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.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Rebuilding a club

In February 1997, Stephanie proudly reported adding 10 new members in four months as a result of this ad in the club meeting section of a local newspaper:

Do you speak on your job? in community affairs? on social occasions? with your family? Toastmasters offers low-cost, high-value help as you learn to speak and listen more effectively. Visit Coffeemuggers Toastmasters Club at 7-8 am every Wednesday at Doctor’s Hospital Staff Conference Room, Manteca. Call 555-3762 for more info.

That thread was Phoenix award.

In October 2002, the thread was Club Building & Speechcraft and Tom said:

Speechcraft is THE best way to build membership. One tactic that is becoming common is to sign the Speechcrafters up as members immediately and give them a C&L manual instead of a Speechcraft book. The course is run as per usual format but at the conclusion of the course they continue on as normal members. The benefits are that they already feel part of the Club and they receive their "Toastmaster" magazine a lot earlier. The membership applications are usually sent off in April or October so they get more than 6 months membership for the one fee (eg. if the course started in July, then they would be inducted in July and receive July, August and September free. Their fees would cover the 6 months from October so they wouldn't have to pay again until the following April). It seems to work well. Regular educationals would benefit any new members joining after the course had started.

Susan reported: The latest information I've heard from WHQ on this topic is that Speechcraft remains ranked at #2 re effective methods / strategies for recruiting new members.
The #1 method / strategy also remains the same: individual members inviting individual guests.

One of the wonderful ways that Area Governors can contribute directly to the success of their Clubs ... which are, of course, responsible for attracting their own guests, recruiting their own new members, and retaining their existing members ... is to do a Speechcraft course for a group of people, such as employees at a business, members of an association like Soroptomists or Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce (for example) ... and to provide all the Speechrafters with a listing of all the local Clubs, encouraging them to visit one or two and join one of them!

John F urged us to remember one important detail:
Every club started out with one or two people who wanted to start a Toastmasters club. Somehow, they figured out how to attract another 18 to 20 warm bodies.
Seems to me that what a weak club needs to do is rediscover the methods that were used to attract 20 members in the first place.

Rick recalled one club that built up from 9 to 25. They did it by attracting other people from the companies where their members worked.

In October 2001, the thread was Club Maintenance Tips, and Dennis said:

The biggest issue in club survival is a key member. At least one member has to be committed to the club, want it to prosper and will do the work to keep things going - mo matter the office.
Much better if group, but one person can/will actually pull a group together. Sadly, I have no idea how you train or recruit this "key" I just see it happen!

We have heard from guests that supportive, positive evaluations are an issue. Friendly people/members greeting is also mentioned. The evals need to include suggestions as well and bar has to go up as members improve - but nicely.

As new people join and existing members renew, you need to balance needs of all the members.

Solid meetings, and manual speeches are a must.

Most experienced members must model the best behavior.

I think as an organization, if we could figure out how to mentor and train those key guys, we could improve club survival dramatically.

I agree with others, moving location and night is bad but I see some lousy locations really do just fine and some equally good locations where one makes it and one does not.

Rick said:
The week clubs I've seen often suffer from one or more of the following problems:
1. A week program in their club
2. Problems with club climate
3. An ineffective membership program
4. Loosing their meeting place and spending several months in temporary locations.

The problem with the club in temporary locations, is they don't want to attempt a membership program because they almost have a permanent meeting place.
I've met a lot of people who assume if the club is weak that it must be from #1 or #2. I've visited several clubs that suffer from #3. (Clubs with a membership in the 20's but high turnover probably suffer from #1 or #2.) The "Moments of Truth" module is a good starting point. The presentation describes the things the club needs to do right. There is a discussion of what are the clubs strong and weak points. From there, the club can construct a plan.

In January 2004, the thread was Rebuilding a club and Bill reported on maintaining the momrntum after a number of new members had joined:
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.

Mark 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.

Rick suggested The Moments of Truth module as a good start. It talks about making a good impression on guests and keeping new members. One of the most useful parts is the exercise at the end. It's a chance for your club to talk about which areas can be improved.
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