Welcome to 2021! As 2020 was drawing to a close, I was looking forward to the start of the new year through an optimist’s lens. The global pandemic would be subsiding, the organization would be experiencing a resurgence in both member and club growth, and meetings would be moving back to in person. Unfortunately, the pandemic has not subsided, and a vast majority of our clubs are still meeting online.
Yet, despite these challenges, clubs are managing to keep current members engaged while finding ways to attract new members. The past few months while virtually visiting clubs around the world, I have also noticed that in addition to providing a positive and supportive environment, clubs are placing an emphasis on having fun.
When the Toastmasters Club of Paris conducted a meeting celebrating its 45th anniversary, a majority of members dressed for a party, and at the end of the meeting they each lit a candle and sang “Happy Birthday!” Theme-style meetings also seem to be on the rise, with themes ranging from Carnival to the Mediterranean and even a Nobel Prize gala. Our meetings are designed to have a purpose, but they also need to have a level of fun and excitement. As our founder, Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, stated, “We learn best in moments of enjoyment.”
Clubs are meant to be a safe environment, a “learning laboratory” as Past International President Balraj Arunasalam, DTM, would say, to try new things. This applies not only to speakers trying new techniques and gaining new skills but also for clubs to explore new meeting styles and look for new ways to keep members engaged.
Our meetings are designed to have a purpose, but they also need to have a level of fun and excitement.
Living in the virtual world for hours on end, day after day, can have an emotional impact on people and Zoom fatigue can set in. Finding new ways to keep our meetings fun and enjoyable will keep our current members engaged and encourage new members to join, while still supporting the Club Mission to empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.
After all, who wouldn’t want to be a member of a club that is fun? The Toastmasters organization thrives in part due to the grassroots efforts of you, our members, and your dedication to helping others. Your creativity, your imagination, and your “we got this” attitude show your commitment to one another. Thank you!
Richard E. Peck, DTM