Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category
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.
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.
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.
In sales we are taught to UP-SELL – If our prospect purchases a Tablet Pcs; sell him 3 years premium support along. CROSS-SELL – If your prospect buys Tablet Pcs; sell him a printer or a Camera along.
The fundamental is “don’t limit yourself to the low hanging fruits.” But cross sell and upsell to increase your share of customer wallet. And I would like to apply this principle to Toastmasters platform as well.
Toastmaster’s platform is a BOX. In TOASTMASTERS BOX members come together to invest positive energy to help and be helped in enhancing their communication and leadership skills. But the buck should never stop here and we should invest that energy to Cross Sell. What if we create two more boxes?
- FIRST BOX or PROFESSIONAL BOX: We step out of the Toastmasters box and invest in helping fellow members progress in THREE professional arenas such as
- FEEDBACK: Sharing our FEEDBACK on their professional status (This could be in the similar format of LinkedIn wherein we send feedback request to our connections)
- PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Recommendations on what professional course will help them to turbo charge the career. It could be onsite MBA, an online marketing course or mentoring/coaching.
- ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES: Sharing economic opportunities and this could be new jobs in his domain; new companies coming up or new industry trends.
- Let’s create SECOND BOX or FAMILY BOX: Wherein structured discussion could happen in two areas
- INVESTMENT: Right and viable investment in property; equity or others.
- FAMILY: Kids education or Health related benefits to avail and recommendations. Or Tips & recommendations on Leisure or vacation.
Good luck and begin Investing out of the box.
Inspired by the quote, I resolved to participate in maximum number of Toastmasters meetings in a day. And observe my emotions. Finally I succeeded in my mission.
- Four Club meetings in a day
- 8 Roles in four club meetings including 3x Education session on two different topics, 1x General Evaluation, 2x Evaluations and 2 Table Topics ( Table Topics is the easiest to duplicate since you can volunteer)
How did I manage; well that is not the objective of the post. But how did I feel Before, During and After is objective of the post.
BEFORE: No matter how prepared you are, your mind spins into an anxiety mode especially when you begin imagining further lineup of role plays till 9:00 in the evening. Probably this feeling creeps in due to four different sets of audience. You move into stress mode in your thought process; your facial expressions and enthusiasm go for a toss. Another challenge is to rush and be on time for the next club meeting; when you begin cursing the traffic and non-availability of parking space.
This week I was attending a Toastmasters club meeting. And guess what? Holidays, Ramdhan and host of other reasons; the participation was down to 6 Toastmasters. What should we do? Chat, exchange pleasantries and quit. Somehow decision was taken to attempt Table Topics and format would be as such
- Every members will attempt Table Topic for 5 minutes
- Speaker would be evaluated by every member between 1 – 2 minutes
- Finally, speaker will share his learning from the feedback.
- Speaker will remain on the stage/lectern till he has delivered his learning.
The participants agreed and the game began and ended, I reiterate ended because time flew by. Sooner it was time to recharge the 2 hours parking time.
My feedback is, in those two hours I received the maximum sticky learning and am certain others participants share the same feeling. Let me share my learning from the Table topics exercise
- Deliver Guerrilla opening and if possible a Guerilla closing ( An act or statement that will surprise the audience)
- Deliver your talk with energy and passion
- Attack the topic and don’t waiver if it’s a closed ended topic. Else you will miss the point.
- 5 minutes is a short time, so don’t beat around the bush to complement the time. Get to the point and then weave your story.
Every cloud has a silver lining and behind every cloud is the bright sun shine. I am sharing this incidence so other clubs can take a cue and if not Table Topic they can run a ditto with project evaluation.
Last Friday I was TMOD for Friends of Yoga Toastmasters club meeting. And my theme for the day was “Get Comfortable with UNCOMFORT”. The delivery was about getting prepared for the future and I shared “8” rules to Future proof yourself.
I believe these rules are very important and relevant in current economic scenario and scenarios shaping our future. To succeed you must stand out and the “8” Rules to standout are
- Stand out – don’t be copy
- Get Comfortable taking risks – everyday take one small risk
- 1 common phrase a week – Flavour your communications with common phrases
- Make everyday your “PAY DAY”
- Learn to use technology – location & time independent ( Future is location and time independent)
- Create work that can be duplicated, replicated and automated – Teach and share the process
- Learn Speed reading
- Increase your per hour results 10 times.
Practice to future proof yourself
In the past 10 days have visited few Toastmasters clubs which led me to rewind a decade earlier and explore what has changed over the decade. And I observed ………
- There were fewer clubs but more participation.
- There was less awareness but more enthusiasm.
- There was no Facebook page but serious communication.
- There were fewer connections but more connected.
Year 1924, there lived a farmer who owned acres of barren land. He desired to be the biggest corn farmer in Town. One day he was talking to his friend and his friend asked did you buy the seeds? Next day farmer bought corn seeds and stacked up in his barn. Couples of weeks later he met his friend again and proudly said I have sacks full of seeds in my barn. Friend asked did you plant them ? The farmer promptly returned and planted seeds and waited for the corn to grow. But nothing happened, few seeds sprouted but died sooner. He was extremely upset with his friend’s advice because he had invested his life saving and his desire to be the biggest corn farmer had died down too. During the Christmas he made a visit to his friend’s house and chastised his friend for the horrible advice. The friend asked did you till the land? Did you mix fertilizers before sowing? Did you water the land after planting? Did you protect the shoots when they sprouted?
Fellow toastmasters many a time we join TM club with a deep intent to become a BETTER SPEAKER but don’t participate. When you don’t participate regularly you are like the seeds in the barn. When you don’t practice, you are like the farmer who did not till the land. When you don’t take up mentoring you are no better than the famer who did not fertilize the land. And when you don’t learn from the feedback you are like the farmer who did not water the land. And when you don’t use the feedback judiciously you are like the farmer who did not build barn around his farm.
Hence PARTICIPATE, PRACTICE, TAKE UP MENTORING, LEARN FROM THE FEEDBACK and USE FEEDBACK JUDICIOUSLY.
The tallest oak tree in the forest is the tallest not just because it grew from the hardiest acorn; it is the tallest also because no other trees blocked its sunlight, the soil around it was deep and rich, no rabbit chewed through its bark as a sapling, and no lumberjack cut it down before it matured. – “OUTLIERS the Story of Success” By Malcolm Gladwell.
However “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell is not about trees and forest; it is about opportunities and exercising those opportunities. And what Malcolm Gladwell shares is no rocket science to reflect why Toastmasters progress in life by leaps and bounds; they progress because the platform provides opportunities to become a better communicator, a better leader and a better person in life. The platform also provides the process and the motivation to lead and communicate with your audience and bring changes in your life and others.
Now my questions to you is, do you see those opportunities and exercise them? I recall relocating from Bahrain to Dubai in 1996. And being three months infant in Bahrain Toastmasters club, I joined then newly formed Dubai Toastmasters club. To show my commitment I paid-up my quarterly dues in the first meeting. However during the second meeting I started visualizing and comparing former with the current Toastmasters club meeting. And promptly rationalized that my new club will not benefit me and crafted an excuse to quit Dubai Toastmasters club.
Many years later in 2001 when I went back to Dubai Toastmasters club. The meeting was house-full, replete with energy and powerful speakers. My fellow Toastmasters of 1996 batch had progressed to CTM; ATM and accomplished leaders.
What happened ? Where did my visualization go wrong? Analyzing closely it dawned that my visualization cost me the opportunity time of five years because I looked outside to make a life changing decision. I set others as my benchmark, I rationalized my decision on performance of others whereas my decision should have been based on my needs and hence set my benchmark. I missed the opportunity.
Malcolm Gladwell in “OUTLIERS – The story of success” also shares another rule, to achieve the level of mastery associated with an expert in anything, a 10,000 hours of practice is required. So it is not only about opportunities, its also about putting in long hours into the process and the two steps are equally important in your life. My learning in Toastmasters started in March 2001 when I committed to take up the role play of assistant VP Education and then progressed to VP Education; Club President; Area Governor and Division Governor. During my journey in toastmasters many Toastmasters have crossed my path and every one of them has been a teacher in one way or the other. My challenge has been to identify learning from each one of them and exercise them and grow into the tallest OAK TREE.