The first time I tried to attend a Toastmasters meeting I could barely bring myself to walk in the door.
I knew I wanted to join the organization. I wanted to overcome my fear of public speaking, and to do so, I would need to physically enter the room and take my place among the meeting’s members.
Yet it wasn’t until I peeked in and saw a smiling face shining back at me that I felt safe enough to take the leap into Toastmasters.
I often think about that moment when I ponder the future of our organization. It’s no secret that we have lost members over the course of the pandemic. Some were uncomfortable with switching to an online or hybrid model, some missed seeing other members in person, and some simply curtailed their outside commitments.
Extending a friendly greeting does wonders for setting minds at ease, and it sets an example for the rest of the members.
That’s why it’s so important to make potential and new members feel welcome from the start. As existing members, our job is to create the safe spaces people crave. People want to be nurtured in new ways, and we can help them on their journeys.
None of these approaches cost a dime. In fact, they don’t take much effort at all! But incorporating them into your meetings can make all the difference in the world to a shy or hesitant potential member.
1 Say hello immediately.
If you don’t welcome a new person at the top of the meeting, you immediately begin to lose them. It’s like attending a cocktail party alone and not being welcomed into conversations—it’s awkward. Extending a friendly greeting does wonders for setting the minds of visitors and new members at ease, and it sets an example for the rest of the members.
2 Ask how they heard about Toastmasters.
This gives you a chance to meet them at their level. Perhaps they learned about the organization from a friend or even attended a meeting before. Maybe they know nothing about Toastmasters at all. Whatever the case, learning about their knowledge level gives you a baseline from which to start a lasting relationship.
3 Work their concerns into the meeting.
For example, say a potential member wants to brush up on his speaking skills because he has to deliver a best man toast at his brother’s wedding. You can provide value somewhere in the meeting by discussing a tip that might be especially helpful in his quest, call it out, and use it to include him. He’ll immediately feel cared for.
The world is a bit raw right now, and a little bit of kindness goes a long way. With just a few simple steps, you can make a potential member, or a new one, feel seen and heard—and maybe even change their life along the way.
Margaret Page, DTM
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