Let history record that at Parramatta Toastmasters meeting no. 1210, July 5, 2012, one of its longest standing members, a man known neither for his patience with the failings of others nor for the gentleness of his reproach, did himself arrive late and without explanation.
Of course, we are a community of the soft hearted, and many will rush to offer solace and excuse on my undeserving behalf. But let’s have none of it. Late is late.
It’s also true that I arrived at 6:17 for a meeting that began close to 6:30. You see, my role was to introduce and welcome our visitors, who arrive any time after 6:00. After I paced through the exchange of money, kisses and warm handshakes at the front desk and its crowded thereabouts, I had but 10 minutes to know for the first time our visitors for the night. Not just the usual name, occupation and how they found us, even if that’s all I have time to announce during my 2 minutes; but rather to really know them, and have them feel that in our club, at least one person knows enough about them to get why they came, to hear of their story.
I felt time pressured, and as a result, so did they. That night, there were no stories, just the facts, and a rush of lost opportunity. I was poorer and they were no richer for the time we spent, though I determined successfully to understand the sound of their name, and I made sure they enjoyed hearing it before the applause.
Fortunately, there were other good members who arrived in proper time, and my guess is, stories were heard after all. Seriously, thank you to them.
Friends, there are many roles that really need us to be there around 15 minutes prior to the start so we can properly prepare. Apart from the welcome, some obvious ones are:
- Chairman 1, to find out from the early speakers how best to introduce them
- Chairman 2, to find out which officers have reports, and to be briefed by the person proposing a motion
- Motion proposer and parliamentarian, to confer with the Chairman on how to conduct the session, especially if the motion or any general business may cause some hiccups.
- Table topics master, to start assigning topics to people who don’t have major roles
- CL evaluator, to start collecting CL manuals (and reminding those doing CL roles to bring their manuals if they forgot)
- General evaluator, to observe and assess meeting and role preparation
And of course, all of the exec are typically there way more than 15 minutes prior to meeting start as they get things under way for the rest of us to unknowingly enjoy.
But the grand payoff to an early arrival: that we can spend more time doing what we are known for – helping and being helped with our speaking. If you take your role seriously, the time just before the meeting is when we are most focused, when the best questions get asked, and when the most surprising answers emerge. Don’t believe me? Watch it happen before our next contest.
Demian Coorey ACS is a man of humble beginnings and even humbler prospects. In his 12 years with Parramatta, he has served as President twice, Treasurer once, and unwitting target of Michael Said’s scheming at least 6 times. He is, and will always be, a member of Parramatta Toastmasters.