When I started Toastmasters, there wasn't a lot of new member orientation materials available. You learned by watching others, and by being thrown into the deep end here and there. While a mentor helped with my first few speeches, I didn't get a lot of guidance on how to perform meeting roles.
For someone like me, that was fine, but for most people it's a recipe for failure and lost memberships. Some clubs are focused so much on acquiring members that they forget to get these new members trained so that they can feel informed, involved, included, and inspired. This course is designed to help get that orientation done.
1. What's This All About?
When I started my Toastmasters career, I was lucky enough to get a mentor to help me with my first couple of speeches. For everything else, including how to do roles (and do them well), there was not much guidance. Later on, I found old new member orientation materials and revised them (around 2008) and started sending digital copies to new members. I started noticing the need for new member orientation from experienced members. While I was good at observing and learning that way, I've seen several people that join Toastmasters, get very little direction, and quit within a month or less. All the effort put into finding new members is wasted because said new members wouldn't stick around.
While strong, established clubs often have a solid mentoring program, new and struggling clubs often do not. While the RDG TM courses call for establishment of a mentoring or accountability buddy program, it's important to supplement that with a program designed to get new members on their feet quickly. If you're a new member (or considering joining Toastmasters), this program will shave months off your learning curve, if not years. Like other RDG TM courses, it's meant to work synergistically with the other courses in the series. Perhaps the biggest example is that the how-tos for performing meeting roles are in the RDG TM Meetings course.
The goal of this course is to function as supplementary new member orientation material for most Toastmasters clubs. In the event that your club tells you something that contradicts what's here or there's instructions here to do something that club doesn't do, they are the authority. This material is meant to be a baseline, not tell you what you absolutely must do to succeed. Your club should implement its own "live" new member orientation program, with this material serving as a reference or extra study. There will be particulars they have that this course can't account for, however, this course will get you up to speed on most of what you will want to do to optimize your Toastmasters experience.
As with other courses, a moment to explain what I mean by "RDG Member" is in order. Let's have a look at an "non-RDG" Toastmaster:
- Is a Toastmaster "just because"
- Has more dreams than goals; none of them written down, none with deadlines
- Does roles when they feel like it, if at all, and never seeks to improve at doing them
- Rarely gives back to the club in participating in committees or officer roles, if they do, it's the bare minimum
- Practices a "it's good enough" attitude
- Loses interest and leaves the club in fairly short order
How does a RDG Member compare?
- Meets "4I" standards: Informed, Involved, Included/Invited, & Inspired
- Lives up to Toastmasters values of Respect, Integrity, Service, and Excellence, as well as the Toastmasters Promise
- Makes consistent progress toward educational goals, completing at least one per year (or equivalent in Pathways)
- Volunteers for meeting roles, does them well, and takes feedback on how to do them better
- Gives back to the club by serving on committees, being an officer, or otherwise improving the club
- Wants to keep coming back
This isn't to say RDG Members are perfect (they're not), have everything together (they don't), or devote their lives to Toastmasters (certainly not). RDG members apply themselves consistently towards being better than who they were. My goal with this course isn't just to make you a better Toastmaster, but to be a better person - more skilled in speaking and leading, more confident, and able to take the skills you learn in your club out into your everyday world.
Finally, before the next chapter, a disclaimer: These courses and material are NOT official Toastmasters International material. They are simply the accumulated experience and learning I've tried to capture into a system to help other members and clubs avoid frustration and shave months or years off learning curves.