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 :)


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 ... :)

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