There is an old joke about a tourist who is visiting New York City. He wants to see a concert at the famous Carnegie Hall.  The tourist stops a man on the street and asks, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”  The man replies, “Practice!”

It is the same with public speaking and, indeed, most skills.  You can read all the information you want (including this blog) but you will never improve without actually standing up in front of people and speaking.  It’s like the Nike commercials: Just Do It!

One of the most effective, economical and fun ways in which to get practice is Toastmasters.  The easiest way for me to describe Toastmasters is to quote from the Toastmasters International website:

“From a humble beginning in 1924 at the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, Toastmasters International has grown to become a world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience.  The nonprofit organization now has nearly 235,000 members in 12,036 clubs in 106 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable! – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.

“Most Toastmasters meetings are comprised of approximately 20 people who meet weekly for an hour or two. Participants practice and learn skills by filling a meeting role, ranging from giving a prepared speech or an impromptu one to serving as timer, evaluator or grammarian.

“There is no instructor; instead, each speech and meeting is critiqued by a member in a positive manner, focusing on what was done right and what could be improved.”

There is much more than can be said about Toastmasters, and I will certainly do so in future posts.  Today, however, I encourage those of you who are not members to visit the Toastmasters International website to learn more about it.  Full details are there.  On the home page, there is a link on the left side that allows you to look for clubs near you.  Most clubs have their own websites with details about local membership, meeting times and location, etc. My club is the International Geneva Toastmasters Club.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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8 Responses to Toastmasters

  1. Pingback: A Public Speaking Alphabet | Manner of Speaking

  2. Wonderful Video, I learned a lot from it, and what great body language too! I loved of course your message; one thinks that what we say will not be judged, but it is! It has to be of course!

    Thanks for offering this to us!

  3. stevieking says:

    Every time I explain what Toastmasters is, I usually get a few funny looks before the light bulb comes on and people realize “What a great idea!”. It has been a great ride for the last 2 1/2 years and this year’s trip through the International Speech Contest has been super cool.

    I, as well, could never properly explain what being in the club has meant to me and how much it has truly made my life better. Even If I never give another speech, I have made friends that will be a part of my life forever and have learned so much about people and the process of speaking.

    Great post!

  4. Pingback: Off to the Toastmasters District Conference « Manner of Speaking

  5. Penny Haywood Calder says:

    Agree entirely with your comments regarding the benefits and opportunities in every Toastmasters meeting to gain speaking practice. It’s such an encouraging environment in which to try things out. I often think I’m exaggerating something, only to find when I watch the video of my prepared speeches that I could have been even more emphatic. And the use of the buzzer by the Ah counter dropped my ums & ers down from 17 per evening to almost 0. My fellow TM members also helped me iron out my distracting foot shuffle and meaningless hand gestures.

    I wasn’t that committed for a long time, so I took several years to gain the competant communicator award, but I really took off after that. A year or so later, and I am one speech away from the Advanced Bronze, and have nearly finished the first leadership award. I think the leadership tasks give a much greater insight into the way the Toastmasters process works and I am a much more effective member and mentor as a result.

    I can report real results from Toastmasters training too. I now seek out speaking opportunities with enthusiasm at local business organisations. Now, every time I address a business group, I tend to land a new client for our PR company. Before Toastmasters, my verbal abilities were mainly of the written variety and I didn’t seek out many speaking opportunities. And when I did speak, I certainly didn’t land a client per speech! How useful is persuasive speech-making ability during a recession?

    My TM club, Capital Communicators in Edinburgh has just started a second TM club: Waverley Communicators, which is just as friendly and offers a lot more opportunities to speak because it’s smaller. I’ve signed up for both as each club meets fortnightly on alternate weeks, so I can have weekly TM training. It’s excellent value for money too.

    If you happen to be in Edinburgh tomorrow night (or fortnightly thereafter), do drop in to Waverley Communicators on the 8th floor, Jury’s Inn, Market Street. 7.15pm for a 7.30 start. Or a week later, on Tuesday nights, same time, at 28 Great King Street, we have Capital Communicators’ meetings. We get a lot of visiting Toastmasters in Edinburgh during the annual arts festivals in August. Existing and potential Toastmasters members are all very welcome at any time. Potential members can attend 3 times free of charge before they have to decide whether to sign up.

  6. boom8088 says:

    Hi John! I don’t think I have enough space here to express how much Toastmasters has helped me out. Being Filipino, English is a second language to us. Though we are considered the best English-speaking nation in Asia, a large majority of us still struggle with the language. Toastmasters has helped many of us learn to communicate better and, thus, lead better.

    Personally, it has even given me a new career. I am now a paid writer and public speaker. Toastmasters not only improved my speaking skills, it improved my writing skills even more!

    I agree with Charlene and Rich … Toastmasters rocks!!!


  7. Rich Hopkins says:

    Toastmasters rocks! I’m a 10-year member, and Toastmasters led me to my passion and now vocation as a speech coach and professional speaker. Choosing to go to Toastmasters was one of my smartest choices ever!

  8. Charlene says:

    I love Toastmasters! I’ve been a member for about 10 months now. I just got voted in as VP of Education and have no doubt that my confidence as a business woman and presenter is directly related to my attendance at our bi-weekly Toastmasters meetings. Before joining, I was reserved, shy and prone to being a wallflower … now, watch out! Quality critiquing is what helped give me the confidence to train at an association’s national conference in Las Vegas; to present a 10-minute introduction of my business to a networking group; to consider becoming a motivational speaker in another year or two. I definitely have received more from Toastmasters than I did in the college level public speaking classes that I have taken.

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