Note to the reader: Like it is often the case, I wrote this mainly as a piece of advice to my younger self. I’m sharing it publicly in case it might be useful to others. If you’re about to organize a Toastmasters event of any kind, best of luck!
If you’re organizing an event, having a “captive audience” might seem like a great thing.
In Toastmasters, we have at least “some” captive audience in most of our events.
As for contests, the contestants must attend them to compete; the clubs are also asked to send people to fill the supporting roles as contest judges and ballot counters.
With Club Officer Trainings, it’s even more straightforward. Club officers must attend, else their clubs won’t get a DCP point and will diminish their chances to score top Distinguished.
And for regular club meetings?
On Page 2 of the Membership Application form, right next to the spot where the would-be member puts their signature, there is a box with the Toastmasters’ Promise. The phrase “As a member of Toastmasters International and my club, I promise” is followed by 10 points, the first one of which is:
“To attend club meetings regularly.”
Then, isn’t it true that a member should attend tonight’s club meeting, whether they find the specific agenda exciting or not?
I would say yes. And there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, we’re a community of people who are there for one another. We come to the meetings and events not just for ourselves but also to serve others. “Service” is one of our core values.
From the organizer’s point of view, the upside is: Someone will always come! The downside: This puts us a little out of practice when organizing events for people who do not have to attend. Demo Meeting (Toastmasters showcase when starting a new club) is a great example. Open House Meeting (event run by an existing club for the general public to recruit new members) is another.
The first thing to realize when organizing either of these is this:
Nobody is obliged to come.
Common sense, right? But really, it may be unlike any Toastmasters event you may have organized in the past.
Speaking of attendance, you are starting from zero.
Once we’ve got that sorted, the question comes: “Okay, what shall we do about it?”
Another obvious answer: “Give them a reason to come. And better, more than one!”
Here – I see you might say: “But isn’t that obvious? Won’t they come to see how a Toastmasters meeting is run? Isn’t that the point of an Open House?”
Maybe. But why not increase your chances of people showing up?
In the book Event Manager’s Bible, there’s an entire chapter called “Event attractions.”
To spark your imagination, here is the “list of what the public can or will want to do at an event”:
- Go on rides
- Collect the experience (to say ‘I was there’ or ‘I saw it’) and
- Possibly just be out together as a family or couple”
(all the bullets above from the book)
Can all of this be done in an Online Toastmasters Open House? Of course not!
But some of it can. Here are a few ideas (sure you can come up with many more) on what you may want to try advertising as your event’s attractinos:
- Try your first improvised public speech.
- Learn about… (your speaker’s topic).
- See an example of balanced feedback.
- Meet the local (regional, national) public speaking champion.
- Chat with people like you who already experienced Toastmasters (for this one to work well, you might want to allow self-selecting breakout rooms in Zoom https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/115005769646 , so that people can choose which breakout room to attend).
- Get a discount for joining a Toastmasters club
- …(your turn)
Adding “Event Attractions” as a topic to your planning will change how you’re looking at it. Not with the organizer’s (and likely seasoned Toastmaster’s) eyes, but with those of the general public. It will make you ask yourself: “What would they enjoy doing,” early on, so that you can think of ways how to add it to the program and have enough time to advertise it. Having done that – and having the necessary bit of luck – you’ll end up with a well-attended event that will prove worth all the hassle and will be the best reward for your and your team’s effort.
And once you master the art of attracting crowds to your events – think of the possibilities for your contests and Officer Trainings.
Best of luck!