Toastmasters: Open House

img_6974Yesterday was my Toastmasters club’s open house in Greenfield.

An Open House, ideally, is a membership recruitment event.  You hang posters all over town, you put up notices through all your social media accounts, you share the news widely with your friends, and otherwise let people know that it’s happening.  On the day of the event, you make the room look nice. You put out trays of food.  You get dressed up. You put on your best show with as many members on stage as possible, to show the whole range of skills that one can develop as a Toastmaster, from just starting out to full success mode.  

Last night was great — our Secretary-Treasurer achieved the goals of completing his Competent Leadership and Advanced Leadership-Bronze awards by organizing the event.  And our Sergeant-At-Arms completed his Competent Communicator award  by giving his tenth speech.  We had someone giving their third speech, someone giving their fourth speech, and someone giving their tenth speech. We had a great range of skills on display in the evaluations, too.  And our newest member was the Timer, so everyone was heavily involved.

I wasn’t in charge of the event, but as the club’s president it felt like I had a high level of responsibility for making it happen and making sure it was successful.  We had two guests attend, which was encouraging for our club — but it’s certainly not the attendance level we were hoping for or expecting.  A lot of people who were personally invited, friends of mine or the other members, didn’t show up; some canceled last minute, some didn’t respond at all.  The two people who did show up, were both personal invitations of our members.

We had about $35 worth of posters up, announcing the event — coffee houses, post offices, local markets and shops with bulletin boards. Maybe that works out to about $17.50 in costs per visitor.  But also maybe not, since all of our guests were personal invites.

We may get more out of the event in publicity, in terms of putting out press releases announcing the achievements of our members. The local papers each has a column of Achievements —  people earning awards and recognitions from community organizations. Each item in the paper is a 60-80 word “blurb” and a photo of the person.  By spacing out the photographs and press releases, we can demonstrate a track record of success over time.  That excites me.

It saddens me that we didn’t get much turn-out.  Some of it is winter. Some of it are the challenges of figuring out how to reach people — appears to be dying: nobody visits us who finds us online that way.  Facebook doesn’t work reliably; you can spend money for advertising and no one sees your ad who wants to join; you can get your members to share the same ad to their Facebook wall and a hundred people see it… or ten.  Twitter is a joke for advertising — I can’t even get the host organization where we meet to follow our Toastmasters club’s Twitter feed…

But I feel that I’m encountering evidence that the analog is real.  People are … not exactly abandoning the digital or virtual worlds, but trying to figure out how to pay more attention to the real world, and live in it. The people in my Toastmasters club are solving problems, managing face-to-face relationships with one another, and learning to behave in a circle together.

It’s been a worthwhile endeavor, and I’m glad to be a part of the work — I’ve learned a lot from Toastmasters, and I’m glad to be helping others learn similar lessons.

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