Article Category: Resources for Speakers

Toastmasters: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?


I occasionally preach the benefits of Toastmasters. In response to questions from Six Minutes readers, I thought I would answer some of the most common questions that are asked about Toastmasters.

  • What is Toastmasters?
  • Who joins Toastmasters?
  • When did Toastmasters Start?
  • Where do Toastmasters Meet?
  • Why Should You Join Toastmasters?
  • How to Join Toastmasters?

Interested in Toastmasters? Read on…

Are you a member? Please share your story!

What is Toastmasters?

Toastmasters International is:

  • a nonprofit organization,
  • comprised of over 250,000 members in over 106 countries,
  • represented by over 12,500 clubs, and
  • dedicated to excellence in communication and leadership

Most Toastmasters clubs meet weekly for 1-2 hours, and follow a pretty basic agenda:

  • Prepared speeches – Members are given opportunities to prepare, rehearse, and then deliver presentations in front of their fellow members.
  • Speech evaluations – Whenever you speak in Toastmasters, you receive helpful and supportive evaluations from your peers.
  • Impromptu speaking – Members practice speaking “off the cuff” for one or two minutes by responding to general topics of interest (table topics).

Who Joins Toastmasters?

Anyone over the age of 18 can join Toastmasters, provided they have the desire to improve their communication and leadership skills.

Beyond that, Toastmasters members are a diverse group, spanning countries and cultures, and all socio-economic backgrounds.

The Toastmasters International website tells us that:

  • 52% of members are female and 48% are male.
  • Average annual household income: $85,000-$99,000.
  • 30% earn $100,000+ annually.
  • 69% of members are between the ages of 35 and 49.
  • 82% have a college degree.
  • 36% have an advanced degree.

What industries employ Toastmasters?

  • 20% Sales, Consulting, Self Employed
  • 18% Management
  • 15% Finance & Insurance
  • 15% Government
  • 12% Education
  • 20% Other

When Did Toastmasters Start?

The first Toastmasters club was started by Ralph Smedley in Santa Ana, California in 1924 at a local YMCA to meet the need for speech and leadership training for young men. His initial “Ten Lessons in Public Speaking” still forms the core of the Toastmasters educational program as the 10 projects of the Competent Communicator manual. ( It has, of course, been updated and revised many times.)

The single club turned into a network of affiliated Toastmasters Clubs as the idea spread throughout southern California. When an affiliated club formed in British Columbia, Toastmasters International was born.

Where Do Toastmasters Meet?

Everywhere!

Well, not quite, but the network of clubs is growing:

  • 11,000 Toastmasters clubs meet in over 90 countries.
  • Clubs meet within corporations, in community centers, on university and college campuses, in churches and temples, in restaurants, in libraries, in prisons, and many other places.
  • The majority of clubs are still in North America, but the organization is growing fastest outside of North America, particularly in Asia.
  • Most clubs meet weekly for 1-2 hours.

Why Should You Join Toastmasters?

Everyone has their own personal reasons for joining Toastmasters, but here are a few of the most common:

  1. Become a Better Public Speaker
    Members work through a series of educational programs (at their own pace) designed to improve their ability to write speeches, design presentations, and deliver them.
  2. Overcome Public Speaking Fears
    The most positive and supportive audience in the world is a Toastmasters club audience. Speaking regularly in front of a group helps you calm your nerves and communicate effectively.
  3. “Practice” Presentations for Other Audiences
    Everyone has different motivations for wanting to speak better. Maybe you want to hone your presentation skills for your career. Perhaps you want to be able to speak out in your volunteer organization. Maybe you want to complement your portfolio as an author, manager, or other professional with speaking gigs? Whatever the case, Toastmasters is a wonderful laboratory for you to practice your presentations and gain valuable feedback.
  4. Gain the Confidence and Courage to Lead
    Leadership and communication skills are intimately bound. Some might argue that leadership is nothing more than the ability to effectively communicate a vision. As your communication skills improve, your ability to lead will improve as well.
  5. ???
    Many Six Minutes readers are Toastmasters, so I’ll pass this question to you.
    Why did you join?
    What advice would you pass to someone considering joining?
    Let us know in the comments.

How to Join Toastmasters?

  1. Search the Toastmasters club database to find clubs where you live.
  2. If you live in an urban area, you may have many options. Narrow the list down based on the time of day (morning, mid-day, evening) or day of the week (most clubs meet Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday) that works best for you.
  3. Visit several clubs (if the options exist). Don’t settle for the first club you find. Every club has a unique club culture. Find the one that suits you the best.
  4. Sign up. Toastmasters dues are inexpensive, particularly compared to other training options.
  5. Commit yourself to excellence. Toastmasters is a program where you only get out in proportion to what you put in.

Any Other Questions?

If you are considering joining Toastmasters and have questions, drop a question into the comments, or contact me directly.

This is one of a number of articles related to Toastmasters featured on Six Minutes.
Subscribe to Six Minutes for free to receive future articles.

Note: Six Minutes is not affiliated with or endorsed by Toastmasters International. Click here for more information about the relationship between the two.

Comments icon26 Comments

  1. I joined Toastmasters for a different reason–to practice a foreign language (Mandarin) here in the Philippines. Months later the club switched to English as its medium due to recruitment difficulties. We were a struggling club with only 6 members registered much of the time. When I became VP-Ed and with the help of fellow officers, membership swelled. We had a turnaround and became a President’s Distinguished Club for the very 1st time. In retrospect, joining a struggling club was a blessing. Adversity provided much better opportunities for leading than being in a stable club. I am now the current President and I also brought back Mandarin as a medium and transformed the club into a bilingual club. Yes, indeed, what I had put in has made our club one of the most valuable clubs in our country. In Toastmasters, I did not only learn how to speak but I also gained skills in leadership, Mandarin speaking, web marketing, presentation design, and softskills.

  2. This is good info. I’ve been thinking for some time about joining my local club. My commute makes it a bit hairy, but I might be able to work something out with my boss.

  3. jeff shuey says:

    LUV’d your blog post about Toastmasters today. I’ve been a member for over 10 years. I joined after a project I was working on ended and was able to fulfill a commitment I made to myself. I’ve never looked back.

    Last week I gave an impromptu 5-7 minute speech at my local Toastmasters club (Goldenbell 2211) and wrote a blog about it here – http://budurl.com/8z6a. Feel free to pass this on to anyone that can use it.

    Your posts is great – to the point and tells everyone what to expect.

  4. Hi Andrew
    I found your blog when I was in despair over my own club. Membership, always membership! However as we are a one hour club, its difficult to give detailed information to new members and hard to mentor successfully so I recommend your blog to every member, as I have gained so much from it myself. However its the actual presentation that drives home the theory. Keep up the good work.

  5. As a member and officer of two Toastmaster Clubs in D.C., I have found that Toastmaster to be a wonderful opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively, listen and develop leadership while having fun too. I have witnessed growth in speaking abilities and self-confidence as well as giving folks a voice to tell their story and advocate. It is a excellent program and wish I had known and participated sooner, but thankfully am involved now. It has opened doors around the country and made my work presentations dynamic.

  6. Chris Witt says:

    Hi Andrew,
    I joined Toastmasters after I had already been a paid professional speaker for almost ten years. And I found it invaluable. I was in two different clubs for almost five years, and I think my skills and my confidence greatly improved. What I liked most was the opportunity to speak extemporaneously.

    I highly recommend Toastmasters. I have two pieces of advice about finding the right club (if you have a choice in your area): 1) Notice how friendly and welcoming members are to you on your first visit. If they’re cold or standoffish, I suggest you look elsewhere. 2) Make sure there are some experienced speakers. You’ll benefit from their experience.

  7. Ah, but there is so much more to Toastmasters than meets the eye. It turns out that Toastmasters actually offers you three different types of skill development that you can’t get anywhere else.

    At one level, Toastmasters helps you to improve your public speaking. You covered that very well.

    At another level, the weekly Toastmasters meetings teach you basic management skills on how to organize a team and run an efficient meeting. Things happen at every meeting and they have to be dealt with by the Toastmaster – that’s management training.

    Finally, every Toastmaster club has elected officials who run the club. This is modern leadership training. Nobody works for anyone, nobody gets paid. This means that in order to get people to do things, you have to learn to lead them towards a goal.

    Not bad for < $50 every six months!

  8. I’ve spoken at a number of Toastmaster events. It’s a good group, as long as you don’t get caught up in the politics of a particular chapter and keep your focus on getting public speaking practice. It’s a great place for people to get practice public speaking, especially if you’re nervous or uncertain about your abilities. With time, you can build your confidence and skill through the many speaking opportunities T’master offers.

  9. Frank Andrassy says:

    I joined Toastmaster because I needed some professional development and could not find it at my company. I was tired of the usual Technical training and wanted something I could take with me after my job went away. My plan was to complete my CC and whatever later. After a few speeches and 2 speech contests I was hooked. I eventually got my CC and CL. I am currently the President of my club an active in my Division and District. I plan on completing my DTM. I am an advocate of developing ones public speaking skill, speaking off the cuff, arranging ones thoughts under pressure and speaking with confidence. I wish someone had lectured me earlier in my life how important learning to speak in public was necessary to improve my career. I had Speech classes in High School and College but did just enough to get a grade. Toastmasters to me is a communications club that develops everyone’s ability to speak with confidence, whether one on one, at meetings, in relationships, before hundreds or thousands of people. There is also the added benefit of learning to write speeches (storytelling, motivational, lectures, humorous, etc), leadership development, and meeting management. Lastly, there is the social side of Toastmasters. The relationships that you develop in the club and up to and past district level are very long-lasting and helpful in career placement. I am also finding out the skills I have developed have added to my resume and made me more marketable. When I am questioned about Toastmaster I have the following saying” This is the one hour of sanity in my life each week.” Because of this I am looking into joining an advance Toastmaster club to further develop and refine my public speaking and writing skills. It is interesting that when I am asked that profound question “What do you want to do with your life?” and can finally answer without a doubt that I want an opportunity where I can use my public speaking experience and skills professionally. Godspeed.

  10. I joined TM about 3 years ago, because i was tired of being terrified of public speaking, and because I knew it would help me in my job.

    Three years later, I don’t have that job anymore but I have experienced a total 180 degree reversal in my attitude towards public speaking. I actually _look forward to_ and even _seek out_ speaking opportunities.

    My favorite “thank god for Toastamasters” moment: About a year ago, I attended the presidential caucuses here in Washington state. I arrived to find an school gymnasium packed–literally standing room only–with what must have been 800 or more people. Before the main process of caucusing began, the moderator called for a show of hands for anybody who wanted to speak on behalf of one candidate or the other.

    I raised my hand. “He’ll never call on me anyway,” I reckoned.

    He called on me. There was only time for two speakers for each candidate, and I was the last of the four. So as I fought my way through the crowd to get to the microphone, I was thinking “this is fine. This is just table topics. I’m good at table topics.” And I’ve got the pretty white ribbons to prove it.

    In fact, it was even easier than table topics, because I knew the subject I would be speaking on a few minutes in advance, and I had time to listen to what the other people were saying so that I could a) not repeat the same talking points, and b) rebut anything I felt needed to be rebutted.

    In the end, I did my sixty seconds at the microphone in front of 800 people (most people I’ve ever spoken in front of), and I did great. I got my message across. I didn’t fritter away half my time with ahs and ums. And I got to walk back to my spot on the gymnasium afterwards proud of myself for what I had accomplished.

  11. Kevin Wortman ATM-S says:

    I’ve been in TM for 16+ years and compete in the Spring and Fall contests, once in awhile, for Impromptu Speaking and Evaluations. I’ve seen TM literally change lives.

    I joined TM to overcome my profound fear of public speaking. Now I speak regularly, every chance I get and I am sought out for public speaking advice and coaching opportunities. TM is a fantastic laboratory to learn, practice and refine your public speaking skills. You get tremendous support from a TM club and everyone is there for a similar reason….to become a better speaker, listener and leader. I can’t say enough about the benefit of TM. I am one of the people who’s life has been changed by my participation in TM. I will be a student of public speaking forever and TM is the vehicle to take my speaking capabilities to levels I never thought were possible.

    When you develop strong public speaking skills, that same skill infects your whole realm of written and verbal communication from casual to impromptu to formal opportunities. You develop a refined communication style which shows well regardless of the audience. This skill creates opportunities that may not have been evident or available without the skill to communicate effectively. I would encourage anyone to consider joining TM if they have a desire to improve their public speaking and leadership skill regardless of their current skill level or station in life.

  12. Aloha from Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. I joined our local Toastmasters club nearly a year ago because I was inspired by several seminar speakers to improve my speaking ability. I’ve been a speaker for many years; as a teacher, it’s hard to avoid standing in front of a group and presenting topics! Toastmasters has helped me to better formulate my thoughts on the fly and to minimize the audible pauses (um, uh, etc.) in my speech.

    If I could give one piece of advice to someone interested in joining Toastmasters, I would say, “Take your time, and remember to breathe.” It took me several meetings to get up the nerve to schedule my first speech, but while watching my fellow Toastmasters I was able to glean a lot of tips and tricks and incorporate them into my icebreaker. As far as the breathing thing, I’m on speech #8 in the first manual and I think I’m finally beginning to conquer the breathlessness I was plagued with for the first five speeches!

    If you’re ever visiting the big island of Hawaii, please don’t hesitate to visit one of our meetings. We’d love to share our aloha with you!

  13. I have been a Toastmaster for just less than a year and am the webmaster for my club.

    I’d like to encourage current Toastmasters and future Toastmasters alike to visit the Toastmasters wiki (toastmasters.wikia.com) to see all the information that fellow Toastmasters have assembled. The site can help give you a deeper understanding about the Toastmasters experience and support you in your progress through the program.

  14. julie70 says:

    I came back to TM’s Intl. after 30 years, arriving to London from Paris.

    From 1977 to 1980 I was in USA, Washington DC and member of the TM group there: I still have my manuals. What I find interesting is that from that time, the tasks and manuals did not change: almost at all! They were great then (and permitted me to teach at university soon after that for a while and speak in public in confidence ever since) and they are great now!

  15. Lydia says:

    Actually, Andrew, Toastmasters now has over 250,000 members in 106 countries. New statistics as of the International Convention in August. I was a member of Toastmasters for about 4 years, 20 years ago. I’ve been back in Toastmasters now for 14 months, and currently belong to 3 clubs. I love it, and I have learned so much. I learn something at every meeting I attend, and with every role I perform in a meeting.

  16. Donna says:

    Hi, Most clubs in Australia meet fortnightly for a period of 2-3 hours. So the format is slightly different to the US based clubs.

  17. I joined after a project I was working on ended and was able to fulfill a commitment I made to myself.

  18. Derrick says:

    A couple of minutes ago, I gave my 10th speech in completion of the Competent Communicator award. While working on this goal, I found your website an invaluable resource, a treasure trove of information. Thank you!

  19. risman says:

    Dear Andrew, Allow me to share in my blog for this post. Please check out this link http://rismandukhan.wordpress.com/2011/12/11/who-what-when-where-why-how-toastmaster/. I’m waiting for your comments in my blog. Thanks

  20. Padma Sri Janaka Sampath says:

    I would like to join with toastmaster club which located in Sri Lanak.Please send me details.

  21. Max says:

    The reason I joined Toastmasters was pretty simple: my wife made me ;) But it’s helped me a lot, both professionally and socially. And it’s been a lot of fun.

  22. Thanks Andrew – I recently joined Toastmasters, and this and your other articles about the organisation have been a great help.

    After joining, I also found a video that shows what Toastmasters’ meetings are like, which your readers might find useful. For that and my initial thoughts about joining, please see http://remotepossibilities.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/toastmasters-see-what-its-like-right-now/

  23. Andrew,
    Thank you for such a wonderful information about Toastmasters. I decided to write my experience on Toastmasters and noticed that you have already shared wealth of information here. Thank you for the motivation.
    To answer your question, I got started because my employer recommended me to join one at the time. However, I continued because I liked the people and the culture of Toastmasters.
    Regards,
    Kumar.

  24. 12 years ago, the outgoing president of the Society for Technical Communications (STC) Palm Beaches Chapter president encouraged me (the incoming president) to attend a Toastmasters meeting. His advice was spot on! From my first meeting, I recognized that just-in-time feedback filled a professional void in my daily work life. Thanks Toastmasters for helping me build community and sharpen my skills. When I moved from FL to NJ, my Toastmasters became my “family” and helped orient me to my new town.

  25. I like your ideas on Toastmasters. Toastmasters changed my life. See here: http://www.charleswoodway.com/toastmasters/

  26. Hi, I’m a member of Dublin Toastmasters and I’ve written a short blog about the difference it has made to my life

    http://www.dublintoastmasters.ie/section/blog

    Thanks!

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@Sunsetspeakers @Sunsetspeakers — Sep 3rd, 2013

Toastmasters: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? http://t.co/f5hr7B6h6N via @6minutes

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@BuduMalli @BuduMalli — Oct 11th, 2013

Most common questions that are asked about @Toastmasters http://t.co/fWqgq6HIuL #SriLanka #LKA

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RT @InnoSpeak8489: The 5 Ws and H: A rundown of how #Toastmasters operates and why you should join! http://t.co/hkvJaOeKuS … …” #leadership

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Wondering if you should join a #Toastmasters club? Where? SGSC #Waycross campus.When? Today @ noon.Who? What? Why? http://t.co/xZq9HO55Xa

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