Vice President - Education

Education 1

The Vice-president, Education (VPE) is in charge of the club's educational activities and is tasked with many different responsibilities that have a direct impact on the club meetings.

For large clubs, it's usually convenient to have more than one VP of Education.

Plan the Educational Year

There are many, many educational activities that are defined in the Agora Educational Program, and the list keeps growing. It's impossible to have all of them in a single meeting. It's also easy to get used to a standard set of activities and never venture to try new ones that could be even more educational and exciting. This results in meetings that are repetitive, boring, and not very enticing to veteran members.

In your role as VPE, you are in charge of planning the Educational Year - deciding which activities you want to have and how many of them. To do that, you need to have a solid grasp of all the activities, how much time each activity takes, and how much preparation it requires.

Please remember that certain minimums need to be met, and some roles that have to be present in every meeting to guarantee some consistency of the Agora experience to all members worldwide. Those are detailed on the Operational Requirements page.

Remember also that you're not limited to the activities described in the official program. In fact, we encourage you to research, design, and experiment with new roles and activities, as long as they serve an educational purpose and are aligned with the overall mission and goals of Agora Speakers International. You can read more about defining custom roles here.

Start with a general overview of how many of the larger, more time-consuming activities you want to have throughout the year (those that basically take more than 20 minutes to execute and usually dominate the whole meeting). For example:

  • 5 Debates
  • 10 Crossfires
  • 10 Colloquiums
  • 5 Workshops

Distribute those activities throughout the yearly meetings, then fill in the remaining time and meetings with the smaller activities.

Your year-plan should have some flexibility to accommodate for unexpected circumstances that prevent the club from meeting and should also be relatively coarse - it's impossible to predict, 5 months in advance, that in meeting 21, you will have 4 prepared speeches and 4 crossfire participants.

This is how your plan could look like:


Although it's great to be able to compose a yearly plan, always listen to your members as well: Maybe you had planned for 10 Crossfires and 6 Colloquiums during the year,  after the first quarter you see that members like Colloquims much more, so it's a good idea to adapt.


If your club has an online presence, it's very convenient to have the educational plan posted online, with links to the wiki descriptions of the educational activities.


Define Meeting Agendas

As the VPE, you're also in charge of establishing the meeting agenda for each meeting. This means - deciding which sections the meeting is going to have, how they're going to be organized within the meeting, and how many of them. For example:

Wednesday 23 Meeting
Roles Available
Prepared Speech #1
Prepared Speech #1 Evaluator
Prepared Speech #2
Prepared Speech #2 Evaluator
Prepared Speech #3
Prepared Speech #3 Evaluator
Hot Questions Master
Hot Questions Evaluator
Today we travel to speaker #1
Today we travel to speaker #2
Body Language Evaluator
Critical Thinking Evaluator
Listening Evaluator
Meeting Evaluator
It's not your task as a VPE to fill in the agenda (find people that will volunteer for the roles) - that's the responsibility of the Meeting Leader of that meeting. Of course, you can help him or her if you wish, but that should be primarily their task, as organizing a specific meeting is part of the learning experience for a Meeting Leader.

This means, however, that you need to make sure that a Meeting Leader is always appointed well in advance of the meeting (ideally, at the end of the previous meeting) so that they can promote the agenda, receive requests from people that want to participate, and actively search for volunteers for the other roles.

If meeting leaders constantly face problems to fill in some of the helper roles - usually Timer, Grammarian, Facilitator, etc. - you can talk with the rest of the officers to introduce participation requirements for the more popular roles. For example, "Giving a prepared speech requires that you have been in a helper role since your last prepared one".

Encourage New Members

The VPE also has the responsibility - together with the Vice President of Membership - to make new members feel comfortable and encourage them to start participating as soon as possible.

Be aware, though, that each person progresses at their own pace. You can push, but you should never force anyone to a role they don't want.

Some of the things you might do are:

  • Actively reach out to shy members and introduce them to other members that went through the same path.
  • Share "before" and "after" videos of experienced members so that newcomers can see the transformation.
  • Depending on their circumstances, suggest taking specific easy roles such as Timer or Grammarian.


Oversee the Educational Progress of Members

Although meetings have a large social component, as a VPE, you should always keep in mind that Agora is an Educational Foundation and that our Educational Program sits at the core. Many times members became stuck in auxiliary or evaluating roles for different reasons, such as:

  • They may lack enough time to invest in a prepared speech and prefer roles that don't involve out-of-meeting work (Hot Questions, Colloquium, etc.)
  • They're afraid of being evaluated.
  • They lack the knowledge on using the technology or elements that are required for a project (for example, for the "Using Presentation Software" project)
  • They've run out of ideas for speeches.
  • They're confused as to what's next in their educational progress or have doubts about it.

If you see someone stalled in their progress, try to reach out and learn what's happening. Gently encourage them to continue, point to the documentation on speech ideas, on managing anxiety, organize workshops on using technology,  arrange for the member to have practice time somewhere with the equipment, etc.  These actions are not entirely on your shoulders: once you've identified the problem, reach out to your fellow officers for help and suggestions.

Although you may challenge or tease people, tongue-in-cheek with "look, Martha is 2 projects ahead of you", don't turn Educational progress into a race. There's no need to rush through it. It's much better for members to proceed slowly but steadily and have their knowledge solidly grounded on experience.

Rushing to achieve points/certificates/whatever at the end of the day won't mean anything in the professional world, where the only things that matter are the actual skills you have that you can put into practice.


Ensure Feedback Quality

A crucial aspect of the Agora Educational System is peer feedback. For this to be effective, the feedback needs to meet all the recommendations given in the Effective Feedback chapter.

  • Encourage members to read the documentation on feedback
  • Supervise the overall feedback quality so that it doesn't become irrelevant ("everything was perfect") or hostile ("you didn't make any sense") or off-topic ("I totally disagree with you").
  • Hold workshops on Evaluation.
  • Research and share videos, books, and articles on how to provide effective and constructive feedback.
  • Provide private advice to evaluators


Overseeing the Mentorship Program

All clubs should have a Mentoring program in place that pairs new members with more experienced ones that can help them through the initial projects, as well as help them become better integrated with the club and its culture.

If your club has been just chartered and all the members are new, with no one that can act as a "more experienced member", feel free to reach out to the wider Agora community through our social networks and ask for other members to act as mentors of your most committed members, so that once they become more experienced, they can in turn act as mentors to others.

When our online management system becomes available, you will be able to do that directly from the VPE dashboard.


Organize workshops

Workshops are an activity that is always very highly valued by members. You can organize internal workshops - where an Agora member delivers a comprehensive lecture on a topic, or you can invite external speakers to speak to your club. You may even use the club funds if that is required, and those speakers require payment.

Depending on the new member influx, you may want to repeat some workshops periodically:

  • Club Procedures
  • Getting the most out of Agora Speakers
  • Effective Evaluations
  • Managing Anxiety
  • Answering Hot Questions
  • Working with the Online Platform


A word of warning

Snake Oil

Agora Speakers prides itself on being solidly grounded in Science, and in fact, it's part of our bylaws. Every recommendation and educational activity we put forward has solid, peer-reviewed, repeatable research that backs its effectiveness. We train members to use approaches and techniques proven to work in the real world, reliably and repeatably.

Unfortunately, this is not the case in general. The public speaking and leadership fields are rife with untested, dubious, and sometimes outright wrong advice. There's a whole industry out there that even produces books on demand with you as the author by recycling and repacking this kind of generalistic content and cookie-sized meaningless advice.

You often hear, for example, that you should strive to have zero filler words when research actually tells not quite the same story - having no filler words whatsoever may hurt your credibility. You also may often hear about Monroe's Motivational Sequence pattern as the perfect structure for persuasive speeches, and this advice is repeated from book to book, from course to course, from speech to speech. In fact, research has also shown that there's nothing special about Monroe's sequence - it's no more nor less persuasive than other organizational speech patterns as long as you have the necessary content.

While members are free to present prepared speeches on whatever subject they want, no matter how crazy it may seem  (as long as it's acceptable speech content), workshops are asymmetric activities in which one person is elevated to the category of someone that conveys knowledge presumed to be true to others.

Workshops that are based on  pseudo- or non-scientific ideas about the fields we train in are not allowed.

We recommend using TEDx Content Guidelines (especially the "Bad Science" section) for vetting external speakers and the content of their workshops. We also recommend this community letter from TEDx about detecting bad science.


Answer members' questions related to the Educational Program.

The VPE is the to-go person for any questions related to the Educational Program.

All good leaders understand that "leading is serving", so try to make yourself available and encourage people to ask any questions they have.  This doesn't mean that you should know the answer to every question they may come up with. It's perfectly ok to admit that you don't know it but that you will check and get back to them. If you're faced with any questions about Agora that you don't know the answer to, feel free to drop us a note.


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Page last modified on Tuesday September 7, 2021 08:31:45 CEST by agora.