Are Good Speakers The Answer to Membership Recruitment?
There is something I hear a lot when Rotary clubs are discussing membership and how to attract more members. They usually revert to something they are comfortable with…Speakers! “If we get interesting speakers to our meetings, then that will bring new people in.” Lets face it, we live in a world of TEDtalks and YouTube. I can go online anytime and watch 1000s of videos from the world’s best speakers on any content I am interested in. I don’t need to go to a club meeting to listen to a great speaker.
If we are using speakers as an attraction strategy to new members, then these speakers have to be good and I mean really good! They have to in the public conscious of your town. How often do the majority of Rotary clubs get these kinds of speakers? Sure, once in awhile you do but is it worth your time to base part of your membership strategy on these couple of times year? Most of the time clubs believe that they need a speaker, which means they’ll get good but not great ones. To be blunt, speakers who are “good enough” for existing members will not attract new members.
I’m not advocating that Rotary clubs avoid having speakers, I just believe that we should be looking elsewhere to engage with new members. With my club, I have tried to move beyond the standard Rotary meeting style. We have speakers once or twice a month and the speakers we get are getting are ones that the club is actively working alongside. Last week, we had Ava and Fazineh from the Innocence Lost Foundation. We are organising a fundraiser for them on 12th November and they were captivating and engaging speakers on child soldiers in Sierra Leone. It was one of our better meetings because members were already interested in the topic and having Ava and Fazineh speak added the personal touch.
I feel that by saying oh we need a better speaker, clubs are ignoring the real issues they are facing. Change is hard but maybe instead of saying we need better speakers, you should be saying why don’t we do something else at our meeting instead of listen to a speaker? Let’s be honest the whole Rotary meeting structure (formal sit down meal, speaker and then business) is an outdated model of how a service organisation should work. If you want to start attracting new people, you can’t rely on part of this model (the speaker) to attract new people. Think back to what made you join Rotary. Was it listening to speakers, or was it joining a community, making friends, and trying to solve causes bigger than yourself? Your actual meeting structure is not selling your club very well, it’s the people/friendly atmosphere and your club activities that will sell your club. If a new member shows up to a meeting you need to engage with them, and passively listening to a speaker for the bulk of a meeting is not the same. Consider bringing someone in to do some training or have a social. I know personally I am more likely to invite my friends to a fun social event or to a meeting where they are going to learn some valuable tools.
When creating your club’s membership strategy, speakers are not the answer. Yes, work on getting good speakers but maybe start to consider that getting better speakers might not be a membership drive. Look at having different club meeting activities to attract new members. For ideas and workshops keep following this blog or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org