Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Selling the Toastmasters Concept

I was privileged on Tuesday past to witness what was, in a sense, the culmination of many years of hard work in the midst of what might be considered by some to be trying circumstances.

I am referring to the AC30 speech of Nicholas Mitchell, which he did from the Professional Speaker manual.  Those of us who have been members of Algoa for some time know that Nicholas is a multi-faceted person who strives to give of his best in every aspect of his life, whether it is at work where he has proved his worth in becoming a partner in the firm where he practises law; whether it is at home, where he relishes his role as father of five and husband to Naomi; or whether it is at Algoa Toastmasters, where he is a stalwart member, always happy to lend a hand at Speechcraft or Youth Leadership Courses, or to compete in – and win – the various speaking competitions, at the same time as working towards his ultimate goal of becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster.

It came as no surprise then to hear that the topic of his final (project) speech dealt with the matter of Selling the Toastmasters Concept.

With public speaking regarded by many as a fate to be feared second only to dying, this almost intangible skill would seem to be a really marketable concept. Yet, when one considers the relatively few members in existence it would appear that the Toastmasters concept is a well-guarded secret.

Nicholas is convinced that it is a secret we should all be happy to sell.  He makes the proviso though that it is not a one-size-fits-all concept.  While he offers a basic recipe which can be adapted, he cautions that one should take account of the needs and goals of each individual one encounters before one tries to steamroller someone into becoming a member.

For those of you who wish to rise to the challenge of selling the Toastmasters concept, he suggests an acronym – RISEN.  Let me unpack it for you.

Rapport/Relationship - Trust me; no-one is going to buy anything from you until you have established this.  Out of a trusting relationship you can begin to inform the potential ‘customer’ of the value of Toastmasters. In other words, you can show them how their specific needs can be met in the non-threatening environment that is Toastmasters.

Invitation - Getting someone to attend one of our meetings is half the battle won! It is important that they realise that a first visit is just that – there must be no pressure placed upon them to participate in the proceedings of a meeting, unless they choose to do so. There must also not be any ‘hard sell’ attempt to coerce a visitor into becoming a member.

Sell - Expect some skepticism at first. The financial outlay is always a concern for potential members, but it is up to you to convince them that whatever the cost, the benefits to them will far outweigh those cost.

Eagerness/Excitement - All club meetings should be welcoming and encouraging. Visitors should always be exposed to a product that is slick and professional, but NOT intimidating.

New member - Hopefully, this will be the outcome of a purposeful attempt at selling our product.

So, Algoa Toastmasters – the gauntlet has been thrown. Will you pick it up?


A number of us will set off on Thursday for the annual MaxiCon, which takes place at the Indaba Hotel at Fourways.  We wish Mariannah Lourens well as she represents Division E in the International Speech Contest.   As Denise indicated earlier today in her email, we all hope to come back renewed and full of Toastmasters enthusiasm!

Until next time

Ricky Woods

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