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Monday, November 20, 2006

Storytelling Super-Market: 3 Ways to Draw People

Storytellers can gain more than food and coupons while at the supermarket. As shared by Johnny Uy, the Toastmasters International President, a supermarket provides a structure to create more loyalty to individuals and organizations.

Storytellers are constantly recruiting people to the art, much like a supermarket welcomes customers into the doors.

I will never grocery shop the same way as three questions will linger from Johnny Uy’s workshop “Super-Marketing Toastmasters” as part of the Fall 2006 District 15 Conference for Toastmasters International on November 11th. (See picture of Johnny Uy, his wife Irene, and I.)

Three Questions to Apply to Yourself and/or Organization:

  1. Why do you walk in a particular supermarket?
  2. What makes the customers happy so as to continue going to your supermarket?
  3. How does the store stay competitive by meeting the needs of the customers?

Why do you walk in a particular supermarket?
Ask yourself why people go to your storytelling performances. Ask why people attend your storytelling guild/organization. Ask why people go to you.

Who has not received coupons from a supermarket every week, if not every day? We cannot expect everyone to happily stumble upon our performance, guild, or organization. Beyond fliers, grocery chains usually have a community board to place posters.

Johnny shared how back issues of the Toastmasters magazine can be placed in strategic places of where people wait. Offices of doctors, dentists, and car mechanics may welcome the “Storytelling Magazine” or other storytelling publications. Upon placement, Johnny urged that the contact info be attractive and in a prominent place. Otherwise it would be like dangling a carrot and no way to get more carrots.

Part of Nationwide Chain
For over 82 years, Toastmasters continues its tradition of communication and leadership training. This organization consistently grows year by year, with now more than 211,000 members, due to how it uses its credibility.

How long has storytelling been around? We could say storytelling was around as soon as humans could speak. In regards to organizations, we have the National Storytelling Network, the International Storytelling Foundation, Utah Storytelling Guild, etc. Let us be proud of our heritage.

How about you as an individual storyteller? I am now on my 13th year as a storyteller as my path started as a high school sophomore. Remember that you have your own history—whether it started today or over half a century ago.

There can always be fallout of membership/attendees. When Toastmasters loses a member, they conduct an exit survey. Johnny said that 100% of exiting members left happy and satisfied, meeting their goals. This respect will promote Toastmasters, even when the member is not active.

With the respect as a performer or as a group, publicize major activities. The National Storytelling Network asks for location submissions of Tellabration!, a world-wide event of storytelling over the course of a weekend. Take advantage of such service.

Happens to be Convenient/Meets Immediate Need
How close is the grocery store at which you shop? Most likely, people want to attend performances, guilds, and organizations within certain areas. Make it easy for people to find where you will be for meetings and concerts.

As for immediate need, perhaps you know someone who will give a major presentation. Johnny suggested approaching graduate students who must defend dissertations. Storytelling is a communication skill and you may be able to draw people to your meetings with that thought.

What makes the customers happy so as to continue going to your supermarket?
So you entered the doors of the supermarket. Who is to say you will continue shopping there?

Customers Greeted/Personnel Treat Customers with Courtesy
Some places have an official greeter so that customers feel welcomed. Do you welcome people as they attend your concert? I have always believed in “Go early, stay late.” Do you welcome people as they attend your guild/organization? Even if someone sits in a corner on their own accord, do not let them go home friendless.

Personnel Help Find Needs/Advise on Products
Johnny says that in Toastmasters there is supposed to be a coach/mentor assigned for every new member. What if storytellers applied the same principle? If someone is new to the art of storytelling, some kind of orientation outside of the guild meeting with the mentor could build loyalty in no time.

Johnny adds that it should be checked to see if the coach/mentor is actually doing the job. Simply appointing two people together does not guarantee progress.

Maintains Database of Customers
Some grocery stores keep databases so as to send specific coupons to customers. What are the types of “coupons” you give?

Storytellers may have databases for different reasons. I keep emails of storytellers and story appreciators so I can send a listing of Utah storytelling events open to the public as well as to let them know about my latest blog entry.

Storytelling guilds/organizations should have an updated list of their members and keep in touch with them. Show the members that you know that they exist.

If someone was absent at the last meeting, do leaders find out why the member was missing? Missing one meeting can lead to two meetings, which makes it easier to miss three times and so on. Have your members feel important. Attendance will surge.

Complete Line of Products/Food (so don’t go elsewhere)
Toastmasters offer varied, stimulating and complete educational programs to help their members develop communication and leadership skills. Can you say the same thing?

Professional storytellers tend to do more than mere entertainment when performing. Many tellers prefer to have their audience inspired or influenced in some way. When at a guild meeting, there must also be growth like in leadership skills of members and topics that are of interest.

Johnny emphasized that a gathering is complete when there is fun. He suggested that themed meetings, like holding a Halloween one at the cemetery, could bring excitement. There are times to be serious, though rarely at a guild meeting. This is a time to share stories and ideas that can build each other beyond business and into friendships.

Aggressive Pricing
Toastmasters have 2-for-1 offers in that new members receive two manuals to guide them in communication and leadership skills. The manuals alone would make the monthly dues of minimal consequence.

As Co-Chair of the Youth, Educators, and Storyteller Alliance, I look for ways to keep the members happy. We have a website with our online database so members can network. Recently, members received a beautiful YES! pin and pen. They have discounts for Pre-Conference. I expect our list of benefits to increase in time.

How does the store stay competitive by meeting the needs of the customers?
People have unending choices on how and where they spend their time. Always be grateful to those to come to your performance, guild, or organization no matter how large or small.

Survey Other Supermarkets
Visit other performing artist concerts, clubs, and organizations. You can always get ideas from them of what ways build success. Though I am not a member of Toastmasters, I learned from their Conference. I respect Toastmasters to such degree that I would recommend their organization to anyone.

Johnny was asked how many organizations in which he was a member. He smiled and said he belonged only to Toastmasters though he “visits” many other groups. Then Johnny said that he invited other organizations to his organization so he can get their feedback. An outsider’s perspective could notice things to which long-time members are oblivious. Even better, there can be speaker exchanges. Wouldn’t a Toastmaster be a great speaker for a storytelling guild and vice versa?

Joint Promotions with Supermarkets
Though Toastmasters is a strong organization, they enjoy combining efforts in shared causes with other groups such as the Kiwanis. This can promote camaraderie and goodwill with other clubs. There can even be joint meetings or joint induction ceremonies.

When I was president of the Brigham Young University Storytelling Club, we joined performances with “cousin clubs” such as Y Juggle to put on the event “Once Upon a Juggler.” It became a tradition that all enjoyed.

Maintains Cleanliness of Store
Where are you holding your performances or meetings? Johnny says that the room may not be a place filled with cockroaches, though there are others ways for an environment to be wholesome. For example, a person should feel safe when attending. Avoid negative comments and gossip and focus on what is positive about the event/meeting.

Employees Given Sales/Productivity Quotas
Be prepared with a status report on attendance or membership and give an official acknowledgment of numbers at least once a year.

Toastmasters love contests to drive membership. There may be prizes involved though Johnny admits that the bragging rights are most valuable. He recommends that the contests be measurable and will somehow achieve goals of the members. Having a partner for the contest promotes results.

You can brainstorm ways on how you may have contests in connection with your event, guild, or organization.

Efficient Customer Response (ECR), Getting what the Customer Needs at the Time the Customer Needs it
I notice that some grocery stores have comment boxes so as to discover the needs of their customers. The needs determine the inventory. What store wants gallons upon gallons of milk that will go sour?

Johnny recommends conducting a member survey at least every year, if not every six months. Once the interests are found, then meet those needs. Leaders should be willing to listen to complaints from members and to address them in some way.

Remember these insights from Johnny Uy of Toastmasters every time you walk into a supermarket.

If you do, then people will be drawn to your tasty tales and mouth-watering meetings time after time.

Meet the Toastmasters International President:

Johnny Uy—He has been actively involved in Toastmasters for 17 years. He had held many officer positions, beginning at the club level. He moved up through the Toastmaster ranks until his election as International President in August 2006 at the International Toastmasters Convention in Washington D.C. He leads over 211,000 members. He is also president of Pawe Group, Inc. in Cebu City, Philippines.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

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