Why you should consider joining a Toastmasters club
In this post, the 2nd of 8 in my Toastmasters series, I will tell you more about Toastmasters: what it is, how it works and why you should consider joining a club.
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation created in 1924 that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking and leadership¹. As of today, there are more than 364000 members in more than 16200 clubs in 145 countries.
A club is a group of people who meet on a regular basis; it’s a friendly environment where you can practice your speaking skills and get plenty of feedback from the other members. After all, public speaking is like any other skill, only with regular feedback and deliberate practice you can improve.
The typical structure of a club meeting is in two parts.
Half of the meeting is dedicated to prepared speeches. Up to 4 people can book a slot in advance and prepare a speech they will have to deliver in front of their fellow members. Every speech is assessed by an assigned evaluator who will give feedback to the speaker in front of everyone else, effectively by delivering a short speech themselves. All the other members can also provide feedback either on post-it notes or online messages if the meeting is online.
The other half of the meeting is dedicated to impromptu speaking, in Toastmasters jargon “Table Topics”. A Table Topics Master will prepare a list of questions on a certain topic and the participants will have to answer by delivering an impromptu speech for up to 2 minutes. All Table Topics participants will also receive an evaluation by a Table Topics Evaluator. Another post dedicated to Table Topics and impromptu speaking will be coming soon.
At the end of the meeting, the President will assign awards to the best speaker, the best Table Topic speaker and the best evaluator.
Apart from delivering a prepared or an impromptu speech, there are many other opportunities to practice your public speaking skills during a club meeting. That is thanks to the so-called functionary roles, which are essential to run a meeting. We already mentioned Table Topics Master and Speech Evaluator. Here is a list of the others:
- Toastmaster: effectively runs the meeting going through the agenda and calling all the speakers on stage.
- Timekeeper: time is key during a meeting, all speeches have time constraints and the timekeeper is the one who enforces them using a traffic light system to notify the speakers.
- Grammarian: listens to all speakers and provides feedback at the end of the meeting about the use of the language, including figures of speech, rhetorical devices and filler words. Also defines the word of the day, explains its meaning at the beginning of the meeting and encourages all the speakers to use it when they speak.
- General Evaluator: usually a guest from another club who gives feedback on the whole meeting and all the functionary roles at the end of the meeting.
Any club member can and is encouraged to take any of these roles to practice their communication, public speaking and leadership skills.
Every club is run by a committee. The committee members are:
- President: directs the club, leads the committee, and represents the club on Area and District councils.
- VP of Education: handles educational program, makes sure members are making progress towards their objectives and organises the agenda for the club meetings.
- VP of Membership: responsible for keeping up and increasing the number of members.
- VP of Public Relations: looks afters the club’s image, both internally and externally.
- Secretary: responsible for the club’s records and administration.
- Treasurer: in charge of the club’s finances.
- Sergeant at Arms: looks after the logistics of every meeting, and effectively hosts the meeting.
- VP of Mentorship: promotes mentorship in the club and ensures every club member has a mentor.
As you may have guessed from the aforementioned stats, there are clubs everywhere. Wherever you live, chances are there is a Toastmasters club near you. During the current pandemic, it’s even easier to join one as all clubs are meeting online.
But what happens once you join a club? First of all, you can attend a club meeting as a guest to understand what’s going on and if that is the right club for you.
Once you join, you have access to Pathways on the Toastmasters International website where you can choose your pathway according to your personal learning objectives. There are 11 different pathways tailored to a number of different needs, from Presentation Mastery to Dynamic Leadership, from Effective Coaching to Persuasive Influence, just to name a few. Once you choose your pathway, you will be presented with a curriculum, organised in 5 levels, each level with a number of projects. In each project you will learn some new concept and you will be given an assignment. Most assignments are about preparing a speech either on a specific theme or following specific instructions and delivering it during one of the club meetings.
Another benefit of joining a club is that you are assigned a mentor, another member of the club who can give you advice and help you achieve your goals. One of my following posts will focus on mentorship.
So why should you consider joining a Toastmasters club? Hopefully all the above provides a clear picture of what goes on in a club. In summary, a club is a friendly environment with people from diverse backgrounds who share similar goals, e.g. wanting to become more confident speakers and leaders. You should consider joining a club if you are keen to:
- Improve your public speaking skills.
- Build and practice your leadership skills.
- Work on your personal growth.
- Create connections with people from diverse backgrounds.
- Gain more self-confidence and self-awareness.
This is the end of the second post of my Toastmasters series. In the next one I will walk you through the 3 components of a great speech.
Watch this space!