Meeting attendance tends to be sparse during the summer. Vacations, child care and recreation tend to interfere with our avocations. Golf, surfing and hiking attract members away from TM meetings in Southern California.
If we expect occasional low-turnout meetings we’ll save a lot of time and “fussing around” if we plan how to deal with them. How should we plan to use what we’ve got to do what we want (to do)? What can we do when only five of us, or four of us, or even just three of us, show up for the meeting?
If only two members are available, there’s no use wasting the time; one speaks, and the other evaluates. With three members present we can add a General Evaluator.
If four are present we can have a Toastmaster, General Evaluator, Speaker and Evaluator. We can speak, evaluate, and be evaluated during the meeting. Timer and Grammarian? Remember that meeting roles are planned to give everyone a chance to speak. So we can consolidate duties when everyone present will speak anyway.
When we have five members present we can add the role of Topics Master. He can direct questions to each of the others.
The problems presented by unexpectedly low turnout on a specific occasion are usually the confusion and the need to reorganize. However, if we plan how we’ll deal with it, say by using the roles discussed above, our meeting will proceed smoothly, although it will probably be shorter than usual. Many clubs maintain a “How We Do It” file to cover contingencies like this. (Military Toastmasters may recognize it as a “Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP.)
The “How We Do It” file usually contains instructions for the Club’s web site, email lists, and unique assignments; for example some clubs have a “greeter” meet guests, get them a nametag and welcome packet and introduce them to the president. This file is a good place for an explanation of the meeting agenda and a draft agenda as well. And it can include the plan for a low-attendance meeting.
Low turnout for a meeting or two before Labor Day or Christmas isn’t cause for alarm. It’s just a chance to practice being flexible while ensuring our members are challenged and evaluated in communication and leadership skills.