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Tips for a Positive Pathways Launch

Strong planning and a proactive approach will help make the rollout a success.

By Paul Sterman


Toastmasters Pathways Learning Experience

At some point in the coming months, the Pathways learning experience will launch in your district. How can you be as ready as possible?

Plan, prepare and participate. These elements are key, say members in districts where Pathways is already available.

  • Help your club plan ahead for sessions where members can learn about and prepare for Pathways. (More on that later.)
  • Get ready for the program by familiarizing yourself with existing resources and information about Pathways, and logging in to the Toastmasters website as soon as possible.
  • When Pathways debuts in your district, dive in. “Pathways engages you once you are in it, so taking that first step is important,” says Paul White, DTM, a member of several clubs in Virginia.

White is the Chief Ambassador for District 27, which, along with districts 57 and 51, participated in the Pathways pilot. More than 100 Chief Ambassadors around the world lead teams of Ambassadors who help members learn about the new program and what it means for them.

In addition to planning, preparation and participation, add another “p” word: patience. Starting any new program of substance requires a period of adjustment. Pathways is designed to be convenient and user-friendly; however, new users still need time to get comfortable, especially if they’re not as experienced with working online. (Base Camp, the program’s learning management system, is online, and you have the option of working in Pathways online or in print.)

Also remember that Base Camp provides tutorials and videos that offer step-by-step instructions.

Dennis Neary, DTM, the District 57 Chief Ambassador, says some members in his district initially expressed resistance to Pathways but then were happy with the program once they started working in it. He cites an example. After one member enrolled in Pathways, he told Neary he was frustrated with some technical challenges he was encountering. The Chief Ambassador, a member of several clubs in Northern California, gave him a few tips for dealing with the situation. He ran into the man a while later, and the member said Pathways was now working well for him.


Club Visits

Pathways is being rolled out region by region. It launched in Region 14 at the end of July, and Region 2 is scheduled to start in Pathways this month. Before a region launches Pathways, each of its clubs should be visited by a Pathways Guide and a Pathways Ambassador. These two member volunteers deliver a presentation about the learning experience, helping club members prepare to work in the new program. The visits are crucial—they help set up members for early success in the program. Pathways leaders stress that clubs need to plan ahead for the visits and set aside an adequate amount of time.

“We have encountered clubs that would like the presentation to be a five- to seven-minute speech,” White says. “That is not enough time.”

Clubs should decide early on if they want to schedule the visit for a regular club meeting or set up a special session so it doesn’t displace a regular meeting, he adds.

District 51 Director Johnson Tang, ACS, ALS, says Pathways leaders in his district are making a concerted effort to communicate with each other often—even using social media tools, like WhatsApp Group Chat—to ensure Guides and Ambassadors are fully prepared to share the Pathways training information with their assigned clubs.

Once club visits begin, Pathways Guides follow up with virtual support sessions for clubs’ vice presidents education (VPEs). This is where they can answer many questions that Pathways users have. It’s vital that the VPEs attend these virtual sessions, say Pathways leaders.

Other examples of rollout tips and successes:

  • Jenny Genser, DTM, is a District 27 Pathways Guide and the 2016–2017 VPE for the Park Center Toastmasters in Alexandria, Virginia. After Pathways launched in her district, she helped her club present a Speechcraft that served as a “Pathways workshop for new members.” Several members presented Pathways Ice Breakers.
  • Genser says she also made sure to ¬≠assign mentors to new club members. 
  • Tang, the District 51 director, says his district set up a booth at their spring conference to boost awareness of the Pathways learning experience.
  • Jaeda Teoh, CC, ALB, a member of the SP Elite Mandarin Toastmasters in Malaysia (District 51), says participants should be sure to offer feedback about their Pathways experience. Typically, club members should provide questions or feedback to their VPE, who then communicates with the Pathways Guide. 
  • Hooi Chui Heng, ACB, also a member of the SP Elite Mandarin club, says Toastmasters who are more comfortable and involved in Pathways should assist those who have questions and need help. Doing that, he says, “will definitely speed up the learning process of others.” 
  • White says that when experienced members share their positive feelings about Pathways, it carries a lot of weight. “The one comment I have heard expressed a number of times is that ‘hearing from a veteran member who feels new excitement and challenge in Pathways’ has been a factor in members deciding to enroll in Pathways.” 

Plunge In

When Pathways becomes available in your district, be sure to enroll. Plunge in and explore. Begin a project and start learning. If you still want to finish some work in the traditional education program, that’s fine— you do not have to stop working in the traditional program once you start Pathways.

Current members can work in both education programs, if they want, for two years from the time Pathways rolls out in the last region. This is the transition period. However, new members who join clubs where Pathways has already rolled out will only be able to work in Pathways. After the transition period ends, every member will work in the new program.

But don’t wait to start your Pathways journey. That’s a key message for leaders to share, says White.

“Encourage members to enroll in Pathways early rather than taking a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude,” he stresses. “Of course, if club officers enroll, they lead by example. It makes it easier to convince members to join if the club’s officers are enrolled and active in Pathways.”