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July 2024
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Hybrid Club Celebrates a Winning Culture

The key is following the model of a successful sports team.

By Stephanie Darling

Group of people at restaurant table holding up glasses to toast
Members of PMIWDC#01 at one of the club's quarterly dinner workshops.

Members of PMIWDC #01 Toastmasters Club, a hybrid club in Falls Church, Virginia, have likened their club to a dynamic sports team—uniting as individuals with diverse talents, giving their best to achieve a common goal, and reaching personal milestones along the way.

Chartered in 2006, PMIWDC #01 Toastmasters Club was originally affiliated with the Project Management Institute, which confers a professional certification for project managers. When the club chartered, it used the PMI initials, and added WDC for its proximity to Washington, D.C., resulting in its unusual name. Today, anyone can join.

In keeping with its sports metaphor, the club works purposefully to create a winning culture, which includes receiving the President’s Distinguished designation for the past 17 years. It is one of the largest clubs in District 29 (Northern Virginia), and has logged the fastest membership renewal and highest participation rates in the District. In 2022, the club welcomed 15 new members.

However, the club’s real pride is in its members, who bond around skill-building and camaraderie, which enrich the culture for everyone.

“We happen to believe that social connections and learning are complementary qualities,” notes Vice President Public Relations (VPPR) Victoria Hsueh.

“Joining means not only meeting but also connecting with other like-minded people,” adds Edmond Joe, DTM, Club President.

Among the club’s engagement strategies: a robust mentor program, often manned by senior club officers, and the practice of quickly immersing new members in Pathways and having them take on meeting or officer roles.

However, the club never loses sight of what it takes for people to join and stay. Hsueh makes member satisfaction a priority. In fact, asking members for input and adjusting club functions to meet varying member needs is a club hallmark. That means making changes that suit the club’s mixed member base, which is about 80% local and 20% remote. Virtual members hail from many locations, including Washington state, Texas, Maryland, Connecticut, South Africa, and Brazil.

In 2021, a member survey revealed some divergent interests and preferences. Many members had tired of two-hour meetings on top of busy days, long commutes, and maybe most of all, after working remotely all day. Continuing online-only meetings was not universally welcomed, notes Joe. Yet still another group wanted the social interaction and traditional speaking space of in-person meetings.

“We happen to believe that social connections and learning are complementary qualities.”

—Victoria Hsueh

Hsueh and her Executive Committee quickly revised the meeting format to maximize engagement. They cut meetings from two hours to 90 minutes, included breakout rooms for simultaneous Table Topics®, and added both Table Topics evaluators and extra timer roles.

Creativity factored into a new meeting approach. Hsueh and Joe created a quarterly dinner workshop, which blends fun with a dash of Toastmasters education and practice. Each dinner is themed, incorporates a brief lesson by the Vice President Education (VPE) or a guest speaker, and culminates with all attendees giving a short impromptu speech. Since the tradition began in 2021, the dinners have been a favorite of club members, guests, and occasional District leaders.

The club continues to attract guests and new members; leaders have found that the Meetup app has been its most successful outreach tool to pique interest in Toastmasters. The club also updated its website to include a brief, yet thorough, overview of what Toastmasters offers and how people can benefit from membership. The club makes its focus clear in three words: inspiration, leadership, and fulfillment.

The mindset of a dedicated, purpose-driven sports team works well for PMIWDC #01, Joe says.

“Everyone enjoys being on a winning team,” he explains. “People always push a little harder when they know they’re contributing to the team.”


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