by Sallie Spradlin Jett VPPR – San Angelo Toastmasters
Are you looking for a strategy that may help your club grow its membership?
I want to share with you an initiative our club launched this summer called the Community Leader Speaker Series.
HERE’S THE BACK STORY…
After I did my officer training this past spring as a newly-elected VPPR, I was inspired to develop a different strategy in order to help our club continue to grow. After all, our club finished last year strong, achieving for the first time ever the status as a Distinguished Club! I didn’t want us to lose momentum! Using social media and other marketing techniques are a great avenue when spreading the word about our clubs, but these techniques don’t always take the place of talking up Toastmasters in a warm, authentic, intentional way directly with the people we know or even with new people we meet.
Talking up Toastmasters is a challenge for me because I never want to come across as a salesman when I talk to people. People want to feel that you are invested in them, and that we’re not just trying to close the sale just to increase the numbers on the club roster.
Soon after this idea began churning around in my brain, one of our long-time club members spoke to our club in a prepared speech about how when our club first began, we used to have community leaders who were members. Since our club has gone through a few transitions and re-branded a few years ago, hearing that our original club members were made up of folks who were leaders in our community inspired me! I began seeing a picture in my mind of a strategy that included community leaders, a strategy that would mean going back to our roots, and inviting community leaders to our club. Now we had a ball game!
WHO IS A COMMUNITY LEADER?
Community leaders are defined as people in leadership positions within our community. This category of people might include folks who sit on the Board of Directors for a local nonprofit organization, people who are in local government leadership, people who manage various community projects, bank presidents, real estate brokers, corporate executives, small business owners, restaurant owners, and even leaders within our Toastmasters District 25.
Community leaders probably already have some experience in public speaking because for most of them, part of their job description includes giving presentations to other community groups.
In my initial contact with community leaders (usually done via email, which satisfies this naturally-born introvert just fine), I formally invite them to come to our Toastmasters club and give a presentation about their nonprofit organization or project. In that same email, I tell them about our club, and I include links to our website, social media profiles, the D25 website, and the TI website. I reassure them that Toastmasters is a workshop for all of us, and they will be in a safe space. Most community leaders we’ve reached out to have been very intrigued about being a guest speaker during one of our weekly meetings and feel honored to be asked to speak. Some of them didn’t even realize our city had a local Toastmasters club! Because many of our community leaders already give presentations or because they have found a sense of purpose in their lives, they already have a presentation prepared.
We even included our D25 leaders in this category as community leaders because they are part of our Toastmasters community. We were so honored to have many of them as our guest speakers, and we are looking forward to the next few weeks when more of them plan to speak at our meetings!
After the first community leader accepted our invitation, we realized then that this targeted strategy has dual benefits both for the community leader and the Toastmasters club.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE INITIATIVE?
The purpose of this initiative is for community leaders to have a personalized experience during one of our weekly meetings. They are asked to give a 5-10 minute presentation about the nonprofit organization or the community project in which they are involved, or they can talk about a broad-scope topic like volunteerism or a social initiative they are passionate about.
ARE COMMUNITY LEADERS EVALUATED?
We decided that even if our community leaders have experience in public speaking, we would not be evaluating their presentation. After the meeting, we are always sure to highlight the positive things about their presentation. We don’t want them to feel like they are here to be critiqued. Remember, these community leaders are potential members so we want to give them a positive experience!
CLUB GROWTH STRATEGY IMPLEMENTED.
In a perfect world, the community leader has a wonderful experience during the meeting as our honored guest speaker and decides to join our club. At the very least, the community leader will have first-hand experience if ever asked about Toastmasters. The community leader can now personally attest to how we conduct meetings, and how warm and inviting our club is! Maybe he/she has family members or coworkers or employees who could benefit from Toastmasters. We’ve just implemented a strategy that begins on a relational level.
Game. Set. Match.