For the Novice: How to Find the Right Club
The importance of finding a club that
meets your needs and personality.
By Michael Chan
Many people visit Toastmasters clubs with the goal of improving their speaking skills. They know that Toastmasters offers an effective and enjoyable experience that will no doubt help them reach their goal. However, what they often overlook is the importance of selecting a suitable Toastmasters club to join – a club that meets their particular needs and preferences. Being involved with the right group can mean the difference between having a good experience or a great one.
Our club often has guests who need help in selecting the right club for themselves. So I’ve outlined some useful tips that will not only guide guests in finding the right club, but will also give clues to existing club members on criteria used by guests when evaluating their club. Here are some of the topics you should consider and discuss with potential guests:
• Take Your Time. The great thing about Toastmasters is that there is never any pressure for guests to join. Guests are free to shop around looking for the right club. In fact, our club always encourages guests to observe our meeting, how supportive the environment is, and how members can really improve their public speaking skills. Some guests may not realize they can go from club to club, observing which one best suits their person- ality. It is our duty as Toastmasters to let guests know that taking time to find the right club is an important process and should not be rushed. Make sure guests know there is no obligation to join, and they are free to visit as often as possible until they are comfortable that your club offers the right fit for them.
• Schedule. This is obvious; you want guests to join a Toastmasters club whose meeting times fit their schedule. Keeping good attendance is always a top priority for all Toastmasters clubs. One way to ensure good attendance is to make sure meetings are conveniently scheduled. Everyone has a life outside of Toastmasters, whether it is a job, family or other commitment. Make sure guests know how often meetings take place, when meetings usually start, and for how long meetings usually last. For instance, many Toastmasters clubs have meetings that run in excess of one hour, which would make it difficult for members who meet during their lunch hour. Our club keeps meetings efficient and on time because some members have a long commute back home. You may notice that some guests have a very busy schedule and recommend they join a club that conducts its meeting during lunch hours.
• Location Location Location! Make sure the guests find the location of your club convenient. It is always best to join a Toastmasters club that meets in an accessible and easy-to-find location. One of the most important factors in determining how often members show up for a meeting is determined by how easily they can get to the meeting spot. Ensure the guests know that all meetings will take place at a certain location and regularly ask if that location is convenient for them.
• Atmosphere. Let guests know the type of atmosphere your club has. Is it relaxed, where meetings are run in a causal manner, or is the club fairly strict in dress code and how meetings are conducted? Ideally, you want guests to join a club that fits their personality type. If you are more of a casual dresser who enjoys wearing flip flops, than joining a club that requires members to wear business attire would not be suitable.
• Specialization. Finally, some Toastmasters clubs are specialized for a particular organization, occupational background or skill. However, many specialized clubs are still open to the general public. Other Toastmasters clubs are restricted to the people who work in that organization. Ask the guests if they are looking for specific career interests and see if your club offers a good fit. At this point, if you club does not fit the specialization of the guest member, you should direct them to a local club that might better fit their needs.
Don’t be offended by this! Some people forget that Toastmasters meetings are also an excellent place to network with others in their field of work. But make sure the guests know that even if their interests does not align with your club, it does not mean they would not benefit by joining your club!!
Speaking from personal experience, I am a member of Toastmasters I.T., which was primarily for technology-based professionals. But I don’t work in information technology! In fact, I am technologically-impaired but did not let that deter me from joining our club. In fact, I believe that joining a club that is out of your comfort zone encourages you to grow by exposing you to different people, learn new skills and increase your knowledge base.
Michael Chan is a member of Toastmasters I.T. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.