You may have heard of Toastmasters International. What is Toastmasters? And why should you join?
It’s a safe, relaxed place where you learn to become a better public speaker and can network and make new friends.
It has almost 250,000 members in 106 countries, and is a speakers’ club that allows you to frequently practice and sharpen your public speaking skills to become a professional speaker.
With regular attendance at Toastmasters, you can improve your presentations, increase your leadership potential, become a better listener, reach personal and professional goals, and grow in self confidence.
It is the perfect environment for beginner speakers who are nervous (or scared out of your wits!) standing in front of an audience.
I used to feel this way and now I love it! You can find out more about my speaking by clicking here.
It also helps speakers with some experience who desire to go to the next level, as well as veteran speakers who want to hone their skills, competing even on the international level.
Fear of public speaking is the number one fear. Over time you will conquer your fear of public speaking, and will really enjoy giving your presentations.
Most Toastmasters meetings have about 20 members who meet weekly for one to two hours. Members learn skills by filling a role in the meeting, such as:
- giving a prepared speech;
- giving an impromptu speech (called table topics);
- serving as timer, evaluator of a speech, or grammarian (counting the “filler words”–how many times people say “um,” “you know,” or “so” during a speech). You don’t realize how much you say “um” until you get the grammarian report!
With feedback and training, you learn the importance of things like:
- a powerful opening and closing;
- organization of and rehearsing your speech;
- gestures and pauses;
- eye contact, voice pitch and rate of speaking;
- the power of humor in a speech;
- emotional connection with your audience.
Every member is critiqued by another member in a positive, encouraging manner – what was done correctly, and what should be improved.
You use the self-paced Toastmasters curriculum to speak on areas of your interest, and you receive credit for your presentations and the meeting roles.
You earn certificates as you advance in the curriculum, and can win ribbons and trophies for your speeches.
The club also offers contests that go all the way up to the international level. I won first and second place in the Humorous Speech contests for my area, and was thrilled. You aren’t required to compete in a contest, but they can help you to improve your skills and to build confidence. You learn a lot from contests, including new things that people are speaking about.
As a benefit of membership, you receive the Toastmaster magazine. This has inspiring and very practical articles. The Toastmaster magazine archive is a great resource for any topic related to communication and leadership.
You can also listen to the website’s podcast, find meeting locations, and read on-the-spot articles on tips, the fear factor, and business presentations.
Some famous Toastmasters are international speaker and author Florence Littauer; Debbi Fields, founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies; Tom Peters, management expert and author; and Linda Lingle, Governor of Hawaii.
If you want to become a better public speaker, network, get excellent communications training, and have fun, consider joining Toastmasters. You should be able to find a local club near you here.
You can listen to Toastmasters’ World Champion speaker Mark Hunter, in his speech, A Sink Full of Green Tomatoes at YouTube here.
I LOVE speaking at women’s conferences and live events. If you’d like me to speak at your women’s event, contact me here.