As a member of the District Leadership Team I’m often asked to induct a new member to Rotary. It kind of goes with the territory and it is a pleasure to do. I’ve also watched various club presidents do the honors. Unfortunately, for the most part, inducting a new member seems to fall into a “polar vortex” of public speaking mistakes that cheapens the experience for all concerned. So….here are some tips to consider for your next new member induction.
Let’s start with Inductions 101 which entails reading the induction ceremony. If you need a copy you can find several sample induction ceremonies available online as a PDF called New Member Inductions. The written ceremonies have the advantage of sounding formal and official. And they allow the inductor to not worry that they have missed anything important or that they will make some kind of “gaffe” that will embarrass themselves or their new member, not to mention the current club members.
The problem is that READING the induction breaks every rule of good public speaking. It’s usually done with no eye contact with the audience. It screams that this isn’t important enough to do without reading a script, and it’s usually delivered in a monotone. In short, it is as far from memorable as you can get. So, my first tip is that if you are going to read a new member induction (or anything that you present as a speaker), you should PRACTICE! Here is what you do. Go to your bathroom or another room with a mirror. Read the induction, OUT LOUD, ten times. Look at yourself in the mirror as much as possible while reading. Try to memorize at least five different lines. Listen to yourself! Try to make your voice conversational while you read. The key is to HEAR what the induction sounds like in your own voice. When you actually read the script in front of the club it will sound natural and more like a speech than a reading assignment. However, if you read the same script each time your club members will know it, and they will pay an appropriately diminishing amount of attention each time you read it.
If you are up to it, (and I think you are), DON’T READ THE SCRIPT. Instead, just say what is in your heart to a new member about joining Rotary. How about starting with talking about Rotary or about your club? Your club’s history in the community is a great place to start. Then, you might challenge a new member with what they need to do as a new Rotarian. If you want a great list for suggestions for new member requirements, go to Rotary Club Central New Members. Here are a few of my own ideas you might consider: 1) Get to know the people in the club, 2) Sit at different tables, 3) Learn more about Rotary at RLI, 4) Attend the District Conference, 5) Join several club committees, 6) Express your opinion freely and often, 7) Brag about your new status as a Rotarian in the community and bring a guest to the meeting, 8) Do the things your club asks of you in the “fireside chat” and remove your “red badge” of new membership. 9) Aspire to join the club’s Leadership Team, and 10) My favorite….Hold club leaders to the highest standards. Expect a lot from them.
Jot down your favorite five ideas on a piece of paper and practice saying a little something about each. Here’s one to get you started, “Get to know the people in our club. They are not as scary as they look from up here. (Wait for the laugh….wait for it….wait for it….now proceed.) You will find one of the greatest joys in Rotary is the friendships you are about to make.” Don’t be constrained with my ten ideas, come up with eight of your own. It’s your personal message to a new member so be as creative as you want. The good news here is ANYTHING is better than reading the script.
Joining a Rotary club should be a momentous occasion for a new member. It is a chance for club leaders to show off their love of Rotary and their Leadership skills. Don’t waste this chance to wow your club members and put on a show. But no matter what you do and how you do it, end by having all the club members stand and have the new member’s sponsor affix the new Rotary pin. And yes…it’s OK to make a joke about drawing blood. Everyone does!