Managing a Successful Toastmasters Club, a talk by Lance Miller


Today I went to the Leadership Conference for District 30, the Chicagoland area, which was held all day at the AT&T Institute in Hoffman Estates.    I went there to receive training in my role as Vice President Education for my new Toastmasters Club, the Homewood-Flossmoor Toastmasters Club, which I will be assuming on July 1st.    It has been the second time I have fulfilled this role, and I was looking forward to getting all the information I could in order to make this a successful year for my new club and all its members.

Another compelling reason to go to the conference was the fact that Lance Miller, the 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking, and a tireless champion of the Toastmasters International education and leadership programs, was the keynote speaker.   He gave a total of five presentations throughout the day, and I went to them all.

One of them covered the topic Managing a Successful Toastmasters Club, in which he discussed the ways in which he and the other leaders of his home club, Renaissance Speakers, brought back the club twice from the brink of death to the point where it now has 95+ members.   The purpose of this post is give a summary of his talk for the benefit of those who could not make it to the presentation.   If you find the material compelling, please visit his website, http://www.lancemillerspeaks.com, to find out how to obtain some of his CDs or DVDs giving more in-depth advice on how to help you become a better speaker and your club to become a better club.

The following are the ideas that Lance Miller gave for attracting new members  by generating enthusiasm within the club in a variety of ways …

1.  Website/Social Media

To get better members, you need to get more and better guests.   This is the function of the club’s website and other social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.  One interesting suggestion is to send a club newsletter out not only to members, but to any guests that have visited the club recently.    This will give them a good idea of what the club is doing on a regular basis, and may encourage them to re-visit the club.

2.  Card or flyer distribution

Businesses in the areas, including the local Starbucks, or other places where customers will visit, are a good place to distribute cards or flyers about the club.   You may not only get their customers to notice your club in this way, but one of the employees of those businesses may be interested in coming to visit as well.

3.  Special meetings/speakers

One of the ways to generate energy in the club and to have this energy be noticed by guests is to have a speaker meeting or special speakers from outside the club once every other month or once every quarter.    The speakers can be members  from other clubs who are trying to complete their speech manuals, or area, division, or district officers who will use the opportunity to visit your club to get to know it better.   This is beneficial for guests, for regular members, and for the visitors to your club from other Toastmasters clubs.

4.  Events/parties

Holidays are good and easy ways to introduce a theme to some of the meetings to give them a special character that keeps the meetings from getting into a rut.   The existing club members will benefit from the variety as well.    Every once and awhile, it is a good idea to have a special meeting out of the club outside the usual club venue, again to lend a little variety to the schedule–and to give additional speech opportunities to the members.

5.  Speechcraft

Speechcraft is a special short-term crash course in how to give a speech that non-members can participate in.   A lot of times this can be used as a way for people, who normally would shy away from the commitment of time and effort of joining a Toastmasters club, to experience the tangible benefits that come from the Toastmasters program.   Running a Speechcraft course is also good experience for the members who organize and run it.

6.  Speakers Bureau/Community Service

The Speakers Bureau gives Toastmasters members who are seeking additional speaking opportunities outside the club to  do a speech at another club, usually one with low membership that is seeking to attract speakers.    There was a club I knew of that had about half a dozen members that let it be known in the area that it was accepting speakers from outside the club.   The area governor hooked them up with the Speakers Bureau, and when guests came in, they were treating to a full menu of interesting speeches about a variety of topics, all provided by speakers who were sent by the Speakers Bureau.    They have doubled their membership in a six-month period, and they are still growing.

Another avenue for gaining members is to have members do speeches at local clubs like the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, or other local organizations that meet regularly and need speakers for their meetings.   This may generate interest within those clubs in having their members visit the club to gain speaking and leadership skills.

Lance Miller talked about leadership, speech contests, and other topics in his other presentations, but I thought his suggestions on boosting membership were excellent and felt that they in particular deserved a wider hearing, which is why I presented this post today.

I experienced a move from Los Angeles to Chicago which has kept me occupied for the past month or so, but my joining a new Toastmasters Club in the area was the best way I thought of to get re-integrated into this area where I haven’t lived for many years.   And now my election as club officer, my training at the Leadership Conference, and the talk by Lance Miller has made me realize that the opportunities for growth are unlimited–it’s time to seize them!

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