What questions do you ask yourself?

The club executive committee has declared March to be your open house month. Every event you can think of will start in March. You’re having an Open House on the 1st week, A guest speaker on the 2nd, a St. Pat’s day themed party on the 3rd, and an invitation to start a Speech Craft on the 4th week.

“By Smedley, I swear,” you say pounding on your table, “I will get 5 new people to each meeting! AND WE WILL HAVE OUR 20 MEMBERS BEFORE APRIL!”
“Hear hear!” shout out the others.
“Huzzah!” shout out the cosplayers of the group.

You get home to your spouse and she gives you that look. You know the one–“What have you promised?” And now you start to panic. You don’t have enough lead time! You don’t have a Twitter account, Tumbler, or Instashot… whatever that is. You haven’t planned for any flyers, no leaflets, no gold foil chocolate coins to give out as Leprechaun gold.

You don’t even know what you’re looking for in prospective members. All your friends are already in your Toastmasters club! Just you and the seven others, and you start getting depressed…”I only have 7 friends?!”

You decide to make a list of all the people you could contact.

Jim is a really horrible speaker! I hate his slide shows during the sales meetings!
Barry is always looking at his shoes.
Ari keeps repeating himself and can never end a sentence.
Mariah can hardly be heard.
My kid’s Sunday School Teacher is so timid she can’t control 2nd graders.
My wife’s cousin can’t shut up.

What would you say to the people on your list? “Here, fog this mirror. I’ll pick you up on Monday at 6:30.” Would they like your club? Is the first thing out of their mouths going to be, “Thanks, but I could NEVER speak in public!” or “Why? do you think you’re better than me?”

How did you start? Did your boss tell you that you needed work in public speaking? Who invited you? What questions did You ask them? Did you see the ad for the meeting and think, “This looks like fun!” Was it a regular meeting or a special event? Why did you come back to the 2nd meeting?

Before you take this 1st step in your 1000-foot journey (because face it, it isn’t 1000 miles is it) ask yourself those questions first.

Building a club

Wisdom from Lance Miller, Accredited Speaker, WCPS winner, and successful club builder

Coach’s Corner

Wisdom from Lance Miller!

Everyone on the team wants the club to win and aspire to be a top 10 club. How big would you like your club to be? If you have 8 members…to 9 members? What number of members would you think a successful club has? Don’t run a Hospice Toastmasters club!

Address the choices of the clubs, don’t force a choice on the club.

Clubs don’t fail on their own, they’re allowed to fail.

Motivation: They want to have a successful club. It’s easier to be successful in TM than in Life. 1st step is being successful in TM. Why are you in, what are your goals, how can you apply this outside of TM? TM is an incubator– A Safe place to fail. When we have prospects coming to the meeting, we Find a reason for that person to succeed.

3 reasons to fail:

  1. Nobody owns the club. This is My club. This is Your club. Waiting for someone to step up doesn’t apply here. We start solving the problems of the club and owning the success of the club. Take ownership of your life, your work, your club. Success in the club is directly related to our ability to lead and organize. There is no “higher authority” than the members. If you’re always the dumbest person in the room and it’s not your problem, nothing improves. You can’t all be dumb! Take control of your club.
  2. Nobody does the program. You build up your skills and open your mind. We’d like everyone to get a level/year. If everyone earns a level/year, it’s learning a new skill, a new approach, a new way of thinking, practicing it, and then applying it both in TM and outside of TM. How successful would the members be? How successful would the club become? There would be much less No fall-off because there are more opportunities to grow. Speaking, Evaluations (feedback), Meeting Management, Leadership.
  3. They don’t promote the club. Talk and invite. Test and measure promotions. Most people that join are invited.

You have to have something people would like to join. Good content, good management, good environment. This is OUR club, this is an extension of us. TM club, a healthy one, has 40-60 members.

Q & A:

Complacency kills a club. In club competitions…best speaker/eval/TT. Bad attitude about the change. Individual calls to the members, “Why do you Like coming to the club?” Have fun, people, then speech improvements are the most common answers.

Policies for club: Must maintain a fun and friendly environment. If things cease to be fun and friendly, the issue is handled immediately.

Purpose in TM can fail when members leave. LIFE IS PURPOSE! Members lose their purpose. Why did you start, why did you stay? Receiving and Giving. Build competency in yourself, then build it in other members. They want to join a dynamic club.

How do you work with someone who won’t take advantage of mentorship? What if they’re not willing to do the work? “I’m willing to help you by recommending a mentorship, but if you don’t work with the mentor, that ruins my reputation and so people are less likely to accept recommendations from me for people to coach. They don’t want to take on a new protégé that won’t show up, won’t do the work, and wastes valuable time. Prospective mentors will shy away from people I recommend because I cannot guarantee they are worthy of mentoring.

Inviting people: Cold calling is safer, and Not at All effective. Making it fun. Event (wine and cheese party with an invite), Easter egg invites, Bar night. Speech-a-thon and invite guests. 3 hour meeting with 6 speeches-Weekly! Double meetings toward end of year to finish projects. Inviting guests to watch.

Ghost interviewer. Answer the questions. It is a fun TT!

Those who really don’t want any responsibilities end up as VPM, and VPPR. (Bad idea!) How can this position in the club get you to where you want to be? Go from there. Step up to your responsibilities to YOUR club.

Coaching a Club

What defines a coach?

When we work with a club, we make certain assumptions and address these in several different ways:

  • The mechanic
  • The dictator
  • The teacher
  • The psychologist
  • The coach

Because all the clubs we help are low-member clubs, we assume that something is “wrong” and we have to go in and “fix it.” That would make us mechanics. The problem will remain “fixed” when we leave. We also have nothing to lose if the club isn’t fixed. We just conclude that they don’t want to be successful and let things go.

But we’re NOT Mechanics.

We might think that they’re low-member because they don’t know how to do what needs to be done. We take over. We send out the flyers. We organize the open houses. We set up the Speech Crafts. We assign duties (and of course, if no one steps up we do all the jobs.) We twist arms. We bring in members because they will do anything for us. SUCCESS! Then the next year they need another coach.

But we are NOT Dictators.

We might think they don’t have enough information to be successful. So we have little vignettes every week explaining how we can improve our processes while they dutifully take notes. Then we assign them projects to get them on the right track. They seem apathetic. Many of the low-member clubs have members that have been in Toastmasters since Smedley. They’ve heard all this before.

But we are NOT Teachers.

“Oh, DEAR. Their morale is so low. No wonder they have so few members!” We spend a lot of time cheerleading and building up their self-esteem. We have parties and recognition. We write newsletters to the corporate site (contribute to the company bulletin board) or we put things on Facebook and in the newspaper. And when we leave, the numbers drop again.

But we are NOT Psychologists.

Since we are Coaches, we must assume that they aren’t broken. They do know how to lead. They do understand the concepts behind the Toastmasters organization and how its educational programs work. The morale of the group is based on the morale of each member, and that is something they decide for themselves.

What does a Coach do? The goal is to raise the awareness of the members. They need to be conscious of their place in the group, their contributions, their personal goals, and their willingness to work together to have a successful club. You cannot tell them these things. They already know. The coach’s job, therefore, is to ask questions until the group’s awareness kicks in so they can answer the questions and discover the real stumbling blocks they need to quit stumbling over!!!

What kind of questions should we, as coaches, ask?

  1. What does your club consider success?
  2. What do you consider personal success regarding Toastmasters?
  3. Do you suppose there might be others that share your views of success?
  4. Have you done a SWOT analysis either personally or as a club? (See the downloads for a sample form you can copy and let the members take notes and make suggestions on.)
  5. What is your idea of a great meeting?
  6. What would have to change to make the meetings better?

Workbook #7 Review and Reflect

  1. When you brought out your Club Success Plan, did it seem foreign to you?

2. In what areas are you complete or near-complete? Congratulations!

3. In what areas does your club need more work? Those need to be prioritized.

4. Who is in charge of the Club Success Plan? How can this person present the progress to the rest of the membership?

5. Can the less experienced club members get help from their mentors and the club leadership to accomplish their goals? Scheduling out to the end of the year to finish the requirements for their paths, coaching them for contests, training them or having them shadow current officers? Remember we’re trying to help the members reach their goals.

6. What are the biggest challenges standing between your members and their goals, and the club and its goals?

Workbook #6: Marketing

When you market your club, what is your message?

“Come to our meeting?” “Where Leaders are made?” “Come to our open house?”

Your message must be compelling and address a problem that your prospective visitors need solving.

So, of course you need to know what your market is. I can tell you what it isn’t. It is NOT, “Fog this mirror, we can help you do whatever you need to do.” Refer to our Club Avatar workbook.

Once you have your avatar, you have to craft a message that gets their attention. “Are your briefings brief?” “Do you put your clients to sleep with your presentations?” “How can you improve your bedside manner?” “What’s the best way to evaluate your employees?”

Then you must choose a medium to distribute your message. But if all you do is Facebook, you may not be reaching your target market! Social media is a powerful tool! There’s no doubt about it. But it is not the ONLY tool. It’s like having a toolbox with just a hammer in it. How do you get access to people’s contact information? How do you follow up? Do flyers do the trick? Do speech craft sessions? Open houses? Hand-written letters? Phone calls?

The trick here is to figure out WHERE YOUR AVATARS WOULD GO TO SEE OR HEAR YOUR INFORMATION! As a friend of mine would say, “You don’t sell milk in a hardware store.” Ever go into a Menards? They sell milk. Why? Their target market is contractors and DIY hobbyists. While they’re browsing around the nuts and bolts, they pass the milk and think, “Hmmm, if I bring milk home my spouse will think I’m considerate!” I would imagine they don’t see a lot of turn-over in the dairy aisle. Would you go to Menard’s because they have milk? No. Would you do all of your milk shopping there? No. Is it just an amenity that makes shopping at Menard’s more convenient and pleasant? Possibly.

If you were the milk producer, would your first choice of market be the hardware store? No. Your target is basically families with children. That most likely corresponds with Wal-Mart.

If you are marketing your Toastmasters Club, you have to put your information where you see gatherings of people interested in getting the solutions to their problems that you can provide.

So you must consider 3 things:

Market—to whom are you reaching out?

Message—what problem can you solve?

Medium—where and how does your target market get their information?

For a more in-depth exploration, Marian Gramlich will be giving her unique approach to Toastmasters Club Marketing.

How do you evaluate your progress?

I got this neat form from Richard Snyder in District 100. It’s very handy!         

Club Coach Report  

 First Year 
____Preliminary Report Do one month after the appointment begins____Interim Report Do six months into the appointment____Final Report Do at the end of the year or appointment.
If club finishes the year Distinguished or better, you have successfully completed your term as a Club Coach.  Congratulations to you and the club on a job well done!  If the club did not finish Distinguished, you are automatically entitled to continue serving a second year.
 Second Year 
____Preliminary Report Do one month after the appointment begins____Interim Report Do six months into the appointment____Final Report Do at the end of the year or appointment.

Club Coach __________________________ For Club # _____________  District ____________

  1. What is the club membership base?  ____ (Club must have a net gain of five members to have a chance to be Distinguished or better)
  2. How many members are currently in the club?  ____
  3. Is the club using the Distinguished club plan?  Yes  No
  4. Are all speeches manual speeches?  Yes  No
    If not, why not?  ______________________________________________________________________________


  • How many goals has the club met?  ____  (Club must achieve five or more goals to be Distinguished)
  • What is the club’s problem area?________________________________________________________________


  • What strategy is being used to build membership?  __________________________________________________


  • What difficulties, if any, have you had working with the officers or members?  ____________________________
  • What is being done to improve programming?  _____________________________________________________
  • What, if anything, can the District do to assist you?  _________________________________________________

Today’s Date:  _________________
Date of Appointment:  ______________

Courtesy of Richard Snyder, DTM, PID

You might want to use this form for yourself and do it monthly if your club meets on a weekly basis, or quarterly if your club meets on a biweekly schedule.

Workbook #5 How do you learn

When you join a club or an organization, do you only learn when you are doing your part?

That’s a trick question. What, exactly, IS your part?

Starting with the basics:

Timer: What kind of Speaking Skills or Leadership skills do you improve as a timer?

Grammarian: How can being a grammarian be used to further your skills and help you reach your goals?

Evaluators: What kind of awareness can you build in observing evaluations? How do you use those observations to help you give better evaluations? How do evaluations impact your speaking and leading abilities?

Table Topics: How many skills do you employ to be a good table topics master? What kind of skills are you improving as a table topics speaker?

General Evaluator: When would you use this particular role outside of Toastmasters? How many skills does it involve?

Toastmaster: How can you make use of the toastmaster skillset outside of Toastmasters? Can you use these skills when you are NOT in charge of a meeting? Can you lead from the audience?

Speaker: Which role would you consider the best training for a new speaker? How would you improve your speaking skills using the roles of evaluator, timer, and grammarian?

The WHOLE MEETING teaches you what you want to learn, not just your small part in it. There are no throwaway roles in a meeting, just as there are no throwaway offices in the club.

Pushing, Pulling, and Leading

Have you ever seen (especially this time of the year) the Vs of ducks and geese wending their way toward the south? Have you noticed that the sides of the Vs are unequal? Do you know why one side is longer?

There are more birds on that side.

Here’s the thing: All the birds in the V know where they’re going. They take turns being the lead bird. This guy is forging the path, like through water, and the wake of that path aids the birds behind him. It allows them to travel farther and fly longer in their trip South, and again on their trip North. It’s like a single bird, driving (?!!), could get 16 mpg, but in the group gets 32. It is very taxing on the lead bird because he’s still getting 16 mpg. So, they change up so everyone gets the responsibility to forge the way. The birds in the back are quacking and honking encouragement…we think. (Although they Might be saying, “Are we there yet, are we there yet?” I’m not sure. I don’t speak bird.) Nevertheless, the lead bird is pulling the rest of the group. The group is pushing the lead bird.

In a volunteer group, like Toastmasters, everyone is in it to learn something and become a better communicator and leader. In a meeting, the Toastmaster leads the activities, but he has

  1. a crew of speakers
  2. a general evaluator and his team to help the group improve on their skills
  3. a table topics master

All of those support the toastmaster and help to make the meeting work. Everyone with a role in a meeting is learning something new or polishing a skill. The skills that we work on as speakers are enhanced by the skills we get as listeners. The skills that we work on as leaders are enhanced by the skills we get as observers and in supporting roles. When we are in a meeting, everyone is learning. And the most important thing we learn is awareness!

How many of you go to meetings now or seminars and workshops and watch how the speaker uses the stage, or count the ums and ahs and the crutch words used, the visual aids that are supposed to enhance the message, the organization of the message, etc? You are more aware of someone who’s not done proper research. You are more aware of the nervousness of a beginner, and you know how to alleviate that. You can handle adversity and controversy because you are more aware of the power of the words you choose. You have the advantage of practicing those skills in an environment that doesn’t judge, but instead, gives you feedback on things you did well and things you could improve. And you have the advantage of watching others struggling with some skills you have no problems with and offering your feedback in a positive and helpful way. Because the way we learn in Toastmasters is by Watching, Trying, Practicing.

Make sure you choose to do activities in the meeting that advance your personal goals. Then do not dismiss roles that might bring your awareness up because they may not obviously improve a skill. As an example: Do not concern yourself with only speeches; evaluate others to become more aware of your own shortcomings, to become proficient at giving good feedback, and to learn from others’ feedback by seeing things from a different perspective. Pay attention to the speeches others give and take notes on the evaluations. Every activity you do in a meeting boosts your self-awareness and also aids others in achieving their goals.

So Push, Pull, Lead, and Learn!

This is Coaching?

I went looking for coaching resource material, and lo and behold, there was a coaching guide. What fun!!!

  1. On a scale of 5 to 1 where 5 indicates that the members sincerely want their club to be successful and 1 indicates that the members don’t seem to care whether their club succeeds or fails, How would you rate this club?

Corrective Action: Convince members that they will gain meaningful benefits from membership in a successful Toastmasters club.


That’s not coaching. That’s telling. Make them care? Well, they’re showing up, aren’t they? You cannot make someone care. You cannot convince people to be happy. This is an emotional response to the club, not a logical one! They aren’t going to weigh the plusses and minuses of the club’s value and decide to care if it reaches a certain score.

This is how the site recommends you approach this situation.

  • “The definition of meaningful benefits and a successful club are individually determined. Meaningful benefits should be tied to the unique expectations of every member.
  • Encourage club officers to lead a meeting where the entire club can share their opinions.
  • Publish a list that defines what every member sees as benefits and what a success club means to them.
  • Your role is to encourage conversation with open-ended questions and observe behavior.
  • Use attitude, body language, or withdrawal to determine who is resisting change and where to expect challenges.
  • Ask the members to suggest how they can support each other to achieve their individual needs and expectations.”

The only correcting you would have to do is if the membership, as a whole, doesn’t want to save the club. Then you have an uphill battle correcting their misconceptions, and should probably look at having the club fold. If, however, the apathy is only in a few members, remember that you cannot correct this attitude in individual members without knowing the root cause. YOU don’t answer the survey, you have the MEMBERS answer it.

It is vital that you don’t just talk about the survey because then the conversation is undirected. If, however, you control the direction of the conversation with questions, you will learn much more. Take a look at the procedure above. Do you see any questions?

If you wish, you may have a phone interview or private lunch or something where you are one on one with the members. Remember, if there are 2 coaches, the most people you have to talk to is 6. Of course, if you’re the only coach, this might take a while. So you may want to go one on two. Then you go in-depth and ask these questions! Or, you can just ask the questions to the group and get everyone’s thoughts all at once. Make sure you have a great secretary or a recording device.

  • On a personal level, what would success for you look like in Toastmasters?
  • What would success look like for your club?
  • How would a successful club benefit your own journey?
  • What is it about the club you’d like to change or improve?
  • Would those changes make the club more important to you?
  • What unique contribution could you make to initiate those changes? Which one would you tackle first?
  • What was your initial goal in joining this club?
  • What attracted you to this particular group?

More fun would be to make these Table Topic questions.

But if you want more clarity after you ask those questions, follow up each question with the words, “What else” or “How” or “Could you give me an example.”

The conversation might sound like this:

Coach: What advantage would you enjoy if the club was more successful?

Member: Because it’s more fun to have more people.

C: Could you expand on that?

M: More interesting speeches, more people to take on roles in the meetings, better evaluations, more people available to be officers.

C: How would that make it better?

M: Less stress in between meetings, a better environment, a better chance to network.

C: So you see stress in between meetings as a challenge to this club?

M: Yes, it’s hard to fill roles and it’s boring always being the grammarian because no one else will take the job.

C: How does that affect the environment?

M: It seems like we’re always scrambling and falling short. It makes it difficult to impress visitors.

C: Do you think others would join the group if they knew how helpful the networking is?

M: Well, not really.

C: Would you join another club if you could network effectively there?

M: Actually, I’m in two other clubs for that very reason.

C: But you still come to this club. What keeps you coming back?

M: This is the one I started in, and I love the people here.

A 5-1 scale isn’t going to tell the whole story. And the conversation above just concerns itself with the 1st of those questions related to that measurement.

Workbook #4: How to build the Morale of your club

In your first impressions, how do you assess the emotional health of the club?

  1. Who’s the first person into the meeting? Do most of them show up as the second hand hits the starting time? Do they come in early and socialize? How are they greeted?
  2. Are the roles all filled or are they scrambling every meeting? Do they usually have prepared speakers ready? Do the other people understand their roles and are capable and prepared?
  3. How do the members relate to each other? Are they respectful? Do they have “inside jokes?” How welcoming are they to guests?
  4. Can you discern who’s mentoring whom? Do all the members seem willing to help each other? Does it appear that everyone feels comfortable in the meeting?
  5. How do the evaluations make the speakers feel? Do they recommend a laundry list of things that need to be fixed? Are the evaluations one-on-one or round robin? Does it seem that the comments are simple changes that the speakers can apply immediately?
  6. How are the business meetings organized? Do they Have exec meetings separate from the regular meetings? How do they address the health of the club? Are the officers of the club hopeful or hopeless?