Fold, Flat or Flourish?

Can you imagine a swimming club that doesn’t have anyone interested in swimming at their next meeting, or a chess club that doesn’t have anyone who wants to play chess, or how about a community service club that doesn’t have any members who are interested in serving the community? How ridiculous is that? Try this one on for size what about a speaking club that doesn’t have anyone interested in delivering a speech next week? Absurd!

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Everyone gets caught up in the initial excitement when a new club is formed or when they are a new member. Then something happens, people lose sight of their goal to overcome fears and hone their speaking, presentation and communication skills. They lose focus on what was initially important to them. Their attention gets diverted by the time, dedication and effort required to prepare, practice and commit themselves to the steps required to achieve their goal!

This happens! It happens way too often! In most cases it is predictable and it can often be an early sign of trouble that can eventually lead to the collapse of a Toastmasters Club. I’ve seen clubs that have only been in existence for 18 months fold for these very reasons. In the situations where this doesn’t happen a pattern of success exists that keeps members engaged, committed to their goals and forward focused.

Have you ever heard of the parked car theory? The parked car theory says you cannot steer a parked car. Have you ever tried? In Toastmasters, you also cannot help a person grow their communication, presentation and public speaking skills and core competences if they won’t take deliberate steps towards their goals.

If you have no speakers and no prepared manual speeches scheduled for your meeting this is an early warning sign! Your club is in cardiac arrest and you need to take immediate action.

If you wish to avoid having this happen in your club and you want to keep your club healthy and vibrant here are some recommendations that you need to be aware of:

  • The leadership team needs to set the pace and the example by delivering speeches on a consistent basis and working towards the achievement of their communication goals (i.e. Competent Communicator, Advance Communicator).
  • The Vice President of Education should use a rotational schedule (not a sign up sheet) and make sure that everyone is on the rotation.
  • Before adjourning meetings all speaking slots should be filled and committed to.
  • The Vice President of Education needs to promote the importance of speaking on a consistent basis and the President and other Club Officers should also support them through their words and actions.
  • Keeping in mind that many people who join a Toastmasters Club are more introverted, fearful of speaking and somewhat vulnerable, gentle assertion is necessary, therefore, the VPE needs to learn how to communicate to achieve results. For example, instead of asking, “Would you like to speak” they should say, “I have you down to speak next week” or “It’s your turn to speak next week.”
  • The outgoing go getters in your club will gladly commit to any and all speaking slots that you offer them therefore, you need to maintain balance by promoting speaking opportunities to the less enthusiastic.
  • Everyone can give you reasons (they can also be called excuses) for why they cannot take on a role or attend a meeting (this issue is more prevalent in Corporate Clubs) and when this happens you need to remind them about their reasons for joining in the first place. This may seem harsh however, when you put it into proper perspective people will often quit on themselves when things get a little difficult or demanding and this is when they need someone in their corner cheering them on and encouraging them to follow through with their commitment to themselves.
  • Although you require 20 members to Charter a club the Club Executive needs to set a goal of hitting a minimum membership base of 30 to ensure that you always have a solid attendance at meetings and enough people to fill roles especially prime real estate (speaking opportunities)!  The lower your membership base drops below 20, the more pressure you have to place on people to attend and fill key meeting roles and this can take the fun out of the experience for some.

If your club is less than one year old or your club has been in existence for many years but what is described above has become an emerging trend then you are off the rails and headed for trouble.

We often talk about the leadership skills that you will learn in Toastmasters. If your meetings are dull, boring, uneventful and you can’t get members to step up and advance in the Toastmaster Program then what you’re doing isn’t working and it is time for a new approach. If you are part of a leadership team that is responsible for a highly active membership that is engaged and the participation level at club meetings is energetic then you should be proud of your contributions! If you have created a fun and competitive team spirit that promotes the Toastmaster program and drives members to thrive then you are leading and impacting lives in a powerful and positive way and for that you should be commended!

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