I’m a long-time fan of Toastmasters and the work it does worldwide to promote public speaking and leadership.  And it’s been a while since I talked about the group.  A recent announcement caught my eye – Toastmasters was launching something called Pathways.  I had to know – what was it?  How was Toastmasters changing?  And how did this new Pathways thing fit into Toastmasters’ overall mission?

And so I was pleased to have the chance to chat with Toastmasters Chief Executive Officer Daniel Rex recently, hoping he could answer all my burning questions.

Nick:  OK. Daniel.  As I said, I’m a big fan.  What’s happening at Toastmasters that we need to know about?

Daniel Rex:  Thank you, Nick. We’ve appreciated your support over the years. Pathways is an evolution in the Toastmasters experience. Toastmasters’ uniqueness lies in the combination of the experiential meeting experience paired with the education program. We enable our members to build the competencies they need to communicate and lead in a range of situations and apply those competencies and skills to their, job, personal life and in the community.

Nick:  So tell me about Pathways. . . .

Daniel Rex:  The traditional education program served our members well for many years. However, what we want to learn and how we want to learn it has evolved significantly since our traditional education program was developed. In 2010, our Board of Directors called for the education program to be revitalized by modernizing the communication track as well as renewing the focus on leadership learning in the leadership track. Our members also told us they wanted more customizability in what they were learning, they wanted practical skills that would translate into their own lives and the capability to complete the projects online. After extensive research, Toastmasters created a flexible and interactive way for members to build their skills that better reflects today’s society’s communication scenarios.  That’s Pathways.

Nick:  Where can someone who’s new to Toastmasters start — what should they look for first?

Daniel Rex:  We always recommend that people visit a few different clubs to find one whose personality and meeting time/location suit their needs. Once they join, they can take an online assessment to determine which of 10 specialized learning paths is right for them. Some of the most popular paths include Innovative Planning, Presentation Mastery and Dynamic Leadership. From there, they will have access to more than 14 projects in each path and a total of more than 300 unique competencies that they can apply at their job, community or in their personal life.

Nick:  OK.  Back to Pathways.  So it’s the new heart of Toastmasters’ educational program.  How much of it is available online — what virtual offerings do you have?

Daniel Rex:  Online help is available through Base Camp, the online home for the Pathways learning experience. Base Camp has extensive tutorials and resources. Each tutorial is built with a specific question in mind. Questions such as, How do I start my first project? How do I give a speech evaluation? How do I use Base Camp? and many more are answered.

Members have the ability to watch and read each tutorial as a video or a full-color document with images. Members also have access to a chat function that allows them to connect with other members of their club for support, feedback and information. The wide variety of materials online to help and support members are bolstered by the Toastmasters member services team at our headquarters.

Nick:  All that sounds very up to date and cool.  How do you see these new offerings changing what Toastmasters is or can do?

Daniel Rex:  Our research indicated that while members liked the traditional program, it was lacking a clear connection between skills learned and applicability. Through Pathways, our members are learning skills through projects that focus on incremental learning and self-discovery, ultimately making them more confident and capable in a wider range of skills that are relevant in their professional and personal lives.

Nick:  Got it.  That’s how Pathways is taking Toastmasters’ educational program online and into the 21st Century.  What stays the same at Toastmasters?

Daniel Rex:  The foundation of the Toastmasters program will continue to be a positive, supportive and experiential learning environment at our meetings. This environment, coupled with the Pathways learning experience, enables our members to determine their learning focus and proceed at their own pace.

Since the Pathways rollout began last year, more than 120,000 unique users from 143 countries have participated in the program, completing 64,000 projects with another 70,000 projects in progress.

Users are leveraging the skills learned through Pathways to advance their careers. And employers around the world are using Pathways as an inexpensive option to retain employees and enhance the skills of their workforce. Fortune 500 organizations like Google, Sony, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola and Bank of America all recognize the benefits of the Toastmasters program and sponsor clubs for their employees.

Nick:  Thanks, Daniel!  It sounds like Pathways is already a great success. Good luck to Toastmasters and Pathways in the future.

For those who want a little more background information, here are some additional notes from Toastmasters.

Pathways is the first redesign of Toastmasters’ education program since 1924, when it began. 

Pathways program highlights include:

  • 10 different learning paths to choose from
  • More than 14 projects in each path
  • 5 core competencies (Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, Management, Strategic Leadership, and Confidence)
  • More than 300 unique competencies
  • Content available online and in print materials
  • For more information about Pathways, visit www.toastmasters.org/Pathways.  
  • For information about local Toastmasters clubs, visit www.toastmasters.org.


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