It’s not for you

Years ago I was asked to lead a dormant Toastmasters club and turn it around. Just like that. I was already in line to become my home club’s President and this came in just like that. Without warning. And I clearly remember all that pressure. Leading one club isn’t easy, leading two was next to impossible. At least that’s how I felt that time.

As usual, I shrugged my shoulders and said, “what the heck? I’ll get that done as well!” (As you can tell, I haven’t changed a bit!) My home club was pretty stable. All I needed to do was convince the executive committee that my loyalties will stay intact and reviving a dead club wouldn’t ever get in the way of our success. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t hard for them to see that I had the best intentions in mind.

Back at the dormant club, things were tough — we just had 6 people, a lousy name, and no venue to hold the meetings as we couldn’t afford to pay the rent. The latter part was easy, all members decided to chip in every month until we’re able to double the membership size. So, I decided to rebrand the club, hold our meetings at public places and market it as the place for ‘rebels’ who want to do something different. And we meant it. So much so that I used to ask the guests to join a ‘traditional’ club instead of us! Our club wasn’t for them or the normal folks who want to test waters. It was for people who want to stretch, go out of their comfort zone to learn a skill that can change their careers forever.

Guess what? It worked! People started to talk about it. The members even started to bring in their friends. The club soon became one of the most ‘exciting’ ones to visit within the fraternity. Yes, the membership wasn’t growing as fast as we wanted but it ended up becoming a President’s Distinguished Club (a big deal within the Toastmasters fraternity) in the first two years of existence (post it’s reincarnation).

What I’m trying to say is this — knowing your audience means you have to be audacious enough to tell them, “if you’re not the particular ‘kind’ of people we created this for, this probably isn’t the right place or you.” It powerfully resonates with the ones whom you want to attract and drives the others away. And what you have now is an audience that’s truly yours. Serve them well.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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