1. Benefits of Regular Membership
I’m sure if you talk to anyone who is a member of Toastmasters, they will tell you about the benefits of membership in the group. Being a better speaker, being a better leader, developing self-confidence—all those reasons are valid. They certainly have rung true for me.
When I ask new members what brought them to Toastmasters, the answer usually includes the fact that knew someone in the organization that told them about the benefits of being a member. However, when a person decides to take the next step and visit a Toastmasters club, what do they do? They go to the Toastmasters International website at http://www.toastmasters.org/and go to the left-hand side where it says “Meeting Locations” right above a red button which says “FIND a location near you”. But what happens if, especially in a crowded metropolitan area like Los Angeles where I live, you find a list of 10 or more clubs near where you live? THEN how do you choose?
2. Pitfalls of a Dual Membership—too much confusion for a newbie
My best advice would be to go to someone’s club whom you know as a Toastmaster—they will be able to give you the “inside scoop” on how the club runs. Although Toastmasters International gives general guidelines on how to conduct meetings, it is surprising to learn that not every club runs in exactly the same way. Just like individual people, individual clubs have their own personalities.
We had one member who liked the location of our club, which we shared with another club that meets on the other alternate Tuesdays of the month. She decided to join both clubs and was totally confused by the fact that the two clubs’ meetings were run differently. In the end, she chose to be in our club because it “fit” better with her personality.
So joining two clubs at first, and then deciding later on the one you like best is NOT recommended. When WOULD I recommend such a thing?
3. Benefits of a Dual Membership
Some clubs are general membership clubs, that is, they are open to all members. Some clubs are corporate clubs that are closed membership clubs, that is, you can only belong to the club if you are a member of that corporation. This is mainly because the club usually meets at that corporation’s office or related facility.
However, there are some clubs which are “special purpose” or “themed” clubs. When I decided to become a project manager, I found out there was a special club devoted just to those who were project managers or who aspired to become one. I wanted to join that club, but I was quite happily “married” to another club where I had been a member for a year and a half. Besides, I was a club officer in the original club and so I didn’t rightly feel like “abandoning my post”. So I decided to join the 2nd club as a “dual member”.
Once I joined the second club, which I was able to do because it met on a different night of the week; I realized that it gave me certain benefits or advantages. These seemed to outweigh the disadvantages.
Let me expand on these advantages and disadvantages. The fact that you are in two clubs gives you twice as many chances to speak. When you are working an advanced level of communication award, each level requires you to do 5 speeches each from 2 different manuals. In my regular club, I have decided to do the “Entertaining Speeches” manual. However I will do speeches more geared towards professional presentations from a manual called “Speaking To Inform” in the club that is geared towards project managers. That way I can pursue both types of speech, each in a venue that will be more receptive to it.
However, I would wait until one is at least halfway through the Competent Communicator (CC) or Competent Leader (CL) manual before trying a dual membership That is because you need to understand really well how your club functions before you go to a different club and try to participate in an environment where the rules are somewhat different.
Finally, the last disadvantage is one that I heard about through talking to one of the officers in our division, namely, a case where someone who was in clubs A and B, let’s say, promised the educational award he would earn to club A. Then halfway through the manual, he changed his mind and decided to give that award to club B without telling the Vice President Education of club A. Club A only found out about this months before the end of the year, and had been counting on that award as one of the points the club wins towards becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster Club. That caused the club to have to scramble and find someone else to complete that award within an accelerated time frame because it was towards the end of the year. It turned out well for that Club, but it caused a bit of friction there for a while.
So the lesson is, if you decide to become a dual member, find out if your award is going to be needed by your club for its Distinguished Toastmaster Club award. Talk to the Vice President Education or VPE and find out. It could very well be that your club already has somebody else getting that award and so doesn’t need to claim credit for your achievement. Then you can feel free to give it to the other club.
But if your VPE in your first club says “we need it for our club”, then let the VPE of the other club know. He or she may be disappointed, but it is better to know this at the BEGINNING of the year rather than right before the end.
So I think having a dual membership does have its advantages, and for me they outweigh the disadvantages. I am fortunate to have the financial and time resources necessary to attend both clubs. Therefore I recommend it as an option for those who want to take one step deeper into the pool of experience that Toastmasters International has to offer.
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