Why Repeat an Award Level at Toastmasters International?


Last night there was a Division Council Meeting for Division D of the Founder’s District. I’ve been in Toastmasters close to two years now, and I’m always amazed at how I constantly learn new things about how the organization works when I go to meetings involving the leaders of that organization.

Last night I learned something which I will put into practice right away, and that is a concept of repeating an award level at Toastmasters International. To explain this, I first have to explain what an award level is. Starting as a beginning Toastmaster from the bottom of the diagram below, you enter the Educational Track (on the left) and the Leadership Track (on the right).

1. What is an award level?

Fig. 1 Educational and Leadership Award Levels at Toastmasters International

To get the Competent Communicator award, the one indicated at the bottom left of the above diagram, you have to do 10 speech projects. To get each level higher than this, which go in the sequence Bronze, Silver, and Gold, you need to do an additional 10 speech projects and some additional projects which strengthen your club’s communication abilities (at the Silver level) or even being a mentor for another club (at the Gold level). This latter project can often takes several months to complete.

To get the Competent Leader award, the one indicated at the bottom right of the above diagram, you have to do 10 leadership projects. Each of the leadership projects consists of performing several support roles within the club, from the simplest (timer, vote counter) to the most involved (Toastmaster, the “Master of Ceremonies” of the meeting). At the Bronze and Silver level you have to get experience being an officer of the club (at the Bronze level) and the area or division that club is in (at the Silver level). You also have to do a High Performance leadership project, which can take several months to complete. Note that there is no “Gold level” for the Leadership track, just for the Communicator track.

Then when you get to the highest level of both tracks, you are then qualified to become a Distinguished Toastmaster or DTM , which is the highest award level you can reach at the club level.

2. Why repeat an award level?

Now I can explain why you might want to repeat an award level. Essentially you are repeating a lower level while still progressing at the higher level of each track. Here’s why this is a good idea:

Reason #1: Head start on your next DTM

After you become a Distinguished Toastmaster, what do you do then to improve your speaking and/or leadership skills? You can reach outside of your club and try to become involved at the Division or even District level of leadership, but within your own club, you can essentially start going up the ladder again and start earning another Competent Communicator award by doing speeches and another Competent Leader award by performing support roles at the club.

The Advanced Communicator Gold and Advanced Leader Silver projects can take several months, as I indicated before. I originally thought you had to complete everything for your Distinguished Toastmaster or DTM award BEFORE you could start up the ladder again. It turns out that is not the case, as I learned last night.

On the communicator side, you can start a Competent Communicator award by doing the same 10 speeches from the manual of that same name before you complete your Advanced Communicator Gold, Silver, or even Bronze award. And on the leadership side, you can start a Competent Leader award by doing the 10 leadership projects from the manual of that same name before you complete your Advanced Leader Silver or even Bronze award.

At the Founder’s District Conference last Saturday, Roberta Perry, the former International Director for Region 10, made a suggestion for advanced Toastmasters on how to use the Competent Communicator or CC manual to really challenge yourself.   You take the CC manual to the club, and when it is your turn to speak, the Table Topics master gives you a topic, and the Vice President Education picks one of the 10 speech projects out of the manual, and you have to do an impromptu 5-7 minute speech on that topic and using that particular speech project.    It’s like Table Topics on steroids.  That’s just one suggestion; most people just try to do the same 10 speech projects but with a greater mastery to detail than they gave it the first time around.

Now let’s say you’ve completed your Competent Leader or CL award and you are a club officer. This means all you have to do to get your Advanced Leader Bronze award is do two presentations on leadership to your club. In the meanwhile, you will probably be doing support roles at your club if you are not the speaker or evaluator that evening. So why waste a perfectly good set of opportunities?  Start a new CL manual and gain credit for it now!

That means that the time it takes to complete your DTM the second time around could be cut in half!

Reason #2: Help a second club

If you are a member of two different clubs, you are considered a dual member. The rule is that when you gain an award level and earn that new designation (CC, CL, or whatever), your club gains credit for your achievement through something called the Distinguished Club program. If you are a member of two different clubs, only one club can take the credit for your achievement. So you should tell the Vice President Education of each of your clubs AHEAD OF TIME which club you plan to assign the credit to.

But if you do a second CC or CL manual, you can then give the achievement to the second club, which they will appreciate as supporting their own Distinguished Club plan.

Reason #3: Seize the day and take the opportunity!

This gets down to the real reason for repeating an award. To paraphrase the song “Every Breath you Take” by Sting, “every speech you make, every role you take, you’ll be helping you” … and your club.

So although I just completed my Advanced Communicator Bronze and am working on my Advanced Leader Bronze, I’m going out and getting a new Competent Communicator and Competent Leader manual today!

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