With the Board of Directors’ decision to discontinue October–November district conferences, Toastmasters members who are accustomed to organizing or attending these events may find themselves with extra time. As club and district officers settle into their roles—and new clubs and members become familiar with the organization—opportunities abound to bring all clubs to excellence.
Work to be done includes training, recruiting, marketing, mentoring, planning, building new clubs and engaging members in the club experience. This time also provides the chance to get creative and have fun with smaller events like leader workshops, corporate summits and time-tested sessions like “Moments of Truth.”
“The time spent on planning and delivering a district conference is substantial, involving dozens of volunteers and countless hours,” says International President Lark Doley, DTM. “Using this time to create new clubs and to strengthen our existing clubs will benefit far more members.”
Time to Train
Area and division directors should have completed their training by September 30. As the Toastmasters year gets underway, directors begin putting that training into practice and assessing the needs of their clubs. New issues become apparent, and questions often arise.
“The great thing about training at the start of the Toastmasters year is that it’s nice and early,” says International Director Monique Levesque-Pharoah, DTM. “But then you get into the meat of the year, and there might be other things you need training on. When people sign up for these roles they want to do the best job possible, and training all at once makes it hard to retain all of that information.”
Continuing training opportunities for October and November include leadership workshops. At the district level, past and current leaders share their experience to assist newer leaders with challenges they are facing and to inspire others to take on leadership roles. District-sponsored club-leader workshops focus on best practices in education, public relations, member recruitment and other key responsibilities that help clubs meet their mission. Consider a team-building experience where club officers explore how their roles work together.
“I’m excited about the potential for our district leaders to demonstrate their leadership by delivering creative, mission- focused activities in place of the October–November conferences.” —Lark Doley, International President
Toastmasters need not limit workshops and educational sessions to their own clubs or districts; members will gain valuable perspective by involving people from their local communities and the corporate world. An event that can provide insight to existing Toastmasters and potential members is a corporate summit.
When Levesque-Pharoah served as region advisor, she worked with districts that hosted corporate summits. These events introduce companies to Toastmasters and show how the skills members build through their experience in the organization—including specific paths in Pathways—apply in a business environment. Officers can invite (or co-host with) major employers in the area, small businesses and corporate clubs whose members have demonstrated improved job performance as a result of the communication and leadership skills they developed through Toastmasters.
A corporate summit can motivate a company to invest in its own club or increase awareness of what Toastmasters has to offer. It’s also a great way to gather testimonials that can be used in marketing efforts, Levesque-Pharoah says. In her experience, “Once a company’s leadership sees and understands the benefits their employees are gleaning from the program, they are more than happy to give a testimonial.”
Focus on Quality
However Toastmasters choose to use the time that is now available to them this month and next, it’s essential to ensure that those efforts are aligned with the mission of the club, district and organization.
The district mission is to build new clubs and support all clubs in achieving excellence. A requirement to become a Distinguished Area is having at least 50 percent of the club base designated as Distinguished or better. In order to become a President’s Distinguished Area, there is an added requirement to build a new club. Therefore, a high-level area training could be targeted around building a club—starting with role-playing a cold call and moving on to the pitch meeting, the demonstration meeting and how to find and train sponsors and mentors.
“I’m excited about the potential for our district leaders to demonstrate their leadership by delivering creative, mission-focused activities in place of the October–November conferences,” says Doley. This is also the perfect time to do a reset and evaluate the club or district success plan. And there is now more time to make the conferences in April and May that much more effective!