Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Every visitor is a potential member - 26 February

After fifteen years as a Toastmaster I still get a kick out of every meeting. Last night though, I saw something quite amazing – of the thirty people at our meeting, fourteen of them were visitors!

As usual, our President asked each visitor to give a short introduction. Their responses were all similar: “I want to improve my public speaking skills” or “I want to overcome my fear of speaking in public.” What became overwhelmingly evident to me was what we at Toastmasters have known for so long:

1. Many people really fear speaking in front of others;

2. Being able to speak confidently to groups of people is the key to personal confidence and to career success.

Many of the visitors indicated that the requirements of their jobs meant addressing groups of people in order to train them or to try to sell a concept to them. They recognised that it was a skill they would have to master in order to succeed. There exists in all of us a desire to grow; to improve and to fulfil our potential. Why else would so many people have deliberately put themselves in a place where they would have to acknowledge and face their fears?

That got me thinking about how clubs succeed. I believe in serendipity or synchronicity and last night’s meeting was yet another example of such a chance encounter. Antoinette Baatjes gave a delightful educational speech on How to Motivate People, which started with words attributed to Dr Phil (but which I have subsequently discovered to have been used by a host of other people): “You can’t give what you don’t have”.

I believe that is the root of the success of a club like Algoa – we give what we do have. It all starts with club members who are already motivated. When individual members are feeling a little down, or not as ‘on track’ as they would like to be, there are others who are ‘up’ and that enables them to act as a motivating force. Regular attendance at meetings therefore ensures a level of motivation. We keep going because of the encouragement of others.

Motivation, according to Antoinette, can take three forms:

Praise - people are motivated when they feel appreciated or encouraged. There is little that spurs one on more to further action than acknowledgement of a job well done, whether that is a project speech or a task performed in service of the club. Evaluations should always be positive and encouraging, while at the same time making constructive suggestions for improvement.

Public recognition - as above, people enjoy this recognition at a meeting (in the form of an award like the Top Toastie, or Best Table Topic) or in a newsletter or club blog.

Promotion – this entails opportunities for advancement in the organisation. Members may be asked to serve the club in executive positions, in this way recognising their value to the club.

Fourteen people came to visit last night; fourteen people took a risk. Were we at Algoa motivating enough in our encouragement of them and of one another that they will stay to become members?

Until next time
Ricky Woods

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