As I write my blog post for this week, I have been reflecting on the many hurdles that we need to overcome in order to get our newest global online clubs across the line. The biggest hurdle has been the lack of any District support … that’s because they are Undistricted. So a few onliners are taking a leap of faith in filling the gap – supporting where we can.
Think about the support currently in place for starting up new clubs of the ‘bricks and mortar’ variety; first you have the guidelines provided by Toastmasters International; second you have a New Clubs team at WHQ from whom you can ask questions; third you have a Club Extension Chair and a Club Growth Director in your District – to name a few. This is NOT yet in place for the new global online clubs. Instead the process is being supported by leaders from existing global online clubs, especially the Firebirds Collective. We look forward to the day when more support from TI emerges, especially as the number of Chartered Clubs in Division O, Area 1 begin to grow during the latter half of this year.
Note: we are likely to have 7-8 global online clubs by the end of 2016. We need District support for online clubs!
Second big hurdle is to gain potential membership using only online tools. Social Media has been the big player in this arena, as the new clubs form communities of practice in Facebook groups first. This is an important first step to ensure that there is a critical mass of potential charter members who are willing to make the financial and attendance commitments. Three of the five prospective clubs are visible and active in social media and time will enable them to grow in confidence and make their presence known. There are two other prospective clubs who are just emerging now and we are trying to reach them to offer support. The onliners need to be a community before they becomes a club!
Third big hurdle is for the club leaders to determine which online web conferencing tool to use for their online meetings. There seem to be two preferred tools for the clubs I know; GoToMeeting or Zoom. You can find reviews on the functionality of each of these from Review.com. If you are looking for video tutorials, GoToMeeting is well supported with their video tutorials in their YouTube channel. Take a look at my post called Select and Trial Online Meetings Spaces for further information. Online Clubs need a robust meeting space with easy to use: web cam and audio options; recording functions; and scheduling facilities!
An associated hurdle is the issue of paying for the selected service. Currently the GoToMeeting cost of approximately $400 US per year, is prohibitive for clubs of small numbers. Those clubs with a critical mass of 35-40 will be able to spread the cost over their membership more easily. I think it would be strategic and beneficial if TI could provide a shared meeting platform to save the expenses being faced by every online club investing in an account with GoToMeeting for example. Online Clubs need an affordable meeting platform?
Fourth big hurdle is for the club to work through the paperwork required for chartering and streamline the process to fit with their online status. This will usually take longer as club leaders discuss with their potential members how to send their signed application forms and make electronic payments. With members located in different time zones there are usually delays in this process. The club Treasurer will need to ensure that they have a suitable budget that includes the cost of TI fees and the upfront cost of their selected web conferencing tool. Online Club fees need to be $35 US or less!
The fifth hurdle for the online club leader, is to determine a workable communication plan and get buy-in from each club officer. The amount of electronic communication between members of online clubs and their executive teams are likely to be greater than those of land-based clubs and systems need to be established to manage that communication process. Some clubs make use of social media posts only; others make use of task management tools such as Trello; and most will use club management tools such as easy-Speak. Online Clubs need a SMART online communication plan!
A final hurdle has emerged – especially in the Facebook groups – the voices of those who are against the formation of online clubs. For some of the leaders, this has become distracting and distasteful. All of these online clubs are being initiated and managed by enthusiastic volunteers from several different countries. My view is that they each deserve some respect for what they are doing and would benefit from greater support rather than an onslaught of negativity in social media. Online Clubs need your support!
Come and join the Online Toastmasters Facebook group (already supported by over 1300 members) and find out when and where the newest online clubs meet. Download the latest file called Online Club Meeting Details?