Do you remember how you were born? I do. I learned some important lessons. You should know them.


I was conceived in the Summer 1998. I had given a presentation at a Board meeting that morning. Later, my boss invited me into his office. He said, “Fred. You need Toastmasters.”

ME? I gave a great presentation.

“No,” he said. “Your voice is quiet and monotone. Your hands flail. You say “um” at least once each sentence.”

That was a surprise. I never had that sort of feedback before.

I had my instructions. I didn’t like it, but he was the boss.

I started my research. I found a list of clubs in my area. They recommended visiting more than one to find the club that “fits.” This is where the fun began.


My first visit was to a club close to the office. It started right after work. That was perfect for me.

They met in a school cafeteria. There was a good crowd of over twenty people. I sat down. No one spoke to me. The President called the meeting to order. Soon, he asked if there were any visitors. I raised my hand, and stood to introduce myself. I felt a little awkward, but it went okay.

A few minutes later, he asked all guests to leave while the club discussed a new member application. It was just the applicant and me out in the hallway, waiting for about ten minutes. I felt even more awkward.

When we returned, they congratulated the applicant for being approved for membership. Then, the meeting started. One speaker gave a memorable “working with words” speech.

When it was over, the President thanked me for visiting, and adjourned the meeting.
I asked myself – would I want to join this club? Probably not. I didn’t feel very welcomed.


I found another club near work. It met in a classroom of mega-church. I arrived ten minutes early. I was the only one there. Well, I hoped I had the right place and time.

Five minutes later, three people came in. One had a bag of supplies. He tried talking to me as he set up the room.

I learned that he was the President. He was also Toastmaster for the day. One of the two ladies would be giving a speech. The other was the evaluator. This was the first time she had ever done that role. She mentioned that she had only given two speeches. I thought she did well, reading and responding to questions in the manual that she also filled out.

I was most impressed with the manual. It made me think that there was some value in Toastmasters.

At the end of the meeting, the President asked me to comment, and thanked me for visiting. Afterward, he came over, talked about Toastmasters, and gave me a guest packet. He said the club had more members, but many were out on summer vacation.
Would I want to join this club? Probably not. With only three members present, I didn’t think I could learn and grow much. If they had more members, there should have been a better turnout.


My third club visit was in a business conference room. I was immediately greeted as I entered. Someone explained about Toastmasters and the meeting. I was given a more extensive guest packet. It even had an application form.

There were sixteen people there. The meeting seemed to be very well organized. I stood to introduce myself.

I sat two seats left of a gentleman they introduced as a club vice president. I noticed that throughout the meeting he had his briefcase open and was doing paperwork. I wondered why he wasn’t paying attention to the speakers. Maybe he was – some of the time. I could understand that, as an officer, he would have extra work. But why do it during the meeting?

After the meeting, other members encouraged me to join.

Would I want to join this club? Maybe. They seemed to be very good. That one officer bothered me. If he didn’t see the meeting as a priority, would the other members?


The fourth club was a forty minute drive from home. Their meetings lasted two hours.

There were ten people attending. They seemed to be relaxed and having fun. I immediately noticed the chemistry between them. They liked each other. They joked around. One was nicknamed “Cave Man.”

Several members came over to say hello. Someone gave me another guest packet. It was similar to the others, although not as clean.

The President called the meeting to order. Again, I stood and introduced myself. During the meeting they invited me to participate in their impromptu Table Topics. I declined, but, before the session ended, and after I had seen what it was about, they again encouraged me to give it a try. I did. I was uncomfortable, and fumbled a lot. I was told later that I spoke for under a minute, and said “um” seven times.

I found out they took a break for refreshments. That is why their meetings lasted two hours. I wasn’t sure I liked that. I wanted to get home. But, I noticed that they used this time to socialize, get to know each other better, and build a bond.
Would I want to join this club? Maybe. They were very friendly. But were they too relaxed and informal? Were they already a “clique”?


Was it time to decide? Did I want to visit more clubs? Or choose from those four (really – the last two)?

As I was pondering, I got a phone call. It was “Cave Man.” He thanked me again for visiting and encouraged me to return next week.

My decision was made. I did visit again to see if things were the same. I found I liked these people. I submitted my application and joined at the end of the meeting.

With that, “Toastmaster Fred Haley” was born on October 1, 1998.


Whether you are a member of Toastmasters or another organization, every member has a role in recruiting new members. We all play a part in each visitor’s decision to join our club. It is not just the responsibility of the President, or the Vice President Membership.

Take your role as a member seriously. Attend as many meetings as you can. Arrive early. Greet the guests and make them feel welcomed. Pay attention during the meeting. Encourage guests to participate.

Just as important, have fun. Relax. Laugh. Be friendly with the other members. Guests notice that, too.

Let the officers do their role, too, including giving guest packets and making follow-up contact.

In that way, more guests will celebrate their ‘birthdays’ as NEW MEMBERS of your organization.

Author's Bio: 

Fred Haley, published author and speaker, has been a member of Toastmasters for over 12 years. Fred has earned two Distinguished Toastmasters awards. His web site, is “Every Toastmaster’s first stop for advice and resources.” Fred publishes a weekly ToastMentor newsletter. Contact Fred at