“What is Toastmasters all about?”
Toastmasters is a not-for-profit organisation, focused on communication and leadership development. Through our member clubs we help people gain the confidence and learn the skills to speak in front of an audience.
Toastmasters Clubs do this through programmed meetings that provide varied speaking activities including prepared and impromptu speeches, presented to like-minded people who are there to assist each other and continually develop their skills. Toastmasters also offers opportunities to develop and practice leadership skills through structured programs as well as through volunteer leadership roles within clubs and the broader organisation.
“What are club meetings like?”
Each club is different in its own way with some meeting in the evenings while others meet during lunchtime or in the mornings. Some meet weekly while others meet fortnightly or monthly. Some are corporate clubs from specific organisations while others have diverse memberships from throughout the community.
Meetings run to a set agenda with each role allocated to a member and given a specific timeframe. This usually includes impromptu speaking called “Table Topics” in Toastmasters and some prepared speeches from the communications manuals. Other roles may include welcoming guests, running the meeting, or being the ‘Toastmaster’ for the meeting. Everything in Toastmasters is evaluated in a friendly and supportive manner using a system of commendations as well as recommendations for improvement to assist member development.
Regardless of the style and program, guests are always welcome to come and see if it is right for them with no obligation. Guests are often surprised at how supportive club meetings are and how much they learn from their first visit.
“Who can join?”
Anyone over the age of eighteen may join and there is a mix of age, gender, cultural backgrounds and experience at most clubs. Toastmasters’ extensive educational system has already helped more than 1,000,000 people around the world.
“How much does it cost?”
Costs vary between clubs but are very low compared with similar courses as Toastmasters is a not-for-profit organisation. There is a one off joining fee which covers your initial educational materials and then your club will advise of their specific six-monthly and/or annual fees.
“When can I join?”
You can visit and/or join anytime of the year. The Vice President of Membership for the Club you have chosen will give you all of the information you need.
“When do clubs meet?”
It depends on the Club! Corporate clubs may meet over an hour at lunch. Community clubs generally meet in the evenings. Some clubs meet in the early morning before you start your day. Some clubs meet on weekends.
“How long are Toastmasters meetings?”
Meeting times vary from club to club. Most community clubs meet for 1.5 to 2 hours. Lunch-time clubs often meet for 1 hour, and work hard to make sure their meeting ends very promptly.
It’s best to contact the club contacts, listed on their website, and check that their meetings will suit you.
“What are the contests in Toastmasters and do I have to compete?”
Most District 73 Toastmasters Clubs run Club Competitions over two meetings each year between August and October in the following categories:
- International Speech Contest – This is a 4.5 – 7.5 minute prepared speech typically motivational in nature. It is called the International Speech Contest as unlike in the other competitions, winners at the District Level then compete at the Toastmasters World Championship Public Speaking event against speakers from around the world.
- Evaluation Contest – Contestants view a beginner’s speech and each prepare a 2.5 – 3.5 minute evaluation of that speech.
- Humorous Speech Contest – This is a 4.5 – 7.5 minute prepared speech designed to entertain and make people laugh.
- Table Topics Contest – This is an impromptu speaking competition where contestants speak for 1 – 2.5 minutes on a topic they only find out about as their name is called onto the stage.
Participation is voluntary but many new members surprise themselves by entering and find it an invaluable experience. Any member may enter the Evaluation, Humorous and Table Topics Competitions but to enter the International Speech Contest members must have completed their first six (6) speeches from the Competent Communicator manual or a minimum of two levels in the Toastmasters Pathways learning experience.
Those winning at Club level will move onto the Area competitions held in October and November. The Division competitions are held during March the following year and the District Contests (Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) are held at the District Convention in mid May each year.
What are the Toastmasters Leadership and Communications Programs? All Toastmasters around the world participate in the same leadership and communication programs to begin with, some Districts and Clubs offer additional specific programs to suit their regions.
“What is the difference between our short public speaking courses and joining a club?”
Toastmasters conducts a number of intensive public speaking courses. A number of our experienced Toastmasters members run community and corporate “Speechcraft” courses for adults and “Youth Leadership” courses for people of school age. Each is generally of about 4-8 weeks in duration with 2-3 hours time requirement per week, and might have 10 participants – all working through a structured programme of learning. Courses offer an opportunity to learn and practice both impromptu speaking (speaking without preparation time) and prepared speeches.
For many these intensive courses are the boost they need but often people who take an intensive course join a club after to continue their development. Those joining clubs often get ‘credit’ in their new manuals for the speeches completed in their intensive course.
By joining a club members get to experience the benefits from a Speechcraft course, but through a regular ongoing involvement as part of a broader club with a mix of experience levels. You proceed at your own pace and learn alongside others by participating in the club meetings. Each club meeting has an agenda, with members allocated particular roles to practice and increase their skills – providing opportunities for all members whether they are new members or have been associated with Toastmasters for many years. You will have the support of club members and may have a mentor appointed to provide personalised assistance.
Toastmaster clubs also offer leadership opportunities. There are elected club officer roles as well as a defined leadership track that can help you advance both professionally and personally. Club members can also move through to more specialised and advanced manuals and programs as they develop.