Make Your Toastmasters Chapter Meetings Run Better

Make Your Club Run BetterPeople join Toastmasters clubs because they want to practice public speaking skills and learn organizational skills. They need to do these in a safe environment — something they couldn’t do in their day-jobs. As part of the executive committee, you’re probably aiming more toward the organizational skills part. However it is your responsibility that others in your club can practice speaking skills effectively. Otherwise your club’s membership will slide downhill until you don’t have a club any more. Moreover, helping others in their speaking projects will also help yourself in improving your management and mentorship skills.

One very important task for the executive committee is to ensure that every chapter meetings runs smoothly, effectively, and leaves lasting impression on the participants. Otherwise your members may feel that their time is not well spent then stop coming to subsequent meetings. You’ll need to make sure that the equipments are set up properly, encourage people to come on time, and also strive for the meetings to end on time as well. You’ll also want to get people to talk — either by doing their projects, as an evaluator, or as a participant — and that they get a receptive audience.

A good way to ensure the timeliness of chapter meetings is to have an agenda. You’ll need to prepare the agenda in advance and distribute it to all meeting participants  especially those who will be taking active roles in the event. It would be good if you can display the agenda in a large format where everyone can see it. Toastmasters International even provides a Word template that you can use for writing the agenda document.

However you’ll also need to be flexible. Some speakers may not show up at the meeting hence you’ll need to source replacements. Some may even need to come late and hence you’ll need to swap project-speaking time slots. All of these mid-flight changes need to be accommodated and still keep all participants informed.

One neat way to keep all of this hectic agenda is to use Omni Outliner. The app’s killer feature over spreadsheets like Numbers for maintaining a living agenda is for rearranging agenda items on the fly. You can simply hook-up your Mac (there is also Omni Outliner for iPad) to a projector to show the agenda and you can drag-and-drop speaking slots easily on the fly.

Another area worthy of automation is the timer’s role. Face it, being a timekeeper in a Toastmasters regular chapter meeting is not intellectually challenging but does eat up a good amount of your attention. You’ll need to keep your eye on the stopwatch to be able to raise the appropriate colored time signals. You’ll need to note down who are talking in which project and how much time they spent for the talk for the report. Even the only talking time that you get — delivering the timer’s report — is highly formulaic and doesn’t offer much room for you to practice real public speaking.

But this can change if you use software to automate the timekeeper’s job. When properly automated, you can combine the timekeeper’s role with the grammarian’s role and have it done by a single person. Playing the grammarian is far more intellectually challenging than the timekeeper and provides much more value both to the grammarian (in ensuring that the grammarian aren’t making the very same mistakes that she’s trying to capture) and both to the meeting participants in general. By raising the bar and combining these two roles, you free up one person from your executive committee that can do real speeches and you’ll raise the bar for the other person doing the combined timekeeper/grammarian roles, making it more challenging which increases her engagement and satisfaction of the club.

Speech Timer will help you automate the timekeeper’s role and merge it with the grammarian role. A timekeeper using Speech Timer no longer need to focus her attention to the stopwatch and able to direct her mind to the speech itself as a grammarian. Hence attending the chapter meeting would be a better time spent for her since she can practice her listening skills, grammar, and speaking skills when delivering the combined grammarian and timekeeper’s report — which in turn increases her engagement with the club.

Speech timer projectionAnother way to improve engagement is by adding a  to your club meetings. You can amaze your Toastmasters colleagues by having a real-time status board on every meeting. Simply connect your iPhone, iPad or Mac to an overhead projector or television and Speech Timer will display the current speech status on it — current time, project name, speaker’s name, and the tricolor time light indicators.

In a nutshell improving your club engagement is a top priority for you as an executive committee. One way to increase engagement is by using software and technology that help run meetings more smoothly, automate mundane tasks to make some roles more challenging, and add fun by introducing multimedia to your meetings.

This meeting is now adjourned.

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