If you have acquired a taste for Toastmasters, but are yearning for more spice, depth or bubbles on your palette, you may want to join an Advanced Club. These speaking clubs are each unique, but generally require members to have already received the Toastmasters’ Competent Communicator Award.
As Advanced Clubs grow in number and experience, we have more opportunities for sharing ideas on what makes them work well. Here is a sampling of the nuances you can find in the glasses they toast with.
The number one reason why people join an Advanced Club is for freedom. Freedom to explore, freedom to experiment and freedom to go beyond the boundaries of a typical Toastmasters club. The flexibility in format and the encouragement to break with standards allows speakers to widen their horizons and free themselves from constraints. Recently at the Artful Orators club in Brussels, the evaluations were given prior to the speeches – by taking this liberty, evaluators had to sum up the speakers tendencies over the years while speakers had to challenge themselves to go beyond their typical performance.
Many Advanced Clubs put more faith into the Toastmaster of the Evening to design an original programme. A Carte Blanche Session can take any form; examples have included two-hour workshops on storytelling, voice exercises and rhetorical devices. Other evenings had guest speakers from the radio, choir or the arts. In these sessions, one idea is explored in depth and from many angles. Sometimes that one idea is a member’s speech – the presenter might be asked to repeat their introduction five times in extreme variation, or to let the audience press the speaker’s rewind, fast-forward or sound-quality buttons. This total immersion approach, offers speakers a bigger challenge while affording facilitators the space to master their craft.
Table Topics are a classic component of most toastmasters clubs, but in an Advanced Club this module is often brought to a higher level. If you visit the Walk the Talk club in Zurich, you can see how they have raised the table with “Double Trouble Table Topics” which are given to pairs of speakers, “Table Topic Panels” where four speakers have to reply to and build on a question, and “Table Topic Debates” between opposing speakers. By taking Table Topics into new directions, Advanced Clubs keep the programme fresh and relevant.
There comes a time when we feel the need to dive deep into the skills of communication and leadership. If you have seen one-too-many elementary icebreaker or predictable evaluation; it may be the time for you to go beyond competency to specialize in a particular area. Deeper feedback is part of the formula. Rodney Denno of the Advanced Aurators Toastmasters Club in Calgary, put his energy into the Evaluation Maven – a collection of advanced feedback techniques that are now being used worldwide. If you have heard “your eye-contact is excellent” too often, have a look at what Advanced Clubs are doing to offer you the delicate nuances of experience.
“A very personal and unique experience” was how one guest referred to an evening at an Advanced Club. Having known and expected the traditional Toastmasters agendas, they were surprised to see the procedures striped away and replaced with more personal parts. Like any club, the “member experience” is the key to success; but as members make progress, their needs change. While the Competent Communicator exercises offer a convergent set of skills, the Advanced Assignments diverge. One member is a storyteller; another is a salesperson. One wants to facilitate a profound workshop, while another is preparing for a TED talk. Each person has their own ambitions, each is YOU-nique.
Advanced clubs are places of cross-pollination and sharing – in their ‘beehive strategy’ sharing between members, and between clubs is natural. Participants, who have received so much from other club experiences, offer their wisdom to the hive – wisdom that gets carried back into their regional communities. In Toronto, many neighboring clubs’ members have benefited from the Keynote Speakers education sessions; while Division Contestants in Belgium have received the Artful Orators’ infamous Shower of Coaching. Giving back to the community is a theme across most advanced clubs and is evident in their endless flow of performance tips, learning opportunities and blogs like this one.