Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI), held in Edmonton on Dec. 1 was a runaway success – more than half of all club officers were trained, and a record-breaking 290 people attended. Many members, who were not club officers came, for the afternoon’s skill-set boosting sessions. Others accompanied their club officers to morning training sessions to prepare for succession.

The event hosted special guest Rob Christeson DTM, our Region 4 Advisor, all the way from Overland Park, Kansas. He provided his insight and expertise on the Pathways Learning Experience.

District 99 Program Quality Director, Lana Sweeney, ACG, ALB, shares her learning experience and boils down the success factor to:

Only meet to create value.

TLI’s are for creating value, simply because “that’s how we’ve always done things.”
If the TLI doesn’t create value, don’t have it.

Plan the TLI well in advance

Make it a cultural “must have” to have a leader (or at least facilitator) for every meeting who has actually given the meeting thought. Ideally, this means a written agenda which gets in the hands of all participants well in advance of the meeting, so they can come prepared themselves.

If there is specific information or other preparation work that participants need to have ready, make that explicit on the agenda.

Again, this isn’t just about “getting trained” (which in many instances will simply be ignored) but rather, about making it a cultural must have in Toastmasters that this is how we do meetings – we plan them in advance; we have written agendas; we come fully prepared

Hold your participants accountable to start the meeting strong

This means starting the TLI on time and expecting all meeting participants to come prepared.

Follow your TLI plan

It’s one thing to have an agenda, but altogether another thing to actually follow it.

Make sure whoever is leading the TLI and its breakout sessions guides the conversation, giving all participants a voice, and pushing past unproductive moments when the meeting is on the verge of going down a dead-end spur.

Clarify and follow up on action items.

It’s one thing to have a productive TLI, but to reap the value of that meeting, stuff has to get done. At the end, go back and explicitly clarify pros and cons out of the day.

Clarifying who owns which tasks, by when, and how they’ll “close the loop” by reporting back its completion is half the battle for accountability. The other half is ongoing follow up to make sure all assigned tasks get done. As a default, the TLI Chair should be responsible to check in with all the task holders on status, and to hold them accountable if not done as agreed. Of course, he or she could delegate this follow up responsibility, but as a default this works well.