An interview with Joe Guenette DTM, D21 Club Coach Specialist, VP Education of Cowichan Toastmasters.
“Everyone in my club works on manual speeches” Joe said.
“Sometimes they are working on two or three manuals at one time. We have between 22 – 24 members and they are a bunch of go-getters.”
When I asked him about how the club keeps the membership up despite the inevitable drop-off at every dues renewal time he said “We have a ‘bring a friend’ night.
And we expect people to bring two friends. At our recent one we had a new speaker, a mid-experienced speaker, an experienced speaker, so people can see the progress. We made it a big showcase night with five speeches so visitors had a chance to see what we do. We had the current Table Topics Champion and D21 International Speech champion Tania Ehrman gave a speech and so did Alan Warburton. They were all evaluated too. No-one in our club goes without an evaluation. Visitors that night saw what we do and what we get out of it.
“Our members are not chair warmers. We have three DTM’s in the group. I was the first one in our club to become a DTM. My father-in-law was the second and my mother-in-law was the third. I don’t believe in sitting back when you get your DTM. Now it’s time to give back, now I have to work for the club.
“I have been awarded two DTMs and I’m very close to my third. For the High Performance Leadership project for my first one I co-chaired the Nanaimo D21 conference with Sylvain Houde. For my second HPL I was Division A Governor with the goal of bringing the whole Division to President’s Distinguished status. We achieved it and that level has not been achieved since.
“This year, as Club Coach Specialist for District 21, I work with the belief that every single club should be successful. If a club has less than 12 members I contact them and ask “Can I help you?” Most of them say ‘Yes’. At the recent Fall conference I had 21 coaches present and I picked up two more. Since then I’ve picked up five more coaches and been approached by six clubs asking to be coached. Contacting and keeping in contact is very important. I tell them about ‘bring a friend’ night and tell them to set out plenty of chairs and plan on signing up new members. With more members you’ve got more people to bring friends and the numbers build quickly. Even in a college club where you’re losing members at the end of each term we’ve found we can re-build membership that way and bring the club to nine or even all ten DCP points.
“The Distinguished Club Program (DCP) is every club’s report card. It shows what you are doing and helps your club to succeed. It means that every club needs to be a working club – no chair warmers! Each club should be getting 10 DCP points every year and at the same time they should be having fun. Meetings should be interesting with good fellowship. Members need to ask themselves ‘Where is the joy in our meeting? What’s going on that makes meetings interesting?’ If you don’t make it fun and light-hearted people will walk away.
“The VP Education is the key to strong meetings. You have to schedule meetings, preferably five weeks ahead, so that the club is aiming for the 10 DCP points. With good leadership and communication you can have strong meetings and not two hours of Table Topics. Nobody joins a club for two hours of Table Topics.
“Sometimes long-term members can feel a little bit stale. As VP Education I try to find them something worthwhile to contribute to the club in addition to doing speeches. Perhaps they can become mentors; they need to have a reason for being at the meeting, to get the fire back under them.
“As VP Education I take the position to heart. This is the person who takes the career of other members in their hands. In my club, they know I will do all I can for them because I understand that the communication and leadership lessons they learn will boost any career. I’m a motivator, and I love it!”
After half an hour talking to Joe Guenette I felt energized, feeling the positivity of the DCP program and the possibility of finding new members who will benefit from membership in TI. He is indeed a motivator and he clearly lives it and loves it.