Top Ten Reasons to Charter a Toastmasters Club

After successfully chartering nine new clubs in my Division during the 2014/2015 term, I have been surprised to learn that some people don’t appreciate the need to grow the base of clubs and they have a great deal of resistance when it comes to chartering more clubs.  Personally I find this way of thinking rather pessimistic and negative.  In many markets we as an organization are under servicing the potential that exists in the market place.  In my opinion, the reasons for chartering new clubs far outweighs the reasons against.  Based on my experiences here are the top ten reasons why you should catch the fever and start new clubs in the geographic region that you serve!action

  1. You believe that this program is an excellent idea therefore you want to share the Educational program and the associated benefits with more people in order to positively impact more lives.
  1. Seize the opportunity to work with fresh minds and an excited group of new members who are eager to receive your guidance, assistance and expertise.
  1. The transferable leadership skills that you will develop as you walk through the various steps of the chartering process.
  1. The respect of your peers, the admiration of the people you help, and the pride that you feel as a result of successfully achieving your goal.
  1. The opportunity to give back to an organization that has made a difference in your life and pay it forward so that others will also be exposed to the program and gain from similar experiences.
  1. Meeting new people, making connections beyond your current sphere of influence and forging new relationships and friendships.
  1. To set an example of leadership and challenge yourself by committing to a project that you know is going to test and stretch you.
  1. To achieve a goal that; gives you credit towards the completion of your DTM, helps others do likewise (i.e. Club Mentor), sets the Area, Division and District up for success and sets the geographic area that you serve up for future success by adding more clubs and members to it.
  1. The pace setting leaders of any industry or flourishing organization know that it is the positive and optimistic thing to do and they understand the need to be growth oriented in order to meet the ever changing needs of a growing population base.
  1. You will have so much fun and learn so much doing this, with each new club that you charter it becomes easier and the enjoyment becomes addictive!

Some people get confused and start thinking that the only reason for chartering new clubs is to help the District meet high level goals and as a consequence get the accolades and recognition that they are aiming for within the District leadership team.  For that very reason I did not include this in my top ten reasons!  If the District successfully accomplishes their growth goals that is a byproduct of delivering an outstanding experience to the membership within the District.  When you put the members who are engaged in the Educational Program first and provide them with opportunities to achieve their communication and leadership goals then everybody wins.  In my mind a huge component of this is growth for the future.  It insulates the organization against club losses and clubs that have unplugged from the Educational Program and no longer maintain the recommended standards or offer new members the best overall experience.  Getting passionate about chartering new clubs is focused on the individual who wants to gain more from the leadership experience and pass the benefits of Toastmasters along to others!

Other associated articles:

Self-Generated New Club Leads

Tips for Chartering Corporate Toastmasters Clubs

Self-Generated New Club Leads

Toastmasters International has given us a directive.  The District Mission states, “We build new clubs and support all clubs in achieving excellence.”

If you are part of the District Leadership Team (Area Director all the way up to District Director) and you want your leadership learning experiences and contributions to matter and positively impact the lives of others then you are called up to spread the word and grow the base of Toastmasters Clubs within your geographic territory.

Process

Every year Toastmasters International receives thousands of inquiries from people who are curious about starting a new club.  You may or may not be the beneficiary of these leads however, planning on receiving them, wishing or hoping is not a strategy for living up to our mission.  Therefore, you need to be proactive and create opportunities through self-generated leads.

This can be a challenge for people who do not have any lead generation or sales experience.  If you are an Area Director, you are responsible for chartering at least one club during your term under the guidance and direction of your Division Director.  If you are a Division Director your primary focus should be chartering new clubs in order to help your Area Directors and live up to the District Mission.  That means Area Directors need to generate one qualified lead that they are able to convert into a chartered club with the assistance of the Division Director.  Division Directors are able to add a New Clubs Chair to the team in order to actively concentrate on this objective.  With twelve months to achieve this goal it is a very doable and achievable goal.  You have two options, you can work on chartering a community club which requires more time, commitment and a small team of committed individuals or you can charter a closed corporate club which tends to be easier once you find someone within a company or organization who you can partner with.

To charter a community club you need to identify an underserviced community and start with no cost or low cost space.  You will need to find someone who can grant you access to space on a weekly basis so that you can begin to promote meetings at the designated location.

For the purpose of this instructional article I’ll focus on self-generated leads for closed corporate clubs because this is a market segment that is much easier to develop in a shorter time frame and it is also exploding.  Here is a process that you can follow to find that diamond in the rough:

  1. Start with your sphere of influence. Write down the names of everyone that you are personally connected with that are located within a reasonable drive time of your home and/or work.  These would be people that you communicate with on a regular basis.  People who you can phone and have a regular everyday kind of conversation with, without feeling intimidated or running into barriers with (i.e. they will return your calls).  Your list would include family, friends, spouses of friends, colleagues, associates, co-workers, members of your Toastmasters Club, neighbors, people who provide you with professional services, people you have done business with (made purchases from), people you go to/went to school with etc.  If your young then your list could expand to people your parents know and if you’re beyond retirement age your list could include people your adult children know.  Most people should be able to write down a minimum or 50 names and as many as 250 names.  If you are new to the area or your sphere of influence is limited then tap into someone else’s sphere of influence.
  2. Sort your list into two categories to identify high and low potential prospects within the names you’ve listed in your sphere of influence. High potential prospects would be anyone who works for a company or organization that has a base of 300+ people (employees) at the same location that you can tap into.  People of influence who can either initiate the process or who can connect you with or at least give you a contact name and number for someone who can start the process.  Anyone on your list that you can count on because they really like you and would want to help with a worthy cause is a huge asset!  People often think that the most appropriate person to contact is someone in H.R.  That is a poor assumption.  Your connection or contact needs to be someone who recognizes a good idea when it is presented to them and a person who is willing to take action, advance the process and work towards making a result happen.  The higher up in the executive leadership team that you are able to start the process the better!  Anyone who considers this to be extra unnecessary work that they would prefer to avoid isn’t a good starting point for achieving success.
  3. Start with your high potential prospects by making contact by phone and asking if it is a convenient time to chat. The focus of your conversation shouldn’t be “Toastmasters.”  The focus of the conversation is elevating communication and leadership skills.  You also want to set up a time to meet or have a conversation by phone to get into the meat of the matter with someone who can move things forward or steer you towards someone else who can.  Mention that you are involved with Toastmasters as a volunteer and District leader.  Then ask them if there are concerns within their company/organization or any emphasis on elevating communication and leadership skills.  Ask them (exactly as shown), “Who do they know who, within the leadership team of their company who would be keenly interested in an extremely low cost, proven program used within thousands of companies globally to enhance communication and leadership skills?”  If they say, “Me” then they are the person you need to chat further with.  If they offer a different name then you need to let them know that you would appreciate an introduction and an opportunity to connect with them.  Ask your contact if they are willing to make the introduction and provide you with the person’s contact information.  Finding the most ideal contact(s) to connect with is the most difficult part of the whole process.  Once you have the right person you need to explain why you’re calling and more importantly, what’s in it for them.  Some people will grab onto what you are offering immediately, some people will require some follow up and additional nudging and some will not be interested.  It only takes one quality lead and one hot prospect in each Area for you to achieve your goal.
  4. In the game of networking it isn’t just who you know, it is who your contacts know. The process for your low potential prospects is similar to the process for the high potential prospects.  The difference is that you are attempting to work through them to connect with people they know (their contacts).
  5. Ask them (exactly as shown), “Who do they know who, works at a company with over 300 employees?” Wait for them to respond.  If they want more information you can mention your volunteer involvement in Toastmasters and the low cost, proven program used within thousands of companies globally to enhance communication and leadership skills.  Once they offer a different name then you need to let them know that you would appreciate an introduction or an opportunity to connect with them.  Ask your contact if they are willing to make the introduction and provide you with the person’s contact information.  If they give you any names and contact information make sure that you ask if you can reference them when you call the person.  When you phone third party contacts the only thing that you must do differently is make a proper introduction.  In your introduction state your name, mention that they don’t know you however you share a common connection and then mention the connection’s name.  Explain why you are calling and follow the same process and you followed for calling on your high potential prospects.  Here is an example of what you should say, “Hello Susan, my name is John Smith, you don’t know me but you know my close friend Tammy Sutherland.  Tammy and I were chatting and I mentioned my volunteer involvement in a global organization called Toastmasters.  I asked her if she knew anyone that worked in a company locally that might be interested in an extremely low cost, proven program used within thousands of companies globally to enhance communication and leadership skills and your name came up, would this be a convenient time for you to speak with me?”

The work involved in identifying a hot prospect will teach you unbelievable, transferable leadership skills that you will be able to leverage for the rest of your life.  The feeling of personal satisfaction and pride that you will experience as a result of laying the ground work and chartering a club will be something you will treasure for years to come!

Written by: Marshall Northcott

You’re Too Strict!

Discussing unpleasant issues is totally uncomfortable for most of us.  So much so that we will avoid it and fill our conversations with trivial and superficial fluff instead.  The problem with this is that we defeat the purpose of being part of an organization that prides itself on teaching communication and leadership skills when we push touchy topics aside rather than bringing them to the fore front to stimulate thought, encourage conversation and reshape perspectives for the better.

Do you have a reputation within your Toastmasters Club?  How about beyond the club?  What do people think about you?  How are you perceived?

It has come to my attention that in the opinion of some, “I’m too strict!”  What exactly does that mean?  I don’t know for certain however, I could take an educated guess and I’m certain that I wouldn’t be too far off the mark.  Am I surprised by the comment?  As a matter of fact I’m not.  Do I think that the label fits?  That is a matter of perspective.  You’d honestly have to ask the person or persons who feel this way.  Am I disturbed by the comment?  As a matter of fact I am.  Let me tell you why:

To begin with, in the world of Toastmasters we are called upon to uphold a higher standard in the way in which we treat and talk about others.  This is even more important when we hold leadership positions.  As club leaders we have the ability to impact and shape the way that our members feel about others.  When we cast negative opinions upon other Toastmaster members who look to us for leadership we slant and taint their view which can be detrimental to relationships and the foundation upon which our clubs are built, which is trust!  The person with the negative view can become a poison pill by pitting people against another member whom they have issues with.  Or, they may find that their expression of negativity may backfire on them in which case they have hurt their own reputation and effectiveness as a leader.

The second and even more critical concern that I have has to do with the educational learning environment that we create within our clubs.  If you’ve had an opportunity to visit enough clubs then you know that each club has its own distinct flavor and culture.  Some clubs are extremely laid back to the point that there is a total lack of structure.  Meetings can be so slack that it is hard to comprehend that the members are getting any educational value out of them.  Are they fun, sure they are!  Are they disorganized and chaotic, absolutely!  Does anyone care?  Those who did or do care don’t stick around very long because these kinds of meetings offer them no value.  They do not challenge or inspire them to grow!  They are not worthy of their time investment, they think they are a joke and unfortunately, if they form their opinion about Toastmasters based on this kind of experience then they will not share a favorable opinion with others.  Does the other extreme also exist?  Sure it does!  Are there clubs that are so tight and rigid that they are void of fun and enjoyment?  Will these kinds of clubs also drive people away?  Certainly!  These kinds of clubs will retain the hard core, overly ridged members but anyone who doesn’t feel a sense of warmth and high spirits won’t last long in this environment.  What is the answer then?  The answer in most cases is balance!

Finally, we live in a competitive world!  Toastmasters Clubs serve people of all ages.  If we don’t do our very best to help our youngest members, those who are experiencing the most critical years of their career by elevating their expectation of what is possible and raising their performance level then we should hang our heads in shame because we have failed them!  If you are retired, you are in the tail end of your career or you no longer care I don’t think you have the right to impede the desire and progress of others.  I believe you either need to get with the program or get out of the way so that those who care more about others can lead the way!

Ideally clubs need people who can keep it fun and light.  They also need people who can maintain structure and order.  If the people who are focused purely on the social aspects of the club and the fun (or just running their own personal agenda) put up enough resistance against the people who know how to create processes, implement systems and keep club operations running smoothly and efficiently then people will quit.  The people who will quit are those who feel that they are in the minority.  If that happens to be the people who actually bring real educational value to the club then (unless all you want is a social club) you have a problem!  The people who are referred to as “to strict” will decide that they have better things to do with their time rather then constantly having to battle to maintain higher standards and ensure that best practices are role modelled.

I’ve seen this happen!  I’ve seen it happen more frequently than I care to admit!  The sad part is that this is usually the precursor to a less brighter future for the club.  In my humble opinion all clubs should strive to attract and retain members who set a higher level of expectation.  Having a core of three to five people like this in your membership base will make the difference between being average or okay and being on red hot fire!

Why is that?  Let’s start with your meetings, these people will challenge you to raise your game and the standard expectation.  Even though they may not say it, it is understood that they expect more and in doing so people will stand and deliver!  Then, there is the impact that they have on attracting and growing your membership base.  When a visitor or guest observes a higher performer at a meeting they know they are in the presence of someone who can have a positive impact on their life.  This can have a huge bearing on whether or not they decide to join as a member.  For existing members these people may sometimes intimidate however, as long as they aren’t rude, overly critical or egotistical they appreciate their presence and involvement because these people stimulate, challenge and make them feel positive about attending meetings.

If you ask people what they want out of their membership fun will almost always be at the top of the list.  Assuming you really care about your members and the long term health of your club, it is important to understand what they mean by fun.  Laughing and having a positive experience is fun.  Fun for some also means being challenged, stretching, learning something new, being inspired to try something different and it even means being held to a higher standard because someone sees more in you than you see in yourself.

I know for a fact that my involvement in this organization has represented these forms of fun to many members.  I know so because they have told me so!  If I have to wear the label of being too strict in order to have this kind of impact then I can live with that.  What I have a much tougher time living with is the opposite.  My fear for those who won’t look at the bigger picture beyond themselves is that this will be their reputation and the legacy that they leave behind.

Mignon McLaughlin said, “Society honors its living conformists and its dead troublemakers.”  I find it ironic that so many people in this educational organization are considered troublemakers for wanting to adhere to proven success patterns, best practices and approaches that actually educate others by raising the level of expectation.

Preparing and Presenting Your Area Director Report

When I started my term as Division Governor last year (note the title of this role has changed to Division Director) it became evident that some of the Area Governors (note the title of this role has changed to Division Director) had more life experience and exposure to corporate leadership roles which enhanced their understanding of what information to communicate and how to do so verbally and also in written form during our monthly Division Meetings. Keeping in mind that we teach transferable leadership skills within the Toastmasters organization I recognized an opportunity to teach those who had never been trained, taught or exposed to the skill of preparing and presenting a report. Area Directors are the eyes and ears of the District. They are the front line ambassadors and the direct link to the clubs. They play an important role in the success of individuals clubs, their Area, the Division and the District as a whole. In order to better prepare them for their roles and the leadership learning opportunities I decided to own up to my poor assumption (that they should know what was expected) and prepared a list of potential items that they should observe and report on during our monthly meetings.

We must always balance between an individual’s desire to learn and the fact that everyone is a volunteer. Some people’s hunger for knowledge is greater and the willingness to lean in and contribute can vary a great deal from one individual to the next. If you are truly a leader and you have a willing student then they will appreciate having some structure, guidelines and expectations as a foundation of your working relationship. From my perspective I just wanted to plant some seeds of thought so that the Area Governors on the team weren’t speechless when they were given the floor for ten minutes at a meeting.

Suggestions/Ideas for Area Director Activities to Report on:

Skills, Knowledge, Abilities

Club Visits

  • Which Clubs have you visited since our last meeting and what type of visit was it (i.e. Club Officer Induction, introductory, formal, training, special event, social outing etc.)?
  • Tell us about the visit and by listing notable observations (i.e. exceptional/model meetings, level of engagement, quality of meeting, following policy – all meetings should include speeches, evaluations and table topics, poor meetings, anything that you liked so much you are interested in implementing it into your own club).

Club Information

  • Clubs that have submitted paperwork, reports etc. (i.e. Club Success Plan) and clubs that have not.
  • Strong leadership and teams vs, opportunity for improvement.
  • Distinguished Club Program – Engaged, not engaged, on target, off target.
  • Volunteer sign-up sheet circulated and outcome.

Communication

  • Email communication.
  • Phone Calls.
  • Engagement and responsiveness from Clubs and/or Club Officers.

Training, Contests and Events

  • Club statistics, which clubs are doing well, which clubs are not participating?
  • Insights or feedback on any group or individual Club Officer Training that you have delivered.
  • What dates are your Clubs running their contests on?
  • Who is participating and who is not?
  • What other events are happening?

Challenges, Issues, Concerns and Opportunities

  • From your observations.
  • What’s working, what’s not working?
  • Who needs help/who wants help?
  • Identify and struggling clubs that need assistance or qualify for a Club Coach.
  • Requests that you have received for assistance.
  • Questions you have, as a group, how can we brainstorm or offer you suggestions, ideas or answers to help you?

For the Division Governor and/or the Team

  • How can the Division Governor or the Team better serve you?
  • Questions you have or requests that you would like to make.
  • Names of people willing to volunteer or wanting to apply for opportunities (i.e. Club Coaches and/or Mentors)?

Personal Challenges

  • In a constructive manner name issues you are encountering (i.e. cannot make it to a certain club because of when they meet or feeling overwhelmed due to the amount of information/emails, upcoming deadline dates) so that we can openly discuss and in a supportive manner figure out how as a team we can work together to address these issues.
  • Always keep in mind the importance of positive energy and a results oriented mindset. If you are facing some personal issues that require you to check out for a predetermined amount of time that is totally understandable. The focus in our meetings is to share experiences, brainstorm for solutions, support each other, lift and inspire! It should be a safe and friendly environment and we should keep it positive and upbeat to ensure that we focusing on serving the Clubs and the Members that we represent in Division G.

Insights

  • What have you learned?
  • Best part/worst part of the experience so far?

Club Reports and Administration

  • Progress?
  • Concerns?

Succession Planning

  • Successor(s) identified.
  • Additional Area Governor Candidates.

I wish you great success in your leadership role!  Enjoy the learning process and your opportunities to contribute to the development of others!

Tips for Chartering Corporate Toastmasters Clubs

As you make preparations to follow up on leads and begin reaching out to key contacts within corporations and organizations it is important to keep in mind that perceptions will be formed based on your actions and the attitude that you project.  As an ambassador, you are an extension of the Division, District and Toastmasters International.  To the prospect that you are contacting initially there will not be any differentiation.  To them you are Toastmasters!  Therefore, there is a need for professionalism throughout your interactions with people.  Always keep in mind that it is the small things that make a big difference when people are forming their initial opinions and perceptions.  You don’t know what their experiences are, you don’t know what they expect therefore, it is critical that you put your best foot forward.  As you start the chartering process, you will be the primary contact, recognized expert and go to person for answers and information.  Prospects will judge you and also the organization based on their experiences.  Therefore, you are encouraged to keep the following key points in mind:

  1. Conduct yourself as you would expect a respected business professional to. Schedule appointments for telephone conversations, meetings, etc. and then honor your commitments.  Your appearance is critical!  Make sure that you dress appropriately.  If you aren’t sure what is acceptable in terms of business attire then ask someone who has more experience and a proven track record of success in the business world.
  1. As an organization we promote the advancement of communication and leadership skills. Therefore your “A” game is essential!  Communicate with clarity and accuracy.  If you don’t know the answer to a question there is no shame in not knowing.  Offer to find the answer, do so and then respond with the information requested in a timely fashion.  Always keep in mind that there is a great deal to learn for someone who is new to Toastmasters.  Don’t put a firehouse down their throat and turn on the flow.  Provide enough detail to satisfy their curiosity and concerns and direct them to additional resources that they can digest at their own pace and on their own time.  Gage each person independently and give those who seek in-depth detail everything that they ask for.
  1. Be quick to listen and slow to respond. Prepare yourself with questions in advance and seek first to understand the organization, the people you are meeting with, the culture of the company, their experience with Toastmasters and the motivation for their interest in chartering a club.  Listen first and speak second!  The information that is provided will help you better understand the needs that exist, the motivating factors and sense of urgency to move forward.  Information offered will provide you with clarity regarding their internal decision making process and how they intend to introduce Toastmasters to their employees.  The sweet spot is a minimum employee base of 300 which should be enough to start a club and also replenish members as churn occurs.  Be sure to include this question in your initial assessment.  Smaller companies sometimes start off thinking about forming a Corporate Club and then decide to open it up to the community once they understand the dynamics involved.
  1. Make it look and sound easy! Remember that you are often collaborating with someone who already has a full time job.  Many of the Corporate Club inquiries that are generated through T.I. originate with someone who was given an assignment or task by a coworker, supervisor or employer.  There is a possibility that they are looking for a reason, justification or excuse for why this isn’t a good idea.  If they think that starting a Toastmasters Club is going to add unwanted workload to an already jammed schedule or the nature of what is required is overwhelmingly complex then they are going to report this information back to the decision makers and kill the opportunity.  That’s why understanding their motivation is vital.  You need to keep things simple!  Your first and most important goal is to explore whether or not there is enough interest to proceed.  The best way to accomplish this is holding an informational session (Lunch and Learn) at their facility.  Ask for a very low level of commitment.  The only thing you need upfront is a confirmed date and their willingness to promote the event and fill the room with as many people as possible.  If upon the completion of this session there is a respectable level of interest (15 or more people) then you can move on to the next step, if not, no harm at least you’ve done your best.
  1. Think in terms of next steps! You are the trusted advisor and expert.  Once the ball is in motion your priority is to maintain momentum and keep it moving in a forward direction.  Like an expert strategist you must be thinking about what needs to happen next and where you need to go from where you are.  They don’t know what to do otherwise, they wouldn’t need your assistance.  Therefore, you must take the lead and make sure that you end each conversation, meeting and step in the chartering process with where we need to go from here.  As long as you lead the process in a professional and respectful manner they will trust and appreciate your guidance.
  1. Identify an internal champion(s)! If you are on a mission to charter new Toastmasters Clubs then you want to work the process.  With that in mind you need to identify the emerging leaders within the new group that is forming.  The quicker you can get these people to seize ownership of “their” club, the quicker you can move on with confidence to the next start up opportunity.  What their people can and will do behind the scenes and within the company when you’re not there (or able to) will magnify your efforts a thousand fold!  They have access to internal email distribution lists and information that you cannot tap into.  Often, they will take the ball from your initial contact (because they don’t want to be involved) and run in into the end zone!  They are also able to influence others and the outcome that you desire. Look for the people who lean forward a little further, express their excitement and interest in getting involved as more than a member.  Seek those who already have a foundation of leadership skills and core competencies that will help to establish a solid foundation.  Not the ego maniacs, the people who have a servant attitude and the desire to help this new club on the road to success.  Get these people what they need in terms of information and training, set them up for success and then go somewhere else and duplicate the process!
  1. Be consistent and timely with your follow up and follow through! Your sense of urgency and responsiveness to questions speaks volumes!  Although we are all volunteers, it is very important that we provide our new club prospects with the highest level of service!  Your sense of urgency will set the pace and will often be reciprocated in their sense of urgency to follow through and expedite the chartering process.  Do as you say you will do, be consistent in your actions and do so quickly as a sign of respect for their time and interest in starting a club.

Starting new clubs is an absolute blast!  It is simple but it isn’t always easy.  It requires some strategic planning and some advancements in the thought process.  It promotes the development of leadership skills and the outcome is tremendously rewarding!  As you begin Chartering Corporate Clubs you will discover that implementing these tips into your routine will make a massive difference in how quickly you are able to expedite the process and the degree of success you experience!

Marshall Northcott, Immediate Past Division G Governor, Founder’s District

2014/2015 President’s Distinguished Division

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Using Numbers to Analyze and Strengthen Your Club

Whether you like using numbers or you don’t, numbers paint a picture, they tell a story and because they are fact, they do not lie!

Analysis
Analysis

At the end of the Toastmaster year (June 30) many District and Club Leaders turn their attention towards the numbers.  Are we going to make it?  Will we be Distinguished, Select Distinguished or President’s Distinguished?  If you’re close then you may be able to pinpoint that one small activity or achievement that must be completed in order to get yourself over the top!

Unfortunately for many, turning attention to the numbers at the eleventh hour is too little, too late!  Just like a plane that crashes because it reaches the end of the runway before landing or taking off safely you have left yourself no room for error, no opportunity to make a midcourse correction in your action plan.

You should be paying attention to the numbers from July 1 onward.  I’m not suggesting that you need to be an obsessive freak about it, what I am suggesting is that the numbers serve as an indicators just as the instruments and controls on the dashboard of your vehicle do.  They speak to you if you know what to listen for and how to interpret the information.

For example, let’s say that you belong to a community club.  There are no current economic or political events occurring that are preventing growth.  However, for some reason your club membership numbers are either stagnant or growing very poorly.  You know that growth is important because all clubs experience attrition therefore, an influx of fresh faces is critical in order to sustain a healthy and energetic membership base.  The first thing you have to do is get brutally honest with yourself, take a step back and look at the situation in an unbiased manner.  (If you are unable to do this then this is where your Area Director becomes a valuable asset)

What numbers do you need to consider?

Is your club attracting visitors, guests and members prospects?

If the answer is no, how does this compare with similar clubs in your geographic area or region?  If this is a common problem amongst clubs in your region then the solution may be more unique.  If on the other hand, you are in a target rich environment, although the answer in most cases is obvious, (you cannot add members to the club if you aren’t getting any guests) the solution may not be so straightforward.

If your club meets at a time or in a location that isn’t convenient or attractive to the masses then this may be your problem and the question then becomes are you prepared to change this?  If not, then you are permanently stuck with this challenge.  If changing is acceptable then obviously selecting a time and/or location that is more appealing to people is going to have an impact on attendance.  The other obvious answer is increased exposure!  The VPPR and the Club Executive need to create a plan of action that attracts attention and stimulates interest in the community that you serve!  There are many ways of doing this at no cost or low cost including local newspapers (in print and online) as well as social media.  If your club doesn’t have a vibrant online presence then you are not properly targeting and marketing to the 35 years of age and under crowd.  The internet is how this age group does their research and shop for products and services.  A content rich web site is your electronic store front!

What if on the other hand you are getting a steady stream of guests however, your conversion rate is either poor or zero?  You may have an issue with what I’m going to refer to as customer service and/or sales skills.  Are you welcoming your guests and making them feel comfortable and accepted?  Do they feel acknowledged and appreciated for visiting?  Does someone invest the time to speak with them, show interest, ask questions, answer questions and host them properly?  Are they invited to speak and even participate?  Does someone walk through a guest package with them and ask them if they are ready to become a member?  Do you invite them back for a second visit?  Here is a tough question, have cliques formed within your club that make it difficult and uncomfortable for guests to break into?  Have you created an environment that is warm and welcoming or does the environment make people feel like intimidated outsiders?  Are your meetings fun, do they showcase what you have to offer them?  Are you maintaining an acceptable standard in product quality?  (Click Here for a Meeting Assessment Tool)

Some clubs accumulate enough Distinguished Club Points during the Toastmaster year however they do not achieve Distinguished or better status because they fail to meet the minimum membership requirement which is a shame!  The DCP program has several components to it and one component is focused on the ability of the Club Leadership to put in a collective team effort and maintain and grow a membership base that ensures long term sustainability.  It is a shame when I club fails to meet the membership requirement however, this is usually something that is predictable and preventable as long as they leverage the numbers (the data) to strengthen the club!

Keep an eye on the numbers, determine which numbers matter most, leverage the information provided by the numbers to assess your strengths and weaknesses as a club and act on the information in order to maintain a healthy balance and achieve individual member and club goals.

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!