Start and End Your Meetings on a High Note

by Julie Salgo

When I joined Toastmasters four years ago, the club met in person during lunchtime, and we had the luxury of socializing with those who came a bit early and did the same after the meeting with those who did not have to rush back.

I started to visit clubs as well, and especially enjoyed those that met in a restaurant after working hours. We paid for our own food, and while enjoying our meals, we used to chat before the Sargent-at-Arms (SAA) officially opened the meeting.

In the ZOOM – and by now the hybrid – culture, a few clubs open the line or the place early and leave the line open, staying after the meeting is adjourned for the sole purpose of getting to know each other better.

I have learned a lot while visiting clubs and collecting Ambassador credits.

Sharing inspirational quotes up front, having a relaxation exercise, stretching together, and/or recognizing special personal celebrations and good news at the opening (led by either the SAA or the President) will not take too much time, yet the effect can be lasting for attracting visitors and for retaining members alike.

I witnessed people in the Joke Masters’ role either cracking one or two at the beginning of the club meeting to create a pleasant atmosphere up front, and others for closing the meeting on a high note. It is always obvious who loves to keep the audience in suspense until we finally get the punch line, while others prepare one-liners or short ones in a speedy fashion, either pertinent to the day/month or the theme of the meeting.

Telling a story could work like a joke if it does not become a “speech.” I am not very good at recalling or telling a joke, but here is a true story I shared with the first club I joined four years ago:

“As a new immigrant in California a long time ago, I really had to watch our spending budget, and really appreciated the marked-down food at the grocery store. To our delight, the Safeway chain had shopping baskets with yesterday’s bread, dented packages, and more for drastically reduced prices. One day, I took home a small, canned food item for 10 cents. What a bargain!!! I opened the can, and the ground meat in it smelled nasty. A neighbor, who happened to come by, looked at it and started giggling. Oh well, we did not know that grocery stores in America also sold dog food. In those days, we did not own a dog, that’s why the 10-cent can ended up in the trash can.”

There are no set rules as to how to end your club meeting, but make sure that the impression of your closing moments will send the message to all attendees: I can hardly wait to join or keep coming back to this fabulous club.

When you leave a Broadway show, most likely, you sing the last song.

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