How to improve members engagement – case study
In District 91 we love to learn and share knowledge on how to improve our clubs and members experience. Get to know 1st London Toastmasters club and discover what they did to increase members engagement in the 2020/21 Toastmasters year.
Free workshops for the students
Toastmasters is where leaders are made! Speaking in public, running a club. and organising larger events such as contests all enhance these skills. At 1st London Toastmasters club, we run workshops for law students which enable us to widen the network of the club, and take our leadership and mentorship up to another level.
Our club works closely with the University of Law to organise and host workshops for the students throughout the academic year. As a fresh committee in July 2020, we had been handed over the baton from the previous committee to run the workshops. But it was the first time they were virtual. So, we had a sharp learning curve on planning the format and building an interactive programme and engaging the students and keeping them interested online.
We kicked off with two workshops in September 2020, when students are full of energy for the year ahead. The students were also hesitant in a new format and it felt like a mutual learning event. Despite being online there was an overwhelming response! Actually, over 100 students signed up to the event, which meant we upgraded our Zoom account to enable all interested to join the workshop and learn about Toastmasters.
Share Toastmaster journey
Explaining Toastmasters to the uninitiated is always exciting! Initially, most students joined with their cameras off. But the energy of our President and her idea of opening breakout rooms of smaller groups for three minutes broke the ice and encouraged people to switch on their cameras and engage in smaller groups. This was successful as most of the students’ cameras remained on for the rest of the meeting. This was a great learning experience and has been incorporated in our regular Toastmasters meetings too. A bit of small talk in breakout rooms enable all our members and guests to have a social interaction before the speeches start.
We explained the Timekeeper role at the outset, as maintaining timing is crucial, then shared our personal Toastmaster journeys with the students to make the committee more relatable. We also encouraged them to share their journey and describe what brings them to Toastmasters and public speaking. This got them comfortable with speaking publicly. We then introduced them to Table Topics, which we had based around a law theme. Some questions were: Are lawyers boring? Should there be more diversity in law? Should artificial intelligence be used in law?
Many students volunteered and seemed to really enjoy the engagement. Some were naturals. The students received evaluations, which they seemed to appreciate. Many of them immediately implemented a lot of the recommendations and found that aspect of personal comments very helpful. We encouraged the students to attend regular club meetings to learn more about Toastmasters and to progress their public speaking journey. It was satisfying to see that the students enjoyed the session, many of which gave us positive feedback via the University and some now regularly attend our normal club meetings.
Freshers Fair Virtual Booth
A few weeks later, the University invited us to host a virtual booth at their online fresher’s fair. This was an innovative way to bring clubs and organizations to the students online. Hosting a virtual booth is very different from being there in-person, so there was a learning exercise for all of us.
Our virtual booth consisted of two of our club committee members sitting in a virtual room with cameras on, and students popping in and out during that afternoon. It felt a bit like being on a TV screen and having a chat about TM and public speaking without being aware of how many people were actively listening. This had an advantage over the workshops as it attracted a much wider audience, many of whom would not have even considered signing up to a public speaking workshop.
It was a productive afternoon as we answered lots of questions from the students, the majority of whom had never heard of Toastmasters. A few of them joined us at our regular TM meetings in the following weeks.
More Specialised Workshops
More recently we hosted two more workshops: one focussed on Table Topics and another on Evaluation. Both were successful in engaging students and giving us the benefit of promoting and advertising the merits of Toastmasters, telling students why they should join young and how it will benefit them in their law career and their journey through life.
Why do we do this?
These workshops and the virtual booth enable our club members to grow, as planning and hosting these events is yet another way to improve our members’ organisation, communication, and leadership skills.
These workshops provide the law students with a free sample of Toastmasters and can bring them one step closer to becoming a full member which will be a great investment in their personal and professional lives. Many of the students have since attended our regular club meetings, some of which will convert into new paid members, which benefits both the club and the Toastmasters organisation.
Lastly, the University is very grateful that we run these workshops as it adds to the resources and support that they can offer to their students.
——— 1st London Toastmasters club