Sometimes it seems like a meeting where everyone practices their public speaking skills can only be so fun. I mean honestly, how many speeches about people’s dogs, families, jobs, etc… can one tolerate? I personally love these types of speeches because I’m fascinated with people and like to learn about them (and truthfully, I’ve actually walked away from many of these types of speeches with useful advice). Of course, not everyone is like me so sometimes you need to change things up.
I was a member of Toastmasters for over four years. One of those years I was Club President and loved every minute of it as I got to know most of the members of my club and hear what they liked and what they didn’t. Another year, I was an Area Governor and got to visit other clubs and got some great ideas that I could share with all the clubs I was associated with.Â So without further ado, let’s look at some ways to spice up meetings.
1. Change Your Venue:
Have the meeting at a different location for a meeting. It could be at a restaurant, an auditorium, a classroom, a different meeting room than you’re used to, etc…. The key here is that it’s different so that the environment you’re speaking in isn’t something you’ve grown accustomed to. It’s easy to get comfortable when you’re used to the same people in the same room. So at the very least, find a room with a different layout. If you’re used to a small room, try a larger room. The more opposite the room is from what you’re used to, the better. Be creative.
2. Bring Food:
If you don’t currently have food at your meetings, pick a meeting to have food. If you have food, change it up with a different type. If the place that you meet doesn’t allow food, then kill two birds with one stone and meet somewhere different. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — you could order a few pizzas, do a pot luck, buy a sandwich platter from a local deli or grocery store, or have it catered.
If you’re buying food, you can either have members chip in or if your budget allows, have the club pay for it as a “Member Appreciation Meeting.” The nice thing about having food at your meeting is that you need a headcount, so people are less likely to bail out on you at the last minute.
3. Invite Another Club:
There are so many benefits to sharing a meeting with another club that they outweigh the one obvious drawback: fewer speaking opportunities since roles will be split between two clubs. Of course, by bringing in another club, you get the following benefits:
- New people to learn from and network with.
- More people in the audience and not just the usual faces.
- Fresh ideas on speeches and meeting roles.
Of course, it’s not always clear how to run a meeting with two clubs, as that means two sets of members and two sets of officers. Here are a few quick tips:
- Have the Toastmaster of the Day be someone from the visiting club and the General Evaluator be from the hosting club.
- Allow the Presidents from each club a few minutes each for opening remarks or let one open the meeting and the other close it.
- Have the other officers either pair up or share duties.
- Try to alternate roles between clubs.
- If possible, have an even number of speeches and split them evenly between the clubs.
- Have each speaker evaluated by someone from the other club.
- During table topics, alternate between clubs.
4. Add Additional Roles:
Every Toastmasters club has the same general roles such as the Toastmaster, General Evaluator, Table Topics Master, Timer, Ah Counter and of course, speakers and evaluators. Here are some other roles you can try:
- Jokemaster — shares a joke or funny story to add levity to the meeting.
- Invocationmaster — shares a prayer or inspirational story.
- Thoughtmaster — at the end of the meeting, reflects on interesting things that were shared (this role can be combined with Ah Counter).
Sometimes, the length of the meeting restricts what you can fit in so either try this at a meeting that you are light on speeches or consider having a special meeting that’s 15 or 30 minutes longer than usual.
5: Try a Theme Meeting:
Theme meetings are my favorite way to spice up a meeting, but they take a lot of work and planning. But when done correctly, they can re-energize a club and get more people involved. The key to a good theme meeting is planning, so if you’ve never tried one before, give yourself a month or so to plan it right.
Themes can be based on anything such as movies, current events, geographic locations, holidays, sports, historical periods, or anything your mind can dream up. You can even share a couple suggestions with your club and have them vote on which one to have.
There are a few things to do to make your theme meeting a success:
- Promote it to your members by putting it in your club newsletter and mention it in every email blast.
- Ask people to help out — especially those that don’t regularly take an active role in meetings.
- Promote it in your community via local blogs & websites, newspapers, social media, and email lists.
- Have a least one meeting with everyone involved to brainstorm and to ensure that roles are clear.
- Have fun with it. Don’t worry if you make a mistake or two, it’s a learning experience and half the fun.
You can research theme meeting ideas online. I put together an eBook of 10 Theme Meeting ideas complete with everything you need to make your meeting a success. Each them kit includes preparation tips, table topics, and invitations that you can cut and paste to email your members. So please check it out.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.