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From Dismal to Distinguished

 A Club Success Story!

It was a blistery, cold winter evening in February as the Walworth County Toastmasters Club Officers assembled for their monthly meeting. The usual reports were read and discussed, when at last it came time to review the status of the club success plan. Club President Pat Swan reviewed the requirements for the success plan with the group.

With the club's current membership sitting at twelve, the club officers were doubtful that the club would bring in enough members to maintain a charter, much less come close to meeting any of the award criteria. But the officers remained energized and positive about the future of the Walworth County Toastmasters Club. They believed that if they continued to build a strong foundation, present top quality programs, pursue all public relations outlets, and warmly welcome visitors, they would build a fabulous club.

The club officers pushed their limits for eight months by carrying out their officer responsibilities, repeatedly taking on multiple roles at meetings, and delivering speeches. Preventing burn out was frequently discussed at club officer meetings and solutions were put in place. Even though the future of the club seemed uncertain, the Walworth County club officers persisted. They continued a journey that would end with earning the most prestigious award a club can receive: the Presidents Distinguished Club Award!

So, how did they do it? Primarily, they never gave up! Regardless of how tough things were, club officers maintained a positive, focused attitude. First, President Pat Swan provided leadership, optimism, and motivation to guide us through our club meetings and officer meetings. Pat also delivered several quality speeches, filled meeting roles, and set a terrific example for all members.

Second, VP Membership Sue Stamos worked diligently to make each meeting agenda educational and fun. As an experienced Toastmaster, Sue delivered many of the educational topics and also frequently served as the meeting's Toastmaster. She also coordinated a Backwards Meeting with pizza party, in addition to a Roast for Southeastern Division Governor Jim Kohli. These events added some real spice to the meeting line up!

Third, publicizing the club and its membership benefits was of utmost importance. The District 35 Publicity Contest was in full swing and the VP of Public Relations Gina Nevin took full advantage of the opportunity. Two press releases per month accompanied by photos were sent out and a club newsletter was distributed to members, as well as published on the club's website. In addition, a public service announcement aired on a local radio station five times daily, Monday through Friday, making clear to the public the many benefits offered by Toastmasters.

Fourth, club meetings were run efficiently in true Toastmaster fashion with the help of Master Host Laura Manley, Secretary Barbara Cate, and Treasurer Linda Kaplan. Laura set the stage for successful meetings by making sure the room was set up and that all supplies were on hand for members. Laura opened meetings on time and often filled meeting roles at the last minute to help make the meeting complete. Barbara took meeting notes, kept an up-to-date guest list, and often served another role at the meeting. In addition, she was fast becoming a master at the Toastmaster role! Linda Kaplan also took on various roles at meetings, while keeping the clubs treasury accurate, collecting dues from members, and submitting the necessary information to Toastmasters International in a timely fashion.

In the midst of all this, a number of club members continued working on personal educational goals. Laura, Linda, and Gina were all able to achieve the Competent Communicator designation, while Sue earned her Advanced Communicator Bronze, and Pat her Advanced Communicator Silver. At the same time, five board members earned their Competent Leader awards! In addition to these achievements, two club members earned awards: Jim Kohli earned his second Competent Communicator and Bruce Bradshaw earned his Advanced Communicator Bronze.

Members worked together to make each meeting a showcase event! Once the visitors began appearing, the welcome mat was rolled out to each and every visitor. They were greeted by everyone and assigned a seat next to an existing member. Visitors were also invited to comment on the meeting, and finally, they were asked to join our club and then assigned a mentor!

By mid June the club membership sat at nineteen. On the third Wednesday of June, the last meeting of the year, the Walworth County Toastmasters Club received the application for their twentieth member. They knew at that point that the club had been victorious.

The club triumphed! In addition to the achievements of members, the Club's membership hit twenty! By following basic procedures and guidelines Toastmasters International sets for all members and officers, and with sheer determination and a positive attitude, the Walworth County Toastmasters Club earned the Presidents Distinguished Club Award!

It was a sunny, warm summer evening as the Walworth County Toastmasters Club Officers assembled for their first meeting of the year. The usual reports were read and discussed, when at last it came time to review the status of our club success plan. The new club President Linda Kaplan reviewed the requirements for the club success plan. With the clubs current membership sitting at twenty, the board members were psyched, pumped, and ready for continued growth, and another year as a Presidents Distinguished Club!

The Walworth County Toastmasters Club encourages all clubs to approach the upcoming year with optimism and gusto! Never give up and be sure to Let Your Toastmasters Light Shine Bright!

Gina Nevin is a VP of Public Relations for the Walworth County Toastmasters Club.