Toastmasters International is a non-profit organisation governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership. The first Toastmasters club was established on October 22, 1924, in Santa Ana, California, by Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, who conceived and developed the idea of helping others to speak more effectively. More clubs were formed, and Toastmasters International was incorporated on December 19, 1932.
Toastmasters has helped many members in their community service activities. Using the speaking and leadership skills developed in Toastmasters, people have become more active in business, churches, and service and charity organisations. Toastmasters members are able to organise activities, conduct meetings, and speak in public as their organisation’s representative. Some even become active in local or national government.
How Toastmasters works
At Toastmasters, members learn by speaking to groups and working with others in a supportive environment. An established club has up to 40 members who usually meet twice a month.
Each meeting gives everyone an opportunity to practice:
- Conducting meetings. Meetings usually begin with a short session which helps members learn basic meeting procedures.
- Giving impromptu speeches. Members present 1-2 minute impromptu speeches on assigned topics.
- Presenting prepared speeches. Three or more members present speeches based on projects from the Toastmasters International Communication and Leadership Programme manuals. Projects cover such topics as speech organization, voice, language, gestures, and persuasion.
- Offering constructive evaluation. An evaluator is assigned to every prepared speaker, to point out speech strengths and offer suggestions for improvement.
Toastmasters and Leadership
Leadership cannot be learned in a day. It takes practice. In Toastmasters, members build leadership skills by organizing and conducting meetings and motivating others to help them. Club leadership roles and a leadership development program also offer opportunities to learn and practice. Just as Toastmasters members learn to speak simply by speaking, they learn leadership by leading.