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 250,000 members in more than 12,500 clubs in 106 countries, offering a proven – and enjoyable – way to practice and hone communication and leadership skills.
A Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills in a friendly atmosphere.
Members learn communication skills by working from the Competent Communication Manual, a series of 10 self-paced speaking assignments designed to instill a solid foundation in public speaking. Participants learn skills related to the use of humor, gestures, eye contact, speech organization and overall delivery. When this manual has been completed, members can choose from 15 advanced manuals to learn skills related to specific interests; example include 'Speaking to Inform', 'Speaking to Entertain', 'Interview Skills' and 'Speaking to Persuade'.
Members also learn leadership skills by taking on various meeting roles and serving as officers at the club and district levels, and by working with the Competent Leadership Manual and the High Performance Leadership Program. In our learn-by-doing approach, we don't lecture our members about leadership skills; we give them responsibilities and ask them to lead.
There is no instructor in a Toastmasters meeting. Instead, members evaluate one another’s presentations. This feedback process is a key part of the program’s success. Meeting participants also give impromptu talks on assigned topics, they may conduct the meeting, serve as officers in various leadership roles, or learn rules related to timing, grammar and procedure.
Thousands of corporations sponsor in-house Toastmasters clubs. Businesses and government organizations have discovered that Toastmasters is an effective, cost-efficient means of meeting their communication training needs. Toastmasters groups can be found in governmental agencies, as well as in a variety of community organizations, prisons, universities, hospitals or other environments.
For more information on the worldwide organisation: Toastmasters International.