Sunday, December 13, 2015

Toastmasters VPPR planning - part 2

We previously talked about the importance of the branding manual so now I'd like to talk about some of the other official public relations resources available.

Toastmasters maintains a public relations section at which is worth bookmarking.

For example, they provide the "Letting the World Know" manual which is a great 60 page resource on public relations.

For example, they provide news release templates which can help you get the local media on board with promoting your club. Often it is as simple as a little preparation in asking your local newspaper or radio station if they would like to run a story. If you can help spin some local club event into a story then often the local news desk is looking for help.

(As an aside - if you want a concrete and practical example of this then click here. I'll write a longer story about the experience one of these days...)

For example, there is a full logo, images and templates section which contains (among other things) sample posters that you can simply fill in your club contact information for.

If you are looking for website video content then has some great resources as well which are helpful for both the public and club members.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Toastmasters VPPR planning - part 1

In one week it will be my nine year anniversary in Toastmasters. Back then, in my second week, I attended makeup training as the newly elected Vice President of Public Relations (VPPR) of my club. I sat at a table with three Toastmasters - Fred Punko, John Baragar and Bob Larmour. Sitting at that table was more than a hundred years of Toastmasters experience.

I'd like to pretend that that single event taught me all I needed to know about being a VPPR but in fact over the last nine years I've steadily picked away at the different resources and approaches to public relations. What works for me doesn't always work for others, and vice versa.

Recently my club held elections and we elected a new VPPR for the January-June term. At the same time I work with Quesnel Toastmasters in a coaching capacity. Being the lazy person that I am, I thought it was a good opportunity to get down some of my VPPR thoughts in a fashion that was constructive for all.

The subsequent posts will outline some of these resources that I feel are essential to good public relations. If you have any thoughts or comments then I always welcome feedback at .

#1 - The Brand Manual (link)

The brand manual was released many years ago (5-6?) and by the title you would expect that it provides instruction with respect to the Toastmasters brand. In reality, it is an absolutely essential public relations tool that encompasses many aspects of the program. Frankly, this is not at all obvious to people.

To give concrete examples, pages 22-26 outline the five main target audiences for Toastmasters clubs. That is: (1) corporations, (2) current Toastmasters, (3) young professionals, (4) mid-career professionals, and (5) people involved in personal skill-building. On each page you see what benefits these groups traditionally gain from Toastmasters and you see the sample messaging they would suggest for these groups.

So say we are going to create a poster for our club. It could equally be a page on your website, an ad in the paper, an email that you're crafting, whatever. Where possible we want to make sure our message is aligned with the brand manual.

Above is a sample advertisement that I often use for PGTM. The basics like location, time, etc. are covered as is a specific call to action in the bottom of the ad. More relevantly look at the three taglines that we use:
Want to stand out from the crowd?
Boost your resume with leadership experience?
Invest in yourself!
In this particular advertisement I'm targeting groups 3-5, that is, young professionals, mid-career professionals and people involved in personal skill-building. Young professionals don't have practical experience, they are generally speaking trying to distinguish themselves from a horde of people with similar qualifications, and building an effective resume is a very concrete thing that Toastmasters can (and will) help them with. Mid-career professionals traditionally have a hard time gaining leadership experience - how do you get experience as a supervisor or running projects if you don't have the workplace experience - and they often see this sort of training as self-investment. Frankly the first time your work puts you through a $2k weekend training course when you could have paid $150-200 for a year of Toastmasters, well, you see the value of the self investment. Anyways, hopefully this advertisement illustrates some of the concrete ways you like the audience to the ad.

The specific colors, fonts, photos, etc. are all from various other parts of the brand manual as well. Toastmasters blue is shown on page 28 along with the associated color codes for whatever program you're using.

Another really important component of the brand manual is the concept of the "elevator pitch". You'll find it outlined from page 11-15. Being able to know what an elevator pitch is is essential in a PR capacity and more relevantly having your members be able to do so is equally important. People, generally speaking, don't trust advertisements but they do trust personal recommendations so the more you can effectively speak to Toastmasters in a conversational fashion, the better. Even if you're comfortable doing so the other members of your club are likely not - the new members particularly but often many of the older members.

I like that the brand manual talks about the various length of elevator speeches as well. If you have two minutes then you'll speak to different things than if you have two sentences to work with.

These are only two things that are covered in the 69 page branding manual. If you take the time to read it in depth you will find many other insightful suggestions. I had no idea that the brand manual existed for most of my Toastmasters life but now that I know I refer to it regularly when communicating with the public!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Toastmasters Fall Executive Time

It's that time again!

If you're a Toastmasters club that has bi-annual elections (executive terms from July to December, and terms from January to June) then you will have just struck your executive nominating committee. Your Club Leadership handbook will outline the process here.

In a nutshell, your club president will create a committee of at least three members. These members will talk with the club members to find anyone who is interested in serving on the club executive. They will then present the list of people interested in serving at the business meeting immediately preceding the election.

So what if your club doesn't do this? If the committee doesn't present a report on time for any reason... for example, that your club doesn't form the committee, that the committee doesn't manage to get a comprehensive list together, or whatever reason... then all nominations will come from the floor. That is, any active individual member in good standing can nominate any other active individual member from the floor of the election.

The nominating committee does not present the exclusive list - that is, nominations must always be allowed from the floor.

I'd encourage you to talk with your members over the next couple weeks. Many times the current executive will continue as-is without interruption but sometimes you'll have a keener in the club who wants to step up to the executive or sometimes you'll have an executive member who is struggling and wants to step down. It's a great opportunity to shake up your executive. :)

Friday, April 10, 2015

And... done-ish

So after eight years and four months, I have finally finished every Toastmasters communication project. Some highlights:
  • I have attended approximately 500 Toastmasters events during this time period.
  • I have spoken formally approximately 200 times.
  • I hold 26 educational designations - Competent Communicator x7, Competent Leader x7, Advanced Communicator Bronze x3, Advanced Communicator Silver x3, Advanced Communicator Gold x1, Advanced Leader Bronze x4. An educational designation generally involves 10 formal projects and usually takes a year to complete.
  • To put all that in perspective, less than 1/6 Toastmasters make it to Competent Communicator once much less complete another 25 designations after that point.
  • I am a charter member of the Community North Advanced Toastmasters Club.
  • At my first Toastmasters meeting I was voted unanimously onto the club executive as Vice President of Public Relations. Since that first meeting I have never not been on both a club executive and/or district team.
  • I have served as a club executive officer 16 times - most frequently as a Vice President of Public Relations and as a Club President. My favorite continues to be Vice President of Education as I particularly like helping people set goals and achieve them. Motivating people when you're not financially compensating them is great practice for real life.
  • I've been a member of the club beside my wife and beside my mom. I literally proposed to my wife as a Toastmasters speech (and got credit for it!). In particular with my mom I have both been her direct supervisor (e.g. being President to her Vice President of Education) and been her direct subordinate (e.g. being Vice President of Education to her President). That has definitely been an insightful experience - you perceive your parents differently when you work with them professionally.
  • I am on the only living holder of the Outstanding Area Governor award in Northern BC.
  • I have received the Outstanding Toastmasters twice within Prince George Toastmasters.
  • I have been recognized twice provincially in both BC districts in 2013 and 2015. I was the first Toastmaster recognized in Northern BC after the district reformation in 2015.
  • My High Performance Leadership project lead to the creation of which at last count has been used in more than 13 countries and by more than half of the worldwide districts. For a work-in-progress (approximately 8% of public features rolled out) it has been an incredible success.
For me, if there is any measure of success that matters, it's the realization that people who know me seek my participation within their teams and meetings, whether in a non-profit capacity, at work or at Toastmasters. People might not always like me as a person (likeability is not always one of my strong points) but they respect me as a facilitator and as a team leader. I'd like to think that I'm continually looking out for win-win agreements, that I promote transparency and honesty, and that although I'm often very direct that I'm fair on both praise and criticism. I've been honoured to watch people that I mentor improve their lives.

Every day brings new challenges but I'm happy to take a moment to celebrate completion of the Toastmasters communication curriculum.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Biking geekiness

As I've said in the past, I'm a geek. I happen to also like to cycle. This leads to some interesting (to me) crossover between the different technologies that exist.

For example, I've been GPS tracking every ride since 2012. I find that it keeps me motivated, it provides me historical data for comparison and it can give me something to strive for.

In terms of goals, for example, in past years I have undertaken challenges to bike every street in College Heights, to crest every hill in PG, to reach a set number of kms in the season (e.g. to Vancouver and back). Theoretically without GPS I could track kms travelled but it would tricky to organize.

In terms of historical data, it can tell me things like when I started each year and what my average speed was for each ride:
July 2012 - 5.9 km - avg 13.7 km/hour
April 2013 - 6.55 km - avg 13.4 km/hour
March 2014 - 7.16 km - avg 19.7 km/hour
March 2015 - 14.04 km - avg 19.1 km/hour
You can see that I'm starting each cycling year earlier and generally speaking going longer and faster each year. My first ride of 2015 would have been at least a 22 km ride and much better for speed but I blew a pedal so had to limp to get a ride home. C'est la vie!

I've spent the last couple years using a Zephyr Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) which gives me a variety of information. I can tell you, for example, that my average heart rate has come way down - generally averaging between 15-20 bpm less across the entire ride.

If I look at my early rides in 2014, I spent 47% in zone 5. That's pretty much as hard as your heart can pump without bursting. The other largest zone was 46% in zone 4 which is a normal race pace zone - healthy aerobic activity.

By comparison, even my first ride of 2015 was much better - 5% in zone 5 and 76% in zone 4. This is considering I was doing much more vertical elevation and pushing much harder.

I can also see concretely my recovery rate after exertion is much faster - when I first started with an HRM it would take me a couple kms to recover after a strenuous hill climb. By comparison, I'm back to recovery within a couple city blocks now. And that's on the first ride of the season - not after I've spent months working at it - so the results maintain over a relatively long period of time.

The numbers that I haven't moved are ones like weight and BMI. I generally gain over the winter months and lean down over the spring/summer/fall months but I'm still heavier than I'd like to be. In terms of less measurable numbers I have almost completely eliminated lung illnesses and I almost never use my bronchodilators or corticosteroids (maybe 1-2 times a year now). I have never been able to recover my peak expiratory flow - I still sit at around 2/3 of a healthy adult male - but the medical theory is that this is a result of the scarring that I have present within my lungs. My oxygen saturation is good and I recover quickly after aerobic exercise so clearly not a major issue.

I still can't swim for beans and I don't really feel comfortable running but after 3+ years working at the biking it definitely looks worlds closer than it has.

So, for what it's worth:

  • Thank you Google My Tracks for allowing me to record and keep my own data
  • Thank you MapMyRide for providing me pretty graphs and tracking of my imported data
  • Thank you Zephyr HRM for making a solid and usable device
  • Thank you Delta for making a cell caddy that is brilliant so I can track my rides and listen to music
  • Thank you Evolve for helping to baby and upgrade my bike
  • Thank you Jon for poking, shaming, leading by example and otherwise motivating me to actually do something with myself.
What next? More biking! I'd love to get some more gizmos - tracking oxygen saturation and blood pressure while riding, tracking bike cadence... heck I'd love to have something that would track my swimming strokes while I'm at it.

If there is a moral to this story, pick whatever the heck motivates you to keep exercised and stick to it! Tracking data doesn't motivate everyone but if it does then hopefully some of the information above will get you started.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Cite your sources, people.

Every day I open up "The Official Toastmasters International Members Group" on Facebook and read various confused posts from people trying to express opinions as facts. If you are expressing a fact then please cite your sources.

Compare the two statements:
Statement A: If a member judges an area speech contest then they can't compete in it. I talked to John at my club, who has been a member since dirt was invented, and he confirmed this is true.
Statement B: A member who judges an area speech contest (or above) is ineligible to compete in that contest per  page 4, 2.Eligibility.4.a which says "The following are ineligible to compete in any Toastmasters speech contest. a) A member serving as chief judge, voting judge or tiebreaking judge beyond the club level for a contest in which the member is still competing or intends to compete". 
I would also accept a quoted email from anyone as long as the date/person is clear within it.

Bottom line - statements without the underlying data or logical argument to support them are not facts.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

D96 Membership Analysis

If you're not a Toastmaster in District 96 then this probably won't be of interest to you, but I have created a report for D96 on the membership base as of August 12, 2014 which has some interesting statistics.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Toastmasters Quorum and Proxies

To transact Toastmasters business there are at least five different ways that quorum and proxies are used.

In a nutshell, quorum is the smallest grouping of people such that you can legally transact business. The definition depends entirely on the organization. Generally it is a number like 1/3 of the active members or a majority of active members.

Proxies refers to the process through which someone is designated as having control of a vote. For example, a president of a company could designate his secretary as being his proxy and thus being able to vote on his behalf if he was going to be absent.

Within Toastmasters there are at least five different quorums/proxies:

  1. Club Executive Business
  2. Club Business
  3. Area/Division Council Business
  4. District Business
  5. International Business
(1) At the club executive level, quorum is defined (see as a majority of the club executive committee. The constitution says that each member has a vote, not each role. The constitution says that the immediate past president is on the committee so has a vote as well. So, in short, there are 8 potential members on the committee which would make quorum theoretically 5 members. The constitution specifies that no proxies are allowed on club matters.

(2) At the club level, quorum is defined (see as a majority of active individual members. An individual member can be designed as inactive, and thus taken out of quorum by a motion at the club executive committee or by a motion at the club level. The constitution specifies that no proxies are allowed on club matters. So for a typical 20 member club your quorum would be 11 members.

(3) At the area/division level, quorum is not clearly defined (see but the membership of the committee is Presidents/VPE/VPM of each club in the area so I would consider 1/3 of club votes as having quorum. Proxies are allowed and I would use the basic structure outlined for district council (see which basically states that only an active individual club member can carry the proxy and that no one can carry more than three votes per person. Any signed, dated paperwork from the president/VPE/VPM that authorizes another to carry the vote would suffice. The senior club member would carry the votes for the other members in the absence of written instruction - i.e. if the club president (or his proxy) attends then he carries the votes for the VPM/VPE if they are not present and have not given instruction via proxy. So for example, on a typical five club area you would have quorum if 5 of the 15 votes were present the room or effectively if two of the five clubs are represented.

(4) At the district level, quorum is clearly defined (see, the membership of the assembly is Presidents/VPE of each club in the district with 1/3 of club votes defined as having quorum. District staff each have their own vote which I do not believe counts towards quorum. Proxies are allowed (see, an active individual club member can carry the proxy for his club and that no one can carry more than three votes per person. Any signed, dated paperwork from the president/VPE that authorizes another to carry the vote would suffice subject to the authority of the district credentials chair. Often districts will use google docs or similar to organize the proxies.So for example, in a typical 250 club district you would have quorum if you had 167 or more votes in attendance.

(5) At the international level, quorum is clearly defined (see as 1/3 of the votes held by voting members of Toastmasters International and 1/3 of the votes held by member clubs. Proxies are allowed (see and clubs can designate any active individual member of any club. Generally speaking clubs either designate one of their members to carry the vote or they designate their current district governor as carrying their vote.

Part of the confusion within Toastmasters occurs because (4) and (5) are very different things. For (5) a club president would (once yearly) sign into, undertake club business and assign the proxy to the party they designate. For (4) the district credentials chair would generally reach out to club president/VPE (twice yearly) and (generally) have them fill out a google document to designate who receives the proxy.

For (3) it's been my experience that most area/division governors do not undertake to set up proxies.

For (2), (1) there is no option to use proxies.

Hopefully this is instructive and helpful. If you have any questions or concerns then you can always email me directly at .

Monday, May 12, 2014

Club Officer Training planning

So you're a new area/division governor and realizing that club officer training should be coming up - who organizes this?

Formally district training falls under the mandate of the LGET, whomever that is, and they are the ones who will authorize training dates. In a nutshell, a training event is pitched to them, they authorize it, then it is delivered. The organizer of the event will provide a roster of who attended, the LGET will enter this into TI's system and the individual members/clubs get credit. The fact that the LGET physically keys in the training results gives them the ultimate control on what is permitted or not!

Generally speaking the division governor is the organizer. Generally speaking the area governors work to support the division governor in delivering/promoting an effective training event. This can be delegated out.

In terms of when, Toastmasters says the first session should be between June 1 and August 31. The second session between December 1 and last day of February.

Training needs to, at a minimum, cover each of the club executive roles and follow the 2/2 mandate. That is, you need to have at least two trainers from two different clubs, and at least two different clubs must be trained during the session.

Generally speaking there is a single division training date for each training period. Any additional training offered beyond that is a service provided, not guaranteed. Personally I've always tried to have at least three events on different dates/times - I think that's excessively fair - but that's a personal preference and not a requirement. In remote areas it might make sense for an area governor to get permission and then offer makeup training for their area as a whole. (I have done this, worked well)

Training credit, as with all educational credits in Toastmasters, is only given for physical events. The trainers must physically be in the same room as the trainees. Note that Toastmasters International has, on a case-by-case basis, given authorization for virtual training events but my understanding at present is that this is still not the default, must be justified and approved in advance. Certainly it would be a safer bet to confirm in advance rather than frustrating a room full of participants.

Toastmasters has a good base page at which includes much of the training materials. As with educational sessions I consider these basic slides as a starting point - frankly training that was only these slides and nothing more would be very dry indeed.

Ideally trainers should be experienced Toastmasters, people who have served the given role many times and are known to be good at the role. It's not a requirement that they have served the role but it makes them far more credible as trainers.

Personally I like to encourage each trainer to give at least one concrete handout to each group they are training. You can find different examples of these at .

If time allows I've found that a group discussion of the role is very effective.

Personally I like to cover basic timeline items with each officer:

  • SAA - setting up the room, arranging backup coverage
  • Treasurer - setting a budget, cheque requisitions, quarterly financial reports
  • Secretary - how to keep minutes, the importance of storing club correspondence, arranging backup coverage
  • VPR - promoting Toastmasters (the organization, rather than the club), ensuring club contact information is accurate, organizing maintenance of website
  • VPM - submitting member applications, voting members in, retaining members, organizing dues collection
  • VPE - agenda creation, helping members set goals, leading by example, contests, proxies
  • President - all of the above, leading by example, proxies, being a district champion
Training events generally fall into two categories - either sessional (sequential training materials, no real choices) and Toastmasters Leadership Institute TLI (different value added sessions, people choose what they want to attend). Both have their points - if you have limited time then a sessional makes sense. If you have the time and want to bring out more participants (plus give speaking opportunities!) then TLI is a better option.

Things that you could cover during a TLI:
  • Membership building
  • Using the Toastmasters site more effectively
  • Using electronic tools like easy-speak
  • Any Toastmasters ed session (Better Speaker Series, Successful Club Series, Leadership Excellence Series, Success/Communication, Success/Leadership)
  • Anything on electronic media - delivering Powerpoint more effectively, using social media, using youtube
  • Keynote/inspirational presentations
  • Training Toastmasters judges / running effective contests
  • Experts panel (i.e. sit down a group of strong Toastmasters and have the audience pose questions on various hot topics - how to achieve more in DCP, etc.)
Technically a TLI doesn't have to be involved with officer training but they usually are combined as it helps to bring bodies out.

Members can deliver division training as an HPL, organize any portion of it for CL credit in organizing a special event, help to promote it as a PR event for CL credit, deliver ed session speeches for ALB/ACG credit, deliver advanced speeches for CC/ACB/ACS/ACG credit, etc.

As always if you have any questions or comments then please let me know at

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Early May thoughts for incoming Toastmasters executives

So you are through elections and by now your incoming executive should be (mostly) nailed down.

Contact your area governor and confirm when official training will be occurring. You need to have a minimum of four officers trained in both of the two training sessions (Summer and Winter) for DCP credit.

Make sure that all club officers have a copy of the CLH which you can get at .

If you can, arrange joint meetings of the outgoing executive and incoming executive. Try to transfer knowledge if you can.

As July arrives you will want to have clear answers to the following:

  • Who is setting up the room?
  • Who is organizing agendas?
  • Who is submitting new member applications to TI?
  • Who is submitting educational award completions to TI?
  • What record is there of who has paid dues and for how long? Who will be collecting dues?
  • Who is maintaining the club website, facebook page, etc.?
  • Who is contacting the bank to transfer signing authority?
  • Is there going to be a year end event or a swearing in event? What resources need to be organized to support this?
  • Are there going to be any breaks during the summer months? Who is communicating this to members?