Sunday, March 10, 2019

10 tips for establishing a new Toastmasters club, the "proper" way

"Saro! We are trying our best to establish this club. However, it is becoming very hard to attract guests and even harder to convert them into members. What should we do?". This is the common question that I hear from sponsors and mentors, who are trying to charter a new club in the community.

I see a lot of budding and enthusiastic Toastmasters rolling up their sleeve to start a new club. However, they need to strategize a little bit for success.  To me, establishing a new club is like "farming" - you've to plough the soil, plant seeds, water the plant, remove weeds, apply fertilizer at the right time to get a good harvest. This blog post will share some tips for establishing a new Toastmasters Club.
  1. Start the meeting on time: Starting the meeting on-time is not only critical for new clubs, but also for established clubs. When you start the meeting on time, you are indirectly conveying to the members and guests that Toastmasters meeting is a serious business. Read "How to start and end club meetings on-time"? When you delay the start of the meeting and wait for members/guests to arrive, even the members/guests who are punctual this week would come late next week. It will result in a downward spiral. 
  2. Every role player should have a proper script, well rehearsed: Imagine a SAA going to the stage and starting the meeting with sweat all over his face, hands trembling, not knowing what to speak on the stage and to top it all, not speaking good English. This is what happens in most clubs. They say "First impression is the best impression". When a SAA starts the meeting like this, it sets a wrong tone for the entire meeting. Every role player should have a proper "script" in their hand (including the SAA). A "script in hand" means that the role player is prepared. It also gives the role player a lot of confidence to speak. I would also recommend the role player to rehears properly, before the meeting starts. Role player templates for ALL roles can be downloaded from Successful Clubs Templates/Worksheets.
  3. Get all the "props" ready for the new club, even before your first meeting. Here are some props that you should have for a high-quality meeting.
    1. Create booklets for Timer, AH Counter and Grammarian roles. Download from Successful Clubs Templates/Worksheets and print those spiral bound booklets  
    2. Get a Gavel for the club. You can buy them online for $20 (Rs. 1000 or less). When you submit the Application to Organize to Toastmasters International, they would send you a kit with manuals and a Gavel. Read Steps involved in Chartering a new club.
    3. Get a "standee" or a "banner" printed for the club, with the club's name and Toastmasters International logo. 
    4. Get printed ballots for the members/guests to fill the "Best speaker/evaluator/role player/TAG role player"
    5. Get some ribbons from Toastmasters International for giving to the "Best speaker/evaluator/role player/TAG role player". If you are cash strapped, print some certificates (without the Toastmasters logo) and hand them over to the "Best speaker/evaluator/role player/TAG role player", at the end of the meeting. 
    6. Pamphlets that give details regarding Toastmasters and regarding the club (benefits of joining the club, membership fee details etc.,). Search Google for "Toastmasters new members kit", you'll find a lot of samples. You can also reach out to your District for some brochures. 
    7. New Membership form - It is very important to have this document printed and available during "every club meeting". When a guest says "I'm interested to join this club", immediately ask them to fill this form and ask them to bring the cash/cheque next week (better yet, you can make them to do an instant money transfer via mobile apps like Paypal or PayTM).  
  4. Print an agenda for every meeting and hand it over to the members / guests. I know we want to "Go Green". These days, many Toastmasters who are not so organized / disciplined are covering themselves with the "Go Green" blanket. Some clubs use a board to write the meeting agenda - but, according to me, that should complement a printed agenda ... and not replace it. Having a printed agenda is very critical to show members/guests that "Toastmasters is serious business". If your agenda doesn't change much, you are indirectly conveying to them that this club is super organized and sticks to the plan. 
  5. Display signs to the meeting venue - Clearly display sign-boards or posters that help the guests to find the meeting location / venue. At times, Toastmasters meetings happen in buildings that have multiple floors or buildings with multiple meeting rooms. Display a poster near the building entrance which guides the guests to the meeting venue
  6. Identify "temporary" club officers from "day one" - In most clubs, I see that either the club sponsors or the Area directors, who run from pillar to post to get the meeting going. I can understand them doing it for the first meeting. However, they should start identifying club officers soon enough. At times, you may have to just appoint temporary club officers for critical roles such as President, VP Public Relations (VP PR) and VP Education. These officers can in-turn wear multiple hats, by taking over other roles such as VP Membership, Secretary, Treasurer, and SAA. Club Sponsors / Club Mentors / Area Directors can train / coach these members to effectively do their roles. When you get closer to chartering the new club, you can finalize ALL of the club officer roles and make them permanent role players. 
  7. Kick start the PR engine, which works non-stop: VP PR plays a very crucial role in bringing members/guests to the new club. He/She should find creative ways to bring guests to the club. Some new clubs have the habit of inviting educational speakers for their club meetings. However, ensure that the VP PR adequately promotes the educational session / speaker to entice members/guests to attend the club meeting. If you are not promoting the educational session / speaker in advance, you will not be able to reap the benefit of bringing the educational speaker to the club. 
  8. Conduct a high-quality meeting, every week - VP Education should conduct a "high quality" meeting every week. Do not conduct half-baked meetings. Ensure that you give the guests a flavor of the prepared speeches, table topics and speech evaluations. Do not skip any segment of the meeting. It is OK to conduct a 1 hour meeting - instead of a 2 hours meeting. However, it is important to cover all of the segments and give speaking opportunities to all of the members/guests. VP Education . Read "How to identify role players for your club meeting".  Ensure that you are picking a set of new + experienced people for playing roles, to increase the quality of the meeting. 
  9. All role players have to be "coached" - Ensure that every role player is coached in advance, before the meeting. More importantly, you'll have to coach role players like the Table Topicsmaster - who plays a critical role in retaining the current members and persuading the guests to become members. Read "How a Table Topics master can hurt your club membership". 
  10. Stay in touch with the guests - Create a whatsapp group and add guests (with their consent) Share a crisp summary of the meeting to members/guests who attended (or not-attended) the meeting. In addition, you can also circulate the agenda for the next week's meeting when it is ready. It is important that one of the club officers reach out to every guest who attended the previous week's meetings. It increases your guest to members conversion rate. In today's digital world, you can also drop a quick Whatsapp note to them... thanking them for attending this week's meeting and requesting them to attend the next week's meeting. 
Zig Ziglar, a famous author and motivational speaker says "You can achieve everything that you want in life, if you can help others achieve what they want". Establishing a new club provides a lot of leadership and inter-personal skills development opportunities to all of the Toastmasters involved (Club Mentors / Sponsors / Members / Area Directors etc.,). If you follow all of these tips, you'll be able to charter your club in less than 25 weeks time. The club should be able to develop roots and start sustaining on its own, there afterwards. Along the way, you would've also gone through a tremendous transformation. 

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