Continuation of Success Stories. Interview with Ilona Postemska.

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Summer moved on… Chamber Toastmasters are opening the new business season with great vigour. The key event of September will be our Club’s Birthday. And  top of the cream on the “birthday cake” is the joint achievement of officers’ teams 2012 and 2013.

 For the first time in its 14-year history the Chamber Toastmasters Club got the top recognition of the Toastmasters International – President’s Distinguished by achieving in 2012-2013 nine out of ten goals of the Distinguished Club Program.

So, we decided to ask Ilona Postemska, the Club President in 2012, to share with us some insights of the club management and tips on how to make ambitious goals a reality.

Olena: Ilona, you were leading the Club in 2012 and your team set the foundation for the current success. Was it one of the goals of your presidency from the very beginning?

Ilona (chuckles): Serious strategic goal-setting comes definitely much later…I would say a couple of months after you take over the presidency. In the beginning, you just head over heels try to understand how it all works, how to build up a good officers’ team and how to set up all the processes in the club. In our case, we also faced a serious challenge – no permanent premises for our meetings. Solving this problem took so much time and energy, but, in a way, it also made us stronger. So when we established our partnership with EPAM, we could fully concentrate on the other club matters.

Olena: So, what are these club matters? For example, before I joined the officers’ team this year, I had taken so many things for granted. I just came to the club meetings, enjoyed interesting speeches, received valuable feedback from experienced toastmasters, got lots of inspiration and energy at special events. Only now, being an officer, I realize how much work is behind all that!

Ilona: That’s right, it is hard work indeed, and it is ongoing. If you have club meetings on Wednesday, you cannot work for the Club on Wednesdays only, you have to work continuously and you have to work in a strong team! Only efficient team work will guarantee smooth running of all club processes. Essentially, the officers’ team should take care of the education of the club members, membership growth, PR and communication, club finances, and other organizational matters. If one of these elements falls out, the whole system is not functional. I am afraid, I sound now too much theoretical, right?

Olena: Yes, a little bit )

Ilona: Ok, let’s take an example. I guess, you remember our Toastmasters Golf Tournament.This was an outstanding event that served many purposes for our club management . First, this was a special event which attracted the attention of so many members and guests due to the powerful promotion, which is PR. The event was promoted as exclusive with a special discount for the members and was organized right in the period of collection of the club dues. This fact “disciplined” our members to pay their dues in time, thus securing our club’s financial well-being. For our guests the smooth professional organization of the event became an additional solid argument to consider joining the club, thus increasing our membership base. And our experienced toastmasters, who at times get tired of the classical TM agenda, had so much fun in the company of their club fellows that they got inspired and kept on asking if there were free slots in the agenda. So, this is just one example that illustrates the club’s machinery, but sure this machinery would never move if not for the team!

Olena: We all remember the dream team 2012. How did you all guys manage to become one?

Ilona: Great! I am glad that the name “dream team” has become a hallmark! Without being extremely modest, I am sure that our team – and here I would like to name all: Anna Kuznetsova, Sofiya Huzenko, Jenia Poluektova, Dmytro Kuziak, Olena Melnyk, Alex Iguchi – was the most efficient one! Well, the plain figures also say that: only within half a year we managed to get for our Club the status Select Distinguished by reaching 7 out of 10 goals in the Distinguished Club Program! For your information, our Club enjoyed that status only twice: in 2004-2005 and 2008-2009. And we managed to achieve that within half a year!

However, building a good team is not an easy task. And I bet you also know that very well, right?

Olena: Of course, as a manager I know it perfectly well from my professional experience. But in Toastmasters you need to be a leader of the team of volunteers, so there are certain challenges in that!

Ilona: Exactly, you cannot compare, let’s say formal leadership in a company with club leadership! In business or in some formal organization you as a manager have financial and administrative leverage, you can promote your team members, motivate them with a higher salary. In a non-profit organization, like Toastmasters Club, the only leverage that you have is your energy, inner motivation, and ability to inspire others. You should also be aware that pure enthusiasm does not last long, unfortunately. So, depending on personal qualities of your team members you should find specific incentives for them to be active.

Olena: How did you find those incentives and what were they?

Ilona: Well, the first thing is listening and hearing! This helps you not only understand your team members, but feel like them! And of course, communication, communication, communication! Our experience proved that it is better to “over-communicate” than to leave something unsaid or unexplained to all. Communication is the key!

And incentives? Well, now you want me to open all the cards (laughs). The biggest and the proven incentive is success! Let me explain this in more detail. Professionally organized meetings with a great agenda are an absolute must for a good Toastmasters club. Tremendous ongoing work of the officers’ team is behind that. At the same time, it might become somewhat routine, so you need to spice up the Club with versatile events. They bring dynamics to the club life and cement your team. When you jointly work hard on the preparation of cool events, and your next event outbeats the previous one with its thematic scope, scale and level of professional organization, your club members are glowing with joy and satisfaction. It feels so extremely rewarding! This joint success cannot but give your team fuel and energy to come up with new ideas for further activities!


Recorded by Olena Krynychna, VP PR

P.S.: to read more please follow the links: Distinguished Club Program Report 2012-2013, Distinguished Club Program

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