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May 2024
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Building Our Club Through Brainstorming Sessions

How we use the Toastmaster magazine to engage, inspire, and recruit members.

By Gemma Costello

Group of members smiling in hotel meeting place
Members of Vox Populi in Dublin, Ireland, pose for a picture during an in-person meeting. Gemma Costello (center), who started the brainstorming sessions, is holding a digital issue of the magazine.

Have you found yourself forgetting to read the Toastmaster magazine since it transitioned to an online format? It’s something that my fellow club members and I have been struggling with. But in January 2022, I came up with a solution.

Vox Populi is a thriving club of 27 members who currently meet in person twice a month at a hotel in Dublin, Ireland. The club has existed for over a decade, and while our membership numbers fell during the pandemic, we regained ground since returning to in-person meetings thanks to the Trojan efforts of our Executive Committee.

Since 2022 I have hosted four mini-brainstorming sessions during club meetings, to help reactivate interest in the Toastmaster magazine and as a tool to drive recruitment. I generally deliver a session during meetings where we may have a gap in the agenda (e.g., we only have one speech that night or perhaps none at all). I select an article based on my knowledge of the members, their interests, and what would be relevant to their work/careers, etc. I choose a different article each session and outline the main points captured by the author. I then invite input from the audience and facilitate an interactive discussion around the points raised in the article.

Each session takes approximately 10 minutes, and at the beginning and end, I encourage members to check the online magazine for continuing professional development ideas. Club members have said the sessions serve as a valuable reminder of the great resources available in the Toastmaster magazine. And we all learn something by discussing the articles together.

Inspiration for Goal Setting

In a recent session, I chose an article that I hoped would inspire members to think about and plan for their Toastmasters journey this year: “It’s Time to Get SMART” by Greg Lewis, DTM, from the August 2022 edition. I highlighted how Lewis had broken down the acronym SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound—and provided examples of how these concepts applied to setting goals in Toastmasters.

I then described my own typical speech-planning cycle:

  • One week of writing, editing, and finalizing a speech.
  • Two weeks of practicing my speech with my husband (a fellow club member)—at least 10 run-throughs before actual delivery.

We had a good discussion based on this article, with members sharing their own personal experiences of goal setting and highlighting any issues they had with their speech preparation. This was extremely beneficial for the members and guests alike.

At that night’s meeting, five guests in attendance all expressed an interest in receiving information on how to join Toastmasters. Three of them joined Vox Populi following the meeting.

During our magazine brainstorming sessions, I also invite members to contact me if they are interested in one-to-one coaching with myself or another member of the committee as part of a mentoring program for speech preparation. This is an effective marketing tool, demonstrating to our guests how proactive our club is.

I recommend hosting brainstorming sessions to help members further develop their skill set in terms of learning how to facilitate sessions as well as adding more engagement to your club meetings. As Club Vice President Public Relations Susie Kelly put it, “Toastmasters is ultimately about developing ourselves, so the brainstorming sessions have allowed everyone to embrace the true nature of the organization, as well as connect and get inspired together.”

What are you waiting for? Why not give it a go in your own club!


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