Starting an Agora Speakers club is very easy, there are very few requirements, and there are no fees or formalities involved (no chartering fees nor any sort of mandatory purchases).
If you are coming from a different organization...
Starting a club is an exceptionally gratifying endeavor:
- It will teach you a lot about leadership. There's nothing more challenging than leading a community of volunteers, where you must constantly negotiate, persuade and delegate.
- You will be creating a lasting and positive impact on the lives of many people. We encourage a lot of out-of-club work and getting involved into leadership of real projects in the community, unrelated to Agora. We want the public speakers that we train to actually go out in the wild and speak and the leaders that we train to actually have a real and positive impact in the world around them. And by creating a club, you will be the starting point of all these ramifications of goodwill.
- You will be part of a vibrant and very passionate community.Some of the people you will meet and lead might turn into professional contacts, some into close friends.
- As Agora Speakers is relatively new, you will be probably creating history in your city or country and will be recognized as the one that started it there. You might end up even being interviewed on radio or TV, as it has already happened to some of our Ambassadors.
- It can be also a very solid proof of your abilities, should you pursue professional positions orjobs involving leadership, management or communications.
If you're starting the first club in your country or state, you might even want to apply to become an Agora Ambassador.
To start a club, you only need:
- A bit of time and energy.
- At least 8 more people interested to meet regularly. (This is usually easily achievable as there’s a lot of demand for this kind of learning)
- A meeting venue.
- If you don’t have experience with any other public speaking clubs or organizations, a bit of online training which we will provide.
Read thoroughly this guide to understand how we work.
Don't be shy to ask questions, either to [email protected], or by dropping by at any of our social media groups and asking there (for example, the "Agora Speakers International" Facebook group, at https://www.facebook.com/groups/agoraspeakers/ ).
Your questions also help us! They allow us to clarify and improve our materials, and become aware of things we havent thought of. We're all here to help.
It's very recommended that after you've read this guide, you watch a sample meeting. We have a raw, unedited video of a complete "demo" meeting that showcases all the elements of the guide. It is nonprofessional on purpose, so that you see how a normal, real-world meeting develops, instead of some idealized version of it. It also illustrates virtual participation - although the meeting was held in Madrid, Spain, members attended and participated also from Canada, India and the UK.
It's about 45 minutes in length: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYJpNVOliXA
It's best if you decide and commit to a schedule to guide you. Starting a club is much easier than it might seem at the beginning, as we can also help you in some of the stages.
Of course, the length of the schedule will depend on the amount of free time you have. Here's a guideline, but feel free to adapt it to your needs.
Amount of time
Learning about Agora (Step 1)
Creating a Schedule (Step 2)
Initial Club decisions (Steps 3,4 and 5)
(Optional) Branded Materials (Step 6)
Find Interested People (Steps 7,8)
Find a Meeting Venue (Step 9)
Plan a First Meeting (Step 10)
Hold the first meeting (Step 11)
You can name your club in any way you want, as long as it complies with the official naming rules and limitations.
There's no need to include "Agora" in your club's name. Your club could just be "Advanced Speakers of Paris", for example.
- Will it be a Public, Restricted or Corporate club?
- The meeting venue and days.
Which days of the week are you going to meet? Agora Speakers clubs must meet at least once a month, with the exception of summer holidays. Of course, you can meet more frequently - once every two weeks, or even weekly. Some clubs even meet more frequently. Whatever the case, it's best if your club has a well-defined meeting schedule.
- Languages that will be used in the club.
As mentioned before, we encourage Agora Speakers clubs to use not only English, but also local languages. You can have a club that only uses one local language, or clubs that alternate languages in meetings, or clubs that allow a selection of languages to be used in the same meeting.
- Club fees that will be charged to members.
These are separate from Agora's fees. Currently Agora's fees are waived, but your club can charge from day 1 to offset the costs of venues, materials, etc.
- Will the club allow virtual (remote) participants?
Some clubs allow members to attend virtually - through Skype or other video conferencing platforms. This usually requires internet connectivity at the venue and additional equipment such as projectors, cameras, loudspeakers, etc.
- What roles non-resident members will be allowed to perform.
A non-resident member is a member from any other Agora Speakers club that visits your club. You can decide that you will allow these special "guests" to take any role except prepared speeches. We encourage, however, that any Agora member is allowed to have any meeting role in any Agora club. This helps build confidence, as the member can practice public speaking in front of many different audiences, and not merely in front of the members of his home club.
- What roles guests will be allowed to perform.
You need also to decide what roles guests (people that are not members of Agora Speakers at all) will be allowed to perform at a meeting.
- Who will be the contact person for that club.
The contact person for a club can be any member (not necessarily a club officer) who will be in charge of replying to requests for information by interested people. The contact person will have their Email and telephone number listed in the global directory.
None of these decisions are "final" - you can always change any of these "club parameters" later simply by contacting us, or - when the automated system becomes available - changing them directly by logging to your club private area of the Agora website.
If you're really into marketing, you can also design your custom club logo, since many of the templates we provide in our branding portal allow for the inclusion of a second logo, besides the one of Agora Speakers.
Once you're ready, submit your club details to [email protected] , in order to get assigned a club number.
Also, check if there's an Ambassador in your country and contact him with your intention to start a new club.
An Ambassador acts as an Agora representative that is keen on helping people with the process of starting new clubs. You can check the countries for which Agora Speakers has Ambassadors here : www.agoraspeakers.org/worldwide.jsp . It is very recommendable that you sign up on the global Agora Speakers International Facebook Group, as well as the local Facebook group for your country.
If there is no Ambassador in your country, then as the creator of the first club you might want to step in as one? Check the special section about Ambassadors later in this manual.
Use the branding portal ( www.agoraspeakers.org/brand.jsp ) to create banners, agenda templates, etc. for your club. Please note that all digital assets must be used in accordance with the Branding Guidelines which you can find here: http://wiki.agoraspeakers.org/Branding+Guidelines
Contact people that might be willing to become members of your club, or that might help you with it.
At least 8 members are needed to create a new club, but it's better if you have between 10 and 15 to have a stable club. If you already have the prospective members, great!, jump to step 7. There's no need for chartering members to be new members of Agora. It's perfectly possible all members of a new club to belong also to other clubs:
Some possible ideas on how to recruit people are:
- Publish on your social media accounts your intention of starting an Agora Speakers club, as well as information about what Agora is and what the club will do.
- Email your contacts about your initiative.
- Email friends or members of other similar organizations that might be interested in the club.
- Spread the word about Agora Speakers in meetings you attend; invite attendees to the chartering meeting.
- Spread the word about Agora and your club in the social media groups you belong to. If the group is subject to strong moderation and censorship, it's recommended that you just observe the opinions of participating people, then identify those who could be responsive to your initiative and just comment publicly in the group that you sent them a private message, mentioning them by name to draw their attention. Then do the rest of the correspondence in private.
- Talk to members of other organizations that didn't renew their membership.
- Post event notices in sites like Meet Up or Internations
- Announce your intention of starting a club in either the Facebook Group of Agora in your country, or - if there is still not one created - in the Agora Speakers International Group.
- Create a Google AdWords or Facebook campaign targeting searches of "learning public speaking", "public speaking practice", "fear public speaking" or similar combinations, setting a geographical limit as precise as possible (ideally, your city)
- Leave flyers at universities, bookstores, libraries, etc.
- Google blogs, sites, forums and groups in your area for public speaking and leadership, and post a notice there. To avoid being labelled spam, make it clear that Agora Speakers is a nonprofit and the fees are absolutely minimal.
- Publish a free classified in the local cultural guide or newspaper.
- Write and send a press-release to the local newspapers and radio stations
To get more ideas, Google the name of clubs of other organizations in your area, and see the places where they've advertised, then use the same channels
It is a good idea to review all the information and presentations available about our organization, so that you may include the appropriate documents in your communications and highlight the main benefits of joining an Agora Speakers club.
Once Emails or messages from interested people start coming in, follow up with an explanation of what Agora is, how clubs work and how members benefit from the Agora experience.
You can use the official Agora presentations, either as-is, or customizing them to your needs. You can find them in the branding portal under the "Presentations" area.
The meeting venue should have the following characteristics:
- It should be a relatively private and quiet place
- It should be able to hold the number of people you expect, seated comfortably.
- It should have a separate area that can be used as a"stage".
Anything else is a welcome addition:
- A TV that can be connected to a computer, or (even better), a projector.
- Room set up (or that the owners allow to be set up) in a "theatre"/"auditorium", "classroom" or "u-style" setting.
- Try to avoid the "conference", "banquet", and "hollow square" style settings:
- Try also to avoid settings where the audience is distributed unevenly in two or more completely different areas, or with obstacles between the audience and the location of the speaker:
|Different Audience Distributions||Obstacles|
- If you have the choice, try to make the entrance as far away from the speaking area as possible, to avoid distractions if someone enters or leaves the room during the meeting.
|Door at the back||Door in front|
When searching for a venue, have in mind that meetings will be around 2 hours long (to keep it on the safe side).
Some ideas for meeting venues:
- Rooms in schools, universities, libraries or other public buildings. Since we're a nonprofit, we don't charge any fees and our activity and meetings are of educational nature, these institutions may offer a meeting place for free. If you need that we write officially to some government or public institution in order to prove our nonprofit nature and to help you secure a room, we can do that. Drop us a note at [email protected].
- If you schedule the meeting time on an appropriate day, many restaurants or bars may be willing to let you have a room for free in exchange of people attending buying for example a drink, as otherwise during that day their place might be empty anyway. So it's a win-win: they get some customers, you get a private room for free.
- Some of the interested people might work in companies that can offer you a meeting place at their premises.
- If the club membership is small, you can even meet in someone else's home.
- If all else fails, you can rent a room for 2h and share the cost among all people that attend.
- If there's absolutely no other possibility and the weather allows it, you can also meet in a park. These outdoor meetings are actually sometimes done on purpose even by clubs that do have a nice meeting venue, as it gets people out of their comfort zones and it draws lots of curious people that may later sign on.
Remember that you're not alone, and that you're not selling a product or service and dealing with "customers", but instead you're creating an environment that will help other people in their lives. Involve all the interested people in the venue search. You might get ideas and suggestions that you didn't even think of.
For the initial meeting, try to keep the opening costs as low as possible.
Congratulations!, you're almost there. Decide on a specific date for the first meeting and create a prospective agenda.
The first meeting can be in either of the two basic formats:
- A "demo" meeting, which is a scaled-down version of a regular meeting, demonstrating all the main elements. If you can get the help of people that are already members of other Agora Speakers clubs or know how we work, this is the preferred way.
- An "introductory"/"presentation" type meeting, in which you can explain the purpose of the club, the benefits for joining, how the club works, the different roles, etc. If you're the first club in your area and all the people you will be inviting are completely new, we recommend this format instead.
For a "demo" meeting, you don't need to have a full panel of speakers - usually just one prepared speech is enough. In general, you should have at least 8 people with the following roles:
- A meeting leader
- A Grammarian / Word of the Day / Filler Word counter
- A timer
- One speaker
- One speech evaluator
- One Hot Questions master
- One Hot Questions evaluator
- One meeting evaluator
These 8 people need to know what their role is about, and how to effectively perform it. The roles are explained in detail in the next sections. The rest of the attendees need not know how a club works.
In the branding portal (www.agoraspeakers.org/brand.jsp ) you will find several templates for meeting agendas that you can tailor to your needs. Of course, you can create your own format. If you do, remember that in order to be useful, a meeting agenda has to include the following pieces of information for every part of the meeting
- What the part is about ("Grammarian", "Thought of the Day")
- If it is a Speech Project, the title of the Speech and the project and educational path to which it corresponds.
- Who will be doing that role
- The timing of that part, specifying at what times the green, yellow and red timing signals should go off (check the section about the Timer meeting role for an explanation).
It is usually useful to create both Facebook and Google Calendar events, so that people can sign up and synchronize the meeting with their own agendas. Try not to plan to much in the future, as people usually sign up then forget about meetings more than two weeks in advance. Confirm with all participants the week before.
When you create the event, create it as a public event, so that people can find it and invite others, or post it on their blogs or walls.
Be sure also to announce your event either in the Agora Speakers Facebook group of your country, or the International one ( https://www.facebook.com/groups/agoraspeakers/ ).
Even if the meeting venue is very famous, even if you think everyone knows it very well, to avoid frustration it's always a good idea to take a few pictures of the location and to explain in detail how to get to the meeting room. Some guests to your meeting might not know the place, or they might even be from a different country.
Also, it's convenient to post pictures of the access to room itself.
If the venue allows it, print a couple of signs with arrows guiding the visitors to the meeting room.
Carry out the meeting. Make sure to print enough agendas, and especially to include in each agenda:
- Your club info and contact point
- The date, time and venue of the next meeting
Remember to take pictures, as you're making history , and send us the pictures so that we can publish them (confirm with the people on those pictures that they're ok with them being published).
At the end of the meeting, it is recommended that you remind people of the date of the next meeting, and ask people right there and then to commit to taking roles for the next meeting.
After the first meeting, it's time to decide about the Club Officers or Club Management Team. The required officer roles are described in later in this guide.
Usually the person that starts a club acts also as its first president. Some people stay as presidents for a full year, others prefer to start the club, make sure it's healthy and step down and do other things. It all depends on the amount of time you have.
For the rest of the officers, usually at the beginning you'll be doing all the roles, maybe for about a month or two. But it's recommend that you form a team of people you're comfortable with and delegate work as soon as possible to avoid burning out.
The first officers will be probably volunteers that you as a club founder appoint. Once the club is "stable" (meeting regularly with the same people coming back every meeting), you can ask for the next team during a special meeting of the club.
If there are more than two people wanting to do the same role, elections must be held.
The Agora Speakers community, and Agora Speakers International can help you in starting a club in a variety of ways:
- Advice and tips from people that have gone down this path, including meeting venue suggestions.
- Educational materials.
- Templates, logos, banner and stationery designs.
- You can produce all the materials locally.No need to buy stuff from a central location.
- Formal backing.
- Targeted promotion of your club or event, if it is the first club in your city.
However, please note that Clubs are local, independent entities organized and led by local volunteers for the benefit of local members. As such, Agora Speakers International cannot help with:
- Free physical goods of any kind.
- Compliance with the local regulations.
- Insurance, if required.
- Finding a meeting venue, or negotiations with local venue owners.