Will You Take A Moment?

This is a guest post by Peter Kossowan, DTM. Peter has been a Toastmaster for over 35 years. In that time he has been a new club sponsor to 135 new clubs. In District 42 (Alberta & Saskatchewan) he is known as “Mr. Toastmaster”

Will you take a Moment?

Written by Peter Kossowan
Dec 21, 2011

Spring is just around the corner! A time of growth and regeneration. A time of preparing for our short but highly anticipated growing season! A time of challenge to fit everything in while juggling conflicting priorities. Such is the life of a Toastmaster. What is your priority?

Take a look around. Oh! Where did everybody go? Is your club constantly striving to get membership up to charter strength or better? Perhaps on paper your club appears strong (20 members or more, or 5 new members in the past year), but how many members are actually showing up to your meetings?

These challenges are nothing new. In fact, every year Toastmaster clubs face this challenge. Committed members of club executives strive all year long to build membership to charter strength, working hard to qualify for that coveted Distinguished Club status. But what happens when we don’t achieve what we set out to? Does that have an effect on our members? You bet it does!

How do I know if my club is in trouble? Here are 10 surefire practices – that will bring any club to its knees.

1. Inadequate educational scheduling
Do you circulate a skeleton schedule, requesting that members slot themselves into positions?
Don’t do it! People will procrastinate, and do only the easy assignments which take no preparation. Look around you – everyone is extremely busy these days. The Vice President of Education needs to have the club program scheduled four weeks in advance. This will allow members to take any ‘bits’ of free time that they have and prepare to meet their assignment. Schedule each member for each role – on a rotating basis. As an added bonus, you’ll get your veterans participating actively. By design, they will provide a strong example for the newcomer. It works!

2. The Inner Circle – Cliques of Comfort
Do you chat with old friends at the exclusion of newer members or guests? It can happen innocently enough. Often long-time friends engage in conversation that, unintentionally, excludes the newcomers. Remember, newcomers may be experiencing heightened feelings of inadequacy or shyness. They need to be greeted warmly and treated with care and hospitality. Involve them in conversation. Open the circle.

3. Inadequately Trained Club Executive Members
Is your club executive performing the duties of their office? Or worse, are they failing to perform, because they don’t know what their duties are? Do they regularly hold scheduled executive meetings? Are they productive? How about new member induction and orientation sessions? It is imperative to plan these sessions on a regular basis. Do it with flair! Plan, plan, plan! If people don’t know what their role is, how can they do a good job? Promote attendance at the regularly scheduled training sessions. A club with a trained executive is a strong club.

4. Lack of Support for New Club Members – Unprepared by Design
Do you offer new members an “orientation” to the Toastmaster program and all that it has to offer? Have you let them know what is expected of them? I believe that every new member wants to do well, but they just may not possess the “know how” in the beginning. That’s where you come in! Be prepared to mentor them for success! Your efforts will pay off exponentially.

5. Dingy or Substandard Meeting Space
Are your semi-annual dues set too low to afford decent accommodations? Some evening clubs meet in an industrial area with limited lighting. Many people don’t feel comfortable venturing into that kind of environment in the daytime let alone in the evening. Look at your options. Change venues. Quality accommodations bring about quality members, resulting in a better quality of meeting. Isn’t it worth considering?

6. Uncommitted or Absent Club Members
Do you find only half of your membership attends each meeting, and the other half never lets you know they will be absent? It’s up to the VP of Education to track members who miss fulfilling their assignments. If members miss three meetings in a row, remove their names from future assignments, and use this opportunity to follow up with them to discuss their lack of performance or attendance. People need to know that their involvement matters.

7. Inconvenient Location or Meeting Times
Surprisingly, it is not uncommon for two clubs in the same community to meet at the same time and on the same day! Why not consider moving your meeting to another day, and give your club members an opportunity to discuss this matter and decide?

8. Members Doing “Free” (i.e. Non-manual) Presentations
If members aren’t doing manual presentations and getting credit for their efforts, the club suffers. With the new Competent Communicator (CC) and Competent Leadership (CL) manuals, every member needs to bring both manuals to every meeting, and track the tasks they’re performing for silent evaluation and educational credits – both for their own advancement and that of the club. Wouldn’t you rather belong to a Distinguished Toastmaster Club, especially knowing that you helped get it there?

9. No one really cares!
Truly! Executive members attempt to maintain a high standard of performance at the meeting, but become discouraged because members fail to respond or listen. Eventually these people experience burn-out, and just do the minimum to get by. Are you part of the solution?

10. The meeting is “too structured”
Is your club atmosphere light and fun, or is it … negative? Change the format! Initiate a joint meeting with another club! Try out something new. At a recent meeting I was at, three scheduled speakers couldn’t make it. So, names of experienced members were put into a hat, and three ice breakers were delivered (manual achievements). New members got to know the veterans, and a practical – and entertaining – solution provided a fresh twist to what might have otherwise been a disappointing situation. Get creative!

Every Toastmaster club is precious! Each one has a life history that is evolving. If your club is experiencing difficulties, it’s time to set aside a meeting to analyze and resolve these concerns. This is the one time that I would discourage inviting guests. They don’t need to know the difficulties your club is facing. Ask an experienced Toastmaster to moderate this meeting for you. Toastmasters International has a myriad of tools that will help. Moments of Truth is a wonderful tool for this purpose. Take care of your club, it is family and family is precious!

When a club becomes vulnerable, discussions invariably lead to closing the club down or merging with another club to rescue both, and yet neither is a good alternative. Take a critical look at your club. View your next meeting through the eyes of a visitor. Apply some or all of the foregoing suggestions honestly and frankly. If you come to some positive conclusions, changes can be implemented, and you may well have helped save your club.

Isn’t it time you took a Moment (of Truth) today?

Peter Kossowan, DTM

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