Meeting Mixing Motivations
Making Large Groups… Less Scary
By Carina Paton
When I first ventured to events above the club level last year, the first thing that I noticed is that people were tending to stick with the people they knew. This is great to continue building relationships with people that you may not see as often as you like, but it’s not so great for the first-timers who have not yet built their “circle.”
I noticed this phenomenon because I was that first-timer. I sat and talked with a couple others in my club who attended the conference. One of the reasons that I came to the conference was to meet new Toastmasters that I could learn from. But despite my best efforts, my fellow club members were pretty much the only ones I talked with. It did not feel like an environment in which I could approach people that I didn’t know.
Those of you that attended Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) trainings (a.k.a. officer training) in Batavia and Syracuse this past month may have noticed that it felt different than the last one you went to. Our new District TRIO, Ellen, Lillian and Keith, encouraged everyone sit next to people that they did not already know, and get to know them.
You may have grumbled about it feeling like a forced speed networking session—but honestly, did you feel that way because it put you a little bit outside your comfort zone? The result was incredible! By the time lunch came around, people chose to sit with “strangers” and it was hard to hear over all the wonderful discussions that people were having over their salads and sandwiches.
This is the first step our District has taken this year to create a welcoming environment for all. And a welcoming environment is one of those “intangibles” that Corey Wilson and Alex Turner, spoke about in their presentations both at the TLI and in their workshop in the Spring conference in Rochester earlier this year. If we create a culture of welcoming environments, we will have more successful clubs, areas, divisions, and districts—and as a result we will have more successful members.
We are always telling new members that Toastmasters is a safe place to try things out. But we forget that this also applies to our social skills, our mingling skills, our networking skills—whatever you call it. Your next club meeting is the perfect opportunity to push the boundary of your comfort zone ever so slightly. Often people will tend to sit in the same seat, next to the same people meeting after meeting. Mix it up!
When you next enter your meeting room, ask yourself: “Who haven’t I chatted with for a while?” Sit next to them. Ask how their week has been or what they did over the weekend. Ask about their family. Ask about their work. Ask about their next goal in Toastmasters and how you can help them.
Take every opportunity to practice those skills—the more you practice, the more confident and friendly you will be, and the more you will help your club, area, division, district and yourself.