#Toastmasters International—The Leadership Excellence Series


This post is designed to introduce those already in Toastmasters International or those who are interested in joining a Toastmasters club on how the organization helps you learn advanced leadership skills. I’ll show what part The Leadership Excellence Series plays in the leadership education program, and what topics are covered in the series. Finally, I’ll give some advice on how to do an effective presentation in the series.

1. Leadership Education Track

There are two educational tracks in Toastmasters International, the communications track and the leadership track. The communications track focuses on public speaking, and runs parallel to the leadership track. There are three levels of awards or “promotions” in the Toastmasters International organization based on your achievements with regards to leadership. They are: the Competent Leader (CL) award, the Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) award, and the Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) award.

The Competent Leader award is the first level, which is achieved after you complete 10 leadership projects. These projects consist of a) performing a certain combination of roles at the regular club meeting, or b) leading a special project such as a club speech contest or membership campaign.

The Advanced Leader Bronze award is the second level, and it takes the practical knowledge learned at club meetings and applies them to being an actual officer of that club. You also need to study leadership by preparing two presentations from the Leadership Excellence Series or The Successful Club Series. That is where the Leadership Excellence Series fits in on the leadership educational track.

For the sake of completeness, I will describe the last and final level of award on the leadership track, that of Advanced Leader Silver. Here you need to serve as an officer not in the club, but at the district level, which usually is achieved by being an Area Governor. You must also complete the High Performance Leadership program, which is a project that can takes up to several months to complete. Finally, you must foster a new club by being a sponsor or mentor of that club.

2. Leadership Excellence Series

Here is a list of the 10 different modules you can choose from in the Leadership Excellence Series. The entire series costs you $100 if you purchase it from Toastmasters International, or $50 if you are a member of the organization. Each module consists of a booklet which gives an outline of your presentation, and a CD which contains visual aids in the form of a handout or Powerpoint presentation.

Remember you only need to complete 2 out of the 10 presentations to achieve your Advanced Leader Bronze award. Your Vice President Education in your club should purchase the entire series and make it available to members to choose from in doing their presentations for the ALB. I suggest that if you have more than one person in your club going after your ALB, that you have them coordinate their choice of module so that they don’t end up doing the same one.

Module Description
1. Visionary Leader Discusses how leaders create and communicate a vision for their organization to help it be successful.
2. Developing a Mission Addresses how successful leaders create and communicate a mission for their organization.
3. Values and Leadership Examines values and how to employ them as you lead a team toward achieving a goal.
4. Goal Setting and Planning Reviews the processes leaders use to set goals and develop plans to achieve these goals.    
5. Delegate to Empower Discusses how to effectively delegate tasks and responsibilities.
6. Building a Team Reviews how to create and lead a team.
7. Giving Effective Feedback Provides suggestions for offering feedback to others on their performance.    
8. The Leader as a Coach Discusses how to work with a team to help them improve.
9. Motivating People Examines how to be sensitive to your team members’ needs and create an environment that will motivate them.
10. Resolving Conflict Provides concepts that will help the presenter and the participants learn conflict resolution skills.

Personally, I chose the Motivating People and Building a Team modules for the presentations I needed to do, but that was my personal choice based on my interest and what I felt the club needed at the time.

3. Tips for doing a Leadership Excellence Series presentation

Research

  • Do your own original research—the outline you are given is just that. In my case, with the module on “Motivating People”, I did research on 4 theories of motivation and made a visual aid demonstrating the most elaborate one, that of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • Tailor to your audience—since the club I am giving the presentation to consists of project managers, I made sure to make sure I gave them information they could use as professionals to motivate their project teams.

Prepare

  • Adapt visual aids—the visual aids you are given match the outline, and if you add original research you will need to add visuals to go along with them. However, limit your handout to 1 sheet, or your Powerpoint presentation to 10 slides. And put graphics, pictures, etc. on the Powerpoint presentation if you do use it. Nobody enjoys reading 10 slides filled with bulleted lists. You need to monopolize the audience’s attention; don’t monotonize it!
  • Don’t let them upstage you—I’m referring, of course, to the visual aids, not the other speakers. If you have handouts, give them out BEFORE your speech starts. If you have a Powerpoint presentation, run through it so you know the timing of when to change slides. Also, do a backup of handouts if there is a technical problem with the projector (which sometimes happens). Finally, if you are using a flip chart, always write everything out beforehand. Writing things down while keeping your back away from the audience is awkward. If you need to, use post-it notes or larger pieces of paper that are taped over portions that you will then reveal when that subject on the chart comes up. This “reveal” method works well and prevents you from having your back to the audience.

Practice

  • Even though it’s on the leadership track, remember it still is a speech and by now you should be at the Advanced level on the communication track as well. So start with a script, that will tell you whether you are in the 10-15 minute time range for the speech. Trim accordingly and get to the point where you have the presentation done in 12 minutes, so you can add 2-3 minutes for potential questions from the audience, and still come in “under the wire”.
  • Add vocal variety, staging—You are trying to give a presentation that makes the usual boardroom “Death by Powerpoint” presentation look like the amateur hour. Be a professional presenter and add flourishes with your voice, your gestures, and the position of your body with regards to the visual aids, etc.

These tips should make it a memorable presentation both for you and your listeners. Remember, you are at the Advanced level now, and you want to inspire those you are working on their Competent Leader award that someday they will be where you are now!

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