Walk The Talk, a seven-year old TM club in Zurich needed to grow its membership through creative marketing and promotion strategies but found that our Facebook (FB) page was not really delivering the goods nor bringing in the reach and access to prospective members that we hoped for. Not being in the position to pay for advertising, we noticed that our FB posts received very little attention, averaging a reach of between 4-8 people per post. We had heard of other TM clubs using Meetup to drive their recruitment and decided to give it a go.
Meetup for marketing
Meetup helps people with common interests to connect online and then meet offline.
After about six months, the number of members signed up to our Meetup Page reached 100. How did we do it? We made sure to:
- Engage every new Meetup member with a personal welcome message
- Ask them why/if they needed public speaking skills, for what contexts? Show them the value of participation.
- Inform them of our schedule of meetings, time, place and invited them to our upcoming
- Eschew chunks of generic, boilerplate text in favor of detailed write-ups to announce each meeting
- Include as much interesting information as possible as to how the evening will unfold to entice readers to choose us over other meetings. Adding intriguing speech titles and speaker information/qualifications/specific interests or background can only add to the anticipation of the evening.
An example here: https://www.meetup.com/Walk-The-Talk-Advanced-Toastmasters-club/events/251060935/
- Reach out again to members who RSVPed to say we look forward to seeing them soon.
It’s no rocket science of course but taking time to build connections with members pre-Event tells plenty about who we are and what we care about. We want to attract quality prospects to our meetings and win them over through time to become active and committed Toastmasters at our club. Post-Event, we continue to nurture the connections we have built with returning guests.
More guests started showing up at our meetings than we had ever had in a long while, around 3-8 guests at a time. The majority of them came through our Meetup Page after seeing our announcements and getting messages from us.
Over the past 16-18 months, we grew our membership by almost 100%, going from around 10 members (about half of whom were inactive) to 21 members. We made sure guests were warmly welcomed, inviting them to introduce themselves and we asked for their takeaways at the end of the meeting. This makes our guests feel valued and appreciated and quite a number commented that they would return. We even had a handful of guests who joined after the very first meeting.
Another strategy was to ask returning guests who showed a lot of self-confidence if they would like to take the stage to give us a 4-6 minute icebreaker speech. We were surprised at how well it worked out. The guests felt very encouraged to show their best and gave us amazing speeches despite not having had much previous speaking experience. About 3 such guests signed up as members shortly after. This was also a useful trick for us as we didn’t always have enough speakers on our Agenda at some meetings.
The fact is there’s too much “white noise” these days all around us through email announcements or on social media platforms. I myself get invitations to all sorts of events and activities every day and every week as I’m on a lot of mailing lists. There are plenty of activities all week long but only 5 evenings in the week. Multiple organizations and groups are clamoring to get public attention for their events, messages and posts. We are not just competing with the other 15 TM clubs or other Public Speaking groups present in Zurich per se … but also with all other Meetup groups promoting an ever expanding array of special interest activities in Zurich on the same evening such as Hiking, Yoga, Robotics, Block Chain, Artificial Intelligence, Photography. The list goes on …
Spoilt for choice – breaking out from the masses
Whichever event one chooses to go to means sacrificing an alternate event so we need to do all we can to excite people enough to choose our event over what may be a myriad of at least 3-5 other choices on the same evening. Not forgetting that many of us have a healthy range of interests of which Public Speaking is only one of them. And if you’re like me and not wanting to be out on the town every single evening, then making the right selection for which interest group’s activity to take part in becomes all the more important. It goes without saying that attractive announcements aside, we also rely on the passion and commitment of our members to deliver on our promise of having fun and insightful meetings.
Some meeting organizers assume that free events naturally draw the crowds so they don’t bother to say too much about their meetings for fear of losing the surprise element. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. You can never give away too much about an event if you have solid bedrock content to begin with. Zurich residents are a choosy, demanding and well-heeled lot. The choice of what to do in an evening whether it’s a paying or non-paying event is just staggering. You are taking your chances on who will show up if you haven’t gotten the basics right.
Themed Club meetings
We have been focusing on theming our monthly club meetings whenever possible: some past themes have been Shakespeare Nite, US Election Nite, Mid-Autumn Festival, Valentine’s Day etc among others and these branded events have been quite a crowd puller. Occasionally we managed to carry this theme into the prepared speeches as well which was a real delight. They also encouraged some inactive members to show up again after long absences.
From time to time, we inserted themes into our Table Topics sessions as well to inject more variety and novelty which really added to the atmosphere of the evening and made our meetings much more refreshing.
We offer 4 workshops in a year where we engage more closely with our members as well as with guests. Here again, we go all out to attract maximum participation for each session. Again just because the workshops are free doesn’t mean people will descend in droves to break down our doors to be admitted. We do thorough write-ups detailing as much as possible:
- The content, learning points, takeaways
- Format of the session – group work or pair work
- Why this topic? Why the audience should care? Why now?
- Who the trainer is? Why she is qualified to address this – background, interests?
- What my takeaways are?
And in doing so, we help readers decide whether it will be worth their while to take their precious evening time out to participate. If the workshop doesn’t sound like it will deliver, I personally am the type that would much rather stay home with a good book on the sofa. This is what goes through many people’s minds in this day and age of the 21st century of information overload, decision paralysis, overwhelm and stress. Do I really need to go to another workshop?
Christina Kwok, ACB, CL
Walk The Talk Toastmasters, Zurich
Christina is currently VP of Public Relations @ Walk The Talk (WTT) club in Zurich, Switzerland after having previously assumed the roles of President and VP Education. She has been a toastmaster for 4 years and is keen to help WTT reinvent itself after having previously branded itself as a club for Advanced Toastmasters which led to difficulty in recruiting new members. Her interest in public speaking stems from her desire to lead and facilitate in-company workshops on change management, virtual teambuilding and leadership across cultures.