Camden Town Speakers Club End of Season 2013-14 Report

by Robert Tyson, President on July 9, 2014

First of all – I do hope all current members will join us next Tuesday 15th July from 7pm at the Grand Union bar (opposite Camden Road overground station) for our (short) AGM and club social evening.

Non-members are also welcome to come along and learn more about the club – but for once there will be NO public speaking opportunities!

Secondly, I’d like to share our end of season reflections with you in the shape of our Chairman and Treasurer’s reports…

I think it’s good for members to have an idea of how the club operates, what we’ve tried to improve the club, what has worked and what hasn’t. Enjoy.

General information

  • Total members as of now: 20
  • 2012/2013 season members retained: 5
  • 2012/ 2013 season members lapsed: 11
  • 2013/2014 new members joined: 15
  • In total we had 21 meetings in the season; over the 14 meetings we have data for:
  • Average total attendance per meeting was 9.6
  • With a high of 15 attendees and a low of 5 attendees.
  • Average number of first time visitors (FTVs) per meeting was 2.3
  • Of the total of 32 FTVs who attended one of these meetings, 6 joined (around 19%).
  • Of these FTVs, 17 came via the website (4 signups, 24% conversion), 13 came from the Meetup.com group (1 signup, 8% conversion), 1 was referred from the ASC website (1 signup, 100% conversion) and 1 was a personal contact (no signup, 0% conversion).

Chairman’s Report (from me, Rob)We launched a number of new initiatives this year:

  • New club website, including online signup facility

Verdict: success. Website contains much more content, is up to date, easily updateable and is now a resource for members. In addition we achieved our first online membership sale, which arrived without any ‘selling’.

  • Speakers Guide

This year the decision was taken to include The Speakers Guide with the membership fee, instead of charging extra as in previous years. Verdict: success. I feel it made for a more attractive membership offering and helped individuals get more out of the club.

  • Weekly email newsletter

Moved the club’s email newsletter onto proper Mailchimp software; we currently have a list of 173 members, lapsed members and prospects. Verdict: success. I feel it contributed to better turnout and conversion of prospects to members.

  • Extra 1 minute topics (impromptu speaking) session introduced to club nights

Verdict: success. Gave more opportunities for speaking and made club nights more fun.

  • Weekly Topics Skills

Introduced optional topics skills. Verdict: failure. Though it may have raised awareness, it was very rare anyone actually took any notice on the night; topics are hard enough perhaps without something else to think about.

Meetup.com is a social networking website that allows local groups to form communities, manage events online, and attract new audiences. Verdict: requires little maintenance but the return of only 1 member from 13 attendees is disappointing. I’d suggest this is due to Meetup prospects being poorer quality and confronted with several competitors at the same time due to the nature of how Meetup works.

Verdict: qualified success, given it runs on autopilot and has raised local awareness with one or two members/prospects.

  • ‘Fifth Tuesdays’

In addition to the usual first and third Tuesdays of the month meeting nights, this year we also met on the fifth Tuesdays which happened three times. Verdict: failure. No discernable benefit and may have served to confuse one or two members.

  • External speakers

Two sessions with Alexander Technique coach Nick Chapman were arranged. Verdict: success; those who attended really enjoyed the sessions though turnout, being only average, was slightly disappointing. Would be nice to do more sessions like this in future.

Opportunities/areas to improve next season

  • Venue

At the start of the season we had the struggle of the previously arranged venue reneging on their agreement, forcing us back to the Irish Centre. This is fairly expensive set against current member numbers and made for a slightly hand-to-mouth existence at times, though we ended the season with a relatively comfortable budget surplus. I also suspect a more central location would encourage higher turnout and membership. To that end we are discussing a potential new venue from October onwards.

  • Member retention

High member turnover is a challenge for Camden. I suspect that partly this is due to a relatively young and therefore mobile audience, and also the fact that not everyone wants to reach an especially high level as a speaker, or are prompted to join by an event which then passes. But it shouldn’t be this hard to retain members and we need to look at what members are or are not getting out of the club. My guess would be that meetings can seem formulaic, and assignments can seem intimidating or too much work (though partly these things just ARE work – there is no getting around it). A good start could be to contact lapsed members with a short questionnaire.

  • Mentoring

This would clearly have a value; the question is how to effectively build it into existing club nights. Previous experiments have shown it doesn’t tend to work if the onus is on members to make it work outside of club nights.

  • General programme

Creating the club night programme is currently totally dependent on the President and this should change. The club should look at how this can be organised better, for instance by agreeing a sequence of Chairs at the beginning of the season, well in advance.

  • Membership levels

The club should introduce a Premium membership that includes some intensive coaching with a local provider, and it should also offer Corporate membership to local businesses.

  • Relationship with ASC

Communications with the organisation could be improved; it is pretty remote from the business of the club as it stands.

  • Committee

The Committee was assembled at the very last minute last summer, and was overstretched at times this season. The club needs to raise awareness of what the Committee does and get more members to serve on it, to share the burden.

  • Marketing

Though our online marketing channels delivered a lot of new faces and members to the club this year, more can always be done and the club should look to augment these approaches . The club should also now segment the email database to give specific attention to members vs prospects vs lapsed members, who all need different messages. The club attracted a large proportion of new members in the month of January, and would probably benefit from some extra focus on marketing at this time of year specifically.

Once again, I would like to encourage all current members to volunteer to play a role on the committee for the 2014-15 season, beginning on 2 September.

You can volunteer to be on next season’s committee either by emailing me by close of play on Monday 14 July, and/or coming along to our AGM/club social at 7pm on Tuesday 15 July.

But whether you volunteer or not, I do hope to see you there, and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Esther for the sterling work she has done for the past two seasons in the vital role of Treasurer – everyone at the club should be very grateful.

Treasurer’s Report (Esther)

“Balance as at Summer 2013: £18.43

Outgoings :

  • Rent to London Irish Centre: £1020
  • Capitation (affiliation fee to the Association of Speakers Clubs): £382.50
  • ASC Manuals: £143
  • Website Hosting: £23.76
  • Contribution to District Competition venue charges: £15
  • Stationery: £25

Incomings:

  • Membership Payments: £1814.42

Balance as at Summer 2014: £248.59

Summary
Finances in Autumn 2013 were in a poor state with no spare funds for the first rent payments. The Treasurer had to make a short term personal loan to the club to start the term off.

The new 2013/2014 President has made great efforts to improve the website and social media to increase membership has created a steady flow of members and thus, income.

Increased fees do not seem to have affected payments.

The inclusion of the ASC manual is a more comfortable way of collecting monies all in one go rather than charging separately for the manual.

We have had 6 PayPal payments via the website which has been a good new way to collect the fees. I think this has validated the £3.43 fee which Paypal claim per member.

Only one person took up the offer to pay in instalments.

Overall a good year with a healthy £248.59 to take through to the Autumn 2014 term.”
– Esther

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