What To Know about Toastmasters

Does the thought of speaking to a room full of people make you nervous? Have you given up on the idea that you could EVER speak to a group? Have you heard of Toastmasters?

I’ll share with you my experience.  For over 20 years, I occasionally thought of going to a meeting. But, I was shy about it. I didn’t know anyone in Toastmasters.  I didn’t know that guests were welcome and free to attend. I went to Toastmasters.org and found some meetings near me.  I visited three different clubs and saw that they all follow the same basic agenda.  I joined Meadowvale Toastmasters.  

I wish I had joined sooner!  It’s the highlight of my week.  I never imagined that speaking to a room full of strangers would be an enjoyable experience. Meadowvale Toastmasters is an excellent club. https://585043.toastmastersclubs.org

G’day! Welcome my friend to WTK, the “What to know” show. I’m your host Peter, Whelan.  I’m not a spokesman for Toastmasters.  I’m sharing with you my experience.

As you know, the ability to speak effectively is a skill that’s ABSOLUTELY worth developing. It’s one of the most sought after skills in business today. At some point in your life, you’re going have to make a speech.

I use to work with a guy who was refused promotion and a big raise because he could not make a presentation to a small group of programmers. I know another guy who’s afraid to get married because he’d have to make a speech. Or, so he says.

Toastmasters can help. As you know, no amount of reading will turn you into a writer. Well, no amount of listening will turn you into a speaker. You become a better speaker by speaking.

When is the last time YOU felt you were really heard? Toastmasters is a supportive place you can practice speaking in front of a live audience.  You’ll get feedback from people who LISTEN to you with their full attention.  That’s HUGE! We all have a fundamental need to be heard. 

I’ve learned a tremendous amount and expect to learn a lot more in the years ahead.

Over the last year, I’ve seen dramatic improvement in new members.

I’ve watched as both new and advanced members of the club captivated the audience.<>

Some clubs have been running for over 80 years, so they have a system figured out.  Each member is on a self paced path for what we are to work on for each speech.

Toastmasters run meetings on time.  Plan to arrive 10 minutes before the start time to get settled in.

When you arrive, you’ll be greeted and ask you to sign the guest book. 

At every meeting there will be members there with one thing in common, a desire to improve their speaking skills.   Toastmaster clubs are run BY the members, FOR the members. All the members pay dues. There isn’t an instructor. No one is paid to be there.   

Each meeting has a documented agenda and takes about 2 hours.  That means that the meetings are well organized and run on time.

At the beginning, the agenda is reviewed.   The roles are explained by the members who take turns performing them each week.  That means that everyone gets a chance to speak for at least a minute or two.

As a guest, you will be ASKED, but NOT required, to stand up and introduce yourself.  Speak briefly about why you are interested in Toastmasters.   

I went because I was invited to speak half way around the world, at a conference in South Africa. I planned to do it well and Meadowvale Toastmasters proved to be a great place to practice.  I presented a 7 minute excerpt of my hour long speech to the club.  Their feedback helped make my speech one of the highest rated at the international conference. Toastmasters is a supportive place to take some risks, try out different approaches to the same speech. Speak with wider range than you are comfortable with.  Use hand gestures and the stage in effective ways.

You can take part in table topics, if you want to.  That gives you the opportunity to speak off the top of your head for a minute or two, on some random topic.  This is important because that’s the kind of speaking you may have to do for work.

After that comes the prepared member speeches of 5 to 7 minutes each.  Toastmasters are self motivated. We write and practice our speeches beforehand.

Next comes the evaluations of the prepared speeches.  What does that mean to you? Some of the best feedback you’ll ever get, is from people who aren’t particularly interested in what you have to say.

The members listen and evaluate you because, that’s the deal in Toastmasters.  Giving and listening to evaluations benefits all members.

Near the end of the meeting, guests are invited to stand up and briefly give their impressions.

But there’s a lot more to Toastmasters than that.  There are speech competitions that you can enter, if you want to.  I’ll include a link in the show notes to the 2019 world champion.   As you watch, remember that at one time, he was a nervous beginner.

You’ll also get the monthly Toastmaster magazine which is full of speaking related tips from other members.  Imagine your own article in here someday.

As a guest, it’s not obvious what’s involved in running a successful meeting.  You may be focussed on how nervous you are.  I know I was. I was oblivious to the leadership that is a large part of Toastmasters.

To have a successful meeting, there’s work that the members volunteer to do. 

  • promote the meeting
  • book and pay for the room
  • collect membership fees
  • create and distribute agendas
  • setup the room with video, timer lights and projector
  • record and distribute the minutes
  • schedule speakers and evaluators
  • track education and much more

As a member, you can run in the elections to be a club officer.  That means that you can gain leadership experience outside of work.  Who knows, your experience could lead to a promotion at work.   I joined a year ago and I’m currently serving as president of Meadowvale Toastmasters.  We meet every Thursday at 6:30 in the Meadowvale Community Center.  If you come to our club, be sure to say hi.

The website https://www.Easy-Speak.org is useful. It’s a volunteer created, donation supported website for managing your club. If your club isn’t using easy-speak to manage everything, then it’s time to start.  

But first, find clubs in your area.  When would now be a good time to go to https://www.toastmasters.org Attend a few meetings and decide for yourself if this is something that will be useful to you.

Thank you for watching.