Club officer elections have come and gone, and you may be thinking about what role you’d like to take on next. You’re probably familiar with the responsibilities of most of the officer roles. The Vice President Education ensures everyone is making progress toward their educational goals, and the Treasurer is responsible for the club’s monetary funds, while the Secretary takes notes and sends out emails.
The Sergeant at Arms starts the meeting and introduces the Club President, and wields the real or metaphorical gavel. They usually make an announcement about silencing cell phones or staying muted if the club is online, but all things considered, it might not seem like a very challenging responsibility. However, as someone who has served as Sergeant at Arms for two clubs multiple times, I can assure you the role requires more than what meets the eye.
The Club Leadership Handbook does an excellent job of explaining this role. The Sergeant at Arms is the one who sets up the room or the online meeting link, makes sure there are always enough supplies on hand, sees to it that there is a backup plan if the meeting place is ever in jeopardy (or if there’s a faulty Zoom link). And that’s just the start.
This officer can make the difference as to whether a new guest returns for the next meeting or is never seen again. Being proactive creates a positive impact, and the Sergeant at Arms should constantly be looking to make things better. Here are some examples:
Keep in close contact with the President right before the meeting to let them know you intend to start exactly on time. They will either inform you that there may be some reason for a brief delay or give the go-ahead to start. Give a one-minute notice to let everyone get organized and in their seats so the meeting can start in an orderly fashion. If the meeting is on Zoom, this will allow members to wrap up conversations, mute themselves, and end any conversations in the chat.
Help anyone with computer difficulties if they need it. If your club has online and in-person attendees (a hybrid format), be sure that everyone can hear one another and is familiar with how to mute and unmute.
Make sure that the President and Toastmaster of the Day know the names of the guests and be ready to remind them to make introductions (if that’s a practice in your club).
During the meeting, keep things in control: Help a late-arriving guest or member find a seat or welcome them to the Zoom meeting in a private message.
Just before the meeting ends, make sure nothing has been overlooked. Is there supposed to be an Executive Committee Meeting after adjournment? Has the location or link of next week’s meeting been changed? If so, make that announcement.
Work with the Vice President Membership (VPM) to capture guest contact information and encourage club members to do a little socializing with guests. If your guests are online, send them a private message to get their contact information and send it to the officers so they can follow up.
Keep an eye on guests and as they leave, say something like, “It was great to see you, and I hope you enjoyed our meeting. Please come back again!”
Double-check that the President and VPM have guests’ contact information before the meeting ends.
For in-person meetings, be sure to put the room back as it should be. In fact, try to leave it better than you found it! For online meetings, once the goodbyes are completed, officially end the meeting, and send out the recording, if applicable.
Be adaptable. Our world has changed. We have challenges no one imagined until recently. First, we had Zoom meetings, and now we have hybrid ones. If you’ve been in a hybrid meeting, you know a lot can go wrong if equipment isn’t connected properly and put in place in advance of the meeting. If you don’t know how to do this, practice until you are comfortable so the meetings start smoothly and on time.
This is just the start. Hopefully you will think of even more ways to help the meeting be successful. If you just do your job the way you’re supposed to, you can get by. But if you want to do an outstanding job, constantly look for ways to make every meeting just a little better. Be proactive!
Will Neuman, DTM joined Toastmasters in 2013 and is a member of Talk of the Town Toastmasters in Batavia, Illinois; Listen, Learn, Lead in Elgin, Illinois; and Fountain Hills Toastmasters in Fountain Hills, Arizona. He is President of the Illinois clubs.