Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to alt.toastmasters.org a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Finding new members

In August 1999 Bear belonged to a club that is struggling to keep pace with the constant attrition of members lately. We have a wonderful core of highly motivated members, and four of our 17 members are DTMs.
One of our problems we have only a few newer members that are working on the basic manual. We need ideas to spark the club up. The thread was getting new members

John F suggested a mall display, which he described as a set up display a club can place in a mall or similar public location. Usually, a club will arrange to have a couple of members man it at times when traffic is a bit heavier (like lunch time or weekends) to answer questions.
Even when it is not manned, there is information on it about Toastmasters.
Clubs book it, usually quite a while in advance because it is fairly popular, from District Public Relations.

It comes as six panels, three on top and three on the bottom, and it's hinged so that it is free standing.

It's large enough that a table will fit nicely in front of it.

The panels themselves are designed to be more eye catching than informative. The purpose is to attract visitors, who will then talk to the Toastmasters manning the display. Also, additional information pamphlets can be kept on the table in front of the display, and handed out to interested visitors.

Joy is the club telephonbe contact and fields quite a few calls, as our club is listed in the white pages with my home-business phone for the only Toastmasters listing in the county. I am usually here to answer the calls, and return them as soon as I can if I'm not here.

I pass along information about other local clubs if our meeting is not convenient for local callers, and if they are from farther away, I refer them to the appropriate Area Governor.

One caller said he was in a city about 25 miles away, and by the time I finished telling him about our meetings and offered to give him an Area Governor's phone number, all he wanted was directions to our meetings. I think true enthusiasm is the best sales tool there is.

Craig is also a telephone contact and has a copy of our District's club directory and can usually provide direct contact with any number of clubs in the enquirer's chosen area. I also try to impart the personal achievements I have drawn from Toastmasters.

Eric's experience is that the best way to "hook" a prospective member is with a great meeting. All the PR work, the flyers and telephone contacts, will only serve to get the guest in the door, but if they don't like what they see then they're not coming back.

What makes a great meeting: good speeches and evaluations, people having fun, things running smoothly and on time, guests welcomed and included in the meeting. Advanced speeches and professional calibre speeches tend to intimidate guests; my experience is that they like to see speeches by people that are only a couple of speeches into their CTMs (these speakers are not too far ahead of the guests) and hear evaluations that say how these speakers have improved in just a few months.

In August 2001, the thread was Where do YOU find new Members

Four out of my five of Moira's contacts were people known to me that I spoke to about Toastmasters by word of mouth. I also joined because a friend invited me.

I place Toastmasters leaflets in every single public speaking book I can find at the library every time I visit - some of these books are seldom taken out. I also place leaflets in books on PR, business management etc. It only takes a few minutes, and it has paid dividends in terms of at least three new members over the years.

When I was building my club I spoke to the people whose numbers were listed, telling them that we were actively recruiting, what type of club, when and where we met and promised that we'd nurture all contacts. That assurance, together with the actual work, netted us several new members - people like to refer enquiries to clubs where there is an assurance that the potential members will be kindly treated.

My doctor is a personal friend who has rooms in the same area as the one in which our club met and I always gave him a current copy of the Toastmaster magazine with a pasted contact number sheet with five tear off strips. I popped into his rooms at least once a month and at that time belonged to four clubs, so it wasn't a big deal. The club got at least one new member from that effort.

By April 2002 the web was more popular, and Dale started the thread New members from web with this question:
How many visitors, who then become new members, are clubs receiving from people searching on the web for a club, and then turning up to meetings?

Eric asks guests how they found us; a couple of years ago the answer was typically that they saw our flyer in the local library, but now the answer is more likely that they found us through the World Wide Web. We tend to have guests at every meeting.

I think the best way for clubs to be found is through links to the Toastmasters International and District websites. Someone searching on "Toastmasters" will find the TI site pretty fast, and from there they can narrow down a search for a club by continent, country, and in North America by state or province.

When someone gets a barebones listing of clubs in a specific city or town they'll probably check out those with websites first since these have the promise of more information being available.

Jim's experience is that members usually find out about TM from someone they know, but they then use the web to learn more about TM, and to find a club near them.

The web in another tool we can use to promote TM, but it is only one tool. There are other tools that we can and should use, the most effective being tell our friends and coworkers about TM.

When people show up from the Interenet Renate actively encourages them to visist the other clubs in the area and find the right "fit".

Most of Dan's guests are drawn by our local PR. There are posters everywhere and weekly listing in local papers. We are planning a mall kiosk later in the month so there will be some face-to-face contacts. The greatest building tool still remains the meeting. We genuinely welcome guests and fill them in on what happens at the meeting. There is no push or shove towards membership. Extend the invite to the next meeting and let them open the door to talking about a membership. They are told of the benefits and the program. They buy versus us doing the sales pitch.

Regina is starting to see at least one guest per meeting who has found our club through www.toastmasters.org. And more of our guests are joining now, too. I think that people who find clubs through Toastmasters International's web site's club listings are ones who are really looking for Toastmasters. While the people who find us through announcements posted in public places and in newspapers are also legitmate prospects, those who have gone through the Toastmasters International web site have had the opportunity to get a thorough background on what Toastmasters is before coming to a meeting.

John K found the Web seems to work well as there is an element of anonymity involved at the initial contact stage. After a couple of e-mails back and forth, we are able to reassure the potential guests that we are not a bunch of cranks and that we always welcome visitors.

In January 2004, the thread was Rebuilding a club and Mark outlined his plan:

I suggested a series of monthly Open Houses (held on the first meeting of each month from March through June). These meetings would be publicized through electronic means (our club website), through the club newsletter, and by printed flyers placed in strategic areas (nearby library, local bulletin boards, city Chamber of Commerce, etc.). These advertisements would encourage invitees to bring their checkbooks, as we would offer a small discount for first-time guests joining our club.

The Open Houses would be informal meetings, with the members bringing refreshments. The core of each Open House would be a 8-10 minute keynote speech about the benefits of Toastmasters membership. Then two or three club members would give 2-3 minute testimonials of the benefits they received from Toastmasters membership. We would give guests time at the end of each Open House to ask questions. In short, the entire Open House would be a club promotional meeting.

Each visitor would receive a handout package containing partially filled-out membership forms, including pro-rated dues (a visitor would only need to add personal information to complete the form). The meeting would end 15-20 minutes early to allow for guests to complete the paperwork and join the club.

Those visitors who wouldn't join at their first meeting would get a follow-up note by regular mail. In this note, our club President would thank them for their attendance and would personally invite them to attend the next Open House.

Bill reported on his club, which is sponsored by a company.
Contact the Human Resources Dept. immediately. Let hem know there is Toastmaster training available for employees. Also suggest that managers specify Toastmasters training on annual goals for employees when it is relevant to their jobs. Also let the training folks know about the program.

To help sell these initiatives find out if competitor companies sponsor Toastmaster Clubs. I found out all of our major competitors and partners sponsored clubs, so it made it much easier to say "Toastmasters is a good thing to have here."

Have experienced Toastmasters come in and provide Testimonials on what Toastmasters has done for them. Contact your Area Governor or other District Officers to help out.

Consider running a SpeechCraft - we ran two last year and signed up 5 new members. We also hold "All About Toastmaster" info sessions twice a year. One of members was on vacation in Calgary last July - we are in Ottawa - and took the time to deliver this one-hour info session to our Calgary site. Within 2 months they chartered with 26 members. We also survey - and talk to - our members to find out what is working and what is not. For example new members were not getting any feedback for Table Topics, so we added a Table Topics Evaluator. This has led to the Table Topics Master mentioning tips prior the topics deliveries, and everyone has improved. I may never win Best Table Topics again :-).

Because we had so many new members, and they were somewhat reluctant to start, we held an Ice Breaker seminar. This generated enough interest that we had two meetings just for Ice Breakers, with one of these meetings being a First Timers meeting - every role, except evaluators, was done by someone for the first time. Last year we had 14 Ice Breakers in total delivered.


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