Top Ten Toastmastering

Your club says that it wants to grow. It says that it's trying to get new members. Does its actions match its words? Do guests stick around and join your club, or do they disappear forever? Here is a list of ten questions that I would be asking if I was looking for a new club to join.

1) Am I welcomed? We usually vote for the Sergeant-at-Arms last, but I consider this the most important position after the President. This is your club's first impression to a guest. If this officer is pleasant and greets me warmly, I'm half convinced to join. If the rest of the club says "hi" and introduces themselves to me, I'm practically sold.

2) Is the meeting hectic? Does it look as if it has been arranged at the last minute? If so, why would I want to join this group? My life is disorganized enough; why would I want to join a group that's no better off than I?

3) Do people laugh much during the meeting; are they having a good time? Public speaking can be intimidating and scary, but if I'm having fun, it all seems so much more bearable.

4) Are the members friends to each other? I'm going to be sharing many of my beliefs, ideas, and feelings in speeches to this group. I want reassurance that they will be my friend. Also, if they aren't friendly, their evaluations will seem less sincere and more acidic.

5) Do the meetings have snap? As a member of Shell Toastmasters and The Toast of Shell, I had to get used to 45-minute meetings. We cook! To handle two speeches, there's no opportunity for slack. As a member of Southwestern, we have 2-hour meetings but an average of over 30 members present. Again, there's no time to waste if everyone is to speak and have 4-5 speeches. I get spoiled by meetings that don't dawdle. "I don't want no boring meetings."

6) Is the attention on the meeting? I don't respect clubs whose members are always running side conversations. Why would I want to join a club where no one listens to me?

7) Do they make the details count? Do members stand whenever they speak, even for announcements at the end of the meeting? Does the Toastmaster lead the applause? Does the club continue clapping until the speaker shakes the Toastmaster's hand? Are all of the introductions prepared in advance? These are the things that look so professional and make me think "these people have their act together; I want to be like them."

8) Are the evaluations meaningful? I constantly repeat: I believe that evaluations are the most important part of a meeting. If I want to improve, I expect real evaluations, not some wimpy fluff.

9) Am I invited to return? Does the club make me feel wanted? Do they ask me if I want to join and tell me how?

10) And the most important thing to me: do the members tell me why they have the very best club? Every club has a particular specialty (Southwestern tells its guests that it's the friendliest "family" and has the most fun). If you can't give me at least one reason why your club is the one to join, I'm not going to tell you.