Those Who Serve

(This post was previously posted on VE3HG earlier today.)

With the club elections coming up for the Oakville Amateur Radio Club I can’t help but compare our radio club to my Toastmaster club.

With the club elections coming up for the Oakville Amateur Radio Club I can’t help but compare our radio club to my Toastmaster club.

While the radio club has about 25 paid-up members of which less than half are what I’d call active members, the Toastmaster club started the year with well almost 40 members (and we had six guests to our first meeting of the season) and will end the year with as many as 60 members. (Toastmaster clubs have at least 20 members to be granted a charter from Toastmasters International.)

There are seven people on the Toastmaster executive (president, vice presidents of education, membership and public relations, plus a recording secretary, a treasurer and a sgt.-at-arms. In addition to the executive there are special (party) and standing (video) committees and tons of volunteer opportunities which are always quickly filled.

Each of these executive members has already attended a half-day training workshop provided by Toastmasters. Each has a lengthy list of responsibilities to fulfill.

The new executive members are taught that as members of the executive team, it is their job to serve the club and not to attempt to govern it.

Having said that, the executive lays out a weekly program months in advance with a list of roles for members to carry out months ahead of time. There are about a half a dozen contests which require extensive planning as well as a summer, Christmas and Charter party which are big events in the Toastmaster calendar year.

The club has an active mentoring program for all new members and each member has their own individual educational program as set out in a series of speech manuals provided by Toastmasters International.

Right now our radio club has a five-member board of directors. Since we have few regularly scheduled meetings members participate or club events, there’s not much for our executive to do as far as I can see.

Sure there’s the collection of the club dues which at $20 is 10 per cent of what we pay for our Toastmaster membership. And there’s the annual Field Day and we do meet at a local restaurant for a Christmas dinner which is well attended by members and spouses. But after that, I don’t know.

At the Toastmaster club the weekly agenda involves at least 20 members directly who carry out roles ranging from greeter at the door to general evaluator of the meeting. There are three formal speeches delivered every week followed by three formal evaluations of the speeches. All of this activity is captured on video and rendered into movie files which are uploaded to a private club-members-only DropBox for viewing.

At every meeting, there’s a 15-minute timed business session. When the 15 minutes are up, a red light shows on the club’s timer and the business session is over. At every business session the minutes of the previous meeting are read and approved. Executive members give reports which are one to two minutes long and then there’s five minutes or so for new business from the floor.

Almost all of the decisions and new business for the club originates from the members who rise, are recognized by the chair, and who then move a motion which is seconded, debated and voted upon.

The club uses Robert’s Rules of Order to maintain order and decorum. Every year I teach two workshops for area Toastmaster club members on the effective and proper use of Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedure.

So here’s the takeaway on Robert’s Rules:

  1. They allow the majority to get things done quickly
  2. They allow the minority opinion to be heard
  3. They prevent bullying and allow everyone to speak if they wish
  4. They speed up business meetings
  5. They should never be used to obstruct or control but to facilitate the decision-making process

When I conducted my last RR of O workshop I assigned the newest member in the room to be the “parliamentarian”. I did this to demonstrate to the over-flow crowd of Toastmasters that they didn’t need to be an expert to participate in business sessions conducted using RR of O.

So long as one person had a grasp of RR of O, they could assist the entire assembly in quickly, efficiently and with great camaraderie conduct the business of the day.

Here’s a link to beginner’s guide to RR of O. (NOTE: References to specifics such as a quorum is at least 50% do not refer us as the OARC is governed by rules supplied to non-profit organizations by the Ontario government which essentially say we can determine our own numbers in our own bylaws. The Ontario government guidelines essentially refer only to the duty of directors to act in good faith and rules to protect association funds.)

Without RR of O protecting the rights of every member, the decision-making process can be hijacked by the loud, the aggressive and those with hidden agendas or desire for power.


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