Your club meets on a regular basis, maybe weekly or semi-monthly. Excellent. And chances are your club holds contests twice each year (usually August and February) then sends your winners to the Area contests. Very good! And your club might even have a holiday event (with food!). Well done (no, I was not talking about the steaks served at your meeting). And maybe your club even has some special events such as a demo meeting or open house to gain some new members. Now you’re talking!
Some questions to ask about your typical club meeting:
1 Do many members actually show up?
2 Do you feel like you are getting what you need towards your goals?
3 Have many members left the club (international average is 40% loss per year)?
4 Do your meetings seem rather predictable, the same-ole-same-ol?
Let’s talk more about that last question, especially if you answered in the affirmative. This year I became the VP Education for my home club Bluejacket. In existence since April 1989, the club has never (as far as I can tell) been Presidents Distinguished. And club membership loss has been over 45% each year for the past five years. While “The Club Where the Action Is” (our long-standing byline) has been running pretty well, it can certainly do better by its members. In lieu of the finding the perfect-for-Bluejacket step-by-step operating manual for “How To Improve This Club”, I decided to try some things differently.
Here is what I have so far:
Arrange an hour-long 1-and-1 meeting with each member. I had 16 questions for them. The questions were such things as:
• exactly where are you in your communication and leadership tracks and a CL manual
• what skills do you want to improve (and we discussed ways to improve those skills)
• what is your opinion if the club started doing this or that
• would you attend a club meeting if the club did such-and-such
• can you login to International and our club website
• do you use your CL manual (and assure they have a project check-off sheet)
• some HPL project possibilities
• what type of Toastmasters information do you need
For newer members, I gave a glimpse of what lies ahead as possibilities for them, especially goals. Some long-standing members benefited too. We talked about contests, conferences, district events, other clubs, and the Special Series modules and more. I captured all of this and sent each member an email of what we discussed and some goals they could be working on. I keep a quick-reference sheet with me at each meeting to remind them what they want from Toastmasters and check on where things stand with them.
We came up with the following actions:
- With the help of other club members, we set up a spreadsheet on Google Docs and assured all members can access it. From there, they can schedule their speaking roles for the entire Toastmaster year. I pre-assigned (first six months, knowing it will change) everyone to all other roles to hopefully get everyone to do every role at least once during the year. Our club normally gives around 70 speeches each year. The capacity to give about 120 speeches now exists with the new schedule.
- Added two HOT-SEAT roles, one with a “pocket speech” ready to give if a schedule speaker is unable to give it; the other for roles-requiring-pre-meeting-preparation for Word Master, Joke Master, Toastmaster Minute and Table Topics Master.
- Challenged another club that often achieves Presidents Distinguished to see who earns all 10 DCP points first while having at least 20 paid members at that point – winner’s prize is yet to be determined.
- Made plenty of guest packets with several items in it (including tri-folds downloaded from the district Download section)
- Made a list of the speech objectives for the CC manual and all advanced manuals, this list is available during each meeting
- Made laminated bookmarks with quick-reference items for Toastmasters, these go into all guest packets
- Made a small sheet that guests can fill out, meanwhile, looking for a way to have guests sign in on a tablet/iPad/laptop (our old guest book is just about full!)
- Tracking all speeches given: member, manual project #, speech title, award it goes towards earning, and, entry into the District 22 form form the “10,000 Speeches Challenge” 10,000 Speech Challenge
- Set up several special meetings including:
o Contests in August and February
o Workshop for giving better evaluations
o Workshop for how to improve as a Table Topics Speaker
o A Backwards meeting (roles are done as normal but in the complete reverse order
o Two Joint Club meetings with a club that meets nearby
o Experiment: twice a year, start meetings 45 minutes earlier (to get in 2 – 3 more speakers)
o Experiment: since our regular meetings go 7:15 pm to 9:00 pm, then, twice a year, have a second meeting (actually, a first meeting) that will go from 5:45 pm to 6:45 pm, again, to get in 2 – 3 more speakers plus allow others to serve a different meeting role
Larry Wilson joined Toastmasters in 2004. In his almost first five years he served all club offices and several district offices and positions. Upon returning to Toastmasters in 2013, he became district secretary then district public relations officer/manager. He is currently a member of the Bluejacket club in Shawnee, Kansas where he is the vice president of public relations. Larry is also a member of the newest advanced club Victory Toastmasters.