10 Reasons why YOU need to join a Toastmasters club

The new members work towards achieving a basic qualification in public speaking, known as the Competent Communicator, or CC.

When a new member joins the club, they are given the Competent Communicator Manual, which provides them with the guidelines they need to achieve the CC qualification. The Manual is divided into ten stages, and each Toastmaster needs to deliver ten speeches – one for each stage. How long they take to deliver all ten speeches is always up to them.

  1. The first speech is the icebreaker speech. The aim of this speech is to introduce the new member to the club. Their mentor should discuss with them what they are going to say and help them to keep the subsections to no more than three parts. It is also a good way to begin to control their nerves in front of a group of people.
  2. In the second speech they are asked to organise the speech so that it begins, has a middle and leads to a conclusion.
  3. Next speech is helped if they select a topic that is close to their heart, and to speak on the subject for five minutes or so. Again, the focus of this speech is very much on controlling their nerves.
  4. The next four speeches are more technical. They concentrate in turn on organising the speech into a logical structure.
  5. Using body language effectively.
  6. Using vocal variety by raising and lowering the tone and rate of the voice, and selecting the right words to maximise their impact on the audience.
  7. The later speeches focus more on the art of speech craft – bringing all the technical skills together. This one is one researching the topic.
  8. Using props and flip-charts, to enhance the presentation not distract from it.
  9. Designing a persuasive speech, and finally,
  10. Delivering a speech that inspires the audience.

This programme can seem daunting, but it is actually quite a lot of fun. It helps to remember is that they are among friends, everybody in the room will at one point during their speech craft done all of the following, forgot their lines, miss an entire section of the speech, frozen, and dried up completely.

In the safe environment of the club nobody will belittle or laugh at them. As they go from speech to speech, their style will improve. The really effective tool that is used in a club is the evaluation of the speech. They will be told about things that are effective in the speaking style, and they will be alerted to unconscious distractions. They will become more confident about their speaking ability and less afraid. It is wonderful at the end of the manual to find that they are speaking coherently, succinctly and confidently in front of a large audience.

After achieving the CC and CL qualification, the member can choose to go forward and earn an Advanced Communicator and Advanced Leader qualification.

There is more specialisation at this stage, and there are dozens of speeches to choose from. The idea is to simulate more real-world environments, to help equip the speaker with the tools they need to address very different situations. More experienced Toastmasters may also be required to speak in public at outside forums and take responsibility for the development of clubs in the local area.

A number of competitions are held each year which help club members assess their ability compared to others. In the spring there is an International Speech Contest and an Evaluation Contest. In the autumn there is a Humorous Speech or Tall Tales Contest, and a Table Topics Contest. The winners go ahead to participate against members of other clubs. The winner of the International Speech Contest only, from each District will deliver their speech at the International Speech Contest held at the Annual Convention in August, usually in America.

The principal benefit of Toastmasters for many people is the self-confidence gained from the experience. This self-confidence tends to manifest itself in different situations outside the realm of public speaking, because if people can conquer the fear of standing up and speaking in public, they often may feel more confident in meeting other challenges in their work and social life. Toastmaster meetings tend to be very sociable and friendly occasions, so it is a good place to meet people and have a bit of fun for a while. In addition it is a good learning experience – not just in terms of what they learn from their own speeches, but also from what is to be learned from others when they deliver their speeches.