1 Be flexible.
Toastmasters provides a simple framework for professional development, with defined roles, published agendas, and the Pathways learning experience. While traditions offer stability, it’s important to avoid a rigid adherence to ceremony, which can make newcomers feel excluded. Toastmasters is a place for growth, not a secret society. Be willing to invent new traditions and try new technologies.
2 Focus on commonality.
Toastmasters is an affinity group, where people come together out of a shared interest in public speaking and leadership. Avoid labels like “Gen Z” or “millennials.” Also avoid jokes about generational differences. No one wants to be stereotyped.
3 Be judicious in your feedback.
Young members benefit from hearing mature perspectives. But experienced members shouldn’t point out every last defect in a newcomer’s speech. When it comes time to evaluate, give two or three concrete areas for improvement. Avoid sweeping statements and instead use conditional phrases like “I typically…” or “In similar situations…” or “It may be useful to…” Such phrases allow for the fact that there’s more than one way of doing things.
4 Highlight Toastmasters’ mutually supportive environment.
Psychological safety is the foundation on which all learning takes place. Let prospective members know about your club’s positive environment in your marketing materials. Welcome and reassure them when they walk in the door. Remember what it was like to attend your first meeting. In Toastmasters we share each other’s triumphs and challenges.
5 Meet them where they are.
If your club has older members, consider doing promotion at local universities. (You may need approval from the student activities office prior to posting fliers.) Also explore social media, event-planning sites (such as Meetup), podcasts, and short videos as tools for reaching young people.
Finally, remember that in Toastmasters the benefits we receive are comparable to those we bestow. Millennial Andrew Tsuro, DTM, says, “The biggest thing that Toastmasters gave me has been to understand how service is fulfilling—just serving and seeing transformation in other people.”
Jesse Scinto, MS, DTM is a Fulbright scholar and deputy director of the strategic communication program at Columbia University in New York City. He’s also the founder/CEO of Public Sphere, a leadership communication firm, and a member of Greenspeakers Club in New York City.