The Ups, the Downs, and the Out-Theres

One of the most neglected aspects of a group’s dynamic is the emotional atmosphere. This doesn’t mean how the meetings are conducted or the speeches are given or the evaluations are presented. It’s not about the process, it’s about the feeling. You can have a very formal environment for a club meeting and still not be cold. You can have a very social environment for a meeting and not be warm and inviting. It all has to do with the emotional responses of the members to each other and to the organization.

This is the morale of the group–the feelings of enthusiasm and loyalty that a person or group has about a task or job. It can make or break an organization. One of the clubs I belong to has a past international director as a member. He has two DTMs and is working on a third. His first came under the early system with the Competent Toastmaster, Advanced Toastmaster, DTM, before the Gold, Silver, and Bronze system. He got a certificate. Then the Legacy program offered a plaque for DTM, so he got that one. Now he’s working on a Pathways DTM. He’s enthusiastic enough to continue the programs to improve his delivery and messages. Though he may not always agree with the International vision, he’s always supporting, mentoring, sponsoring, and serving the local district and his clubs. He could be described as a cheerleader. He does not exhibit an emotional personality and he is muted in his language and visible displays. When he was District Governor, the District was designated Distinguished due to his leadership.

Another cheerleader I know is also a former District Governor. She has seven DTMs and has been a Toastmaster for only eight or nine years. She loves spreadsheets and order. She hates chaos. She makes it a habit to always find the good in a person or a group. You will rarely see her when she isn’t smiling.

Yet, when she was the District Governor, she had a furrowed brow and serious demeanor all the time. She had come face to face with circumstances and situations that were not entirely under her control. She cared so much for the District and felt personally responsible for every failure and every short-coming of her leadership team–the trio that was chronically short one member, the support staff (secretary, treasurer, PR, and logistics) that didn’t live up to their responsibilities, the division governors and the area governors that didn’t seem to care about their members, and the apathetic club leaders. Most of the speeches she gave at the monthly meetings were to urge people to care.

It wasn’t until she got out of District leadership that her cheerful mood returned. As a successful coach, she could bring the morale of a group up at least two notches just by walking into the room. She is high-energy and a morale-building machine. Unfortunately, she did not have that effect on the District when she was the Governor.

How do you influence the morale of a group such as a club? How does that affect the morale of the district?

Coach’s Corner Workbook #3–Focus

How do you keep your Focus?

How to use this workbook: When we start our meetings, you can take notes on this workbook to use for later reference. During the meetings, you can write down pertinent questions that you have on the material for clarification, and you can write yourself prompts for questions to ask of your clubs. We can then discuss your discoveries at our next meeting in 2 weeks.

Today, we’re discussing Focus.

One of the problems that is common to coaches everywhere is losing focus about what their role is in making the club successful.

The “Outsider’s Perspective” is a good way to set your destination.

How do you perceive your club’s main barriers to reaching that destination?




How can the Blind Eye Syndrome derail your focus?

Since your club is definitely going to have to take an outsider’s look at their own club, how do you go about calling their attention to areas of concern?

How will you include your officers and club members in the process?

Without outright telling them what to do, how will you coax some direction and action items from your club and involve as many people as possible?

How will you celebrate successes? How will you handle setbacks? (One coach promised a pizza party for each achievement along the way. Another gave out ribbons and silly prizes. Use your imagination!)

Remember you are in it together with your club. Always think WE and OUR, but remember that whatever they decide to do, it has to survive after the coaching is finished.

Where are you looking?

At our last session, we discussed our Avatars. Who are our potential members? What do they look like? What do they drive? Where do they go? What do they do for fun?

I know many of you are on LinkedIn. How many have contacts there that are doing the exact same thing you are doing? You’re architects talking with architects. Financial gurus talking with financial gurus. It’s a good network if all you want to do is impress other people in your profession just in case you want to jump ship from your current company. If, however, you are on LinkedIn to find clients, you have to build a network of people that aren’t IN the same business. You need to tailor your articles to people who know nothing about your business to get them curious enough to check you out. Why would a financial guru contact another financial guru? Why would a fitness trainer try to recruit clients from among other fitness trainers?

What kind of questions would you ask in your article? “Things that go bump in the night–could be your house is settling, or zombies. Contact me to discover the difference!” “Buying or leasing a car–the pitfalls you should look at.” “The endless meeting–How to avoid Power Point Coma!” You are defining your market by addressing problems that you can solve.

When recruiting new members for your Toastmasters club, you need to address the prospect’s most pressing problem. “How to make your Briefing Brief!” “Tips to avoid stuttering when speaking to supervisors.” “How to dispense profound wisdom without sounding pedantic and verbose.” “What do pedantic and verbose mean, and what better words could you use?”

How not to do a wedding toast!” Then post a video of Sherlock Holmes’ toast at John and Mary’s wedding. Then explain what he could have done better. That would catch the eyes of people who are or will be giving a toast at an event. It would, therefore, appeal to people with a short-term need. They have a specific task they want to achieve. What path should they take? How long after the wedding will they remain members? “Do you hate stuttering and not knowing what you need to say next? If there was a way to make you less nervous and give you the confidence to get your ideas across, what would stop you from at least investigating it?” This would be a long-term need. This would reach people of varied ages and education levels. What path would THEY take? Will they become addicted to your club? Ask your current members what problem they wanted to solve when they joined. Ask them what brought them and kept them at your club. This will give you a much clearer vision of what your prospective member looks like and what they’re looking for. Then you can dangle the right solution in front of them and have them visit your club.

If you have a community club looking for new members, why would you dangle that solution in front of people who are already in 2-3-4 clubs already? If you are a corporate club, why spread the word to people outside your corporation? If you’re trying to attract the people in the IT department of your organization, don’t tempt them by describing what’s outside of their cubicle. THEY LIKE IT IN THERE! “How to write realistic dialog for your next adventure!” “How to use better descriptive words to bring your players deeper into the game.” “How to make your dating profile more believable.” Because in their cubicles, they can be and do and go anywhere. Their communications skills are off the scale, their imaginations beyond compare. They’re not used to looking at and talking with people face to face. There is always a barrier between people who communicate only online. It protects you and enhances you. There is no barrier in real life.

One we met, Chris, had tattoos all over. He spent all of his time at work in front of a computer, then went home and spent 90% of his time ALSO on his computer. He was fantastic at telling stories. His speech organization was impeccable. The questions he asked for Table Topics were really fun and inventive. He never seemed nervous in front of the group, but he never looked up. He couldn’t read body language. He had a problem with vocal variety. What problem was he trying to solve? He needed interview skills because he’d be interviewing in person and not talking to the HR person via computer. Many interviewers were put off by the disconnection they perceived between how they pictured him online and how he looked in person. He had to connect with people whose idea of internet games had to do with popping candy and farming eggplants. He had to recognize that the people with whom he’d be working were not the same kind of people that were interviewing him for the position. We did so well with him that he got a job in Seattle and left our club. Now, it would be easier to keep him as a member due to zoom meetings…

Be productive in your mining for new members. Don’t dig in empty holes.

What sparks your awareness?

The best tool you have in your toolbox is going to be your curiosity. So many of us focus on the path ahead, or our current situation, or revel in the past. It seems like a direct path–Past->Present->Future–we focus on so much that we don’t enjoy the view.

Imagine yourself on a mountain hike

Mountain Path –

If you cannot see the vista around you, what do you focus on? The path ahead of you. Looking at this picture, why would you wish to continue? This is not a rhetorical question.

  1. You’re already on the path, you might as well finish it.
  2. Maybe the fog will lift and you’ll get a beautiful view.
  3. You’ve been on this path for a while, it may be shorter to get to the end than to turn around.
  4. You like the fog and the muffled sounds that make it better to think.
  5. You’ve seen the brochure so you know where the path ends, and you still want to continue
Day 4 - Ptarmigan Tunnel and Iceberg Lake > Hiketreks

Now look at this path. Do you see a clear path to the lake? No? Now your focus is on the destination of the hike. Why do you wish to continue now?

  1. You want to get closer to see that unearthly blue lake and those pure icebergs.
  2. Your feet and legs hurt and you hope there’s a bench.
  3. You wish to get to a point where you can lose yourself in the scenery.
  4. You want to hear the birds and animals and feel the breeze on your face.

What’s interesting is that when you search for mountain path pictures, most will focus on the current path to the location, and then the pictures at the location. What about the hike back to the beginning? Nobody turns around to look back where they’ve come.

Did you know that Riverboat pilots have to learn the river both downstream and upstream because the same point in the river looks differently depending on your direction? This is the same on a mountain path hike. The trip home will look different. But our goal was to get to the destination. TADA! We already know what our starting point looked like. We’ve already traveled on the path to the destination, what’s there left to see?

The Mountain Wildflowers Are Out (Earlier): How Climate Change May Affect  Tourist Season At Rainier | Spokane Public Radio

You’re familiar with the path; you’re familiar with the destination, but did you see all these flowers and trees and this mountain on your way to the highlight of the hike? Did you see the marmots at the small spring? Did you see the bear markings on the trees? Did you hear the woodpecker in the copse of trees? Did you get a glimpse of the mountain goats high above your pathway? Did your curiosity pull your eyes off the ground, off your destination, out of your head and into your environment? Did you stop to smell these flowers and the trees? Could you hear the voices from other hikers ahead and behind you?

Years from now, if you let your curiosity guide you, if you are in the moment, if you can appreciate the miracles around you, when you close your eyes, you can see and feel and smell this journey. You have access to it in a second. If you decide you want to go back there, it won’t be the same things that catch your eye.

Awareness is sparked by curiosity. How do these people interact? What is the environment that makes everyone glad to be there? What do these people have in common? What kinds of stories do they enjoy? Curiosity is expressed in questions. For instance, on our hike, we ask, “I wonder what’s up there? What is that amazing smell? Do bears like skittles?” Curiosity does take practice, however. Your focus in any Toastmasters meeting needs to be in the moment. What is the body language; where do they focus their gaze; can you tell if they are passionate about the subject? What is the audience’s reaction? Are they engaged with the speaker? And like our hikes, every meeting is going to be slightly different.

As coaches, we need to be aware of the dynamics of the clubs we coach. But we also need to help the members develop that awareness, too. If they can develop this skill, their recruiting techniques will improve because they will know how to attract people to their clubs. They will know on the deepest levels what makes their club tick and how to enhance that environment to not only recruit, but retain their members.

Let yourself be curious!

Workbook week 2– Avatars

Who is your Target Market?

How to use this workbook: When we start our meetings, you can take notes on this workbook to use for later reference. During the meetings, you can write down pertinent questions that you have on the material for clarification, and you can write yourself prompts for questions to ask of your clubs. We can then discuss your discoveries at our next meeting in 2 weeks

Today we’re discussing Club Avatars.

An Avatar is an embodiment (as of a concept or philosophy) often in a person.

This is your target.

What things do you know about your avatar?

Are avatars the same for every club?

How can we capitalize on the uniqueness?

What problems are your avatars trying to solve?

Many Clubs try to appeal to the general populace. What would be the problem with this type of approach?

What are the NEADS?






What happens if the club does figure out its avatar and then approaches prospective members that do not fit its description? How do those guests feel when they visit the meeting?


Your club consists of mainly retirees who are college educated. Nearly all of them have traveled outside the country and are very well-read. They have decided that their avatar is a 25-year-old businessperson with a sense of humor and relentless drive to self-improve.

  1. Does this avatar really reflect the characteristics of the club at present?
  2. What is more likely to change–the club’s environment or its avatar?
  3. What would the club have to do to appeal to the needs of its avatar?
  4. Would their visitors have issues when the problems they need solved are not addressed in meetings? They need the confidence to address groups of people in the business and the club does not make use of presentation techniques that would aid in this pursuit.
  5. What happens when the NEADS of the club (Now, Enjoy, Alter, Decision, Solution) do not match the NEADS of the prospective member?

Choosing your market

Wait! Don’t we just advertise to everyone and see who shows up for the meeting? Isn’t it supposed to appeal to a broad audience?

Let’s look at the automobile industry. There should be just a few choices

  • 2-passenger
  • 4-passenger
  • 7-8 passenger
  • Highway transportation
  • Off-road transportation
  • Hauling capacity
  • Towing capability
  • Longevity

Now, look at the wide variety of vehicles. Of course, we have the choice of size and usage. We have the choice of the purpose: to transport people or bricks. We also determine if it is too heavily used or mainly driveway decoration. But that’s not all! (Doesn’t that sound like a soap commercial?!)

We also have a choice of the type of transmission, the mileage, the size of the engine, and the availability of links with your phone. We also have services such as GPS location devices, access to emergency services, extra cup holders (!), and convertibility to allow for more storage capacity. In addition, you can get your vehicle in any of a multitude of color combinations including a color change that is blue coming at you and red going away. You can even have your car horn customized to the theme song of your favorite team.

Henry Ford was making 260,000 cars per year and his slogan was that you could have any color you wanted as long as it was black. Can you imagine the police’s dilemma? “Yes, officer, I saw the get-away car. It was a Ford, and it was black, I believe. No, I didn’t get the license number.” It was priced below most of the other cars on the market, less than a year’s wages. They sold a lot of cars. But black Fords didn’t light everyone’s candle. Otherwise, he would have stopped at one model, one color, one design. He didn’t, and neither did the other manufacturers. That’s why there are 14 major global corporations that control more than 60 major automotive brands across the globe, and that doesn’t even count the little local companies in various countries around the world. Each brand, each model in that brand, and each additional customization of the models attracts a specific type of customer.

Ford’s Model T was a basic car to service people that just needed to get from point A to point B in a shorter amount of time than walking or horseback. Is that what your club provides? Just the basics? To get from fainting behind the lectern to giving the introduction to the mayor at the rally? No? You say it’s much bigger than that! Our club allows people to try different approaches to speaking from toasts at a wedding to keynote speeches at graduation. This club provides opportunities to get better at our event management from leading a Table Topics discussion to preparing the church for a sanctuary expansion. As members, we encourage growth in corporate, community, and volunteer organizational service. All at once. If I came to you with such a claim, would you believe it?

Take a look at the membership of your home club. What things do they have in common? What do they do in their spare time? What is the education level of the members? What is the age range? Why does it matter? If you want people to be comfortable in your club, you can’t attract people that would find that the meetings make them uncomfortable. You don’t want them intimidated. You don’t want them face-palming because they feel superior to the other members of the group. You don’t want a new member to be referred to as “the kid” in the group and neither do you want someone that feels he’s out of place due being twice as old as the other members.

You do not attract the members you want, you attract more of what you have. Just like you feel better with a team of peers, you don’t attract who you want, but who you are.


One of the challenges you see is this one: If you could go back to your 18-year-old self, what would you say?

Some respond,

  • “Buy oil stocks!”
  • Appreciate your siblings/parents/grandparents…
  • Study business in school
  • Watch less TV
  • Take more pictures
  • Don’t be so weird
  • Don’t be so normal

Remember that scene in Back to the Future II where Old Biff goes back and gives the sports records book to his younger self? It changed his perception of himself. He didn’t earn that perception, it was given.

Think of all the bad times, the good times, the times of nothing and the times of plenty. What did those experiences teach you? Appreciation? Foresight? Did it improve your value system? Did it cause you to reflect on your character? Did you dare to do something you might not have had you not had those experiences?

Would these experiences prompt more deep-level thinking, more significant questions? What if, because of what your future self said to you, you didn’t ask a very defining question?

When you go into a club situation as a coach, do you give them the new perception based on your experience in other clubs and all the training you’ve had? What if, by giving them the new perception, you deny them the ability to become more conscious themselves? They are already present in the moment. If you just ask the right questions, they will change their own perceptions and those will stick with them longer because they will have earned them.