In my opinion, the most important marketing tool a Toastmasters club has is a high-quality meeting. High-quality meetings result in members renewing and bringing guests who are likely to join. Obviously, the first requirement for a high-quality meeting is to have any meeting. It follows that cancelling a meeting is usually a mistake, and I will demonstrate the truth of that statement.
I enjoy Toastmasters so much that I am a member of three clubs: Denton Toastmasters, Las Colinas Communicators, and Oration Plus Toastmasters. Denton Toastmasters meets on Monday evenings, and my wife, one of my daughters, and I all are members. Las Colinas Communicators meets on Wednesdays at noon at Verizon’s Hidden Ridge location, and Oration Plus meets Fridays at noon in the nearby Urban Towers. It actually makes sense, since I live in Denton and used to work at Verizon. In a typical week I attend one meeting on Monday, another on Wednesday, and a third on Friday.
Occasionally, even that is not enough for me. For example, one Thursday evening, as I was about to leave work, and thinking about the fact that the other members of my family were all going to be out, I decided to stop at a Toastmasters meeting on the way home. I went to the “Advanced Search Tool” page on the Toastmasters International website (http://reports.toastmasters.org/findaclub/advSearch.cfm), where I entered the relevant criteria (zip code, maximum distance, open club, meets in the evening on Thursday), and found a club that met on the way home from my office. Upon my arrival, I found to my dismay that no club members were there. The meeting had been cancelled. (I believe that club has ceased to be.) However, another visitor, who was not yet a Toastmaster, was there, and had come to see if membership in a Toastmasters club would be of benefit to him. I answered his questions and told him how to find other clubs.
One might think that since that club folded anyway, there was no point in having a meeting that night. Perhaps; I do not know the details. But I do know of another instance where a club cancelled a meeting, and missed meeting two guests (i.e., potential members). To my regret, I was one of the club members who agreed that we should cancel the meeting that day, because only two or three members were going to be able to come. Traffic was so backed up, due to an accident on the LBJ highway (Interstate 635) that two of our “core” members were not going to get to the meeting on time. Another one or two were out of town, and with a club that only had six or eight members, cancelling seemed like a reasonable choice. When we met the next week, the receptionist at the office where we have our meetings told us that two individuals had come by asking about the Toastmasters club. Again, I do not know if those two came back or found another club, but I do know that we missed an opportunity.
As rarely as it snows in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, one might assume that cancelling a meeting during a snowstorm would be the right choice. Perhaps, but then again, perhaps not. I arrived at work one morning before the snow started coming down, and several members called and said that they were not going to come to work, or were not going to come to the meeting, because of the snow. We did cancel the meeting, but since I was already at work, I decided to get my lunch from the cafeteria and eat it in the room where our club ordinarily meets. I was only mildly surprised when a guest did in fact show up, and somewhat more surprised when he filled out his application for membership between the entrée and the dessert.
Holidays take a terrible toll on attendance at Toastmasters clubs. As a member of a club which is consistently President’s Distinguished, I have become accustomed to meetings with at least 12 members. Recently, due to holidays, vacations, illness, unreasonable employers (who think work is more important than Toastmasters), only five members were expected to come to one of our meetings. The temptation to cancel was there, but we did not. Not only did the five members come, but two guests did as well. I know that one, perhaps both, have since become members.
Yes, it is possible to have a good meeting with as few as three members. Even with two, one can give a speech and the other can evaluate. And if your club is small, and you are the only member to show up, one member is enough to greet guests and introduce them to Toastmasters. And if there are no guests, you can spend the meeting time preparing your next speech, or planning the next club special event, which qualifies for Competent Leader credit. Those who show up always do better than those who do not.
Las Colinas Communicators
Oration Plus Toastmasters
By Jodie Sanders