The Oldest Club in Texas Embraces Change

The Oldest Club in Texas Embraces Change

by Katie Britt

Wichita Falls Toastmasters turned 76 this year. That is 76 years of meetings exactly the same. That’s 3,952 meetings that were exactly the same.

We struggled with membership retention and growth. The meetings felt stale and forced. The meeting room was located in a local church, under yellowing fluorescent lights, with bad acoustics and zero technology. In short, it wasn’t very inviting to guests.

Before the pandemic was on the horizon, the club was looking for ways to attract new members. We took a look inward to determine whether we were meeting the needs of potential members.  We wanted more professionals, job seekers, and students. But our meetings weren’t coming across as enticing, fun, or educational.

We used our connections and found a new, modern, and professional room to hold meetings. A space for more people and with the technology to take our meetings to a new level. What we didn’t know, was this technology would be invaluable when the pandemic hit and would be needed to offer a hybrid solution.

In late 2020, I pitched a public speaking workshop to the local young professionals group called “The Circuit”. They jumped at the opportunity and our entire club was on board. The Executive Director for a local theatre attended the workshop and immediately asked for a collaboration.

I knew my Innovative Planning Pathway: Project Management was coming up and I was able to use the collaboration as my project. I presented and incorporated an improv workshop into the club’s lineup. We took it a step further and also created a monthly noon meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce to provide opportunities for those whose evenings were spent with family.

Both paid off and we had our first workshop in March (won a Golden Gavel) followed by the first noon meeting in April. It gave us more to talk about across social, in the news, and most importantly, it provided a renewed sense of passion from current members.

Our club was used to seeing 3-5 guests per year. As of June 3rd, we’ve welcomed almost 20 guests in 3 months.

As we approach our second Improv workshop (June 17th), we have high expectations of more guests in attendance as they’ve seen and heard more of us over the last few months than ever before.

Yes, we ARE the oldest club in Texas and we had 3,952 meetings exactly the same as the first club meeting in 1945. Let me tell you, change is good, really good. We’re proud to keep blazing trails by offering new opportunities for the Wichita Falls area to experience Toastmasters.