Meeting Ideas

Hot Seat Meeting

While we normally try to be prepared at our meetings, we are faced with occasions when we need to fill in unexpectedly. At the hot seat meeting, everyone draws for their assignment. If a new member (someone who has given less than three speeches) draws speaker or toastmaster, they are allowed to draw again.

Members need to prepare enough that they could fill in for any position. They need to have a speech topic or outline depending on their experience level. They need to have a topic or envelope with topics ready.

Your club sends a speaker and evaluator to a nearby club. They send a speaker and evaluator to your club. In each case the speaker is evaluated by an evaluator for a different club.

Both clubs get a new speaker and a fresh evaluation. The speakers and evaluators involved have the opportunity to speak in a different setting without leaving the Toastmasters' environment.

Speaker/ Evaluator Exchange
Poetry Meeting
Sheila from Tandem Toastmasters in Cupertino, CA suggests, "Once every six months, my club has a Poetry Meeting. Everyone who wants to read poems brings one (or more). After everyone has had a chance to read about five minutes' worth of poems, people can have second turns, and so on."
I thought Sheila's idea was interesting, so we tried it at our club. Everyone enjoyed it. Fortunately, people had more than one poem because Robert Service was very much a club favorite. A couple people had to use their second choice.

After our all poetry meeting, Bill Manderfeld, a guest, suggested an all Shakespeare meeting. He said his club really enjoyed it when they tried it.

The meeting can be structured around a common theme. Many clubs have a theme for the meeting. Usually only the toastmaster works with the theme. Sometimes the humorist and topic master will try to use the theme also.

With a couple weeks advanced planning, the entire meeting can be built around the theme. The speakers present a speech on the topic. The toastmaster builds on the them during his/her portion of the meeting. It may be possible to have table topics use the skills presented or debate the topic discussed. Or, table topics may be a chance to practice the skills that were presented by the speakers.

Theme Meeting
Advanced Manual Meeting
Some people believe the longer advanced manuals are a problem to programing. However, they provide an excellent format to build a meeting around.

A team presentation from the advanced manuals Technical Presentations or Professional Salesperson can be used in place of all of the speaking position. The toastmaster and topicmaster can use the same topic the team presentation does for a unified program around a common theme.
The workshop projects in The Discussion Leader and Professional Speaker manuals make an excellent meeting. They incorporate one or more speakers. They also have one or more exercises like round robin discussion or buzz session. These exercises give everyone a chance to participate so they make a good alternative to table topics. If you have never presented a workshop, the Success/Leadership modules are a good place to gain experience before "starting from scratch".

A variation of the theme meeting is to make the theme membership building. The speeches can focus on the importance of building membership, programs that have worked for other clubs, the elements of a good club program or on inviting guests. Table topics can be a round robin discussion or an exercise on inviting new members.

Just because the meeting has a goal (increasing membership), you shouldn't skip the manual speeches. The motivational speech can be "Make It Persuasive" from the "Basic Manual" or "Manage and Motivate" from Speeches by Managers. Ideas from other clubs can be "A Fact-Finding Report" from Speaking to Inform. The round robin discussion can be "Round Robin" from The Discussion Leader.
For a club to be successful, it needs a good educational program and a good membership program. The Moments of Truth Successful Club manual provides a comprehensive plan for a good educational program. "The Training the Sales Force" from The Professional Salesperson provides a good format for teaching members how to recruit. The round robin discussion can center around where to look for possible new guests.

Membership Building
Community Action Meeting
Based on idea from Patterns In Programming by Toastmasters International
The idea is to encourage members to be come active the community. Find out what issues on the agenda of your county or town. Many of they issues will have a report prepared by the county or town staff. Obtain a copy of the report. Have someone present the majority view while someone else presents the minority view. Table topics could discuss the issue that was presented.

Toastmasters International has several modules on topics such as evaluation, listening, leadership and creative thinking. These are in a seminar format that can fill one or more meetings. The modules have scripts that you can paraphrase or modify to fit your meeting format. They also contain exercises that compliment the scripts. (You need to register the module if you will want to use them for an Able Toastmaster or Advanced Toastmaster award.)

A module can be broken into pieces and/or a series of modules can be presented. This can be presented much like a Speechcraft. This allows you to have a membership event without competing with other clubs who may be offering Speechcraft at the same time.
Success/ Leadership Module
Speechcraft
Speechcraft is Toastmasters number one membership tool. It is an eight week course which covers the basics of speaking. Experienced members of our club or guests give how-to speeches. The Speechcraft participants have the opportunity to give their first one to three speeches. While this can be given outside of the club, it's most effective as a membership tool when given at club meetings.

The only drawback to Speechcraft is it's not only Toastmasters most effective membership tool; it's Toastmasters most popular membership tool. For example, last fall 4 of 5 clubs in our area presented a Speechcraft. I gave a guest for 2 other clubs in nearby areas. It's wise to check with nearby clubs when planning a Speechcraft.

Twice a year, we have international and regional contests. In the spring, there is the Internal Speech and Evaluation Contest. In the fall, many regions hold the Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contest.

You aren't limited to these contests. Your club could hold a contest its self for invite near by clubs. You could hold a Tall Tales Contest. Some people have complained that the topics in the International Speech Contest are too safe; you could hold a Controversial Topics Contest.
To get your club members to compete the standard contests, you need to sell it to your members. When I was Area Governor, I was surprised by the number of people who forgot what they learned in speech #8 "Make It Persuasive". List some of the things the members will get from the contest. The contests are an opportunity for them to speak in a different environment but still among Toastmasters. It's one of the few times we give a speech, take the feedback and improve that same speech.

Contests

Reverse Meeting
Suggested by Alice Schubach
You asked if anybody has other ideas for meeting variety. One thing we do in our club, a couple of times a year is the "reverse meeting." Everything is backwards. You start with "closing the meeting", have the General Evaluation, work backwards through speeches and Table Topics, ending up finally with the Invocation and Pledge. Speech Evaluations come before the speeches ... but, of course, since this has to be a "made-up" evaluation, the speaker gets a "real" evaluation from somebody, outside of the actual meeting. A Table Topics speaker talks about anything he or she wishes ... then the Table Topics leader says what the topic "will be" ... or actually was! And so on ...
This is a nice break from routine and fun ... and surprisingly, it's educational, too. The thing is that you literally have to know your meeting routines "backwards and forwards" to do them in reverse. We really stop to think ... Now, how does that order of events go?
Because the Grammarian, timer and Word Master all give their reports at the beginning of the meeting ... the people they report on try to follow whatever was in their "report" ... speaking over or under time, etc. An interesting thing is that, we've observed our rate of "converting members into guests" seems higher at these meetings. It gets people over any intimidation they might feel about Toastmasters.
[We've tried this in our club meetings. This tends to be love it or hate it type of meeting.]

For the prepared speeches, have one or more of the speakers use evaluation for their topic. If there is more than one speaker talking about evaluation, there needs to be coordination to avoid overlap. Some possible topics are:
  • Evaluation is your opinion and the choices of words affects the listeners reaction
  • Balance of praise and suggestions
  • The "Evaluation Educational Talk Outline" in the back of Effective Speech Evaluation. (It was one of the manuals you received when you joined.
  • See the articles at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/3558/eval.htm.
For table topics, each participant will evaluate one of the speakers. To encourage people to look at the speech in different ways. Copy blank evaluation pages for other projects. Place a speakers name on each page so each speaker has about the same number of evaluations.
There should be a person who has the speakers manual and do the official evaluation. The official evaluators can participate as part of table topics or as part of the normal evaluation section of the meeting. The official evaluations should be setup ahead of time so they can contact the speakers and check for any special objectives.

Evaluation Workshop & Group Evaluation
Officer Training
Officer training is important. However, morning and noon clubs sometimes have trouble getting their officers to a training session in the evening. If your club has several experienced members, present a training session in one of your club meetings. We had a session organized by a member working on "The Team Technical Presentation" from the Technical Presentations advance manual.

This doesn't count toward training in the Distinguished Club Plan. However, it does serve the more important objective of getting all of your officers trained. This, also, introduces your newer members to being an officer and make it more likely that they will volunteer to be an officer at your next elections.

One of your members is on trial. The meeting can be fun if the charges are something fun. For example, they could be the charge of stealing the cookies from the cookie jar. The charges against the accused and the description of the scenario are handed out a week or two before the meeting.
The two prepared speeches are the opening arguments by the prosecutor and defense attorney. Table topics is the testimony of the witnesses. 

Trial
Suggested by Shelly Turner, DTM

Joke-a-thon
Suggested by Shelly Turner, DTM 

[This was part of a meeting that included a humorous speech contest. Clubs with shorter meetings can have the joke-a-thon as a standalone meeting.] 

After the club speakers, I gave my workshop on the value of humor in speaking. Then, they had a joke-a-thon. Every member had been told to come prepared with several jokes. They were very well prepared! The whole meeting was fun, funny and great fellowship.
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