Supply-Side Toastmastering

Today is the final day of the Economic Summit. Ever since I took a course called The History of Economic Thought, I've enjoyed Economics (for my speech about an abstract topic, I defined "price" and called it "The Most Boring Topic in the World"). My paper in that college course studied the perpetual growth and the steady state theories. Recently, two comments I've heard remind me that this is a Toastmasters' issue, too.

Monday night, I was talking to Tom Divine. He was discussing TI's growth boom and worried that, in the overwhelming push to start new clubs, we might dilute our message by trying to form clubs that are more social than professional. I don't see clubs forming for that reason, but it caused me to hesitate. I'm in Southwestern, one of the premier social clubs in Toastmasters: dinner parties, camping trips, birthday celebrations, renting beach houses, after-meeting meetings, pool parties. It certainly works for them; in the last five years, Southwestern has been in the District Top 5 four times (twice as number one and once as number two). However, it doesn't work in a club that tries to force the social angle. The sub-groups need to develop slowly, expand, try new things, merge, and a stronger camaraderie follows. I don't believe that a club formed primarily for social reasons will succeed as a Toastmasters' club.

During the Candidates' Forum, Harry Pool said that he felt Central Division's main challenge this year would be to nurture all of last year's new clubs. I think that is a tremendous insight! In our zeal for new clubs, we can't forget the ones we already have. Divisions typically have a Club Extension specialist; I'd recommend that they also appoint a 1st-year club specialist. This person would give special attention to the unique needs of fledgling clubs. Similarly, in the enthusiasms to find new members, it's dangerous for clubs to forget their current members. I noticed the case of Professional Singles. In Fall, 1988, they had 22 members, and, in Spring, 1989, they had 22 members. You might deduce that this is a mature, stable club, but as Disraeli said: "their are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Consider that from July 1988 to July 1989, Professional Singles had 26 new members! This club lost about as many members than they kept. Membership retention is a whole different series of articles, but there are two initial ways to pay attention to your current members: EVPs must distribute Member Interest Surveys and schedule programs to fill people's requirements, and AVPs must assign coaches to all new members and call current members if they miss 2-3 weeks and let them know that they've been missed.

New members and new clubs are really easy (as I said last May, I can practically scare anyone into joining Toastmasters). But once these people have turned in their registration forms, don't forget about them as you pursue the latest prospect. Now, isn't that an economics lesson we can all learn to enjoy?