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Frequently Asked Questions

An ever-expanding list of questions and answers. You can link to any specific question using the #ID hashtag at the end of the URL, where ID is the ID of the question (for example, www.agoraspeakers.org/faq.jsp#M01) and it will expand automatically

Membership and clubs

M01 - How many clubs can I join?
You can join as many clubs as you want. There's no limit other than your time and availability.
Regardless of how many clubs you join, the fees to Agora Speakers will remain the same. However, please note that each club may charge their own fees to offset club operation costs.
M02 - What is the minimum number of members I need for starting a club?
The minimum number of members for starting and maintaining a club is 8. We considered that anything less could not reach the threshold of being called "public" speaking.
M03 - Can I create a new club where all the members are already members of other clubs?
Yes. In Agora clubs have a more "liquid" existence, and we also favor the creation of clubs with specialized interests.

Financial Questions

F01 - Why Agora Speakers does not charge any fees?
We believe that until most of the parts of system are available, especially the electronic motion and voting system and the financial transparency module so that people can see exactly where their money is going, Agora shouldn't be charging any fees.
F02 - When will Agora Speakers start charging?
If everything goes according to plan, that will happen somewhere near June or July 2017.
F03 - So is joining Agora Speakers completely free now?
Although the membership fees that Agora Speakers charges are currently waived, each club can additionally charge fees to share the costs of operating, so the answer to that question actually depends on the club you want to join.
F04 - What will be the fees in the future?
Please check the official fee schedule for the specific fees applicable to your country.
F05 - How is Agora currently financed?
Agora is currently financed using the personal assets of the founder and initiator.
F06 - Why not accept donations or sponsors instead?
As of this date, Agora hasn't still completed the legal registration process. Until that time, Agora lacks legal personality, and donations or any income would raise lots of financial, fiscal and legal issues that would need to be tackled. At this point of time, it would be a waste of time and resources dealing with them.
F07 - Is it possible at all build an organization with such a low fee structure?
Yes it is. Most Agora members come from other organizations that spend huge amounts of money on executive compensation, travel reimbursements, real estate investments, reserves and similar. Since Agora will not have any of these (or they will be greatly reduced), our financial needs are greatly reduced.
F08 - I'm an Agora volunteer. Will my costs promoting Agora be reimbursed?

Cost reimbursements are a complicated issue right now.

First because Agora will not have the possibility to reimburse anything until late 2017, and second because the rules about what are reimbursable expenses and their limits do not exist yet. The initiator and founder itself doesn't count on any his expenses being reimbursed. By the time Agora will be capable of reimbursing anything, it will be up to the Board of Directors at that time to set the rules for such reimbursements

One of the reasons Agora exists is precisely due to the inordinate amounts of money other organizations spent on travel, which was completely unjustified. This doesn't mean that NO travel will happen, but it does mean that very detailed thought must be given on the subject to balance the needs of promoting the organization and building clubs, without expenses getting out of hand

Educational Program

E01 - I've already completed some projects in a different organization. Need I start from zero in Agora?
No. Agora Speakers recognizes completed projects that match the learning goals and objectives of projects from our own educational program, so there's no need to do them again (unless you want to).
E02 - I've started a manual from another organization. What are my options if I switch?

You have two options (not mutually exclusive) if you're already following the manual of another organization:

1 Until the Agora Educational Program is fully established, you can continue with that program, as long as you legally own or have access to the original educational materials you will be following. If, for example, you're moving from Toastmasters, then you can continue following the Toastmasters manuals doing these projects within the framework of an Agora Speakers club. You would be switching clubs, but keeping the educational program.

Of course, Agora will not be able to provide you with the original certificate or title that you were pursuing, but we can provide you with a certificate issued by Agora Speakers International

2 You can apply for recognition, in which case those projects that you have already completed that match Agora projects in terms of goals, learning objectives and acquired skills will be recognized and you will not need to do them again. You would continue only with those Agora projects that don't have equivalences in your old program. In this case, you would be switching both clubs AND educational programs

E03 - Am I limited to doing manual speeches in Agora?

As far as Agora Speakers is concerned, you can do any kind of speeches as long as:

  • The purpose of the speech is your personal improvement, education or practice
  • You have a very clearly defined and written set of goals you want to achieve with that speech
  • The duration of the speech fits into the availavble time in a meeting

In these cases, you need to provide your evaluation goals and time limit to the club members - and especially your evaluator and meeting timer - before the meeting, ideally several days before it, so that you can receive proper feedback

However, please note that some clubs can limit the kinds of speeches that can be done in them

E04 - Can I speak about anything?

As far as Agora Speakers is concerned, you can speak about anything. It's recommended, though, that you do it in good taste and being careful with the different sensitivities existing in the club

Having said that, please note that clubs can vote to restrict the kind of content they allow, so you should always check with the club guidelines

Also, please note that your particular country may have some specific legislation about the kinds of public speech content they allow, and you should, for your own and your fellow members' safety, ensure that you comply with these restrictions

E05 - Do I have to do the speeches in the order in which they appear in the manual?

Yes, all speeches in all paths need to be done in the specified order. The reason is that they have been carefully planned to gradually increase in challenge and difficulty.

For example, it's pointless to lead a key company event, if you have never even presented a speaker at a conference. Trying to do advanced projects before you've done the more basic ones not only greatly increases the chances of failure, but it can also lead to frustration and anxiety for the next projects.

Also, most projects depend on experience and skills learned in the previous ones, and each project is designed to teach you one very specific set of abilities at a time

There are some optional projects in the advanced paths that have their own set of requirements and could possibly be done in any order, as long as their pre-requisites are met

E06 - Can I do more than one speech per meeting?

In general, no, because you should receive, read and "digest" the feedback given after each speech, and put it into practice in the next one. This would be impossible if you do two speeches in the same meeting, and the educational purpose of making speeches would be lost.

However, there are a few very specific instances in which you can do more than one speech per meeting, if they are not connected in any way. For example:

  • One manual speech and one speech with your own goals and purpose
  • Two manual speeches from unrelated branches, provided that the pre-requisites for each of the speeches have been met
  • One manual speech and a workshop
E07 - Do all speeches have to be evaluated?
Since Agora Speakers is focused mainly on education, yes. All speeches of any kind (manual speeches, non manual speeches, workshops, seminars, etc.) need to be evaluated so that the speaker can improve.

Contests and Conferences

C01 - Will there be Contests and Conferences in Agora Speakers?

Yes to both. We're aiming at two conferences per year at regional level.

Regarding contests, the following international contests are being considered:

  • Public Speaking Contest
  • Humorous and Entertaining Speeches Contest
  • Educational Speeches Contest
  • Evaluation Contest
  • Improvisational Speeches Contest
  • Leadership Project Contest

However, at this stage we still have not determined yet whether to have a golobal "worldwide top public speaker" that competes in just that category, or whether the winner will have to compete in all thematic contests and the one with most "points" is proclaimed worldwide champion. Suggestions are welcome

Miscellaneous Questions

G01 - Is this a clone of the XXX organization?

While Agora Speakers draws inspiration from Toastmasters International, National Speakers Association, Speaking Circles and many others, it only uses them as a starting point.

Agora offers a much stronger educational program, much more options when it comes to interaction with the real world and has definitely much more ambitious goals than any of these organizations.

G02 - Isn't Agora violating Intellectual Property Rights? Can they sue you?

There are three kinds of Intellectual Property Rights that can be involved:

  • Copyrights. Ideas in general cannot be copyrighted; they are protected only when fixated to a specific medium such as a book, a movie or a song, in which case the contents is protected.

    All the materials that Agora Speakers uses have been developed completely from scratch, based on the personal experiences of their authors, as well as on the currently available body of scientific research on the subjects of public speaking, leadership, influence, persuasion, etc. Therefore, there is no copyright violation of any kind.

  • Trademarks. Names, specific combinations of words and/or graphic symbols can be registered as trademarks. The protection is not universal, meaning that it does not prohibit ALL uses of the names or symbols, the most notable exceptions being simply referring to the name in a descriptive or critical context.

    Agora Speakers respects and recognizes the trademarks of all organizations. That's why we have different names for some of the meeting roles, like "Meeting Leader" and "Hot Questions Master", since both "Toastmaster" and "Table Topics" are registered trademarks of Toastmasters International, for example.

  • Patents. Patents describe specific technological or business innovations that are not obvious from the state of the art of the field in which they are created, and of which there is no documented "prior art".

    As for the meeting structure and roles, those hypothetically could be patented as a "Business Process", but:
    - They are not patented by anyone,
    - At this point they are no longer patentable due to the huge number of "prior art" cases (many other organizations and non TM clubs use the same meeting structure and roles, and finally
    - Agora Speakers is based in Madrid, Spain. The European Union does not recognize the patentability of business processes.

G03 - Is this whole Agora thing ethical?
Since Agora does not engage in any sort of deceptive practices and is completely transparent with a clear set of core principles, competition is always good in any sector. It is perfectly ethical to offer people a choice (especially a much better one), and they are free adult individuals that can make their own decisions.
G04 - When will X happen? What's the roadmap for Agora?
Although Agora had been in the works since February 2016, it was only unveiled and made public in late August 2016.
We're right now in a "launch" or "transition" phase until all the pieces are in place and the organization becomes stable.
These are the milestones that we expect to happen:

  1. The basic educational path is put in place (meaning : the projects and their documentation is available and published). This will happen in the first half of October 2016. The educational program is now considered final as there has been no feedback or suggestions for the last 2+ weeks. "Final" should be interpreted as "what exists in the program should stay as described", not that there can't be suggestions for other advanced branches, new optional projects, fine-tuning of existing ones, etc. Anything more complicated will have to go through the review process in the bylaws.

  2. In parallel, clubs can start forming and members joining.

  3. The organization finishes the legal registration process and is officially launched. From a legal viewpoint, the initial board must be the founders, as an organization cannot be registered without specifying the physical people behind it, or deferring them to a future election. As a non-profit, registration requires approval by the Spanish Ministry of Interior, which can take anywhere between 2 and 4 months. The organization can operate during this time but it will lack a legal personality, and as such, cannot hold bank accounts nor be involved in anything money-related. So funding will continue to be from the founder's private finances.

  4. The software for voting and financial transparency is implemented and tested. This will be done in parallel with the previous items and our estimation is that it should be available by April 2017.

  5. Fees start being charged. We assume this will happen in July 2017.

  6. Once the above points are completed and the organization has the minimum number of members and clubs set by the bylaws, the motions process described in the bylaws kicks into place. We expect this minimum number to be reached well before the end of 2016.

  7. A General Assembly is organized and elections are held. We expect this to happen either 3Q or 4Q of 2017. Since the provisions of the bylaws guarantee democratic participation of everyone, even if they cannot physically attend the assembly, the organization will be a bit more complex than a regular conference in other organizations.

G05 - I don't like the way X works in Agora. Can it be changed?
Until Agora Speakers is legally registered and the electronic voting system is implemented, the organization is being operated as a project, with a project management structure, the project managers being the founders of the project. Feedback, suggestions, ideas, etc. are welcome and are debated cooperatively and usually incorporated almost immediately into Agora.

However, the above needs to be balanced with the need to actually move forward, and as such, there are some things that are now considered final for the time being and cannot be modified. Those were either decided in the very early stages of Agora, or were already debated in the public group. These are:
  • The Name and Logo.
  • The overall structure of the Educational Program, the ordering of the projects and their names and goals. However, optional projects or error corrections can be suggested at any time, and new branches can be developed as well.
  • The Bylaws.

Once the electronic voting system is implemented, as described in the roadmap of the previous question, you can propose to change anything you want, including any of the above elements. You will need to suggest an alternative, create a motion to change, seek endorsements and, if there is sufficient support for your initiative, after a period of debate it will be put to a vote, with all members being able to vote on it electronically.

G06 - How is Agora pronounced?
Agora is pronounced with a stress on the first syllable.
For an example, check the pronunciation offered online by Merriam-Webster.