EBS Club Innovations: why so special?
I have had the happy opportunity to visit quite a few London-based toastmasters clubs over the four and a half years to date that I have been privileged to be a member of our beloved Early bird Speakers Club, and it certainly is always a fun and educational experience to see how other clubs ran their meetings, each one defining their own unique identity and valuable ideas around the basic toastmaster club model.
One thing that has struck me after every one of these visits is the need for all clubs to keep meetings fresh, interesting, cutting edge, never left in a rut and helping raise the bar for members to challenge them to bring out the best of their potential in their speaking and leadership skills. Early Bird Speakers Club manages to achieve this so effectively through the use of a constant injection of innovations created by its own members and leadership e.g. the extended introduction of an aspiring member/member, the mini-workshop, the extended table topics session, the interviewer role, the evaluation panel, The Early Bird Challenge, The Brains Trust, the impromptu speech (think of Bianca’s speech recently), Linguist role, Toastmaster Plus role – and many more. We even put a meeting on-air at a community radio station, showcasing table topics, speeches and evaluatons!
Added to this is our fantastic website which is brimming with practical information, including an ideas wall, and most uniquely, the ‘Early Birds TV’ consisting of video recordings of our roles and speeches to help each member improve his/her speaking performances even further. Recognition of individual members for exemplary contributions to the club overall is the latest innovation of ‘President’s Award’, being created only a few weeks ago, with Neil Coleman being the first to be presented this award by Club President, Iain Scott. Even our social events have fun innovative spin-off themes from the media and TV, e.g. ‘Toastmasters Got Talent’ or ‘Toastmasters Strictly Come Dancing’ , The Spring Comedy Festival (showcasing the ‘other’ talents of our diverse members), weekly post-meeting breakfast networking, the Presidential Gala Breakfast (to celebrate the annual change of club president), Garden/Bbq parties, Afternoon tea at great venues, and outdoor/indoor table topics sessions and picnics. All this only goes further to nurture the wonderful friendships formed and camaraderie that exists at Early Birds.
I began to realise that we, as members of Early Bird Speakers, are in fact very lucky to enjoy these innovations, and that we should never take them for granted. There is a saying ‘all ships rise with the tide’ and with that in mind, I resolved to take the gospel of EBS innovations to other toastmaster clubs wherever I visited, whether in London or in the countryside, and do a dedicated speech about EBS innovations, so that they too could benefit their members with some of our best innovations, and thereby raise the standards and quality overall of our fabulous wider community of Toastmasters clubs, just like all ships rising with the tide. I still laugh when I remember my nervousness before my first such speech at T & O Corporate Toastmasters club in Croydon last year, wondering how it would be received. To my delight and satisfaction, the club members welcomed our ideas with open arms and in fact decided to try out some of the innovations (like the evaluation panel) for themselves. Every club I approached took away a different preference of innovation but all were excited and inspired by them, vowing this would bring something fresh and new to their meetings to spice things up for their club members and benefit their speaking skills! What a special feeling that was to have made a difference, while at the same time having the honour of being an ambassador for EBS to other toastmaster clubs!
And so I entreat my fellow EBS members to go out there too, with a generous-minded spirit and speak of the wonderful innovations of our club to other toastmaster clubs that would really benefit from such knowledge! Yes, it’s true you will be giving of yourself and your time to others, but think of what you too would gain for yourself and your club… more speaking opportunities to improve your skills while practising in front of new audiences to challenge yourself, making a valuable contribution to improving Toastmaster clubs overall, increasing the PR and awareness for your incredible club as an ambassador to other clubs, and as a bonus, finding an easy natural way to invite these club members to come as guests to our club to see for themselves how these innovations are actually practised. And so our EBS Club reputation will continue to grow from strength to strength and club to club! So go on, fellow members, what have you got to lose?
Sudeshna Choudhury works as a credit controller, manages/doing a mentorship in property, carer for her disabled mother, wildlife conservationist, singer, storyteller and stand-up comedian. She won the 2013 Humorous Speech Contest at Early Bird Speakers Toastmaster Club.