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All You Need to Know About Toastmasters

Public Speaking, Storytelling and off the cuff confident speaking are the key skills in today’s ever-changing world. It is not only for students or politicians, it is useful for every walk of life from private life to business.

There are several courses available provided by universities and private companies. Some of them providing this as a part of the profession, improve company culture or community development.

Toastmasters are one of these community-led non-profit organisations and I thought I would answer some of the most common questions that are asked about Toastmasters by combining different information available through different sources.

First of all, let’s start with an easy way by revealing what is Toastmasters NOT about;

  • It’s not a cooking club

  • It’s not a club for selling toasters

  • It’s not a set of people who learn about toasting

To be able to explain properly what Toastmasters is stood for, I will use one of the best-known technique called Fishbone Diagram also known as Cause-effect or 5W1H which stands for What, Who, When, Where, Why and How. Let’s adapt this to our subject;

  1. What is Toastmasters?

  2. Who joins Toastmasters?

  3. When did Toastmasters Start?

  4. Where do Toastmasters Meet?

  5. Why Should You Join Toastmasters?

  6. How to Join Toastmasters?

1. What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters is one of the best learn by doing educational forums for communication and leadership. Toastmasters is a forum that works on the lines of a rotary club model. The members need to be pay £10 per month with a one-off £20 initial joining fee. This fee is paid to Toastmasters International, the central body that is headquartered in California, USA. Sometimes, clubs might collect an extra fee for other operational expenses.

The fascinating part of Toastmasters is that the paying club members are creating the club environment. Nobody is getting paid to create this environment but people step up and run the club. Each club has the following key roles:

  1. President (in other words CEO) who runs the whole show.

  2. Vice President Education (in other words, the HR) who is responsible for achieving club educational goals.

  3. Vice President Membership (in other words “Sales”) who is responsible for converting the club visitors into club members.

  4. Vice President Public Relation (in other words “marketing”) who is responsible for marketing activities of the club.

  5. Secretary is like the “Spokesperson” of the club.

  6. Sergeant at Arms (in other words “Operations”) who is responsible for logistics of the club.

There are many other things Toastmasters offer but I believe the unique selling point of Toastmasters is that it gives you an environment to practice and make mistakes without any penalty.

Usually, we pay a big penalty when we mess up during a presentation, whether it’s in front of a social circle or business colleagues. But Toastmasters is more like a workshop or a training ground.

The building blocks of the organization:

  1. are the Clubs, where people join as members

  2. a group of clubs forms an Area

  3. a group of areas form a Division

  4. a group of divisions form a District

  5. a group of districts covers the entire Organization

The geographical boundary of each district is based on the membership count. For example, the United States can have more than 10 districts, India can have four districts or one district for a group of Southeast Asian countries.

The boundary of a district can keep changing based on the changing membership counts in that region. If the modern world is divided at a high level by countries, then the Toastmasters’ world is divided at a high level by districts.

Toastmasters International is:

  • A non-profit educational organization,

  • Comprised of over 345,000+ members in over 142 countries,

  • Represented by over 15,900+ clubs, and

  • Empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders since 1924.

Most Toastmasters clubs meet weekly or two weekly for 1-2 hours, and follow a pretty basic agenda:

  • Prepared speeches – Members are given opportunities to prepare, rehearse, and then deliver presentations in front of their fellow members.

  • Speech evaluations – Whenever you speak in Toastmasters, you receive helpful and supportive evaluations from your peers.

  • Impromptu speaking – Members practice speaking “off the cuff” for one or two minutes by responding to general topics of interest (table topics).

2. Who Joins Toastmasters?

Anyone over the age of 18 can join Toastmasters, provided they have the desire to improve their communication and leadership skills.

Beyond that, Toastmasters members are a diverse group, spanning countries and cultures, and all socio-economic backgrounds.

The Toastmasters International website tells us that:

  • 52% of members are female and 48% are male.

  • Average annual household income: $55,000-$75,000.

  • 27% earn $100,000+ annually.

  • 69% of members are between the ages of 35 and 49.

  • 77% of members have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • 39% of members have a master’s degree or higher.

What industries employ Toastmasters?

  • 20% Sales, Consulting, Self Employed

  • 18% Management

  • 15% Finance & Insurance

  • 15% Government

  • 12% Education

  • 20% Other

What Benefits Toastmasters provide?

  • Clearer communication

  • Improved Leadership skills

  • Enhanced teamwork

  • Effective meetings

  • Increased productivity

  • Positive mentoring

  • Complements existing training programs

  • Cost-effective

3. When Did Toastmasters Start?

The first Toastmasters club was started by Ralph Smedley in Santa Ana, California in 1924 at a local YMCA to meet the need for speech and leadership training for young men. His initial “Ten Lessons in Public Speaking” still forms the core of the Toastmasters educational program as the 10 projects of the Competent Communicator manual. (It has, of course, been updated and revised many times.)

The single club turned into a network of affiliated Toastmasters Clubs as the idea spread throughout southern California. When an affiliated club formed in British Columbia, Toastmasters International was born.

4. Where Do Toastmasters Meet?

Nearly everywhere! Well, I might be exaggerating a bit, but the network of clubs is growing:

15,900+ Toastmasters clubs meet in over 142 countries and more opens every day.

Clubs meet within corporations, in community centres, on university and college campuses, in churches and temples, in restaurants, in libraries, in prisons, and many other places.

Types of Clubs:

  • Community

  • Corporate

  • College

  • Government Agency

  • Religious

  • Online

The majority of clubs are still in North America (8,800+), but the organization is growing fastest outside of North America (7,100+), particularly in Asia.

Most clubs meet weekly or two weekly basis for 1-2 hours.

5. Why Should You Join Toastmasters?

Everyone has their own personal reasons for joining Toastmasters, but here are a few of the most common:

  • Become a Better Public Speaker: Members work through a series of educational programs (at their own pace) designed to improve their ability to write speeches, design presentations, and deliver them.

  • Overcome Public Speaking Fears: The most positive and supportive audience in the world is a Toastmasters club audience. Speaking regularly in front of a group helps you calm your nerves and communicate effectively.

  • “Practice” Presentations for Other Audiences: Everyone has different motivations for wanting to speak better. Maybe you want to hone your presentation skills for your career. Perhaps you want to be able to speak out in your volunteer organization. Maybe you want to complement your portfolio as an author, manager, or other professional with speaking gigs? Whatever the case, Toastmasters is a wonderful laboratory for you to practice your presentations and gain valuable feedback.

  • Gain the Confidence and Courage to Lead: Leadership and communication skills are intimately bound. Some might argue that leadership is nothing more than the ability to effectively communicate a vision. As your communication skills improve, your ability to lead will improve as well.

I am sure some of my valuable readers are Toastmasters, so I would like to pass this question to you and would really appreciate if you could provide brief information on

  • Why did you join?

  • What advice would you pass to someone considering joining?

Let us know in the comments.

6. How to Join Toastmasters?

Search the Toastmasters club database to find clubs where you live. Please click on the link to check

If you live in an urban area, you may have many options. Narrow the list down based on the time of day (morning, mid-day, evening) or day of the week (most clubs meet Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) that works best for you.

Visit several clubs (if the options exist). Don’t settle for the first club you find. Every club has a unique club culture. Find the one that suits you the best.

If you are in and around #Bromley and #Beckenham area, you are welcome to attend

Sign up. Toastmasters dues are inexpensive, particularly compared to other training options. Membership is £10 per month with a one-off £20 joining fee.

Commit yourself to excellence. Toastmasters is a program where you only get out in proportion to what you put in.

Any Other Questions?

If you are considering joining Toastmasters and have questions, drop a question into the comments, click one of our #BeckenhamCommunicators link above or contact me directly.

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