Moments of Truth: Membership Strength


I may as well say it and get it over with. None of the moments makes me feel like a tired old Toastmaster more than moment 5, which reminds “When the club has enough members to provide leadership and fill meeting and committee assignments, this creates a lively, active club that benefits existing members and draws new members in.” I get it. We have to have members if we’re going to have a club, but…

Two stories may illustrate the effort that’s required. Back when I was a division governor, I decided to start a club at the Smithsonian. Several members of the organization I worked for had expressed interest in communications training, I was speaking a lot and needed something to keep my skills sharp, and a new club would help my Distinguished Division stats. We were successful and got the club started. The benefits of my effort became clear during an all-hands meeting of my work organization several months later. One of the new members of the club volunteered to present the report for his break-out group. My head swelled when I overheard some of the audience reaction—things like “what happened to him?” and “he’s really changed lately.” I really couldn’t take credit for any of the improvement, but I think this experience shows the positive impact Toastmasters can have and the importance of displaying what you’ve learned and telling others about your positive experience.

The work of that Smithsonian club got noticed, and the employee newspaper decided to feature it in a story. There was a whole half-page and a photograph, the paper was distributed to something like 6,000 employees, and the club received three, just three, new inquiries about membership. That’s the downside of the story. To meet membership goals we have to work hard, and we have to work all the time. We’ve got to be on the lookout all the time for membership building methods that work.

The criteria specified by this moment are one thing—

  • Maintain a minimum of 20 or more members
  • Work to retain members
  • Actively promote your club in the community or within the sponsoring organization
  • Continually plan varied and exciting club meetings
  • Recognize Toastmasters who sponsor new members
  • Participate regularly in membership-building programs

understanding which methods are best and which methods will work for our club is another.

When you think about this moment, remember that the audience we are trying to reach is more and more technically literate and more comfortable with a variety of social media tools. Just look at this short article about the winners of the Vocabulary Video Contest at The New York Times for one example of what I mean. If high school kids expect to use videos in their regular curriculum (these examples might work really well for Word of the Day presentations) how should we be learning to build our club presentations and marketing efforts? Is it time for us to add tools like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, and YouTube to our marketing arsenal? And what will happen to us if we don’t? Our discussion of this moment can be really exciting.


3 responses to Moments of Truth: Membership Strength

  1. mikeschultz – Author

    Here’s a way we might use Instagram (or any other social platform). Show the members learning and enjoying themselves in a group activity.

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