by Mike Rozen
Mike wrote this in January 2008, but Richmond Toastmasters didn’t have a blog then. What he wrote then is relevant now, for anyone thinking of stepping out of their comfort zone, but hesitant to try.
I received a phone call in March 2007 from the previous Area Governor. She was wondering if I would be interested in serving as area governor for the upcoming year. I thought, “Me, Area governor? What is that? I know it has to do with leadership. I have never been a leader before. I am shy. How am I going to go out of my comfort zone?” I thought about it for awhile.
Last year I was club treasurer. For me, treasurer was easy since it involved organization and routine, skills I am strong at. It was a role that was structured, and didn’t rely on people skills too much. Area governor is just the opposite. It is much more of a leadership role, something I have never done. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and improve my people skills to help me in my career and in my relationships. I decided to take the role.
As Area Governor, I manage 5 clubs. My primary role is to guide clubs to ensure that membership is strong and members are striving to hit their educational goals. This is what keeps members motivated and feel that they are coming to Toastmasters for a good reason.
One of my main duties is to visit each of my clubs at least twice per year. I deal mostly with the club presidents, but also with the other club members. I evaluate the meeting and observe the strengths of the club and what can be improved. For example, is the meeting organized? Are there enough members to fill each role? Are guests welcomed? I sit down with the president and address these things. We plan for members to set their educational goals. Another of my tasks is organizing area speech contests twice per year, which is really fun as we get to watch some great speakers. These speakers eventually move on to the provincial level, and in one of the contests, the world level! It is amazing to see how much the talent increases at each level, from the club all the way to the province. I encourage members to attend officer training and other events outside the club, such as conferences, contests and other training. The great thing about Toastmasters is it offers so much outside the club, and is a great way to develop communication and leadership skills and have fun at the same time.
Another thing I do is assist clubs in building their membership base. I don’t recruit members for them; I give them ideas on how to promote the club. Some methods are open houses, advertisements in the local newspapers or community centers, pamphlets, and membership drives, which are contests where the member or club that recruits the most members in 1 month gets an award such as a dinner or 6 months’ free membership.
I have explained my duties of an area governor. However, I have not explained the importance of my duties, helping build membership and motivate members to accomplish their educational goals.
Why is membership important? Clubs are advised to have at least 20 members at a time in order to keep the club strong. This is so there are enough members to fulfill the roles each meeting. If there aren’t enough members, members have to take on 2-3 roles per meeting. This is okay for a short time, but after a while, members start to burn out and eventually leave the club. It is also important to have members to provide energy at the meetings. Think of a meeting with under 10 members. It’s dull. Even if a club has 20 members, there are still members who can’t make the meetings. In order to ensure this energy, you must have 20 members. My club has about 25 members, and even we have some trouble filling roles some meetings.
Why is it important for members to accomplish educational goals? This is to motivate members to grow as speakers and leaders. This will help us not only at the club, but also in real life: presentations at work, giving a toast at your friend’s wedding, coaching a sports team, etc. When members are hitting goals, the club is a more fun place to be since people feel they are accomplishing something and other members feed off that energy. It is also nice to have at least 2-3 speeches each meeting.
One of the things I enjoy most as area governor is visiting the clubs. I get a lot of satisfaction from assisting them and promoting the value of toastmasters. I also find it interesting to see how each club runs their meetings a little differently. I can take some ideas and incorporate it into my club’s meetings. Also, you develop relationships with the club presidents, just like in business. The presidents seem to really appreciate when I visit, much more than sending an email. They make me feel very important, always addressing me as “Mr. Area Governor”.
One of my biggest challenges is motivating clubs to participate in contests and attend officer training. As an area governor, the important thing to note is, you are not their boss, and you can’t impose on the clubs to do things such as attend officer training. You have to motivate them, to show them what is in it for them, just like in sales. That is the real challenge.
I have learned a lot so far as an Area Governor: how to be a leader, how to motivate, and also more about the Toastmasters organization. It is my first step to advancing to more senior leadership roles. Maybe someday I can become a great leader!