Toastmasters meetings provide many opportunities for members to practice their public speaking and leadership skills. When you attend a meeting as a guest, you will have an opportunity to introduce yourself to the group at the beginning of the meeting but will not be expected to do anything too scary. We also traditionally ask our guests to give feedback at the end of the meeting about what they enjoyed, or found interesting.
The videos below illustrate some of the major events at a typical Club Awesome Toastmasters meeting. The standard meeting structure works like this:
- Invocation and Pledge of Allegiance
- Members and guests introduce themselves
- VP of Education’s “Educational Minute”
- Toastmaster of the Day takes over from the President, introduces members playing supporting roles, and acts as master of ceremonies.
- Table Topics (see video below): one of the highlights of every meeting, challenging members to practice their impromptu speaking skills.
- Humorist (see video below): At most meetings, we have an opportunity for someone to tell a joke.
- Formal speeches (see video below): A typical meeting includes up to three speeches of 5-7 minutes, although some can be longer or shorter. Members start with the Competent Communicator program’s series of 10 speech projects, beginning with the Ice Breaker (where you tell us about yourself) and progressing through speeches that focus on techniques like the use of body language and vocal variety.
- Evaluations: For each formal speech, another member delivers an evaluation including both positive feedback and suggestions for improvement (see: This Is What An Award-Winning Toastmasters Evaluation Looks Like).
- Awards: At every meeting, we give awards in categories such as best speech, best Table Topics, and best evaluator.
Things that take getting used to: Throughout the meeting, the member playing the role of Ah Counter rings a bell whenever a speaker uses a “crutch word” like “ah” or “um” — the little meaningless sounds we make when we’re not sure what to say. The Ah Counter also presents a tally of these “offenses” at the end of the meeting. Don’t worry, you will not be subjected to this as a guest or during your introductory Ice Breaker speech. The point of this exercise is to help members eliminate these nervous utterances, which tend to distract from the substance of your speech. Most of us do this more than we realize, particularly when we are getting started.
One of the most challenging, but also most useful, parts of Toastmasters is the impromptu speaking challenge, Table Topics. In this example, the member serving as Topics Master (Lorraine Campbell) challenges Bruce Pockey and Alex Scott to answer the same question. That’s is the way it’s done in a formal Toastmasters contest. On other occasions, members are called on to answer slightly different questions on the same theme. Either way, Table Topics is one of the was we learn to think on our feet. That’s a useful skill in life and business, not just in public speaking.
Humorist: There comes a time when a woman has to trust her husband …
Toastmasters is not all seriousness and counting of ums and ahs. Almost every week at Club Awesome, one of our members takes the role of humorist as in this video of Bruce Goldfarb.
Formal Speech: The Margolins Meet Nature
Toastmaster Lois Margolin shares the challenges of going on vacation when each member of your family has a different idea of what a vacation ought to be.
New Toastmasters improve their public speaking by working through a series of projects in the Competent Communication manual that focus on different skills. For Lois, this was speech #4 “How to Say It,” focused on the use of vivid language.
Formal Speech: Lincoln the Politician
Toastmaster David F. Carr’s challenge here was to pack a lot of history into a 7-9 minute speech, setting Lincoln’s political and moral choices in the context of his time. This is from the Advanced Manual: Storytelling project “Bringing History to Life,” with source material from “Lincoln,” the biography by David Herbert Donald, and other research.
We would love to have you join us, Fridays at 7 a.m. at Strayer University in Coral Springs. Sharpen your mind and your tongue by getting up a little early once a week to speak, listen, and laugh with us.
See also: This Is What An Award-Winning Toastmasters Evaluation Looks Like (Video).