Better Speakers: What Happens in a Toastmasters Meeting

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People looking to slay their fears of public speaking have probably heard of Toastmasters (TM) International. This nonprofit educational organization is present in at least 143 countries through its 16,800 member clubs. Joining a TM club can help people develop and practice their speaking skills until they get comfortable enough with the activity. It is a safe space for beginners to make mistakes and get feedback on how they can improve their communication skills.

A sense of independence and camaraderie can also be felt in TM clubs since they are considered as separate entities from the international organization. The mother company encourages the growth of the clubs by sharing resources, organizing championship contests, and building the technological infrastructure to manage the members’ skills development.

For a newcomer, it might be nerve-wracking to participate in a meeting, much less join a club. There’s a pressure that you have to be a good speaker to join TM. However, that mindset is not true. Every member has their own shortcomings they are trying to fill, which can range from dragging the time and adopting a boring tone of voice to writing a poorly structured speech. The following four parts of a TM meeting works well in turning members into better speakers.

1. The Toastmasters Promise

Every meeting starts with members reciting the Toastmasters Promise. It acts as a reminder of what is expected of each participant to maximize their growth in TM. Members promise to attend meetings regularly, prepare speeches to the best of their ability, help fellow members with constructive feedback, and bring guests to meetings to showcase the benefits of TM.

The promise is like a personal mission statement that everyone shares, serving as a guiding light on how to embody the values and spirit of TM. They encourage a person to clarify and express one’s deepest aspirations and goals as The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions author Rhett Power says in his Inc article.

2. Table Topics

The table topics segment acts as a practice for impromptu speeches. Attendees have the opportunity to present a one to two-minute talk based on a question given on the spot. It serves as a challenge in coming up with a coherent and memorable speech despite the short notice. Basic structures like PREP (Point – Reason – Example – Point) and SMG (Story – Message – Gain) are taught to better structure the speech.

3. Prepared Speeches

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This part is the main meat of the meeting. Several members deliver speeches according to the objectives based on their chosen TM Pathways learning experience. The kind of speech can vary from one member to another dependent on the main skill they want to focus on – leadership, mentoring, humor, and persuasion. They can inform their audience about the merits of getting a home diffuser or teach members how to identify a furnace needing repair.

4. Evaluations

Immediate constructive feedback in the evaluations portion of the meeting is what differentiates TM from other public speaking training. Each prepared speech and table topics answer is verbally evaluated by a more senior member according to given criteria. There is an emphasis on being encouraging to motivate the speaker to speak again instead of dragging them down with faults. The evaluator also prepares a written evaluation that the speaker can go back to for reference.

TM’s structure is built to develop better speakers whether you are delivering a prepared speech or caught off guard with an impromptu question. Members will master public speaking through constant practice, immediate feedback, and rich resources available.

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