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Subject: Toastmasters International FAQ part 1 of 5: What Is Toastmasters International?
This article was archived around: 16 May 1998 12:14:41 GMT
alt.org.toastmasters Frequently Asked Questions part 1 of 5:
What is Toastmasters International?
1. What is Toastmasters?
Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational
corporation headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, Califor-
nia. Its mission is to improve communication and leadership
skills of its members and in general. Mainly, this works out
to 'improving public speaking skills' but there is also a
potent leadership and management aspect to the organization if
you aspire to reach that level.
2. Is this just a group for people in the USA or for people who
No. The organization includes approximately 180,000 members
in 54 countries, including Australia, the Bahamas, Canada,
Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philip-
pines, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the
United States of America.
Toastmasters International publishes a complete set of
materials in English and basic materials in French, Spanish,
and Japanese. As translators make themselves available, more
materials are translated.
3. How is Toastmasters organized?
All Toastmasters members belong to one or more clubs. Clubs
consist of at least eight members and may have forty or more.
The recommended size for a club is twenty or more.
Clubs exist in communities around the world, especially in
North America, and it's a rare locality in the United States
that doesn't have at least one Toastmasters club within thirty
minutes' driving time. There are, at present, over 8,000
clubs around the world, and most of them are in the United
There are many sorts of clubs: community clubs, military
clubs, company clubs, prison clubs, collegiate clubs, and so
on. At this time, the majority of the *new* clubs being
chartered are 'company clubs', i.e. clubs chartered at and
meeting at businesses and organizations, in many cases open
only to employees or members of those organizations. Never
fear, however; there are thousands of community clubs already
in existence as well.
4. Where can I find a club?
If you'd like to visit a club meeting, simply telephone
Toastmasters International World Headquarters at (714) 858-
8255 and ask for the locations of the clubs near you.
Alternately, drop a postcard to TI WHQ, P.O. Box 9052, Mission
Viejo CA 92690 and ask for the local clubs' listings. You may
be VERY surprised by how many clubs there are in your area.
Quite a few clubs don't get around to advertising in the
Complete listings for all clubs in the world can be found at
If you cannot access the World Wide Web, send email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and ask; be sure to include your postal
address so the information can be mailed to you.
5. Do I have to ask permission before attending a meeting of a club
in my area?
If you're visiting a community club, it might not be a bad
idea to let them know you're coming so they can tell you any
details like what time members arrive to eat and what time
members who don't come to eat arrive, but community clubs are
almost always open to all and they'll be delighted to have you
come to the meeting.
Clubs that meet at companies and organizations, on military
bases, or in prisons are often, but not always, restricted to
members or employees of the sponsoring body. These clubs are
happy to have guests but you sometimes need to call ahead to
get through security or to find out specifically where the
Unlike some other organizations, where one must have a
sponsoring member who _invites_ you to the meeting and
introduces you to the group, Toastmasters welcomes all guests.
If the club is open to membership from the community, you will
usually be offered a membership application at the end of the
6. Is Toastmasters a social or drinking organization in some
The name "Toastmasters" is a holdover from the founding of the
organization, when one of the main types of public speaking a
member of society would engage in was after-dinner speaking,
a.k.a. toastmastering. It is rare that formal drinking and
toasts take place, and these are usually at major banquets or
In general, though, you'll find two types of clubs: those that
have a meal with their meetings and those that don't. Clubs
that have a meal with their meeting may charge their members
for the meals in advance and pay the restaurant in one lump
sum or may have members order off the menu. Since breakfast
and lunch clubs are popular with the business community, you
can often kill two birds with one stone by joining Toastmas-
ters: educating yourself and having a meal with business
associates. You'll also find some clubs that get meeting
space by having dinner before their meetings -- and half the
members wait until dinner is over to arrive. There's infinite
variety to it all. This is one good reason to call in
Many clubs do *not* have meals with their meetings, though.
Quite a few clubs meet after dinnertime in a public meeting
room at a bank or library or at a church, have their meeting,
and go home.
7. What happens at a meeting?
The format varies slightly from club to club, but the basics
* the business meeting (usually very brief)
* introduction of the Toastmaster of the Meeting, who
presides over the program that day and explains the
meeting as it goes along
* prepared speeches from members (of which more below)
* impromptu speeches from members (also known as Table
Topics, of which more below)
* oral evaluations of the prepared speeches (of which
* reports from other evaluation personnel, such as speech
timer, grammarian, "ah" counter, wordmaster, and General
Meetings last anywhere from one hour (especially at lunch or
breakfast) to three hours (if the club meets infrequently or
has long-winded speakers).
8. What's a "prepared speech?"
When you join Toastmasters (see the "Membership" FAQ) you
receive a basic speaking manual with ten speech projects.
Each project calls on you to prepare a speech on a subject of
your own choosing but using certain speaking principles. Each
manual project lists the objectives for that speech and
includes a written checklist for your evaluator to use when
evaluating the speech. Thus, if you're scheduled to speak at
a meeting, you generally pull out your manual a week or two in
advance and put together a speech on whatever you like but
paying attention to your goals and objectives for that speech.
Then, when you go to the meeting, you hand your manual to your
evaluator and that person makes written comments on the
checklist while you speak. At the end of the meeting, that
person (your evaluator) will rise to give oral commentary as
well. The purpose of the extensive preparation and commentary
is to show you what you're doing well, what you need to work
on, and driving these lessons home so you're constantly
9. What speech projects are there for me to work on?
In the basic ("Communication and Leadership" manual), there
are ten speech projects:
1. Icebreaker - 4 to 6 minutes - getting over nervousness by
introducing yourself to the club.
2. Be In Earnest - 5 to 7 minutes - continue to get over
nervousness by speaking about something you believe
3. Organize Your Speech - 5 to 7 minutes - work on giving a
4. Show What You Mean - 5 to 7 minutes - not a "Show and Tell"
speech, this project calls on you to work with gestures
and body language during your speech. Unfortunately,
many members somehow confuse the issue and show up with
a bag full of props that they use in a "Show and Tell"
style speech. Don't do that.
5. Vocal Variety - 5 to 7 minutes - work on rate of delivery,
volume, speed, pitch, emphasis, etc.
6. Work with Words - 5 to 7 minutes - work on proper word
choice, avoiding jargon and generalizations, etc.
7. Apply Your Skills - 5 to 7 minutes - go back and practice
everything you've learned up to this point.
8. Be Persuasive - 6 to 8 minutes - give a persuasive speech
on a controversial issue.
9. Speak With Knowledge - 7 minutes, plus or minus 30 seconds
- research an issue, write a speech, and then *read* that
speech to the audience (as opposed to using notecards or
notes or whatever you used for the previous eight
speeches)... and have it well-rehearsed, so it doesn't
run long or end too soon.
10. Inspire Your Audience - 8 to 10 minutes - The final speech
in the manual calls on you to move and inspire your
audience in a well-presented and well-prepared speech.
As you can see, all ten projects above are wide-open for you
to choose whatever topic you like. Even if you pick a
controversial subject, most Toastmasters audiences will
evaluate you on how well you presented your subject, not on
whether they agreed with you or not.
For further information about the speaking program, see the
"Educational Advancement FAQ."
10. What is "Table Topics?"
Table Topics is fun! It's also terrifying. Basically, it
calls on you, the guest or member, to present a one to two
minute impromptu speech on a subject not known to you until
the moment you get up to speak! A member of the club assigned
to be Topicsmaster will prepare a few impromptu topics and
call on members (or guests, if they've given assent in advance
to being called on) to stand up and speak on the topic.
Topics might include current events (e.g. "What would you do
about Haitian boat people if you were President?") or philoso-
phy ("If you had no shoes and met a man who had no feet, how
would you feel?") or the wacky ("Reach into this bag. Pull an
item out. Tell us about it.").
11. What is Evaluation?
The Evaluation program is the third of the three main parts to
the meeting. All prepared speakers, as noted above, should
have their speaking manuals with them and should have passed
them on to the evaluators beforehand. During the speech, and
after, each person's evaluator should make written notes and
furthermore, plan what to say during the two to three minute
oral evaluation. Evaluation is tough to do well because it
requires an evaluator to do more than say "here's what you did
wrong." A good evaluator will say "here's what you did
_well_, and here's why doing that was good, and here are some
things you might want to work on for your next speech, and
here's how you might work on them." It's important to
remember that the evaluator is just one point of view,
although one that has focused in on your speech closely.
Other members of the audience can and should give you written
or spoken comments on aspects of your speech they feel
12. What's all this emphasis on time limits?
As noted above, speeches have time limits, Table Topics have
time limits (1-2 minutes, usually) and evaluations have time
limits (2-3 minutes, usually). This is in order to drive home
the point that a good speaker makes effective use of the time
allotted and does not keep going and going and going until the
audience is bored. In the real world, quite often there are
practical limits on how long a meeting can or should go; by
setting time limits on speeches and presentations, partici-
pants learn brevity and time management and the club meeting
itself can be expected to end on schedule.
Time limits are rarely enforced to the letter. In only a few
situations will you find yourself cut off if you go too long,
and that's up to the individual club. Most clubs don't cut
speakers off if they go overtime.
It is common for clubs to use a set of timing lights to warn
the speakers of the advance of time. All speeches and
presentations have a time limit expressed as an interval, e.g.
5 to 7 minutes. A green light would be shown at 5 minutes,
amber at 6, and red at 7. In Table Topics, the lights would
go 1, 1.5, and 2 minutes respectively. When the green light
comes on, you've at least spoken enough, though you need not
finish right away, and when the yellow light comes on, you
should begin wrapping up. If you're not done by the time the
red light comes on, you should finish as soon as possible
without mangling the ending of your speech.
The only times you're actually *penalized* for going over or
under time is in speaking competition; in speech contests (see
the "Contests FAQ") you must remain within the interval or be
Some clubs hold an audience vote for "best speaker," "best
topic speaker," and "best evaluator" during the meeting and
it's a practice in some clubs to disqualify people who go over
or under time from these meeting awards. Check with the
particular club to see what they do.
13. Why all this structure to the meeting?
If meetings sound complicated, we're sorry. Meetings general-
ly are not complicated once you get used to the timing lights
in the back and the different roles members of the group play.
Since the average club is expected to have 20 or more members,
you need a lot of roles for people to play in order to involve
everyone. And, since meeting assignments vary from meeting to
meeting, everyone gets practice doing everything over the
course of several meetings. One meeting, you'll be assigned
to give a speech; the next, you might be timer; the next, you
might be the Toastmaster of the Meeting, running the whole
show. It keeps you flexible and it keeps you from having to
prepare a speech EVERY meeting, which would get old quickly.
14. I'm scared to death of speaking! Why should I look into
EVERYONE is afraid of speaking. In poll after poll, "public
speaking" comes up as more feared than "death." Public
speaking is the nation's #1 fear. You are no different. Even
if you think you're really good at speaking, there will come
times when your heart stops and your palms sweat and you
freeze before an audience. Toastmasters can help with that.
Remember that EVERYONE in a Toastmasters club is there because
at some point they realized they needed help communicating and
speaking before audiences. Almost everyone will remember how
wretched they felt when they gave their first speech. You may
be startled to find out how supportive a Toastmasters club
really can be. [The author of this FAQ recruited a friend to
Toastmasters who was so overwrought and nervous that she
sobbed as if her heart was broken after her first speech.
Ditto for the second. Some tears after the third. Eventually
she realized that we weren't going to eat her alive and she
came to enjoy it. By the time she earned her CTM, she
consistently won "best speaker" votes at our meetings.]
If you're aware how nervous you are but aren't convinced that
you should do anything about it, stop and think what skill is
more important than any other when it comes to getting and
keeping a good job?
Think you're already an excellent speaker? People who think
they're really good sometimes come into Toastmasters and find
out how unstructured and sloppy they really are. Being
comfortable doesn't mean that you're actually GOOD. Even if
you ARE good, you can always get better. Toastmasters can
give you a lot of skills and keep good speakers improving.
If you still don't know whether you'd like Toastmasters, why
not visit a meeting? If you still don't think it's your cup
of tea, we'll still be happy you came by.
15. How is Toastmasters more beneficial than other forms of
College and high school courses in public speaking usually
involve the students sitting through dozens of lectures
followed by one or two speaking opportunities. When the
speeches are over, you get a grade. Often, you get graded on
what you did wrong. This isn't a way to build reassurance and
motivation. Then too, you rarely get much of a chance to
practice by doing. You get up at the end of the semester,
give your speech, and sit down. Toastmasters is constant
reinforcement and constant improvement. You learn by doing,
not by sitting there while someone lectures for hours.
For-profit courses such as Dale Carnegie can be very good for
their participants. They also cost a lot and when they're
over, they're over. Toastmasters costs $36 per year (plus
club dues, if any) and it can last a lifetime.
16. Where should I go for further information?
See the Membership FAQ, the Educational Advancement FAQ, the
Leadership and Organization FAQ, and the Speech Contests FAQ. Ask
questions in alt.org.toastmasters. Write the poster of this
FAQ. Call Toastmasters International at 1-714-858-8255.
Write Toastmasters International at P.O. Box 9052, Mission
Viejo, California, 92690-7052.
17. Can I send mail to Toastmasters officials via the Internet?
If you need to send email to department heads at TI World Head-
quarters, there addresses are as follows (although be warned that
not every person listed below regularly checks their email -- some
are more accustomed to the Internet than others. If it's important,
send a letter through the regular mail.)
Terry McCann (Executive Director): email@example.com
Daniel Rex (Marketing Division - Club Extension, New Member Processing,
and Merchandising): firstname.lastname@example.org
Stan Stills (District Admin, International Convention, Trademarks,
Nancy Langton (Finance and Policy Administration, including Club,
District, and International bylaws, policy administration, and
Debbie Horn (Education and Club Administration): email@example.com
Suzanne Frey (Publications and Public Relations, including Club
bulletins and "The Toastmaster" magazine): firstname.lastname@example.org
Toastmasters is a great organization! Check it out!