Toastmasters is an international organization.
The latest figures I found show they have a membership approaching 250,000 in more than 12,500 clubs in 106 countries.
One of the most valuable benefits of being a member is the nurturing environment where everyone truly wants to help the other members.
Toastmasters offers two tracks; speaking and leadership. Very specific skills are practiced and there are degrees of competency that can be achieved. Both are excellent ways to learn and hone skills that will benefit you forever. The abilities to speak in front of groups and lead meetings are tools needed along the career path of life.
Usually, three to four prepared speeches are given at each meeting. The speakers have very specific goals for each speech. These goals are clearly stated in manuals that each member has. Objectives like: Working with Props, Use of Body Language, Vocal Variety, Persuading with Power, and others.
Most members consider the ‘Evaluation’ portion of the meeting to be the most important part of the meeting.
Each speaker’s speech is evaluated based upon the assignment and the speaker’s experience. (I emphasized speech because it that is what is being evaluated – not the individual. There is a clear distinction, and it should always be remembered.)
The Evaluator reviews the Content and Delivery of the talk. Their remarks should follow the ‘Sandwich Formula’: Say something positive, point out something that needs improvement, and say something else positive.
Keep in mind, the evaluator’s opinion is feedback from one person.
Many clubs have forms that are handed out to the entire audience where space is available to give the speaker more feedback on their delivery and message. The same ‘Sandwich Formula’ should be followed. The more specific feedback a member receives, the more likely they are to improve, and that is the reason they joined Toastmasters in the first place!
Before joining a club, my suggestion is to visit at least three or four in your area. Each club has a ‘flavor’ of its own. Some are very regimented and adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order and are strict about the way things are done at meetings. You’ll also find clubs at the other end of the ‘strict’ spectrum where things are a little ‘loose’, and there are many between these extremes.
There are also ‘company’ clubs within large corporations, and clubs specific to certain interests, such as humor or professional speaking.
Here’s my story about why it’s important to visit several clubs before joining.
Long ago I thought being a public speaker would be something I might want to do some day. I’ve always been a big fan of Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, Les Brown, and other professional presenters.
The high school in my area was offering an adult educational course in Public Speaking. It was being presented by members of a local Toastmaster Club. I decided to sign up for the course.
The only person I told about this was my wife. I figured she had to know where I was going for a few hours once a week. Plus, if I decided to drop out, she’s one of few who would know, and I wouldn’t have to explain my ‘failure’ to others.
I really enjoyed the course, and learned a lot. Our final class was held at the Toastmasters Club where we got to see a meeting and received our class completion certificates.
I decided to join this club.
After giving my ‘Ice Breaker’ Speech, that went very well, and my second speech, which ‘bombed’ because of lack of preparation, I started to get a sense that this club was not a fit for me.
All the people were very nice, and extremely smart. It was the ‘smartness’ area that turned out to be a non-fit for me. All the members must have belonged to Mensa, the genius club. There were too many discussions and speeches that left me scratching my head. (If you’ve read this far, you probably surmised that I graduated in the half of the class that made the top half possible!)
I dropped out, and stupidly, didn’t immediately look for a different club. I guess I thought all Toastmasters clubs were like this one. Turns out, they’re not. But, it wasn’t until several years later that I ventured, again, into a Toastmaster Meeting.
This one was close to home. Luckily, during the first meeting I attended, I knew this was the club for me. During the intermission, two members came up and introduced themselves. Instantly, these new people in my life were like old friends! And I never looked at another club. Many are still friends today.
Great information, as well as a listing of clubs in your area, is available at http://www.toastmasters.org