Toastmasters Learn How to Grow Membership at the 2017 Marketing Institute
By Monica Reusser
Each of the 100+ Toastmasters clubs in District 10 is unique, but they all face one challenge: 20 members. While some clubs keep their membership levels high year after year, many clubs find it challenging to routinely hit 20. Where can Toastmasters go to find out what their clubs can do to attract and keep new members?
One of the best resources available is District 10’s annual Marketing Institute. The Marketing Institute is a half-day training workshop that focuses entirely on techniques and information that clubs can use to promote their clubs and attract new members.
This year’s institute, held on a sunny Saturday, September 16, focused on growing membership and keeping it strong. Attendees learned about a number of practical and effective strategies they can put into use immediately to get more members and keep their clubs thriving. Presenters were veteran District 10 Toastmasters who seem to have the magic touch when it comes to club growth. What they really have is the knowledge and the will to consistently carry out proven approaches to club building, from developing and executing a membership-building plan to holding open houses and Speechcraft workshops.
Dennis James Deegan, DTM, showed that one very powerful technique for membership building is holding Speechcraft workshops. His club, Twinspirations, has been a Presidents Distinguished club for the past 5 years, partly because of the Speechcraft workshops Dennis sponsors.. “It’s a natural transition,” Dennis explained. Speechcraft is a workshop on public speaking skills that clubs can provide to nonmembers. Dennis noted that the workshop is attractive to people because it offers them the opportunity to build confidence and achieve personal growth. Dennis explained the process of planning a Speechcraft workshop step by step. One additional suggestion Dennis made to attendees was to partner with a public library to deliver Speechcraft because the partnership enables your club to take advantage of the library’s strengths. The library is viewed by the public as trusted environment, it offers comfortable meeting spaces, and it provides free event promotion in all its communications vehicles.
Vicky Nann, DTM, led a panel of Toastmasters on the topic of club coaching. Vicky explained the process for clubs that want to request a coach and the process for toastmasters who want to serve as club coaches. Panelists Dave Wiley, DTM, Tricia Spayer, DTM, and Sravanthi Vallampati, DTM, shared their insights on the benefits of being a club coach and the challenges coaches face, and they shared strategies for dealing with those challenges.
Ed Haller, ACB, ALB, took attendees step-by-step through the process of developing and implementing a membership-building plan. The planning starts with getting all the officers on the same page in terms membership goals and the culture they want to create. Next is spelling out club goals and who will be involved in membership efforts. Before putting any plan in place to attract new members, Ed advises Toastmasters to coach members on skills they need to connect with guests, prepare materials, and actually plan out a visitor strategy. Ed suggested many ideas for getting the word out about the club, from posting on Facebook to speaking at other organizations. Finally, Ed advised “watching the backdoor” by monitoring member satisfaction, communicating frequently, and involving and inspiring members.
Deonna Moore Taylor, DTM, shared with institute attendees everything they needed to know to conduct a successful open house. She explained why clubs should hold open houses on a regular basis. In fact, they should hold three open houses a year, timed to coincide with Toastmasters’ membership building contests. Open houses are the “silent club success component,” because when done well, they can bring a large number of guests into your club at once and motivate them to join. Many people don’t know what Toastmasters is, and when you draw in visitors, they can see what Toastmasters can do for them. And being in the presence of many people can spark interest. Deonna detailed the key elements of the planning, preparation, and presentation stages for an open house. Finally, Deonna advised seeking out feedback, especially when an open house doesn’t go well: “Ask guests and members—where did we go wrong?”
Sue Woods, CC, ALB, explained some key principles of public relations—how to get the word out about your club for free. She showed how toastmasters can access a wealth of resources, templates, and professional quality images, from logos to photographs, from Toastmasters International and other organizations on the web. Sue noted that the number of communications tools has multiplied in recent years, and no single tool, be it email or Facebook or Twitter, can reach everyone you want to reach. Sue provided information about a number of social media options related to District 10 Toastmasters, including Meetup, two podcasts, Twitter, and Facebook, and instructions on how to use them.
Heather Lane, DTM, Region 6 Advisor, shared insights on retaining members. She noted that recruiting goes hand in hand with retention—you have to be ready with a plan to retain members before you start to recruit. Heather noted the following things that successful clubs do to retain members: they have a shared vision, they create value by maintaining a quality club, they encourage member engagement by setting and reaching goals, they are creative in finding ways to keep members excited, they increase loyalty through personalization, that is, mentoring, they implement the guidelines in Moments of Truth, and they create an intervention plan and execute it whenever membership numbers start to fall. Heather shared that quality clubs “impress” with their high energy, fun and varied meetings, the high value they place on educational development, and the royal treatment they extend to guests. One suggestion Heather made that many attendees took note of was the idea of two clubs joining forces to be each other’s “buddy club.” Buddy clubs attend each other’s meetings and support each other. Heather pointed out the warning signs of club decline: 12 or fewer members, meetings that are not well attended, guests not being invited back, and “lethargy” evidenced by no interest in district activities or the Distinguished Club Program. Heather closed by emphasizing the critical role that mentors play in member retention.
An additional resource that Marketing Institute attendees received was a booklet that contained the club growth secrets of some of the District’s strongest clubs. Clubs that have been Presidents Distinguished for several years straight shared the things they do that help them make Presidents Distinguished year after year. Clubs that successfully boosted their membership numbers shared what they did to turn their situation around. Did you read this far? As a reward, I’ll share the Successful Club Booklet location. You can access it in the District Download section of the website, found here.