In my previous post on Starting an Online Club, I highlighted the Preliminary Feasibility Study as the first step to take in building an online club.
Here in this post I will unpack the FOUR steps you need to take for success at this level.
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Step 1. Identify potential membership
Identifying potential membership can take up to several weeks or months, so be prepared to take the time to locate and communicate with your potential members.
Networking is the key to success in this first step of your feasibility study. Frequent the online spaces where global Toastmasters are to be found; take opportunities to speak about your plans with your local networks; and be sure to act on all leads.
Some online club leaders have been asked about how they first identified their potential members. More of these testimonials will be added here. You may wish to leave a comment with your own testimonial.
Susan Ellsworth: Sponsor and VPPR of Firebirds Collective (global online Toastmasters club)
Identifying the first 10 potential members of Firebirds was easy-cheezy …. After that it was a matter of word of mouth, in the ONLINE TOASTMASTERS group. Susan says prospective members of Firebirds Collective can see the commitment to Respect, Integrity, Service and Education (RISE) through our protocols for joining – we require attendance at two meetings prior to being voted in. Susan is now seeking members for a new online club ‘Great White North Online Toastmasters’. Request to join them in Facebook.
Kim Hahn: VPM and President Elect of Firebirds Collective (global online Toastmasters club)
Inviting new members of Firebirds involved individual contact with club officers in other countries who were not yet represented in the global club. That personal approach has brought in 8 new members since we Chartered in March. Kim favours the use of Facebook Events to invite potential members. Kim is now seeking members for a new online club ‘Toastmasters Without Borders’. Request to join them in Facebook. Join Kim for this event.
Step 2. Engage in open discussions in social media
Social Media offers a unique method of engaging in open discussions where you can be assured of swift responses and meaningful comments. You might start a Poll in a Facebook Group; or Send an inquiry post in LinkedIn; or create a Twitter conversation with a specific hashtag for collecting.
Facebook Poll from social media
Provide a consistent presence in your select social media tool(s) and aim to make the best use of the shared advice and opinions from your posts and polls. Follow up on those who are seeking further information and invite those who wish to share leadership skills in your domain.
Step 3. Identify the skills and benefits of online clubs
Ensure that you provide up-to-date and meaningful information about the online Toastmasters experiences with lists of benefits; and pre-requisite essential skills required. These should be communicated to your potential members well in advance of the Startup Procedures. They should specifically explain the types of equipment required and how best to use the video and audio aspects of being online.
Essential Skills Required
Online Learning: Are You Ready to Learn Online?
- Computer Skills: The Basics
- Digital Communication
- Web Search
- Time Management
If you’re located anywhere other than at a telepresence site, give careful thought to your surroundings and your appearance on camera — that goes for both presenters and participants, video veterans say. …
… and if you are the presenter: Six Steps for Success in Virtual Meetings …
Many websites provide information and comparisons between different web conferencing tools and software. Just use a Google search on ‘web conferencing tools’ to see what I mean. However, what you need to do is send your potential online club members to sites that explain what ‘computer equipment and accessories’ they will need in order to participate effectively. Try this link to Opposing Views blog as a starter.
Presenters’ and participants’ computers should meet the minimum specifications required by the Web conferencing software, which will vary between applications.
A fast Internet connection helps the overall experience by transmitting video, audio and presentation data at speeds that ensure a smooth viewing and listening experience for everyone participating in the conference.
Step 4. Build a community to support the new club
Once you have a critical mass of potential members, then create an online community in which you can communicate, collaborate and support the growth of the online club. You may choose a Facebook Group or LinkedIn Group or a Twitter hashtag or a WordPress page or a Googlesite.
If necessary take some lessons (online of course) in facilitating online communities. One of my personal favourites is the Gilly Salmon Five Stage Model.
Whatever you choose, use your skills as an online facilitator to steward the online community.
How can you be an effective community steward?
Take a look at the Digital Habitats book and workbook from Nancy White and Etienne Wenger about Community Building and Stewardship.
This useful book and shared workbook “takes you through the steps of stewarding technology and outlines what to keep in mind at each step”.
- Preamble: reflection on the role of tech steward
- Step 1: understanding your community, its characteristics, orientation, and current configuration
- Step 2: providing technology, choosing a strategy, selecting a solution, and planning the change
- Step 3: stewarding technology in use, in the life of the community and at its closing
In my next post I will take you through the Learning and Preparation Phase of starting an online club for Toastmasters.
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