Club Experience – Who is to blame?

Has your club lost its spark and sparkle? Are the meetings boring or sometimes not even happening? Is your experience not meeting your expectations? Are you not getting value for money?

Are you already playing the blame game? Blame the Executive Committee- they don’t really organize meetings or schedule speeches or anything. Blame the members – they don’t pitch or volunteer for roles or get involved. Blame the millennials – with their instant-gratification expectations. Blame the long-standing members – they won’t change with the times.

Blame is a dangerous concept; it looks to redirect ownership and responsibility. I remember being told as a child “when you point a finger at someone, three fingers point back at you”. When you blame others, you tend to ignore your own involvement and responsibilities thereby missing out on life lesson opportunities.

So, who is actually to blame? Everyone!
All Toastmasters made certain promises when they joined and signed the membership form. Every member promised to:

• attend club meetings regularly;
• prepare for and fulfill meeting assignments;
• help the club maintain the positive, friendly environment necessary for all members to learn and grow;
• serve his/her club as an officer when called upon to do so; and
• maintain honest and highly ethical standards during the conduct of all Toastmasters activities.

Are you keeping the promises you made? Are you regularly attending and actively participating in meetings, with a positive and encouraging attitude? Are you maintaining honest and highly ethical standards?

A Toastmasters Club is a wonderful learning laboratory – everything you do from the moment you sign up is a learning experience, whether you’re in the audience (listening and appreciation skills), meeting and chatting to other members (networking skills), presenting speeches or taking on meeting leadership roles, each having its own specific skill set. A vibrant club meeting aims to have minimum 20 people attending a meeting with 3-5 speeches per meeting, which means practically all attendees will either be doing a speech and/or filling a meeting role (value for money!!).

To help make the environment conducive to learning, the members elect club officers from themselves to fulfil certain leadership roles for a fixed period. Club officers are members who step up to fulfil one of their Toastmaster promises (“to serve your club as an officer when called upon to do so”).

The relationship between members and their Executive Committee is mutually beneficial – members rely on the Executive Committee to co-ordinate and manage the club activities and the Executive Committee relies on the members to attend meetings, fulfill roles and volunteer when called upon to do so.

At each Club officer installation, inter alia the following pledges are made:

• Sergeant at Arms: to ensure that facilities for the club meeting are in order and that equipment and supplies needed at club meetings are available as needed;

• Secretary to maintain club records, basic documents and the membership roster and to ensure that membership applications and office lists are submitted in a timely fashion;

• Treasurer: to keep accurate financial records and ensure that dues payments are submitted in a timely fashion;

• Vice-President Public Relations: to promote the Club to local media, promote membership programs and ensure that Club members are aware of upcoming events and programs;

• Vice-President Membership: to conduct ongoing membership building programs and follow up on guests, new members and members not attending meetings; to help guests to complete the Application for Membership; and to determine whether needs of fellow members are being met;

• Vice-President Education: to plan successful Club meetings so that each member has the opportunity to achieve his or her educational goals and to encourage members to set Toastmaster educational goals and to track their achievement;

• President: to see that the Club enables its members to achieve their educational goals and to see that your Club helps the Area, Division, District and Toastmasters International to meet their goals; and

• The Club Members: The growth and development of the Toastmasters program in your Toastmasters Club depends largely upon the actions of this group. On your honor, as men and women of Toastmasters, do you pledge to individually and collectively stand by this Club, live with it, and work with it throughout the coming year?

Before you start bemoaning that your meetings are boring and have lost their sparkle, that your expectations are not being met, that you are not getting value for money; before you start playing the blame game, first check – are you fulfilling your Toastmasters promise … are you abiding by the pledge you made?

Charmaine Sparrow ACS ALB
Area Director R1 2018/19