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Pulling It Out of Our HAT: Innovative Ideas for Club Rejuvenation

It was a about a year ago this month and the Herald Tribune Advanced Toastmasters (HAT) club was on some shaky ground.  The club is full of current and former district officers and we could all read the numbers on the DCP dashboard.  Our membership renewals were down. No one was sending in their completed CCs or CLs, much less the advanced achievements. And when was the last time we’d had a prospective member guest?

A core-foursome of club members took it into their hands to stack our next meeting with Toastmaster of the Day, a powerful speaker, and probing Table Topics to raise the issue and energize the few members in attendance. It was a start and turned out to be the spark we all needed.  The foursome—ok, it was Liz Coursen, Debi Frock, Karen Smithman, and Gayle Williams—met for coffee after the meeting and laid out a plan to motivate current members to attend more regularly, invite more guests, and most importantly, get this club’s mojo going again!

It is from this smoldering mound of fertilizer that Table Topics Jeopardy first came to being. This fun spin-off from the popular game show added a different twist and more variety to an expanded Table Topics session. It was the main event for our first open house of the year—which reaped at least three new members right there.  It was such a hit that our District Director Brenda Allocco asked us to run a Table Topics Jeopardy game for Toastmasters International President Mike Storkey during his visit in October.

Back at the HAT Club, we rebounded by regaining the base membership of 20 and earning President’s Distinguished.  We continue to offer innovative programs on Fifth Tuesdays when they occur. (We meet on the first and third Tuesdays of each month, so we invite guests to something special when we have an extra week in the month.)  We’ve met at a hoppin’ Mexican cantina and a sushi joint, raising our Table Topics above the social buzz. We also hosted a side-splitting improvisational comedy workshop.  Watch out! HAT Club is going strong again!

Our next Fifth Tuesday is on January 31 and it will be an “Evaluate the Evaluator” event open to all. Join us at 6:00 pm in our new meeting location, Everglades University in Lakewood Ranch (6001 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota—just east of I-75 at the University Blvd. exit).

Submitted by Gayle Williams, Division I Director and VP PR of Herald Tribune Advanced Toastmasters (HAT CLUB)