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