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The Two Secrets of Member Engagement From An Engaged Member

“You can learn to be a great public speaker!” That’s all I needed to see to know that I had to find out more. Throughout my career I have done a fair amount of public speaking usually to teams of about 15 people and a few times at company-wide events with an audience in the hundreds. I mastered the basics: organization, preparation and effective slides.  The piece that was missing for me, the skill that I needed to learn to be a truly effective speaker, was to learn how to be not so boring. Boring? Yep! The speaking I had done was boring. The topics and the material were informational but not all that interesting.

I’m putting boring behind me. I know that I have an important story to tell and to do that I need be a better storyteller. I have found a place to learn and practice my public speaking skills in my local Toastmasters club. I’ve been a member for one year and I believe I will still be a member ten years from now. I’m engaged and this is why…

The secret to member engagement is… connecting in those first critical interactions.

Our Toastmasters group encourages anyone to attend a meeting or two for free to see what it is all about. I didn’t need the second meeting because I was hooked at the first.
  • I was welcomed – As I walked through the door a couple of members welcomed me and introduced themselves.  A few talked to me longer to find out what my goals were and told me how Toastmasters helped them. My impression from the start was the group exuded a warm, friendly, collegial feeling. How about appointing a welcoming committee to every event in-person and online. Are you wondering how to do this online? See how @kikilitalien does it at the #AssnChat on Twitter Tuesdays at 2PM.
  • I could see the way to solve my problem – During my first visit I saw speakers addressing the same issues I wanted to solve. I watched members practicing, trying, failing and succeeding. I noticed that the members were at all levels of expertise. I heard speakers getting encouragement and feedback so they knew precisely how to improve. I could feel the supportive environment. Know what your new member’s biggest problem to solve is and simply communicate to them, even demonstrate to them, how you solve their problem. 
Toastmasters connected with me and I connected with Toastmasters. How can you foster a connection like this with prospective members? What ways can you make them feel welcome? How can you tell them the story they need to hear about how you can help them solve their problem?

The secret to member engagement is… making it easy to engage.
  • There is a clear path to follow – New members get a guidebook that outlines the goals and requirements of their first 10 speeches. While the topic selection is all mine I have a structure that allows me to play with the different elements of public speaking – organization, body language, strong openings, etc. Reaching the achievable but substantial goal of completing my first 10 speeches keeps me moving forward. Give your members a path to follow through your benefits based on their current need. For example, new-to-the-profession? Here are the top 5 association resources that members like you get the most value from. 
  • I see benefits beyond those that I came for – When I joined I was singularly focused on improving my public speaking. At one meeting another member told us that she noticed that not only has her public speaking improved but her communication skills in one-on-one conversations became better as well. Recently I started noticing the same. I’m getting more value from Toastmasters than I originally thought.  As new members try the more basic benefits introduce them to a few more benefits that will solve their newest problems. 
Once members join give them a clear path to follow. They will avoid engaging if they are presented with all 25 of your member benefits. They only want to know about those few benefits that will help them solve their most pressing problem. As your member samples the basics slowly introduce them to another benefit that helps them solve their newest problem.

What are the two secrets to member engagement? First understand your potential member’s problem and then deliver a series of first impressions that establish a connection with them. Second keep helping your members solve their newest problem.

Amanda Kaiser helps associations understand their member’s most critical problems. You can find Amanda writing on her blog on association marketing, innovation and engagement and on Twitter @SmoothThePath.