the same online.

Unexpected Customization Project Problems

But I determined to continue, as the plague won’t last forever.  There were a few projects that I struggled with to adapt, but strangely, it wasn’t the ones I expected.

Leadership style

How do I tell a story about leadership styles? Online?

With the call during the spring for masks, I pulled out my old sewing machine and got to work.  Interestingly, my daughter purchased a sewing machine at the same time – but she’d never shown any interest in sewing in the past, so I was surprised and pleased she’d done so… but it didn’t take long for her, so far away from any hands-on help, to get discouraged.  My daughter-in-law was inspired to start sewing but the challenges – and then losing access to a machine – made sewing hard for her.

Suddenly, I had a story – three stories, actually – of trying to help others learn to sew.  I didn’t expect that to become an easy speech to develop.

Intro to Mentoring

should have been easy for me too.  After all, we’re told in the instructions to share a story – a story – of how we’ve been mentored.  But again, I was stymied.  I wouldn’t say I’ve had a lot of relationships that I would call a formal mentorship.

That speech became the story of recognizing those who taught me how to sew – and I demonstrated how to sew a mask at the same time.

I honestly could not think of a single way to incorporate a story into this project -and then, it was simple and natural and organic.  It just flowed from our circumstances into a tribute to some women from my past.  This wasn’t a speech I could have given in front of a club easily – I needed my sewing machine.

Level 4 Communicate Change

also felt like I was going to have to force storytelling into the mix.  Again, this was unexpectedly simple.  My advanced club, Hall of Fame Advanced Speakers, needed a new plan to recruit members.  I had some ideas about changes we might consider.  While stories were not the central part of this speech, I made an effort to use story in the presentation.

Customizing Your Toastmasters Level 4

So that’s where I am now.  Level 4 electives.

And I guess you’re thinking – Kim, you do podcasts.  Why not just use the podcasting elective?  Every one of your podcasts has a story in it.  (Yeah, that was the first reason I wanted to focus on storytelling.  To improve this podcast.)

Here are my thoughts.

I’ve completed 2 paths.  I have a Pathways DTM.  And while I haven’t done all of these projects for credit – I’ve done all these things.  Level 4 is supposed to be about building skills.

I’ve always said that given the chance, I’d always opt for Managing a Difficult Audience project because it’s so much fun – but will it be online?  Plenty of Toastmasters have asked for advice how to do this project online and while I sympathize with them – I love this project – doing it online will not have the level of interaction with my audience that I crave.

What I could do – and if I ever put all of this together as a proposal to Toastmasters for a new Path called Storytelling – is use the required speech project from the Engaging Humor path.  The Power of Humor in an Impromptu Speech project description sounds like what I need – 2 impromptu speeches that are 2 to 3 minutes each, apparently done one right after another.  Random topics.  Anecdotes must be included.

That’s exactly what I need.  And fortunately, one of my fellow Toastmasters in my club just wrapped up the Engaging Humor path, so he has access to the material and might be willing to work with me on this.

Looking forward to Level 5: Demonstrating Expertise

I knew this would be the level that would require the most repurposing of the projects toward storytelling.  The required assignment:  Develop Your Vision is again one of those projects that going for a story doesn’t seem obvious to me.  Perhaps as I work through all of the assigned resources, something will come to me.

Right now, I’m planning to change up the Ethical Leadership project from a panel discussion to a story slam.

Ever heard of a story slam?  It’s were several storytellers are given a topic to prepare a story, and then the audience votes on the winner.  I can use the topic “ethics” and create a storytelling event.  It’s not exactly moderating a panel discussion, although I could include a Q&A session with the speakers and the audience as the votes for the winner are tabulated.

Story Slam Open House

Essentially, I’ll have to take over an entire club meeting for this event, but it would be something we could invite people to attend as a “come find out about Toastmasters” online party.

I attended a storytelling class last winter and some of the attendees had been or currently are Toastmasters (hi, Alan!), most were not.  So an event like this could be promoted into the local storytelling community as a way to introduce them to Toastmasters.

Is what I’m doing legit?  Will Toastmasters International approve?

First, I’m not asking them to approve it.   I’m not working for another Distinguished Toastmaster award.

Second, I’m trying to use the Visionary Communications as a path and conform as I can to the requirements.  But the point of this experiment is to examine how to change up the path to feature more storytelling – so of course I’m heading off-track in several projects.

Which brings us around to you.

Why are you in Toastmasters?  What are your goals?

Joy is looking at her next speeches.  I want to help her look a little further so we in Toastmasters can help her achieve all her goals.

Sometimes, we long-time Toastmasters get very narrow-focused on what Toastmasters wants.  Every club has a set of 10 goals or points called the Distinguished Club Program.  These are valuable because when a club fulfills these goals, it’s a good indicator that the club is serving its members well. Sometimes, we long-time Toastmasters forget that the reasons people joined our clubs isn’t about our goals.  It’s about theirs.  Now, in all this, we know that both of these things can align.  You achieve your goals and we should, as a result, see the clubs reach theirs.

Find the right mentor

If your goals include improving your public speaking in general, we’ve got ya covered.  If you want to focus on a specific topic, skill, or method, please don’t feel locked in by the projects.  Talk to your vice president of education about what you want to learn.  If the VPE can’t help you, talk to some senior, long-term members of Toastmasters.  We can help you adjust and develop the skillset you need for your future.

Just like if a member comes and wants to learn how to present with slides – just like the member who never wants to use slides ever – we can make this program work for you.  Customizing your path is quite possible.  Give it some thought.

We’re here to help you.

Wrap it up, Kim

Our music is from

Toastmasters 101 is a podcast production of Toastmasters District 10.

If you’re listening to this podcast in August 2020, then our International Convention is probably going on right now.  I’m hearing good things about the keynote speaker.  Did you hear him speak?  What did you think?

You might know a person who is considering joining Toastmasters but just isn’t convinced that it’s worth the money and effort right now.  How about you invite him to come to a few more meetings and talk about their goals.  Once we know what people are looking for, we may be able to help them discover how Toastmasters can help them, too.

Or you could suggest they listen to the Toastmasters 101 podcast.  You can find us on the web at Toastmaster 101 dot net, or we can be found on almost all podcast player apps.  We’re trying to get on some more international platforms, so let me know if there’s a place where you think we should be found.

Talk to you again on Toastmasters 101 podcast.