I could observe one thing when I visited a Toastmasters Club meet last week; THIN ATTENDANCE. And during break time the topic of discussion was also “WHAT IS THE ANTIDOTE TO THIN ATTENDANCE.”
In this post I would share my thoughts which are easier said than done. But if you begin right you are most likely to end right as well. Most Toastmasters club face dwindling attendance and the best road map to reverse the attrition is to adopt BI-MODAL STRATEGY. Bimodal strategy is to have strategy focus on two membership areas.
- RETENTION OF EXISTING MEMBERS: Existing members attend the club meet by ensuring that their individual needs are addressed. The needs could be Education, Growth in and outside the club, right participation opportunities, recognition, involvement in decision making, role models, Mentoring, Quality meetings, innovative meetings, easy to reach meet location, available parking and so on.
- ACQUISITION OF NEW MEMBERS: Allocate a budget to acquire new members. Define 2- 3 ideas and steps to invite guests in every club meet and measure your conversion rate from guests to members. How can you improve on the rate of conversion by 10% or 20%. Identify a team to convert guests into members. On the flip side conversion of guests to member should be a collective responsibility of every member of the club.
A caveat; even if your club is thriving with membership attendance of 40 – 50 or 60 members in every meet. Do not slack on inviting Guests because Guests are life line of every club longevity. Final word of caution – in the beginning of the year set number target in three areas; every CLUB MEETING ATTENDANCE; MEMBERSHIP RETENTION and ACQUISITION. And measure your efforts. Because what gets measured gets done.
Last Friday Dec. 4, 2015 I attended District 20, Division J – Debate contest. Around 21 Clubs participated competed and enjoyed. Like every event, this event reflected semblance of tranquility as if event organization was a cake walk. But like any other event it had its ups and down but dexterity of organizer did not show the dark shadows of hardships.
Every event has five Pillars i.e
- Execution and
PLANNING: This Pillar is the foundation of an event that constitutes conceptualizing the event framework. Such as
- What is the event
- who will participate
- where will it be held
- when will it be held
- Defining Roles and responsibilities
- Defining time lines
- Who is the executive team members and back up team members
- Expenses and where to get funds
- Check the legal implication of conducting the event including emergency drill.
- Risk mitigation and backup plan. ( What if Judges drop out, a team drops out, out of the box protest, internal friction and disagreements and so on – Nominate someone who can address risks)
Rather Planning is thinking and putting the plan on paper for litmus test. If planning is right the subsequent steps becomes easier to perform. And if planning has gaps it could result in sinking boat or last minute runs that eventually shoots up your stress level. Hence spend 2 – 4 days on planning and run it through the key stake holder.
TEAMWORK: This is the second Pillar, when you bring together the team heads.
- Give your executive team the overview and share your vision
- Define roles and responsibilities
- Define time lines
- Give them a free hand to organize their team members and achieve results
- Request for their feedback on planning and how it can be executed better in a more efficient manner.
- Invite fresh and young blood into the team to add variety and spice.
- Having said that meet with them periodically to review the progress
- Teamwork is an opportunity for a leader to test out his leadership skills through effective delegation. Rather once planning is done, subsequent activity of a leader should be to give free rein to the team members and to track periodic progress on periodicity.
ORGANIZATION: This involves getting the ball rolling.
- Set up a communication systems among your team members
- Set up a communication system for audience and performers
- Get the team heads and team members under one roof and address them
- Organize and invite participation from audience, performers and executive team.
- Sharing events details
- Creating event awareness
- Organize permissions where required.
- This block ensure that you are equipped to deliver the plan on the event day
EXECUTION: This is WHERE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD. Execution is about ensuring things happen on time and as per your planned expectations. And if you deliver within time and exceed expectations; you create a wow factor. Be positive
FEEDBACK: Request feedback during the event and after the event from audience, participants and executive team members. The objective is to see what could have been done better, efficient and at less cost/resource.
Good luck for your next event.
I joined Toastmasters in 2001 @ Dubai Toastmasters Club. I was impressed with educational manual that has shaped many careers. And am still impressed with the Communication and Leadership educational course content that has virtually remained unchanged.
During the period new waves have come and communication paradigm has changed such as 2004: LinkedIn was launched, 2003: Facebook was founded; 2004: Twitter was found; 2005: YouTube was founded; Google + and list is endless.
Nothing much changed in Toastmasters Educational manuals, it stood the test of time. But I believe changing technology and shrinking world, demands introduction of new technology and new paradigm of conducting meetings. Such changes would bring in the spirit of entrepreneurship and attract Millennials to the program. If I may say Toastmasters should introduce new educational manuals with 5 project speech to address the Digital world.
PROJECT # 1 : YouTube: The project objective would be
- To record and edit 20 minutes of an educational session conducted in the club meeting.
- Use necessary tools to edit and publish on YouTube
- Use camera facing techniques
- Current Smartphones are equipped with powerful camera and editing software to make the movie. Such as movie “Tangerine” was shot on iPhone 5S and done professionally.
PROJECT # 2: Hangout, WebEx, Skype: The project objective would be
- Conduct a webinar for 20 minutes for the club members
- Use the right technology (Hangout, WebEx, Skype) & techniques to invite and broadcast the webinar
- Invite general public and other Toastmasters
- Learn the proper webinar techniques
PROJECT # 3: Sound Cloud: the Project objective would be
- Record 7 minutes speech and make it available as a podcast
- Learn and use the current technologies for Podcast
- Learn to use the microphone for voice modulation.
- Play the Podcast in the club meeting and evaluate.
PROJECT # 4: WordPress; Tumblr; Blogspot: The Project Objective would be
- Learn to Blog
- Share techniques and Experiences to write a Blog post.
PROJECT # 5: Upstream: The Project objective would be
- Live Stream the meeting proceeding to the external world
- Use Proper audio and video Techniques.
Above necessitates use of technology and address the Digital economy. The above project will also help people monetize their toastmasters skills from anywhere around the globe. And that could be the next manual – “Monetizing Toastmasters Skills”
Content is the currency of future. In this blog I would share PROVEN TIPS on creating hooks for your content
- YOUR NAME: Grab your name and purchase URL. Begin writing blog post. Integrate your Blog with Social Media platform such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
- CURATE CONTENT: Subscribe to people.li and enter your keyword/title. Site will search and generate a newsletter on your keyword/topic. Share content on your Social Media Platform.
- LENGTH: For blog – longer 500 – 750 words length is permitted. For LinkedIn 200 – 400 words is enough whereas for Facebook 150 – 200 words post is tolerable.
- TITLE: Have a catchy titles such “7 – Tips …”; “3 Reason Sales people Fail”; “Best kept secrets…”. Title is the first text that catches eye balls and people make snap decision whether to read or not.
- TIME: Post at appropriate time.
- KEYWORDS: Sprinkle your post with keywords. Keywords are the secret to how you are found?
- LINKS: Insert third party link in your post.
- COMMENTS: When you post link to Social Media platform add your comments in the visible column to create interest.
- CTA: Include Call To Action in your post or ask for opinion.
- Hashtag: Hashtag is a keyword with a hyperlink. Include Hashtag at the end of the post, it allows your content to be found.
Content is king and more hooks you include in your content, more views you will capture.
- Organize contest between the best speakers of the Divisions in the District.
- Hold elections for the next District Council.
But why should you attend DTAC 2015 is a questions that you must ask yourself? And am sharing my power tips – why?
- EDUCATION: Three days of watching Districts best speakers on stage is equivalent to 365 days of learning from club attendance. A perfect opportunity to pick up nuggets on speaking, body language and content creation skills.
- LEARN FROM CONTESTANTS: Connect and Interview contestants. How did they Participate, Prepare and Practice for the contest. Learn from their experience.
- BE THE JUDGE: Learning happens when you are involved and having fun. Hence bring Judging sheet along and Judge the contest. Predict winners. Its fun.
- NETWORK: Great opportunity to network with TM across 7 countries. Network with 30 New Toastmasters every day of the 3 day event. Your network is your net-worth
- NETWORK OUTSIDE THE TM BOX: Don’t limit your discussions to Toastmasters but probe what others do professionally and is there any common denominator you share professionally with others? Take your discussions outside the TM domain.
- FUN: DTAC 2015 has a Gala dinner on May 29, 2015 – a perfect opportunity to unwind with Toastmasters community across the 7 Countries.
- DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTIONS: Every club President and VP Education participates in the District council elections. And they must attend to exercise their voting rights on behalf of the club members. It’s a brilliant opportunity to witness Parliamentary machinery in action. (Valid for TM Carrying Voting Ballots)
Good Luck and Great – Education, Fun and Networking at DTAC 2015.
Idea of this blog post triggered in my mind after I requested a speaking slot in DTAC 2015 “. I began wondering what I can give back to Toastmasters in this blog Post. And it boiled down to “A Teaser on BRAND building.”
Brand has numerous scientific definitions but in simplistic terms it is what your audience speaks about you. And what audiences speak about you is a direct reflection of
- Your EXTERNAL self-i.e. PHYSICAL; how you dress, behave and interact
- Your INTERNAL self – INTELLECT – What you write, share and Express
Once you have covered the above two points; 50% of the battle is won. The other 50% is PRESENCE & VISIBILITY i.e. being seen, heard and felt among your audience. Let’s step back and wonder how you can practice BRAND building sitting in the comfort of your home. Remember we live in a collaborative economy and by 2025 – 75% of the workforce would be millennials who are digital natives consumed by Smartphone 24×7. Hence subscribe to Facebook and LinkedIn and practice following steps online …..
- EXTERNAL: 25%: Post a clear head shot and a profile that markets your credentials.
- INTERNAL: 25%: Share content with insight. Your content could fall into three categories Entertainment, Education and Experience.
- PRESENCE: 25%: Being where your audience is. Become a member of Facebook page “THE OFFICIAL TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL” with over 11,706 members and other regional Toastmasters Groups on Facebook. Become the member of LinkedIn Group “THE OFFICIAL TOASTMASTERS INTERNATIONAL GROUP” with over 42,837 members
- VISIBILITY: 25%: Post content with insight at least once a day and do it at an appropriate time I.e. early morning before people reach office or late in the evening after dinner time when your audience is most likely to surf the net.
Now is the time to MEASURE your BRAND. You can subscribe to www.klout.com and link all your Social Media platforms to your Klout account. And Klout will dynamically measure your brand value ranking.
Good luck and look forward to sharing more on “BUILDING YOUR SOCIAL BRAND IN 90 DAYS” @ DTAC 2015 in Dubai.
Raising funds for an event shares many similarities to raising equity for an enterprise wherein you are expected to persuade the financier to bet on the future of the company. And am sharing my lessons on raising funds for DTAC 2015 that will guide prospective fund raisers.
- REVENUE TARGET: Foremost identify what is your target to raise funds. Identify the upper and lower limit.
- EXPENSE HEADS: Broadly identify the expense heads such as meals, entertainment, printing, Newsletter for the event. And explore if any of the expense head can be directly sponsored by a corporate. Few corporates may like to pay for expenses rather than write out a cash cheque.
- TEAM: Get a team on the SPONSORSHIP BUS. Choose members who are passionate for the cause and philosophy of the event. They may not necessarily come from the sales or marketing background but are self-motivated.
- PLAN: Sit down with the Team Members
- SPONSORSHIP PACK: Create a sponsorship pack wherein various sponsorship value brackets and benefits will be scripted reflecting total amount to be raised.
- LIST One: Create a list of 100 potential corporate. Prioritize them and distribute among the team members with measurable target (Time and value).
- LIST Two: Create a list of 20 high value potential leads for Title sponsorship.
- SALES CYCLE: Identify the sales cycle time right from first contact to money in the bank. This is important to mitigate the risk. Normally for such projects sales cycle is 3 months and more.
- TRAINING: Conduct a training for the team members; share your sales pitch and likely target title within the corporate. Explain sponsorship pack with benefits, mode of payment, terms & conditions and what is expected from the corporate, post receiving the sponsorship amount such as logo, advertising message and other guidelines. Train your team members to handle OBJECTIONS – we don’t have budget; VP is out; we sponsored an event last month or a similar event; We don’t benefit from such event; This event has no value for us; We can sponsors X amount (Peanuts ) for Title sponsorship,; the benefits are not enough, my boss is not convinced and so on.
- BACK PLAN: Think and document a backup plan. Secondly when, how and who to raise the red flag when anything goes wrong.
- BANK ACCOUNT: Open a bank account and document the process to remit sponsorship amount.
- REVIEW MEET: Arrange a periodic meet with your team. The meet motivates team members and you will observe the most vital results come immediately after the review meet.
- NEGOTIATION: People will negotiate hence Create your negotiation bucket list
- CORE TEAM: Other than sponsorship team ensure everyone in the Core Team is acquainted with and contributes towards raising funds. They are your strongest allies to raise funds.
- VOLUNTEERS: Spread the word among volunteers for potential leads.
- CORPORATE TOASTMASTER CLUB: Go back to Presidents of Corporates Club and request funds. They are the soft target or let’s call it low hanging fruits.
- DISTRICT OFFICERS: Speak to and share sponsorship document with District officers such as Area and Division Governors.
- CLUB, AREA AND DIVISION: Take a speaking slot at Club level, Area level and Division level and appeal for funds and leads. Go back and remind them again. Show them how they can raise funds or identify leads. Do the thinking on others behalf.
- DIGITAL WORLD: Get your web site and Facebook page up. Use them to increase awareness and request for sponsorship. This is your 24×7 marketing engine.
- THANK YOU: Acknowledge in writing people who influence indirectly or directly to raise funds.
- Have a plan, a backup plan and time to raise red alert.
- Begin prospecting early.
- Request help, leads and ideas for raising funds from your toastmaster’s community and friendly corporate.
- Learn from the lessons of the past events. Speak to the last team who raised funds.
- IDENTIFY WHAT’S NOT WORKING: Go back review and revise DELETE what’s not working and focus on what’s working.
- Remember sponsors may commit and back out. Deal is not done until money is in your account. And when money is in the bank give your sponsors exceptional service and assure them of the value out of the event.
- Don’t be disheartened if nothing seems working. Adjust your SAIL because SUCCESS is round the bend.
Please feel free to add comment to improve fund raising.
You have taken up the challenge to drive the next meeting and now is the day to perform THE role of TOASTMASTERS OF THE DAY. Audience is looking forward to a great time. How can you help them? Here are few tips to enchant them
- TIME MANAGEMENT: Help Begin, Carry and Close the meeting on Time.
- Meet, Greet and Shake hands with members and Guests. Connect to make them comfortable and confident.
- GUEST INTRODUCTION: If the guests are not recognized by the presiding officer, take it upon yourself to recognize the guests and give them a brief on what is expected from the meeting. At the end of the meeting ask them for their FEEDBACK.
- TMOD: The best TMOD is the one you don’t remember. He invests energy in making participants look great and feel appreciated.
- THEME: Give a theme to your meeting and be consistent with it from the beginning till the end.
- APPLAUSE: Lead the applause when a speaker comes or leaves the podium.
- LEAD: Lead the charge to making the meeting exciting. Get everyone pumped up and keep them up during the meeting. While the speakers are the stars of the show, you are the lead cheerleader.
- STAY IN TOUCH: Get in touch with every role play and brief him what is expected and find if the role player needs any help or special considerations.
- BACKUP PLAN: Avoid delay in meeting because a role play has not turned up on Time. If a member with a role is late – even if you’re still expecting them – get a backup for the role in case they don’t make it.
- CONTENT: Find interesting facts, quotes, trivia related to the meeting theme to interject throughout the meeting.
- Me Me and Me: Avoid loads of personal anecdotes.
- STARS: Your speakers, evaluators and Table Topics participants are the stars to make the meeting memorable. Your job is to make sure they feel comfortable, confident and connected when come to the podium.
- INTRODUCTION: There are three things you must include in the introduction: Presenter name and TM title, Project manual and name, Title of the speech.
- OBSERVE: Finally strictly observe members and guests before and during the meeting. Identify one good thing or initiative taken up by a new member or guest and recognize him during the meeting. For example if a new member extends a helping hand in setting up the room or a guest helps distribute the agenda.
- FEEDBACK: Finally request written feedback from your audience on your role play. reward every feedback with a small token of appreciation. ( It could be any stationery items such as a pen, stick on or others)
Good Luck for your next TMOD role play
Last month while conversing with a Toastmaster I inquired about a fellow Toastmaster. I was told he had lost his job. In another meeting I was told that another fellow toastmaster had migrated to Canada considering his kids had moved out for higher education. This got me thinking, how well do I know my fellow Toastmasters, how well do I know them beyond the precincts of Toastmasters meetings?
Toastmasters is a community of members working towards excelling in life. Which other fraternity has such a powerful minded community of people? I could think of no other. And then I was promptly reminded of Sales phrases Upsell; Cross Sell; Low hanging fruits and so on.
Low hanging Fruits: Coming from a Sales background I realized that I was connecting with fellow Toastmasters at TM level only i.e. what role they were playing and their Toastmasters journey, nothing beyond that. This networking road map was obvious and did not require extra effort. Rather I was plucking LOW HANGING FRUITS. I was not UP SELLING, I was not connecting at a professional level. I was not Cross selling, I was connecting at a social level.
When I sat down to introspect; we have over 100+ clubs in UAE and considering a membership status of around 20 members per club, the total membership should around 2000 members. People pay premium to attend networking events simply to exchange business cards; whereas at TM club meetings we have an opportunity to connect at a much deeper level.
My message is that networking is a powerful tool, provided we network beyond TM activities. Because networking is not only shaking hands, exchanging cards or chit chat. Networking is finding gold while helping other people succeed. So why pluck the low hanging fruits? Why don’t we CROSS SELL i.e network at a professional level. Why not UPSELL i.e. what stops us networking at the Social level.
The next time you participate in a club meet, arrive 30 minutes early and
- CROSS SELL ie. Network at a professional level. Connect with 5 TM’s at a professional level. Find out what do they do professionally, how did they got into their profession, what skills are required to be in their job and finally how you can help them grow.
- UPSLL i.e Network at a social level. Agree to meet at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and nurture this relationship into a familyet together. Ask how you can be of help to his family.
Maturing from LOW HANGING FRUITS to CROSS SELL and UPSELL is 360* networking. And remember, UAE has around 2000 Toastmasters whereas globally there are 292,000 members in more than 14,350 clubs spread in 122 countries. POWER; Use it or lose it.
Many a time I receive a request from a prospective member “which club should I join? ” And the question cycle begins where do you stay, what is your profession and what is your objective? Many a time Toastmasters come back after a long SABBATICAL and request is for a similar advice. The recommendations could be wrong or right but presumably coloured by the glasses you are wearing.
What if we could automate this process? Automation is not about reflecting where the club exists or the contact details. What if we use the power of SOCIAL MEDIA and going forward request every member who is joining to concur to share or not to share his LinkedIn or Facebook profile?
And I am positive 90% of the members would not hesitate to concur. Based on the trend mobile application can be developed that is interfaced with LinkedIn and Facebook to pick up relevant data. And this Mobile app can be made available to Toastmasters on subscription model wherein if members can search members with relevant skill, qualifications, Title, industry and all those criteria that are available on LinkedIn and Facebook platform.
I see tremendous benefit in the application. Imagine I am visiting Turkey and want to visit club with members from IT sales professionals, Imagine I am visiting Malaysia and would like to visit members from Finance background? Imagine club membership is going down or shooting up – the membership profile can intelligently predict why?
Please share your comments.