Thursday, September 20, 2007

Correction about DEBIT CARDS!

This comment is from Norm Cook, DTM, PDG (Candidate for Toastmasters International Director from Region II;

"You may not want to encourage clubs to have debit cards linked to their accounts (#4). There have been a couple of instances in the past where one of the officers took the money and ran. It's better to have checks that need two signatures to withdraw funds. The better way to pay dues is for a member to use his or her personal credit card and then get reimbursed by check from the club treasury."

This brings up a good point. Sometimes the club treasury is a tempting target for embezzlement. Make sure your club requires 2 signers on each check (President and Treasurer), and that these signers change with each officer election. The signature card at the bank must be completed by the new officers, who must also bear a copy of the minutes of the meeting at which elections were held. The club Secretary must sign the minutes, personally verifying the results.

If you don't already have one, request a DEPOSIT-ONLY card for the checking account. This will allow the Treasurer to use an ATM to deposit income and check balances, but will not allow cash withdrawals.

As Norm states, the best way to do club business online is with a personal credit card. Make sure the club collects the money from members and deposits it, then have the Treasurer write a reimbursement check immediately after the online transaction. Even better, use your credit card with airline miles!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Crunch time!

We are coming down to the wire for membership renewals! Toastmasters clubs around the world must pay dues twice each year, once by October 1st and once by April 1st. The month of September is special because it also concludes the contest for the Smedley Award, bestowed annually to those clubs who add 5 new, reinstated or transfer members between August 1 and September 30. For more information about membership contests, click here.

To help you renew all your current members and win the coveted Smedley Award, here are some suggestions:

1) Call your current members to remind them to pay their dues to the club treasury. You can divide this task among the club officers, but a call from the President may be most persuasive.

2) Call your past members and guests to invite them to rejoin or attend another meeting. Offer an incentive if they join before September 30. For example, you could reduce or waive club fees or dues for a certain period of time.

3) File membership renewals as they come in. Don't wait until the last day to file! That's what the other 12,000 clubs are doing. Can you imagine the processing traffic jam at World Headquarters?

4) File membership renewals (and other club paperwork) online. It is fast and easy - you can renew an entire club in about 2 minutes! You will need a deposit or debit card linked to your club account (make sure the funds are there first!), or a credit card (get a check for reimbursement!).

If you renew all your members, you will be well on your way to eligibility for the Distinguished Club Program (DCP). If you add 5 or more members, you will win the Smedley award AND accomplish at least one DCP goal!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

No excuses!

So I just finished reading a book I picked up at the Toastmasters International Convention in Phoenix. The author was our keynote speaker, W Mitchell. And yes, that is his full and legal name – not W. or William, just W Mitchell.

His story is simply amazing (to quote our Past International President Johnny Uy)! He survived two horrific, wrenching, life-threatening accidents that would put most of us on the road to eternal self-pity. You know, that constant, bitter “Why me?” attitude. But the philosophy he developed along his journey was stated in the title of his speech, and in the title of his book: It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.

No matter what blows life metes out, what hardships we encounter, the result depends ONLY on how we perceive and react to events. We often allow ourselves to be imprisoned by limitations we impose upon ourselves. Mitchell refused to live in a prison of self-imposed limits. He allowed his spirit to soar and learned to handle adversity with gentle good humor by taking control of his life, by taking action to make the lives of others better. His philosophy is quintessentially existentialist: our actions are ours alone, and we are free to act as we please.

At the core of his belief is that we must take action. He challenges each of us to take charge of our lives, to take action to improve our own lives and those of others. He does not accept excuses, something I learned as a 17-year-old at Norwich University. “There are only 3 responses to any inquiry: “Yes, sir!”, “No, sir!” and “No excuse sir!” (There weren’t that many ma’ams around my school at that time.)

What are you blaming on someone else right now? Are you taking full responsibility for the course of your life? What limits are you building around your life? What is keeping you from taking action?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happenings at the International Convention

What a fantastic Toastmasters convention this year! Around 1500 Toastmasters from around the world gathered in the hot desert of northern Phoenix, Arizona to learn, grow, and elect the next board.

The educational sessions began on Thursday, but my work started on Wednesday. District Governor Alanda Dyer, DTM and I went around interviewing candidates for International Director. Each year there are 8 seats open, 1 for each Region, and 1 seat for the Districts not assigned to regions (DNARs). We also interviewed the 2 candidates for 3rd Vice President, Pat Johnson, DTM and Ken Garber, DTM.

We learned why each was running and what his or her vision was for the future of Toastmasters International. We continued the process on Thursday along with our Lt. Governor Education & Training Bob Hudack, DTM, and met with all the other members in attendance from Founder's District that evening. At that caucus, we discussed each of the contested candidates (Region VII and DNAR as well as 3rd VP).

Wednesday afternoon was the briefing by the Board of Directors. It started off with presentations by each Committee chair outlining the work that had been done this year and the directions for Toastmasters International. Friday morning was the annual business meeting. Everyone who attended the conference from Founder's District was there to participate in the voting. The results are available at

Saturday was the most fun. It started with the 10 speakers vying to become the World Champion of Public Speaking title. It was amazing to see such incredible speakers assembled in one place. That afternoon, a record-breaking 51 Districts were honored for achieving Distinguished or better status, including Founder's District. We were proud to boast the largest group outside the host District! What an amazing experience. The convention concluded that night with the installation of the newly elected board members at the President's dinner dance.

Along the way, I learned from the various speakers at the lunches and dinners, attended a couple of excellent educational sessions, and met quite a few outstanding Toastmasters from around the world. I highly recommend attending the International Convention. Come join us in Calgary next August as we celebrate another year as a Distinguished (or better!) District!

Monday, August 13, 2007

I'm off!

Today I am preparing to leave for Phoenix, AZ to attend the Toastmasters International Convention. There I will be interviewing candidates to lead us for the next 2 years as International Directors, and candidates for 3rd VP, who will serve on the board for 4 years. In between, I hope to catch some informative sessions and attend a speech contest. I'll report on my experiences when I return.

Until then, Happy Toastmastering!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Leadership Development

Part I – Finding Leaders

In Toastmasters, the problem is ever the same: how do we find leaders to sustain our Clubs, Areas, Divisions and Districts? The answer is both strikingly simplex and simultaneously complex. The potential leaders are all around us! We know them from our clubs, or we meet them at a speech contest or other District function.

But how do we find “the good ones”? How do we figure out who will make a good leader? Or can a leader be developed from any starting position? And what is leadership development?

I don’t have all the answers, but I hope to put the problem into perspective. Most people don’t naturally think of themselves as leaders, so they will be afraid to volunteer. Most of our members come to Toastmasters to lose the fear of speaking in public, and never give leadership a thought. The course of action, then, is two-fold:

  • to observe people, to look for those behaviors that indicate they can naturally lead others; and,

  • to involve as many people as possible in leadership positions and tasks, no matter how minor.

What should you look for in a potential leader? Watch who comes early to the meeting and offers to help setup. Who leads the applause in the club? Who is first to speak with a guest? Who is taking personal responsibility not only for their own success as a Toastmaster, but also for the success of the club? Who is willing to make flyers, to call absent members, to help out in any way? These are the people who are just waiting to be asked to be a leader. It’s up to you – ask them!

But what about those people who don’t fit into the mold described above? Start by getting them involved in club operations. Ask them to help with the newsletter or website. Ask them to serve as a greeter at meetings and events, making sure guests are welcomed and seated with a knowledgeable member. Ask them to serve on the audit committee, to help with a membership drive or contest, to help organize an open house or speech contest. Once they are comfortable with helping out, and they see that they have contributed and learned – and grown – then you can approach them with the suggestion that they should consider being a leader in the club or District. “Gosh, you really did a great job writing that article! I think you would make a fine editor for our newsletter!” Give lots of positive reinforcement and encourage them to continue stretching and growing in different ways.

Now, it’s your turn. Please give your input by submitting your comments to this post, in response to the questions below.

  1. How do you identify and manage your potential leaders?

  2. How do you plan for the individual development of prospective leaders?

  3. What tools do you use to develop leaders?

  4. How do you plan for succession?

  5. Do you have a mentoring program in place? Is it formal or informal, and how do you assess progress?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Tap into the Power of the Referral

Are you looking for members for your Toastmasters club? Of course, the answer should be a resounding “YES!” According to Toastmasters International, every club should seek to add 1-2 members per month to grow and to replace members who leave.* Not only will this build a healthy, prosperous club with exciting meetings, the club will achieve two goals – 4 new members, plus 4 more new members – toward becoming a Distinguished club.

So how do you go about the task of finding prospective members? Tap into the power of referrals and endorsements by opinion leaders. In the pharmaceutical business, companies seek “key opinion leaders” (KOLs) to help them research, launch and market new drugs. KOLs have valuable insights into the target disease(s) and corresponding treatments. More importantly, KOLs present their work at conferences, talk to colleagues, and work with patients on a daily basis. How’s that for exposure?

This morning I saw this article in the New York Times. It seems that Victoria Beckham, recently transplanted into Southern California along with her soccer star husband David, was spotted in May with a certain diet book. E! News picked up the story in June and suddenly, this book – which had seen low sales since publication – was hot! This weekend it will be #3 on the New York Times paperback bestseller list. How’s that for exposure?

Ms. Beckham has unwittingly become a “consumer opinion leader”, or COL, for diet books. After all, aren’t we all more willing to try something if someone we trust has already tried it and will vouch for it? This is the power of the testimonial, the power of the referral.

In fact, “a person like me” or a peer is considered to be the most trusted spokesperson throughout most of the world (in Asia, second to physicians), according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2007, an international credibility survey. High visibility celebrities can’t be much farther down on the list of respected spokespeople.

How can you harness the power of the opinion leader to your advantage in your Toastmasters club? By finding your own opinion leader to refer potential members!

For example, in a company or corporate club (one that restricts membership to company employees only), senior managers including the Director of Human Resources are your opinion leaders. In the community, they tend to be physicians and teachers.

Once you have identified your opinion leaders, invite them to a meeting. Make it a great meeting, fun and enthusiastic, with everyone in attendance. Talk to them; describe the benefits of Toastmasters that are available to them, their employees, their friends, etc. If you can persuade your opinion leaders to adopt your point of view, your membership will grow. Your opinion leaders will be critical in moving your club to its “tipping point,” so be sure they come away with a POSITIVE view of Toastmasters and your club!

*(To help your club determine how to retain members, try the Moments of Truth training module from the Successful Club Series.)

Welcome to Founder"s District Marketing Blog!

This year we are starting a new communication tool within Founder's District: this blog. We invite you to steal our ideas to improve your club by attracting new members, keeping your current members, and rebuilding your club with special events like Open Houses or Speechcraft.

We also invite you to join with us in achieving your Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) goals. When you join a Demonstration Team or serve as a new club Sponsor or Mentor, you are helping Founder's District grow, bringing the many benefits of Toastmasters to more people throughout Southern California. At the same time, you get accomplish one goal toward your Advanced Leader Silver (ALS) - the last leadership step to the DTM!

When you serve as a Club Coach for a low-member club, you not only accomplish a goal toward your ALS and DTM, you also reap the benefits of learning how to coach, motivate and inspire a group of people to grow, thrive and help their club become Distinguished, Select Distinguished or President's Distinguished. For more information on how a club achieves one of these prestigious awards, view the Distinguished Club Program manual at the Toastmasters International website.

Let us help you achieve your personal Toastmasters goals this year! To find out more about our upcoming training programs for Demo Teams, Sponsors, Mentors and Coaches, please contact me, or visit us on the web for event information and useful files to download.

We wish you all the success in the coming year!

The Founder's District Marketing Team