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Good News for Toastmasters

A TV Anchorman Speaks at Michigan Open House

By Rachel Schell
Vice President Public Relations for the Transportation Toastmasters

For weeks, residents in downtown Lansing, Michigan, walked past posters advertising a speaker at an upcoming event. The headline read: “Listen to Jason Colthorp! The WILX-TV evening news anchor recently guest-hosted Live with Regis and Kelly in New York.”

The event was an Open House for the Transportation Toastmasters club in Lansing. Jason Colthorp was our guest speaker. And the program was a huge success.

This is a great way to generate interest in your Toastmasters club: Host an Open House and feature an interesting guest speaker at the event. Such a person can help draw a crowd. The result is that more people learn about Toastmasters, as your club demonstrates the program’s benefits at the meeting. Jason Colthorp is a popular TV anchorman in Lansing, and when he spoke to our group in September, more than 40 people attended.

The audience included Division C Governor Gretchen Smith, who praised the event.

“Transportation Toastmasters’ Open House was an excellent example of bringing in an outside speaker to draw potential new members,” says Smith. “Jason Colthorp was funny and tied his remarks to Toastmasters. The room was filled, and the club is to be commended for this outstanding membership-building effort.”

The Transportation Toastmasters has 25 members, including a number of employees of the Michigan Department of Transportation. (Government offices for the state of Michigan are located in Lansing.) The club usually hosts two Open House events each year and makes one of them a special event with a guest speaker. These programs draw large audiences and typically lead to at least four new members joining the club.

A Valuable VPE
Mary Gibbs, our Vice President Education, was the driving force behind September’s Open House. She’s long admired Jason as a news anchor and thought he’d make a great speaker at a Toastmasters event. One day last summer, Mary called Jason’s TV station – he anchors the 11 p.m. news for WILX, an NBC affiliate – and the call was transferred to his office. To Mary’s surprise, Jason picked up the phone himself. Even better, he readily agreed to speak at the Open House.

The anchorman didn’t disappoint. He was exuberant and entertaining, amusing members and guests by serving up anecdotes, doing impressions, and recalling his stint guest-hosting Live with Regis and Kelly, where he had an arm-wrestling match with Kelly Ripa. (“She’s strong!”)

What’s more, his talk was instructive to Toastmasters. As someone who broadcasts TV news every night, he has a unique perspective on the communications business.

“He talked about the importance of communication and leadership skills,” notes Mary, “and how they helped him land his jobs.”

Mary couldn’t have been happier with how the Open House turned out.

“I think these kinds of events are incredibly helpful to Toastmasters clubs,” she says. “People want to come listen to speakers like Jason.”

Editor’s Note: For more tips about Toastmasters Open Houses, read “How to Host a Club Open House,” from the September 2008 issue of the Toastmaster magazine.

Rachel Schell is VPPR of the Transportation Toastmasters in Lansing, Michigan. She is an administrative assistant at Mead & Hunt, a national engineering and architectural consulting firm. Reach her at:

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