Monthly Archives: March 2018

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Toastmasters Pathways Program(updated 2018-Mar-26)

Have you signed up for the new Pathways program yet?  Did you already choose a path and start preparing to do your Ice Breaker speech?  You might even intend to be the first person to complete DTM under the new program, yes?

On the other hand, are you one who might be stuck trying to decide which pathway to select?  Wondering — maybe fearing even — what projects await when you commit to a choice and unlock your first Pathway; uncertain if it is really the right one for you? No worries, I have what you are looking for.  Read on.

Right about now you may feel as if you’ve been thrown into the movie “Divergent” and now you must choose what faction you will join, hmm?

Or like the young wizard Harry Potter, you don the sorting hat at Hogwarts School of Wizardry whispering “Gryffindore? Hufflepuff? Ravenclaw? Slytherin?”

Some Toastmasters may find solace that during the first 30 days after you have selected a Pathway, you can change your selection.  But that doesn’t make it easier to decide which path to choose and it doesn’t help understand what each pathway contains. For that matter, having 30 days to switch doesn’t really help because you can’t see what all of the projects are that lie ahead.  You can only see the projects of the current level you are on.  The projects for the next level are not revealed until you complete the projects of the level your are on and unlock the next level (and your Vice President of Education has processed it.)  This can be quite frustrating for those of us who thrive on seeing the “big picture”.  As Morpheus explains it in The Matrix…

Not being one to accept artificial limitations imposed by others, I set out to discover what I could about each pathway in the new Pathways program.  And for the sake of my fellow Toastmasters who demand to know more, I will share with you what I have discovered.

Toastmasters has published these descriptions of the 10 pathways:
You might also read this guide that was published.



Within each pathway there are 5 levels.  Applying the gaming metaphor to this (and yes, Pathways is definitely the gamification of the Toastmasters program), each level has several missions (projects) to complete before unlocking access to the next level.  Each level has a mix of mandatory and elective missions to be completed.  The details are as follows:

Level 1:  3 Required missions (projects) – These are the same for all paths
Level 2:  3 Required missions – These vary by path
Level 3:  1 Required mission and choose 2 electives
Level 4:  1 Required mission and choose 1 elective
Level 5:  2 Required missions and choose 1 elective

That is a total of 14 missions to complete to finish a pathway.
Complete 2 pathways to earn DTM.
Special thanks to Frank T. Storey, DTM from District 18.
Checkout his website for comprehensive more info.  It even shows all 59 projects currently available.  Scroll to the bottom of this page and view the .PDFs 1-4 posted.  I would link them directly here, but he is constantly updating them.


The following table contains a list of the mission titles and which Pathway each applies to.  Special thanks to Ann DeMarrais and Kenneth Karru-Olsen for their work compiling this list!


Hopefully this offers a bit of help in deciding which pathway to take.  The differences between the various pathways does not appear to be as significant as I had expected.  Yes, it would be nice to have more details of each project, but at least this is a start.  I will post more details as I find it.  I encourage you to share the link to this article and to post what you have learned about Pathways in the comments below.


#Think2018 Las Vegasphere 2018 Day 2 (Part 1)

A very special thanks to IBM CEO Ginni Rometty for this quick photo. This was taken moments before you went on stage, so there wasn’t time for proper introductions, but perhaps some time later at the conference.  On behalf of all the IBM Champions, Cheers!

I AM with Ginni Rometty20180320-2.jpg

Photo by IBM Champion Joerg Raffenbeul.  No, this is not photoshopped.  If you are wondering what’s behind the  I AM,  Watch this…

Here is Keith Brooks’ version right after the keynote.


Las Vegasphere 2018: Day 1 (IBM Think)

Here is a quick recap of my first impressions of IBM Think.

I have spoken at numerous user group conferences in the past, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to speak at an IBM conference.  My session was in the very first time slot on the very first day and I am thankful for that.  It was nice to do it and get it over with so I could not be distracted by it during the conference.  The room was packed even.




I took this photo shortly before starting my session.  People kept coming in throughout the session and by the end the room was almost completely full.  Later several people told me how they had wanted to attend my session, but they were stuck for over 1.5 hours waiting in line to get their badges.  Glad I picked up my badge on Saturday!  Here is what the hallways look like between sessions:


And if you are planning to attend a session, you had better be there well before the previous session has ended or you won’t likely get in.  I was turned away from two sessions I wanted to see because they filled up (and had 30+ people standing at the back).  As you can see by the photo of my session, they don’t have large rooms, at least not when you consider there are 30,000+ attendees.

Lunches are provided as box lunches…



But nowhere to sit…


I chose to go outside and find the Mandalay Bay equivalent of the lake between the Dolphin and Swan…


Later in the day I visited the Think Academy which has all the  IBM labs and a lounge-style area.  I later learned there was a big event in the Think Theater.  The show was in the round.  I missed all but the very end…


I will say I’m having a very difficult time with scheduling using the app.  How do I say this…  It sucks.  And with many dozens of sessions at each time slot, the noise-to-sound ratio is tough for me.  Every time the app is opened it wants to push a whole set of schedule updates too.  Considering the app is the only way to know what is happening,  IBM might consider recruiting the people from the ICS community who always did a fantastic job with the app for the Lotusphere/Connect conference.

Finally it was off to the reception at the vendor area.  This place is HUGE.  Sorry, no photo.  I’ll get one tomorrow.  The mass of humanity is a bit of overload.  But this is Las Vegas.  The only place that isn’t noise, lights, and people is the hotel room.  Just as well, I want to spend a bit of time for my next presentation tomorrow on public speaking skills.  I’m not sure if there is any place to go for an early morning run.  Missing the Disney Boardwalk right about now.

My Experience as a Toastmasters Area Director and 10 Tips for New ADs

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Since July of last year (2017) I have been a Toastmasters Area Director. I am serving Area 57 (Region1, District 2, Division E, Area 57.) There are still about 4 months to go along with contests and club visits and handing off of roles to next year’s officers. While my term is not yet complete, I want to share my experiences as an Area Director now, because the selection process for the next officers will begin soon. You may find this post useful if you are a Toastmaster who is ready to step up and take your turn at a leadership role outside of your own club. Whether you are pursuing Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) under the legacy program or the new Pathways program, this is one of the requirements in your journey.
Pro Tip1: You must serve a full 1-year term as a district officer of some sort.  All terms run from July 1 to June 30.  If you intend to earn DTM under the legacy requirements, this July will be the last opportunity you will have to complete this requirement before the legacy program is retired in May 2020.  Don’t count on Toastmasters International to push it out that extra month to accommodate people seeking July 2019-June 2020 terms for legacy DTM awards.  They aren’t known for adapting rules, no matter how logical.  So it’s now or never!

Transition from outgoing to incoming Directors
The first thing was taking over the role from the previous Area Director. Division E has 7 Areas. So there were 8 of us new people stepping in to take over the Area Director and Division Director roles. All of the directors within the division work together throughout the year starting with a meeting where the outgoing directors tell the incoming directors what to expect from each of the clubs they support. I offered to hold the transition meeting at my house. We had a potluck meal on my deck on a beautiful July afternoon where the outgoing Directors gave us the inside scoop on what was happening in their areas.

Fall Contest Season
Pro Tip 2: The very first lesson I learned was to reserve a location for your area speech contest immediately, maybe even before July. Places like the library meeting rooms get booked 3 months in advance. In Toastmasters, August thru November is called “Contest Season”. Club contests are held in August, area contests are in September, division contests are in October and district contests are in November. That means in less than 3 months from when we became directors we would be running our area contests. Those of us who had never been an Area Director before were all scrambling to learn what it takes to run a contest. Fortunately, someone shared with me this document with a checklist.

Pro Tip 3: The next tip I learned about doing contests is that it is easier to partner with another Area Director to run both contests at the same event. This makes it much easier to share the load for hosting a contest and you get a bigger audience of at least 50 people. It was fun to partner with Xiahua who was the Area 55 Director. She crafted the agenda, printed all the certificates, and purchased the thank you cards and gifts for the volunteers while I handled the communications with the contestants, judges and volunteers, handled the room setup and snacks. We both recruited volunteers and judges.
This made it much easier to share the load for hosting a contest. In the end, running a contest isn’t so hard, especially when you get a seasoned Chief Judge as we did with Michael Hayden.

Pro Tip 4: Do not under estimate the size of room you will need. The meeting rooms at some libraries, like Woodinville or Bothell library are too small. On the other hand, Redmond and Bellevue are good venues. City Halls and churches are also good options. If you are in Bellevue, then Bellevue City Hall’s Council Chambers might work well for you if the library isn’t available.  When the contest is over, take the time to debrief and document the lessons you learned.  For example, one lesson I learned was to make certain the Contest Toastmaster reads the Table Topic question from a card (not memory) for each contestant to ensure everyone gets asked the same way.  By the Spring contest we were experts so it was much easier.

Club Visits
Before contest season is over we had to focus on completing our official Club Visit forms.

Pro Tip 5: Visit all of your clubs early and often. I had already visited all of my clubs several times by the time Club Visit forms were due, so I had gotten to know the clubs and their officers already. That really helped.

Pro tip 6: Put each of the club meetings on your calendar so you remember when each one meets. Each area typically has 5 clubs. My area has 2 corporate clubs at Microsoft, 1 community club and 1 advanced club. Having worked at Microsoft before, I already knew the routine for visiting and the building locations. I generally tried to dedicate one week each month toward visiting all 5 clubs. The advanced club only meets once a month, so it made it easy to decide what week to pick.

Presidential Roundtables
Talk with them regulalry and get to know the officers of your clubs, especially the presidents.

Pro Tip 7: Gather your area’s club presidents for a meeting in August and repeat several times throughout the year. We found it very helpful to have a presidents’ meeting every few months. (I haven’t done this as often as I would have liked.) This gives the presidents a chance to share what was going on in their club and to help each other out. That goes a long way toward making successful club presidents and by extension, successful clubs.

You will find yourself communicating often with the club officers as you are the path of communication from the district and division officers.

Pro Tip 8: Ask the officers what the best way is to reach them and write it down. Put the club presidents’ phone numbers into your cell phone. I created email lists for the officers of each club, a list of just the presidents; and a list of the all the directors in my division. I commonly BCC’d the other directors on emails I sent to the club officers so the other directors knew what we were up to.

Club Culture
Each club has its own style and culture. Not all clubs or officers are alike and not everyone wants involvement by Area Directors. I realized I had to figure out how they work and then adapt my support style to fit their needs. Some clubs are strong and I found myself learning a lot from them that I took back to my own club. Others are struggling and your input is essential to strengthen their program and grow their membership. That is where the president round tables are so helpful.

Pro Tip 9: Make sure they understand your role as Area Director. You are not “some big wig from the corporate office coming to spy on them.” You’re just another Toastmaster from another club nearby who has stepped up to facilitate communications with the district, to be a resource for other clubs be successful, and to organize the area contests.

Leadership Skills
As an Area Director, we run the Fall contest (Humorous Speech and Table Topics) and the Spring contest (International Speech and Speech Evaluations). We also attended additional training events specifically for the Directors 4 times during our year of service, typically it is a 3 hour breakfast on a Saturday morning. I have found this to be a great way to gain leadership skills and meet new friends.

As an Area Director, it felt like I was a member of 5 more clubs. They were all very welcoming and appreciative when I visited.

Pro Tip 10: If you are considering becoming an Area Director, I recommend doing it for an area that your club is NOT in. While not a requirement, you already know your own club and you can’t bring the same value and unbiased insight to your own club that an outsider will bring. There will be other areas close by that you could serve. It also makes it easier to recruit people from your own club to serve as judges at your Area contest. (They will not be able to judge in their own club’s area contest.) Also, you get to meet 5 new clubs instead of just 4.  Over the course of the year, I have gotten to know many other Toastmasters: the officers and members of my Area clubs; my fellow Area Directors within our Division; Directors of other Areas and Divisions; and the District leadership trio, Omar, Molly, and Kathryn. I also learned much more about how to lead a successful volunteer-driven organization.

When it comes to following rules, Toastmasters people can sometimes be obsessive to a fault. Don’t fall into this trap and lose sight of the mission. Focus on the opportunity to build relationships and expand your leadership and communications skills. What you learn as a district officer does not exist in any Toastmasters manual, yet has the potential to be far more valuable in developing as a leader than any speech project or club role. As with anything, you will get out of it as much as you put into it. I personally found it very rewarding and valuable in growing as a leader. Toastmasters is a safe place to fail and that is true in your role as an area director as well. I expect there will be a high demand for filling those district officer roles this July as people commit to completing their DTM in the legacy program. So if you are at all interested, now is the time to talk with an area director and get on the list for the next term of officers.

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