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Date: 31st December 2017
Category: Ask The Trio  

Q: A good number of club members do not renew their membership due to various reasons, one being that the repetitive structure or format that all the meetings are conducted in, fails to keep their interests. Having different themes for every meeting, conducting joint meetings are some of the methods that we have used, but again the basic structure remains the same. What is your opinion on this? Are there any innovative methods that any of you have come across?
TM Sreeraj Menon, Toastmasters Club of Pune

Ans: Hi Sreeraj, very apt question and excellent thought process. I really like my Toastmaster Friends thinking and asking about how to improve Toastmasters Meetings. Here are my thoughts;

1. I am a firm believer that more than the structure of the meeting, the content of the meetings creates a major difference to the experience of the member.

2. We need to work together. to help our members give speeches that can make a difference. One of the campaigns that we are planning is to launch "Speak to make a difference", #S2MAD. You will know about this very soon. Majority of our speeches were made in a hurry, which creates a substandard experience for everyone included. Thus every speech will inspire others to give one, I have seen many clubs in our District already taking this very seriously by making mentoring of all the speeches qualitative and productive. The experience in a meeting with 3 such wonderful speeches is breathtaking.

3. We need to innovate: The role player reports have by far become very monotonous, to say the least. Some of the Ideas of how we can make it innovative are below

a. TMOD – The theme of the meeting is a brilliant concept; One can also try Theme "You" where the TMOD speaks about each member of the club during his transitions. Some of the TMOD speak about Toastmasters as the theme when there are many guests. Some pick up a topic related to Public Speaking and Leadership which is very valuable to everyone. Some TMODs utilize their role to talk about a famous speech or a great orator. Making themes relevant to the occasion and Toastmasters makes a lot of difference.

b. GE – The job of the general evaluator and all the role players should be a cumulative effort to create maximum impact. The GE should identify the areas where the club is lacking from the last 5 to 6 meetings and put it as a challenge or goal to the Role Players. For example, if the clubs meeting is being delayed from the last 10 minutes, give the TMOD a target to start the meeting on time, let that be his challenge. If the WOD and IOD are not being used, give the Grammarian the challenge to find out a way to make everyone use the WOD and IOD, give the Timer the challenge of giving a breakup of the time a speaker has taken for Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. Challenge the Ah Counter to find if the speakers identified have specific filler they want to eliminate and applaud any speaker who was able to do that in his speech.

c. As you have very aptly mentioned, Joint Meetings, special meetings are an excellent way to bring variety to the meetings once in a while. A few special meetings that I have seen over the years are; Reverse Meetings, Special Screening of famous speeches, Milestone Meetings, Panel Discussions on a Leadership or Communication-related topic give the meetings an excellent outreach.

Very lately, I have seen some clubs celebrating milestones and meetings a priority, than working to improve the most Important Club Meetings. If we do not improve/focus on enhancing the quality of our meetings and creating an excellent culture in our own clubs; milestones and special meetings do not make any sense. So let"s try to make a difference, while we take the stage in a Toastmaster Meeting, for us as well as for the audience.

Q: With Pathways almost knocking at our door, do you foresee any changes/challenges for the club excomm? If yes, how do we address them effectively?
TM Smita Mishra, Division H Director, Elan Toastmasters Hyderabad

Pathways is an exciting and a refreshing change that is coming in our District and we are thrilled to welcome it with open arms. TI and the District Machinery, as you are well aware, is ready to help bring this change and help transition very smoothly. We have trained all the District Officers about pathways in the training segments; Our Chief Ambassador is all geared up; we have also got Pathway guides in place who are going to personalize this transition to each and every club of D98. There will be no changes, apart from the Educational Track, DCP Goals, Edu Goals required for Contests and the approach to evaluation of the speeches, to the role of the Excomm. In fact after Pathways it will be easier for the VPED to track the educational goals and progress of each member in the base camp. The VPPR will be delighted for the fact that this will create a newer and a dynamic audience and reach.

While saying so, change is not always easy. Although we are confident of the smooth implementation of the Pathway program, we also anticipate a few hiccups in terms of Technical as well as Knowledge front in the pathway application. We are in continuous dialogue with other Districts and TI in our monthly meetings and Mid-Year Trainings. We have all the bases covered and are ready for any unforeseen situations that might crop up along the way. With the strength of the Pathways Team and our District Officers we are ready to welcome and celebrate Pathways in District 98.

Q: We know DCP is a measure of club success. However, that is never a measure of club quality. How are we establishing club quality? Not considering DCP, what parameters do you look at?
TM Manasa Inampudi, XLRATORS-The Miyapur, Hyderabad

Thank you Manasa, for choosing the right words to describe DCP. Yes, DCP is a measure of club success. There have been many opinions and studies to bring out parameters that can help evaluate the quality of the club but nothing very concrete could materialize. Quality is a relative term, what one feels about a quality meeting will not be the same for the other. This thus brings to the point of how we can ensure that there is Quality in a Club, I believe the quality of the club begins in planning what we want do and then evaluate and revise it as necessary, there are tools that are already in place for any club to do the above;

1. Club Success Plan – This is most comprehensive document that includes everything of how you would want to run your club. This has to be discussed and debated to include all the guidelines which would help bring things in order.
2. Club Officer Training – Attending the club officer training is not only important from a DCP perspective but is also important for all the EC members and is part of the oath that we took.
3. Club Visit Reports – The Club Visit Reports filed by the Area Director is also one important parameter that you can use to evaluate from a Trained District Officer point of view and make necessary coarse corrections.
4. Club Contests – Club speech contests for me has always been an exhibition of the strength of the club.
5. District Conferences – Area, Division and District Conferences are an excellent place to evaluate and mark our club speeches to those of the contestants hence attending the speech contests will ensure we have a good reference point for ourselves.
6. DCP – DCP is another parameter to check where each of our club stands.

If our actions as a club follow a particular plan and as a club we continuously evaluate and enhance those actions Quality becomes a by-product. Quality, according to me, is the process of continuously achieving the goals that we have set for ourselves while upholding the TI Values and the Club Mission and there are many checkpoints, as described above, to check and re-check what we are doing.

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