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I recently interviewed my father – a member and regular frequenter of Toastmasters – and got some information from him about what it would be like to go to one of these meetings for the first time.
I know there’s a lot of people who want to attend a toastmasters event but are too scared to actually go. The whole point of Toastmasters is to become more confident in public speaking so it really is a great thing to become involved in.
Here’s some information about what it is like to go to a Toastmasters meeting for the first time.
Toastmasters around the world
There are approximately 14,500 Toastmasters clubs in 122 countries around the world.
It’s a fairly big organisation that serves the purpose of instilling confidence. It brings people forward and helps them with their public speaking skills for both their working and personal lives.
There’s probably going to be a Toastmasters near you regardless of where you live.
Public speaking and learning how to do that is very important if we want to get ahead in life. Toastmasters is also a great way of meeting new people with a common interest. So do explore your area and see what you can find.
Finding a Toastmasters meeting could be as simple as doing a search on Google. Look around your local area. There might be three or four within your region.
You could otherwise find a friend or colleague who already participates. You could then attend a meeting as their invited guest. You don’t have to join the club in order to see what the meetings are like.
Be a guest of Toastmasters…
You would be introduced to the members of the meeting upon your arrival. But you then would have the option to speak and take part or to simply observe the proceedings. The choice is yours.
…Or show up alone
You don’t have to be a guest – or a member – in order to see what a Toastmaster meeting is like.
Many people will travel to different cities to see what their Toastmasters clubs are like and will be welcomed warmly.
You can just turn up at any club. And there is no need to RSVP. Just turn up!
Visit different Toastmasters Clubs
It’s a good idea is to look at a couple of different clubs before you join any. Some of the clubs are structured differently to others. Some are more formal and some are more informal. Some will have as few as six members and others could have over two dozen. There are also different zone meetings where things get bigger and you go down to different area competitions.
Go to a couple of clubs and see which one you like.
The thing about Toastmasters is that they will welcome you in with open arms. There’s no ownership of Toastmasters. It is owned by the members – the more, the merrier. They’re going to welcome you. It’s all about bringing people on.
There is no strict dress code at Toastmasters.
This could be affected by the clubs’ premises. My father’s Toastmasters meetings are held in a licensed RSL Club at Cronulla. So obviously you need to be fairly well presented when you turn up.
But it’s important to be comfortable. This will make you more confident.
Smart-casual is usually a good choice. You’ll feel comfortable and you’ll fit in easily.
Every club will have slightly different proceedings.
My father’s Cronulla Toastmasters meetings start with a fairly formal structure.
First is a business meeting. They look at correspondence and see what information has been sent in from Toastmasters International.
They will address any pressing issues. This could include things like raising money to buy a new microphone or discussing the filming of members’ speeches.
Then after the formalities are over they have “Table Topics”.
This activity is based on impromptu speaking. One of the Toastmasters for that week will have been given the task of preparing this. Every member gets an impromptu question and will speak about that topic for a minute and a half.
The overall topic might be “song titles” or “movie titles”. You then might get the title Batman. And you’d then stand up and speak for a minute and a half about the time you put on a Batman cape and jumped off the top of the wardrobe and broke your leg. Speak about anything that flows!
It’s the sort of thing that helps you in conversation when you’re out. Impromptu speaking makes you a bit of a conversationalist.
Again, guests and first-time attendees have the choice to opt-out of any activity that they don’t wish to participate in. But they are also free to stand up and have a crack at it.
After Table Topics there is normally a ten to fifteen minute break. People have a cup of tea and a general chat with fellow members.
And then you come back and that’s when the fun starts. They have about four speakers for the evening who would have worked their way through the various manuals.
The first manual is the complete communications manual. (We will go into more detail about the Toastmasters manuals in the next video.)
Each speaker will have their own topic and will give their speech. They will then be evaluated by another member in the Toastmasters group. They give you salient points on what you did well and what you could improve upon.
This will help you to build your confidence and become a better speaker over time.
After the meeting
At the end of the meeting the Toastmaster in charge will invite you to make a comment about the event. This is like an open forum where you can say as much or as little as you like.
Then you will likely speak with the VPE – the Vice President of Education – or someone who’s in charge of new members.
Obviously they would give you the option to go back as a guest a number of times to see if that’s the club you want to join.
And again I would stress that it’s probably advisable to have a look a couple of different clubs around where you are. You might find one where you just click with everybody.
Impromptu speaking is one of the best skills people can have because it helps to override one of the key fears associated with public speaking – the fear of stammering and failing and having nothing to say.
By becoming a great impromptu speaker you know that you can pick up the conversation from any point – no matter what happens.
A lot of people say they are too scared to go to Toastmasters. But that’s why they should go!
It really does give you the confidence to meet people. It’s not even just public speaking. It’s general discussions. It’s going out to a dinner party. It’s meeting a girl or a boy and striking up a conversation. It’s having the confidence to be able to stand and carry a conversation from beginning to end.
Toastmasters are very welcoming and offer a great environment where you can learn and better yourself as a public speaker. I hope that this information has given you the courage to go and check them out for yourself.
Toastmasters Series Part II – How Do Toastmasters Meetings Work?
Toastmasters Series Part III – How To Be Involved In Toastmasters Speaking Competititons