Thursday, July 5, 2018

What should you do if a Toastmasters club member signs up to speak at every one of your meetings for the next 25 weeks?

In a Toastmasters club one important position is that of the Vice President Education (VPE):

“As vice president education, you schedule members’ speeches and projects and serve as a resource for questions about education awards, speech contests, and the mentor program. You are an important source of Toastmasters knowledge for club members, and it is your job to become familiar with all aspects of the Toastmasters education program.” 

The Toastmasters fiscal year starts on July 1st. Typically the VPE has a mechanism for planning meetings for the next quarter or six months, like a manual sign-up sheet, an Excel spreadsheet emailed to the club, or software like easySPEAK. Over at LinkedIn, on the Official Toastmasters International Members Group, someone had an unusual sign-up problem:

What should you do if one member has signed up to speak at EVERY meeting until the end of the year, and is unwilling to back down? Does the Vice President-Education have the authority to remove their name?

Yes, you do have that authority when someone is being emotionally tone deaf, and behaving like a spoiled child. Often each meeting has three speakers, so by asking to speak at each meeting that inconsiderate person is demanding to use a third (0.333) of those slots. Their fair share would be a much smaller proportion, one divided by the number of club members. For example, if there are 21 people in the club the fair share would be 1/21 or 0.0476. They are trying to be 0.333/0.0476 = 7 times as important as others. The VPE could tell that person to give a persuasive speech to the club at the very next meeting, with the subject being Why I Am Seven Times As Important As The Rest of You. After that speech the club could immediately vote YES or NO on whether they were persuaded. Problem solved.

A decade ago I was VPE for a club two years in a row. I never had that problem. Instead it was hard to fill all the speaker slots for the summer because members were gone on vacation. But in late spring all the slots would be filled. People were trying to finish up whatever program (CC, ACB, etc.) they were working on, so the club could get credit for and recognition as a Distinguished Club.  Some members might contact other clubs to find an open slot where they could be a guest speaker. My club, Saint Al’s, is small enough that we almost always can add a guest to our meeting program.    

The easySPEAK software has a person request a speech. Then the VPE replies by scheduling them in an opening.  

Being VPE is a balancing act. There may be some enthusiastic members who want to speak often, and have several speeches already prepared. They could be designated as back-up speakers, to fill openings that become open at the last minute due to others with illness or work conflicts. (I did that myself a decade ago). There also may be nervous new members who have to be reminded that they should schedule to speak or fill other roles. One of the rewards of being VPE is watching members gain confidence, grow, and blossom.   

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