Cast your mind to your club’s Tall Tales Speech Contest. If you’re speaking and happen to be the Vice President Membership, instead of spinning a tale about schmoozing with superheroes, or becoming the world’s richest person, you might end your speech like this: “And then, by the renewal date, all 35 club members filed renewals for the next two terms!”
Would this be a tall tale in your club? Member retention is a constant challenge that has been even more difficult in recent years. While many reasons beyond our control affect renewals, every club has a core of members, or a core “tribe” as my Toastmaster friend Erum Rizvi so aptly puts it. The tribe may be eight to 12 members; their renewals are a given. These members make up the soul of every club. One way to create a tribe, with its implied fierce loyalty, is to celebrate members. As a club leader, you need to find excuses to celebrate everything. Anniversaries. Contests. Celebrate normal meetings for being normal! Most importantly, celebrate member achievements.
Since we started this practice in our club, Karachi Toastmasters Club, in Karachi, Pakistan, renewals have been much easier to obtain. We regularly have 40-plus members at the end of renewals. I constantly encouraged other clubs to adopt this practice. They did, and it played a huge role in our District achieving Smedley Distinguished status in our very first year. We attained Distinguished Status again in 2021. So we must be doing something right.
With Pathways, members have shorter intervals between certifications compared to the traditional education program. This can be a boon, as you can celebrate every respective certification during club meetings. Find ways to extend member recognition at every opportunity.
For example, combine member achievements with the club’s ongoing public relations activities. Find a reason to post (useful) content every other day on social media. Member honors are easy to share. What could be better than posting an image of a certificate celebrating a member’s Pathways level completion?
Foster a sense of belonging that makes renewals not a chore for the Executive Committee but a necessity for members.
We announce member achievements at every meeting and repeat that announcement during the business portion of the next meeting. We also distribute meeting minutes in a colorful bulletin and share member successes one more time.
If your club features several speeches every meeting, you will likely have at least one or two Pathways certifications, on average. That means you can post two announcements on social media, tagging the respective members. You know what is better than people liking your social media photos? Someone else posting your photo with a certificate and people liking that!
Posting achievements promotes camaraderie among members. It also motivates those members who are lagging or shying away from speeches. Recognition is a win-win situation for everyone.
In these socially and economically uncertain times, the mere promise of education and leadership skills may not be enough to retain members; every Toastmasters club provides that. It is time to foster a sense of belonging that makes renewals not a chore for the Executive Committee but a necessity for the members. In other words, the unique selling proposition of a Toastmasters club should be built around its culture, rather than mere procedure.
So go ahead, celebrate. Extol the virtues of members. Highlight their talent. Throw an online party when they go to another club and win a certificate. In my opinion, an extra 10 minutes (of recognition) from the Vice President Public Relations prevents 10 hours of chasing after renewals for the Treasurer.
You have a tribe. Identify it and celebrate it. And add to it, one member at a time. All it takes is a little extra attention. You will find that if you go the extra mile every week, in no time you will find your club much further ahead than you could ever imagine!
Talha Bin Hamid, DTM is District Director for the District 122 Territorial Council (Pakistan) and former Vice President Education of Karachi Toastmasters Club. He is a chartered accountant, an author, poet, trainer, and above all, an improving human being thanks to Toastmasters.