Last summer, most of College Plaza’s guests didn’t join.

Six months later, 70 percent of visitors to this Edmonton club were becoming members and giving their icebreaker within five weeks: 14 of them in five months.

The Success Strategy?

Personal engagement.

Most guests come via the website and email in advance. “Getting a prompt – same day – reply is important,” says President Wenjng He. A warm welcome and guest pack is equally important and finding out what the guest hopes to gain from Toastmasters.

The follow up – a personal email referring to visitors’ expectations and needs after their first meeting – invites them to the next one. So does a friendly reminder the day before. If they return, they are asked to be the joke master at their third meeting, to join the club and are offered a date for their icebreaker (no one to date has refused). They get a mentor and icebreaker pack.

From the moment they walk through the door they have someone they can ask questions of. Guests and new members often go for a coffee with a Toastmaster to learn more about club roles, which most guests have found confusing at their first couple of meetings.

Club Coach Nick Wilson says, “Last summer when the club was still work in progress people came to meetings for weeks and weeks and we never asked them to do a role or join, and even after they joined it would be months before they did an icebreaker. Everything was on the guest.”

The Result?

Only 30 percent of guests joined.

Today, that’s 70 percent.

A problem the club has to fix is that becoming a bigger club (20 members+ per meeting, with each meeting having perhaps five people who weren’t at the previous one, and committee members needing assistants to handle the workload) has crashed into Pathways. New members aren’t sure who does what: takes the money, processes membership, the Pathway Champion (not the same person as VP Education), matches mentors, does the agenda, arranges for them to speak in other clubs… The club found that some members had given up to seven speeches without registering any – once they’d given a speech they were reluctant to go back and do the training for it afterwards. Pathway speech registration being clunky also put them off: an unfortunate combo.

Nonetheless 17 members of College Plaza who’ve joined since May are now finally on their Pathway to success.