What exactly is “Toastmasters”?

by | Sep 30, 2014

Vanessa CollinsI decided to join Toastmasters a few years ago because I wanted to improve my speaking ability. As a minister and seminar leader, I often spoke in church settings where I was very comfortable. However, I wanted to be comfortable speaking in a variety of situations. Toastmasters has been a great experience and I am always recommending it every chance I get.

It is during these times that I find out that many people have heard of Toastmasters, however, they are not quite sure what it is. Toastmasters International (the official name) is a nonprofit educational organization that oversees the operations of clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills. They provide communication and leadership projects designed to help people learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking.

What Happens at a Typical Meeting

While each club may decide to run their meetings a little differently, most meeting are generally broken into 3 major sections; impromptu speeches, prepared speeches and evaluations.  During the impromptu speeches, which we call Table Topics, the leader will ask 3 – 4 members to respond to a question.  These speeches are 1-2 minutes and are designed to give people practice thinking on their feet. 

The prepared speeches are assigned several weeks in advance. Each member has a Toastmasters Manual that they are working out of which consist of projects to be completed.  It is up to the individual member to decide which project they will work on.  These speeches can last from 5-10 minutes depending on the project.  Some of the advance projects are a little longer. 

The last section includes evaluating the prepared speeches. Each speaker is assigned a member that will evaluate their speech based on the parameters given in the manual.  The evaluator will present their comments, which is in itself, a 2-3 minute speech.

Most meetings run between 60-90 minutes and clubs generally meet 2-4 times a month.

How Much Does it Cost

The cost to join Toastmasters varies depending on the club. Most clubs cost less than $45 bi-annually.  There is an initial $20 signup fee which will cover your membership kit and first 2 manuals.

How do I find a club?

You can search for clubs in your area on Toastmasters.org. There are thousands of clubs worldwide so chances are you will find a club nearby.

My Experience

I just completed my first Toastmasters manual, the “Competent Communicator.” I am also serving as President of our local New Albany Toastmasters Club. This has been an awesome experience and I am looking forward to completing other projects. Below, you can see my 10th speech, “The Truth About Comfort Zone.”  While I made a few mistakes, I was generally pleased with how it turned out.

The New Albany Toastmasters Club currently meets every 1st, 3rd and 5th Thursday at 6:30 PM at the New Albany Library in downtown New Albany, IN.  There is no cost to visit a meeting. We would love to see you!