I’ve had the opportunity to hear Dan Rex, the CEO of Toastmasters International, speak this weekend at the District 26 conference in Denver Colorado.
In speaking about the importance of serving our member clubs, and supporting our members through Club Excellence, Dan made an interesting comparison between the brand of Toastmasters and another well known brand, Pepsi.
He discussed the expectation we all have when we pop open a can of Pepsi, and what can happen when one Pepsi doesn’t meet our expectations. Dan then asked us, “does your club taste like Pepsi?”
In a very telling response, one member said, “Cherry Pepsi!”
The point here was around consistency. When a prospect hears about Toastmasters, the ideal situation is that any club they choose to visit will be Toastmasters. If a club says, “we don’t do table topics” or they give overly harsh evaluations that won’t meet the expectations of future members, then “it isn’t Pepsi.” And frankly, it isn’t really meeting the needs of current members, even if they may have just gotten used to it.
Dan went on to illustrate how the club mission really supports this mindset, and why it’s also important from a brand perspective. He broke down each section of the mission and gave us some excellent examples of how we can better taste like Pepsi to all of our current and future members.
The Club Mission – We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth.
Supportive and Positive
– Are your evaluations supportive and positive, or do you gloss over improvement opportunities or worse, judge speakers harshly?
– How do you treat guests? Are club officers huddled in a corner socializing before the meeting, or taking time to properly and warmly greet guests?
– Is your club just social? Or better, do you provide that Toastmasters experience in a fun way? It’s certainly okay, and even encouraged, to have a social side to our meetings – “We learn best in moments of enjoyment” Ralph Smedley
Empowered to Develop
– Are we supposed to be teaching? Not exactly
– Members need to buy in, and lead their own (our own) development through use of our outstanding program
Communication and Leadership Skills
– Are we making those opportunities available to all members? What about the 3-time Club Secretary? When someone says, “I’ll be treasurer again” it’s likely no one else will volunteer.
Greater Self Confidence
– When we survey members for their reasons for joining, they tell us 3 things more than any other. Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communications and “My boss told me to.” When we ask why they stayed in the 2-3 year range, many say that the improvement in self-confidence was the greatest benefit they received.
– This brings it all together.
A couple of additional suggestions made their way into my notebook as well:
Drop the hip-pocket speech – instead, fill in those open times (i.e. if a speaker cancels) with an educational session from the Better Speaker Series, Successful Club Series or Leadership Excellence Series. Remember, speech credit is not the primary goal of a Toastmasters Club. Don’t be afraid to give a non-credit educational presentation if it’s in the better interest of the members. Side note: it is okay to develop hip-pocket speeches that are educational. i.e. picking a topic for your next speech or giving great evaluations.
Talk about Competencies, not about Table Topics – Telling prospective members that we have Table Topics usually doesn’t mean anything to them. That’s because that phrase is uniquely ours. Better – tell them that they can improve their self confidence, their critical thinking skills or their time management. Those words can resonate better than our internal terms.
None of these may seem like earth-shattering ideas, but sometimes it’s good to hear the best practices packaged in a way that helps us to follow them.
I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to hear Dan speak over a number of years at training and conventions, and once again he didn’t disappoint. If you don’t know how your Pepsi tastes, take the time to look at Moment’s of Truth and continue make your club an Excellent Club!