A Typical Club Meeting
The purpose of Toastmasters is to help people overcome apprehensions about speaking in public and to improve their communication skills.
This is accomplished by providing a self-paced, focussed speaking programme with a supportive, experienced group of people to assist you. This mutual support will help you become more effective in many skills, including formal public presentations, individual communications, impromptu speaking situations, managing and participating in meetings, and leading and managing people.
The chief mechanism in developing these skills is through the typical club meeting, which is designed to provide an opportunity to practice various techniques in a variety of situations. A normal Toastmasters meeting will therefore contain a number of individual sections within the meeting, as described below.
At a typical club meeting, members are given a chance to practice
(i) chairing a meeting,
(ii) impromptu speaking,
(iii) prepared speeches, and
(iv) giving feedback on the speeches and other aspects of the meeting.
The atmosphere is always supportive, and usually light-hearted. Almost all members start out being afraid to speak in public and within six months are comfortable with public speaking. Ask any Advanced Toastmaster what it was like on their first day!
Table Topics offers opportunity to practise impromptu speaking
During this portion of the meeting, club members (and willing guests) practice impromptu speaking by responding to questions or topics prepared by the Table Topics Master. Sometimes the topics are simple, such as “My Favourite Holiday”, and sometimes they are more challenging, focussing on issues of the day, such as Elections, the Olympics, Health, Education or Crime, where you may be required to give an opinion, or argue a point of view.
Prepared Speeches from the Communication and Leadership programme
In this section, Toastmasters practice their public speaking skills by giving a prepared presentation from the Communication and Leadership Programmes. Each project in every manual has a specific objective in an area that helps you practice different speaking techniques. These objectives are designed as guidelines to help you think about the various qualities that comprise a good speech. Some speakers may be giving an icebreaker, while others may be trying to persuade you to their point of view, or inform you about technical issues relating to their hobby or occupation. You’ll learn something new with every speech you listen to!
Evaluations offer valuable feedback
During this portion of the meeting, you’ll practice your listening and learning skills. A few members will give evaluations of the prepared speeches, and of the meeting as a whole. These evaluations provide feedback of how the evaluators saw the speakers and will point out the positive aspects of the speech and some possible areas for improvement. Good evaluations are the hallmark of good Toastmasters.
Many Roles in a Meeting
Other members fill a number of roles in order to help the meeting flow smoothly and improve the quality of the meeting.
- The Toastmaster prepares and leads the meeting as “host” or chairperson.
- The Table Topics Master leads the impromptu speaking portion.
- The Assistant Sergeant at Arms sets up the meeting venue and serves refreshments.
- The Timer supports everyone by reminding them of their use of time using lights and a stopwatch.
- The Um-Ah Counter tracks annoying speaking habits, so that speakers can become aware of and correct them.
- The Grammarian encourages correct use of language.
- Evaluators listen carefully to the speakers and give oral and written feedback.
- The General Evaluator evaluates the evaluators and reports on the conduct of the meeting.
Business Section of a Meeting is for Notices
During this portion, the club’s business is handled, usually by the President. At the same time, the club practices effective meeting management skills, so that club business can be dealt with quickly and efficiently. New members are usually voted in to the club during General Business.
Speechathons for manual speeches
When a club has more members who want to present manual speeches than time available during regular club meetings, the club may occasionally conduct a special meeting devoted solely to manual speeches. Sometimes these meetings are called “speakathons”, “speechathons”, “speech marathons”, or “speakouts”. Such meetings are acceptable provided the following criteria are met:
- Each speech should be carefully prepared to allow the speaker to focus on the project’s objectives
- All speeches must receive both writtenand oral evaluations
- Each Toastmaster is limited to one speech at any meeting for credit toward any award.
Speeches outside meetings
Toastmasters may give up to two projects from each Advanced Communication Program manual outside of a Club environment provided the Vice President Education agrees in advance, a Toastmaster evaluator is present and provides a written and oral project evaluation, and the speaker meets all project objectives.
Speechcraft Courses offer quick introduction
Speechcraft is a workshop in communication and leadership and an excellent membership-builder. This programme may be presented during club meetings, or during special meetings outside the club for the public or for a company. Educational talks given by Toastmasters during a Speechcraft program may be credited in the Communication or Leadership Program manuals if project objectives are met.
Visiting a Club to find out more
If you would like to learn more about Toastmasters meetings, the best way to do this would be to visit a club. Use our Club Finder to find a club near you, then contact the club to arrange a visit. Take a friend along with you for company and support! And be prepared to have a good time!
Competent Leadership Projects
There are a number of projects in the Competent Leadership Manual which can be completed at a Toastmasters Meeting. Refer to the Project Matrix at the back of the manual to find out what’s involved.
Table Topics Speaker
Table Topics Master