The Club Visit
An Area Director is required to visit all their clubs at least twice a year. This page gives both Club and District Officers ideas to get the best out of the visit.
Table of Contents
Preparing for the Visit
The purpose of a club visit is simple – to serve the club. The last thing the club wants to hear is what you think they should do. They want to hear suggestions, not directions. Toastmasters has an excellent guide to visits (item no. 219) that you are advised to read. The pamphlet underlines two key ideas:
- Its not your role to “fix things”, but to suggest how available resources might be used
- Contact with the club is to serve the club, so regular contact with Presidents is intended to build relationships
Before the visit, familiarise yourself with the visit report (item 1471). This is available from District Central; for guidance, watch this 30-second video (courtesy James Edley, L1 Director 2023-2024). You may wish to send a copy of the report to the club President in advance to minimise the need for filling forms on the day, or gathering what information you can yourself from the performance reporting. You may also wish to review the past couple of years reporting – and always contact the club to see if a short speaking opportunity is available. If so, ask the club if there is anything they would like you cover; although you may have this evaluated as a project, this is a by-product of the visit.
If possible, avoid making the official visit on a contest night; your need to observe a “normal” meeting. You can always visit again unofficially and offer your skills then.
At the Meeting
One of the best reasons to read the “Guide to Visits” thoroughly is that it gives some pointers about how you need to behave.
Your reporting is based on the Moments of Truth educational programme and the Club Success Plan that the President ought to have had available to outline his or her vision for the club. It is also based on Toastmasters evaluation principles, with the Club Success Plan being the President’s objectives for the club. An extension of that is that very rarely is a good evaluation accomplished without notes, and the recommendations are always done with examples of what you are suggesting. In this case, it is likely that will be the educational programme you are suggesting the club adopt. Even better, its the one the club officers suggest the club adopt.
A Word About Membership
NOTE: This section was written at the end of 2021 – one of the overall worst times for club membership. Pathways and COVID-19 both took their toll.
If a club cannot see itself making the membership target set by the Distinguished Club Program, need it worry about educational goals? Yes it should, and its part of your role to ensure it does. If members are not moving through the program, they are not learning and that just compounds the problem. However, the following conversation probably won’t work well, even though that’s what you want to say:
YOU: “Your club needs more members” PRESIDENT: “Yep – certainly does” YOU: Silence.
Instead of looking at current levels alone, it would be wise to do some homework:
- Review the membership levels over the past two or three years. How do they vary at renewal times? How many leave at that point?
- Review the level of officer training over the same period – and also which officers got trained and which did not
- If possible, have a look at the guest book and assess how many guests have been coming through the door (probably prior to March 2020)
- Have a look at the club’s web presence (refer to the District Officers’ Membership and PR page for ideas and guidance). Would you have found the club?
When discussing the membership:
- Is the new member issue not attracting guests, or not converting them into members?
- Do many new members leave within the first year?
- Do you know what each member wants to get out of Toastmasters?
- Do you know why members leave?
- What effect has the full Pathways roll-out had? Was there any resistance?
There are many ways to help a club – but first you have to understand the issues, and they are generally not just in the numbers.
After the Visit: The Next Step
The Visit Guide suggests you contact the Club President within a few days, thanking them for the visit. This also gives them a little while for the discussion to sink in.
How you proceed will depend on what you found and how well the suggestions were adopted. If loss of experienced members was part of the issue, you may want to suggest appointing a coach if appropriate – or act as a “Friend of the Club” to supply or arrange expertise if you have the time to do so.
This is not a coaching role; it is probably unwise to mix coaching with an Area Directorship. However, there is no reason this could not be approached as one of several Level 4 and 5 Pathways projects. Helping a club recover is no mean feat – and will be an excellent prelude to taking a coaching role in the future.
Always remember – this is about “Service to the Member”. You are not there as a District Officer to tell clubs what to do. You are there as an experienced member to help them learn for themselves.