Ever wondered what a Toastmasters meeting is like? Even though the meetings offer free admission, it’s possible that you’ve been skeptical about checking them out. First of all, let’s go over what the organization is about. Toastmasters International builds your skills in public speaking and in leadership. If this sounds like your kind of thing then let me give you an idea of what to expect.
I got invited to a fairly new Toastmasters club whose membership wasn’t up to twenty. There were others visitors like myself. With a business casual dress code, this Saturday gathering looked respectable enough.
There were printouts of the meeting’s running order available to everyone, including visitors. There is a structure whereby roles have been taken up by members of the club; roles like Timekeeper, Sergeant at Arms, Grammarian, Ah Counter… These roles are filled by different people every week.
The meeting lasts two hours and is split into two segments. The first segment is the one that visitors can participate in; The Table Topics. Here, one of the Table Topics Master chooses any of the attendees at random and surprises him/her with a topic which they are to speak on for two minutes. I found this exciting. The challenge of giving a speech that one hasn’t prepared for can be an experience that opens you up. Thankfully the atmosphere is very supportive, fun and friendly. After a couple of these impromptu speeches, the meeting breaks for bonding before the next segment.
The Prepared Speech segment features just that. Registered members deliver speeches which have been previously agreed upon. Each of these speeches has a different objective, from the Ice Breaker speech to the one which is supposed to feature humor, and so on. There is a series of speeches in the Toastmasters International manual and each member progresses through these speeches, earning points along the way.
The beautiful thing about the meeting is that it adopts the idea that everybody there is learning, and learning together. Those who have been appointed the roles of evaluators of the day know that they have to be supportive and encouraging in their evaluation and feedback.
Two things I can say about the club; one is that it really works, as I have seen many timid and inept speakers break through their unique challenges to become very competent speakers. The other thing is that it is great for networking with professionals. If this ticks your boxes then I encourage you to find a Toastmasters meeting in your city and try it out, after all visitors are welcome.