Any Toastmaster who visits neighboring clubs notices differences; different ceremonies, schedules, and even meeting roles. For example, some open their meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance, some offer evaluations of Table Topics presentations and some use a “bell-ringer” to call speakers’ attention to their filler words.
Can we just, willy-nilly change our meetings to suit ourselves? Pretty much, yes.
Toastmasters isn’t an authoritarian, top-down organization with “acceptable” practices described and prescribed; for example, there’s no dogma about acceptable agendas.
Each club is a separate entity, legally and in fact. From our constitution:
This club is an independent legal entity, separate from Toastmasters International and every other member club of Toastmasters International, subject only to the express terms and conditions of affiliation stated in this constitution and in the Toastmasters International documents identified in Section 1 of this article.
This club shall, upon adoption of this constitution and from time to time thereafter as appropriate, complete the Addendum of Standard Club Options attached to this constitution in order to specify the detailed choices it has made to govern the operations of the club.”
We’re not completely independent of TI rules: We cannot earn money (although we can defray costs) or issue Diplomas or Certifications. We can use TM logos only for TM activities and cannot use them to support non-TM activities. We cannot advocate for or against political candidates or movements.
TI has found that successful clubs tend to do certain things – we can call them “best practices.” So TI encourages “Best Practices” through the “Distinguished Club Program.” What’s a club’s “punishment” for not earning “Distinguished Club” points? It may be nagged by its Area (or Division) Director. The club will easily survive the nagging.
The “Moments of Truth” program offered by TI is an investigative tool. It answers “how well are we implementing some of the more important Best Practices – as seen by our club members?” Operational changes that may improve the club’s service to its members are identified through the program and CAN be adopted by the club.
Meeting agendas are also up to each club. Example agendas are only that – examples. They’re great starting points, but they can – and should — be modified to fit the needs of the club.
The Moments of Truth and the Distinguished Club Programs, like sample meeting agendas, are designed to help the club thrive – we should use them. However, they’re tools to help our club – they don’t define prescriptions that MUST be followed.
Every single Toastmasters club exists to help its members better communicate and lead – not to slavishly follow guidelines.