Work the Plan

Editor’s Note
In this issue of Club Coach Weekly, we hear from Bill Brown, who applies his consulting skills to the Reddy Talkers club.  The club had chartered recently, but many of the charter members had already left, leaving only a small number of members attending.  Those still participating didn’t have a full understanding of the Toastmasters program, and sometimes personality clashes would arise.

Bill created communications channels amongst the officers, and helped the club understand Toastmasters customs, like lectern etiquette and applauding speakers.  Meetings soon became entertaining but focused.

The club then ran several membership drives, though some members didn’t seem to understand why a membership drive was needed.  Multiple forms of social media were used, previous guests were invited back, and slowly
the membership grew, and the club reachedDistinguished.

Bill notes that getting the club to understand the need to fix problems is critical, starting with the basics, how they talked to each other, and respect for differences of opinions.  The coach has to show the club the value of the plan and lead with it.

Club Coaching: Initial Thoughts and Initial Realities

I was happy to serve as the club coach for the Reddy Talkers.  A consultant by trade, I believed that those same skills would easily transfer to club coaching.  I initially believed that there would be membership issues with members not renewing and a small number of people attending each meeting.  To correct these issues, I would work for better meetings, get people engaged, and determine ways to get people to attend the meetings.

When I attended my first meeting, the scenario was more involved.  This club seemed to be formed as a project which chartered in 2010 rather than an organic or grass roots club.   This was a great idea, however, most of the chartering members, including those who spearheaded this project, had moved on.  This left the new and eager group floundering.  There was a sense they didn’t completely understand the Toastmaster system.  There were also many strong personalities constantly exercising their right to express opinions.  They didn’t seem to know the way forward because of the personality clashes and a lack of familiarity with the Toastmaster program.  The personality clashes were disruptive, and often the members were caught in the middle.  You never knew what behavior would surface in a meeting.  For example, members would say negative comments indirectly toward each other in speeches.  Individually, the members were the nicest people that I ever met.  But something was happening.  There was a lack of leadership training.  The lack of training led to an unwanted dynamic that was causing struggle.

Focus the Member’s Attention on the Plan

I saw the challenge as a two-fold project.  One, to keep the officers, then members, engaged.  Two, stop the infighting so the club could move forward.

Because the club met every other week, I needed to open another line of communication.  I decided to begin with the club officers because the majority of people attending meetings were the club officers.  Once we started working together, we would bring the improvements to the remaining members.  We set up weekly emails where every club officer was copied.  We tried a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat (SWOT) analysis.  We talked about ideas for a membership drive.  Unfortunately, there was some unkind exchanges in the emails.  Recognizing that we couldn’t move forward, I changed the selected communication from emails to conference calls believing that people would be more civil.  It was a round robin format where everyone gave reports, then I would make comments.   Then I asked what I thought was a very harmless question.  There was silence.  After a long pause, one officer sensing the question was not going to be answered, gave their input about the question.  Then there was a loud click, and another officer hung up.   Stunned, I immediately ended the call.  I then called the officer who hung up, and I mentioned that I thought it was inappropriate to hang up on the conference call.  I asked what the problem was about.  I was told that in their opinion the other officer needed to mind their own business and not answer for others.  I acknowledged that they were upset and that we needed to work it out.  We agreed, but I felt that we were walking on eggshells throughout the rebuilding process.

Instead of focusing on animosity, I asked members to remember why they joined Toastmasters in the first place.  We would apply that concept to improving the club.  We would build on that principle to become a welcoming community club and focus on that identity.

I began work as coach.  The club was very casual in their meetings.  I explained some basic lectern etiquette.  I asked them to applaud at the appropriate times.  It was a commitment to become a structured club.  It was also important to become more structured, and once that commitment was seriously addressed, they created a hybrid casual/structured club, which works well for them.

Results Along the Road to Improvement

This commitment led to entertaining, focused meetings.  We had a setback early on, when one of the officers left the club. This individual had a number of in-club and out-of-club issues, that are in some respects, still a mystery.  Relying on my improv theatre background, I simply validated concerns, remarked when behavior was not helpful, and asked everyone to focus and move on.  Some wanted role reinforcement, and for me to say: “stay in that corner.”  I didn’t want to put people in their place.  I felt that it was difficult enough to light fires and to inspire passion in people.  Rather than squelch the fires, I wanted to get the team working together.  I felt that the coach must help focus people on what’s important.  The other stuff, such as passive aggressive behavior, was destructive when we’re trying to rebuild.  Even though this unproductive behavior represented missed opportunities for communication, I had to move on.  As coaches, having tough conversations is part of the coach’s job – it is also part of life.  It makes no sense to avoid these conversations.  Running away accomplishes nothing. But how do we solve problems that no one wants us to solve?

We never completed an educational plan.  The club needed an intervention.  As a coach, I felt the need to talk to each member and say, “This is what you need to do.”  This type of dialogue helped us work the plan.

We had several membership drives.  However, we could never agree on their motivation.  Why should we have a membership drive?  Interestingly, when I promised to continue helping the club (even past the duration of my club coaching appointment) I believe the club found their motivation.  It seemed to me that they saw my commitment to the club, in turn, inspired their commitment. Or it was a great coincidence?

We used Facebook, LinkedIn, and sent emails to guests saying that we missed them and invited them back.  All of these approaches created a slow drift of new members.  We got just enough members to win the Distinguished Club Award.

Lessons Learned

You can only fix the problems that the club wants you to fix.  I wanted to fix how they talked to each other.  How to be aware of each other’s differences of opinions while focusing on the plan.  Work the plan, always work the plan.  You will improve.  Members who don’t get anything are not working the plan.  The genius of the Toastmasters program is the plan.  The coach needs to show the value of the plan.  If you lead with the plan, the problems will resolve themselves.  If people remember why they joined, it will help them make the experience better for others.

Contributed by
William “Bill” Brown ACB, CL
Successful Coach of the Reddy Talkers #1366689 District 37
Speakerpreneur Toastmasters President
District 37 Certified Trainer and Area 54 Governor
“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”–Peter Drucker

A Letter of Praise
It is my pleasure to submit a letter of praise for our wonderful Club Coach, Bill Brown.  Bill came to our club in the spring of 2012 because we were struggling to both meet our goal of 20 members and to maintain our current members.  Our president explained that clubs with less than 12 members could request the help of a Club Coach to help stabilize and improve membership levels.  Although we felt that we were doing everything that we could to advertise and encourage new visitors and members, we were open to receiving any help we could get.

Chartered in July of 2010, our club was still new when I joined in July of 2011.  I now better understand that we really hadn’t established our club’s identity.  I had only been the Vice President of Membership for a few months, so I was still learning my role and the dynamics of the leadership team.  Very soon after Bill came on board, there were some serious communication breakdowns among the officers.  I was quite surprised by what was transpiring. It became apparent that although people were being civil to one another in person, there were a lot of stifled emotions, resentment, and misunderstandings that had been festering for some time. The dynamics quickly became intense and heated.  Although it was difficult, Bill’s presence as our Club Coach created an outlet for officers to communicate their unexpressed feelings and to finally get things out in the open.  I was continually impressed with Bill’s composure, calm demeanor, and patience.  At times, I was embarrassed by what our group was experiencing, but Bill acknowledged, encouraged, and validated us, both as individuals and as a club.  It was clear that Bill genuinely wanted us to succeed.

Although our members had been working hard since our club’s inception, we needed direction; we needed someone to be our compass in the storm, and Bill compassionately offered us his guidance and advice in ways that were non-threatening and inspiring.  Ultimately, with Bill’s care, the growing pains that our club experienced helped galvanize us; we have become more united, stronger, and more focused.  At the eleventh hour, our club attained the membership needed to earn the Distinguished Club Award for the 2011-2012 Toastmaster year!

Our club is now embracing our new-found identity and success.  We pride ourselves on being an encouraging, friendly, nurturing club, and we are excited about our future.
We are very thankful that Bill was willing to be our club coach, and that he didn’t give up on us when the going got tough.  His service and commitment were invaluable to us.  We needed Bill, and we hadn’t even realized how much.  We extend our sincerest thanks to Bill Brown for serving as our Club Coach and for helping us achieve Distinguished Club status.  Most of all, we thank him for being our greatest cheerleader and esteemed friend.

Most Sincerely,
Katie Brown
 – Reddy Talkers Toastmasters Club

(910) 652-9748

Editor’s Note
In this week’s coaching story, Sandy Kardis tells us about how she worked with a 16-year-old club, County Communicators, in Clayton, Missouri.  The club had been intermittently distinguished over the last few years, and membership had fallen to just 12 (enthusiastic) members. Sandy worked with the club president to devote a meeting to the Moments of Truth module, helping the club to understand their strengths, and their weaknesses.  This gave them a short list of specific areas to improve upon, such as freshening up the web site, organizing meeting roles in advance, and ideas for promoting the club.  The club also prepared a Club Success Plan to ensure their work would result in a Distinguished club. The club took ownership of the plan and worked together to implement it, officers and regular members alike.  They filled in missing club officer positions, organized an open house, and assessed their progress at mid-year. The club has reached nine DCP goals and is just one member short of the needed 20 members. They are celebrating their successes in helping members meet their goals, and laying the foundation for a strong club for many years to come.

Part I. Club History and Assessment

County Communicators Toastmasters was chartered in May of 1995. The club started out with County employees but is now an open club that meets the second and fourth Tuesday of the month in the World Trade Center in Clayton. I was the Area Governor to this club and visited it several times. I was even invited to their Holiday Party which I attended. This club had enthusiastic members and great camaraderie among all members, but their membership was at 12. In my area governor reports, I recommended they needed to implement a membership building program to gain more members. When the opportunity for club coaching came up, I wanted to be one of their club coaches to help them with a membership building program. I felt a sense of responsibility for the future of County Communicator Toastmasters club and wanted to instill in them a sense of responsibility for their club’s future.

I found it easy to approach them about me being one of their club coaches because I had already built a rapport with the club leadership and members as Area Governor. In a speech to club members, I spoke about why a club is rebuilt, what is a club coach, the 3 major components to coaching: assessment, plan, and implementation, who was going to do the work, and club coach program requirements. At the end of my speech, I asked for a call to action. I asked the club President to have the club vote to be a Distinguished club and to work with Ralph Morrissey and me.

I recommended moving ahead with an assessment and suggested Moments of Truth be presented during an entire meeting by the newly elected club President. The club discovered what was working and what was not working.

First Impressions

  • Members do a good job with greeting guests warmly but would like to be more outgoing with introducing guests to officers and members.
  • Members do not invite guests to join on their first visit.
  • VPM needs to have more personal and aggressive follow-up with guests at meeting or afterwards.
  • Club has a guest packet and would like to improve it.

New Member Orientation

  • New members are assigned speaking roles right away. Online duty roster is good for this.
  • Club does not assign a mentor to new members. Mentoring is difficult with thin membership but could be intentionally promoted to make membership more attractive to visitors and help retain existing members.
  • Briefing on how the educational program helps develop speaking and leadership skills has not been pursued much in recent years.
  • Annual survey of member goals and needs would be good for retaining members and keeping them active and should be done semi-annually or at dues time.
  • Do better at keeping new members involved in all aspects of activities.

Fellowship and Variety

  • Club meetings have a theme, and members have fun with themes.
  • Club members attend area events such as area speech contests but don’t attend district events such as spring and fall district conferences.

Program Planning

  • Club hasn’t been strong in publishing agenda. Need to organize member meeting roles earlier.
  • Club would like to find a better way to sign up on the duty roster. Meeting roles need to be filled the week before the next meeting. Try to get members to commit to key roles at end of meeting for the next meeting.
  • Website hasn’t been maintained. Could improve the user friendliness of the website. A lot more could be done with it by a technically-savvy member.

Membership Strength

  • This category was identified as a “screaming issue”.
  • There is not enough new blood coming in.
  • Many left due to new jobs and retirement.
  • Ideas to promote the club included marketing at the Dual Membership Station at TLI, displaying TI brochures, a sign to advertise club meetings, and a new meeting location.
  • Have post-club meetings to discuss membership, members’ progress in manuals, and DCP.

Recognize Achievements

  • The club does acknowledge past club leaders. Outgoing president is presented a plaque.
  • Club does not recognize achievements immediately. A club officer should formally recognize members’ educational achievements.
  • Club does not display a Member Progress Chart.
  • Member and club achievements are not publicized. Consider putting an article in County newsletter and in a community paper.
  • Distinguished Club Program is not used for both planning and recognition.

Part II. Plan

After Ralph’s speech on S.M.A.R.T. goals, the VP PR facilitated a meeting to establish the 10 goals the club members would work to achieve. Those goals included earn 4 CC educational awards, earn 1 advanced communicator award, increase membership with a minimum of 5 new members plus strive to maintain current membership, 4 officers attend training, become a distinguished club, identify, train, and mentor the VPE, create an effective guest to member engagement, and assign a mentor to new members. The members established these goals as their plan for rebuilding the club.

Since membership strength was identified as a screaming issue, members volunteered to make a club announcement on LinkedIn, contact the World Trade Center Intern Program and St. Louis County Government paper, look into the County Intranet, hand out brochures at Wonderful Wednesdays, and establish a committee for a fall Open House.

With my assistance, a Club Success Plan was created based on a model plan from Bradley Harris, DTM, the Region 5 Marketing Director in 2011. The club success plan included the 10 DCP goals and the notes from the club assessment and goal setting. Member names were identified to achieve individual awards and goals. It was distributed to all club members.

Part III. Implementation and Results

It was the club members who were responsible for implementing their plan. It was great to see officers as well as members volunteer to make improvements. Ralph and I were involved as mentors. Ralph mentored the VP Membership sharing many TI membership resources, and I mentored the VP Education working with him in a supportive role. A mentor survey was distributed to all members, and I assisted the VPE with the mentor program. For members who didn’t want a mentor, another form was distributed which focused on how Ralph or I could help coach them about their goals.

The club got off to a good start when a member stepped up and volunteered to be the VPE. The VPE began tracking the progress of speeches and leadership projects. The President had been serving in both officer roles. Thanks to a technically-savvy VPE, the club updated the FreeToastHost website to 2.0 and improved its user-friendliness. Before the end of each meeting, members now commit to key roles, Toastmaster, Table Topics Master, and Speakers, for the next meeting. Those roles are updated. Several days before the next meeting, an email is sent to all members asking them to sign up for open roles.

Significant preparation went into their October Open House, and they took away lessons learned for their second Open House in May. All guests completed a contact info sheet and received a follow-up email or phone call. Because the club participated in the District 8 Public Relations Fall Open House Campaign, it received a Guest Information Card and Badge Set of 25.

At mid-year, the club President, Ralph, and I met to reflect on what County Communicators accomplished and what needed to be accomplished to become a great Toastmasters club. The three of us presented a pep talk to the club which was organized in 3 parts: education and training by me, membership by Ralph, and the DCP goals by the club President. The club President hit a home run by relating the goals attained to a baseball game! The club president created a DCP Progress Report which is displayed each meeting. When a goal is reached, it is identified and shared with the club. When a member achieves an educational or leadership award, the club President presents the member with a club award.

Lessons Learned

I would not have been a successful club coach without the guidance of John Murphy, DTM. He shared many ideas with me. He prepared me for the three major components to coaching: assessment, plan, and implementation.

It was the club vote to be a Distinguished club and to work with Ralph and me that fostered a sense of responsibility for the club’s future. In June, County Communicators Toastmasters Club earned President’s Distinguished status in the Distinguished Club Program. At the June 26 club meeting, the club president thanked me for assisting the club and presented me with a bouquet of flowers from the club.

Club coaching is an exciting and wonderful experience. It taught me that I could teach club members how to face and overcome their challenges by leading not telling them. Attending their meetings regularly and filling in meeting roles demonstrated to the club that I cared about the future of County Communicators Toastmasters club.

By Sandy Kardis, DTM
County Communicator Club Coach

A Letter of Praise
Sandy Kardis and Ralph Morrissey did a great job as coaches of County Communicators #5823. Right from the start they set the right tone and maintained it. Sandy let us know they were not in the club to direct us but to make suggestions. They remained positive, never pointing out what we didn’t do well but emphasizing how we could improve. Sandy in particular was very involved and committed but discreet about it.
At Sandy’s suggestion the entire first meeting in June (we meet twice a month)was devoted to the Better Club series module Moment of Truth. It produced an open discussion about the club. We talked about what we did well and where we needed improvement. The energy of the members was a pleasant surprise. Problems were addressed, ideas thrown around and commitments made. Sandy was in the back of the room taking notes which she wrote up in a clear easy to read form. Each member was given a copy.
At the first meeting in July again at Sandy’s suggestion we discussed and made club and individual commitments to Distinguished Club Program Goals. Again Sandy took notes which were written up and added to the previous month’s notes and given to members. On those pages was an honest accounting of our club and a step by step plan to improve.
By August our guest relations plan was in place and active. By September two more Better Speaker Series modules had been given, one by Sandy. In October we had an open house. And in January, at Sandy’s suggestion we had a midyear review.
It is now the end of the year and I’m proud to tell you how we did. We have 8 new members and will receive a Presidents Distinguished ribbon. It was a good year. That is what our club needed. But more importantly our members became involved in making our club succeed. It was an effort brought about by the tone, suggestions and commitment of our coaches.
By Dan Chrenka
President, County Communicators.

Manage and Motivate – Coaching the Quannapowitt Club

619-965-0179What’s 61 years old, but doesn’t look a day over 15, is always enthusiastic, fun to interact with, and offers those who want to learn a plethora of opportunities to do so? NO, it’s not your mother, or your fixer up house. I’m describing the Quannapowitt Toastmasters club.

The Quannapowitt Club turned 61 in May, which is an incredibly long time to be an active community club. They have continued to thrive because the club is made of many dedicated members and because District 31 values the historical significance of the club enough to enlist help whenever necessary to keep its long standing clubs running strong.

Why am I telling you this? This past year, I served as a club coach for the Quannapowitt club and today I would like to share with you the reasons why I have found coaching a club to be not only beneficial to the club that you are serving, but also beneficial to yourself.

When I was asked to coach Quannapowitt, they had a mere six members. No matter how many guests they had visit, it wasn’t an enticing environment. Imagine walking into a speaking club meeting for your first time expecting an exciting meeting with lively speakers and being just a little bit intimidated by the idea. And then find you find just TWO people sitting there? Or maybe, on a good night, FOUR people who each create a speech off the cuff to fill the time for the next hour without any planning or preparation going into their presentations? Not exactly the situation most guests are imagining. No matter how much they tried, Quannapowitt just couldn’t sign enough new members to make the meetings lively and some of the long standing members were slowly fading away.

Some people wonder why we would bother saving a club like that. Why not just let it close. Saving clubs is necessary for the health of the district. We need clubs to be a district in good standing, just as clubs need members to be in good standing. Without clubs, the TM organization, an International organization, would fade away. We also need to remember that members make up a large part of the Toastmasters experience and we need to
retain clubs in order to retain members. We can’t have one without the other. And finally, we lose a piece of history with each club that we lose. Imagine the expertise and the tips and tricks that we can all garner from clubs that have been around for the past 60 years. An old Toastmasters club is like your favorite pair of broken-in jeans: soft, worn around the edges, familiar and comfortable, and most importantly, you keep wearing
them out because they offer the benefit of making you look and feel great!

You might think that club coaching sounds like too much work. Why would you want to commit yourself to a club that you barely know? Or don’t know at all? Why would you want to walk into a room full of strangers and assert yourself as a subject matter expert on helping clubs to thrive? WHY?! Because you’re a Toastmaster and being a club coach is an opportunity to test your leadership skills outside of your own club as well as give back to the Toastmasters community for which you belong. In addition, if you serve as a club coach, and your club becomes distinguished while you are coaching them, you will earn the recognition of Successful Club Coach and therefore have completed one of the requirements for earning your Advanced Leader Silver.

Now you’re probably starting to think that maybe you CAN coach a club. But…You don’t know how. How can you teach a man to fish, when you don’t know how to use a fishing pole? I’ve learned a few things along the way that I am happy to share with you. Here are five ideas that worked for me and may work for you too.

(1) Join the club. You don’t have to but it shows your commitment to the club, adds to their membership, and encourages you to attend regularly. I already belong to a club. I was serving on various committees for the district. I didn’t need another membership or the extra dues expense each year, but I joined to show my commitment and it meant a lot to the members of the club to have me as a member. And I don’t just feel like a temporary coach anymore, but someone invested in the club’s success.

(2) Earn the trust of the club. You can’t just walk into a club and start directing them to change their ways. The club may not be thriving, but no doubt the officers are putting their heart and soul into the club to have kept it going this long. You are there to guide them in the right direction, not take over. I earned the club’s trust by showing up and offering advice gently. I didn’t barge in and tell them what to do. I also became an active part of the club rather than sitting on the sidelines. I think that being a part of their meetings and demonstrating my experience as a Toastmaster helped to earn the club’s trust.

(3) Be willing to rollup your sleeves and put a little elbow grease into the process. Sometimes a coach will suggest, suggest and suggest some more, but the members don’t act on your suggestions. At times like these, it may be beneficial, once you’ve gained their trust, to take the bull by the horns and get the job done yourself. One example of how I did this with Quannapowitt was on the topic of meeting agendas. Agendas are helpful in ensuring that members run meetings consistently from week to week, they help guests follow along, and they are encouraged by Toastmasters International. Quannapowitt didn’t bother with agendas and as much as I suggested, and visiting Toastmasters suggested, and the Area Governor suggested that they start bringing agendas to meetings – the idea just didn’t catch on. I decided to do it myself. First I created an agenda following the meeting format to the best of my knowledge. Then I asked for officer input into correcting the format so as not to force other club practices on Quannapowitt, and finally after providing them for a couple of months I received an offer from a club officer who volunteered to take over the responsibility of providing agendas going forward. Success!

(4) Enlist the help of others. One thing is that failing clubs have low attendance, which is the primary reason for being assigned a club coach. It is very hard to attract new members to a club when they arrive to find three people trying to fill an entire agenda themselves, with none of them prepared with a formal speech. To help make the club more appealing to guests, I enlisted the help of my area. I reached out to the other clubs that I knew in our area and asked if they would be willing to attend Quannapowitt club meetings as guests to beef up attendance. This worked great. We had several club officers from other clubs attend to lend a helping hand and they came with prepared speeches. We also got members from other clubs who wanted to practice speeches for contests and work to attend and contribute to the agenda. This helped recruit new members to the club, as well as show the existing members how prepared speeches and full meeting agendas help everyone involved. The TM guests were motivational.

(5) Keep your eyes open for opportunity. We also, sheerly because of “luck”, found ourselves in a position to need to find a new meeting location. The club was very insistent on certain criteria such as meeting on Monday nights, which they had always done. The Quannapowitt club is in Quincy, MA. There is another club in Quincy that also meets on Monday nights and they have 30 members. Not good competition. By convincing Quannapowitt to move their meetings to a Tuesday night, we were able to find a new location, free of charge, in a more accessible part of town. I think this helped a lot. When in doubt, look at the things that might turn people off to your club and look at how you can differentiate yourselves in a more positive manner. They now provide TM meetings on Tuesdays, and none of the other clubs in the area meet on that night. Quannapowitt Toastmasters club has made me proud and made me a “Successful Club Coach”. They are officially a Distinguished Toastmasters Club this year, for the first time in many years.

I became a club coach not because I needed to fill a square towards earning my DTM. I became a club coach because someone asked me to. I said yes because I wanted to help a 60 year club rebuild. I saw the value in keeping this club going, I saw the dedication of its officers, and I wanted to help. I had already served as a successful club mentor and sponsor, so I did not coach the club for the credit. I coached them because I wanted to give back to my district and in return I received more leadership experience, more speaking experience and a great new group of Toastmaster friends.

So tonight, I want to take the first step in encouraging each of you to earn one more requirement towards your DTM, to challenge yourself in a new leadership role, and to give back to District 31. Tonight I ask YOU to consider serving as a Club Coach for the 2011–2012 Toastmaster Year. You won’t regret it!


Building the Relationship

When I was Lieutenant Governor of Education, I heard of a nearby Toastmasters club that was in need of help. The Moundbuilders Club was chartered as an open club in June of 1947. Over the years the club experienced many rough peak and valleys as every club does. I began visiting the club and continued to visit the club for three months to observe the club and make the members comfortable.

The club’s atmosphere when I began was as follows: few people attended a meeting, those who did attend arrived late causing the club to begin at 6:45 rather than 6:30 P.M. Other members simply walked in whenever they could, there was no agenda, the members didn’t know the meeting roles in advance, and there was little organization. The club survived on the efforts of a handful of dedicated people. They did their best, but they didn’t know what a good meeting looked like. They didn’t see the big picture, nor understand the overall potential and value of a properly organized and run meeting.

After a while, I asked them if they’d like a club coach. They replied, “What’s that?” The club didn’t know what a coach or that even a better Toastmaster way even existed because they were used to their current situation. It was their status quo – they felt like their situation was normal.

In preparation for the coaching appointment, I read How to Rebuild a Toastmasters Club from cover to cover. I also refreshed my memory of the Distinguished Club Program by reading that module from the Successful Club Series.

My Approach

My approach to club coaching was to do the right thing, to be helpful, and to treat others as you want to be treated. I had already chartered several clubs, and subsequently earned my Distinguished Toastmaster Award. This coaching experience was not to be for credit, it was simply a matter of seeing a struggling club and having the knowledge to help them. To make my philosophical approach a reality, I focused on three actions. I would …

1) Create opportunities for discussion.
2) Ask questions to facilitate improvements.
3) Teach through demonstration, then transfer responsibility to the members.

Together, We Improve the Club

The first thing I did was join the club. This cemented by relationship with the club and gave an immediate demonstration of my commitment. Next, I encouraged the officers to schedule an officer meeting. This would create an opportunity for discussion and increase the number of helpers from just the coach, to the coach and the officers. Once the first meeting occurred, I attended. To facilitate the proper function of the officers meetings, I provided a template agenda. The first officer meeting was very important. I was given a few minutes to facilitate a discussion that would later lead to improvements. I asked them why did they come to Toastmasters? I explained why I came and in my answer, I gave an understanding of the whole picture. In other words, I gave them the concept of Toastmasters. I can remember the faces of the officers and I can still see the ideas appearing in their heads, just like little light bulbs.

In this officer meeting and in subsequent ones, I led the officers in question and answer sessions. I asked them what do we need to do to grow? Where can we look for members? When they had an idea, I asked them is that something you want to do? This interactive process created some well- discussed and developed ideas. It also generated a lot of enthusiasm. But before we built upon the enthusiasm, I asked them first to create a quality product. We needed a quality product (meeting) before the prospective customers (guests) arrived.

To show the club a quality Toastmaster meeting, we planned a great meeting for the members. Their agenda required 11 people to complete their roster. We planned to fill the agenda with members first, then invited guests from other Toastmaster clubs. This staffing of meeting roles to create a full agenda really energized them. For once, they didn’t have to do two roles. It was relatively easy to recruit Toastmasters from other clubs a simple email brought several experienced Toastmasters who helped us. At our second meeting, we repeated the process and this time, invited non-Toastmaster guests. In short, we prepared our club for guests, then we invited them.

Throughout the early stages of the coaching process, I helped the club prepare for the proper treatment of guests with a few pieces of advice and through demonstrations. I told them about a guest book, but with limited funds $USD 40 we used a sign-up sheet instead. I shared with them all the free stuff available from Toastmasters International. I offered my advice about how to prepare a guest packet. It was a simple paper folder with a sticker on the front page saying, “Welcome Guest!” On the left side of the folder, was a brochure stating the benefits of Toastmasters. On the right side of the folder, was a letter from the President or VPM thanking the guest for attending, a history of the club and some contact information. Behind it, a brochure such as Confidence: The Voice of Leadership or Find Your Voice. The last item was a membership application. The overall concept was simple: welcome, consider joining us. I’ve seen some guest packets that overload the guest and some clubs offer nothing at all. My advice was to create something appropriate.

Besides the guest packet, I taught the club to welcome guests. Every member, not just the VPM or President, needs to greet guests. I taught the members how to sign up a guest as a member. In the beginning, everyone brought guests to me. I explained to the guest how Toastmasters can help people meet their goals. Then we had a transition from me as the go-to person to club members. I led the effort, but the club continued it.

Like everything I did, I handled things to the club gradually. Another example is a contest held at the  club level in the fall of that year. My wife, also a member of the club, served as the Contest Chair. While I served as the contest TMOD. I ordered the materials and we demonstrated a great contest. In the spring, the members of the club organized and conducted the contest. The members gained the knowledge by watching, then doing.

917-535-0845The club added 22 members that year. Because of the huge influx of members, we needed a program to educate the newer Toastmasters. To orient the members, I created a orientation program entitled Toastmasters 101 and 102. The program was comprised of modules from the Better Speaker Series such as how to write an introduction, opening, concluding your speech, taking the terror out of the talk. To continue the strategy of having the members learn by doing, I asked members of the club to study and present the modules. They were awarded certificates or documents to record the event. The members had to learn about the material because they had to present the material. These events were so popular it was standing room only.

To review my approach, I shared in the officer meetings and I encouraged discussions among the officers. I showed the members how they could participate and gave them a foundation for how a club is supposed to be run. The club became stronger. Most importantly, they learned how to be a healthy, well-run club.

Lessons Learned

The coach must be a teacher and a leader. Underlying this, the coach must have an altruistic purpose and attitude. Everything is easier when the coach has a relationship with the club. I build my relationship with the members through discussions and by demonstrating the proper actions of a Toastmaster. Besides a relationship, there needs to be a good fit. To fit with the club, I became a member. Using my background and experience with several clubs and years of service as a district leader, I was able to show them the big picture. This increased participation and led to our success.

By: W.D. Smith, Jr. Coach of the Moundbuilders #511 District 40

(641) 525-2132

Editor’s Note
The Toastmaster’s program is like a formula that when properly followed, equals happy members and healthy clubs. Members of healthy Toastmaster clubs learn the Toastmaster’s formula without trying. These clubs start and end end on time, have fun during Table Topics, practice public speaking fundamentals during the prepared speaking section of the meeting and learn by giving and receiving positive, construction evaluations. When a club loses the elements of the Toastmaster formula, it begins to diminish. The Moline Toastmasters lost several members because of job transfers. Although they were a well-established club, the loss of these key members disrupted their Toastmaster formula and caused a decline in the club. John Hayden coached the club with a simple philosophy that would return the club to the Toastmaster formula. The club officers wholeheartedly agreed with the approach and worked very hard to realign their club with the Toastmaster formula. It worked and continues to work to this day. Would you like to align your club with the Toastmaster formula? Try using this General Evaluators Report (PDF). This form may be used by the General Evaluator to realign the club at every meeting.

Beginning Moves

The Moline Toastmasters was chartered 46 years ago in March of 1966. They are a community club that meets twice a month, from 6:30 to 8:00 P.M. at the Butterworth Center in Moline, Illinois. The Moline Toastmasters declined when the jobs of several key members were transferred. A key member of the club and a former district leader, recruited John to serve as the club coach. This appointment, when successfully completed, would give John partial credit toward the Advanced Leader Silver Award and propel him one step closer toward his Distinguished Toastmaster Award.

When John walked through the door he saw eight members who had lots of energy and were dedicated to Toastmasters. There was a friendly atmosphere and the members gave manual speeches. The club began each meeting with a business meeting that seemed to take too long and detracted from the energy of the meeting. Guests, especially, would not understand the purpose of such a lengthy business meeting because they came for the main event – the Toastmaster’s meeting. Many of the members were professionals by day, and wanted to attend a fun Toastmasters meeting at night, not a repeat of their day’s work. The club had also strayed from the Toastmasters formula as defined by the Distinguished Club Program.

The Philososophy of the Club Coach

The philosophy of the club coach was simple. He would observe and look for opportunities to improve the club while the club was in action. If the club was going to change, then there should be a reason for it. The coach would explain the potential outcome including benefits and remind them that the work was up to them. Above all, this would be a training experience for the club. Any work that needed to be done, would be up to the club because they needed to learn how to support and run a healthy club. The agreement was fair. The coach would never ask the club to do something that he couldn’t or wouldn’t do. In return, they would have my support during the rebuilding process.

Realignments with the Toastmasters Formula

The biggest opportunity to improve the club was to realign the club with the Toastmaster formula. The Toastmaster formula is a proven program of self-development that relies on fun meetings with members who are meeting their goals.

First, the club addressed the lengthy business meeting. The members decided to move the business meeting from the beginning of each meeting to once a month, immediately before the regular meeting. This effectively separated the business meeting from the regular meeting. Club officers and any interested member could attend these board meetings where the business of the club was conducted while 2-3 minutes of announcements were made at the conclusion of each regular meeting. The club further streamlined the meeting by rearranging the order of the meeting parts. The speech evaluators more time to prepare by placing the prepared speeches first, then table topics and evaluations. These two modifications allowed the regular meetings to focus on the fun and variety inherent in the Toastmaster program.
Second, the club refocused the members on the Toastmasters program. This was done to ensure that the members were getting what they wanted from the Toastmasters program.

The Vice President of Education asked each member what their Toastmaster goals were and began scheduling people to obtain those goals. For example, if a member wanted to earn the Competent Communicator Award, then the VPE would provide the speaking opportunities for the member to obtain that goal. On a higher level, once the members began meeting their goals, the club began earning points in the Distinguished Club Program. Linda, the club president, led by example, getting her CC award. She also kept the club updated by taking a few moments to review who is where and what is being done in the DCP. Overall, this newfound focus on the Toastmaster program united the club. The meetings are smoother and each member is feeling good as their make rapid progress.

The revival of the Toastmasters formula created a fun learning environment where the members learned how to care for and support the growth of their club. The members promoted their club through word of mouth. People brought in people. The long history of this club was also a positive factor. This club had a well-known presence in the community. The club coach took advantage of every opportunity to provide resources and help. This was done through conversations, by doing and with suggestions. The club president during the coaching process was receptive to ideas and eager to make the necessary changes so that the club could improve. The club president had a strong vision of a club following the Toastmasters proven formula. With her leadership and the work of every member, the club became successful and continues to be successful.

Lessons Learned

It is important to realize that each club has its own personality. The eight original members of the Moline Toastmasters formed a solid core that kept the spirit and personality of the club alive. John’s intention and challenge, was to tap into their energy and help them realize their full potential. To do this, the he engaged them in discussions. When they set a goal, he stepped back as they did the work to achieve that goal. A coach does not do the work rather the coach supports the efforts of the members while they do the work. The club must see that they can do it for themselves. Throughout this process, the coach realized that it is important for both sides to be on the same side, but each must remain coachable.
By John Hayden, DTM

A Letter of Praise
In March 2011, Moline Toastmasters Club #2790 celebrated the club’s 45th Anniversary. Prior to March 2011, I wasn’t sure our club would survive another year. Our club had very few members and we were at a crossroad. Our club was struggling with having enough members to run effective meetings; most of our officers were new to the Toastmasters organization, and all of our officers were not aligned.
John Hayden became our club coach in 2010-2011. He was committed from the moment he accepted the challenge. John saw the possibilities of the club and fostered a supportive atmosphere to allow us to reach our goals. He was not afraid to speak up when it was needed. We were trying to run our club the proper way, but the new officers didn’t know what that looked like. John came to our executive officers meeting and explained how club meetings should be conducted. John’s wealth of experience strengthened our club meetings, which naturally increased our membership and retained existing members.
With John’s guidance, we earned the President’s Distinguished award for 2010-2011. This was a huge accomplishment since our long-standing members couldn’t remember the last time the club achieved any Distinguished award. John was supportive until the last day of the club year to make sure we achieved all our goals. He completely elicits the International Theme for the 2010-2011 year, Achieving Greatness Together, and we couldn’t have done it without John!
By Linda Ward

(323) 386-8588


There are a few simple steps that can help set a club coach firmly on the path to success. All too often we struggle to find people willing to serve as club coaches in support of low member or struggling clubs because the task appears overwhelming and time-consuming for the coach, especially when the club members and officers lack the energy and direction and rely on the coach to give them a “quick fix”. This can also result in the coach being tempted to take over, rather than empowering the club members and officers to make the improvements themselves. Without engaging the club and helping them to overcome the specific challenges they face, I believe it is far more difficult to create lasting positive change for the club.

This article contains “first steps” that will set up a successful club coaching intervention, by providing direction to the coach and by engaging and motivating the members and officers of the club.

Club Buy-In: This is important because the club members and officers need to buy-in to the support intervention to increase the chance of lasting positive change.

Club Assessment: An assessment of the current situation in the club helps identify challenges, key areas of improvement and provides specific targets towards which the coach and club can work.

Engagement Earns Buy-In

It is virtually impossible for a club coach to bring about positive change in a club unless the club members and officers buy in to the idea of working with a coach and of growing the club. The club’s willingness to work with a coach should be established by the area or division governor, the Lt Governor Marketing or the relevant district chairman. This discussion should introduce the role of the coach and the club during the rebuilding process. It is important that realistic standards and expectations be set from the beginning. If the club is engaged at an early stage and commits to the support intervention they will be more open-minded to suggestions from the coach.

The coach builds on the club’s initial buy-in in several ways:
demonstrating how the members and officers will benefit from improving the operations of the club, how the suggested changes will lighten the burden of running the club and meetings, and how maintaining a positive energy at the meetings creates an ambiance that will draw new members. Try to draw direct links between the changes you are suggesting and how these changes will benefit the members and officers. Stating the benefits is a great way to begin your dialogue with the coached club. Another way to build trust is to show that your willing to attend meetings (both regular and officer meetings), serve in the meeting roles and participate in the social aspects (if any) in the club. For example, some clubs have a meal after their meeting, why not join the club for their meal? The coach may also email members of the club to praise them for a job well done. Be specific and prompt in your praise. While building rapport in the early stages, refrain from offering unsolicited advice. It takes time to understand the character of a club and the personality of its members. If a member asks you a question about the club, feel free to answer. Once you have proven your commitment, build trust and established rapport, it’s time for the assessment. This is an opportunity to teach the club’s officers how to identify and resolve their own challenges. The more you engage the club officers in this process the more you ensure lasting change.


The purpose of doing an assessment of the current status of the club is to identify the specific challenges facing the club, and the actions that may be required to resolve these challenges. An assessment will help to break the perception that the task is overwhelming and focus the coach’s attention onto smaller, achievable targets to be resolved.

There are many assessment tools that can be used to provide insight into how a club is operating: Moments of Truth, the module from the Successful Club Series, is a very effective assessment tool, and several districts have developed their own tools that they use. I developed a tool that focuses on several areas that I find help me identify strengths and weaknesses in a club, but the factors used below are by no means the only way to assess a club and I encourage coaches to find a tool that works for them.

Here are the aspects that I encourage coaches to assess:

1) Club Officer Effectiveness: How effective are the club officers in their tasks? What are they doing well? What can they improve? What resources and/or training can make the club officers more effective?
There is a potential problem if:
Club Officers not fulfilling roles effectively
Club Officers not attending meetings
Club Executive meetings seldom held
Club Officers not attending COT
Room not set up professionally
Club not achieving on DCP
Club does not communicate with district leaders
Club does not act on area governor input

2) Meeting Quality: Is every meeting a quality meeting, with value for each attendee? What is the club doing well at their meetings? Are there communication and leadership assignments, positive and useful evaluations? Are members holding multiple roles to fill the agenda? Does the meeting have a positive and fun atmosphere? What steps can be put in place to improve meeting quality?
There is a potential problem if:
Members not participating
Meeting quality not good
No or few assignments on agenda
Whitewash evaluations.
Members doubling up on meeting roles
Only advanced assignments being presented (except for advanced club)
CL assignments not being completed/evaluated
Training/educational slots seldom presented
General Evaluations seldom presented
Club not registering educational goals

3) Interpersonal Aspects: Is there conflict that is impacting negatively on the club? Are the members acting as a clique that excludes potential members and visitors?
There is a potential problem if:
Guest to member conversion not happening
Members not attending
Members not participating
Members leave after 6 months
Club does not have active membership building programme
Club does not monitor attendance
Club does not follow up on absenteeism

4) Public Relations: What public relations is the club doing? How effective is the public relations officer (PRO) in drawing guests to meetings? Are there ways that the club can improve there PRO and raise their profile in the target market(s)?
There is a potential problem if:
Few guests at meeting
Guests do not return
Club does not have updated website/regular newsletter
Club does not have active PRO plan
Club does not have a guest pack
Club does not collect contact details from guests

5) Administration: is the club meeting the reporting requirements set by Toastmasters International? If not, do officers need to be trained in how to submit required information, or do they need to be shown the benefits of reporting on time?
There is a potential problem if:
Club Officer List not submitted on time
Semi-annual dues not submitted on time
New member applications not submitted in a timely manner
Educational applications not submitted in a timely manner
Venue unsuitable or difficult to find f. No AGM held with CO reports and finances presented

From Assessment to Planning

Input from the assessment can then be used to identify strengths and areas for improvement, and these can be developed into a plan for the club. The coach can facilitate the planning process in several ways. Challenges can be prioritized, and a plan of action for each agreed between the club officers and the coach, with the coach facilitating the development of ideas and processes for the club to implement. It may be valuable to start with a few small changes that can yield results quickly, as this will increase commitment to the coaching and give the club something to celebrate before moving onto more complex challenges. The coach may direct the club toward additional resources especially when training or additional knowledge is required. The coach may provide the resources themselves or request assistance from the area, division or district. Similarly where materials or other resources are required, the coach can facilitate their acquisition or advise the club where such materials and/or resources can be found.

About the Author

Lois Strachan is a Distinguished Toastmaster and a past District 74 Governor. She has been a member of Toastmasters for 12 years and is a member of four clubs in Cape Town, Southern Africa. For the past three years Lois has served as Club Support Coordinator for District 74, serving as a resource and mentor for district officers, clubs and coaches in the district. She achieved her first DTM in 2005 and a second in 2010. Lois is an active participant in the discussions on the D74 Clubs and Coaches Facebook Site and may be contacted there.

Other club assessment tools may be found at…

Toastmasters International Club Coach Assessment Guide…

District One Club Assessment Tool…

District 39 Club Fitness Assessment Tool…

Moments of Truth…

Four Short Stories from New Zealand

Editor’s Note
New Zealanders have a passion for Toastmasters. They chartered their first club in 1962. The Dunedin Toastmasters Club #2890 still meets every Thursday and consistently wins the President’s Distinguished Club Award. The birthplace Toastmasters (U.S.A.) has one Toastmasters club for every 41,000 people, while the New Zealanders enjoy one club for every 18,000 people. The New Zealander’s passion for Toastmasters extends to their club coaching as well. In 2010-2011, 11 club coaches successfully coached seven clubs. This Coach Weekly contains four stories from the North Island. Brian Oxley gave a lot of encouragement to the Tauranga Club. Marian Phillips and Sarah Talboys share the steps used to successfully coach the Newlands Toastmasters. Marie Cullen, successful coach of the Peninsula Presenters Club, offers some advice for all club coaches. While Andrew Pass modified a Speechcraft to gain more members and thereby improve the Orakei Toastmasters. This edition also features a MAXPLAN case study of a struggling club beset by changes in its market. This plan gives district leaders a great way to support and improve below-charter-strength clubs.

The Tauranga Club #3089

I had previously visited the Tauranga Club to help as a judge and as area governor. When they were having difficulties, I was asked to help them. I chose to become involved and to give them my energy to overcome their difficulties because I did want a club of this stature to fold.

I went into the club with an open mind. I did not use ‘Moments of Truth’ but just observed what was happening before I made any adjustments. There was one long term active member and three other senior members when I was asked to be club coach. One of the appeals of a club coach is that there are times when people can not see the wood for the trees. When fresh eyes take a look, they see things that others do not. I went into the club with an open mind and observed what was happening before we made any adjustments. I spoke with the members and gained not only their opinions but also their support for change. I discovered that the club had much potential. The club culture generally was great and the venue in general was very suitable. The club had attained levels in the DCP for four years out of the last eight years and they had five membership building awards over the same period. Parts of the club culture, however, needed serious attention. The biggest difficulty was getting people to walk through the door. In addition, members were not gaining what they had joined to achieve, partly through not being given the oportunity to do all the tasks available. This is where I did stand on some toes and cause some issues with a member, who I felt was the main problem (subsequently found others were in agreement with me but were not prepared to speakout). There was some burnout in some of the senior members which could be corrected with some much-needed support. It also had a high turn-over of members – which I wanted to change.

My observations identified many holes in the programme that needed attention. I was able to use my influence and we all actioned changes. I instigated a few changes and encouraged change in others by speaking with individual members. One big change was increasing the activity of the educational programme. On average, there is now an educational on three out of six week roster cycle. This allows for either five speeches or three speeches with an educational. Sometimes, the small adjustments I made gave the results they were all looking for. Other changes included encouraging guests and members to realize their potential. When a new person walked through the door, I ensured they were always greeted warmly. I gave massive amounts of encouragement, particularly to the new members coming into the club. I gave encouragement to existing members to step-up and step-out of their respective comfort zones – which was needed to get them to achieve all the tasks required to achieve a successful meeting. I asked and discovered what individuals wanted to achieve and then encouraged and showed them the way they could reach their achievements. With the newfound focus on the individual member, we added several new members who are very confident business people, who are also forward thinkers and extremely keen to help the Tauranga Club grow.

At the time of being asked to help, I kept an open mind and did not to have a plan. We were successful on this occasion, but that may not always be the case. Even though these are not easy times, there is still a great need for Toastmasters and what they do. I see that largest oportunity that has ever been available to Toastmasters, is now at our feet. People want our type of training and encouragement. Because we have the right product, at the right time, there are members waiting to join your coached club.

If I could start over, I would recruit members from another club. I recommend that you gather a team around you and do not attempt to do it on your own. Get all the clubs, if possible or at least the struggling clubs, to join forces and help each other. It does not matter what club a person joins, so long as they join. Speechcraft is an effective membership building tools so long as the attendees are encouraged all the way through to programme and given support to join a club afterwards. Some of my thoughts were a bit hard for some people to accept. I feel it is mainly due to them having a ‘scarcity’ mentality and wanting to protect ‘their patch’ instead of wanting to help people first. Zig Ziglar says, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

By: Brian Oxley Club Coach of the Tauranga Club


The Newlands Toastmasters #8610

The first step we took on our journey in coaching a club to become distinguished was attending a club coach clinic. The next step was reading Toastmasters’ guides about rebuilding clubs. The clinic and guides gave us ideas about ways that we could assist a club to improve.

Familiarising ourselves with the culture of the club we were coaching was the third step. We did this early on, by working through the Moments of Truth. We also worked with club members to develop an action plan. The Moments of Truth presentation allowed members to identify the club’s strengths, areas for improvement and the actions required to build the club.

Step four involved encouraging club officers to undertake the planned actions. This encouragement comprised of hosting committee meetings, asking officers about their progress on tasks, and providing assistance as needed. We were very clear that if the club was to succeed over the long term, then members needed to take responsibility to address issues, we could not do it for them. Our strategy was therefore to make the committee take ownership and implement changes.

To supplement the actions of the club members, we took a few actions ourselves. The final step in our journey was to contribute to improving the quality of club meetings by
becoming members and giving informal educational speeches on meeting roles. We also role modelled by taking on functions like chairing meetings and giving evaluations. The increased sense of organisation and enthusiasm in club meetings had inspired members to stay and visitors to join us.

Ultimately we succeeded in coaching our club to become distinguished because we recognised at the outset that the existing members were committed to retaining the club. They were also very good at bringing visitors to meetings and making them feel welcome. We built on these strengths and nudged them to do other things well!

By: Marian Phillips and Sarah Talboys, Club Coaches of the Newlands Toastmasters


The Peninsula Presenters Club #963

When I first started out as a club coach, it seemed quite daunting as members were feeling low and in “burn out” mode. They were fulfilling a few roles at each meeting and not getting the full benefit from the Communication and Leadership projects.
The club coach can help out by first listening to members to gain an understanding on why the membership has decreased as well as getting to know the club members. Offering to fulfill roles and encouraging members to stay positive and enjoy themselves at each meeting, no matter how many members attend, is one of the ways a club coach can be effective. Having “fun” is also really important and often small adjustments like changing the orientation of the room to introducing a new role to members i.e. listening post, can provide that much needed lift!

Offering to work through with the “Moments of Truth” with the club executive committee is one of the most valuable and beneficial first steps in obtaining a full picture on where the club is and how the members are feeling. It brings to light the areas that need improvement and especially what the club is doing really well.

Regular communication with the club members and getting to know what skills they can offer the club to help rebuild and retain members is essential to bringing the “spring” back into a club. You will be amazed at the mix of talents and skills members can offer, such as website development, creativity with posters and signs etc. Simple ideas like a board or banner displayed outside the entrance of the club at each meeting can help raise awareness in the community that Toastmasters meets here.

Always keep focused on the positive and help the members to work on the areas that need improvement. KEEP GOING, even when times are tough it will get better. Always be open to new ideas and suggestions because not everything the club decides on to increased the membership will work and members may feel deflated at this point. KEEP GOING and striving to build a club based on foundations cast in stone. This is achieved one step at a time.

The club coach is a counselor, a source of knowledge and a fountain of ideas and provides an opportunity to Toastmaster members to help build people and give them back confidence in their ability to grow the club back to full strength. There may be times when the club is discouraged, but you must keep your enthusiasm. Remember what Winston Churchill once said: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”

By Maree Cullen, Club Coach of the Peninsula Presenters Club


Orakei Toastmasters #7721

After starting the year slowly with only nine members, Orakei Toastmasters finished it at high speed with 15 members and President’s Distinguished status.

How? Well Orakei began with the tried and trusted method of guest educationals and speeches. Some of them were pretty good, and even as an experienced member I learned some things. But it was a revolving door, no continuity. So six months into the year and standing still (gained four, lost four), that plan was dropped.

Orakei has a tradition of running Speechcraft courses twice a year in association with a local college. The courses were run at the college, and rather disappointingly the first course of the year yielded no new members at all. On a suggestion from another club we decided to run the second course at the club venue, on both normal meeting nights and the “in between” weeks (we’re a twice-a-month club).

At the first session there were 13 Speechcrafters, more than doubling the meeting attendance and, most importantly, sending the energy in the room skyrocketing. The Speechcrafters were marvellous, the club members lifted their own games to match (club standards were always high), and the rest is now history: five Speech- crafters joined the club and in the following few weeks three other guests joined after their first visits.

Orakei Toastmasters meetings had become attractive. Success bred success, and now the club’s challenges are to provide value to both new and existing members, and to continue to attract more to join us.

By Andrew Pass, DTM
, Club Coach of Orakei Toastmasters

A Letter of Praise
The four stories found in this newsletter are about a club coach, going into a club with an open mind, and finding out what is so. Every club has strengths and weaknesses and too often when a club “is in trouble” the focus is on the weakness not on the strengths. These coaches found out where the club was at and where the club wanted to be. They then worked with the members to develop and implement a plan to get there.
Of the three options to satisfy the ALS requirement, club coaching potentially takes the longest, yet in very many ways, can be the most satisfying. You work with a club that is possibly headed towards extinction and see it regain vigour and enthusiasm Often a club sponsor creates a club in the image of their home club, yet as a club coach you work with the club leadership to develop the image or culture that is appropriate to their community and their market.
Some years ago at a club coach clinic I heard someone say “the role of a coach is to make themselves redundant”. This is a accurate description and the coaches mentioned in this newsletter worked with the members of the clubs to develop leadership, so that the clubs would continue strongly with their own leadership in place, once the club coach assignment was over.
One of the issues that District 72 faces is that the number of clubs which qualify for coaches, usually exceeds the number of coaches available. This can be exasperated by a struggling club being some hours drive from other clubs. We developed a programme that we call the MAXPLAN (Maximum Impact), available at… / -plan-from-district-72/ It is for clubs where it is not practical to assign a club coach either due to availability or isolation.
The first step is a group session facilitated by an experienced Toastmaster. This can either have several clubs coming to a central location, or the facilitator going to the club. The session is four hours long. The first two are partly about identifying what is so, the clubs strengths and issues as well as identifying what resources are available. Part is also identifying what parts of the clubs market or environment have changed, without the club noticing or adapting to the change.
By resources I mean both what is in the club – people and material, as well as what is available from the district and Toastmasters International. There is a wealth of ideas and resources at district and TI, but these are worthless if the club members don’t know they exist.
The second half is the members of the club developing a plan of action (using a template) and evaluating the plan for do-ability and best use of resources (time. money, people). The plan is written down and the members sign it.
Where the virtual coaching comes in, that a copy of the plan is given to a virtual coach. (The role does meet the ALS requirement). It is not expected that this coach will visit the club, instead they have regular scheduled either phone or Skype calls with the club leaders to discus how the plan is going, what issues have come up, what victories have been achieved and whether the plan needs tweaking. Just like an official club coach is working through the current members to rebuild the club, so is the virtual club coach, albeit by technology.
Murray Coutts, DTM

2010/11 Lt Governor Marketing

2011/12 Lt Governor Education & Training District 72


Editor’s Note
The tree is a universal symbol of strength and growth. From a tiny seed, the tree will grow, adapt to changing conditions, and benefit those who use it wisely. A series of events, beyond anyone’s control, cut down the tree that was the Achievers of District 74 (Southern Africa). Michael Fawcett, club coach, arrived to find a club in crisis. The club had not met in two months and only two discouraged remained. If the club were to recover, Mike would have to replant the seed and devise a strategy to nurture the club. He formed a team comprised of the remaining members and Toastmasters from neighboring clubs. Together, they advertised the club and conducted high quality meetings. This two-part approach worked, but the club’s growth was slow. Then, a potentially devastating storm arose when the club was asked to leave their meeting location. The club quickly adapted by finding a new meeting location, a location much more suitable for the growth of the club. The club won the Select Distinguished Club Award and is still growing today. This story is a treat for club coaches growing a club from nothing into something worthwhile. This edition also contains rules for treating guests, an agenda for an executive committee meeting and an example of a business meeting.

Yes, We Did

Yes we did it, we did it! Bragging, singing ones praise? I think not, the club achieved the Select Distinguished Club Award, no mean feat for a club that was almost down and out on its feet. My personal goal in Toastmasters was to become a Distinguished Toastmaster, and when a coaching opportunity arose I jumped in with both feet, little realizing what was in store for me. The club by name was Achievers, a corporate club of Achievers Awards Group. It chartered in 2005 with 23 members, through no fault of the club, membership dropped to seven in one foul swoop.

What did we, as a club have in our favour?

  1. Positive aspects for the club.
A beautiful venue – wooden panelled boardroom fitted out with all modern equipment to hold a meeting.
  3. Free tea/coffee and biscuits.
  4. Secure free car parking.

Negative aspects for the club.

  1. Location – poor public transport in the middle of an industrial area
  2. As I thought at the time, the starting time of the club meetings, just at close of business was too early (this negative thinking on my part was proved to be wrong).

Immediate and Long-Term Plan for the Club

My first job as I saw it was to rebuild the interest, confidence and enthusiasm of the remaining members. I would do this by building an external support team of experienced Toastmasters. Simply put, I would invite Toastmasters from other clubs in the area to attend and help. A fully-staffed Toastmaster meeting is fun and exciting and would raise the enthusiasm of the remaining members. These Toastmasters, if willing and able, could also help with the action plan. A two-part action plan was drawn up. The first item, new members were needed badly! To get those members, an advertising campaign was put in place within the firm and surrounding industrial area. Secondly, we needed to start meeting again so a date was set for our first re-awakening club meeting – a grand reopening, if you will.

The Grand Reopening

The resumption of regular meetings was a big step forward. The club did not meet for the past two months. Even before this grand reopening could take place, enthusiasm was draining fast, as one by one of the remaining five members resigned. For some time, no, a long time, my mind was saying what have I taken on?

The first new agenda of the new Achievers Toastmasters Club was sent out to all club members, one week later the club meeting was held – two members, my wife, a Toast- master and myself, not one guest or visitor honoured us with their presence. Although only two members made any effort to attend, of the two one was very eager to save the club, the other in her words “I am hitting my head against a brick wall”. She proved to be a valuable asset to the club and gave her full support until she attained her Competent Communicator Award (CC10).

We had a very good and light-hearted meeting. Because there were so few in attendance, we had to improvise. Excluding myself and my wife there were only two club members to fill a two hour agenda, 20 minutes for speech projects, six minutes in all for evaluations, four minutes in all for Table Topics excluding the time given in presenting Training Projects, Club Protocol and procedures etc., 45 minutes, one hour at a stretch and the meeting would have been over. Not wishing to change the length of the club meeting from two hours to one hour, bearing in mind the future club growth, I had each member and myself prepare to present three or four Table Topic sessions, where each of us took it in turn to be the Table Topic Chair, after one complete round, the procedure was repeated until a fair amount of time was used up. Our Table Topic speeches ultimately led the way in developing the club’s personality and proving that the club was resilient, flexible and would be successful.

Further Meetings, Further Progress

We continued the two-part plan of staging quality (grand meetings, if you will) and advertising the club. As to the advertising campaign, the member whose attitude of knocking ones head against the wall took it on herself to put adverts in all the local community papers, send letters to all the firms in the business area, plus actual visits to these firms to explain what Toastmasters was all about. Also we were competing against three other Toastmasters clubs in the area. The club still uses local papers, word of mouth and the Toastmasters Magazine with club information inside, which are left in doctor and dentist offices, hair salons, etc.

A discussion was held into the matter of transforming guests into members, especially, how to treat them when they walked through our doors. For myself, if there is one single most important commodity that is the potential new member. We drew up a set of rules to welcome guests and transform them into members (see below). We consulted How to Rebuild a Toastmasters Club manual (page 10). We noted all that was suggested and more. The program of promoting the club was to carry on in earnest, to make the club more attractive I invited all the other clubs in the area to help and give support by dangling a carrot in front of their noses (so to speak). I offered leadership and communication slots on the agenda. The “Cry” come and work through your manuals quicker and bring a guest worked. The response to this was fantastic.

Member’s Rules for Guests

  1. The first rule of the club would be that no guest would be left alone for one minute from the moment a guest came into the venue until the guest left at the end of the meeting. Guests would receive a thank you email for visiting the club and that the next meeting’s agenda would be sent to them.
  2. The second rule is not to swamp the guest straight off with what Toastmasters is all about, but to first enquire where they learnt about the club, then introduce yourself, your own interests, hobbies, work, where you live etc., then get buddy relationship, and then explain the benefits of being a Toastmaster, the community roles Toastmasters engage in, i.e. Youth Leadership and Speech Craft Programs.
  3. The third rule, make sure each guest is given an Agenda, and explain the agenda to the guest, and have answers to any questions the guest should ask, here I refer to one question that in my experience not many members can answer either than, oh, you must speak to the Treasurer or VP-M, that is how much it costs to join, not only total cost, but how much to Toastmasters International, how much to club and how to Area. These three if carried out well seem to do the trick on converting a guest into a Toastmaster.

The next meeting’s agenda was full with speakers and all the other roles filled. This support from other Toastmasters lifted the spirits of the Achievers two members, even the one who thought we were knocking our heads against a brick wall. This support from other clubs did bring positive results, two experienced Toastmasters joined the club, one taking on the role of Club Mentor and President of the Club. The term Club Mentor is typically applied to a Toastmaster who helps a newly chartered club through the first six to twelve months. In this case, the club called this person mentor because she offered her vast knowledge of Toastmasters in helping myself and the growth of the club as if filling the role of Club Mentor, and over the two years the name mentor became a recognized role this member was fulfilling.

With further meetings, guests began to arrive, slowly at first with a small measure of success in recruiting new members, it was not the starting time putting guests off, it was more the location, even with a full agenda to show what Toastmasters was about, plus the open, friendly light-hearted meetings, this was in most cases not enough to encourage new members to join Achievers.

Then lo and behold the hand of fate befell us, the Achievers Firm in a very diplomatic way asked us to look for a new venue. This was the making of the new Achievers. The new venue was a library hall in the middle of a residential area, every meeting was a success with maximum number of speakers and leadership roles being filled, speeches evaluated and manuals signed off.

My wife and I joined the club, and from then onwards; a new venue, an agenda that was full and interesting, guests were beginning to join more readily, in turn, the members were bringing friends to the meetings and slowly we began to grow and grow. During these early days we did have a club member represent the club in the Humorous Competition. That was a positive experience for the member and for the club, to be repeated again in the other competitions!

Over the next 14 months we on average, had one new member join the club at each meeting, with a record of three new members at one meeting, we were initially aiming in the Distinguished Club Program to become a Distinguished Club, thanks to the enthusiasm of the members we attained Select Distinguished Club with eight out of 10 goals. Our membership stands at 19 with one guest to confirm becoming a member at our next club meeting. With two members only during all this time resigning through various unforeseen circumstances.

If there was one area of continued weakness, it was that we did not have a full committee to help and grow. Initially, it was the experienced Toastmasters that filled these roles, the newer members were unsure of committee protocol, but over time some took the challenge. The problem that arose in the early days was scaring the new members to the point of possible resigning from the club, to overcome this a softly, softly approach was taken, I am a strong believer in the art of observation, observation on what each committee member played in making a club meeting a success, as all these roles initially fell upon myself as VP-E, and Sgt-At-Arms, my wife as Secretary and VP-M, and the Toastmaster (Club Mentor)!!! As President and Treasurer. Then after a while each member was encouraged to understudy in a role of a committee member, but all things do not run true and straight, the clubs first two members were of the Jewish Faith, and were not able to attend Club Officers Training Program which are held on a Saturday due to their faith, to overcome this, the President who is a qualified TI Official, obtained permission from TI Headquarters to give one on one tuition to these members at her home, with parliamentary procedure presentations given at the club meetings, members gradually took on their committee roles while mentored by experienced Toastmasters. When the time comes for a new committee to take over the club it will be on a sure footing.

Lessons Learned

It has been a long two years. It’s been a growing experience for myself. The rewards are many and include: looking forward each month to a new lively fun meeting and seeing the new and experienced members steadily working through the Toastmasters Program. My personal reward! Attaining the credit towards Distinguished Toastmaster.
Looking back on lessons learned. If I was to do this again as a club coach, I would not have jumped in with my own singular enthusiasm, but would have, where possible, formed a full rescue team, but the ideal ways are not always available at times and one has to go against tried and tested ways to suit the situation at the time. Also the venue, looking back on hindsight we should have moved in the beginning to a new venue more
closer to residential areas to expose the club to the neighborhoods, which proved the case when we actually did that. One last item, and in the beginning there was time on the agenda for it, more education presentations could have been given.
By Mike Fawcett, DTM

Letter of Praise
I have come to know Mike and his wife, Mavis, well over the past few years and have come to appreciate their positivity, abundance of energy and willingness to give, and give, and give to Toastmasters. Mike’s willingness to go the extra mile- no matter what, his unflagging ability to motivate and encourage others, and his belief that there is always a solution to a problem… coupled with Mavis’s patience, support and generosity of spirit made them the perfect team to assist the Achievers, and to work with us to bring us back to greater strength, greater effectiveness, and greater achievement.
Though I was not a member of the Achievers when Mike took on the role of club coach, I joined soon after and feel I am in a good position to recognize the superb effort put in by Mike in taking Achievers from two active members at our lowest point, to a club that ended the 2010/11 year with 13 members and achieved Select Distinguished Club… Perhaps even more importantly, with Mike’s support, the club has continued to grow and looks set to reach charter strength in the very near future (current membership of 18), and is well placed to achieve again on the DCP. It has been both a privilege and a pleasure working with Mike Fawcett as club coach of the Achievers! Thank you, for all you have done for us, Mike- we could not have done it without your support!
By Lois Strachan, DTM


Editor’s Note
A Toastmasters club is like a one-room schoolhouse. It is a place where people of all ages and abilities gather to learn and improve. Laura Ingalls Wilder described a one- room schoolhouse in her popular Little House on the Prairie series. Lucy Maud Montgomery describes a slightly different schoolhouse in Anne of Green Gables. Each author has a different perspective, similarly, each group of Toastmasters has a slightly different perspective on the ideal learning environment. The members of the Hugo 
Business Association wanted a Toastmaster club to improve their speaking abilities without doing a lot of paperwork or administrative work. In other words, the members wanted to maximize communication training, but minimize leadership training and perhaps leadership obligations. For many, it makes sense to teach both communication and leadership in a Toastmasters meeting. Yet, these members felt they already had mastered leadership in their jobs and did not want additional burdens that may distract them from their job. The first coach left because of differences in goals. The second club coach, Lisa Burnside, arrived to reconcile the situation. She resolved the conflict using a collaborative win-win approach. After a discussion of goals, they found common ground, proceeded with a four- part plan and won the Distinguished Club Award Read this edition for more details.

Getting to Know the Club

Two years ago I was asked to help out at a demo meeting for a potential new club. The meeting went well because they were ready to become a club. They had the need, the interest, 20 potential members, the location, and the desire to do the work. The person that asked me to help at the demo meeting also asked me to help the club become reality. Under that guidance, we got the materials together, the officers were elected, and the meetings were scheduled. Since another club was going under, instead of losing the club from the roster, the district decided to give the charter to the new club rather than creating another club. The club mentor was not thrilled with this decision, but it was done – time to get to work.

In the early days of the club there was a lot for the members and particularly the officers to learn. We worked diligently to make sure everyone knew the ins and outs of Toastmasters. However, a problem ensued. The club members were part of a business association, knew each other and their only goal was to improve their speaking skills. They felt they already had the leadership skills. The then-club coach was worried that the club would not meet the Toastmasters requirements because it is about communication AND leadership skills and there are reports to file and goals to attain. The goals of the club members were not meshing with the goals of the club coach and I was asked to step in and replace her. That was extremely difficult, because she is a friend of mine and she worked so hard to make this club into reality. The club did not make distinguished that year.

Let’s Talk About the Club’s Future

On June 7, 2010, I stepped in as their club coach at their request. I met with the officers and got a commitment to three questions:

  1. Exactly what goals does the club want to attain?
The initial club members were made up of members of the Hugo Business Association (HBA) so they knew how to put together a working group. They wanted to create a safe and fun environment for everyone to improve their speaking abilities. They did not want to have to fill out a lot of paperwork and put
a lot of effort into things they were already doing in the HBA.
  2. What goals do the members want to attain?
They were business people that wanted to improve their speaking skills and not run another business. So, we planned for the communication track and made sure the members had ample speaking opportunities. We added a backup speaker in case someone had to cancel last minute.
  3. What goals do I want to attain as their club coach?
As their coach, I wanted them to make Distinguished that year thereby growing in all of their skills. My challenge was that they didn’t think they needed the leadership piece. I set a goal of making sure they understood the entire program and to help them create a plan to accomplish it without doing double duty with their current responsibilities in the HBA.

Once we answered these three questions we created a plan to get there. We broke the plan down into quarters so we could check our progress as we went. We started with the first quarter focusing on training on the program and setting up easy ways to get things done. We created templates for the agenda, grammarian report, timers report, etc. The second quarter focused on adding members so we made sure all of the officers knew their job and everyone was pitching in with ideas on membership. The third quarter focused on the dreaded leadership skills. Although the club wasn’t interested in the leadership part of the Toastmasters program, I showed them an easy way to use the leadership program during the regular meeting (an idea shared by their previous coach). When they did introductions, I encouraged them to pass the Competent Leader manual to the person next to them so those manuals would be worked on during the meetings. Since some of the new members were not part of the HBA, I focused on their interest in the leadership part and it caught fire in the rest of the club. The fourth quarter was a focus on preparing for the next year and closing down the current year with ending it as distinguished. Each quarter we reported on the progress of the DCP and got commitments as to who was going to accomplish which part. At the meetings we reported on who had a skill-enhancement experience outside of the club. These stories were inspiring to the entire club as they could see the growth and that the program was working.

Closing the Deal

Coaching entailed a lot of hand-holding and checking in. I went to as many meetings as I could. During my absences, we stayed in communication, I showed I cared about the club (always with positive comments about their progress), and we had fun. I was on their email distribution list so I knew what they were up to. Every month I pulled their DCP report from the TI website and sent it to the club officers. I worked with the Area Governor to see how we could make them successful, i.e. meet the goals outlined above.

We were coming down to the wire and I noticed that the officers didn’t get trained, the dues were being submitted slowly, the education awards were not being submitted and they weren’t adding many new members. What happened to our plan? I sent out an urgent request to the officers and asked how we were going to attain our goals. I didn’t ask them what happened as there is nothing we can do about it now; I did ask them how they were going to make me look good before June 30th. I went to the next meeting, challenged them to get it done, and got the commitment from the entire club to get their work submitted on time. They already did most of the work, they just didn’t hand it in. At that same meeting, I gave a demonstration of how to close the deal by signing up two guests. I stayed in constant contact during May and June to make sure the club business didn’t get shoved on the back burner again. By the skin of their teeth, they became distinguished. I was proud of their accomplishments. They became better speakers and even though they didn’t think they needed it, they also improved their leadership skills.

Lessons Learned

When I first agreed to this coaching assignment, I thought it would be pretty easy. After all, they were business people and knew how to run a successful group. The biggest challenge was to get them past their view that Toastmasters was for speaking skills only. I wish we would have put more emphasis on turning in their accomplishments throughout the year rather than waiting until the end. Breaking the goals up by quarter rather than trying to accomplish everything at once was a good idea; however we needed to keep in mind that they needed continual encouragement of learning the entire program and the importance of training the officers. They relied on me too much for my knowledge of the program rather than taking the time to learn it themselves and take responsibility for it. Coaching this club gave me unscheduled benefits. Of course it allowed me to practice my own leadership skills. I also got the opportunity to get to know some really wonderful people. Because the club was relying on my knowledge of the Toastmasters program, I got to know the program even more in depth. It was great to see the growth by the individual members and feel the accomplishment of bringing a club that only wanted part of the program to Distinguished thereby getting more out of the program than they bargained for.
By Lisa Burnside, Successful Club Coach of the Hugo Toastmasters #1187545 District 6

A Letter of Praise
Dear Ms. Burnside, On behalf of the Hugo Toastmasters, I would like to thank you for serving as our coach during the last couple years. We have progressed as a Toastmasters club because of your hard work and efforts for us to become a Distinguished club. You created a positive atmosphere within our club that has carried on to our members. You provided the club with pointers on how to evaluate speakers to ensure they get the feedback they need to give a successful speech. At the end of each meeting you spoke on the items that went well at the meeting and encouraged us to keep it up. You were a pleasure at each meeting and we were excited when you were able to attend. We all appreciate your patience with the club as we learned the ways to become a great Toastmasters club. Thanks again!
Best Wishes, Rachel Juba, CL, CC Vice President of Education, Hugo Toastmasters

Opening the University-Based Club

Editor’s Note
Journeys are exciting adventures with three distinct stages. The beginning is fresh and new while the novelty fades and challenges emerge in the middle ground. When the end appears, the excitement and focus return. This edition of Club Coach Weekly contains the successful coaching story of Shirley McKey and the Carleton Toastmasters. Shirley started the journey with a selfless offer of help. The club must have been excited because Shirley is an experienced Toastmaster. Like so many other university- based clubs, the Carleton Toastmasters faced three major challenges: low membership, poorly attended summer meetings and the absence of a permanent meeting location. To move through the middle ground, Shirley wisely established regular meetings of the club’s officers. This gave officers an opportunity to create, implement and follow-up on ways to improve the club. The officers quickly moved into the lead with Shirley offering key behind-the-scenes support. Together, they overcame two of the three challenges. Shirley’s journey as club coach ended when the club finished the 2010-2011 Toastmaster year as a Distinguished club. Every club coach and coached club undertake a journey. Will your journey end with success? You will be successful if you can help the club overcome the challenges found in the middle ground. Good luck!

Carleton Toastmasters – The Successful Journey Begins

I recently read a book in which the author, not knowing where to begin the story of his father’s life, decided to start at the end. I chose to follow his lead in this account of my journey as a club coach. In June 2011, in it’s fourteenth year and after a three-year drought, Carleton Toastmasters Club 9482, once again achieved the status of Distinguished Club. With this accomplishment, my official role as club coach ended and the reflection on how quickly eighteen months had passed was foremost in my mind. I felt a strong connection with all of the members of the Carleton Toastmasters Club, and for me it was a bittersweet end to my role. The sweet part was in knowing that the members had a firm hand on the torch and they would continue forward with the success they had achieved. Here is the story of their journey.

The members of the Carleton Toastmasters Club have always worked diligently to achieve club goals, particularly a handful of longtime members who have enjoyed the benefits of the TM program. They continue to pay it forward to new members, however, as a club located at a Canadian university, there have been recognized challenges over the years with maintaining charter strength after ‘school’s out for the summer.’ In past years, without enough member support and the energy to make it work, the club would reduce the number of meetings held in the summer, and some years even suspended the meetings for the summer months all together, making it a challenge to pull everything back together in September. Regular executive meetings, while commonplace in most TM clubs, were few and far between, as students struggled with assignments, exam schedules and going home for vacation, while the few core members juggled several executive roles at once in support of the absentee students and the club. Another recognized challenge at university clubs is finding a consistent location to meet. In previous years, while the club always had a location to host the meeting, it often changed from week to week and in some cases could even change on the day of the meeting if the room happened to be double booked. This instability did not allow for a very professional image and often discouraged guests (and even members) from attending meetings. While never a member myself, I have history with the club as their Area Governor a few years back. I am also intimately aware of the challenges of membership and the profile on campus because my High Performance Leadership project, supported by a team of Carleton Toastmaster members, was based on raising the profile of the club with the upper administration of the University. At that time, the project did not achieve the results we had hoped for (an interesting story for another time). It was because of my High Performance Leadership project, and its lack of success that I wanted to help the club move forward, with or without the support of the University’s upper administration. I registered as a coach with District 61’s club coach program, with the condition that I wanted to help Carleton Toastmasters, if and when the club qualified for and wanted coaching assistance.

In November 2010, I was asked to step in and in early December of the same year, I officially became the club coach. In my early days as the club coach, I facilitated regular Executive meetings and round-robin brainstorming sessions with the Club Executive and other members. During these sessions we did a SWOT analysis, reviewed the ‘How to Rebuild a Toastmasters Club’ checklist, and laid out a plan for success. In addition to the challenges mentioned above, we identified additional challenges which included; not enough experienced members to lead and coach new members; scheduling conflicts which kept members from attending meetings regularly; and insufficient resources to effectively demonstrate and promote the benefits of Toastmasters. As the confidence and participation of the Club Executive members grew, and after just a few sessions, I handed over the facilitation of the Club Executive meetings to the President, working with the President as a mentor behind the scenes. It didn’t take long before I was more of an observer and quiet contributor in the President’s well-facilitated meetings.

Planning for Improvements

During our discussion of the challenges facing the club, we brainstormed some new ideas to overcome these challenges. One of the first ideas the club members agreed upon was to change the mindset from the idea that the club was a ‘student club’ to the attitude that it was a ‘Toastmasters club that included students’. We felt this would produce more members for each meeting, especially for those sparsely attended summer meetings. We also took a vote of the membership regarding the time and day of the meeting to see if a change might address intermittent attendance. The vote determined that the time and date would remain the same and the members would make the commitment to ‘be there’ when they could. Another strategy that we committed to early on was regular open houses with more wide spread publicity, including the on campus daily e-zine, and a free local publication. It was our belief that this would promote Toastmasters and demonstrate what Toastmasters was all about. The club hosted several open houses to build membership. We are grateful to the many external Toastmasters members who participated in these open house programs, willingly sharing their experiences with the members and guests. As time progressed and self-reliance grew, the Carleton members took on the roles at the open houses that were previously handled by Toastmaster colleagues from other clubs.

A Broader Membership Base Produces Dramatic Results

The main benefit garnered from the mind shift from ‘student club’ was the immediate appeal to a broader membership base. A base that includes more graduate students who don’t go away for the summer, alumni who are familiar with the benefits of the TM programs from their days as an undergrad, university employees and external community members. The advantage of the broader diversity of membership became crystal clear at the end of June 2011 when the members voted overwhelmingly to continue the regular weekly meeting roster throughout the summer, a marked difference from just a year ago. Not only did the club have charter strength on July 1st, 2011, the membership numbers have actually grown throughout the summer. The club is thriving!

Personal Observations

There is at least one significant challenge still facing the club – a secure meeting location. A newer member, who happens to be an employee at the university, is working with university administration to secure suitable space for each semester so that members and guests will know in advance where they will be meeting. The challenge will likely continue as space at the university is at a premium, however, the club members are maintaining their optimism that suitable meeting space is available, and keeping members and guests informed with the use of the web site and regular e-mail updates. With the new stronger membership base, and a positive commitment from the Executive members, regular executive meetings have become the norm. The Executive continues to engage newer members in leadership and supporting roles, working toward a succession plan that will ensure a strong core of members to continue for the future. This summer after I had left my post as club coach, the Club Executive discussed and acted on ways to increase membership, ways which included, delivering external presentations to potential members; maintaining an energetic poster campaign on campus; improving the outreach through a new and enhanced web site; adding external social activities, such as a club volleyball team; and planning an open house in mid-September to inform new and returning students, alumni and university staff about Toastmasters.

On September 14, 2011, I returned as a guest speaker at the first Open House of the fall semester. I was excited for the Club and filled with pride as the meeting room filled up. I stopped counting as over 50 people entered the meeting room, and was thrilled as the Chair of the meeting did an impromptu poll of the guests to inquire how they had heard about the meeting. The club members had used multiple mediums to get the word out, including the web site, a poster campaign, on campus e-zine, direct e-mail and personal invitations. The majority of speakers at the event were members of the club and they were all outstanding. The venue, refreshments, and greeting of and interaction with guests were handled professionally and with grace. The members of Carleton Toastmasters worked collaboratively on the Open House and their efforts and success were impressive.

Lessons Learned

Over four months have passed since my role as club coach ended and the club is stronger than ever. At last count, the membership had grown to 28. I am blessed to have worked with such an amazing group of people and I know that I learned more from them than the other way around. As a club coach, I learned to listen more effectively, inclusively formulate positive solutions, and engage and encourage members to embrace their club and all of the tools that Toastmasters has to offer. In the words of Lao-tzu, the sixth century B.C. philosopher, “A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel they did it themselves.” Congratulations Carleton Toastmasters Club, you did it! Thank you for the opportunity to join you on your successful journey.

By Shirley McKey, DTM

A Letter of Praise
I joined Carleton Toastmasters in September 2010, during a period of transition for the club. A university club, Carleton Toastmasters has historically struggled to maintain its membership base, especially over the summer as students graduate or leave for home. The summer of 2010 was no exception and the club struggled to fill its roster. Shirley McKey, as club coach, recommended reaching out to graduate students, alumni, university employees and external community members. Under her guidance, the executive promoted Carleton Toastmasters using speaking workshops, open houses and advertising on the university website. My own experience with Carleton Toastmasters was positive as the result of the hard work of Shirley McKey. When I joined Carleton Toastmasters the weekly roster was filled, and members enthusiastically participated in the Toastmaster’s educational program. As membership grew, Shirley focused on developing the communication and leadership skills of club members. Shirley always ensured every guest to our club was warmly welcomed. In June 2011 Carleton Toastmasters, a once-struggling club, achieved distinguished status. Much of this success was due to the hard work of the Club’s coach, Shirley McKey. The Club held weekly meetings over the summer of 2011 and membership grew to a high of 28 in September 2011. The current Executive has a goal to continue the club’s momentum and the Club is on its way to becoming distinguished again in 2011-2012, with four of ten goals already achieved. As a result of Shirley’s efforts, Carleton Toastmasters is a dynamic club that offers members of the Carleton University community the benefits of the Toastmaster’s educational program.

By Beverly Zawada, Club President