It started with a Tweet….Well actually, it didn’t, it started with a dream, but Twitter played a big role in Farnham Speakers Club starting.
For a while the thought of starting a Toastmasters International Club in Farnham had been mulling in my mind. I do a lot of networking in the Farnham area and in most networking groups and I had noticed how difficult some business owners found it to stand up and introduce their business to the group.
How confident are you at getting up to speak in front of twenty to thirty people?
For some people the idea of speaking in public is nerve wracking and stress inducing. At most networking meetings there are always the people who are so nervous they write everything down and bury their face in the paper reading the words verbatim. Or they make you feel uncomfortable because you are aware about how painful the experience is for them. When someone is really nervous, you pay more attention to their discomfort than what they are saying.
Now, in England, the word “Toastmasters” is associated with people in red coats who call everyone to order at weddings and corporate events, but the Toastmasters I belong to is about gaining confidence through public speaking.
Joining Toastmasters was probably one of best decisions, I have ever taken. There are very few places where people will spend more time telling you what you are doing right than what you are doing wrong. It is amazing how many people I have watched blossom and grow in confidence just because they are developing a skill in speech making.
Anyhow, I think you can guess I am a bit evangelical about spreading the word.
So back to Farnham, I made the decision I wanted to found a club, but how would I know if there was any interest in one in Farnham?
- So I tweeted and asked people, ”Who would be interested if I started up a speaker club?”. There would be no point if there was no interest.
- At least 20 people tweeted back that they were interested. In fact, I was tweeting about it so much that people started to ask what date it was starting, oops!
- I didn’t have a venue. So guess what? I tweeted that I need a venue.
- A number of people came back with useful suggestions. One of the venues that a few people suggested came back with a very steep price.
- Toastmaster is a not for profit organisation and the aim is to keep the membership fees as affordable as possible.
- Then I had a stroke of luck, someone who I have never met in person, but only know through Twitter, decided to help me find a venue and she negotiated on a price with the venue on our behalf that was half the original asking price.
So we had a venue and a date was set. Then some lovely things started happening:
- I asked on Twitter if anyone had pictures of Farnham that they would mind us using for our website and James Firth volunteered and also agreed to be our photographer for our opening night.
- A friend who I knew through both Twitter and networking volunteered her mother who was the mayor of Waverley to attend our opening night because she knew I was looking for someone.
- Unfortunately, no hot celebrities volunteered their services, but it was fun dreaming and tweeting about who we could get.
- A single tweet secured me an interview on BBC Surrey radio show to talk about Farnham Speakers.
We had our first meeting and within seven months we chartered which means we are now an official member of Toastmasters International with over twenty members.
- And yes, many of our members came initially to our club because they saw me tweeting about it.
There was a lot of work that went into creating a lively, fun and supportive club. It was about a year from making the decision “Just do it” at an officer club training meeting to chartering, but my stroke of inspiration was collecting a great committee together to get Farnham Speakers off the ground. We have also been very lucky to have the support of local Toastmaster clubs who helped fill roles initially and visit regularly as a result we have a high standard at our club. It is our members who make our meetings buzzy and welcoming.
It has been a brilliant learning experience and it is sooooooo tempting to do it again, I even have another place in mind, but I will not Tweet about it just yet!