I’ll never forget the night I assumed the role of Vice President of Education for my Toastmasters club. I had been a member for only about 5 months and pestered the Club President for the prior week about getting more involved. When I was told I could have the role, I prepared like crazy. I researched everything I could about how to be successful in that role.
So there I was, nervously awaiting my turn to get up to address the club for the first time as an officer. I was very self-conscious about the role because while I had gotten to know most of be active members and gave several speeches, being so new I felt like I needed to prove myself.
Now it was the end of the meeting and it was my job to get up and fill the roster for next week’s meeting. While walking up to the lectern, I had a great idea. And the first thing that came out if my mouth was “I think we should try a theme meeting for next time. Other clubs have had great success with them. What do you think?”
Most people seemed opened to it so we chose a theme – I had suggested a tropical luau given that it was the middle of winter and everyone agreed. After the meeting, a couple more experienced Toastmasters shared their insights with me. One cautioned me that if theme meetings aren’t done correctly, they could be harmful to the club. So of course, this got me worried.
I spent the next two weeks in close contact with those should had roles for the upcoming theme meeting. Since it had been years since the club had tried one, the concept was new to most of us. What parts of the meeting should adhere to the theme? How should we tell people to prepare? Should we bring food? What about table topics?
Thanks to those who participated in the prepared roles for the meeting, we got it together. I remember putting together a CD of tropical music for ambiance and making lots of calls and sending emails to ensure everything was set.
After a tremendous amount of prep work, it was time for the meeting. Everything went as planned and the club had a fun time. The feedback for the meeting was both positive and encouraging. After the meeting, one of the other officers pulled me aside to tell me that she had never seen so much enthusiasm and excitement in the group. So if course, I got cocky and scheduled another one in a few weeks.
Six months later when I became Club President, we decided to do theme meetings regularly. I think we did them every other month. The year after that, one of the things I recommend as area governor to clubs that were struggling was to try theme meetings.
It’s been over 8 years now since my club had that first theme meeting and the club has been Presidential Distinguished, 7 out of those 8 years. And theme meetings are a very regular occurrence. For a few of those years, every meeting had a theme.
So if you feel that your club needs a change, try a theme meeting. If you’re not sure where to begin with theme meetings, check out this handy guide. Theme meetings are an excellent way to give your Toastmasters club that much needed boost.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.