Prison Clubs

Art Byrd, VP of Public Relations, Executive Club

VP of Public Relations, Executive Club.

That’s Art Byrd, Area 13 Governor and works with the Changing Minds Toastmasters club in a prison in the Youngstown area.  Today on the table, he’s going to talk to us about prison clubs.  You do not want to miss this.




I found Arthur Byrd by a post he put on our District 10 Facebook page about his new blog What I Learned In Toastmasters This WeekWhat a great idea for a blog!  We talked to each other just before Christmas about being an area governor, a club officer and about prison clubs.  All part of a day’s work for Art, who is the VP of Public Relations for Executive Club Number 408 in Youngstown, Ohio.  Art is also an instructor at Youngstown State University and has extensive professional experience in the media.


When he completes his term as area governor, he’ll receive his DTM.


I found Arthur Byrd by a post he put on our District 10 Facebook page about his new blog What I Learned In Toastmasters This Week.  What a great idea for a blog!  We talked to each other just before Christmas about public relations for a Toastmasters club and about prison clubs.  All part of a day’s work for Art Byrd, the VP of Public Relations for Executive 408 Club in Youngstown, Ohio.  Art is also an instructor at Youngstown State University and has extensive professional experience in the media.

He’s also the area governor for Eastern Division Area 13, and once he completes that task, he’ll receive his DTM.

[start interview]

Prison Clubs

Kim Krajci: Art Byrd, how are you today?

Art Byrd: I am very, very good. How about yourself?

KK: I’m doing well, thank you. You are doing a yeoman’s work at Toastmasters. This year you are an area governor, and you are a club officer.  Talk to me about being an area governor to a prison club.

AB: That’s interesting in the sense of, and I say this in a strange kind of way, I’ve been binge watching it, I don’t know if you’ve been, I’ve been binge watching a show called Orange Is The New Black, and so it’s based in a woman’s prison. And when I went to the area, when I went to go visit the club, I had been there for a contest so I knew how good they were, but now going as an area governor, and I don’t think the, the gravity of being area governor has really still hit me, because people go, “Oh, you’re the are governor.” I’m like, “Okay. I’m here to help out.” and they’re going, “No, no, no. You’re the area governor.” I was like, “Oh okay.” And so my approach is always that I’m here for you, what is it that you need, in, within the prison, cause they’ll ask for something. And I’ll go express to the people who can get it for me, and they say well you already have that, or that I can already get that, but nobody told them that they could get that… so my job basically in the prison is to bridge the communication gap. Cause they seem to have like a communication gap where it’s like, like they, they can get something but someone tells, no one tells them they can get it.

KK: So it’s internal. Prison club members and their administration of the prison facility.

AB: Well they had a new person that took over from another person, and they never been a Toastmaster, they’re just taking over. We’re still trying to figure out what, so I’m trying to help them, I’m trying to help them what Toastmasters is expecting. That’s why we have a situation with the dues, it’s like, they say they paid their dues, but they have to pay yearly dues, and I’m like “okay.” So I kind of have to figure that out and then, and bridge that, and try to do, try to do that. And also watching the members. Because one of the things that I tried not to do when I went in there was change their, because they have a format that different from regular clubs. They may have table top discussions before the speeches.

KK: Okay.

AB: So it’s kinda like, no you don’t do it that way, I was like, “Well, that’s the way that you do it, as long as you do it, I don’t see anything that’s, I don’t see anything that’s wrong with that. And if that’s the way that they’ve been doing it, I just don’t wanna come in here like – “I’m gonna change everything.” It’s like, that’s not, if it’s working for you, and you, under the guidelines of Toastmasters, and your members are doing speeches and, I’m fine with that. And so I’ve learned, I’ve learned. And again, they’re not called prisoners, they’re called residents. That was an important thing to do because I didn’t know how to address that. And so that’s another thing I’ve had to learn. Is it, and I don’t feel like I’m walking on eggshells which is really, really nice. That, you know, that I’m gonna be in a lock down, ya know, fighting for my life, and duhduhduhduh. Nothing like that because, and they’re amazing speakers. They just, they have an honesty that they just have nothing to lose. And it’s very, very interesting to watch that. And I think, and you’re moved by what they have to say. You’re moved by what their situation is. It’s like, it’s like the only difference is I’m walking out the parking lot, they’re just walking to the door.  I hope that kind of answers your question a little.

KK:  I think there are 4 or 5 prison clubs in our district.  Is there something that another club outside could help to do for those inside those prison clubs?

AB: I think what it is is just to make sure that they have   material. This club that I have is changing minds, which is at the Trumbull Correctional Institute, and they seem to have like a lot of, I don’t know how they do, they seem to have a lot of cash to be able to, to get what they need. It’s just going through the channels of course, they have to go through, they can’t like write out a check. Everything has, for like what we can do, we can write out a check or a cashiers check and do that they can’t do that. What takes us maybe a week or so, could take them 4 weeks to do. And so that puts them sort of at a disadvantage. That I think, it’s alright. It’s alright. Because they don’t seem deterred by that. It’s just that, like they need an officer training. They’re asking for officers training, and they wanted it in October or November, and then it came down that they wouldn’t be able to get it until January. And so…

KK: Whose decision was that?

AB: That was actually the district’s decision.  And when I made my report to them I said that they’re asking for training, and so someone said, they went through the channels and someone said, oh we’re gonna get down there in January. So, I don’t know if it was something where it was, it was something, I don’t know what it was. I’m not sure if it was scheduling, or anything along that line.

VP of Public Relations, Executive Club

Art Byrd, PR and Area Governor

KK: I know that out on the far west of our district that there is a community club that is going to be taking in their officers to do the training of the officers in the prison clubs there, and that way they get training credit as the community club gets credit for attending the training, as well as getting the training for the people who aren’t, are unable to attend, a sanctioned TLI outside. And that seemed to me to be an ideal solution of one way that a community club could help. But if there were donations, or people, or I don’t know how to go about visiting unless there’s a lot, there seems to be a lot of effort that I have to go through to get in there.

AB: Well, I think. I think one of the things that we take advantage of in doing, in what the prison club is, they have a, an evening where they do, their meeting is in the morning, and they have a thing, I forgot what it’s called, opportunities, something opportunities, and they’re able to invite their families in, invite their family in. Then you can come, I can let you know about that, and we can actually see what these guys are like. And plus we’re getting ready to split off into another group. There is gonna be another group. I believe women are going to be are going to be in this group too.

KK: So you’ll have two Toastmasters clubs.

AB: Right, within the prison. So they’re working on that, which is a good thing. But it’s basically bad this evening. You come and it’s, it’s great. You get a chance to see what they’ve been doing, and how they do it and people are amazed, families, because they have speeches, the mothers whose gone through all those things because of what they did. She’s crying, the speaker’s about to cry, and the whole place is crying. It’s very emotional.

From the comedy to the tragic, there was one guy who told, he gave how many days he’s been alive, and how many days he’s been incarcerated, how many days he has to go, and you go, “Whoa. He’s almost been incarcerated most of his life.”

That was the point that he was getting for people to do. And so, lots of people have ideas. My main thing is to go in with no prejudice, no looking at someone that looks, that has tattoos, whatever. So for me as an area governor, it’s, not that I was prejudice before, but it’s kind of looking at a person and really looking at them. Not looking at, and you can do that through their words, as Toastmasters they put up a sheet, and we couldn’t see you speak. I mean, we couldn’t see you but we could hear you speak. If people could feel that emotion that your speech would give, that would be, that’s the way that this is. I guess , I hope I’m explaining it that way.

KK: You’ve done a great job. Thank you so much for your time today.

AB: Oh, you’re very, very welcome.


This was only one part of my conversation with Art Byrd. conversation.  I’ll be posting more of it, especially on his innovative use of videos for his club members and for public relations.  Art’s got great ideas that we can easily use in our clubs as well.

Thanks today to the great, inspirational, and fun people of District 10, like Central Division Area 14 Governor Todd Taylor, for sponsoring On the Table podcasts.

The Advanced Manual Review ProjectI’m still looking for people to review the advanced manuals.  If you’re willing to take a few minutes to talk about each of the projects, what you learned from doing the manual and who you would recommend to use it, I’d love to hear from you.  Go to slash AMRP and fill out the form.  I’ll be in touch – and make sure you get an evaluation.

If you like our podcast, how about going to iTunes or Stitcher and leaving us a review?  I’d really appreciate it!

Meeting adjourned.

“Sweeter Vermouth” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


“Cool Blast” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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