I keep hearing that each Toastmasters meeting must be high quality; that it must engage each member and guest. What exactly does this mean? The word “engage” means “to be involved with.” How does this translate to providing a high-quality meeting? I believe we can break it down this way:
Enthusiasm – Being enthusiastic comes from being glad to be a part of Toastmasters and our particular club. If we complain or seem bored, the energy in our meetings will drop. This leads to people going elsewhere. Remember, enthusiasm is based in the heart, not on the circumstances (ie, the weather outside, the room we are in, etc.). Real enthusiasm is like a cup of cold water on a hot day — it refreshes us and it nourishes us. Our club meetings can be the same way.
New – It is all too easy for a meeting to seem “old hat” for us. We know the agenda; we know each other, etc. Yet today you will encounter someone who has never been here before. Help them to appreciate the newness of their experience here. Even with experienced members there is an element of newness as they reach a new level in their speaking or leadership skills, as we see a different side to them in their speeches, as we gain a fresh view on our own abilities through evaluations and active participation in the meeting. Look for it, reach for it, and celebrate it!
Go – Do not just stand around – approach people when you see them – both guests and current members. Shake hands, fellowship, and enjoy the time spent together. Go also means to go farther on your own Toastmaster journey. Do the program. Take on a new meeting role. Serve as a club officer. Serve in an Area, Division or District role. Be a part of a contest in some way. When we do this it electrifies our experience in Toastmasters, and we bring that high voltage back to our club meetings.
Attentiveness – This is not the same as awareness. Awareness means knowing what is around you. Attentiveness means you know what is going on around you to the point you have a plan should you need to do something. Know what the needs of the club and members are. This is not just the role of the VP Education. We must all know this. Have a speech ready in case one is needed. Be willing to jump into a role as needed. Notice the attitude of people as they walk in and respond with a smile, a word of encouragement, a listening ear if needed. Attentiveness comes from caring about the people we are meeting with, and that brings people back as much as the great speeches and evaluations they hear.
Grace – Grace is the ability to let things roll off your back while lifting another person up. This means taking the time to listen to others, even when we disagree with them. We are an organization made up of people. People have bad days. Do not ever judge in anything you say. That old-fashioned word “love” applies here. Our founder, Dr. Ralph Smedley, started this whole thing because he loved his fellow men enough that he wanted them to reach their highest potential (reread the Mission Statement). The top clubs I visit all have one thing in common — the members love each other.
Experience – More than anything else, Toastmasters is where people come together to grow in a safe, nurturing, and enjoyable environment. That is the experience we want each person in a meeting to have. We want each person to leave having experienced the belief they moved forward in their lives, took a step closer to their goals, and knowing that the next time they come, they will take a step forward again. The goal is for each person to feel THEY grew this day. When that happens, EACH member grows. So does our club, area, division, and district.
Are your meetings engaging? If you follow the above ideas, they will be. The result — members will grow and change. THAT is the bottom line for Toastmasters!
Keith E. Boepple
By Jodie Sanderes