Classification Talk

A great way to share information about your vocation is to give a classification talk at a club meeting.  Talk to your club President to schedule a date for your talk.

The classification talk was traditionally used to acquaint Rotarians with a member’s profession. Most of us don’t know what its like to be a dentist, or an airline pilot, or a midwife, or a pharmacist.  But the Object of Rotary also focuses on the personal aspects of life, which is why tying Rotary to both your professional and personal story is appropriate.


A Rotary Classification talk is designed to be very brief: 3 – 5 minutes.  This is your opportunity to tell your club the important parts of your personal and professional life – not all the story, but just enough that we can begin to ask questions.

Think “four minutes and four questions.” 

1.  What are you passionate about?
2. Why do you do what you do professionally?
3. Who are your most important relationships?
4. How do we Rotarians fit into your life?
If you prefer, you can organize your talk around time:
  i. History: how did you get here?
  ii. Present: What’s the focus of your personal and professional life?
  iii. Future: What do you hope to become, through Rotary and your other relationships?
Bottom Line: tell what we should know to begin an interesting conversation with you.

About Me Talk

An alternative to your Classification Talk is an About Me Talk.  This gives you 25-30 minutes, including Q&A, to go into more depth about your vocation and life story.  The next time you are due to provide a club program, consider doing an About Me Talk!

A great way to prepare is to write an outline of points you want to cover. Go from general characteristics of your career field to the specific duties involved in your particular job today.

Examples might include:

  • Why you chose your particular business or profession
  • In your younger years, what were the meaningful contributors that prepared you for today?
  • Parts of your job you find most rewarding and most difficult.
  • Forecast employment opportunities in your field for the coming decade.
  • Advice you would give persons entering your career field.
  • How your profession is being impacted by technology, government regulations, and environmental factors.
  • Ethical issues you face at work, and how the Rotary 4-Way Test and the Rotary Code of Conduct helps you deal with them.
  • What do you hope for as your next milestone in life?
  • Has your family played a role?
  • Walk us down memory lane – tell us about you, including career highlights and low-lights, family, etc.

Speaking Tips

  • Speak clearly and in an audible tone – stick to your prepared text or outline (Doing it once in front of mirror usually helps).
  • Use hand movements sparingly –avoid nervous habits such as coughing or twitching.
  • Maintain eye contact and always face your audience.
  • Avoid the urge to rush; you have plenty of time.
  • Try to relax as much as possible
  • Allow genuine emotion into your voice.
  • Visuals such as PowerPoint can be used, but are not necessary.

Always keep in mind:

The Object of Rotary

…is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • The development of personal relationships as an opportunity for service;
  • High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

History of the Classification Principle

When a lawyer named Paul Harris, a coal dealer, a mining engineer, and a merchant tailor first met in 1905 in Chicago, they gave birth to Rotary and, by the nature of their diverse occupations, to the association’s most distinctive feature – the classification principle. Today, the classification principle, though modified, remains a cornerstone of Rotary.

By encouraging active membership through diverse classifications, each club becomes a cross-section of the business and professional life of the community it serves.  Also, the classification principle makes sure that no one profession or business becomes the dominant force within the club.

Another benefit of the classification system is that representatives of many fields are brought together, providing the opportunity for Rotarians to broaden their knowledge of today’s workplace. This, in turn, enables Rotarians to fulfill one of the basic obligations of vocational service – recognizing the worthiness to society of all useful occupations.