Welcome to the second article of the series Organizations You Should Know. Within this series, we will briefly approach different Non-Governmental Organizations from multiple areas. If you want to take a look at the first episode – click here.
By the end of this article, you will be able to understand what is Toastmasters, what are some of the perks of becoming a member and whether this organization might be interesting for you to join!
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Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization based on volunteering and with the purpose of improving its members’ soft skills. This organization was created by Ralph Smedley in 1924 in the USA and has been growing ever since, counting nowadays with more than 350,000 members in 145 countries.
Globally, the organization is divided following the hierarchy District -> Division -> Area -> Club. As a new member, your club will comprise most of your interactions within your first months. Given their members’ cultural characteristics, experience, and professional background, different Toastmasters clubs might have noticeable differences even within the same city.
It is really beneficial that one might join multiple club sessions as a guest without compromise before deciding to become an active member. This will allow one to get to know different clubs and peers until the perfect match is found – in order to get the best experience out of it, it is vital to understand one’s personal and/or professional goals and to look for the adequate club location, formality, and overall member expertise.
Once you decide to join, you are invited to choose one of the 11 paths (“Toastmasters career” options), serving as a guide to prepare your future speeches. The idea here is to actually choose the one that better suits your goals, and in case of doubt, there is no one better to ask questions than a more experienced fellow Toastmasters member from your club. Each path comprises 5 levels of increasing difficulty, from a simple ice-breaker to more complex speeches.
Each club can decide its session periodicity – although the most usual is on a weekly basis. A Toastmasters session is comprised of 3 distinct parts – Prepared Speeches, Impromptu Speeches, and Evaluation.
The Prepared Speeches part consists of members, assigned the week before, who will deliver a speech based on their respective paths objectives, and levels.
The Impromptu Speeches are organized by a Table Topics Master, who goes on stage and after gathering 3-4 volunteers, will assign a topic to each. Then, each participant will be asked to deliver a 1-2 minute impromptu speech based on the topic they just received.
Last but not least, the Evaluation part is comprised of the different participants going on stage and delivering their feedback according to their role – Timer (timekeeper for all interventions), Ah-Counter (pays special attention to verbal and physical crutches), Grammarian (highlights points for improvement and great usages of grammar/expressions), Speech Evaluators (delivering feedback according to each prepared speeches objectives), and General Evaluator (evaluating the session as a whole and the quality of the feedback delivered).
Additionally, some clubs also record their sessions so that each participant can, not only take into account their peers’ feedback but also look at the recordings later and look for points for improvement.
We approached a 3.5-year-old member experience, former Area Director, and asked for his testimony:
“Toastmasters is much more than just a public speaking organization. I joined one club with sessions held 100% in English because I wanted to develop my public speaking confidence and improve my fluency in this language.
Although I was not expecting it, there were some other soft skills I developed as well such as my active listening (when having the role of Grammarian), structured feedback (as a Speech Evaluator), and management skills (after serving as the vice-president of my club and then as the Area Director).
The cost-benefit relation of this organization is also great – 10€ per month is much more affordable than some of the seminars I thought about before joining.”
Toastmasters is much more than a simple public speaking organization – it’s a hands-on safe space for one to improve by practicing, struggling against stage fright, and ultimately networking and meeting new friends.
If you are looking to improve as a speaker, you could also attend some seminars about the topic and hear what some experts have to say, but without practice, progress will be slow – and here, Toastmasters has the advantage of giving you the opportunity to jump on stage from the very first days.
To learn more about this organization, and its educational system, to find clubs nearby, or to look for other testimonies, feel free to access the organization’s official website.
The organization also hosts a yearly conference that comprises the finals of a worldwide public speaking competition. We attached here the video of the performance of 2023 champion Jocelyn Tyson.
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