The basics of Toastmasters and why you should join / by Jasmine Tate

According to a Forbes article I read recently 80% of the population has anxiety or discomfort in relation to public speaking while only 10% enjoy it. The other 10% hate it and suffer from glossophobia: fear of public speaking. One of my favorite responsibilities during my career at Inland Empire United Way was sharing the work being done to impact the lives of individuals, children and families in the region. I was always excited to serve as a guest speaker or lead tours of the facilities. While I thoroughly enjoy opportunities to speak, it still gives me a little anxiety, and there’s always room for improvement, which is why I decided to join Toastmasters International.

I discovered Toastmasters through IEUW and jumped at the opportunity when my supervisor presented it. After transitioning to TGR Foundation I continued my involvement, and each week on “Toastmaster Tuesday” I get the opportunity to practice and improve my skills. If you hadn’t heard of it before, now you have, and I invite you to join a network of more than 350K members worldwide.

Logo courtesy of  Toastmasters International

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters is an international organization with local chapters that host regular, structured meetings to help members improve their communication and leadership skills through public speaking.

What is the purpose?

The mission best communicates the purpose of the organization.

“We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self confidence and personal growth.”

How does it work?

After you join a chapter and pay your dues, you will select a path where you would like to improve your skills and embark on a self-paced, project-based journey to enhance your skills through public speaking. While you’re able to choose a path that aligns with your goals and interests, there is also an assessment that can recommend a path for you in connection to your responses. There are 10 paths including:

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Meeting structure and order can vary across different chapters but the core components of each are universal including the following roles. Award ribbons are often presented to the best speaker in each category, the best evaluator, first time visitors & speakers and to those who complete their ice breaker speech, the first of every path.

Image courtesy of  Toastmasters International

Image courtesy of Toastmasters International

  • Toastmaster: the director and host that leads the meeting and ensures all roles are fulfilled

  • Table Topics Master: shares impromptu speaking topics for members or guests to answer

  • Speaker(s)

    • Table Topics Speaker: delivers a 1-2 minute impromptu speech on a topic chosen or presented by the Table Topics Master

    • Meeting Speaker: presents a 3-5 minute speech based on a self-paced project

  • Speech Evaluator: evaluates speeches by members and guests including written and/or verbal feedback

  • General Evaluator: shares feedback on the meeting and evaluators

  • Timer: tracks the length of time taken to complete each role based on the guidelines shared above. During presentations the timer uses a stop sign-like system showing a green light when the speech meets the minimum time requirement, a yellow light when the speech is approaching 30 seconds to 1 minute of its maximum time allotment and a red light when the speaker has reached their time limit.

  • Ah- Counter: identifies and makes speakers aware of vocalized pauses and/or repetitive filler and crutch words or phrases such as “ah,” “um,” “uh,” “so, like, yeah,” “and,” “like,” “so,” “you know,” etc.

  • Grammarian: introduces new vocabulary, evaluates word usage and ensures members maintain and improve grammar and decrease grammatical errors

How much time does membership require?

The time commitment is up to you. Although regularly scheduled chapter meetings take place at various frequencies from several times a week to once per month or less, as a member you can visit multiple clubs and speak outside of Toastmasters Meetings as long as a fellow Toastmaster member joins you to provide an evaluation, any speech can help you advance on your path.

How much does it cost?

Although the price of good communication and leadership skills is priceless, all members pay a minimum of $90 per year, which is broken up into six month periods. These dues are submitted directly to Toastmasters International. When joining a club for the first time participants must add a $20 new member fee. Depending on costs associated with hosting meetings, chapters may also include additional club dues.

Why should I join?

The short answer is to improve your communication and leadership skills through public speaking. These are transferrable no matter what industry or role you fulfill. Being a member of Toastmasters is a great opportunity for everyone from entrepreneurs and artists to corporate executives.

Where can I find more information?

The Toastmasters website is a great resource for everything you need to know and more.

Have you heard or participated in Toastmasters? Where is your comfort level in relation to public speaking? Share below.


Jasmine C. Tate