An open house is a special Toastmasters meeting which is held for the intent of recruiting new members. The best way to get someone to join Toastmasters is to show them Toastmasters. An event that is not a Toastmasters meeting doesn’t have the same impact as putting on a high-quality meeting, possibly with a featured speaker and refreshments to attract guests.
There are 4 steps to organizing and running an Epic Open House
1. Plan Your Open House
Before the first guest walks in the door, you need to plan for success. But what, specifcally, should you do for best results? When a club decides to hold an open house, it wants to put on its best show for the guests. But that’s a little like saying “work on your marriage”. Okay, I’m willing, but what do I do? Here is the answer!! The article and spreadsheet below show exactly what to do every day for the 5 weeks leading up to your club’s open house.
Toastmaster Magazine article on how to plan an open house, written by our own D57 member, Lindy Sinclair
The accompanying spreadsheet, breaking down the steps.
2. Market Your Open House
Everyone in your club is a member of your marketing team to advertise your open house. Below are suggestions and resources for corporate and community clubs.
For corporations with a central building that much of the population moves through, set up a booth or table. A booth has the following:
- Friendly smiling Toastmaster members standing at it
- Plenty of free brochures or the Features, Values and Benefits chart, highlighting the benefits of Toastmasters.
- A clipboard to collect the names and contact information of those interested
- Give a ways (candy, etc) so people stop to learn more
Fliers in all common areas such as kitchen, cafeteria. Get your flier on any screens that displays information for employees (if allowed). Distribute fliers to all members of the corporate club to post in/near their work areas. Ask all members to invite their friends/coworkers/managers. Give away prizes to people who bring guests to the meetings. Invite managers and senior leadership to attend and see the value of a corporate club on professional employee development. Take a look at the Toastmasters resource library which has many professional fliers to choose from.
Community clubs also require every member involved to market and promote your open house. Ideas to spread the word include:
- Contact guests who have come to previous meetings
- Contact people you have met at street fairs and other events
- Publish a Facebook event and have all your members invite others
- Use Meetup.com event (District 57 provides free Meetup to eligible clubs)
- Create an event on Nextdoor.com
- For community clubs located in or near center where there is a lot of foot traffic, use a “booth”.
- Post professional flyers available in the Toastmasters resource library on nearby community spaces – coffee shops on their bulletin boards, libraries, and any other community space.
- Put out a Press Release with exciting theme and speaker name to local new sources.
- Ask all members to invite their friends/coworkers. Give away prizes to people who get friends to the meetings.
3. Run a Well Organized & Fun Open House
Guests are looking for clubs that deliver a great experience. For example, nobody wants to join a group that doesn’t greet it’s guests, start on time or get guests involved. As such, we recommend tweaking your regular meeting for an open house by offering refreshments, proudly displaying your club Toastmasters banner, having a theme, using decorations, have a guest book, rely on several greeters to welcome guests and seat them next to members, have membership forms and club dues information ready to share and more. Make your Open House a spectacle to be remembered to make a great first impression! In addition to these ideas, we suggest the following open house meeting format (video demonstrating it below):
Have an energetic Toastmaster lead the meeting with a professional agenda. Download a sample agenda here which outlines the roles and flow of the meeting. The Toastmaster should briefly explain how meetings work and briefly talk about the value of Toastmasters that they will see at the open house: practice to be a more confident speaker, learn to think more quickly on your feet and deliver more constructive feedback. Skip the alphabet soup – guests won’t know what Table Topics is or what Pathways is on their first visit for example.
Have a single prepared speaker. They don’t need to be the best speaker in the world – nor a brand new speaker. Have them share a story about how Toastmasters has helped them!
Have a single evaluator. They should deliver a simple hamburger-style evaluation. Just like they would evaluate someone giving an Ice Breaker, they should ooze with positivity and keep the recommendation for improvement simple yet impactful.
Get your guests involved in Table topics. At the beginning of the meeting, hand out index cards and have every guest and member write down something fun about yourself that nobody else knows. Have the Table Topics Master collect the index cards. After reading out a card, ask the audience to guess (point) to whom they think wrote the answer on the card. After some suspense and excitement, invite the person who wrote the card to come up and talk about what they wrote for 1-2 minutes (make sure they understand the timing signals). Try to have as many people speak as possible. People really enjoy this and will want to talk!
4. Warmly asks guests to join
After Table Topics, make sure you have sufficient time to engage with your guests:
- Review the benefits of being a Toastmaster
- Ask guests warmly to join!
- Have membership forms in all the officers’ hands with pens and the current dues amount ready.
- Answer any questions from guests – at least 10 minutes!
In advance of the meeting, have membership forms in all the officers’ hands with pens and the current dues amount ready. Make sure they all know how to fill it out! You may want to use Square or PayPal to accommodate debit and credit cards at your meetings in lieu of checks.
For guests who don’t immediately join, remember to collect their contact information (name, email, phone number or even their address to send them a letter) and hand them a guest packet before they leave. A typical guest packet/folder/bag may include:
- Information on the club history, where/when you meet, contact information etc.
- A membership dues form and breakdown
- A copy of Toastmasters Magazine
- Brochures etc. that highlight the benefit of Toastmasters
After working hard to market and run your open house, some guests may join right away while others may want to come back and experience another meeting. Please add them to your email distribution list so they can receive meeting notices. In addition, you may want to do a personal follow-up via phone, email and mail. Be sure you have a process in place to warmly invite them back.
5. Get Your District Bucks Support
An Ad/Flyer/Email to many that has the date/time/place and says Open House,
An agenda that says Open House for that date,
ONE of the following:
A sign-in sheet with at least 3 guests, or
A sign-in sheet with the one guest that joined (need TI confirmation for new member credit or name on official Toastmasters Membership Roster), or
A list of guests with a screenshot showing names of guests
- Still have questions? Contact the D57 Open House Chair Sally Philbin at email@example.com