College Plaza Toastmasters never rest.
This predominantly millennials, high-energy, Edmonton club packs two speeches and table topics into lunchtime, gets guests – up to six – to every meeting, and doesn’t break for the summer. Instead, it gained eight new members in August and September. Unfortunately, this year Christmas and New Year fall on a club day, so it can only meet 50 times.
As you walk through the door you feel the zeal.
VP of Public Relations Yilina Liubaoerjijin says, “We have to be loud – so everyone knows we’re here.” Her message booms across communications systems of nearby organizations. Posters shout it out in the elevators of the building where the club meets, College Plaza, which has 22 floors of businesses and apartments. It echoes across the University of Alberta campus in newsletters, and thunders along the corridors of The University of Alberta Hospital, whose communications loop includes a newsletter that goes to all Edmonton Alberta Health Services employees.
Club President Wenjing He says once they’ve heard the message, “Most of our guests send emails first. A prompt response is very important.” That courtesy continues into the meeting. VP of Membership Alexa Ferdinands says, “First impressions are key. It can be daunting to enter a new club – it’s important to ensure that guests feel comfortable and welcomed on their first visit.”
The result is five icebreakers scheduled for the next three weeks.
Club coach Nick Wilson says, “The biggest challenge with having so many gung-ho guests and energized but inexperienced new members, is making sure that we don’t have too many rookies taking first-time roles at the same meeting – or the coordination and timing break down.” The solution is carefully selecting each week’s team – mixing the few experienced toastmasters with beginners. The result is a noisy enthusiasm that buzzes up to the moment the Sergeant at Arms’ gavel comes down.
When asked how the club crams so much into one hour, Suki Liu, the quiet, efficiency-driven, club secretary and unofficial “Time Master,” who oversees the timers and constantly tightens the agenda, smiles shyly and says softly, “Time management.”