Toastmasters’ Ambassadors Spread the Word about the Revitalized Education Program
As Toastmasters International develops its revitalized education program (REP)—the largest project the organization has ever undertaken—groups of member volunteers have played essential roles. Among these groups are the “Ambassadors” and “Chief Ambassadors.”
For any initiative to be successful, it’s important to explain how it works and why it’s important. It is the Ambassadors and Chief Ambassadors that have been called upon to fill that role when it comes to the REP. Together, Ambassadors and Chief Ambassadors are at the frontlines when it comes to informing members of program updates, helping members understand those updates and answering questions.
The Ambassador program—which includes Ambassadors and Chief Ambassadors—was established about a year and a half ago. Ambassadors are members who applied for the role while Chief Ambassadors are highly experienced Toastmasters selected to lead teams of Ambassadors. Ambassadors visit clubs and give presentations keeping members informed about REP. Chief Ambassadors lead each district’s team of Ambassadors, helping prepare their teams by providing them with information about the REP.
The organization has close to 1,500 Ambassadors around the world.
Chief Ambassadors (one from each of the 14 regions) have responded to questions about the education program. Here are highlighted portions of their responses. (Comments have been edited and condensed for purposes of clarity and space.)
Editor’s note: While most of the respondents voiced enthusiasm and excitement about the program, several also expressed frustration with the process. The chief complaint was that the education program team at World Headquarters hasn’t provided enough detailed information about the program, leaving Ambassadors unable to effectively update members.
In order to make the REP the best it can be, the program team pushed back the original launch date; the program is now scheduled to debut in the second half of this year. The aim of bringing Ambassadors into the process early was to make members part of the project from the beginning.
However, the program team has acknowledged that, in retrospect, Ambassadors were brought into the project too early, before key components of the program had been completed (which is why more details weren’t available).
Toastmasters International is grateful to all Ambassadors for the time and effort they are giving to this project.
Pamela McCown, Region 3, District 56
I am most excited about the competency-based learning in the revitalized education program.… Each learning path has visioning, project planning and leadership opportunities. Our goal in District 56 is for members to take away a renewed enthusiasm for their Toastmasters membership.
The REP has much potential to change the way we look at things. When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. We expect our members to fully embrace this change, set new goals, and learn to engage others at a greater level of communication and leadership competency than ever before.
Johnny Uy, Region 14, District 75
I’m most excited about the fact that we’re doing something new and bold. We’re embarking on a program that we have never ventured into before. The fact that we are improving the services and opportunities we give to our members in order to meet the needs of today’s world.
Our early Ambassador visits went very well. But because of the lack of new information on the REP, it’s been difficult for the Ambassadors to maintain momentum. However, hopefully when we see the final product, it will be awesome, and everyone will be excited.
Phyrne Parker, Region 6, District 60
As soon as I heard about the REP, I knew I wanted to be involved, and volunteering to be Chief Ambassador felt like the most natural way to accomplish that. What I’ve enjoyed most about the ole is seeing the program evolve through these early stages.
I think that a member being able to establish their personal learning path is very promising…. Also very exciting is the concept of the online components to the program. Members will no longer need to work from paper manuals but will be able to access their projects online with interactive components. Twenty-first century functionality!
Joan Moore, Region 5, District 30
I am most excited about the modernization of the education program, incorporating technology, social media and virtual learning, all of which are critical in today’s society. Most of the feedback received from the Ambassadors in their club visits has been in the form of questions about the specific aspects of the new program. Members are excited and want to learn more.
There were some concerns expressed about how the transition from the current education program to the new program will be handled. The concerns were shared with the [education program team] and they are taking those concerns into consideration in the development of the program.
Stephen Shaner, Region 4, District 6
The club visits [with the Ambassadors] are going well. There are a few challenges, but we are working through them. We have also received a lot of questions. I consider this normal as we don’t have a lot of details about the program yet. Overall, the reception has been very positive and everyone is eagerly waiting for more news as we get closer to the release date.
This whole [revitalization] effort is about the member. This fits Ralph Smedley’s quote, “I know of no other organization like Toastmasters that is dedicated to the individual.” With the REP, we are continuing that great tradition.
Stephanie Scott, Region 7, District 13
I absolutely love our organization! The benefits our individual members derive from our education program have been tremendous thus far. I am excited to play a role in sharing the revitalized education program with our clubs and making it a success.
What excites me most about the REP is the due diligence that has been shown in creating a new and improved education program that gives us what we asked for. The Learning Masters’ role in gathering information from members on what they like about the current program and hope to see in the new program is evident.
Dwight Jones, Region 8, District 44
Our Ambassadors’ club visits went very well. In the state of Georgia (districts 44 and 14), we created a feedback form for each club to fill out after their Ambassador’s presentation to the club. Once the Chief Ambassador reviewed the form, we answered any questions the club presented and the Ambassador provided the answer to the club.
The new program is designed to provide each member with personal and professional development skills that will have real-world applications. These are skills that entrepreneurs or prospective employers are looking for in team members. The revitalized education program is definitely a game-changer.
Mary Russell, Region 10, District 1
Offering a program that will enhance each member’s personal development says a great deal about Toastmasters’ forward-thinking approach to individual growth, and also to the continued success of the organization. The revitalized education program will tap into what’s more important for each member. That’s not only huge, but that’s very exciting to me.
Change can be difficult. Yet over the years, Toastmasters International and the Board of Directors have done a phenomenal job adding programs, enhancing materials and looking strategically at what benefits members. I believe by [making this change], we will continue to position ourselves as a tough competitor in communication and leadership skills development.
Carl Duivenvoorden, Region 9, District 45
Overall, I get the sense that the Ambassador club visits are going quite well.… Ambassadors have brought back great questions and comments, which we’ve been able to answer or forward to the [education program] team. I really like the idea of a personalized learning path so members can customize their learning to their interests, careers or greatest perceived needs. The process is taking longer than expected, but it’s more important to do it right than to do it quickly.
The new program will be very exciting when launched, and it will be well worth the wait.
Radhakrishnan Karantharath, Region 11, District 20
I attribute a lot of my success in life to my participation in Toastmasters, and it is my earnest desire to give back something to this wonderful organization.
It is my sincere belief that all the Ambassadors [on my team] are as excited as I am and are eagerly waiting for the release of the new program…. Our objective will be to help clubs and members to make the change-management process effective and positive. I am looking forward to the feedback from the members. I am also eager for the release of the program so that I can start all over again and work toward a second DTM.
Adele O’Neal, Region 2, District 7
I think the interactive elements of the new program will appeal to a younger audience but will not be intimidating to us more “seasoned” Toastmasters. I like that the foundational competencies of the CC and CL manuals are still there, but that many new competencies have been added.
I think people will like how the REP is organized by levels and paths, making it easy for them to be successful. It is still up to the clubs to have meetings that provide a supportive environment for all members to learn and have fun. This is a volunteer organization, and if we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?
Tina Hubis, Region 1, District 26
I’m excited about how the program will be more customized for the individual member and about the new interactive elements that will be part of the program. Whenever I can, I take the opportunity to thank my Ambassadors for their great work.
From the feedback I’ve gained, the club visits have gone fairly well. There have been questions, of course, and as we get closer to the launch, I’m sure we’ll get more answers. I hope members are eager to get started with the new program and appreciate the many new resources it will offer.
Bunzo Suzuki, Region 13, District 76
I have been a Toastmaster since 2002 and I am a firm believer in Toastmasters’ education program and the values on which it is based. I became a Chief Ambassador because I wanted to witness, as well as experience firsthand, how our wonderful program could become even better.
I particularly like the aspect of our program that is based on the trust and respect in each individual member’s willingness to learn. If our revitalized program becomes better and attracts greater numbers of people throughout the world, then there is a great chance the program will contribute to making the lives of those people more meaningful and enjoyable, and that is exciting indeed.
Jan Vecchio, Region 12, District 70
I have been a Toastmaster for almost 18 years and during that time I have seen no major changes to the education program….
It is evident that the program needs a major overhaul to bring it in line with the current technology and real-world needs. I like the proposed structure of the REP and the way communication and leadership will be combined (as opposed to the separate tracks in the current program)…. I especially like that mentorship and evaluations will remain key components of the program. It is only through self-reflection and evaluations that we become aware of our flaws and recognize our strengths and positive attributes.
For more information on the REP, visit toastmasters.org/REP.A version of this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of the Toastmaster magazine.