Back in September, when I left my home club, I planned on heading to another to help coach it from within. I had originally been set up to be it's 'Club Coach' earlier in the summer, but first it didn't have enough members to stay a club, and when they finally did pay the minimum dues, I was no longer eligible since I wasn't a member of another club, and a Coach cannot start out as a member. Complicated. So my intention shifted to simply joining the club, perhaps be a mentor of sorts.
This particular club had a very independent identity. They didn't really care about Toastmasters on a larger level. They enjoyed getting together and following the Toastmasters structure, but not about the Distinguished Club Program (DCP), per se, or gaining a lot of members. At one point, their president even said they didn't want to grow to 20 members (what TI considers the minimum number for a healthy club) because it would limit speaking opportunities.
I ended up not joining this club, mostly because I knew I couldn't really DO anything for it. They were comfortable being who they were. They have since considered disbanding, which was followed by the District coming in with a new coach in an attempt to save it. What I have heard from my contacts since is that at least two of the driving members have left the club, not wanting to deal with the 'Toastmasters Dogma' - that is, being a legitimate TM club.
I've seen clubs like this in the past. Some are longtime clubs that have become social get-togethers for a select few, some are corporate clubs. Typically, as long as they stay charter strength, they are left alone. I suppose that could lead to a discussion about whether TI cares more about the dues than the nature of the club, but that's not really the point of this post.
Each of the 13,000 clubs throughout the world is different. I've only attended 100 or so across North America, but every one has its own flavor, its own culture, even as they all follow the basic Toastmasters structure of speak and evaluate.
Some are 55 minutes of tight-run efficiency (usually because members have to get back to work, and the membership is 100 percent working professionals), others are two hours of laid back fun (usually an evening or weekend club with a mixed membership).
We have prison clubs, clubs at monasteries and convents, clubs at Microsoft and Bank of America, clubs that meet at drinking establishments and IHOPs. We have executives, entrepreneurs, students, stay-at-home moms, retirees as members, and those descriptions just scratch the surface.
Who is YOUR Club?
In a western american city, there's a club for 'Adult Topics', which I've heard TI considered stepping in to police. Here in Denver, we have a club that is extremely political in orientation and they are expanding. Heck, there are some clubs built for 'Singles Only' - what goals might those members have?
What is OK for a club? I assume Orgy Toastmasters will never pass the litmus test, but how far can clubs push the envelope? If a club has paid enough dues, will they just be left alone?
internal Linked In conversations.
The more important question may be, are they a club in which YOU can be successful? Are you able to meet your goals, whether they be speaking, leading, social, or otherwise?
The club I spoke of to open this post may survive, but it will likely look nothing like the club did a few months ago. Within the realm of TI, it will be a success. For the individual members who liked what they had, it will not. Is the lesson for clubs: if you want to be who you want to be as a club, at least be successful enough with membership that you can stay under the radar?
At the moment, I am a man without a club. Technically, I am not a Toastmaster. The last 8 weeks without TM meetings (other than a District Conference I was asked to speak at) have been both cleansing and clarifying. I'll find a club soon enough, one that fits my time and geographic requirements, one that will allow me not to be too dogmatic about branding but still let me be a contributing factor. Toastmasters is in my blood, so I'd like to think I'm a TM regardless, as I write this.
Are you making the most of your Toastmaster experience? I believe, in general, that the TI method, the leadership and communication models, the DCP, even some of the dogma, will serve most members most of the time. So I am not suggesting the best clubs are the ones who ignore significant aspects of the program. The successful clubs I've been a part of balance TI practices with the individuality of the group.
My job is to find a Toastmaster club that will work for me again, and one that I will work for. What about you? Are you the right person in the right place? Should you be adding another club to the mix, moving to another club, or even starting a new club to fit your needs (if there are enough others whose needs match yours)?
Know your club. Know yourself. The better you know both, the better you'll be able to Toastmaster...and Deliver.