District 62 Toastmaster Spotlight: Tara McCoy-Jones

Improving Her Work-Related Communication Skills

An employer told Tara McCoy-Jones that she had some “bad speaking habits.” Fortunately, she already knew about Toastmasters from posted signs at one of her clients. She googled “Toastmasters”, found the Trail Blazers club in Jackson, Michigan, attended a meeting and became a Toastmaster on April 1, 2014.

As she advanced in Toastmasters, Tara discovered the leadership component of the program.  Its attributes caused her to expand her “why” for attending meetings. “I believe long-term, as I saw my communications skills improve, I stayed because of the camaraderie and leadership skills. I loved it when Pathways came in, because it’s instructional design, and that’s what I do.”

Problems with Pathways

Tara is a strong advocate of Pathways. However, with many other Toastmasters she felt that the original Pathways rollout was somewhat problematic. Moving through Pathways and getting levels approved seemed to be unduly difficult.

The biggest challenge from her perspective was to get late adopters to finally join Pathways. Tara now thinks that most of the original issues have been properly addressed, and that the current Pathways “experience” is much more straightforward.  “My experience in instructional design made me a believer in what Pathways was supposed to be. Still, I realized early on that it was a bit cumbersome. Now it’s not. I believe everyone who didn’t give it a chance before should challenge themselves to stretch and learn something new in their Toastmaster journey – why not Pathways?” 

Opinions on the Club Experience

Tara, now a District Director, thinks that afternoon clubs with virtual or hybrid meetings seem to be having success; however, potential members in academia or education may have difficulty attending due to their packed schedules. Clubs considering expanding membership should keep their potential audiences in mind, perhaps considering changing or expanding their planned meeting dates and times.

Suggestions for Managing Guests

Tara thinks that personal contact with guests is important. “What are they looking for in Toastmasters? Have you clarified meeting roles and expectations? Are guests given web links and references so they can investigate on their own?”  She points out that the C Division Advanced Speakers and Power Toastmasters club web sites have these features.

The Future

Tara doesn’t see herself leaving Toastmasters for quite a while. “I’m too Toastmaster-y ,” she notes. “The leadership roles and social interactions keep me coming back.”

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Author: Lock Lyon

Lock Lyon has been a Toastmaster for over 10 years, and is a prolific author and blogger specializing in information technology issues. In 2021, Lock was designated an Information Champion by IBM Corporation. He currently spends his time writing and speaking from his home in central Michigan.

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