Monday, September 9, 2013

10 ways of promoting Toastmasters outside your club

"If you build it, they'll come" a famous quote that highlights what Steve Jobs have done by creating a demand for smartphones and tablets in this world. However, can the "If you build it, they'll come" principle
be applied when growing your Toastmasters club?  How do you promote your community toastmasters club to the public? Our VP Public Relations (PRs) will say "If you promote it, they'll come". Here are some ideas: (Also read: 10 ways of finding role players for your club)
  1. Conduct special meetings regularly and invite Toastmasters families & friends. This will provide an opportunity to promote toastmasters to fellow toastmasters' family & friends.
  2. Get permission & stick a A3 or A4 sized poster in the local gift shops or book shops.
  3. Send flyers or posters to nearby Colleges. College can display that in their notice boards. This will help you to attract the local students community. Colleges prefer hard copy to display on the notice boards.
  4. Local media are always friendly to clubs and local social initiatives (for ex., In Chennai, you can approach T.Nagar Times, Nanganallur Talk etc.,). You can get a free coverage there. 
  5. Members of a club can contribute articles to newspapers (such as Hindu, Indian Express etc.,) on the subject of communication & leadership. Newspapers crave for content. They are more willing to publish such stuff on the supplementary... such as Education Plus, Metro Plus etc.,
  6. Conduct free workshops or contests for the community... for ex., Speech Craft program is a brand promotion initiative. Clubs can organize their own Youth Leadership or Speech Craft programs. Clubs can also raise sponsorship and conduct contests for college students. This can get free media coverage too. 
  7. Drop in to the local Rotary or Lions club and promote toastmasters. You can sign-up to do free keynote speeches or educational sessions for them and promote toastmasters along with that. 
  8. Join Facebook groups in your locality and promote toastmasters. However, you've to keep the noise level low. May be one flyer a month - otherwise, you'll be considered as a spammer and removed from the group. 
  9. Encourage members to display Toastmasters mementos / trophies / certificates / best speaker ribbons at work place. When colleagues ask them about the trophy, they can give their colleagues a mini pitch about Toastmasters and invite their colleagues to the next club meeting.
  10. Members can include a line about Toastmasters in their personal email signatures. At least, the club officers can do this. This will help them to promote toastmasters to their friends/contacts. Members/Officers can update their LinkedIn profile / Facebook profile to include toastmasters. Anyone who sees their profile would know that there is something called Toastmasters.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Story of Chennai Speakers Forum

This is the story of Chennai Speakers Forum... a community club that was born from the light house club of Chennai - the Chennai Toastmasters Club. I wrote this article for a newsletter in the year 2012 - however, the newsletter was never published :)

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Breaking a log of wood makes it lose its strength ...
Breaking a glass makes it unusable ...
But.. splitting an atom produces enormous power !

... and, thats what happened when Chennai Toastmasters Club was split into 2 - Chennai Toastmasters (CTM) Club & Chennai Speakers Forum (CSF). The need for splitting CTM into two clubs, was realized approximately 2 years ago. However, there was no time, energy or drive to get the job done. Because of this, CTM started seeing a sinusoidal membership pattern ... the membership goes up in summer and comes down during fall. A number of new members join during July to December time frame. The membership reaches 70+ during July to December time frame and will come down to 45+ during January to June time frame. One simple reason was, not every member got an opportunity to play a role during the club meeting. There were a few other reasons that forced us to seriously consider splitting the club :

- members wouldn't get speaking slots
- club officers wouldn't be able to spend quality time with members
- mentoring new members was a challenge
- leadership opportunities were limited (only 7 get to play the role of club officers in a group of 70)
- only 12 speakers could be accommodated during speech contests (due to the lack of time)
- we had several great speakers in the club, however only 2 could represent the club in the speech contests at area level

Also read: Steps involved in chartering a new club

DTM Kartik Srinivasan, who was the Area Governor then, spearheaded the initiative of splitting CTM and creating a new club. We received enormous support from the leadership team of CTM - TM Rajesh Natarajan (IPP), TM Prabakaran (President), TM Sadayappan (VP Education) and their team. Kartik Srinivasan and I were able to inspire the leadership team to initiate the split. However, the challenge was "Who can inspire the 70 odd members of the club - which includes founding members, veterans and a number of other passionate toastmasters". We got a helping hand from our most popular DTM Aditya Maheswaran. DTM Aditya Maheswaran became the chairman of the 'cloning committee'. Once you give a job to DTM Aditya, you don't have to worry about the results.

A task of this magnitude is expected to have some resistance and it did have some resistance. Toastmasters who were really passionate about the success and growth of CTM, raised their genuine concerns. I won't claim that we addressed all of the concerns - but, we shared our honest views / thoughts with them. In principle, everybody agreed on the decision to split - however, there were 100 different views on 'how the split should be done'. For a major activity like this, if we wait for consensus from all the people, the job would never get done. We did what is right for both CTM & CSF, following Toastmasters International guidelines. The club cloning committee created a membership roster for both the clubs based on seniority of the members in toastmasters, age group, sex, educational accomplishments, contest worthiness etc., Members were then given an option to decide which club they really want to be part of. Some members decided to change their club. Some members decided to maintain dual membership. A final roster was arrived in a weeks time.

Also read: How to conduct a demo meeting?

On 4th Sep 2011, right after CTM meeting, we completed all the paper work. The new incoming officers of CSF, helped in completing the paper work. We sent it to Toastmasters International on 5th Sep 2011 and the club got chartered. The first meeting of the club was conducted on 11th Sep 2011 - a new community club was born ! TM Arna Chugani, TM Pravin Mani, TM Mohammed Mustafa, TM Jananee Ramakrishnan, TM Gurumurugan, TM Vivekanandan, and TM Nijil Chandran became its incoming officers. If I had one concern about Chennai Speakers Forum, it was "Will the new leadership team rise up to the challenge and help the club succeed?! Can these youngsters pull it off?".

"Never underestimate the power of a small group of people to change the world.  In fact, it is the only way it ever has.", is a famous quote from Margaret Mead. Today, I can proudly say that the leadership team took the club to great heights - beyond what anyone can imagine. With their hard work, dedication, team work and creativity the leadership team scaled the club to unimaginable heights. In TM Alex's words, they've raised the bar high.

Chennai is now gifted with two community clubs operating in the same place, at different times ... providing opportunity to more members in the community to get benefited by toastmasters. The journey continues ... :)