Shortly after joining my club, Chungli Toastmasters in Taiwan, I became aware of a worrisome challenge: We had no guests. So when I was asked to take over as vice president public relations, I jumped at the chance. Fast forward a few months and our club had a new Facebook fan page, its own Meetup and LinkedIn groups, and an official LINE account (a communication app with free messaging). Within months, our social media presence led to a steady flow of club meeting guests, and with that, new members.
With this influx of guests, however, came new challenges. We were unprepared for the amount of people showing up, so we watched them disappear shortly after each meeting. With no guest book, we had no way of following up with them. It was clear we needed to invest in taking better care of our guests. In effect, this meant “wowing” them: treating them in much the same way we ourselves expect to be treated as diners, hotel guests, or guests in another’s home. By doing so, the chances of our next guest becoming our next new member will increase. Equally possible, that same guest could become our club’s next president. I’m living proof of it!
After six months, nine new members had joined. They regularly bring their own guests to meetings. Even guests bring guests. Some even show an interest in attending club officer meetings and member training workshops. All of this has unfolded in mere months, and with only a little effort from each of us.
Allow me to share five tips that have made a big difference in our club.
1 When guests reach out for the first time, we acknowledge them, and thank them. We provide resources to teach them more about Toastmasters and our club. We also send a message to every single person who “likes” our Facebook fan page—a simple “Thanks for liking our page,” followed by an invitation to communicate with me directly. So far, this has resulted in immediate replies from approximately 30 percent of the visitors who “liked” us, including thanks for acknowledging them, and questions about Toastmasters and our club.
2 Standing at the front door 30 minutes before each meeting is a senior member who serves as a greeter. This member warms guests with a smile, provides them with our guest form, and offers refreshments and a name tag. The guest is also introduced to items on display in the reception area, including copies of our manuals, club trophies and the Toastmaster magazine.
3 Each guest is then paired with a member who “befriends” them throughout the meeting. As a recent first-time guest myself, I know this helps put the visitor at ease. It’s a friendly face they can chat with and from whom they can get immediate answers to their questions about the meeting, the club and Toastmasters.
4 We invite guests to join us for a social hour following our club meeting. We typically socialize for about an hour at a nearby teashop or café. It is during these social functions when most of our guests announce their interest in joining our club.
5 A few days after the meeting, each new guest receives a personalized e-card sent from the club president. It thanks them for visiting and provides our club’s annual calendar, as well as links to our social media channels and the club website—ensuring they can easily follow club news and information about future meetings and events.
Yes, taking these steps requires effort. But it’s immensely rewarding to receive direct feedback from guests who express thanks for a card or for answers to their questions on Facebook. Most importantly, it’s evidence that we are indeed treating our visitors as valued guests. With a little teamwork, I’m confident these little touches will make a difference in your club and to your future members.
Brent Stewart, CC, ALB
is a writing coach and managing editor of The Writing Clinic, and serves as president of Chungli Toastmasters club in Taoyuan City, Taiwan. Visit his website to learn more.