TOOLS TO ATTRACT AND RETAIN MEMBERS
An effective speaker program can be one of your Rotary clubs’ most important tools to attract and retain members.
The role of speaker co-ordinator(s) for each club should be handled with the attention and priority it deserves. If a club wishes to grow and prosper – this is an integral key to that direction.
While every club operates its speaker program differently, this is designed to provide ideas and tools. Stronger clubs increase our capacity to do even more. Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to do this.
The below is just my opinion. Use what you wish.
Why do we have speakers at our Rotary meetings? For many clubs, it is a focus for their meeting. The right speaker can draw current members and even attract new or potential members. It can help retain members by giving them something to take home.
Not every weekly meeting can feature a captivating speaker. Some meetings necessitate the need for informational speakers – such as Rotary topics. Rotary Foundation, member inductions, business meetings, and other topics are important but can diminish the quantity of weekly meetings where you can truly choose handpick someone to speak who will excite and captivate. If your club meets 50 weeks a year, ten meetings may be a form of club business. Maybe five meetings may be speakers that inform you about Rotary topics. Youth Exchange students maybe your speaker once or twice. Suddenly you are down to potentially just 50 to 60% of your meetings where your speaker team can handpick. Use this opportunity wisely.
“If you wait for people to come to you and ask to speak at your club – chances are your speaker program will suffer.” I’ve heard it said, “There are two types of speakers. The speakers who ask to present at your club, and the ones you want.”. When speakers are there to sell something or pitch funding partnerships, your audience may not be quite as excited to be at the meeting.
You need to proactively seek out captivating speakers.
Aim for speakers that will wow your membership. Speakers that reflect the community. Speakers where members are excited to bring a guest or potential member.
What makes an “A Speaker”? Most often, you have to seek these people out. They are authorities in your community or region. They handle issues that are on the tips of people’s tongues.
They are leaders. Their topic is in the news. If a new Widget Factory is being built in your town, could the President of that factory speak at your club? If homelessness is in the news, could an authority speak? The Mayor of your city may not think to speak at your club, but you can ask them. Your state or provincial leaders are similar. Shoot for the moon.
When looking for speakers, consider the “What’s in it for the average member?” Could someone from Toastmasters speak? Give a few tips on public speaking? How about a financial planner or economist? Business trends are always hot – after all, many Rotarians are from the business community. What “takeaways” will your members enjoy? Lately, Zoom is a hot topic. When COVID forced us to video meetings, did your speaker team seek out a speaker who could give tips on effective Zoom?
“Zoom” meetings are an opportunity. Speakers can join you from anywhere in the world. Convenient! Accessible.
How long should you give your speakers? While it varies per club – I like to think the people who created TED Talks stuck with 18 minutes for a reason.
Create a “Who what when where” fact sheet for your speaker, so once booked, they have all they need regarding length, even start time and end time of the meetings. Expectations, location, sound, or visual requirements. Even a rough agenda of your meetings.
Promote your speakers. Use them as a tool to excite members to attend and maybe even invite a guest. Email ahead, use social media for advertising your speaker, the topic, and their credentials. Even if the public catches wind that the “authority on electric cars” will speak at your club – subliminally, it will position your club as the “Place to be.” That makes recruiting easier.
Invite the media if newsworthy. If the Mayor is speaking – the media may attend and give you all credibility and exposure.
Buy the media a meal. A great investment.
Treat your speaker with respect. Ensure they are made to feel welcome. Ask for their introduction/bio ahead of time. Give them the introduction that makes them feel good to be in your room.
It is a gift for your speaker to speak in front of your club. Let’s face it – to stand in front of 10 or 20 or 50 or 100 community leaders is an opportunity for anyone. Keep this in mind when booking and encouraging speakers to be at your club.
Speakers who have spent time at your club make great potential new members. Ask your speaker about membership within two weeks of when they spoke.
Beware Q and A. Often a time for the audience to share their own thoughts or just argue. It can be dangerous or, at minimum tedious.
Rarely do people say, “I wish we did more Q and A.” Feel free to say, “If you have any questions, Speaker Bob is pleased to stay after the meeting.” Respect everyone’s time. I’m going to get in the habit of sharing speaker ideas with clubs. If I come across strong speakers or even topics, I’ll share. If your club has ideas or potential speakers that could Zoom or meet in person, let me know, and I can share with others.
A strong speaker program can help your reach your goals. But it takes considerable effort. Good luck.