Toastmasters is where leaders are made but also where fun should be had! The ability to run efficient and engaging meetings isn’t a box to be checked off. It’s more like playing with putty — the curiosity and endless creations are what allow members to enjoy the experience.
Meetings should still uphold the Toastmasters brand, including the mission and core values. Here are three other best practices:
- Avoid skipping meetings. This creates a snowball effect (like missing a gym day) diminishing the dedication and engagement of members.
- Always explain the purpose, both of the organization and each functionary role. Whether or not there are guests in the room, this reinforces “the why” for everyone.
- Incorporate key elements. Having prepared speeches, evaluations, and impromptu speaking helps maintain brand consistency across Toastmasters clubs.
Now that we’ve laid the groundwork, below are nine (9) categories of ideas to add variety to your Toastmasters meetings. Feel free to leave additional ideas in the comments section below!
1. Themed Meetings
The simplest way to vary each meeting is to have the Toastmaster of the Day select a theme. Prepared speeches and Table Topics questions can revolve around themes like opportunity, mindfulness, or motivation. Internet searches will reveal endless possibilities from clubs around the world.
Feeling festive over the holidays? Incorporate Table Topics or Tall Tales into a white elephant gift exchange. Hold an Oscars-themed night to watch the World Championship of Public Speaking finals as a group. Survey club members for what hobbies interest them; that’s the best starting point.
2. Interclub Meetings
To discover new ideas, visit other Toastmasters clubs or organize interclub meetings where speaking slots and functionary roles are split between the two groups. While VPs of Education typically schedule meetings, any member can chair this special event.
Any membres from newly-chartered clubs to well-tenured clubs can easily make connections with others through District events. Interclub meetings are especially helpful if your members feel like they hear the same speakers and evaluators over and over again.
3. Reverse (Backwards) Meetings
For a mind-bending activity, try a reverse meeting. Turn your meeting agenda upside-down, and that becomes the new order of events. Yes, this means functionary reports start the meeting. Speech evaluators go before prepared speeches. Table Topics answers are given before their questions.
It’s a fun and rewarding exercise in impromptu skills and creativity. Make the club president sing in the middle of his or her speech, have the lights go out in the middle of the Toastmaster’s introduction, or encourage guests to laugh like hyenas during the meeting. Imagine the possibilities!
4. Education Modules
There’s a wide selection of FREE education modules from Toastmasters that just requires an engaging facilitator. These could easily fill last minute speaking slots and refocus members on their professional goals. Here are some popular choices:
- Evaluate to Motivate
- Impromptu Speaking
- Meeting Roles & Responsibilities
- Finding New Members for Your Club
- How to Be a Distinguished Club
Conducting workshops such as Speechcraft can be a marketing tool for attracting new members to the club. It’s recommended to conduct the Moments of Truth module twice per year as a check-in or tune-up for the club officers and members.
5. Official & Unofficial Contests
Each year, thousands of members across the world compete at the club, area, division, and district level for a chance to become the World Champion of Public Speaking. These contest tiers are organized in the spring and may include other topics that advance to the district level.
Outside these official events, clubs can coordinate contests between their members… and even include other clubs! If you don’t compete, participating as an audience member or part of the organizing committee is still a valuable learning experience. Toastmasters provides planning kits for five (5) different contests:
- International Speech Contest
- Evaluation Speech Contest
- Humorous Speech Contest
- Table Topics Speech Contest
- Tall Tales Speech Contest
6. Improv Activities
The ability to speak off the cuff is a sought-after skill, and practicing during Table Topics can be intimidating. Occasionally add pizzazz to the impromptu section of the meeting with fun and easy improv activities. Find an endless array of ideas through a simple internet search.
Some examples: Turn Table Topics into a partner activity, role-playing silly scenarios. Bring a stocking of random household objects and have participants describe items they feel with their hands. Get everyone involved with a “story chain” by having one person start a story and the next saying “yes and…” or continuing off the last spoken word.
7. Membership Drive
While clubs should always active recruit members, give your efforts a boost during special events. The most common one is called an Open House, where the meeting is dedicated to bringing in guests, educating them about Toastmasters, and encouraging them to join.
Other great ideas include a simple “bring-a-friend” day or inviting alumni to return and participate in a meeting dedicated to them. Appoint an emerging leader to work with club officers on coordinating food, beverage, décor, and anything else to make guests feel extra welcome.
8. Guest Speakers
Inviting a guest speaker is one of the best ways to recruit new members and engage existing members. If you belong to a corporate club, ask a company executive or club sponsor to share their experiences about the importance of leadership and communication.
If you belong to a community club, reach out to the city major and other civic leaders to facilitate discussion on local issues or share their journey into leadership. For all these events, make sure to have membership applications and guest packets ready for newcomers.
9. Milestone Celebrations
We’ve saved the most fun for last! After exerting time and energy on educating members and recruiting guests, find ways to celebrate throughout the year. This could combine many ideas above, such as having a guest speaker or conducting improv activities.
You can find your club’s charter date here for an anniversary celebration. Officers can see individual member anniversaries and educational designations on the club roster. Recognizing seasoned members and those recently earning education awards are great ways to make them feel appreciated and boost engagement.
These are just a few ideas to jumpstart creativity when it comes to adding variety to Toastmasters meetings and keeping members engaged. Once you’ve mastered the basics of running a meeting, that’s where the real fun begins!