Good Speakers Make for Good MeetingsI have never been one of those Rotarians who makes my meeting attendance decision based on what’s for lunch or who is our speaker. I go to Rotary meetings because, alas, I enjoy Rotary meetings. I do realize, however, that the day’s program does influence the number of members and guests at some meetings. I saw this first-hand when we had former Connecticut chief forensic guru Henry Lee as our featured speaker several years ago. We had members and guests materialize out of the woodwork! Folks just seem to love his tales of gore and the accompanying photos! The room was filled to capacity.
Clubs often struggle with the challenge of finding new and interesting speakers. And certainly not every presenter lives up to our hope that they’ll be both informative and entertaining. All we can do is our best to provide a creative schedule of diverse and entertaining programs for our members to enjoy.
One often overlooked resource for quality programs is our own membership. We are surrounded by interesting people with unique careers, hobbies, experiences and histories. Some of my favorite programs in this category include a Rotarian who biked New Zealand, another who collected and studied graveyard tracings, and (my personal #1) a member who attended “Clown College” and worked for Ringling Brothers! A good program chair will cull through the club’s members in search of these unique stories and storytellers. You are certain to find some hidden gems in your own membership roster.
Rotary itself offers a broad menu of potential speakers who can put a face on some of the many worthwhile initiatives that we support through our service initiatives. Anyone who has administered polio vaccine, or helped install a clean water project or even volunteered in a soup kitchen or literacy program will have a host of personal stories to tell about how the experience has changed their life. One glance through the District Directory or web site can provide leads to some of the most inspirational speakers you might wish to invite. These folks are often willing to share their experiences and their enthusiasm with your members.
A meeting without a speaker is like a stew without spices; it may have been good, but it could have been so much better! Quality programs help us to attract and retain not only members, but their renewed commitment to Service Above Self. Why not take an opportunity to assess your club’s program history and spend some time and energy on improving this critical area of your club service agenda?
Fellowship: For the Fun of It!
My wife and I recently went to dinner at one of our favorite Milford restaurants. It was a Thursday evening, and as we approached the hostess I noticed that a group of Milford Rotarians were gathered in a private room nearby. They were wearing their badges; it looked like any other Rotary meeting. Except the Milford Rotary meets for lunch each Thursday at a restaurant across town!
Being the shy, unassuming guy that I am, I immediately crashed their party to see what was up. Linda Bouvier informed me that it was their “Fifth Thursday” celebration. It seems that Milford has created an evening social event in the form of an extra meeting four times a year (in months where they have a fifth meeting day). They have some food, some cocktails and a great deal of fun. Spouses and guests who might not be available at lunchtime are welcome to participate (as are the occasional visiting Rotarian who stumbles in). It looked like a great deal of fun. Candace and I joined them for a drink after we’d had our dinner.
I am told that the regular lunchtime meeting on “Fifth Thursdays” has a slightly reduced attendance, but that many Rotarians will attend both the luncheon and after-hours get-togethers. Now who would have thought that a club could improve attendance by having more meetings? When you think of it, however, what Rotarian is not up for a little fun and fellowship after a long day’s work?
I am a firm believer that there is no great idea that is not worth stealing, so I brought the idea to my home club, where it was well received. Bridgeport Rotary will launch its inaugural “Fifth Tuesday” celebration on July 31st at Captain’s Cove Seaport. We’ve decided to travel with our after-hours gatherings so that members could experience and patronize various Bridgeport eateries. I expect that A Good Time Will be Had by All.
In today’s Rotary we spend a great deal of time, energy and resources on “Service Above Self”, and I am glad that we do. No one can question the positive impact that Rotarians have had in local and world communities. We make a difference!
However, if Paul Harris and his buds hadn’t enjoyed each other’s company, I doubt very much if Rotary would have survived, much less flourished to become the world’s premier service organization. You, I and all of our fellow Rotarians meet and work together because we like to do so. Rotary is fun!