Captivating Dialogue Celebrated 10 Years : Challenges and Rewards of Last-minute Planning!

Paula C Snyder, ALB, ACB, PM5
President, Captivating Dialogue Toastmasters
District 117, Area 23 Director

It was just before Christmas when Toastmasters e-mailed us that our club, Captivating Dialogue, would celebrate a 10-year anniversary milestone on January 11, 2022. They encouraged us to have an open-house or other event for the occasion. That reminder caused a bit of a panic. As many other clubs are also experiencing, our membership has been a little lower than usual. On top of that, our team of executive board members was trying to get through their last-minute work crunches or readying to go on vacation. Our club meets alternating weeks. We had only one meeting scheduled after Christmas, before January 11. Our next meeting was January 12, 2022. If we were going to do something, January 12 seemed the most ideal, but what could we do? 

As president of our club, I was overwhelmed at the possibility of planning and advertising an open house for membership due to the holidays and our sparse working crew. I tried to think of an alternative. “Anniversary” infers the history of annual milestones and relationships between people. What if we could get our prior members to come back for the event? I threw it out to our executive board for consensus. Those who responded, liked the idea of inviting “alumni” to a virtual “reunion” and anniversary celebration. Our VPE offered to do special table topics for the event. One of our current members was ready to complete a “social speech” for her Pathways project, so she prepared the anniversary toast.

Now, how could we get alumni to attend? I first reached out to all prior members by email through our “Toasthost” list. With no immediate responses, I was concerned the e-mails hadn’t reached their intended recipients. Thinking it’s more difficult to say “no” to a personal invitation, I started reaching out individually to the prior members through social media messaging on LinkedIn and Facebook. Our club treasurer had an “in ” with prior members from our corporate sponsor. She reached out with personalized emails and was successful in reaching her work peers. I started personally phoning as many prior members as I could, even though I’d reached out to some by e-mail and direct messaging.

The alumni responded best to our personalized approaches, especially the phone calls. They were receptive to letting us honor their history with Captivating Dialogue. In addition, we had some great conversations reminiscing about the “old days.” Those without scheduling conflicts agreed to attend. Those who couldn’t attend still talked with me – like old friends do. We reconnected and caught up. (Even after the event, I am still getting phone calls and emails from some of them who couldn’t make it.) 

On event day, we opened our virtual link early so alumni, new guests, members, and District 117 leaders could chat before the meeting. Most of the alumni who RSVP’d did attend, and arrived on-line early. At meeting time, our speaker gave a wonderful toast to start things off. She shared the love for our club, its history, our guests, and all our alumni. Most of the meeting thereafter was dedicated to Table Topics. Our VPE researched our guest’s history as officers in the club and used a few stories about our guests to prepare unique table topics questions. 

As Topics Master, she called on each of our alumni to respond to those personalized questions. This meeting was amazing! Everyone shared the love! Our alumni had previously left our club for various reasons. During Table Topics, their responses were attributed to Captivating Dialogue and Toastmasters as vehicles that helped them learn speaking techniques, and they honored our supportive club as a great practice environment and for opportunities to grow their leadership skills.

We were part of their history, just as they were a part of our club’s history. Our alumni imparted wonderful tips and encouragement to our current members and guests. 

The last ten minutes of the event was dedicated to guest feedback, including wonderful comments from our District 117 leaders. As to our additional guests, who had never experienced Toastmasters before, they were very impressed and plan to return for our next meeting!  All in all, Captivating Dialogue Toastmasters’ 10-year anniversary celebration and alumni reunion was a big hit. This event rekindled friendships, brought new people together, honored our club’s history, and inspired us to continue towards the 20-year milestone. Last, but not least, our special event now promises membership additions through a couple of alumni who asked about coming back – and our first-time guests!

Thank you for reading!

This article was published in D117 Newsletter – February issue -Share The Love