About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

Free Content for #Rotary and NFP Use
Please use any posts for Rotary District or club Newsletters. Include the profile at the bottom of each article, Robyn's headshot and a link to this blogsite. Let him know and he'll promote it to his social media followers.

Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Monday, 27 October 2014

11 Tips for Producing Rotary Meetings that Attract Younger Members

A smooth meeting presentation
 requires planning.

Add Pizzazz to Rotary Club Meetings
Written by Robyn T. Braley

When was the last time your Rotary Club reviewed the various elements of its meetings? What have you changed within the past 10 years to make your meetings relevant, contemporary and better?

Buckle up and get ready for significant change. Marketing to Millennials, aged 25-40, requires a shift in thinking about how we communicate the power of Rotary.  

In an earlier post, Making Your Meetings Visitor Friendly, I offered practical tips for improving the overall presentation of meetings. 

In this post, I provide 11 production tips.I recently spoke at Rotary in HTML mode District 5360's annual conference called Make Dreams Real. The focus of my keynote was 'Building the Rotary Brand' which morphed into this blog-site.'  

The words digital marketers use to describe the elements of a strong online brand also explain the heart of the Rotary brand. They include words like;
  • Quality content
  • Trust
  • Value
  • Caring
  • Relevance
  • Authenticity
As marketers, we also talk about telling brand stories and creating opportunities for customers to engagement with a brand. Rotary engages customers, or members and prospective members, through meetings, service projects around the world, and developing person-to-person relationships. 

Service Connects Rotary with Millennials

Rotarians responding to disasters like the Alberta floods of 2013 found themselves working shoulder to shoulder with 1,000’s of people aged 25-40. Teams rescued survivors, cared for them and then embarked on months of hard work to help them recover and restore their possessions and property.  

So, how do we transfer the Millennial interest in helping others to Rotary? There are five ways to start.

1.     Engage Millennials and build relationships
2.     Connect, follow, or friend them on your social media accounts
3.     Share difference-making Rotary stories about service
4.     Schedule programs about things they care about. Look for a
future post
5.     Produce meetings that match their career and personal experiences. 

Trendy McTrenders

As a marketer, I make an effort to stay current with new trends. I am active in several professional associations that offer consistent value and take-aways.

I recently took my club president, Tony Knight, to a monthly meet-up called the Social Media Breakfast YYC. Those in the know recognize “YYC” as the Twitter name for Calgary, Alberta. We were the old geezers in the room.

Each month a speaker talks about important digital marketing topics. The gathering draws 100-150 social media experts, website designers, SEO specialists, writers, video producers and related professionals. They free lance or work for ad agencies, businesses, NFP’s, or mainstream media. Some come for the free food!   

This age group cares about their community. Each meeting includes a 5-minute presentation by a not-for-profit speaker. The featured organization receives a social media profile while they speak.


What intrigued Tony was how the crowd listened to the speaker, watched the PowerPoint screen, made notes and tweeted content throughout the event. A still photographer and videographer roamed the room looking for cool setups to shoot and upload.  

A second screen showcased individual tweets. In fact, at each meeting a challenge is given to make the event trend across Canada which often happens. That means there are hundreds of tweets within an hour and a half!

After the meeting, Tony asked me, “How do they multi-task like that?”

Right on cue Mike Morrison, a regular columnist for the Calgary Metro News daily newspaper, a panellist every Wednesday morning on CBC Radio's The Eye-Opener and publisher of Mike’s Bloggity Blog dropped by to say hello. 

I introduced him to Tony. Mike shared that he had written and uploaded a blog during the meeting in addition to participating in all of the above activities.

A Millenial Environment 

In the millennial world, every business or not-for-profit conference, community gathering or entertainment, church or school event are produced.
At many events, the speaker moves about a set designed to create the feel of a TV studio. They look and sound like TV hosts, newscasters or stand-up comics.
  • Their image is magnified on giant screens
  • A wireless mic allows them to roam freely on the stage or into the audience
  • Video inclusions highlight key points
  • Their slide show has meaningful and often entertaining photos to emphasize the text  
  • Audience members text questions to a technician who periodically posts them onscreen for the speaker to answer
  • They Tweet selfie photos with relevant content during events using #hashtags noted at the bottom of the big screen
  • The events are often live-streamed to the world 

Relevance to Rotary

Are all of these ideas practical for most meetings? Probably not. However, there are simple elements that are easy-to-implement whether you are a club of 20 or 200..

For example, the Sargent-at-Arms shouldn't fine younger people for not turning off their communications devices during meetings. Half will be offended that anyone would ask, and half will be mystified because they've never turned theirs off before and may not know-how.

Jokes should not be so narrow that only a few in the room have even a slight hope of understanding the punch line. Do I need to add that gender, sexist or racist jokes or allusions are not acceptable in any context.

Designate programs that will attract higher attendance and the media as Signature Events. If there is a wide community interest that may attract a large crowd of visitors and guests, consider contracting a sound company to provide audio support.

A professional audio engineer was crucial
for making the event a success.

Calgary West produced a sold-out event requiring 7 cordless mics, a podium mic, hookups for 14 TV cameras and 2 radio stations which broadcast or streamed live portions of the event.
As a sign of media convergence, two daily newspapers also sent TV cameras and live-streamed the event.


Meeting Tips

Unfortunately, I’ve attended Rotary meetings that took me back to the 1960’s due to the way they were conducted. Below are easy-to-implement tips for clubs wanting to improve the presentation of their meetings.

I recommend choosing one or two ideas, implementing them, testing them in the context of your club's culture. Change often requires time and certainly member buy-in.

Raise the Energy Level

  1. As President, move purposely through the room making eye contact and personally welcoming as many people as possible, especially visitors. When you connect person-to-person before the meeting, you are laying the foundation for later connection with the crowd. This is an old teaching trick used to gain control of inner city kids as they came into class
  1. Lift the energy level of the room by moving with a firm, confident step before the meeting, then to the leaders position to start.
  1. Begin meetings with an upbeat, positive manner. Plan what you will say to set the tone for a great meeting. Sauntering to the podium and simply saying, “Let's start with the anthem!” sends the energy level on a downhill spiral.

Production Tips

  1. Ditch the podium. It’s a psychological barrier. Buy a stand supported by a single pole and plastic see-through holder for notes
  2. Use a wireless hand-held or lavaliere mic. Experienced speakers may request either as they feel restricted by immovable podiums and stationary mics. I use my hands liberally to emphasize my keynotes
  3. Purchase a cheap flat-screen TV to use as a visual monitor for speakers. Buy a signal splitter and a cord long enough to connect your laptop, the monitor and projector. Place the screen on a chair or have a crafty Rotarian fabricate a simple stand. Many speakers do not use notes but rely on their slides for prompts.
  4. Eliminate lost time due to fragmented club announcements. 
  5. a)    Add “flare!” Eliminate “dead air” and control the meeting pace by taking the wireless handheld to each announcer. 
    b)    Or, ask announcers to sit at tables near the front. How many times do Rotarians wait while someone plods their way from the back to the mic at the front?
    c)     Or, place 5-6 empty chairs off to the side near the front that all announcers occupy at the beginning of the business section. 
    8.   Produce an engaging PowerPoint. Make it outward-focused rather than having only “insider” announcements. In the Millennial world, meaningful content is king.
    a)    Commission someone who knows how to produce your show with “pizzazz.” They will use a current template to make a great impression. Pay someone from outside the club if necessary. Rotarians can make additions or adjustments from week-to-week. Check back for a future blog about PowerPoints.
    b)    Promote coming speakers, but also profile past speakers. Add to each visitor’s understanding of the value Rotary meetings offer. 
    c)     Including information about past and future service projects is obvious.
    d)    Include action photos. Encourage members to look for interesting photo ops. Rotarians lined up arm in arm with locals smiling into the camera in front of a service project lacks imagination. A future blog will provide photography tips.
    9.     Play light jazz or other nonintrusive instrumental background music when numerous guests are expected. Subtly increase the volume as the room fills. It forces people to speak slightly louder which increases the energy in the room. If you have a live musician, so much the better. Same instructions.
    10     Prepare a checklist to send to speakers. Include a deadline for reporting tech requirements.
    11. Impress on speakers the importance of arriving early to make sure the technology operates properly. How many times has your club waited impatiently while the speaker got their ppt or video working? Sometimes it never happens. Awkward for them and the club while disrupting the flow of the meeting
Robyn Braley is a brand specialist, writer and speaker. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. Robyn has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360 and spoken at leadership training conferences in several districts. 

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