Clubs are not only a friendly environment for members, but should also be a friendly environment for guests.
Guests are people that are interested in seeing for themselves what Agora Speakers is about, and want to attend a club meeting. Anyone can invite a guest to a club, and guests may sometimes even pop up unexpectedly if they asked someone about your club details and decided to show up. Guests may come alone or accompanied by other guests.
The way your club treats these guests is the way they will think - and speak, and write - of the whole organization. There's nothing better than good word-of-mouth references. And of course, there's nothing worse for the health of the whole organization than bad word-of-mouth.
Unless there are exceptional circumstances (such as not enough physical space at the meeting location, or for other safety reasons), Agora Speakers' bylaws require that all guests be allowed to meetings of public clubs.
Guests are also prospective members. In fact, experience has shown that people bringing guests to meetings is the main way in which membership grows.
Taking care of guests
For guests, especially if they show up alone, a club meeting can be initially a very intimidating environment, with so many new faces, a place where they don't know anyone, and sometimes they even don't know what the whole thing is about. Many of them may be very shy, and even the mere attendance to such a public event might be very stressful.
It is the responsibility of every attending member to make sure that guests feel welcomed. There's nothing worse for a guest to enter a venue full of "small closed circles" of friends talking to each other and ignoring the new person.
If you see someone new, approach and greet him, and introduce him to the rest of the members that you know, and also introduce the guest to the Meeting Leader. It's a good idea for the Meeting Leader to write down the names of the guests.
Some clubs like to ask guests to introduce themselves to the rest of the audience at the beginning of a meeting. They can do that from the place where they are seated, no need to go to the front.
In an ideal situation, the Meeting Leader will already know who the guests are so at the beginning of the meeting he could say something like
"Before we continue I'd like to ask the guests to introduce themselves and tell us how they found us and what they expect from the meeting. First we have John. John, could you please stand up and tells us something about yourself? How did you find us?"
However, in many cases the Meeting Leader will not be aware of who's a guest and who is not. In this case, simply ask guests to raise their hands and then in turn ask them to introduce themselves:
"Do we have any guests today? Please raise your hands if you're in our club for the first time. Thank you!
Before we continue I'd like to ask the guests to introduce themselves and tell us how they found us and what they expect from the meeting. (points at someone) Let's start over there. Could you please stand up and tell us something about yourself and how you found us?"
There are some portions of the meeting - such as the Impromptu Speeches / Hot Questions - that can be a delicate matter for guests that are shy or have an intense stage-fright. It's up to each club to decide whether they want guests to participate in these sections. In any case, if they do, never force a guest to speak if you see that they are shy or very nervous.
At the end of the meeting, it's a good idea to ask guests if they want to share their impression. A guest's opinion is always a very fresh feedback.
Once the meeting is over, the Vice President, Membership should talk to the guests and ask them explicitly if they liked the meeting and if they want to join. Many new membership opportunities are lost because club members don't take this very small last step of actually asking the guest to join. If they are not ready to join yet, it's also a good practice to have a guest book where guests can write down their names and contact information so that they can be notified of new meetings or new developments in the club. Note that personal information obtained from guests in this fashion may not be used for any other purpose or shared outside of the club. Many countries have also specific data-protection laws, which is the responsibility of the club to comply with.
The requests to join should always be polite and never done in a way that pressures or makes the guest feel uncomfortable.
It's recommended that clubs have a "Guest Pack" consisting of printed Club and Agora materials. This Guest Pack can include, for example:
• An introduction to Agora Speakers International and its mission and goals
• The Club charter and bylaws
• An explanation of the meeting structure and meeting roles
• A sample agenda
• The first three projects
• A club membership form detailing the club and Agora fees.
• Some tips about public speaking.
• Pins, stickers, or any other merchandising items.
• A card with all club officers and their contact information
• Club Business Cards with the club information and meeting schedule.
Guest packs can be handed out at the beginning of each meeting by the VPM (or the member he delegates to) to all guests.