Creating a new Toastmaster Club is not without its challenges, but executed correctly, can be an incredibly rewarding endeavour.
I would like to share with you my experience of starting a new Club, what I learnt and what I believe are the three key ingredients to success.
Wokingham Speakers chartered 3 years ago. It is now a thriving Club with 34 Members, having recently obtained 10 DCPs for the first time in its history. However, its ability to enjoy this kind of success is a tribute to its early days and the firm plan put in place by its founders, which leads me aptly onto my first piece of advice;
Have a clear vision. Before you begin, really consider the characteristics you want your new Club to embody. To do this, I would recommend taking the features you most admire from your Home Club, or other Clubs you have visited and being mindful of aspects that you don’t think work. Ask yourself why. How could things be done more effectively? Why don’t they work? Once you have evaluated your thoughts, put pen to paper and write a clear plan of what you want your Club to stand for.
My second piece of advice is to create a Committee that has a mixture of experience and fresh eyes. The experienced Members should ideally take on the roles of President and VP Education to get the Club off to a flying start, whereas newer Members should be encouraged to take on other roles to learn the process, but most importantly to offer a new perspective. At Wokingham, some of our best ideas came from Members who just saw things differently and were not exposed to years of repetition.
Finally, I would recommend that care is taken to ensure that new Members are embedded into the Club and indeed Toastmasters International effectively. This starts with ensuring they are made to feel very welcome at Meetings, to providing them with a Mentor, to explaining how the Manual Awards are achieved. With new Clubs, building Membership is critical, as of course you can’t charter until you have at least 20 Members. The next challenge is to retain those Members and in my opinion, you will only succeed in doing that if the Member is content and benefitting from the experience. By ensuring they understand the process in the early stages and have clear goals to work towards, the chance of keeping them onboard is dramatically increased.
Being a founding Member of Wokingham Speakers is right up there with my proudest achievements at Toastmasters. It has been incredible to watch terrified newcomers grow into accomplished, confident Speakers. It has helped me develop my own leadership skills and brought me closer together with the other two Founding Members, who originally I viewed as Club Mates and now I’m proud to call friends.
I would highly recommend seizing the opportunity if it presents itself to you.
Founding Member, Wokingham Speakers