Running a Successful Meeting
When a Toastmasters meeting goes well, a lot of great things happen. The club officers have done their jobs and meeting participants perform their roles with ease and precision. Speakers are well prepared and give speeches like clockwork. Evaluators offer helpful, gentle reactions and suggestions, and TABLE TOPICS™ responses flow from one impromptu triumph to the next. Members have fun and enjoy camaraderie, visitors make plans to join, and everyone has a chance to learn, practice and grow.
Meetings like this don’t just happen. They take a little planning and effort. But with teamwork and some know-how, our club can have fantastic meetings. Read on for some ideas:
PLANNING CLUB MEETINGS
A successful Toastmasters club is similar to a successful business: Club members are the customers and the club strives to keep them happy with the service it provides. The service a Toastmasters club provides is the club meeting. Good club meetings provide the means and environment for members to reach their goals by becoming effective speakers, listeners, thinkers and leaders.
Program planning and meeting organization are important factors in providing top-level service. Your club helps its members attain success and provides the services everyone needs by guaranteeing that:
- Each member is prepared to carry out all assignments to the best of his or her ability.
- Members present well-developed speeches from the Competent Communication manual and manuals in the Advanced Communication Series.
- Members complete projects in the Competent Leadership manual to enhance their leadership skills.
- Every member receives an agenda outlining the program of the day.
- Meeting participants’ responsibilities are explained to the assembly.
- The program is planned and participants are reminded of their responsibilities at least a week in advance.
- The meeting plan includes exciting theme programs and thought-provoking TABLE TOPICS™ sessions and is organized so the meeting starts and ends on time.
- Guests are invited to join the day they visit the club.
- Club officers use the Club Success Plan to set goals for the club and members.
- Evaluations are based on project objectives and the individual learning needs of the member.
- The vice president education encourages completion of manuals.
Established members aren’t the only ones responsible for providing good customer service within the club. New Toastmasters contribute too. For example, new members are usually assigned a meeting role soon after they join the club – perhaps as grammarian or timer. By preparing ahead of time to fulfill their duties to the best of their ability, they serve as role models. Perhaps they help their fellow members learn to curb their use of filler words and sounds during a presentation or to present an idea within a specific amount of time.
You don’t need an intimate knowledge of club traditions or the Toastmasters educational program to be an important part of your club’s and fellow members’ success. All you need is a little planning.
A HANDFUL OF HELPFUL TIPS
Each Toastmasters club is unique. Club themes are as varied as the club members themselves – some focus on a hobby or pastime, some are organized to meet a specific company’s training needs and some provide a place for members to practice their English. But despite their differences, most successful clubs have this in common: They run tightly organized club meetings in which everyone has a clear sense of structure and purpose.
Following is a short list of best practices that successful Toastmasters clubs have developed over the years. These help impart a sense of structure and purpose to your club meetings.
- Be timely. This should be obvious, especially to clubs that meet during their company’s lunch break or before work in the morning. One of the hallmarks of Toastmasters’ success is the ability to deliver quality speaking opportunities, conduct club business and provide useful feedback within a time frame that works for busy people. You can only achieve this by starting meetings on time, keeping them moving forward, and not allowing them to run over time.
- Prepare the room. A well-prepared meeting place helps convey a feeling of order and organization. At every club meeting, it is the job of the club’s sergeant at arms to arrange the seating, display the club banner, and set up the lectern. If the sergeant at arms is unavailable and has not arranged a replacement, it is important for the other club members to complete this task.
- Maintain the guestbook. This is a valuable resource and a crucial piece of the membership puzzle. Have the guestbook prominently displayed and ready to sign at the beginning of every meeting. Don’t be shy about insisting that everyone signs it!
- Follow club protocol. Over time, each club develops its own set of protocols—where to stand when speaking, how to greet each speaker, what to do when speeches run long, etc. Maintaining these traditions provides a valuable sense of fairness, character and continuity. Take the time to teach them to new members.
- Keep the focus. While Toastmasters provides many social networking opportunities, the club’s primary purpose is to teach communication and leadership skills. Focusing on the educational program will result in happier club members and higher club membership.
To some, strict adherence to standards and procedures may seem limiting, but in fact it’s the sense of structure, punctuality and organization that keeps many Toastmasters clubs alive and thriving for many years.