I used to sell computers back in the days, for a famous french retail store. The direction put pressure on the sales team and I was always looking for the very best techniques and tricks to sell faster and more. God was I wrong! My clients didn’t come back and didn’t call me either. My follow up Emails went to their trash cans. Maybe because they realized that I tried to sell them expensive warranties instead of computers.
I started hitting books about selling, but they were full of dull sales tactics and tricks. One caught my attention and It was “The Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness” by Jeffrey Gitomer. Jeffrey is a very cool guy and it shows in his writing. I stumbled upon a sentence that would later resonate with me: If you want to sell without looking and sounding like a jerk, join a Toastmasters Club.
So, I went to a TM’s club session in Paris and I was so thrilled to meet enchanting, warm people curious to know everything about me and applauding me as I took the stage to speak non sense words while my legs were uncontrollably shaking. The applause closed my speech and made me eager to come back for more.
Same ambiance in Brussels: laughs, applause, friendship, Open-mindedness .
Once you start to realize there’s no TM club in your town – I was living in Lille (France)- back then, you want to bring the whole experience in. Here’s a fact: building a public speaking club is hard. Public speaking is human. Let’s have a look about the challenges we are facing when we are dealing with people:
1- They don’t have time
That’s the number ONE objection you’ll get. You’ll learn that time based objections are hiding the most important concerns. Let’s put it this way: it doesn’t take too much time to hang out with friends on a Friday night, have a drink and spending some quality times. It makes you forget about the hard work week you had. Why then, going to a Toastmasters meeting would be that much time consuming?
2- They are shy (and scared)
We are all shy! It’s hard to perform in front of strangers. I never thought Elvis and Michael were scared to death at the single idea of performing. I once witnessed a start-up founder fall off the stage before his speech, painful experience but not something you can’t get over with. Shy people are the greatest speakers. Believe it!
3- They forget about things
If it’s not important to them, they’ll forget about it. How Important is Toastmasters? What’s on the table for the individuals who want to join it?
4- It’s hard to catch their interests
Do they like movies, money, fame, music? What goals are they pursuing? What’s the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning? What keeps them up at night?
5- They lack of self confidence
Some people think they don’t need to practice their speaking skills, because they think they were naturally born with it. Some don’t think they are “capable” of speaking. How to make people believe in themselves?
Now, according to me, here are the tricks a TM club builder should use to get his project on track:
1- Say Hi and smile!
Ah! The daunting art of approaching strangers without sounding like a sales rep. What’s your name? -Open your arms, apologize- state exactly what you doing, and grab their attention with questions. Remember to keep smiling! Nobody talks to grumpy people.
1- Explain Toastmasters in your own words.
What Toastmasters is all about? What we do? Where we do it? How we do it? What we learn from it? Use your own words in a simple talk.
2- Get your business cards ready
Put your name on it and every professional links -websites, social media, etc.- where you and your club can be found. Design a nice but simple business card and always give your interlocutors two or three of them each time
3- Design your communication materials
You should get your website and your printing visuals ready. The writing content doesn’t have to be complicated but it SHOULD look nice. The best designs are talking to human emotions and emotions sell. Craft illustrations, use images, make bold statements and call to actions. Ask for the help of a designer among your friends or business connections.
4- Engage on social media venues
Why social media? To build a community near you. A community of listeners. People wake up in the morning with Facebook app opened in their smartphones or tablets without even having their feet touch the ground.
5- Spread the word
Newsletter, invitations, interviews, podcasts. I mean, you have everything at your disposal to make noise and get noticed. Go to groups or forums and tell them about your challenges, any issues you may have in building your project up. You’ll always find great insights coming your way.
6- Call for action
Put your number and Facebook page address in front, middle and bottom of your club’s webpage. Ask your visitors to subscribe to your newsletter, join your events; openly ask for memberships. If you don’t ASK you’ll not get anything. Don’t be afraid to ask.
I’ve participated -with two friends- in starting and launching the first Toastmasters club in Lille, our biggest challenge was to find the proper venue for our meetings, and to persuade others that it’d not take that much of their time to come and have fun with us. Today this club counts 25 members and got its certification. Now that I’m in Cameroon (Africa) , I can feel that the lack of culture: no libraries, no theaters, no music venues, no Toastmasters. How to change it?
Either you are a TM member or builder, you are seeking for changes.
I think we are all craving for a change but are fighting so hard against it at the same time. The experience of building a club is the same as founding and marketing your own business. It’s full of failures and discouragement. A Toastmasters club near you is the place to find great stories, have fun and meet new friends. It’s a big family all around the world with open hands and hearts. I think It’s easy to go out and club all night. It’s not that easy to sit down, prepare a speech, rehearse it, stand up and talk to persuade others about the importance of your story. We are all laughing and crying for the same things: books, movies, illustrations, music, arts..
We are all listening to storytellers, because everyone likes a good story.