Circus, dog and pony show, show and tell or all 3?

Open House Tips from My Successes

by Melanie Cheong, DTM, of Australia

On the second Sunday of February, my club, Find Your Funny, held an open house/special event. My first of this type, i.e., for an advanced club, on the other side of my world, fully online.

My earlier events were for the launch of a community club and a demo meeting for a corporate club near my home in Sydney, Australia—both many years before COVID and online clubs in districts existed.

I will share about each type of open house if you think of organizing your own.

Promotion

For Find Your Funny, a LinkedIn page was launched. A Facebook event, LinkedIn event, and special Meetup were set up where followers and friends could invite and share with others. Posts and flyers were shared on other Toastmasters Facebook pages, including online-only Toastmasters groups/pages. Links and flyers were shared with members to pass on to friends and associates. As the audience was global, our VPPR customized a flyer to Australian hours. A promotional virtual background was available and used at an area contest. D84 leaders helped share our event with pages we did not have access to. We considered incorporating the special D84 open house incentive in our budget/promotion. Our special guest graciously supported PR by providing a video and promoting it on his own social media.

For the potential corporate club, our contact point was a team member in HR. She circulated flyers through their internal communications channels and in their kitchen areas.

For the club launch, we had a multi-page Excel PR plan based on the launch of a specialty bilingual club. The plan was adjusted based on time, locality, and targets. A multi-pronged PR approach was applied—both digital and physical media, both Toastmasters and non-Toastmasters. Our sponsoring club helped set up a Meetup page. Posters were put on digital and physical community/”local” noticeboards (“Local” meaning in the area, and any hubs connected to the area, e.g., train/bus stops, offices, libraries, councils, shops, online directories, et al.)

Excel PR plan from community club launch

Overall, PR was successful across all three events. The corporate demo and community launch had overflowing rooms. The community launch received huge support from many attending a morning event at our sponsoring club on the same day in the same building. Find Your Funny had a higher attendance with huge support from its membership and regular visitors.

Planning

The agenda for the new clubs was a 1-hour agenda with a new-ish speaker, an experienced evaluator, a good Table Topics Master with four questions, a good Toastmaster, and an excellent Toastmaster to present “Why Toastmasters.” The Table Topics Master picked two experienced members and two interested visitors (just like a regular meeting). The agenda was a meeting, in a nutshell, to give “Toastmaster foreigners” enough flavor to return. Toastmasters wore their badges and were available to chat with interested visitors after the meeting.

The agenda for Find Your Funny advanced club was a version of our 1.5-hour agenda. One key role is our educational headliner—who provides training on humor, sometimes fulfilling a longer Level 5 Pathways project. Don Colliver had been booked to headline many months earlier by marvelous Marjane Taylor. Don even dropped in to visit our club before that big day. The agenda was adjusted to increase his headliner time by reducing our speeches/feedback. We had the core of our meeting agenda so visitors would understand the uniqueness of our humor-focused club (i.e., listen to and learn to add/practice humor; not standup comedy) and possibly participate in round-robin evaluations and/or improv (time permitting).

In contrast to the experience in key roles, the speaker was in Toastmasters/club for a shorter time. For the launches, that made the target audience realize that if a new-ish speaker can stand up for five minutes in front of a room of strangers (!), that this Toastmasters thing might help them do the same.

Planning didn’t mean perfect meetings—it meant high energy with high potential for meeting our mission of new members.

Resources

For the new launches, the division marketing pullup banner was set up; visitor packs with a magazine, an overview of Toastmasters, the agenda, and contact/bank details/costs for joining that day were handed out. A visitor clipboard with a sign-in sheet was circulated. There was so much support and interest that there were not enough chairs. It was thrilling and worrying to have people squeezing in and out of the venue! “It’s complicated” when you’re in the front of the room and can’t tell those at the back of the room, “Fetch more chairs!”

Marketing pullup banner

Corporate open house sign up sheet

 Corporate open house sign up sheet

For Find Your Funny, our standard registration, visitor pack, and guest book were shared. Could our Zoom hosts and audience facilitators track potential speakers across even more screens? Could we handle paying for an emergency short-term account upgrade? Could we have done with that open house incentive? We had a high attendance. We didn’t need to worry about this—we had enough Zoom spots.

Follow-up

Seven people signed up on day one of the community club launch. Everyone on the sign-up sheet was invited to join the club. All were sent an agenda and invited to every meeting. Some eventually joined two years later (yes, really!)—30+ emails before they decided it was time.

The HR team was more interested in Speechcraft. Contact was passed to our district Speechcraft coordinator.

Find Your Funny is looking forward to some new budding humorists. I look forward to hearing some first-time Joke Masters, Funny Word Masters, and especially Humor Detectors. Visitors are integrated into our follow-up and reminder processes. Fresh visit requests seem to be coming from far and wide at a higher volume.

Closing

Just like Speechcraft, an open house can be a targeted short-term club/team mission to not only grow the club but also share the benefits we know we receive from our membership. Bring your club members together for an open house or special event—or support an area sister club’s open house.

If you feel, like my first club, that every meeting is an open house, hold a special meeting to showcase your club’s strengths and soul.

If you missed Find Your Funny’s special event and want to learn to speak funny—I mean, learn to add humor to your communication and speaking—visit us on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 6:30 pm EST. You will end your week with fun and laughter and may learn a thing or two about humor! When you eventually join, you’ll have the opportunity to find that Humor Buddy to know and grow your sense of humor.

Some members and visitors at Find your Funny’s Special Event with Don Colliver on 12 February

Some members and visitors at Find your Funny’s Special Event with Don Colliver on 12 February

Toastmasters and some visitors at community club, Eastwood Toastmasters “Demonstration Meeting” Open House

Toastmasters and some visitors at community club, Eastwood Toastmasters “Demonstration Meeting” Open House

Caption: Toastmasters and some visitors at corporate “Demonstration Meeting” Open House

Toastmasters and some visitors at corporate “Demonstration Meeting” Open House

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