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In the Toastmasters Moments of Truth manual, communication is listed among six “critical moments” for a club to make a positive impression on members and guests. This should be automatic, right? After all, we are a communication organization.
But you’d be surprised. For much of my career, I have been involved with professional organizations focused on communication. Each was very different from the others, yet there was one common thread—one common complaint from each organization’s members: There wasn’t enough internal communication. No matter how well the leadership thought they were communicating to the members, something was lacking. The question we need to ask ourselves is: How well is our club doing in this area?
Let’s start with the purpose of our communication—what do we want to achieve? Obviously, conveying information is key. But communication can also be used to build club camaraderie, which goes a long way toward retaining members. Let’s look at a few ways to do that.
Member recognition is one. It encourages everyone to strive for the next level. My wife is affiliated with a network marketing company, where, like Toastmasters, members can attain various performance ranks. Every month the company sends out an email noting all those who “ranked up” during the previous month. She proudly showed me her name in last month’s publication; she feels part of a team. You can do the same in your club. Perhaps send a special email when someone achieves a new education level in the Pathways learning experience. Or, if you have a larger club, you might send a monthly email, listing all those who achieved a new level the previous month. We like seeing our names in print. Use this to motivate your members to achieve.
In addition, communication from club leaders is important to promote upcoming events. That includes club meetings, but also leadership training, district events and speech contests. Build excitement and participation in various events by starting your communication months in advance. Create anticipation. I am constantly amazed at how many clubs do not send a contestant to the area speech contest. And I can’t help but wonder how many more members would compete if the district and club leadership promoted Toastmasters speech contests year-round, emphasizing the benefits of competing.
“Communication can be either a cold task or a warm letter to a friend.”
But, you might say, we send emails out all the time. And we have a Facebook page.
My concern is that modern technology has made communication too easy. Is communication real or does it just appear to be? It’s easy to hammer out a quick text, and keeping a message short and sweet saves time for all. Such a text might even use friendly language. But does it communicate “family,” or does it communicate “efficiency”?
The FreeToastHost website that is available to clubs and districts for building websites through Toastmasters is a great tool with many templates. But it, too, can push us toward quick, impersonal communication. I really like the idea that FreeToastHost has made sending out renewal notices easy. When I was club treasurer, I realized the system has a built-in template letter. It is well written and simple to use.
Yet what if you belong to two or more clubs that all use the same template? Won’t you figure out pretty quickly that you are receiving a form letter? I don’t know about you, but I don’t see form letters as being personal. And if I am on the fence about renewing, which way am I going to go? I can’t help but think that we might retain more members if we send a customized message emphasizing the benefits of our specific club with a personal invitation to renew.
Even if we don’t use a template like that one, it is easy to create our own. I was in a club once where the vice president education sent out a weekly email about the upcoming meeting. And he used the exact same words each time—including the same joke. It, too, was obviously a form letter of sorts, and it lost its effectiveness over time.
Communication can be either a cold task or a warm letter to a friend. Technology makes it easy to do the first. It takes effort to do the second. Does your club have communication that is warm and well crafted? It’s a question worth asking.
Bill Brown, DTM is a speech delivery coach in Gillette, Wyoming. He is a member of Energy Capital Toastmasters in Gillette. Learn more at billbrownspeechcoach.com.