If you know anything about our meetings at Casterbridge Speakers, the Dorchester based Toastmasters International Club, it will be that everything in the meeting is evaluated, but you may not know that the club itself is evaluated twice a year by an Area Director.

Toastmasters uses its “Moments of Truth” statements as criteria for measuring the quality and effectiveness of clubs. The most recent club meeting, on the 1st February 2017, was one such occasion and therefore this blog post is a summary of the feedback given.

The main purpose of the club is to encourage our members to practice and develop their public speaking and leadership skills. Given the majority of guests are visiting us because they have some anxieties around public speaking and are looking to build up their confidence and their skills, a warm and friendly welcome is particularly crucial. The current evidence suggests that we usually get this right, with five new members joining in the last 6 months, but some recent feedback highlighted the importance of an ongoing focus on creating a positive guest experience and we must avoid complacency in this area. New members are the life blood of the club.

Making the transition from new member to confident contributor, where you are speaking regularly and taking on meeting roles, may to many seem like a daunting step. The club has an on-line induction programme, which is there to help, and with the additional support of an induction buddy, everyone is encouraged to develop at a speed which suits their own needs. Indeed, the amount of resources that are available both locally and via the TI website are incredible; anything you could possibly want to know about public speaking and leadership is readily (and usually freely) available to you. The club has access to excellent training materials which are great for educational slots in meetings, and it could make more use of these, particularly at the moment with so many new members.
The club relies on everyone taking on the various leadership roles, not only in the meetings but on the leadership committee. Leadership roles can appear daunting at first glance but it’s a lot about team work, sharing responsibilities, and keeping in touch to support what’s going on; nobody is left to ‘sink or swim’ in Toastmasters. The first step is connecting as team.

Good preparation will always be at the heart of a well run club and a well run meeting. Andrew Knowles was the Toastmaster at the most recent meeting, and ably demonstrated the value of good preparation. He set a theme for the evening and seamlessly navigated us through the agenda, returning to the theme for each of the links – it was inspirational. Each of the evaluations was both well structured and well delivered; with Beverley Hepting setting the standards and the other evaluators looking to reach the ‘bar’; Ron gave his first evaluation and walked away with the award for best evaluator.

Casterbridge Speakers is a great club, there is no doubt about it. And we need to focus on the following points:-
• Always be aware of the needs of guests and new members
• Use the resources that are available to us
• Team work – ‘many hands make light work’
• Preparation is at the heart of a good club and a good meeting

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