Why have an open house? An Open House is an exciting and fun way to welcome future members to your club. It’s an opportunity to show the finest of what Toastmasters has to offer. Perhaps, reconnecting with what brought you to Toastmasters will also inspire you and your fellow club members to create an inviting event.
The two main reasons for open houses are:
- All Toastmasters clubs constantly need to build membership to thrive. Open houses have proven to be one of the best ways to attract new members.
- New members bring enthusiasm and diverse talents to your meeting.
Preparing for an open house: When you have guests over to your home, you want to make sure your place is inviting and attractive. Clutter and chaos can put off even the most gracious guest. On the other hand, a well-run meeting is attractive to visitors and guests. Do you have a prepared agenda? Are all the roles assigned and confirmed? Does everyone know how to perform their role? Is the topic interesting to nonmembers? Before you start inviting guests to your home, make sure your house is in order. Your clubs’ culture is the major deciding factor in whether guests become members and if new members will continue to participate and remain active.
Culture = Operational + Unique Value
Operational: Assessing the health of your club with a Club Quality Checkup will let you know the gaps in your club today and how your club would likely be perceived by non-members. To understand your current club status focus your audit on the following:
- First Impressions – What repeated feedback do you get from guests?
- Your New Member Orientation process and Mentoring Program – Do you even have one?
- Recognition and Achievements
Unique Value: Why would a guest join your club? Are you friendly, professional? Do you focus on humor, leadership, storytelling, or give stellar evaluation? Is the club hospitable, corporate-like? Are you members of a unique niche such as an Improv club-like Carmel Improv Toastmasters, California Lions Toastmasters Club, or a language club-like Vakpatagalu, Mandarin-English Toastmasters, or Silicon Valley JETS? A niche club can help with marketing and engaging with the target audience. your club may not be suitable for every guest. It helps to know who the ideal member profile is so that you can focus public relations efforts. Why post on LinkedIn if Meetup is more suitable?
Open House Preparations: It takes a team to run an effective open house. At the very least, involve all officers and, if possible, every club member. When members of the club are engaged, it’s more likely the meeting will run smoother. Be sure to invite past members and guests. Encourage members to reach out to their network. Personal invitations are the best. Post your event on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and other social media channels. The rule of thumb is to post, update, comment at least six times on each social media channel for each event. A nice touch is to send each guest a calendar invite with a start and end time, address (physical or virtual link), high-level agenda, and contact information.
Running an Open House:
- Ask the question, think back to when you attended your first Toastmasters meeting. Did you walk away impressed and inspired?
- Make sure your members understand how important it is to make your invited guests feel welcomed before, during, and after your open house.
- Don’t be afraid to close the deal by asking visitors to your Open houses to join.
The moment to extend the invitation to join is during the meeting. When you don’t ask, the answer is NO! If you have table topics, after one or two members participate, extend an invitation to a guest so they can have fun and feel part of the club experience. The more a guest is actively engaged, the more they feel part of the club experience, the more likely they will return as a guest or member.
After the Open House, Some guests may not join right away. And that is okay. They may want to “shop around” or attend a meeting or two. After your club has given guests a sample of what Toastmasters has to offer, make sure they know the best is yet to come. Be sure to follow up with each guest individually. Send them a note and mention how great it was when they participated in table topics, provide a link to the upcoming meeting, and of course, let. Keep it short. If they have follow-up questions, they will respond, and it would be another opportunity to show value.
The next couple of meetings must be just as robust. It’s already great practice to schedule meetings in advance. Put your best foot forward. Again, tap into the Toastmaster network, have inspiring speeches and fun table topics. Lastly, remember all that we do in Toastmasters are valuable skills you can transfer to your professional and personal endeavors. Organizing and promoting an event, persuasive speaking, and leading a team are all skills we use in our daily lives. “Toastmasters is a Lab” that will keep you sharp, benefits you, your club, and our great organization. For more information, check out OPEN HOUSE RESOURCES: https://d101tm.org/open-house-resources/
Written by: Tashaki Ford: DTM Evening Stars Advanced Toastmasters Club