Ever heard of Toastmasters?
Over the last 10 years or so Toastmasters has been brought to my attention several times in one way or another but I never really looked further into what it was all about.
I made the connection that it had something to do with (public) speaking, as in when an emcee makes a toast at a function or glasses are raised to toast someone.
Recently toastmasters was brought to my attention yet again on three different occasions. After the third time I decided to find out more, and lo and behold was invited to a meeting the following week!!
In a couple of conversations where I mentioned the evening’s events, I was asked what Toastmasters is all about, so I decided to write something for you about it.
Origins of the Toastmasters
Toastmasters was originally formed in 1924 by Ralph C. Smedley, a then-employee of the Bloomington, Illinois YMCA. It is a non-profit organisation in the education sector with its headquarters in California.
His aim was to provide men in the community with guidelines on adopting and improving communication skills. The idea was well taken, the first Toastmasters club founded, “and the rest is history…” as they say.
Wow, they start on time!
One of the things I liked the most about the Toastmasters meeting – they started on time. All too often you go to a meeting and people turn up late with no thought of those who arrived early or on time. And even those who arrive early are sitting around talking, sometimes 15 or more minutes before they actually begin.
My take on this – a waste of time and lack of respect for those arriving on time.
Besides being punctual, the meeting was well structured and very productive.
The benefits Toastmasters offer
- Toastmasters offer personal, company and community benefits.
The organisation’s mission is about teaching and inspiring people to become (betters) speakers. You learn to do so in a very practical way either by preparing a speech or by being thrown into the deep end and being asked to give a short impromptu speech.
Evaluators assess your “performance” and give tips on how and what to improve.
- On a personal level, your mentor and members give hands-on training and guided feedback to help you develop your skills. Speaking confidently and eloquently expressing yourself when called on to speak publically are the rewards.
- The leadership skills you acquire at Toastmasters benefit yourself and of course your company. Leaders need to be able to communicate well, to be clear, persuasive and of course to adapt their speech to the relevant audience. Many members report being able to give better presentations, improved teamwork, being better able to accept feedback, or an improved capacity for developing and sharing ideas
- As well as the benefits to the individual and company, Toastmasters see their work as beneficial to communities. Not only through the increased level of self development work and social skills among other things that the toastmasters bring to their communities but through specific Toastmaster projects.
One of these is Speechcraft: Experienced toastmasters support, guide and introduce members of the community to the “basics” of speaking to an audience.The Interpersonal Communication program is another; this one is geared at bringing the fundamentals of effective communication to teenagers.
Everyone is included in the meetings and encouraged to take part. Members choose different roles for subsequent meetings prior to the next meeting, the advantages of which are
- everyone has the opportunity to prepare themselves in advance
- there is rotation so the “work” of leading the meetings does not fall on one person all the time
- the toastmasters see themselves as a team and function as such.
This goes towards making the meetings engaging, interesting and informative.
Wherever you go…
There are over 15,400 clubs in 135 countries so you are sure to find a club somewhere if you are interested in joining Toastmasters.
New members are provided with tools in the form of manuals to help document their progress. There are many opportunities to practice the newly learned skills. At the regular Toastmaster speech competitions contestants speak for up to seven minutes on pre-selected topics.All in all, it was a very interesting, enjoyable and educational experience. Joining a Toastmasters group might be interesting for you if:
- you would like to be able to stand up and speak freely and confidently to audiences,
- you want to learn to overcome shyness,
- meet up with like-minded people or
- maybe just have the time in your life for a new hobby!
They also offer a list of tips to help you improve your public speaking. If you would like to read up on Toastmasters or communication in general here are a few links to some literature.