Do you make plans and then change them? The meeting theme “I’ve got another plan, this time it will work” turned out to be particularly appropriate for our 16 July 2015 meeting. This was to be our Table Topics Contest. Instead, due to overwhelming interest, we split the contest over two meetings – heats on 16 July and finals on 23 July. It was a classic case of having a plan and needing another plan.
In fact, as Vice President for Education, I’ve created 3 programs so far. Each program on the night has looked vastly different from the original. Here are five things I’ve learnt as VPE so far.
1. Start planning early. Well before the Changeover meeting. Work out meeting dates and cancelled meeting dates (e.g. Thursday 24 December) for the whole year. Then dates for contests, theme meetings, the club’s birthday meeting, the club’s Changeover meeting, and any other special meetings. Note any three-Thursday months. Think up an appropriate theme for each meeting, one that gives scope for discussion. If you’ve done this, you’ve got a good overview of the year.
2. Get the right tools. The main ones are Microsoft Excel and Word. In Excel I have worksheets for yearly dates and themes, to record best speeches, to track DCP points, and to plan meetings – to name just a few. The planning worksheet allows me to plan programs for the whole year. I don’t use Word as much. Mainly to create a PDF of upcoming programs to put on the club’s website. Other useful software is, of course, PDF creation software.
3. Know what members want. And don’t want. This is where the fun really starts. As with all planning, we need to know a few things. First, where members are up to in their manuals. That helps to reach the club’s DCP goals. If you know what speech manuals members are doing, you can plan the speaking program fairly reliably up to six months in advance. Second, what members want and don’t want to do. For example, one or two people may like the Frivolous Motion but don’t want to do the Grammarian role or Blog Evaluator. It’s also useful to know which members are doing a CL or AL manual. Finally, know who likes to speak in contests or help run contest.
4. Create balanced programs. When creating the program for each meeting, getting apologies is vital, the earlier the better. Then you know who is likely to come. Work out who will speak. Fill the four key roles of Table Topics Master, Chairman 2, Toastmaster, and General Evaluator with a mix of experienced and less experienced members. Assign the Speech Evaluators, Table Topics Evaluators, Chairman 1, Frivolous Motion, and Parliamentarian. Assign other roles such as Toast and Timer, keeping in mind that members doing a CL manual need to complete certain roles, some more than once.
5. Be flexible. Once you have a wonderful program … be prepared to change it. More apologies are likely to come in so roles will need readjusting. You may be flooded by enthusiastic members wanting to participate in a contest. In our Table Topics Contest, we had 20 contestants – hence the reason for splitting the contest. Then, you may have the opportunity for a World Champion of Public Speaking to come to a meeting, as we did on 23 July 2015. You’ll want to adjust the program for that and allow plenty of time to hear what they have to say – such opportunities don’t come up very often.
The Toastmasters Club Leadership Manual says “as your club’s Vice President Education, your workload gets heavy at times”. I’m finding out this is true. However, it’s a very interesting role with scope to learn a lot. Another lesson I’ve learnt is: your fellow members are willing and able to help. With help and support, the job can be done.
Vice President Education, 2015-16