Toastmasters Club Officer Roles
There are 7 elected club officer roles in every club. Let’s take a look at each role: the responsibilities and the reasons why you may want to consider this for your future.
Sergeant At Arms (SAA)
The Sergeant at Arms is an old term for a member of an organization who is responsible to keep order and to see that the decisions that a body makes are carried out.
In a Toastmasters club, the SAA is essentially a logistics manager. The meeting room management – reserving the room, setting it up before and cleaning up after are the major components of this role. That makes this person highly important at every meeting. You can have a meeting without a club president, but try to do it without a SAA? It gets complicated fast if the materials that are needed aren’t in hand.
How much a SAA has to manage varies. With the rise in smart phone applications that function as timers or the use of PDFs for evaluations, maybe a SAA has less to haul around, but there will always be physical parts that need to be set up for a meeting and the SAA is the usual keeper of the keys.
On top of getting a meeting room set up, TI says that the SAA should be available to greet new guests, ask them to sign the guest book, and make them comfortable by introducing a member to explain what’s going on.
When I was SAA, it took about 1 week to figure out that I wasn’t able to do everything. I started calling on the VP membership to come in and handle the guests. I had too much to do!
I loved being SAA. I had the freedom in that meeting room to rearrange the tables and chairs as I wanted – and I wanted a lot. I changed the room configuration multiple times. The president never knew what to expect! I thought this helped us stay flexible. He may have thought I did it to harass him. We were both right.
I have never served as a club president. From the outside, it doesn’t look like they do much. Seriously. What do they do?
Apparently a lot. My friend Todd is now our club president and he’s got a goal for our club. This goal is big and absolutely crazy that a club our size could achieve it – but I think it’s possible because he’s got a plan of how to accomplish it. He reminds us of our club goals and what we need to do. He takes the long view. On top of giving us our marching orders, he’s also our chief encouragement officer. He mentors many of our mentors and handles a lot of our club contacts because his phone number is listed as our club contact number.
However much I tend to tease – ok, openly mock – some of my club presidents – I do see that they offer significant value to the club when they have a vision of what a club can do for the members and how to achieve it. It’s keeping that balance in mind that makes a good president. When I was SAA, I found that the relationship with my club president kept me motivated to show up and do the work to keep the club going.
Why take on either of these roles?
I think these roles mirror each other. One is high level and the other is boots on the ground, but both depend extensively on the others to make the club work. A club can’t function without both of these roles being filled by committed, competent members. If you want to understand the workings of a TM club and the executive committee, SAA is a good place to start. It’s a window to the management of a club. President, on the other hand, lives that management. All officers have to support the club – the president directs those roles. Even the one that most people think has the least to do – the club treasurer.
I’ve never been a club treasurer for a very important reason. I’m really bad at managing money. I forget to deposit checks, I don’t complete paperwork and please don’t ask me to balance a check book because it ain’t happening. I know my limits and treasurer isn’t it.
The first club I was a member of had one man as the club treasurer. He’d been treasurer for a long time. He was always on hand at the end of a meeting to greet a guest and to give them the membership application and explain how much it cost to join the club. He was so good at it that I never learned how much membership actually cost a new member until he retired and I had to explain it when I was VP Membership!
Keeping track of the club’s funds and spending them as necessary is part of the job. But collecting dues and paying them to TI takes up most of the treasurer’s attention every March and September. Right now, as we face a younger membership that wants to use credit cards or online payment plans, club treasurers need to take a look at some newer payment options. These new options aren’t free and will require changes to the club’s dues – which the treasurer needs to make clear to the members.
While I would never be a treasurer, if you have the organizational skills and are interested in a leadership role to help move your club forward, this is a great fit for you.
Vice President Membership
I was talking to a friend of mine who was in a club that just missed being a Presidents Distinguished Club – that’s the highest distinction for a Toastmasters club that indicates it is serving its members well. That club needed one more member to qualify. He was vice president of membership and he held himself responsible that he couldn’t find one more member that year.
I think that may be going a bit too far in my mind, but I take his point. It’s the job of the vice president of membership (VPM) to convert guests to members. Is this a hard job?
Toastmasters International has a number of fliers and handouts to help the VPM do the job. Some you can download for free, others will be free for shipping (ok, that shipping charge is a bit high, I agree) and you can develop your own materials that feature your club. Put them together in an envelope or a folder and you have a guest kit to hand to visitors – along with a membership application. I have served in this club officer role a couple of times and created some of these folders. They’re pricey unless you have some members who will agree to order the free fliers when they place orders at Toastmasters International’s store. But they don’t take the place of a conversation with a guest to understand what they want and why they came to the Toastmasters meeting in the first place.
A club that gets the word out will get visitors. There are always people who want to learn about public speaking and leadership – it’s just helping them find us that’s important.
Vice President Public Relations
Some clubs rely on word of mouth or Toastmasters International to do the heavy lifting in advertising. To some extent, word of mouth is the most effective way to spread the word. But if you’re thinking that TI is advertising – you’d be wrong. They don’t. Word is that they’re trying an ad campaign – but in a small market and as a test. It’s up to the clubs do to their own marketing.
Which leads us to the vice president public relations (VPPR.) This job has changed significantly over the years. What used to be “put up announcements on the grocery and library public announcements bulletin boards” and “send PR announcements to the local newspaper” has changed to “manage social media posts” and “create events on the Internet.”
Big differences. Getting a member who is savvy with social media might be thought of as get the youngest person in the room to get us on Twitter and Instagram – that’s not the ideal.
Look, in real life, I do social media marketing. This is a field that changes so quickly that what I learned 4 weeks ago may already be out of date. It’s complicated and needs more than someone who’s going to take a couple of pictures and post them erratically on Facebook. It needs someone who’s willing to work the system: plan ahead and try to track the results.
Why take on one of these vice president roles?
If you want your club to continue to provide top value to yourself and to others, you have to bring in new members to replace those who are leaving.
Even TI says that the average turnover in a club is 40% of the membership per year. My experience says that’s right. So you need to be constantly bringing in guests and converting them to members. You must be in the social media to be found in the US now.
If you want to work on salesmanship or marketing, these roles are for you.
If you’re a VPPR, check with your district and see how you can tap into what they’re doing. I see clubs in my district who are very active in social media who post videos regularly. I can take those same posts and put them on my club Facebook page. That’s easy content! If you are the VPM, talk with the club growth director of your district if your member is below 13 – that member of the trio has resources especially available to you.
VPM and VPPR can open some doors to the district officer roles.
I confess. I am the world’s worst secretary. I forget to keep minutes, I don’t remember where membership applications are filed. But I’ve been club secretary because I was a Pathways Guide and the club needed someone to serve as a Base Camp Manager (BCM).
The club’s three base camp managers are president, secretary, and vice president of education. When Pathways rolled out in District 10, I took on the role of secretary to have access to Base Camp to help train others. Now that we have some history and people who know what to do in the clubs, I don’t do much training on it any more. It was a relief to me and to my club to let this role go – because it is an important one. Tracking all those details is important. Making sure that reports of new officers is completed on time is in the Distinguished Club Program metric.
The secretary is the keeper of the club history. After I learned what I was supposed to do, I knew this was not the job for me and I respect those who do it even more.
Vice President Education (VPE)
The other BCM is the Vice President of Education – commonly thought of as the workhorse of the club officer roles. With the classic program wrapping up this year and Pathways taking over, this role challenges us.
The VPE has to track what has been done. At the same time, the VPE also has to track what needs to be done. I picture this person standing on tight wire. It would be easy to fall either way.
The best metric to see that a club is serving its members effectively is to look at how many education awards have been earned over the course of the year. Those show that the members are making progress through the material and learning the skills that Toastmasters teaches. It’s the VPE’s role to track what has been completed and to encourage those who need to do the next project.
This will be a lot easier next year when the classic program is closed. Right now, the VPE can use some help!
Why be either of these club officer roles?
As a base camp manager, you do have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your club. But either secretary or VPE, you would have a chance to develop your listening and organizational skills. Both are vital to the success of the club.
Ideally, a different person will fill each club officer role. In some clubs, when there aren’t enough members, people may double up, but that’s far from best. I’ve seen the secretary and treasurer doubled up. VPPR and VPM together – that’s pretty common too.
So those are the roles in a Toastmasters club. Are you interested?
Club Officer Training
In case you’re thinking you may be interested, but you don’t know enough to do the job, fear not! We will train you!
Every district provides two trainings for all club officer roles per year. In addition, every division in every district also provides training. These officer training sessions are frequently called the Toastmasters Leadership Institutes or TLI. Or club officer training or COT. Whatever they’re called, you can attend even if you’re not a club officer at the time. You will learn about an officer role that you’re interested in and can run for the position in May or June (or, if your club has another election the winter, run then!) You will learn a lot from these training sessions.
At least 4 of your club officers should attend one of these sessions. District 10 is running two contests this year to encourage clubs to get all 7 of the club officers trained. It’s that important to the club that the officers understand their leadership roles and how to handle the responsibilities.