Relfections on a Pathway

Ron Blackwell

Ron Blackwell recently completed the “Innovative Planning” Pathway in the Toastmasters educational programme. He reflects in his own words on the projects he completed and how it related to his work, personal and Toastmasters life.


Team Collaboration is relevant to my work as a risk analyst. I work as part of a science team, where collaboration means giving and accepting honest feedback, in written and spoken form on a daily basis (sound familiar?).

Lets look at the challenges and growth experiences the Team Collaboration pathway included.

In Level 1:
My Icebreaker addressed Emergency Response equipment, with Jacqui as a good use of props.

The evaluation and feedback project looked at MG Cars from 1925. No, I was not there at the beginning. With this powerpoint presentation I learnt that audience contact can be lost when I turned away to speak to the screen.

For researching and presenting, I asked whether we live in a post-truth era, whether the accuracy of information provided is less important than window dressing and “Influencers”. This time, I used a paper version of the powerpoint slides to keep me facing my audience.

Level 2 provided a challenging assessment on:

  • my leadership style. This was context specific, as a leader you can lead by example, but being in charge still allows other team members to shine.
  • my experience of mentoring – both giving and receiving, in Toastmasters and in life. Who are your mentors?. Mine have been my Father and my wife Jacqui, who continues to challenge and support me.

Level 3 included:

  • Successful collaboration. I shared how I was able to set up an International Working Group at a conference in Canada, with 20 minutes notice. Just a table topics session with 200 people that went on for 30 minutes, after all! I am convinced that it was only through my Toastmaster training, that could I have the skills to complete this.
  • The “Connect with Storytelling” project allowed use of humour to engage the audience. On the blue cod research project – blue cod are not Blue, not even cod. They are easily caught, so not the brightest fish. But fascinating in that where necessary the dominant female becomes male! Imagine that.

Level 4 also examined:

  • motivation – what makes people do stuff. The carrot and the stick. I was challenged on what makes me do stuff?? What are your motivations for being part of Toastmasters?
  • effective body language and the barriers I set up to audience involvement. For me, these are use of cards or notes/poor powerpoint use/poor audience eye contact) and all the challenges of hybrid presentations

Level 5 examined:

  • successful project management and the importance (to me) of ethical leadership. This was one of the most interesting projects that examined my motivation for leadership, and perhaps yours. How can we make the world a better place through Toastmasters?

During this path completion, I have also assisted Spinnaker as VP Education and VP Membership, both rewarding positions I strongly recommend.

My challenge for you is to step outside the club. I was Area Director for J2, during the COVID era, 2021-22. This was a rewarding experience that I recommend for growth in leadership and communication skills.

Where to from here? I want to complete my DTM and share my enthusiasm for Toastmasters in the Speechcraft programme for 2023. And ditch the notes!

Toastmasters – it IS life changing, if you let it.


Thanks Ron for sharing your experiences on your Pathways journey.

%d bloggers like this: